Chapter 16. Ricardo’s Imprint On My Life


Once upon a time

One day that looked like any other day

Someone like no one else came along

And made life into something

That would never be the same.



Over ten years have passed by; Ricardo is no longer with us. Going to Buenos Aires brings me closer to his soul, to feeling his energy and spirit that have never left me. Many a time a dancer would start talking to me about Ricardo … how he had impacted him through his way of dancing and teaching. Sometimes a brief encounter was enough to remain engraved in one’s memory and integrated it into one’s dance. Touched by the simplicity and elegance of his dance, he would carry on wondering how to achieve it. Almost all of the encounters (even if it was only a tanda) would recall the importance of walking in the music, which Ricardo so insisted on.

From the day we started to live together, Ricardo would not dance with me unless I walked in the music by myself.  After a couple of weeks, I got over the embarrassment.  Every day I practiced so under his watchful eye, holding my body upright and further upright (he insisted), securing steps and balance.  He would correct me occasionally, one word here and there, saying: “More hip, less hip, axis, axis again, smaller step”. I had continued to do so for many years …

I delight in simple walking in the music. He has transmitted to me this simplicity of the dance and I love those moments when a dancer walks with me even through half of the dance floor. Ricardo used to say that walking in tango should be as if walking in the streets … light and effortless.  The memory of walking with Ricardo in the streets of Buenos Aires, noticing in surprise that he almost did not touch the ground, is a dear memory to me.

With time I ponder over the fact of being a milonguero, what it entailed, the kind of sacrifice it required to live the life for milonga … every night, following the passion, living the day anticipating the pleasure of the night.

Having lived in this way with Ricardo I find milonga a refuge, always remembering those times we frequented them together, leaving everything behind to enjoy a few hours,  dancing or observing the dance floor. Each time I hear his favorite orchestra he comes back to me … I see him extinguish quickly his cigarette to look at me with his loving, deep dark eyes.

Ricardo had the presence, the charisma, not only as a dancer but as a human being whose company one delighted in. He was quite adamant in his beliefs and knowledge of the Argentinian tango, feeling so strongly about it that if one argued with that, he did not sway. Faithful to the tradition and the feeling, he remained the master of tango, whose memory will always be alive.

I always yearn for him, to have him by my side in his wheel chair, if “only he wanted it”. I am reminiscent of his tenderness, his smile that felt like sun rays. I long for his eyes filled with love and understanding, capable to enter my soul. Words are scarce to express this feeling of longing of somebody who is so near and yet so far …

Ricardo loved to teach. As all milongueros from that generation, he started teaching late in life. He used to say about his dance: “I give 100% of myself”, and he did so teaching. I often watched him in a class – seeing the astuteness of his observation, the manner of his correction, over and over, until he felt it was right. He drew parallels that allowed one to enter more deeply into the feeling of one’s movement. The metaphors were picturesque, allowing one to visualize the better way of expressing yourself, keeping with compás and giving expression to cadencia.

He felt that in 7 classes he could transmit all he had to offer.  He was one of those milongueros who did not care to make money beyond the necessary.  Ricardo was generous with his time, but he expected you to practice on your own.  He knew the value of his teachings, and never took advantage of it. He kept in perspective his milonguero life, living his passion in full spectrum of color, not prone to loosing his integrity in view of the growing change in the tango world. Going to milongas and dancing with many partners was his recommendation. He would say: “The dance floor gives the opportunity to develop your own style.”

He insisted that tango was a feeling you danced. He would say: “Do no think about steps”. Several students made a comment to  me that the most difficult lesson they experienced with Ricardo was when he told them to walk in the music for an entire hour … lesson after lesson.

He taught me that immersing in the music is the only way to not think about the steps.

Ricardo talked to me about the code of behavior in the milongas, explaining that its enigmatic and furtive aspect allows nobody to be  embarrassed. Unless you comply with it you remain an outsider. Ricardo was persistent in transmitting the codes of behavior to me. He wanted me to be respected in the milongas. He would say, “Choosing one´s partner should be discrete and not insistent. It is a woman’s choice  with whom she wants to dance. If the one you are interested in is not looking at you, look at someone else and later give the first one another chance. Never, never turn back to look  for a dancer. Do not dance with the one who comes to your table. Do not talk while dancing. Do not dance with men who are not dressed properly or who do not accompany you back to the table once the tanda is over. Most important is to dance well … who dances well does not need to dance all tandas.” Thus I enjoy milongas truly.

