Anthony Dexter and Patricia Medina in Valentino (1951).
TANGO HOMBRE
by Michael Bivona

   When the publisher of AROUND THE FLOOR asked me to develop a column
about tango dancing and its popularity with today's dancers, I asked him: "Why
me? He said being that my e-mail address is "Tangohombre " that I probably had
some insight to the feel of tango and its popularity in today's dance scene. Of
course, flattery can go a long way and I decided to give it a try. 

     When referring to tango, are we talking about American Tango, International
Tango or the original tango, Argentine Tango? It just so happens that we are
talking about all three dances. Discussing the technical differences of these
incredible dances is beyond my ability, but I can discuss the differences from my
point of view as a social dancer.

     About fifteen years ago, my wife Barbara and I decided to take dance lessons. 
We both loved tango music and decided it would be a good starting dance for us. 
At that time the most popular and probably the only readily available lessons were in
American Tango. The choice of dance went from a whim to an infatuation and
then love in a short time. We became so infatuated with the feeling of the dance
and the music that we encouraged many of our friends to take tango lessons.

Mike and Barbara

     The image of the actor Anthony Dexter* portraying the great Latin lover Rudolph
Valentino in the movie Valentino (1951) and dancing the passionate tango was in
my mind often as we progressed with our love for the dance. I recalled seeing him
portray Valentino on screen and remembering how many times my teenage friends
and I saw the same picture over and over again, totally absorbed with the music
and passion of the dance. *(There is a direct link to his website listed at the end of
this column).

     We observed over the years the development of International Tango, enjoying the
complexity of the steps, body and head movements, and strict syllabus. We tried to
get into the dance but for us it lacked the passion and freedom of movement that
dancing the American Tango gave us. Last year we were asked to participate in an
exhibition where the three tangos were danced to show their differences. We
danced the Argentine Tango and were followed by a professional-amateur couple
dancing International Tango. The professional who was from England picked up
the mike and said "Well you just saw how the tango came to my country, full of
passion and softness of movement. and now we will show you how the English
took the sex out of the dance". Their performance was exemplary, the movements
and precision was remarkable, certainly the right dance for competition dancing,
but as social dancers we still preferred the Argentine Tango. Well how did we go
from the American Tango to the Argentine Tango?

     In 1989 the show Tango Argentino appeared Off-Broadway in Manhattan. Our
dance instructor Elektra of Swing Street Studios, Farmingdale, N.Y. thought that
it would be a good idea to expose her students to this type of dancing, so we made
group reservations and began our journey into the world of Argentine Tango.
Little did we know that this tango would take many of us to a new level of passion
for a dance. We immediately took dance lessons from Elektra who was waiting
for the opportunity to teach this dance that her father taught her so many years
ago. She had such a passion for the dance and thanks to the Tango Argentino
show was able to purchase a great tango teaching tape.

     Our lessons were difficult, as we had to learn patterns that were not familiar in the
other dances we knew. Swaying cortes, body balancing, leg rubs, figure eights
(ochos), kicks and the most unusual, stopping to allow your partner to improvise
and in turn to do the same.

     Ten years later I was reading "Puente al Tango"-- Bridge to the Tango, published
by Dan Trenner with a web site at www.bridgetothetango.com He was
organizing a tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina, limited to forty students. It was an
eleven day tour and included daily lessons, dancing at a different milonga (club)
every evening, lectures and demonstrations by the world's great male and female
tango dancers and most important of all, one instructor to every two students. I
booked the tour and gave it to Barbara as a birthday gift; luckily she was as
excited as I was about our new adventure.

     On our trip we learned new steps; cortes, turns, kicks and fine tuned improvising.
But the most important and difficult thing we learned was emphasized by one of
our renowned instructors; Mingo Pugliese-"ATTITUDE". He said:  "There is no
dance if you don't have the right ATTITUDE ......"
Barbara wrote a column about our dancing trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It
appears in Chapter Three.

     *There is an incredible website: "The Anthony Dexter Homepage" established for
his memorial, 1913-2001. It includes the theme song for the movies, "Valentino
Tango" and the history of this most fascinating and versatile man. The
sophistication of the site is something to behold ... Pure enjoyment. ~