Some time ago I went to a practica of a milonguero I've known for many years.
When I walked into the Salon de Fiestas on Independencia. there were six milongueros sitting around a table, smoking and talking. It looked like they were waiting to audition for The Godfather. I was the only woman.
After kissing them all hello, I sat down to listen. They were talking about tango--about the old days, the orchestras, the music, the golden age. They began to argue about steps, and one grabbed me and lead something complicated. "No, no, that's not the way it was," another one insisted, and took me in his arms and said, "This is the way to do it." Pretty soon the two old men were dancing with each other, working out the step.
One of the men ordered the best vino tinto, and they continued talking about tango and how it used to be. But eventually, being men, even if very old, they all turned their attention to me for compliments, piropos, questions, and teasing.
When a couple of women and some foreign dancers finally arrived, the practica began in earnest, but for me, the best part was over. I had witnessed something rare and special, and which would one day soon be extinguished--the living history of tango.
Afterwards, two of the milongueros and an Australian and I went to Celia's and took a corner table in the back. I alternated dancing with the two milongueros, who plied me with piropos. "You are a fantastic dancer, but as beautiful as you dance, it's not as beautiful as you are."
The Australian didn't dance, but ordered another bottle of vino tinto for all of us, hoping to keep the men talking. You could tell he was thrilled and awed to be a quiet part of the old world of tango, and he just breathlessly soaked it all in, thankful to be there, as was I.