I always hear Ricardo’s voice reminding me the essence of tango. His passion for tango unveiled to me even more after he had left. Through years of my own savoring the music, the milongas and developing further my style, I began to understand the different facets of his passion.

We danced every day , even if it was for a little while. He was content, correcting me gently, dancing with me more and more. It was not until Ricardo passed away that I started to assimilate more deeply his teachings, realizing how subtle and insisting they were. Ricardo’s passion for tango revealed itself to me completely after he left. I hear his voice, his soft and masculine tone, reminding me not to forget what he had transmitted to me. Hearing the music he loved so much fills my eyes with tears. All the moments shared in the milongas paint themselves vividly in my mind, over and over. His gestures, extinguishing the cigarette with a quick movement of his hand, to let me know he wanted to dance with me … a smiling look of disappointment, when I chose someone else ( without being aware of it ) … his constant breathing, his heart beat stay alive in me … I am perplexed with this beautiful feeling and with this I continue living, sincerely grateful for our encounter.

When he said that I would be dancing every possible opportunity I had, I did not quite understand. Today I frequent the milongas with a different desire, sometimes tired, but feeling the inner force to be there, I get ready and once I hear the music his statement becomes obvious. The love for music, seeing familiar faces, watching others dance and dance with a chosen partner to a chosen orchestra is living the culture of tango. All of this became clear to me after Ricardo left. Each time I go to a milonga I carry the desire to dance better, to further develop my style … and I never know when he is going to manifest himself to me …

Remembering his teachings I try not to disappoint him … often asking him secretly, if he can be proud of me, I see his his face and hear his voice and I “talk” with him … his energy and his spirit invade me and give me force to live … The last wish Ricardo expressed to one of my friends was: ” I would like to live one year more to love Ewa”.

Remaining peaceful is my link with Ricardo. He loved the suppleness in the dancer, so I had been working on this aspect, through immersing myself in the music, feeling its rhythm and melody, and allowing myself to be guided by such. Thus emptying my mind, hearing only the music, my feet find their own expression … improvisation takes place. Ricardo had subtly been directing me towards that. He used to say that he danced the same tango  differently each time.

Ricardo helped me further understand living in the moment, allowing myself to taste life. He would remind me to pause and look, to walk less in haste, to have a kind word for a stranger. I was drawn to him, feeling a kindred spirit, finding parallels in myself that helped answer the question: WHY?

He never said: ” I do not want to”, instead I would hear: “I do not feel like it”. This soft expression is engraved in me… He used to say: “I want to leave you my love so that you can continue in life”. I am truly happy for having had this experience through my whole being, without any fears.

It is hard to avoid or deny the force and feeling of love that has prompted me to write. Ricardo is omnipresent in my everyday life. He emanated radiance and was friendly. He was magnanimous in his heart and cherished his freedom. He truly lived in the moment. His spirit is remembered by those who have known him.

In his bag, among many papers, personal letters and notes I have found a book without a cover ( I have been reading the same book ). His had signs of daily use … yellow pages, its corners curled up. It was the Bhagavad Gita …  I have read its lines to him by his death bed and again during the weeks afterwards …

Having lived with Ricardo through the experience of approaching death our mystery has crystalized itself to me …

A poem by Sufi poet, RUMI, seems to me a simple answer:

With love you cannot bargain
there, the choice is not yours.
Love is a mirror, it reflects
only your essence, if you have the
courage to look in its face.

Thank you, Ricardo, for sharing yourself with me, without hesitation.


The apex

The writings left behind by those whom

Your fears implore won’t have to save you;

You are not the others and you see yourself

Now at the center of the labirynth woven

By your own steps. The agonies of Jesus or

Socrates will not save you, nor will the

Strength of Golden Siddharta who,

At the end of the day, accepted death

In the garden. The word written

By your hand or the word spoken

By your lips, these too are dust. Fate has no pity

And God’s night is infinite.

Your matter is time, ceaseless

Time. You are each solitary moment.

                                                            Jorge Luis Borges

Published on 28/07/2017 at 8:29 pm  Comments Off on Chapter 16. Ricardo’s Imprint On My Life  
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