395 Zenbakia 2007-05-18 / 2007-05-25


Casimiro Ain, The Tango’s Ambassador

SCOTTI, Juan Manuel

Audacious, restless, kind and active, cordial, bohemian and amusing, persistent and a bit exaggerated are a few words to describe Casimiro Ain’s personality.

He was born simultaneously with tango in Buenos Aires a 4th March 1882 on 81st of Callao Avenue close to the junction with Piedad Street in the extinct La Piedad Neighborhood. Being the first child of an immigrant family composed by Juan Ain (well-known milkman in the vicinity as “The Basque”) and the Genoese Rosa Rataro, he grows up in a humble atmosphere learning how to deal with neighbors coming from all over the Globe. Casimiro didn’t take a long time to forge friendship with them. La Piedad Street had been renamed as Bartolomé Mitre Street and La Piedad Neighborhood had been included in actual San Nicolás.

Casimiro Ain with Edith Peggy. Since he was a kid Casimiro used to lend a hand to his father in the milk allotment. With that attitude he won the nickname “El Lecherito” (“The Little Milkman”) or “El Vasquito” (“The Little Basque”) in allusion to his origin. In fact during the milk allotment, and mainly after doing it, he was delighted by the street barrel organ’s music. “El Lecherito” counteracted that charming possession by dancing without stopping succumbing to its sound and it made each time more difficult to his father to bring Casimiro back home soon enough. At that time Juan Ain had already glimpsed his son’s innate ability for dances, specially for tango.

When Casimiro was on his early fourteen and respecting his passion for dancing, was included in Frank Brown’s circus company, a widely-known clown who came to Argentina thirsty of glory.

It was evident that The Basque’s impulses guided him towards a distant and celebrated future. Feeling Buenos Aires resulted small to him, in 1901 embarked in a cargo carrier ship heading for Europe. He arrived at first in England, from there to Paris and then to Spain. In the Old World there were no task Casimiro didn’t carry out in order to survive. With two friends went over bars and cabarets under the sound of a frayed guitar and a huddled violin. Although the triplet called attention by itself, when The Basque started dancing the “tango criollo” audience was astonished. In that way The Basque becomes the first Argentine dancer who show the world the “two per four”.

In 1904 he returns to Buenos Aires with his dancing passion renewed and boosted, focusing on tango. In Europe Casimiro earned a vast experience and observed every corner which further in time will provide him immortality. The Basque realized about the acceptance of tango and without loosing time he organizes and improves his show almost obsessively. This same year acts with his wife Marta at the famous Opera Theater, and later on, at the Centenary of the Argentine Independence Proclamation festivities (1810 - 1910). Buenos Aires when Ain was a young boy.

His perfectionist work goes on and in 1913 he goes aboard again, this time in the vapor “Sierra Ventana” with his wife and three friends which composed a typic orchestra (Vicente Loduca, bandoneon; Eduardo Monelos, violin and Celestino Ferrer, piano) heading for Bulogne Sur Mer. Without hesitation, that inclement night, they got on the first train to Paris. Once they arrived to their desired destiny, marched to Montemartre. The group entered the first cabaret they found, called “Princesse” (then bough by the musician Manuel Pizarro who named it “El Garrón”. It turns into the Argentina’s haven in Paris). There they attracted audience in such a way that only with the tips they earned that night they could live splendidly for a whole month.

It is said that with The Basque, arrived to Europe the first serious tango dancer. Also is attributed to him to have endowed this dance with a humongous and better artistic wealth.

Once started 1913 Ain trips to New York where he presents successfully his show till 1916, returning then to his native Buenos Aires after three years cloyed with glory moved by his deepest affections. Old La Piedad neighborhood today.

Meanwhile he stays in Argentina, not only offers shows. He also seeks for a better perform to his dance and earns a lot of money teaching tango to high society ladies or “copetudas” (tufted, crested ladies) according to Casimiro’s own words. Moreover The Basque teaches at several tango academies , adding this time more apprentices than his last time in this land.

1920 catches him in Paris when this time winning the Modern Dances World Championship, now with his new partner Jazmín. By that moment he was called in the French city “The Tango King”. At this point of his life had a very difficult task on his shoulders: to convince Pontiff Pius XI that tango dancing wasn’t neither sinful nor dark; persistent accusation by Paris Archbishops and some parish priests and European high society. It is said as well that formal complains from Italy’s Ministry of War arrived to the Holly See . This Ministry had a conflict with its own soldiers because it was forbidden to dance such a provocative rhythm during Carnival festivities. Champs Elysées during the Modern Dances World Championship.

With an eye on the huge popularity of this Argentine dance promoted by Ain The Basque, and before arises more noise about tango, the Pope himself decides to witness a demonstration to determine this way tango’s destiny (which already has a destiny). Then a morning of February, in concrete 1st February 1924 by intermediation of Don García Mansilla, Argentine ambassador in Vatican, The Basque danced at 9 o’clock with Ms. María Scotto (embassy’s librarian and translator). The exhibition took place at the Throne Room where both danced the tango “Ave María” from Francisco and Juan Canaro played on a reed organ. This tango title doesn’t refer to the Holy Virgin, its name is due to the Castilian expression which denotes surprise. Scotto and Ain ended their spectacle with an improvisation that left them kneeled in front of Pius XI. Of course dancers convinced the Pope that tango wasn’t sinful although the selected tango (according to experts in Buenos Aires) was “a very light one”.

That same decade, Ain and his new partner (he changed them quickly) the German Edith Peggy presented their show successfully in Europe from East to West (France, Germany, Denmark, England, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Russia, Greece and Turkey), Brazil, and also distant Egypt acting in brothels and cabarets as well as elegant dance living rooms. Ending the ’30s his new partners were Simonette Guy and “La Beba”, who accompanied him during the last exhibitions away from his beloved Buenos Aires. Vapor “Sierra Ventana”. 1930 is the year of Ain’s definitive return to Argentina. As soon as he arrived, continued doing shows a few years more. This time dancing with “La Vasca” from Montserrat Neighborhood. At this stage of his life Casimiro could enjoy the warmth and affection of his beloved relatives and friends as well as the fame and fortune he gathered in many years; but at this same stage he had “to dance with the ugliest”. Distant from a world of popularity, as a tragic twist of destiny, suffers one leg amputation after a voracious attack of a gangrene. This hard setback of destiny accelerated the end, a sad 17th October of 1940, to this great Casimiro Ain, The “Little milkman”, “The Basque”, the man who knew how to conquer the heart of multitudes with his expression, attitude, with his dance and sympathy.