As a Tango student of just 3 years I am so fortunate to have teachers that I respect so much and with whom I love to work with.
But as someone who so wants to learn I have of course also a few idols – dancers that I had never met, never seen in the flesh – but have watched so many hundreds of times on Youtube, astonished that anyone can ever get to be that skilful.
And although there are many world class dancers – for me two couples have always stood out – for such different reasons – Chicho Frumboli with Juana Sepulveda – and Carlitos Espinosa with Noelia Hurtado.
When the chance came to travel to a 4 day festival in Zurich last weekend and not only watch them perform but also to study with all of them in workshops every day – of course I had to go.
Actually I was scared – because an idol is just that – and to meet someone, to see their imperfections, to touch the reality of them might destroy an illusion that has been so incredibly inspirational for the last couple of years.
My fears were misplaced – they were my idols and they are still exactly that – just more human and real. More alive. They showed humour, playfulness, pathos, grace, poise and a 3 dimensional beauty that was at times breathtaking in both the perfect detail and also the balance and flowing improvisations of the moment.
But what moved me by far the most was being taught by Chicho Frumboli. Even being in the same room felt like being in the presence of Tango itself.
Paradoxically I had thought he would be the least interested in the role of a teacher – but in fact it was the complete reverse. Before every workshop he would compose himself, reflect, and then start to speak in that low voice – setting everything in the context of decades of his personal experience and in the history of Tango. He describes Giros from a milongueros perspective of containing within that sequence so much of what Tango has to offer – rhythm changes, dynamism, embrace flexibility – energy flows and rotating axis points – sacadas, reversals and level changes.
He has a deep, broody presence – creating an expectant silence as soon as he ambles into the room. Dark sunglasses, rock star clothes – he was a hard but fair task master as he walked us through the exercises and the various concepts he wanted to explain. He appreciated us when we concentrated – and made it clear when we were allowing old habits to rule our movements and not the purity of his teaching.
He seems to have the highest of work ethics – urging us to work again and again until we finally understood.
As he put it so well when we were all stumbling to achieve what he wanted :
There are no secrets in Tango – just hard work and practise
I have many images, thoughts and emotions to treasure from those 4 days. But one of the strongest was early evening in glorious low sunshine. I looked out of the studio window and saw the unmistakable figure of Chicho walking slowly across the empty square, the ever graceful Juana by his side. They were moving away from me across the square and already in the distance – but as I watched I could still sense his heavy, weighted, bear-like presence and feel the ground under him yield to every step.
Such is the presence and pedigree of this man – if you can, find a way to be a student of his – even if just for a few brief hours. You will feel changed by the experience – and he will for sure remain an idol – but a three dimensional one.