By Acho Manzi (1933-2013)
During the establishment of the tango at the onset of the 20th century, things happened that formed the historical circumstances. The population of immigrants and their descendants had grown in such substantial numbers to take away the country from the conservatives, who had been ruling it at will. The immigrants won the first secret-ballot elections in Argentina, establishing the first populist administration. The people of that generation projected themselves toward the future with the wisdom of their neighborhoods as their most valuable tool. They read from the best texts and studied from the best professors from Europe.
Then Carlos Gardel arrived and forged into one all the nationalities. And when much later it seemed that everything succumbed to governmental order, tango was the popular thing that came to save the people. My father, the immortal poet Homero Manzi,1 showed me a view of the world of the tango at the apex of its golden age. At no other time did musicians, composers, poets in the form of the lyricist, and dancers converge in one wonderful rush of originality and influence. That is the way my father described the events, as we look at them turning toward the present, with many couples joining their efforts toward education.
Many have reinvented the Argentine tango, and it has even reinvented itself. Just when it had been written off as passé, pronounced dead in newspaper headlines, and ignored by a couple of generations, it came back full force and full circle. There has been a revival, a reinvention of sorts, of the tango in all forms. The golden age is surpassed in sheer numbers of dancers, because the tango has had a global explosion. Credit for this is often given to the most glamorous catalysts in the form of tango shows and tango movies. But a more grassroots influence exists in the form of a handful of protagonists who preserve and foster the tango for the love and respect of it.
Two such persons come in the names of Alberto Paz, an Argentine, and Valorie Hart, a tanguera from the United States. Having made the Argentine tango the leitmotiv of their lives, both personally and professionally, these two have promoted the tango to the thousands of students they have touched in the scores of cities and countries in which they have taught their classes. Add to that the thousands of words they have written on the history, the poetry, the music, and the dance in their magazine El Firulete and on their Planet Tango Web site, and you come to realize the profound influence these two have proffered to the benefit of the Argentine tango. Through their exploration, Alberto and Valorie have made the dance form something teachable by expanding on old ideas and codes that permeated the world of the tango when they and others found it languishing for lack of interest and understanding.
They have influenced the very language used in teaching the dance. Taking the ideas offered to them personally by proponents of the golden age, they have worked tirelessly to present a clear and accessible construction of the dance. They do this to empower one and all to embrace the enjoyment and benefit of it and to understand the culture and history that formed its music, poetry, and, of course, the dance.
Gotta Tango offers a concise, complete, and clear compendium of the dance of tango, a gift to you, the social dancer, and a must for anyone inclined to become a teacher of it. Nothing like it exists, and it is destined to become a classic, much like the tango itself. This is the fruit of Alberto and Valorie’s labor of love and a delightful result of their intelligence and expertise as master teachers.
1 Homero Manzi (1907-1951) was a critically acclaimed poet, filmmaker, author, and lyricist of such classic tangos as “Malena,” “Sur,” and “Barrio de Tango.” In his 44 years he also reached into journalism, teaching, labor, and political militancy with mixed success. The tango lyric was, nevertheless, his true claim to fame and is what keeps his memory alive.