South America Living

Want to Tango in Buenos Aires? Meet Cherie Magnus!

Note from Molly: This is an interview with Cheri Magnus, American expat in Buenos Aires and author of “The Church of Tango; a Memoir“.

I read the book, love the story of this amazing lady who buried her loving husband, almost got married in Paris, survived two bouts of cancer, lived in Mexico until decided it wasn’t the place for her then moved to Buenos Aires; dancing the Tango all over the world, in every chapter of the book.

Rueben & Cherie

Rueben & Cherie


 

1.   I loved the book, so much life, energy and fun times, mixed with a fair amount of regular life bullshit plus a bit of tragedy (your bouts with cancer). It is as much of a sharing as it is story telling, IMHO, and I’m sure you’ve gotten many compliments and great reviews.

I have, thank you. I did a radio interview last week and the host explained in my introduction that to him I was so much more than a “survivor,” that I was “triumphant,” which I really loved.

I did receive a couple of one-star reviews on Amazon though, which I actually enjoyed. One was that it was unbelievable that so many bad things happened to one person—the truth was that I left many sad and tragic events out of the book.

And another reviewer said, “Why does the author think that anyone would be interested in her sex life?” which not only made me chuckle, but probably helped to sell more books.

 
2.   Tango you came to later in life, but mentioned you had danced professionally when younger. What is your dance background? You talk about one of your two sons being a ballet dancer as well.

Dance has always been a part of my life from my first ballet lessons at the age of three. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer. So I studied ballet all during childhood, and up to my second year at UCLA, where I majored in dance.

I also danced other forms like hula (which I studied at the University of Hawaii), modern, ballroom, jazz, tap. Then later on I studied bellydancing and performed all over California and Las Vegas with my own cabaret troupe, The Perfumes of Araby.

My youngest son, Jason, toured the world as a principal dancer with the Hartford Ballet, and the Spoleto Festival in Italy.

As I write in my book, The Church of Tango, nightly country and western dancing saved me from despair after the death of my husband. And then the tango found me and changed my life forever.

 
3.   I’m a Tango virgin, have seen the dance once in the streets of Buenos Aires during a short visit, and on film, but that’s it. It seems very technically difficult to master, yet you talk about beginning dancers who come to Argentina and dance in a milonga. How hard is it to learn?

The tango you’ve seen on stage, TV, in the streets, and in the movies is “stage tango,” and nothing at all like the social tango that is danced nightly in the Buenos Aires milongas. Social tango is all about the music, the connection, the embrace, improvisation, elegance and sensuality.

It can be mastered by “ordinary people” not just ballet dancers and young performers. Stage tango is about choreography, acrobatic tricks, and showing off. Social tango is felt, not seen.

Tango isn’t easy, yet as my partner Ruben says, not impossible either. The basic step is the walk, and all moves are based on the simple change of weight. That said, a tango dancer must have good technique (stepping on a straight leg with all weight on the supporting foot) and elegant posture (chest out, weight forward), as well as being relaxed and musical.

The man leads, the woman follows as in no other dance because good tango doesn’t consist of patterns repeated endlessly, but innovation depending on the music and the movement of other couples counter-clockwise on the floor. It’s a challenge, but so well worth it.

It’s been established that dancing tango benefits Parkingson’s patients and prolongs the onset of Alzheimer’s. Psychological benefits and endorphins come out of dancing tango as well. Moving to music in a good tango embrace can make you feel reborn.

 
4.   The video I have embedded below is from your and Ruben’s YouTube
channel
. I love it, and is this the typical feel of a night at a milonga? Seems very low-key to me, reminds me of a family Polish wedding 40 or so years ago (my family)!

Thank you for enjoying the video of our dancing in a milonga. I wouldn’t say exactly that the milonga ambiance is low-key, because there are strict behavior codes in a traditional milonga, unlike I suppose at a Polish wedding. But the atmosphere is elegant, refined, and
polite.

There are no people running around grabbing partners, the length of time spent with one partner is set, everyone knows how to behave and normally everyone behaves well.

 
5.   I rooted and cheered for you throughout the book, and cursed a few nasty folks as well, such as the ‘friends’ of yours and your first husband whom you shared ownership of an apartment in France with, then they stole the deceased property rights (lowered rent) granted to you since your husband passed away, forcing you to sell; despicable. The location of the property was near the cemetery where he was buried, do you still visit the area and spend time there?

Jack is buried in the little village of Lugrin on the shore of Lake Geneva near Evian-les-Bains, the same village where we owned a gorgeous apartment with another couple. In France graves are leased for thirty years, and his plot will come due in another seven years.

I may not still be around by then, and because I wasn’t able to hang on to the apartment, I realize I made a mistake to bury him so far from home and the children who loved him. I would love to visit France again, but unfortunately I can’t afford to travel any more. I do have friends in Lugrin who care for the grave, thank goodness.

