20 Years of B.A. Tango — Buenos Aires Tango

March 1, 2015

Tito Palumbo, editor, writer, interviewer, photographer, ad space salesman, and jack of all trades

No one has weathered more storms in the tango magazine publishing business than Tito Palumbo.  He was the first to see the need for a magazine in Buenos Aires.

Ruben Harymbat

March 1, 2015

March 1, 1939 —

Haydee y Ruben Harymbat

Ruben has retired from the milongas.  This tango in El Arranque was his last.  His devoted wife Haydee takes care of him at home.

Octogenarians

February 25, 2015

I had no sooner sat down in my seat in Lo de Celia when Mario (86) greeted me with a kiss on the cheek as always and then asked me to dance to Troilo.  He knows so much about tango and likes to sing while he dances.  His embrace feels like that a younger man.  He asks, don’t we make a handsome couple?

Mario Hector Camartino

Jorge (80) invited me for the next tanda of milongas by Orquesta Tipica Victor and Lucio Demare.  In my opinion, he is the smoothest and the best when it comes to milonga con traspie.  I manage to keep up with him.  Sometimes I’m out of breath, but he isn’t.

Ernesto Jorge De Gouvea

I looked to Anibal (82) for the next tanda, although I don’t usually dance three in a row.  I don’t remember the orquesta, but I do remember the feeling in his embrace and the simplicity of his tango.

Anibal Serena

These octogenarian milongueros are young at heart because of the tango and all the years they’ve logged in the milongas.  I’m grateful for every opportunity to dance with them.

 

 

More men than women

February 20, 2015

There are usually more women than men at the milongas, and that isn’t only the case in Buenos Aires.  However, the other day there were more men than women at Lo de Celia.  It was a cool day with heavy rain at 6:00 (the same time as the silent march from Congress to Plaza de Mayo only ten blocks away).

The dance floor is always full by the time I arrive around 7:00.  The few couples dancing was a good sign of a smaller crowd that day.

It doesn’t really matter to me the number of men; only that I have  a few with whom I like to dance.  That was the case on Wednesday.  With fewer women, the men were prompt with a cabeceo when the tandas began.

Men were looking in my direction, but they gazed upon the women at the next table.  One of them was the co-owner of Plaza Bohemia Tango, Milva Bernardi.  I admire her dancing.  It was a pleasure to see her dancing on an open floor.  She is one of very few teachers who remains faithful to the tango of the milongas and milongueros.  I was happy that she could get away from work and family responsibilities for some tandas with the milongueros at Lo de Celia.

Gérard pointed out the imbalance in partners to me between dances, and then added: Lo de Celia is the best milonga in Buenos Aires for the level of dancing and music.  I agree.

Carlos Biccai

February 15, 2015

February 15, 1939 —

Carlitos

There’s a new milonga on Friday nights this summer in Mar del Plata, and Carlos is the organizer.

Video

New faces

February 9, 2015

When I arrived at Lo de Celia on Wednesday, there was a very attractive local woman seated at my table.  We exchanged greetings and then she asked me if the men want to dance because she wasn’t getting invited.  I asked her where she normally goes to dance.  Susana named the milongas Confiteria Ideal, Nuevo Chique, and Obelisco Tango.  I know that women dance constantly at those milongas.  Since this was her first visit to Lo de Celia, all I suggested was that she be patient.  She commented that the women do lots of embellishments at Obelisco Tango, and she saw that was not the case  in Lo de Celia.  When I returned after a tanda, she was gone.  She danced a couple of tandas, and I could tell from her body language that she wasn’t interested in sitting out.  I imagine that she didn’t want to stay around waiting to see if other men were going to invite her when another milonga three blocks away has what she wants.

On Sunday, the  hostess brought a foreign woman to my table, because it was the only available seat at 20:30.  We exchanged greetings.  She was about to change her shoes at the table, and I pointed her in the direction of the ladies’ room.  This was her first visit to Lo de Celia, but not her first visit to Buenos Aires.  She watched the dancing.  She mentioned the orquestas at the beginning of the tanda.  She wanted to dance, but waited patiently for an invitation.  Thanks to Hugo, she got her first tanda so the men could decide if she was dance-worthy or not.  She spoke Italian to me, and I answered in Spanish.  When jet-lag started to kick in, I told her to hang in.  The regulars who work in the morning leave at 22 hs., and there would be fewer women.  She didn’t leave.  She stayed until the end.  I introduced her to two Italian-Argentine women who speak her language, and we recommended milongas for the week.  We changed into our street shoes in the ladies’ room, walked down to the street, and waited for a radio taxi to take her to Palermo.  Marina is a new face in the milonga that I won’t forget.  And I know she’ll be coming to Lo de Celia on Wednesday.

