The Elements of Style
Another characteristic of the best milongueros is staying “centered”. Here is a picture showing how Alberto Dassieu walks in line, with one foot in front of the other, and also how he stays straight over his center of gravity as he moves rapidly around his partner.
Alberto began dancing tango in the neighborhoods more than fifty years ago with two friends. One was Ricardo Ponce (“El Chino Perico”), and the other friend was a boy who worked in a butcher shop. After dancing tango all night, they would be starving. They had no money, so they would go to the shop and eat the cheaper cuts of meat that were left over. Alberto says the other boy (who is no longer alive) was the best tango dancer he’s ever seen. Today, El Chino and Alberto dance very differently—but they began with the same style, and their tango patron was the legendary Luis Lemos, known as Milonguita. In the ‘40s most of the neighborhoods had a tango patron, and Luis Lemos was the patron of tango in the Villa Urquiza barrio. He didn’t believe in performing tango, but he always helped other dancers, and he led by example. This reluctance to perform was common among some of the old-time milongueros, who thought that performing would destroy their tango “angel” (their soul, muse, or inspiration). Today, Milonguita’s style is carried on in the milongas by dancers like the Duplaa brothers (who still dance in Urquiza), and on the stage by the great Miguel Angel Zotto [see next page].
Late one night Alejandra and I were leaving Sunderland, when we ran into Julio Duplaa. He and Alejandra used to dance at Pavadita, and he asked her to dance in the deserted bar by the entrance while we waited for our taxi. I was able to drop my backpack on the table in the background and quickly take some video before we left. Julio is walking on Alejandra’s right side, and each are extending into the step with a straight leg. The lines show that each is walking a parallel tightrope, with each foot directly in line with the other. The precise and elegant ghost of Milonguita walking in the Sunderland bar, Villa Urquiza, at 3am:
Alejandra y Julio Duplaa, Villa Urquiza, 3am