The Old Milonguero

In his day he was the delight of every lady he graced with a Tango or Milonga in the salons of Buenos Aires. Rodolfo was smooth, creative, and made each partner feel like she was the love of his life for those few minutes gliding around the room. Moving as one to the passionate music of the orchestras, they would spin when the music demanded it, moving in steps small or large with the intricate rhythms of violin and bandoneon. When the melody held its breath, they would pause, almost stop, as he waited for the beat, collecting his energy to consummate a climactic release and finally a finish so small, so intimate that of those watching, only the most skilled dancers among them would see the delicious subtleties and understand the breathlessness.

He never had a nickname, as so many of the other fine dancers were given, though among the ladies, his name itself became synonymous with sensuality in a way that a simple nickname could never truly describe. He was Rodolfo and nothing more need be said.

Yes, those were the days, so many women ready to give themselves to him on the dance floor and off. He had his pick and flitted between them as a butterfly to the flowers in a field of daisies. Never did he stay with any one for longer than a few weeks or months until he met Maria. A few years younger than himself, he at first saw in her just another pretty girl he could make love to with his arms, his feet, his entire body while others merely danced. But she was different. There was a strength in her that he responded to in a way he never had before.

He didn't stop dancing with the other ladies, never stopped treating them as beautiful princesses, but his most passionate moments were always now saved for Maria. It was not long before they became partners both on the dance floor and in life. When they married, their wedding was attended by those with names famous as dancers, musicians, orchestra leaders, and so many others. It turned out to be the biggest dance event Buenos Aires had seen in a many years.

Like all marriages, theirs was filled with times both good and bad and these were magnified because they had so much passion in their hearts. In the end, the good times far outshone the bad and when Maria died suddenly, they had been together and in love for over forty years. Her passing left a void he could never hope to fill. Rodolfo would not let anyone see his tears.

It was in his dance that his grief was expressed, for he continued to dance, even more than in recent years. On the dance floor, moving to recordings of the long gone orchestras he had known and with a woman in his arms, he could almost believe his Maria was still with him. He was still handsome and his name famous, though few of the younger dancers would know his face. His dancing continued to provoke passions in young women surprised to find it with a gentleman of his years.

Now, late in his seventh decade, his memory was less and less reliable. His tango, committed more to the memories of his body than his failing mind, were still with him, though his age brought with it a greater economy of movement. At one Milonga Rodolfo met Susanna, an extremely beautiful and vibrant young woman. Their paths crossed several times at the Milongas he preferred. She, tired of unwelcome advances by her peers and delighted in Rodolfo's style of dance and his courtliness, began to prefer his company to all others. He could not help but appreciate her attentions. Something more than her beauty and her obvious skills on the dance floor stirred faintly familiar remembrances. Without him noticing it, this young woman brought a desire for something long lost and he, too, began to prefer her company. They soon became regular dance partners and if anything more happened between them, one could not say. Certainly, they cared for each other in a way others described as sweet.

With his glory days far behind him, Rodolfo's name is still remembered fondly, even by those who never knew him. He was recently honored by young friends at a Tango festival where, as a revered master, he was asked to speak to the students many of whom had traveled from distant lands to study at the birthplace of Tango. This is where I met Rodolfo and Susanna. His talk on the earlier days of Tango, with Susanna translating for those of use who did not speak Spanish, captivated the attention of all. When the two of them danced for us, it was a joy to behold, simple yet elegant. But when it was time to teach a simple combination, he appeared confused. It was Susanna whose gentle and subtle whispers suggested what to show the eager pupils. Her caring, reverence, and yes, love both for this living legend and for the dance that brought them together would not let this small corner of that world see Rodolfo as anything less than the master that he once was.

Rodolfo demonstrated the few suggested steps with grace; Susanna translated and explained the mechanics. The students repeated what they were shown as best they could and if they danced with perhaps a little more elegance, a little more passion than they had before then a little of Rodolfo lived inside each of them.

This dance is now in the hands of a new generation of dancers, Susanna and others. They carry the vibrancy of Tango to the world of today and even help it grow and evolve. But always they remember the rich history and passion that was, is, and always will be the soul of Tango. Rodolfo is Tango, Susanna too and the others who teach and inspire are Tango. I hope, in some small way, that I also am Tango.


NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Though inspred by people and places I have known, is not biographical and no one except the point of view person (me, of course) in the first person narrative at the end are actual people.