The Church of Tango: a Memoir


Cherie Magnus

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The Church of Tango is a passionate memoir of tragedy and adventure, lust and music, romance and tango, and above all, survival. A dancer all her life, she’d had to put it on hold while raising her artistic sons and caring for her dying husband. Now as she set her suitcase down on the ancient cobblestones of a Paris courtyard, she wondered—48 years old, 6,000 miles away from home, knowing no one—what was she doing? Each time disaster strikes her life, Cherie forges ahead, struggling to save herself from the wreckage by listening to the music and dancing, first in Los Angeles, then France, Mexico, Holland, and finally in the tango salons of Buenos Aires.

This is not a “tango book,” but a story of survival that cuts across death, cancer, Alzheimer’s, loss of home and homeland and cherished heirlooms and possessions, loss of shared histories, of hope for one’s children, of hope for the future, of love. But it’s also about finding love and unexpected joy. And about listening to the music and dancing.

I started writing this story at the time it began–in February of 1992, when I was so depressed after my husband’s death I wanted to swallow all of his left-over meds and follow him into the beyond. So what began in a way as a journal or diary became the chronicle of my road to survival in four countries. And once I made that decision to live no matter what tragedy came my way, I plugged on, through one tremendous loss after another, by dancing. No, not yet had the tango found me, but whatever dance there was at the time came to my rescue. I had always been a dancer, and now I knew dance could save me from despair.

As my adventures unfolded, the manuscript grew and grew. I had to make cuts in events, characters, reflections and realizations. That was the hardest part of bringing this story to fruition. There is so much left out. Who knows, maybe I’ll write The Daughter of the Church of Tango, or a prequel one day.

Our tango students come from all over the world: China, The Philippines, Australia, Viet Nam, New Zealand, Hawaii, South Africa, India, Nepal, Finland, Russia, Israel, Scandinavia, all over Europe, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. And one question they all ask me is, how did I end up teaching tango in Argentina?

This book is my answer.

The Church of Tango is a passionate memoir of tragedy and adventure, lust and music, romance and tango–and above all, survival.

Books and ebooks in English.

6 thoughts on “The Church of Tango: a Memoir

  1. By Rolland Vasin

    Your friend from fifty years ago, whose hand you held on your one and only date, whose prose you’d admired when you were writers on the school newspaper, whose posture was dancer-perfect, just sat down beside you, crossed her legs, and commenced to relate the story of her life over the past five decades.

    I hung on every word for its humanness– its errors of judgment, false starts, gut-deep passions and crippling heartbreak–recognizable because I had the same emotional turmoil under a different set of facts. That’s how I experienced Cherie Magnus’ manuscript and final polished work of art–as though it all happened to me.

    Only read this book if you are conscious of your foibles, passions and bliss. You will find yourself in her Church, weep with recognition, guffaw in identification, and do the Rocky cheer for the sheer triumph of this woman over her self-limiting beliefs. A story of magnificent courage and exultation, not energetically different from a well executed tango.

  2. By Elizabeth E. Brinton

    Cherie has had more than her fair share of pain and loss. But don’t let that keep you away from this memoir of a life well lived and loved. Even in the worst of times her words evoke a kind of frank acceptance, and an unbeatable love and fight for life.

    Dance, and eventually, Argentine tango is a running theme, slowly and in parts working its way into Cherie’s soul and saving her. All through the story you see it coming, in little bits of different dance classes, even exercise classes. You feel the healing power of dance in Cherie’s life.

    The loss of her husband, a series of disasters, the loss of her home and her community, and cancer all bring Cherie to the brink. But through her words you always find her inner light. She writes tenderly of her lost home, and you will see it, and you will see her moving on, as all survivors must. She writes about the smells, sounds, feelings of each place she lands. She tells of her lovers, and the places, the rooms where these lovers meet. You know that with her senses she is feeling her way through the darkness, towards her place, towards love, towards life.

    There have been many books written about the grand adventures of privileged white ladies running around the globe to get over divorce. Those books read as cheap fantasy. This is not one of those books.

    Cherie found herself in dance, and found love, and now we can read her moving story and go there with her, to that place of tango and survival. But what is most important is how Cherie truly feels her life, and now she is able to share it with us. This is a book with soul.

  3. By Nancy Ingle

    This is a book about tango but it is much more than that. It is about dancing in more than four countries. It is about flamenco and salsa and son and belly dancing. It is about family and great love. It is about leaving everything familiar and going alone to another country with a different language and different culture not once, but three times. It is about the search for solace and survival that is ultimately found in tango.

    If you have met the author, Cherie, you will be amazed to learn of what she has suffered because the many who have met her in BsAS or in California or in her travels only know her as a positive, generous, friendly person. Proof of the healing power of el abrazo tanguero.

  4. By Nancy

    It rare to find people in this world who maintain an unbridled enthusiasm for life even in the midst of exquisite pain. But Cherie Magnus is one of them. As recounted in The Church of Tango, Cherie suffered a series of pains and losses that were not of her own doing, and as each of them diminished her resources and limited her options, she collected her wits and her dwindling funds and reached out again to find the best in life.

    Cherie was joyously married for over 20 years to a man who loved her. They lived and raised their two sons in a home that was the perfect place for them. She worked as a librarian, played the piano and danced. She and Jack were friends and lovers. It was a picture-book story. Then, just when the boys were grown and Cherie and Jack were looking forward to traveling more and spending time at their vacation home in France, Jack was diagnosed with cancer. Three traumatic years later, in 1992, Cherie found herself a 48-year-old widow. Over the next dozen years, as she tried to rebuild her life, she suffered betrayals by friends and business associates that cost her both her beloved home in Los Angeles and the vacation place in France. Her mother sank deeper into Alzheimer’s and ultimately died. Her sons drifted in and out of contact, and she herself came down with cancer, twice. Add to the mix, a few really self-absorbed and manipulating lovers. For most of us, this would be more than enough to suck all the joy out of life, but Cherie battles depression and perseveres.

    The Church of Tango takes us with her as she moves first to France, then back to Los Angeles, to Mexico and ultimately to Buenos Aires where she establishes herself as a respected member of in the tango community and finds new love. Covering so much territory, the book is sometimes a bit thin on details. People appear and disappear with little set up. Perhaps this is a form of protection–which some of them need — as fewer details make them less identifiable. But what matters is what we do learn from Cherie, which is that no matter what your situation is or where you are, there is always a way out. There is always another option. Anyone who feels that their life is shattered and they will never be happy again, should take heart from reading this book. You probably can’t get back to where you were, but you can get to someplace else. Where there is a will there is a way.

  5. by Patricia Muller

    Cherie has a wonderful style of writing!
    She just opens her heart and shares with us adolescent laughter and tears and family stories, but also absolute tragedies of death, love, betrayal, hate, leaving behind nearly everything, just to finish up, in the end, where she belongs to: en el abrazo de Tango (in the arms of Tango).
    Cherrie’s story will shake you, awake you and make you love Tango! Don’t miss that book!

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