Foreword to Gotta Tango
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.
Meanwhile, on the street corners, the music and lyrics that had become tango were accompanied by studied steps that sent immigrants and new citizens alike looking for partners at the milongas, the fabled gathering halls of early tango dancers.
In 1930, a military takeover snatched the homeland away from the majority and overthrew the government that had protected them. Martial law and a state of siege were the tools used for persecution and repression. That is when native cunning and cleverness resulted in the founding of the social clubs, havens where people could meet during that stifling political reality. To better disguise their activities, the Creole society hired musicians who, at the same time that the social clubs grew, contributed to the growth of musicians, composers, lyricists, and dancers. There, the milonga was protected while the participants spoke freely of politics and businesses.
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.
Homero Luis (“Acho Manzi”) Manzione was born March 6, 1933, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is an elected member of SADAIC (Society of Authors and Composers in Buenos Aires) in a supervisory capacity on the auditor’s commission. He is well known as a composer of both music and lyrics of tango and folk songs. Acho is the author of tangos such as “El Ultimo Organito” (in cooperation with his late father, Homero Nicolas “Manzi” Manzione) and the lyrics for Cuarteto Cedron’s CD, Para que Vos y Yo, produced in Paris. He is also a compiler of poems dedicated to the tango and its influence in the broadcasting and film industries in Argentina. Acho has compiled the prose and short stories of his father, presented and displayed at the XXIV International Book Fair in Buenos Aires in 1998. He has worked in television production and participated in the movie Los Guardianes del Angel (2004).
He passed away July 27, 2013 R.I.P.
THE BOOKS ARE HERE
After a long and anxious wait, the first shipment of the special edition of GOTTA TANGO has arrived in New Orleans! What a pleasure it is to see our photos on the cover. They are are beautiful! The publisher reluctantly agreed to print the special edition after going ahead against our objections to using young models to appeal to young college students. An unfortunate case of corporate arrogance.
But we are so excited! After nearly 4 years, we finally have the fruits of our labor in our hands! So now it was time for the book signing/book launch party…
We picked a Sunday afternoon (5 PM-8 PM), when there wouldn’t be a conflict with other tango activities, and folks from out of town might be able to come from Baton Rouge, Florida, and Mississippi.
Gracious hosts and tango dancers Edwin and Barbara Beckman offered their beautiful home in the Garden District for the occasion and we got the word fairly quickly. The house has just undergone major renovations and it was a pleasure to be part of one of the very first social gatherings in it.
The one thing we had not planned, was the torrential rain that poured since early in the morning. Sunday, November 25 witnessed the worst, wettest weather we have seen in New Orleans in a long time.
The hardy souls who braved the worst, wettest weather we have seen in New Orleans in quite a while were rewarded with readings by the authors, live tango music, played in piano rendition by Amassa Miller, the well known New Orleans musician, and a warm and friendly gathering of tango dancers and supporters from New Orleans and beyond.
Alberto read first from the foreword of the book, written by Acho Manzi, describing the historical circumstances that contributed to the establishment of tango in the 20th century.
Notably, he writes, “Credit for this (e.g. global explosion) 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..and Valorie Hart… 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 tango when they and others found it languishing for lack of interest and understanding.”
Valorie then read from the acknowledgments…”What Katrina did to New Orleans and our four months in exile played a fundamental role in the way this book went through an epiphany of sorts…
What a difference the year after Katrina made in our lives. We like to think that it happened to us for a reason – that after our four month tour, teaching with a passion and inspiration that we had not experienced before, we wrote a better book….” and from the introduction, “There is something so human about the Argentine tango that grabs a primal instinct for human connection, to hold and to be held. All over the world, people are dancing this dance of the people of Buenos Aires with a passion that has been compared to a healthy addiction.”
In the blackened, wind swept evening, last night’s attendees were held, and connected in a circle of light, with the love, and lovers of tango at its center.