Sunday, November 29, 2015


I was working when Man Yung called me to tell me that Osvaldo had passed away.  He had received a message on Facebook from his daughter with the news.

"Man Yung, Papa won't suffer anymore....we have another angel who will care for us."

After the call, I sat in my office facing the window so that no one can see my expression, willing myself not to cry because absurdly, ludicrously, farcically, I had difficult clients coming in at 4:30 p.m. sharp and I had to deal with them.  Time was still marching forward, the world was still turning...

When Osvaldo died, I felt that Tango died.  Sure, people are still dancing tango, and on any given night there will be cabeceo and entrega and abrazo and passion and heartbreak.... Yes, Tango still exists but -

We were dazed with shock and grief but we went dancing that night.  It seemed the only thing we could do, after sending our condolences to Coca and her family.  It seemed the right thing to do, to honour Osvaldo by dancing for him, with thoughts of him in our hearts. 

But when we were at the milonga, underneath all that hustle and bustle and the smiles and chatting and movement, same people, same faces, same places and the music playing and playing like it was a goddamn broken record on repeat.... there was silence.  And a hole in our hearts with nothing inside it.

Who would show us now, "Asi se baila el Tango"?  Who will tell them, Tango is from your heart and soul, it is from love?  No, not that aggressive theatrical show-off stage spectacle with the flying feet and vicious kicks demonstrating "Love and Hate and everything in between" (Osvaldo and Coca really laughed at that one when we described it to them).  No, Tango's love is in being gentle - no, even more gentle, more gentle!  Cariño, like caressing your lover's face with your hands.  No Irene!  Don't mash Man Yung's face!  That's too much.  Like a baby, like holding a baby, like this... Osvaldo and Coca would demonstrate again and again, cradling an imaginary baby. 

And there's that other thing he'd say to us.  "Don't listen to them!"  He would wave his arms violently in passion when he heard about tango professionals giving us advice contrary to what he and Coca had told us.  Osvaldo may be from a humble background, but there were a couple of things he knew he was an absolute authority.  One of then was Tango.  "Don't listen to their bullshit.  You are dancing Tango!  Ask me.  I KNOW." 

He didn't have to worry about Man Yung.  Osvaldo would tell everyone who would listen with surprise and pride, "Man Yung has stolen all my steps!  I don't even have to teach him!"  And he didn't have to worry about Irene either.  "You dance like mami - like Coca. You dance like us."  He'd slap his hand on top of mine and squeeze while nodding to Coca in emphasis.

He had so much confidence in us, and he wasn't afraid to show the world how proud he was of us.  Every time we were in Buenos Aires, he'd take us to all the milongas.  Arrange for us to perform even when we didn't want to!   

Look!  Irene and Man Yung - they are my students.  My friends.  My family.

God, we will miss you Osvaldo.

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