Archive for the ‘The Tango Lesson’ Tag


A testimony by Jean-Pierre Sighé
April 2, 2006

I met Alberto and Valorie during the Winter of 1998, in California . I had just made the decision to learn Argentine Tango, after going to the show “Forever Tango” twice in San Francisco and watching the movie “The Tango Lesson” by Sally Potter. I needed someone from the Culture of Argentina to teach me Tango, as I had intuitively sensed how deep Tango seemed to touch the different delicate layers of the human emotions.

Someone had given me their phone number. I called and during the preliminary introduction, I explained the reason of my call: “I needed someone to teach me Tango, but more than the steps. I wanted to understand the “Culture” behind the moves”. After his delighting usual chuckle, he said: “Well…you found me. I think I can teach you what you’re looking for”. These words marked the opening of a marvelous door to my quest.

The first lesson consisted in Walking and… Walking, with no reference to any figure. I had to learn how to keep my partner in front of me, therefore, learn how to “negotiate” curving and straight paths. “Tango is a walking danceAlberto said. Little did I understand at the time all the profound implications of that comment. Confident I was, sensing I was studying with someone who knew what he was doing.

After several months of private and semi-private lessons, Alberto and Valorie encouraged me to start going to the milongas to dance. The dance floor is the place where my many lessons taken, would show, they kept saying.

About 6 months later, as I signed up for the Nora’s Tango week-end (a major Tango event in the San Francisco Bay Area in July) I began to realize how fortunate I had been to study with Alberto and Valorie. I had been very well prepared to understand the instructions of other great tango Masters such as Fabian Salas, Carlos Gavito, Tito…etc. that I encountered at the event and later on, studied with.

I had NEVER had to go back and unlearn or correct anything Alberto and Valorie have taught me. For that I will be forever grateful to them. In the world where many delve and stagnate in so much fantasies and half information dispensed by people who have not yet studied long enough and yet want to be “teachers”, it means a lot to find the right Master Teachers such as Alberto and Valorie, from the very first neophyte’s steps.

To Teach is also to express Love. It is a gift and a talent. I was very impressed with Alberto’s ability to go into my mind and explain to me a difficulty I was experiencing. He was thus able to help me identify the problem and therefore put me in a better position to correct it. Infinitely patient, Alberto and Valorie NEVER looked at their watch to “check the time” of the lesson. I remember one day where I was so enthusiastic about a subject we were studying, that I kept working on it and asking questions, over and over. At some point, Valorie went to the kitchen for a quick brake. I continued with Alberto for a while. Then, Alberto walked toward the couch, slumped onto it with his hands resting on his head. At that moment, Valorie came out of the kitchen and Alberto, looking at her said with a very calmed and exhausted voice : “I think we’ve created a monster!” She burst out laughing. I quickly realized…checked my watch and (Oh my God!) we had been working for over two hours already, for a lesson that was meant to last one hour. I too laughed, apologized for my “stubborn focus” and departed shortly after to allow my teachers some rest.

That availability of a Teacher, that Love expressed tirelessly for the student, has marked me forever. There is an indescribable joy in helping a student receive the information and to see that information take shape in his/her mind. The length of time it takes to accomplish the goal does not matter anymore. That is the modus operandi of Alberto and Valorie.

Very attached to the historical accuracies, Alberto opened my eyes to many facts about Argentine Tango. He is the one who made me realize the contribution that the African descents in Buenos Aires , along with the Italian, Spanish and Indian, had brought to the birth of Tango. After the class, it was customary to sip a cup of tea, graciously offered by Valorie, in the kitchen of their wonderful house (I called it ‘The Temple of Tango”, because everything in that house was breathing Tango). During that special time, casual comments often helped me open my heart more to the Argentinean spirit.

Alberto and Valorie gave me a gift of a priceless value, an added life lasting joy to my existence: the experience of Tango. They opened a window on the garden of my soul to let more rays of the sun and more warmth of Love rush in. Thank you!


A table at a coffee shop seems the ideal place to solve the problems of the world, to catch up with the latest gossip and to passionately chat about The Tango Lesson; after all who better than those who have had their share of tango lessons to Siskel-and Ebert Sally Potter’s dream come through.

