A special reunion

November 26, 2014


My first tango teacher was Jorge Bartolucci, an Argentine living in Mexico City.  He and his wife Monna spent the school year 1991-92 at the University of Chicago during their sabbatical from the University of Mexico.  I heard about their group classes at a Chicago dance studio and scheduled weekly private classes with them.  I was hungry to learn all I could about the dance and the music.  We attended the Stanford Tango Week together in July 1993, and they encouraged me to begin teaching tango.

I added tango to my teaching schedule in September 1993 and formed the Chicago Argentine Tango Society.  A few months later, Barry Jones from England was in town on business and heard about my classes.  His guidance was invaluable to me and the men in the class.  Barry encouraged me to go to Buenos Aires and dance in the milongas.

That’s the short version about my tango journey that continues in Buenos Aires.  Jorge and Barry were instrumental in my development as a tango dancer and tango teacher.

You can imagine my surprise when both of them were present at Lo de Celia on Sunday.  Both came to Buenos Aires this month on vacation.  They met each other in Chicago over 20 years ago.  The three of us were together again without any communication.  I was in awe for hours.

Desperate milongueras

November 23, 2014


There are many women who assume that any man who approaches is coming to dance with them, which is often not the case.  Some are very successful in tanda interception.

A newcomer at Lo de Celia assumed that Juan invited her and quickly entered the floor.  He told her otherwise, but she tried to convince him to dance the tanda with her, while the intended partner waited patiently nearby.  Eventually, she left the floor, and the other woman danced the tanda with Juan.  He invited her later.

Another desperate milonguera  has no patience, but then that’s why she is desperate.  She initiates the cabeceo when any man looks her way and isn’t always successful.  I’m surprised her neck isn’t broken. After twelve years in the milongas, she doesn’t know that the men are the ones who do the inviting.

Ernesto Jorge De Gouvea

November 20, 2014

November 20, 1934 –


It’s good to see Jorge smile.  A year ago he said he didn’t have the desire to dance, but continued going to Lo de Celia twice a week.  I know it’s the music that brings him back, especially Juan D’Arienzo.  The cabeceo is a challenge for him, even after eye surgery, but that doesn’t stop him from dancing.

Todo bien? Todo bien!

November 14, 2014

I remember the first time I heard, “todo bien?”  Argentine tango dancers were on tour in Chicago, and one of them always greeted me with those two words.  I knew enough Spanish to understand the question, but what I didn’t know was the importance those two words have in daily porteño life, especially in the milongas.

Todo bien translates — all good.  It doesn’t include a verb.  Todo esta bien translates to all is well.  Spanish speakers abbreviate the language just like English speakers do.

Gregorio approached my table in Lo de Celia with a big smile.  He hadn’t been around for some time, and I wanted to know that all was well with him.  He confirmed it was and added how good he feels in the milonga where everyone is happy and nobody has any problems.  We come together to dance each week and leave with smiles on our faces and tangos in our hearts.

It’s todo bien! in the milonga.

Evangelista Felipe Menna

November 13, 2014

November 13, 1928 –


Lito is dancing every day of the week and still working, too.  He doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

Milonga review: Milonga de Los Consagrados (update)

November 10, 2014

It’s held in the ballroom of Centro Region Leonesa that seats about 350.

The salon has air-conditioning units and many ceiling fans for comfort. Hours are 16,30-23,00.  I went last Saturday.

Deejay: Daniel Borelli consistently provides the best music in Buenos Aires.  It’s worth attending just to hear Dany’s music.

Floor: Perfect surface. Large rectangular floor allows for two lanes with room in the center.

Sound system: Four speakers hang over the dance floor.

Seating:  Women are in two rows of tables on the left side of the room; men are in two rows of tables on the right side.  Couples sit at tables in front of the stage.  I noticed that most of the women were foreign with very few locals.  That’s exactly how the local men like it.

The club replaced some of the antique Thonet chairs with cushioned ones which are more comfortable.  Try to get one of them if you plan to stay several hours.

Entrada: 45 pesos.  Bottled water 18 pesos.

Waitress:  Very attentive, considering the large crowd she served for hours.

Between dances

November 5, 2014

I’ve posted what to do and not do between dances when many engage in conversation on the dance floor.  What if you are dancing with an Argentine and you don’t speak the language?

Many foreigners come to Buenos Aires to dance in the milongas, especially at this time of the year.  I know a few dancers who didn’t speak a word of Spanish when they arrived, but somehow managed to communicate a little and then gradually learned to recognize words and phrases.


What do you do between dances when you don’t speak the language?  Relax and smile.  There is no obligation to talk between dances with your partner.  Focus on the music.  You don’t have to feel awkward or embarrassed.  I know the language and try to remain silent between dances because the music continues.


You’ll get back to dancing with your partner soon enough.  When you’re present in the moment, you’ll communicate without words.  Your partner will feel what you feel in the music.  That’s all that matters.  Be authentic.

