James McManus, born on 05.01.20 in Paisley; still dancing.
What do you want to do for your 100th birthday, Jimmy?
“To dance Argentine tango with tangueras in Buenos Aires, of course”.
For most of us, our imagination, impulses and passions will be extinguished long before we reach 100 years of age, but for James McManus from County Wexford, Ireland they are only just beginning.
James has taken on arguably the most challenging of dance genres, Argentine tango. And now, four months before his 100th birthday has today landed at Ezize Airport, Buenos Aires with the intention of competing in the qualifying rounds of the ‘Mundial’ – the prestigious World Tango Championship 2019. He will be the oldest contestant. His partner will be the renowned Lucia Seva.
James is not a stranger to dance, for it has been part of his life for 80 years, his first dance experience being in the ballroom above Paisley’s 'Burtons' shop to the west of Glasgow, Scotland. However, at a theatre show in 2002 he was first introduced to Argentine tango. “I always loved tango music but this show really got me hooked.”
In preparation for his trip to Buenos Aires he has been dismantling a lifetime of ballroom dance and jive, to assimilate the special intuition of Argentine tango from his teacher Hernán Catvin, for whom each week James brings a bottle of his favourite ginger beer.
Born in Paisley, Scotland, James’ father was a Fermanagh man from Enniskillen and his mother from Sligo, and his childhood holidays were naturally in Ireland.
James joined the Territorial Army as a teenager, was mobilized in August 1939, and by 1 September 1939 was guarding fuel storage on the Clyde. During the war he was posted to France where he saw action as part of the Northumberland Fusiliers after the disbanding of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders.
The war over, James travelled the world as a marine telegrapher and radio operator, and following retirement in 1994 moved to Waterford, Ireland with his partner Patricia Lusby; and later to his childhood haunt of Wexford where Patricia died in 1998.
Described as kind, gentle and ‘an inspiration to his community’, James’ tango journey has kept him young. In conversation with Ronan Morrissey (Waterford News & Star) he said, “You get to meet people, it’s very social. It’s important now that I’m older because otherwise you’d sink into a seat and it’s a spiral to oblivion”. “I love the music. It gives you a buzz and when you’re moving right in time with it… it’s hard to describe it. It’s a feeling of happiness.”
James is now in Buenos Aires in the hands of one of the best of the world’s top tango teachers, Lucia Seva, described by Buenos Aires’ elite milongero the late Pocho, with the words, “La flaca Lucia, oh how she dances, incredible"; and by the late Alito, “Yes, she lives and feels the moment”.
So who would bet against James becoming part of Buenos Aires’ history of tango?
To find out more about his journey, subscribe to the blog.