The Third Legend: “Fino” Ribera
The Modern Technique
Since I first began in tango, I’ve been looking for a reference point—for someone I could use as a model for my own tango. I was looking for the perfect dancer… and it turns out he was right under my nose all along. The very first tango movie I saw was the documentary “Tango, Baile Nuestro”. It has some lame parts, but many of the great dancers of that era are in it as well, and I watched it dozens of times. The problem is that the great dancers are mixed in with a lot of other junk. They aren't identified, and they appear in chopped up segments. So as a tool for studying tango dancing, it’s not very good. The best dancing is often just a quick shot of a face, or some feet, or some dark milonga footage shot from far away. But after watching the video off and on for several years, I began to notice one couple dancing in a milonga. And the more I watched them, the more I became fascinated by the way they moved. The camera is far away, and the film isn’t good, but after Miguel Zotto helped me identify dancers in the movie, I realized the couple was Fino and his partner Maria Teresa. Later, I was able to identify him in other movies, including “Tango Bar”, and Zotto’s “Perfumes de Tango”
For me Fino is absolutely the best of all, and I’ll try to show why. The pictures on the next two pages were captured from the clip in Zotto’s video (the only video by the way that clearly identifies and credits Finito). Fino and his partner are such perfect dancers, that it almost looks like they are posing for the camera, but in fact, they are performing during a break in a milonga. Although he has added a few tricks for the audience, Fino stands, moves, and dances exactly the same as he does on the crowded floor in “Baile Nuestro”.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Before taking the first step, it’s essential to be in the right position. Good tango is impossible without good posture:
A study in perfection: There is a world of information in the picture above.
Fino’s posture is as close to perfect as you can get. It's natural, centered, relaxed—and elegant.
The lines show that his body is straight, his weight is slightly forward,
and his feet are in the stable “10 minutes past 10 o’clock” position.
In these two pictures we can see that Fino's head is up, and his left arm is in a low, comfortable position. His shoulders are down—but he doesn’t drop his chest, because his shoulders are also back. This allows his chest to stay open and forward. Everything I have said above applies to Maria Teresa as well. The posture of both partners allows their upper bodies to connect naturally, and creates space for the feet to move. Note their almost identical head positions. By staying up and centered, each partner frees the other one to do the same.
Finally, look at Maria Teresa’s feet. We’ll talk about women’s technique later, but this picture is classic. Her free leg hangs straight from her body, and the knees have just passed close to each other. Her foot stays close to the floor, and her ankles are relaxed and straight. She prepares to place her foot smoothly and precisely, while both partners focus on the music, and on this one small step.
I know there are a lot of pages and a lot of pictures on this site—but I'd like to give some friendly advice:
If you're serious about tango, this is the place to sit up and take notice. This may be the most important set of pictures you'll ever see. If you really want to excel in tango, you should study the way Fino and Maria stand, and try to keep them in mind every moment that you dance.