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September 28, 2009

Interview with Gavito

Thanks to Ray Rudowski from Hong Kong and with his permission, here is part of the transcript (will update once he has translated all) of an interview (in Spanish) of Gavito by Miguel Zotto. Here Gavito shares some of his views on tango, role of women and his “struggles” during his early days of teaching. Sadly he died not long after the interview. For me the central message is:

“I say that any man who dances tango and doesn’t look at the woman as a queen, will never be a king. For me it’s all about respect for the woman.”


Zotto: Carlos Eduardo Gavito…

Gavito: How’s it going?

Zotto: Gavito

Gavito: yup

Zotto: I wanna ask you a few questions about your career, how did you see tango, you struggled, you traveled, you believed in something when no one else believed in this. What is your feeling of tango?

Gavito: Look there’s a message here for people who go out to tango. It’s not something that is all about one person, there are not “bosses” or “leaders”. It’s really about freedom. The freedom of the ordinary people, the freedom of our neighborhoods. This is not something they have in other countries. Many people, no just me, but many people believe the most beautiful thing you can do in tango is in the embrace. Many people have picked up on this in various lessons and schools. No no, this is something in each of us. It’s something that exists in each one of us. It’s the warmth. When you’re taking another person, ‘I’m protected’ ‘I’m not alone.’ That’s tango. It’s the passion. In the local neighbourhoods it’s on every corner. Some close friend is singing, another is playing music. We didn’t learn this in schools. It’s been around for a while in different forms. But in the 1920’s and 1930’s Many people say Gavito, you danced to Canaro. I don’t dance to Canaro because for me, it’s a tango I haven’t lived through. But I was around for Di Sarli and I know Juan Carlos Copes (milonguero). He represents a certain time for me.

Zotto: It was great last night watching (Dancer) Maria Nieves. Oh yeah. But let’s talk about you. When did you start traveling?

Gavito: For tango I left Argentina in 1968. I think it was April 1968. I actually flew out on an air force plane to go to Columbia to the Medellin tango festival. When we’re descending for the airport, I see these old ladies around the airstrip, they were so tiny. (laughs). I’ll never forget it.

Zotto: How many countries did you visit?

Gavito: For work, 93 countries, constantly on the move passing through, coming and going. It was a constant struggle, and at that time, no one believed in tango, no one. I was dancing on a cruise ship in the Caribbean and some American guy says “What do you like to dance?” I was confused by the question. I said I danced tango. He says, what you do isn’t tango. Tango is where you put a rose in your mouth and dance around the room. I said, look that’s the dance of (Rudolf) Valentino and Valentino was Italian and he lived in Hollywood, not in Buenos Aires Argentina. That’s how people saw us. The whole projection of our national culture expanded little by little. There was never a massive burst of it. Tango was never massive. Rumba, salsa were massive. It was always something elite and done in homes.

Zotto: Gavita, I’d like to ask what is the role or meaning of the woman in tango for you?

Gavito: Look, I’ll answer that in reverse. I have way of saying and thinking that’s emotional. I say that any man who dances tango and doesn’t look at the woman as a queen, will never be a king. For me it’s all about respect for the woman. The woman needs to trust the one she’s dancing with. She needs to be able to trust in the embrace and trust in where she’s being lead.

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