Chapter 8. Women With Whom Ricardo Taught Tango

Liz Haight

Video courtesy of Chan Park

He said once “I think inside all of us is a part of God. We just need to find that secret.” Looking back, this was where he was always leading me. He knew that hidden inside each of us is a uniqueness that is accessed through relaxation, pleasure and our natural way of being. He knew that if we could get out of our own way then this uniqueness would shine through in the dance. Tango for him was a place to commune soul to soul and celebrate life to its fullest.
We became very close during the period of time in New York. He took me to the milongas at night, explained the codes to me, reprimanded me for not using the cabeceo in such a way that honored myself, my partner and the dance. Mostly we danced a lot together. Later, when my partner, Masami and I first went to Buenos Aires we spent a month together; where we studied, spent a lot of time together and he introduced us to milonguero culture. In 2005, a year before he passed away, I brought him to Santa Fe, New Mexico where Masami and I live. He lived with us for a month while he taught workshops and worked privately in our house. We also brought him to the two Denver tango festivals that year to teach. Over all that time, we became family – so much love and tears and fun and fighting!
Ricardo was always generous as a person, in his dance, and as a friend and teacher. In groups and with everyone he met, I watched him share what he knew was the heart of tango. Many people did not understand what he was giving and found it irritating and uncomfortable to dance without the security of steps and a mental agenda. For many, he was an inspiration not just for his skill in the dance, but because he modeled authenticity. He was diligently true to himself.
I knew that what Ricardo was teaching me would be the basis of my life’s work as a tango teacher myself. He knew I was aligned with him and understood what he was wanting the world to know. He also knew that I would remain as a faithful advocate for his culture and dance. In his last year, he transmitted everything he could to me. He was exigent with me and he pushed me to places I could barely go and we argued a lot. I realize now that even this was an act of true generosity. I wish now that I could have received immediately what he wanted to give me without struggling. It would have been the most generous thing I could have done – but I was as hard-headed as he was! Also, I needed to grow into his teachings. I needed to find my own individual stubborn way and then to find that he had never steered me wrong – that in fact each new place I find as I grow was where he was leading me to all along!
I always said that Ricardo was a force of nature. Willful like a storm, he channeled the currents of my life in the direction I needed and wanted to go. He gave all of himself – his heart, his friendship, and all that I could receive of what he knew about tango. How do you thank someone who has given so much to your life? For me, I can only give what he knew I would – the faithful transmission of what I have learned from him to my students…so, everyday in some way he remains with me in my studio, with my work, in my heart and with all my gratitude.

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Jill Barrett

Video courtesy of Chan Park

Jill Barrett was a very close friend of Ricardo’s. He once said to me that she was the most inquisitive about the composition of tango music.  Jill invited Ricardo to London many times where he had stayed for several months each year, becoming a beloved master among the dancers in England. There were moments of difficulties obtaining his passport and several people were involved in helping, including Gavito. All had been anxiously waiting for Ricardo to arrive.

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today”. James Dean
“What are you doing? Why I can’t find you on the phone? All 3 of your classes at my place are already fully booked, the students have paid. Are you going to make it? ” Jill

“My dearest: Happy birthday! In this beautiful day I am so close that I almost see you smiling as always surrounded of love, friends and memories, and I know I have my special place, so thank you for all things you have gave me. Tomorrow from Ezeiza I shall tell you on what flight I am arriving in London, so be patient as I am, I see you soon. A big, big kiss in this special day hoping your wishes will come. Love, Ricardo”.

“Just to bring you the good news, hot off the press – by some miracle Ricardo has arrived in London at last! He’s in good shape, considering ordeal of the last few weeks trying to organize his travel, we have danced our first tangos and drunk our first glass of wine together. If I were religious, I’d say Thanks to God, bit since I am not, I ‘ll say Thanks to Gavito, without whose kind help Ricardo would not be sitting here now”.

” My dear Oscar and Mariann. I am in London since almost a week, so the passport  was an odyssey, in which without my friend’s, JILL, help I would have not arrived. Thanks to God people are marvelous. Love, Ricardo”

Ricardo’s views on women leading were, I think, typical of his generation. He believed that tango is about a man and a woman and as such he had a gut feeling that two women dancing together didn’t make sense. He said that if a woman leads her following suffers. After discussion he revised this to: “when a woman spends a lot of time leading her following suffers”.

I think he believed that leading is inherently damaging the woman’s ability to follow. We used to argue about that. If I was dancing with him and something went wrong he would tell me to stop trying to lead. I would insist i was trying to lead, I simply lost my balance, made a mistake, misunderstood his lead.