Dick saw it in Sweden and can’t stop talking about the tango valseado that Pablo and Sally did by the Seine, reminiscent of an unforgettable scene from An American in Paris.

Samantha was at the showing of the movie at the Venice Festival and now laughs at her emotional outburst of contempt for what she considered an arrogant attempt by Sally Potter to portray her movie as a love story. That’s not how love stories go on the dance floor, she wrote in a letter to the editor of an Italian newspaper, but then she reasons, not every fifty something Brit lady gets the chance to do a movie about tango and makes it look like half way decent. At best they get to start a war in the Islas Malvinas or to be featured in a Monty Python film.

Another round of cappuccinos, cafe lattes and Kalua makes its way to the table. The perky waitress has caught up with the conversation and she is eyeballing Jake Manzana who looks dapper in his blue blazer and gray flannel pants. He’s quick to say that the Tango Lesson is the kind of outing to which I could bring a date without fear of getting her bored. “Perky” bends over the table and gives Jake two good reasons to make him stare at her for a moment before he turns his head and gazes at the rain falling beyond the windows of the cafe.

She’d love to learn the tango and a flurry of business cards fall on her tray. Best tips she ever had…

Woody snaps, I guess the special effects budget ran short because in the scene where they dance a milonga in the rain on the streets of Buenos Aires, I can see that 100 feet away it’s not raining.

Come on, says Camille, a contra-artist who is always on the leading edge of creative ways to mix tango with art, you probably have enjoyed your quota of wet T-shirt contests in your life. Dancing in the rain? Don’t knock it until you try it.

Matt is patting his hair into place, enjoying his own reflection in the window he’s using as a mirror. He speaks to the group, but never takes his eyes from his reflection, or his hands from his hair. The real star of the film is Buenos Aires, the scenes at Ideal are just as authentic as they can be. Sally, he continues with the authority of a connoisseur, I can’t stand because she is so self-centered. On cue, everybody looks at Matt, with a quizzical question mark in their eyes.

Suzy is about to lash out something vitriolic, everybody can see that, but then thinking that they‘re gonna have to ride back together she just rolls up her eyes and deliberately opens the New York Post and reads aloud, The Tango Lesson doesn’t have legs.

What does the writer know? Tammy, jumping up from her chair, snaps, I dare him to prove that! She is in town on a grant from the Tango Cheerleading Federation visiting local hoofer Darren, serious, scruffy, with a trendy new growth of beard. Sit Tammy, sit. He’s a dancer; he’s born again; a single tear rolls down his face.

Milenita confesses that the look Alicia gives Carlos in the scene where he is hustling Sally is too close for comfort. Hay miradas que matan, rebuts Juanita with an air of complicity, using an acquired Spanish accent that drives everybody crazy. Indeed if looks could kill.

Do you think that Veron is French dipping in the airport scene?, asks Tito with a lecherous look on his face. It’s French kissing, you dirty old man!, snaps Margarita, his embarrassed wife.

I think Sally committed an act of wild hubris by assuming center stage in her new film about dance and love, says Janet, who writes for the New York Times. There is a moment of silence as everybody ponders the depth of Janet’s statement before everybody burst out laughing.

Come on you guys, give the old spinster a break. It takes a lot of guts to put in black and white a poignant story about the lessons of tango capturing with a very subtle sense of humor and irony the egocentric and chauvinist subtexts of the Tango scene both in Buenos Aires and abroad. Heads turn in disbelief to a bearded guy who’s tap dancing by the table, clad in a long dripping overcoat.

Can you guys spare a quarter for a cup of coffee?, he begs extending a paper cup with his right hand.

Outside the rain continues to wreck havoc with the traffic.

Margarita’s eyes have turned to the window where the capricious raindrops and the reflections of the street lights have drawn a smug image of Sally Potter’s face. Ave Maria purisima, it’s a miracle, she mutters as she slowly crosses her chest…

Posted April 8, 2000 by Alberto & Valorie in HUMOR

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