99-Year-Old James McManus Stole the Show at the 2019 World Tango Championships

by Bridget Conrad | 8/28/2019 8:24 PM

Photo Credit: Buenos Aires Times

James McManus discovered the art of tango in his 80s, and it single-handedly has transformed his life. Last week, tango even got 99-year-old McManus to get on a plane for the first time in over two decades for a very special reason. This Scottish-born dancer is now believed to be the oldest person to ever compete at the World Tango Championships in Buenos Aires, which is the largest tango festival in the world. He may not have won the competition, but he was definitely the most popular contestant on the dance floor. 

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In his early career, McManus fought in WWII and worked in the Navy as a radio operator, which were two jobs that allowed him to travel the world and meet all kinds of people. As he entered his later years, meeting new friends became increasingly harder for him to do, until he found tango. One day in 2002, he saw a couple dancing a tango in Ireland, where he resides, and since then he’s been hooked. 

For years, he’s taken lessons at Waterford Tango where he met his partner, Argentine professional dancer Lucia Seva. McManus had seen a lot of the world, but had never been to Buenos Aires, and he and his partner contemplated taking a vacation to Argentina for quite a while. When Seva discovered that the 2019 World Tango Championships were coming up, she thought it would be a great idea for the couple to compete and McManus was quickly on board. Since this competition took place just a few months before his 100th birthday, his friends funded his plane ticket to Argentina, and the rest of his trip was funded via GoFundMe.


“They accepted the application and well, I just had a goal..I knew I had no chance of winning, but I thought it would be a good experience,” McManus told The Associated Press when recalling his performance with Seva.

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McManus and Seva failed to make it past the qualifying rounds of the tournament, but it is now believed that he is the oldest dancer ever to participate at the championships. Out of the 744 couples from 36 countries, McManus was by far the most popular contestant there. According to Seva, everyone wanted pictures with him, conversations with him, and to learn from him.

Before discovering tango, McManus didn’t consider himself a social person at all. Tango has not only made him a healthier and happier person, but now he attends every social dance he can find and has more friends than he can count. 

Photo Credit: Lucia Seva on Facebook/World Tango Championships

“It’s the beautiful music and rhythm of the dance..it gives you such a good feeling inside. I think it’s a healthy exercise as well, it keeps me fit, moving all my muscles and my legs and my body, and my brain, because you have to navigate the floor..you have to guide the lady..you have to be alert all the time,” McManus expressed to The Associated Press.

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These days, McManus still drives himself to tango class every Tuesday and also takes part in other dance classes, keeping him in the studio five times a week on average and often on the weekends too. If you are someone that is still looking for the secret to staying forever young, you should definitely take a page out of McManus's book. You can’t bottle up and sell the feeling you get when dancing, so your only chance is to get into a studio and experience the euphoria that McManus describes every time he steps foot on the dance floor. 

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