However, Ricardo never said that a woman shouldn’t lead. On the contrary he encouraged me in my leading and gave me lessons in which i was leading a woman partner. He understood that a woman teacher needs to know both roles, and also that some women in London are leading a lot now because of the lack of good male partners.

When he and I taught together and there was a shortage of men in the class, he and I would both dance with the partnerless women and he was very happy to do that.

So I think whatever his views were in principle, he was broad-minded and flexible enough to adapt himself to different situations and cultures. He was a good and loyal friend to me and supported what I did, even if he didn’t agree with it. For example, he was by chance staying here in my home once when I gave a whole day’s workshop on changes of direction, boleos and other moves in the “Gustavo Naveira” style of tango. In other words, not Ricardo’s style at all. I suggested that he might prefer to go out for the day, but he wanted to stay. He watched the whole class. He gave us good humor, support and encouragement, and helped me by turning the music on and off. However, he refrained from giving us the benefit of his opinions (which must have cost him a lot of effort).

Video courtesy of Jill Barrett

Myriam Pincen

One day I was at a milonga, sitting and observing from the audience, when my attention was drawn to the pair of feet that distinguished themselves in the way they were moving in compás with the music.  I tried to see to whom they belonged, but when the tanda ended, I saw a white-haired gentleman, impeccably dressed, who accompanied his partner to the table.  After a while, the same man invited me to dance, I accepted willingly.  Between tangos we conversed, and I learned more about him.  He danced like the gods.  He proposed working with him while he was in Buenos Aires.  He was thinking of traveling.  That year we taught many classes, seminars and did exhibitions in Buenos Aires.  I am very grateful to have had the good fortune to share such experiences.  I will never forget his good humor, wisdom, and most of all, his contagious optimism.  I am left with the unforgettable memory of a man and a dancer of unsurpassed quality . . . he will always be among my best memories.

Vilma Martinez

I met Ricardo Vidort at an exhibition where I was accidentally one Saturday evening eight years ago, the milonga of Gordo Rosich.  I remember when it was announced and a gentleman entered the floor, looking more than a milonguero.  From behind his glasses shined the intellect. He was not very tall, robust, dressed with sobriety and very quiet.  There was an atmosphere of “HYSTERIA OF A DANCER WHO WAS GOING TO GIVE AN EXHIBITION.”  He started to dance, as I never knew, I focused all my attention on him and the first thing I was struck by was the simplicity of his dance, the simplicity which I suddenly noticed.  It had nothing to do with the simplicity in the sense of boredom or stupidity.  He started to walk and continued walking all the time,  the movements being super precise.  Each of his steps were in time with the rhythm. Also none of his steps were accidental.   He totally guided the direction and moment in which he put his foot inside the musical phrase.

Reflection … So is it true that the beauty is engraved in simplicity?  Is it then for not noticing this aspect that so few people can dance well?

The embrace of Ricardo was perceived as a mixture of firmness and tenderness, the firmness which had nothing to do with stiffness, just the opposite, an enormous relaxation in his arms made a woman feel comfortable, rocked, protected when he was taking her through the dance.  And even though his dance was oriented to follow him in every moment of the phrase and the intention of the music (thus it being a complex and predictable dance), each woman who was attentive and surrendered could understand the signs of his body, precise and subtle at the same time.  I noticed that when I later danced with him.

I remembered that while watching him dance Di Sarli, super tanguero that he was, I realized that I was seeing a prototype of a porteño of the world; capable, elegant, sober, sure of himself, but most of all sober. Because if there is something that always was part of the culture of an Argentinean, it’s the taste for stridency, discretion, elegance which however did not exclude the indomitable lucid spirit expressed in his feet through terrestrial drawings of originality, complexity, and at times surprising solutions.

All of this I saw in Vidort that Saturday evening in the milonga of Rosich, that evening I discovered Vidort, the tango dancer, but later I was lucky to come closer to him.  This approach allowed me to discover in him a human being with integrity, sincere, void of infantile ambitions, “back in life” but in the sense of knowing that he wasn’t going to, in every minute of his life, waste time on pettiness or superficiality.  Sober and discrete, he maintained himself until the end of his life . . .  and generous, very generous, which is not little in the super competitive ambience, plagued by the narcissism without sense.  For me, Vidort is a paradigm of excellence in Argentine tango and a great man.  I will never forget him.

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Video created, translated and edited by ewa Kielczewska, filmed by Chan Park

Published on 30/01/2011 at 1:00 am  Comments Off on Chapter 8. Women With Whom Ricardo Taught Tango  
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