When I tell my students or tango friends that I consider El Corte my tango home, those who have never been there, often ask what makes it so special.
Well, El Corte is my tango home, but it is more than just that. It is a place where I feel I arrived at and it is a place that I am in no hurry to leave. It is a place where I am embraced and kissed by people who are genuinely happy to see me. It is a place where I can be myself, my FULL self.
It is a place where I used to go to as often as possible. It made me feel perfectly well in my skin.
There was the community of dancers from very different places and of very different backgrounds, but with the feeling of belonging to each other, and of belonging to that place that we each cared for and helped out with whatever needed to be done. Be it moving the table and the sofas, be it collecting used cups around the room, be it doing the dishes or cutting the veggies for breakfast while listening to the breakfast music (L’étudiant passé by the Salonensemble Trocadero) and fearing Komala’s strictness.
Fearing Komala entirely, basically, while loving her unconditionally. I must bow to her: she taught me a thing or two about female assertiveness, which came in very handy at raising a child single-handedly later on. Back to making breakfast, sometimes it was simply wonderful to let down the chopping knives and share an improvised barefoot dance with Sharon who walked by in her gorgeous English lace nightgown in floral pattern.
Then somebody would come out of the shower behind the glass window and a curtain that offered very limited privacy - but nobody really minded it. It was a luxury to be able to even take a hot shower (meaning the people in the line ahead of you had not used up all the hot water). A shower line was nicely determined by a line of soaps and towels on the counter above the shoe pigeon holes.
Yes, the pigeon holes for the shoes, you got that right. It was a brilliant idea. A perfect way to stack the dancing shoes of many people in the room. It also was just one of many brilliant architectural and interior design ideas of that place.
El Corte never stayed the same. Creativity is its middle name. Any time you’d return, you’d find another little detail there. Paintings, sculptures, decorative objects in dark corners, the shape of the feet of the coffee table, you name it. But words do them no justice. You need to see the pictures, at the very least.
The red old sofa next to the entrance to the dancefloor is legendary, too. It was the place where I held amazing conversations with Steve from New York, accompanied by a foot massage, or sat with Katja from Oxford, talking, while being mesmerized by the sound and look of faceless feet on the floor, utterly relaxed and at peace. Those dancing feet from El Corte make for one of the best sounds in this world.
That red old sofa happened to be one of the top spots to sleep on after the milonga was over, Barbara from Munich and I agree. It was a place where I could regather myself after an out-of-this-worldly series of tandas with a heavenly leader. It was a place that offered a perfect view to admire the smooth seduction techniques of Don Juan of Nijmegen.
Then there was the smell of dust and sweat (and cigarette smoke in the very old days) and the pervasive moisture of an old industrial hall, but then there was the strongly perceptible smell of happiness, too. The vibes of deep connection and love in its many shapes were in the air, stored and contagious.
You could feel them especially strongly on a late Sunday night, when just a fistful of us returned on the midnight train from Flor de Fango in Arnheim. El Corte was dark, well cleaned up by the cleaning team in the afternoon, after the brunch, while everyone lingered around, unwilling to start their long journey home, taking their goodbyes forever.
But on Sunday night El Corte was quiet. A bit of breakfast food was left in the fridge for the following morning. At night we could serve ourselves some drinks or a bag of chips, paying for it by crossing off the appropriate amount on our drink cards. It would not occur to any one of us -not even remotely- to cheat. Not on El Corte, not on Eric or Henry, the wonderful couple behind the scenes. Or I should say, on the scenes, as they were actually there with us most of the time, making the whole experience what it was.
Eric Joerisson, the founder of El Corte, is a person I consider the master of all masters of tango teaching. It is amazing to take his class, and it is equally amazing to just sit outside and quietly observe his teaching style and approach. I feel honored to be trained as a tango teacher by him. And if you have ever met him, then you know he possesses an incredible kind of photographic memory. Over the years, he has had thousands of visitors to El Corte and thousands of people in his classes worldwide, literally worldwide - from New York to South Africa to Germany, England or Latvia, to name just a few, but he seems to remember every person’s name AND the place where they first met. He has the charisma of The Great. He has Henry on his side to prove it.
Henry, taking charge, doing a huge amount of background work to keep things running smoothly is a perfect host, but always ready for a friendly conversation or a quick dance here and there.
I’m running the risk of using a cliché, but El Corte is a melting pot -or a fruit salad- of many different people of incredible backgrounds. It has the ability to connect us all together. We simply belong and return to it, as soon as our lives permit it.
But I am not the only one saying so. I asked a few El Cortians about their memories of El Corte and here is what they told me.
Barbara S. from Munich:
Dirk S. from Dortmund:
Sven F. from Düsseldorf:
These personal accounts sum up nicely the stories I hear in one or another shape from my long-time friends. Perhaps I’ll hear and share more of them in the future. But for now, let me leave it here with the final observation.
El Corte, to me, is a lifetime achievement, a vision come true. It serves as an inspiration to many of us. Eric has been at least a couple of generations before his time. Both locally and internationally, he understood that building a community was crucial for starting a tango school, and he was the first to create opportunities for international dancers to come together for a weekend of nonstop dancing. In that sense, he made history and inspired the marathons and encuentros of today’s tango landscape. Who knows, would they have evolved the same way if the current organizers (or their teachers' teachers) had not experienced the beauty of such connection first-hand in their early days of intensive tango social dancing? It was El Corte where it all started; where no flash was needed to attract the public, it was just the time and the space being carved out for respectful social dancing, genuine human connection, wonderful traditional music selection and the fertile ground for all kinds of creativity.
I am humbled by this community of warm-hearted, tolerant people that I get to meet there over and over again. Thank you, El Corte, and see you very soon again!
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I'm Hannah A. Tomšič from Ljubljana, Slovenia. I'm in love with both leading and following in tango. It is wonderful to explore tango indefinitely and to help others learn. Please, join my quest. Ask a question, tell me your story, make me see another perspective. We are all here to learn from each other.