Montevideo Tango
Luis Alposta

Gardel, tango dancer

he black man, the compadrito and the man of the Old Corrals, this way, in that order and mixed, appear in the chronicles as the ones responsible for having given life to our tango. A tango that, as a dance, with cortes, quebradas and choreographic boasts, was born cheerful and frolicsome in the 1870s. A tango that, later, then calmer, began to infuse, in those who danced it, an almost liturgical respect for those steps and figures that were being invented in a happy-go-lucky fashion, with no other intention but showing off abilities and to demonstrate the knowledge of knowing how to dance it.

So from a vertical style of hugged couples three constants were born: a man should always start up with his left foot, dance forward without never going back, and rotate counterclockwise. And all this, taking the woman as if she were his shadow, maybe «as if she were sleeping», with solemnity, without allowing himself to confidential whispers and regarding the dance as an end in itself.

Later, the authentic character of a popular cultural phenomenon is the one that assured it its transcendental importance. With the passing of time, the choreographic prowess was projected internationally and the tango became our best ambassador. Let us remember the names of Enrique Saborido, Casimiro Aín, Jorge Martin Orcaizaguirre Virulazo and Juan Carlos Copes, in different times and just to name the most representative ones. And at this point we also remember Carlos Gardel. And not for having sung “Bailarín compadrito”, Miguel Bucino’s wonderful tango, but for two facts that feature our Zorzal as a dancer, and as they are pertinent I shall tell you what follows:

Miguel Angel Morena, in his book Historia artística de Carlos Gardel, referring to the performances of the Gardel-Razzano duo, in Chile, in 1917, says the following:

«On October 5, in the Teatro Olimpo of Viña del Mar, the singers appeared alongside the tonadillera (a female singer) Roxana. To make the evening of the premiere more interesting —as a nice additional number— Gardel and Roxana danced the tango “Montevideo” composed by Roberto Firpo».

And there’s another thing that I think it’s important to highlight, taking into account that it bears Homero Manzi’s signature. After the accident of Medellín, in the Radiolandia magazine the author of “Milonga del 900” published a homage to the singer that finished with these words:

«In one of the last movies starring Carlitos Gardel, in Tango Bar, in a scene of the film he appears dressed with the characteristic suit of the Buenos Aires boys of many years ago: close-fitting checkered trousers, a jacket with braid, a bootee with a small heel ending in a point, neckerchief and a hat in Massera’s fashion. And there the handsome boy brought us the gift of a canyengue tango danced by him. And Gardel was a great tango dancer. People didn't know him in that capacity, but in the milieu of his colleagues and friends they knew he was able to translate into tango, also, the resolute swing of his legs, moving them without grotesque boasts, but with the sensitivity of a man that is expert in the simplicity of the rhythmic sense».

In sum: Even dancing tango, Gardel was Gardel!