Those who can’t do, teach, goes the old saying. But Pablo Repun, who’s considered one of the finest tango dancers in all of South Florida, is also a teacher of considerable renown. As a native Argentinian, he’s got the dark eyes, the smoldering, mysterious good looks – and the fancy footwork – to aid and abet the “dance of love” on its unstoppable march across the lines of age, race and social strata.
Repun and his wife Alicia star in “The Heart of the Tango,” a benefit for Savannah’s Community Health Mission, April 30 at the Lucas Theatre. The two do the passion dance professionally around the country – talk about taking the act on the road – and at the Savannah performance they’ll be backed by a small group of musicians including David Alsina on bandoneon.
Repun, 44, met his future wife in Buenos Aires. “She was my student in ’96, and we dated a little,” he says. “She came to live here, but after six years she came back to Buenos Aires, and we dated again. I decided to visit her in Florida, and at first I came for three weeks, and then for four months.”
In 2003, just seven years ago, they married and immigrated to Miami.
Tango, Repun explains, isn’t exactly a way of life in Argentina – at least, it wasn’t in the late 1980s, when he began taking his first tenuous lessons.
“Usually, it was for old people,” he says. “But after a year and a half traveling around the world, I wanted to belong to my roots.
“There was a place two blocks from my house, and they were teaching tango. The class was really bad. But after the class, everybody went to dinner, and we drank, somebody sings, somebody says a poem, and that was fun. After that, my teacher took me as her helper, and I went to these places where I never went before ... “And my friends told me ‘Pablo, what are you doing there?’"
But he was already hooked. “I really was having fun. And after like three years, one of my best friends told me that in the university, they’d started to teach tango. At the time, I was looking for a girlfriend and I thought ‘Oh! That’s going to be the place to go.’ And I knew a few steps already.”
Repun, who’d already studied music and physical education in school, hung out a shingle as a tango instructor. And he beheld the renaissance: Many of the students who flocked to his studio were young.
Of course, meeting Alicia helped Repun hold on to his own passion for the dance, which has been tested a time or two through years of teaching wealthy socialites and the inherently untalented.
“Being a teacher can be a lot of things,” Repun says. “You must be open to listening for what the other person asks for. You have to be patient.
“I had students who are much better dancers than me now. They are professional and they are very well known. In Argentina I had one student for 14 years! And that’s nice, to make friends.
“And our course, you have the other side – people you have to teach and you don’t like them. But you know, it’s a job, so you do whatever you have to do.”
Still, there are certainly worse ways to make a living.
“What is great about Argentine tango, is it’s all about improvisation,” Repun enthuses. “So you never know what’s gonna happen; it depends on how you feel at that moment, and the connection with the person with whom you are dancing.
"And also, it’s endless. You can keep learning all your life.”
The Heart of the Tango
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
When: At 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 30
Phone: (912) 525–5050