As I go into a session of teaching my Thursday nighters what I learned from Tete Rusconi a long time ago in Buenos Aires, I have been thinking about what I learned from Tete. He was an awful teacher, but a great dancer. I put up with direct insults on a weekly basis to learn from him, and learned tons. He didn't like the fact that I was leading in his class, but he respected me for sticking with it. Years later, when he saw me in Portland, he grinned from ear to ear, crossed the floor to say hello, and asked me to dance twice. That made up for a lot!
I wish I had given Gavito's teaching more of a chance and learned from him as well. As a newbie tango dancer at a California dance festival, I walked out of a group lesson with him because of his treatment of the class. I knew he was famous, but felt frustrated as a teacher, that someone teaching me could be such a jerk. If I had gone to his classes in Buenos Aires, not expected him to be a good teacher, but understood I could learn to dance by watching him (as I did from Tete), perhaps I would have seen beyond the attitude, and would have more of his experience in my dance.
I saw him dance in the milongas in Buenos Aires a bit. Mostly, he sat with his friends and a drink, getting up to dance once in a while. I liked his intensity and the seriousness with which he took his tango, but I didn't get to know him at all.
My relationship with Gavito has been forged by a student who hasn't even been to Buenos Aires, and started dancing long after Gavito passed away. One day, he walked into his lesson and said, "I know who I want to dance like: Gavito!" and proceeded to inundate me with videos. We worked on Gavito's moves and styling in his lessons. One day, he dropped by my house and handed me a book. "Read it," he said, and left. It was Ricardo Plazaola's book, I Wanted To Dance: Carlos Gavito: Life, passion and tango.
It's a quick read. Mostly, it is a biography that wanders around Gavito's life, interspersed with interview quotes. Here is the one that struck me as a great followup to last week's blog posting:
You spend many years learning technique, learning to do everything well, everything perfectly...Many years...But afterwards, when you do everything perfectly, you have to become less perfect, you have to 'mess up' your style. You have to give it your own personal touch. That's when your tango becomes your own, the tango that you feel like a fist in your stomach. something that rips you from the inside that maes you cry...There are tangos that make me cry And for that. how long does it take? A year? Two? Ten? Many years. For some people it takes a lifetime. (p. 122)
What do you think?