Few musical styles are associated with a country as the tango is with Argentina, where it was born. Tango evolved slowly, following the great immigration waves to Argentina in the late 1880s. Tango resulted from the fusion of different rhythms: the “candomblé” (of South American Blacks), the Cuban “habanera;” brought to Argentina in the nineteenth century by Cuban sailors; the Buenos Aires “milonga;” and the Madrilenian “cuplé.”

One of tango’s best definitions is that of expert Horacio Ferrer: “Tango is music, a dance, a way to see the world, a philosophy, a feeling, an emotion. It is the mythical dimension of reality, nostalgia, abandonment. It is lovers’ separation, the sadness of lost love, the indifference of the world to pain, the poetry of neighborhoods, the value of friendship…”.

I was present at an unusual evening at the Taller Latinoamericano, a language school (and much more) in uptown Manhattan. Like Sinatra’s many last performances, this one was supposed to be the last performance at the Taller but I knew, as many people did, that it wouldn’t be the last one. The Taller has survived at that same place before.

The Taller seeks to create community and is a meeting place for unusual people to connect, and to showcase the art of people from all over the Americas. It is also a concert hall, an art gallery, and a dance school. I used to joke that on any given night you could find a lion tamer, a young Japanese woman giving tango lessons, a tango guitar player from Argentina playing Brazilian songs, a painter of remarkable beautiful naïve paintings, in short … an unending list of colorful characters.

Bernardo Palombo, is the director and the soul of the Taller. A native of Argentina, he is an innovative Spanish language teacher —he frequently illustrates his lessons with guitar music. He is also a talented musician and singer who has performed with leading Latin American and North American artists. He is supported in his work by his wife, Jennifer Pliego, a talented photographer and organizer.

Tango is among the most performed musical styles played and performed at the Taller, so it was fitting that this event—reported to be a farewell party from this location—would only be tango dancing. Although a few dancers were Argentinean, there were many from different Latin American and Asian countries and even a couple from Africa.

While watching some older and graceful dancers, my thoughts went back to Buenos Aires where during a recent trip, I had a special experience. I was having lunch at a popular restaurant. Concerned about my weight, I was having a small piece of chicken with a salad when I noticed, at the table next to mine, an older man, perhaps in his middle seventies, having a hearty lunch. He was a thin man of normal height.

He had started his meal with a heavy bean soup and now he was having a huge steak with French fries and a salad accompanied by a big bottle of wine. I envied that he could have such a big lunch while I, younger than him, was also much heavier and unable to eat as much.

I congratulated him on his good appetite. “Well,” he said, “You won’t believe what happened to me.” And continued. “A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare form of rheumatism which hindered my movements. I was even unable to cross a wide street without being concerned that I would be hit by a car, since I walked that slowly.”

“A friend recommended that I start dancing tango, something that I almost never did before. Although I was a bit reluctant at first, I decided to follow my friend’s advice and soon after I started dancing, I realized that I was walking with much less effort. Not only that, the more I danced the better I felt. I had started dancing a couple of nights a week. Then I was dancing every day and feeling younger, better, and losing weight in the process.”

“In the beginning, my wife used to accompany me. Soon, however, she lost interest, perhaps because she couldn’t keep my pace. We decided that I would go to live in an apartment at the back of our house so we could lead independent lives, but still be on friendly terms. I am glad we did that because what began as a curiosity became an obsession, but a wonderful one for me.”

“After a few months, I had recovered all my ability to move without pain. I also lost several pounds and made many new, wonderful friends. As a result, not only has my rheumatism disappeared, but now I can eat whatever I want without fear of gaining weight.”

Looking at my plate and my portly figure before he left, he told me, “Start dancing tango, amigo, it will do wonders for you, too.”

As I thought about his advice, the last stanzas of tango were being played at the Taller.