I have only one great regret in tango, and that it not taking classes with Gavito. Of course there are others as well, but with Gavito we had the opportunity, we passed, and shame on us for it. Of course, at the time we simply didn’t know better.
Determined not to make same mistake again, we decided to take our teachers’ advice and try to get in touch with the legendary ‘El Turco’ José. Master of ‘Estilo Villa Urquiza’. I originally thought he did not teach anymore, but in fact Jorge Dispari was hosting a workshop with his old master just days before we arrived in Buenos Aires. Then another one days after we left. Que mala suerte!
We were not really planning on taking much lessons at all, but we couldn’t just let it go with that, so I got his number, called him up, and made an appointment with his lovely wife. And off we went.
You will often hear the term maestro of maestros in the tango world. But rarely does it apply as well as with José. In my case, you could say he’s the maestro del maestro del maestro..
Unfortunately, he can’t dance himself anymore, but that doesn’t stop him. When you see how he demonstrates with his feet, caressing the floor like no one else I’ve seen, you realize what an amazing dancer is in front of you. Simply a privilege to have the opportunity to learn from such an extraordinary man.
One of the first things he asked was: Which music do you like to dance to? No hesitation, straight to the core: the music. Whenever I hear the song Cascabelito, I think of José. It was on all three cds we used while practicing on his living room floor. Vargas. Di Sarli. Pugliese.
José is famous for his sublime subtlety, and would not stop until we got it exactly right. We demonstrated. –No. he would say. Again. –No. Until we finally got it. –You have to practice this a lot, he would say. –Make sure to take notes or film it.
José would sit in his chair, smiling, but with the sharp eyes cultivated to reveal the finer points of tango since he was young, learning to dance mainly by watching the more experienced dancers. We would talk about the tango before and now, and his passion for this dance would lighten his eyes, eager to bring the tango he loves on to new generations.
All the things he showed us were absolutely gorgeous. Yielding very nice sentiments as well as elegance and finesse. The first day we did corrections.–You want to learn the Villa Urquiza style? he asked. –Then you cannot do like that. It should be like this. Despacio.. (do it slowly). The last day we did nothing but walking exercises. It will take a lot of practice to internalize it all, but it will be well worth the extra effort. Dancing the tango of José is far from easy. Oh, do I hope there will be more opportunities to learn from this great master again.
This rare footage of José dancing was published by his daughter Laura on facebook. It is from the Sunday milonga upstairs at Sunderland, organized by the late Lampazo. Jorge Dispari was giving the introduction as well as djing there.
Jorge Dispari is hosting another class with José in Buenos Aires February 21st.