In Argentina one evening, I was nearly on my way out of Los Consagrados with a friend, B, when a group just coming in stopped to say hi to B. She introduced me to the oldest man in the group, who promptly asked me to finish the tanda with him.
(This seems to be a point of etiquette at many milongas I've been to, both in BA and closer to home; if someone introduces you to a dancer of the opposite gender, you're supposed to dance with that person. This theory could be wrong, but it's based on observation... And I'm happy to benefit from it when it means I get to dance with wonderful leaders I might not otherwise be able to aspire to! But most of all I think it speaks to the consummate courtesy of the traditional milonga culture.)
I wasn't expecting to enjoy the dance, mainly because I had mistaken the man for someone else. As a matter of fact, he was wonderful--and so cheerful and friendly! He told me his nickname among his friends--a boyish diminutive, in teasing contrast to his seventy-some years--and when he learned my name, merrily put it into its diminutive form to match. He was a delight, all around.
This spring, when the organizers began sending information to advertise the festival in Nearby City, my heart leaped when I saw this man's photograph among the teachers; even though I had realized immediately upon dancing with him the previous summer that he was not who I thought he was, I had not realized who he actually was.
Reading about his accomplishments--and even more, having already gotten to dance with him--I was excited about getting to learn from him. My dances with him were among the best of my many wonderful memories from Buenos Aires, but I wondered whether he would remember me. Surely not, I told myself. Why would he? For him, it was just one dance with some American tourist--not even a whole tanda.
My teachers, here in my hometown, were working to arrange for him and his wife to teach a couple of classes in our city while he was in the area, and while they were talking to him, they introduced me again. I told him how I had enjoyed his classes, and to my surprise, he told me, through my teachers, translating, that he remembered me from Argentina.
Later I would get to dance with him again, and it would be every bit as wonderful as I remembered. Before we said goodbye the final time, back in my hometown, I tried, in my poor Spanish, to tell him and his wife what a pleasure it had been. Ever the gentleman, he pressed my hand and looked intently into my face as he complimented my dancing. (But after all, the best leaders make it so easy!)
But you can see his beautiful leading for yourself:
(With thanks to the authors of Movement Invites Movement, where I first ran across this particular, beautiful video the other day.)
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