Juan Bruno was “El Pibe de Ciudadela” (The Kid from Ciudadela). He died in 2004 at the age of 79 . (dates are approx.) He was my closest friend among the dancers of the older generation. I bonded with him because he was such a gentleman, having real respect for the woman in the dance. And he was loyal to the tradition of men learning by dancing with each other. We spent hours and hours practicing together, comparing notes on tango, and refining ideas for teaching people who did not grow up with tango, and needed more than steps. With Juan I refined my tango translation skills.
In 1995 Juan came to the United States with me for the first time, and I think he had a lasting impact on the development of tango community here. He was a working class guy, and one with a lot of class. He danced with everyone, was extraordinarily gracious, and told endless fabulous stories of the Tango’s Golden Age.
Juan’s age is an important marker. He was 16 when he started dancing tango in 1941, at the height of the golden age. He was 28 at the time that political and economic chaos resulted in the beginning tango’s decline in 1953, and he stopped dancing and retired to married and working life by the time he was in his early thirties. he is as young as it is possible to be and still have lived an ample adult experience of the Tango’s golden age. If Juan was alive today he would be 85. Anyone younger than this could not have, mathematically calculating, lived the Tango’s golden years as an adult.
One of Juan’s favorite anecdotes was of a shepherd who used to tend a flock of sheep on the outskirts of the city, where the neighborhoods ended, and the countryside began. The old man was illiterate, but in the tradition of the payador (the traveling guitar playing minstrel who carried culture, stories, and news through the countryside), was a wealth of stories and poetry. Juan knew him when he was a little boy, and memorized one of his poems, one to which he owed much of his philosophy of life in later years.
The verse of the little old man. As told by Juan Bruno in 1998:
Setenta años (Seventy years)
Quien deria, que vivo en etos pagos (Who would have told it, that I live in these pages)
Sin conocer mas al lagos (without knowing more of the world)
Que la gran tristesa mia (than this great sadness of mine)
Setenta años no es un dia (seventy years is not a day)
Y tenga lo muy bien por cierto (this i know for sure)
Porque, si mi dichos son muertos (because, if my sayings are dead)
Hora tengo la vertud (Now i have the truth)
De ser para este joventud (to be for these children)
Lo mismo que un libro abierto (The same as an open book)
Gracias Juan… Thank you… May you be dancing with the angels… Que sos bailando con los angelitos…