Learn words by listening to conversations.  Practice them yourself and gain confidence that you can learn the language.  Read your dance partner’s face and get an idea of what he/she is saying through body language.

You are in Buenos Aires to dance and to enjoy the music with porteños who love tango so much. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t know Castellano.  It may surprise you how many local dancers in the milongas speak English!

Once is enough

November 4, 2014

An invitation to dance with a head movement by the man to a woman isn’t common in tango communities around the world as in Buenos Aires since the 1940s.  It’s the tourist season in the milongas, and those who don’t practice the cabeceo regularly at home are using it here.

Milongueros have years of practice inviting women to dance with a subtle movement of the head.  They choose a partner depending on the orquesta and nod when the woman looks in their direction.  Once is enough.  If a woman looks away (indicating she’s not interested), there is no aggression or obligation.

A newcomer from Europe tried to invite a friend (also a newcomer to Buenos Aires) at my table with the cabeceo.  She did not want to accept his invitation, so she looked away.  She came to Buenos Aires to dance with Argentines, not foreigners.  He didn’t understand her negative response and kept trying to invite her.  An invitation by cabeceo has two possibilities — yes and no.  No means no.  The newcomer thought she didn’t see him, so he approached our table.  She already told me that she didn’t want to dance with him, but acquiesced.  He said he wanted to dance a tanda with me, knowing she would share that information with me.

The milongueros dance with women of the same height.  It’s rare to see a very tall milonguero dancing with a very short woman.  This newcomer from Europe is more than six feet tall, and I am petite.  I had no interest in dancing with him.

He was relentless with the cabeceo.  I couldn’t walk across the floor and speak with him.  The only way I could get my message across to him was with body language.  I extended my arm, pointed my index finger, and moved it emphatically in his direction.  He got the message.

Foreign women have more practice with the cabeceo in Buenos Aires than foreign men.  The women wait for an invitation.  Once is enough.

Cumbre de tango

November 1, 2014

Here is today’s playlist for the program at noon BA time on Radio Lexia.  The website has a totally new format.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page and enlarge the video screen for viewing the program live from the studio via YouTube beginning today.  Each hour is recorded separately.

1- Invierno –  Francisco Canaro  – Pettorosi- Fco. Canaro
2- Divagando –  Osvaldo Fresedo

3- Cafe Dominguez – D’Agostino- A. Vargas (A. D’Agostino)
4- Por unos ojos negros  –  Miguel Calò- Carlos Almagro (Jose Dames -Horacio Sanguinetti)
5- Siempre tu voz –  Rotundo- Floreal Ruiz (Juan Pomatti-Titi Rossi- F. Rotundo)
6- Tal para cual –  Héctor Varela- R. Lezica   (H. Varela- Carlos Waiss)

7- Meridional  –  Victor Lavallen   (V. Lavallen)
8- Mistonguero –  Victor Lavallen *

9-   Dejame en paz – O. Pugliese- Alberto Moran   (Americo Actis-Oscar Rubens)
10- Porque canto el tango –  O. Pugliese- Jorge Vidal (Oscar Castagniaro-Antonio Cantò)
11- Bien milonga –  O. Pugliese  (Ismael Spiltalnik)

12-Me quedè miràndola – Anibal Troilo- Alberto Marino (Vicente Spina-Roberto Daniel Mirò)
13-Pa lo que te va a durar – Troilo- Goyeneche  (Guillermo Barbieri-Celedonio Flores)
14-Bandoneòn arrabalero – Troilo-Goyeneche   (J Bautista Deambogio-Pascual Contursi)
15-Retirao –  A. Troilo

16- Sencillo pero vistoso – Edgardo Donato  (Orlando Calautti)
17- El Cencerro –  Alberto Mancione  (Jose Martinez)
18- La Beba – Pedro Laurenz    (O. Pugliese)
19- El Guri –  E. Mario Francini  (Francini)

20- Canciòn de rango – Tanturi- Castillo  (Kaplun – Jose M Suñe)
21- Que podràn decir –  Tanturi-Castillo (Vicente Salerno-Alfredo Bigueschi)

22- El Taita –  Fulvio Salamanca  (Salvador Grupillo)
23- La Rayuela – F. Salamanca  (Julio De Caro)

24- Adios Arolas – Juan D’Arienzo – Valdez
25- En el rosal (vals) – Juan D’Arienzo – Valdez
26- La ùltima cita –  F. Sassone- Jorge Casal (Agustin Bardi- Fco. Garcia Jimenez)

27- Camandulaje –  Alfredo Gobbi  (Alfredo Gobbi)
28- El engobiao – Alfredo Gobbi  (Eduardo Rovira)
*directs the Orquesta Escuela del Tango de Emilio Balcarce

Body language

October 28, 2014


I don’t know about this cabeceo thing.  I can’t stare at men I don’t know.



If one of you guys doesn’t invite me very soon, I’m going home.



I’m bored.



I love this orchestra, and I’m ready to dance.


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