Another despicable act was the sneaky move by the realtor I had engaged to sell our family home when I could no longer afford the upkeep. He never brought around suitable, qualified buyers while he knew I was anxious to sell, and I kept lowering the price until the realtor himself bought it. He still lives there 22 years later.

 
6.   You live the life of an artist (at least as an older woman, maybe less so when married with children) – free, exploratory, open to love and relationship with others, taking part in arts activities of all kinds in addition to dance – yet are a religious person of sorts as you described attending church regularly, regardless of where you lived. I love that you didn’t let religion (which I’m not fond of as an adult) dictate how you lived your life. Can you explain that a bit.

I am a religious person who enjoys attending religious services. If there is a choice, I go to Lutheran or Anglican services, but love the Catholic church too. I believe there is one God, the same one in all monotheistic religions. I don’t get stuck in details—such as what people are supposed to eat, wear, practice in bed, etc.

I believe God is Good, and good people need to help one another and be happy. There are good people all over the world and in all religions. If religion does dictate how to live, I think it tells us to love our neighbor, be sympathetic, empathetic, and kind.

Tango is meditation practice and can be very spiritual, thus the title of my book.

 
7.   Argentina has obviously been good to you, and you met your current life partner Ruben in Buenos Aires, where you both share your love of the dance of Tango with others, taking tourists to a milonga and dancing with them – do you feel fulfilled now?

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to live in other countries (France, Mexico, Argentina) and learn other languages and cultures, and have a new career (teaching tango) at this stage in my life. But being so far away from my “home,” friends and family is becoming more difficult the older I get and the more chaotic Argentina becomes.

But I consider it a gift that I’ve been able to impart traditional tango culture, ideals, history, music of the Golden Age, to our students. Too often today teachers and students are only interested in flashy moves and impressing others, and not with communicating profound emotions arising from the music and the connection with one’s partner — the essence of tango to me.

Many cultures have music to liberate and alleviate feelings of sadness and longing. In the United States it’s the blues, flamenco in Spain, fado in Portugal, tango in Argentina. It’s a healthy release to express in music these very human emotions.

 
8.   For any other woman, who has lost a life partner through divorce or death, and is facing the difficulties of midlife in the U.S. where it is more and more difficult to live a quality life on a moderate to low-income, what would you say?

What would you recommend in moving forward, risk-taking, and trying to find that inner joy that we all want to find, that you seem to have found in the dance of Tango.

Life is to be lived boldly and bravely. Financial concerns are a reality to be reckoned with, especially as we grow older. But we should have faith that things will work out, that “where there is a will, there is a way,” although it may not work out in a way that we
imagine or desire. “Following your bliss” is desirable at any age.

However I do not recommend taking off for parts unknown as an older person without financial security or health insurance. Neither to assume finding a job in a foreign country is possible.

 
9.   Lastly, describe a typical night out with a tourist visiting a milonga with you and Ruben, what someone could expect, and also how much it costs, how to contact you.

Lots of visitors to Buenos Aires go to tango shows and think that they have seen the “real” tango. They go home not realizing that the real people of Buenos Aires of all ages, sizes, the porteños/as dance tango every night in social dances with historical “codigos” of behavior and recorded music that have survived the test decades of time. This is the place to go to understand Buenos Aires culture.

Sometimes people inquire about our “hassle free Tango Tours” which consist of a private lesson followed by a visit to a milonga, where Ruben and I explain what is going on, how people get partners to dance, the history of some of the customs, and actually dance with the students if they desire.

If people don’t take the lesson, while they do enjoy themselves, they really can’t comprehend what is going on in the milonga. They don’t know what they are seeing. They don’t understand that the dance is indeed lead by the man and followed by the woman, totally improvised.

That the basic step of the tango is the walk. And while every couple on the floor is dancing in their own “personal” style, they can all be dancing well. There is a saying in tango that “you dance who you are.”

We are thrilled to introduce people to this magical world where the only thing that matters is the dance.

A personalized private lesson with both of us for a couple, followed by a trip to a milonga, all inclusive of transportation to the venue from our studio, entrance fees, refreshments (champagne, wine, beer, soft drinks, snacks, waitress tips), and dancing is $280 usd.

There are milongas every day of the week, for every age and type of dancer—more than 200 every week in Greater Buenos Aires. We choose the best for the students in question.

We can be contacted via email at: tangocherie@gmail.com.

More information is available on my blog, tangocherie.

On our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RubenyCherieTango

And we are grateful for our wonderful student reviews on TripAdvisor.
 

Thank you so much for this lovely interview and next time I am in Buenos Aires I am signing up for a night of Tango fun with you and Reuben! best, Molly




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