Do blonds have more fun?

February 7, 2015

DSCN6804

In the days of the confiterias bailables, the young milongueros had reserved tables in each one.  No one sat at someone else’s table.  For them, it was like having the same seat at the dinner table with family.  If they didn’t show up for dinner, the seat remained empty.

I observed this seating hierarchy at Club Almagro during my first visit in 1996, where the milongueros viejos earned the right to their tables at the edge of the dance floor.  And so did milongueras.  I sat against the wall where I could see and learn the codes of the milonga.

There are milongas that are very popular with foreigners.  Now that foreigners come all year, there are milongas with a regular rotation of new faces for the local dancers.

Those who are regulars today at milongas have reserved tables.  They don’t have to call for a reservation.  The policy at Lo de Celia is to call when one is not going to attend or arrive by 7:00.

Emilia has a reserved seat in the first row center on the left side in Lo de Celia on Wednesday, the only day she dances.  She arrived one Wednesday as usual before 7:00pm, only to find that her reserved seat had been given to a foreigner who came for the first time.  Emilia had a smile and acted calmly about the situation, but she was very upset.  She is short, dark and older than the foreigner,  a tall blond.  Her partners had to look for her at another table to dance.  Jimena decides where people sit in Lo de Celia.  She doesn’t know the codes of the milongas and the importance of seating.  The beautiful people get preferential seating in other milongas.  The following Wednesday, Emilia sent a text message that she was coming, to ensure that her seat would be reserved for her.

The tall blond didn’t dance many tandas.  She was only passing time at Lo de Celia before going down the street to Salon Leonesa.  When she wasn’t dancing, she checking her cellphone.  I noticed that one man invited her for four tandas in two hours, another for two tandas. I gave her until 8:30pm, but she stayed a little past 9:00 before going to another milonga where I imagine she dances every tanda.  She doesn’t know that the men are selective at Lo de Celia.  They prefer dancing with their regular partners each week than the newcomers who disappear.

José Luis D’Aquino

February 5, 2015

February 5, 1935 —

Jose Luis D'Aquino

Jose Luis was as cheerful as always when I called with birthday greetings.  He always asks about a tango friend in Alaska whom he fondly remembers after many years.  He reminded me that we danced milonga about three months ago in Obelisco Tango.

Video

Always the same faces

February 3, 2015

I’ve heard a few men say how bored they are with the milongas.  They always see the same faces.  Some of them are their friends.  I wonder why they don’t want to see familiar faces and feel at home in the milonga.

It takes time for foreigners to feel comfortable because they don’t know anyone in the milongas.  Every milonga presents a new challenge for them.

When I heard this comment coming from a woman friend, I started to consider the advantages and disadvantages.  Am I bored seeing the same faces, week after week at Lo de Celia?  Not at all.  Are there new faces?  Yes, every night.  It’s a different group week after week.  There are always a few newcomers but mainly regulars who have reserved seats.

Imagine this scenario.  You go to your favorite milonga that you’ve attended for years.  You enter and find a new host, a new waiter, and dozens of men and women you’ve never seen before.  You share a table with a stranger.  You hear music that inspires you to dance, but your favorite partner for Miguel Calo or Carlos Di Sarli is not there.  If you want to dance, you dance with a stranger for the first time.  Maybe it was pleasant, perhaps not.  You start to wish that a familiar face would enter so you could dance as usual — like wearing comfortable shoes.

As of today, I’ve logged 16 years in the milongas of Buenos Aires.  I like to see familiar faces each week, and especially those who return after a long absence.  I make note of who among the regulars is absent, like Ismael Heljalil.  I attend Lo de Celia practically every Wednesday and Sunday.  There is never the same crowd on Wednesday and Sunday, nor week to week.  There are always new faces.  I’m never bored listening to the music and watching the dancers from the same corner table for 9 years.

I fondly remember so many milongueros who are no longer with us.  I wish I could see them enter the milonga once again.

 

He speaks and we listen

February 2, 2015

27-ricardo There’s no doubt in my mind that if he were alive today at 85, Ricardo would be going to the milongas every night in Buenos Aires to dance, enjoy the music, and be with friends.  It’s sad that he wasn’t appreciated more for what he gave when he was alive, but we have his words and his dancing recorded.  Today so many wish they had met Ricardo and had the opportunity to learn from him.

“I think feelings are unique, it’s like a fingerprint. Nobody can teach you feeling, people who dance the tango, they are thousands. People who feel the tango, we are very few.” 108-ricardo
“This is not a poker game. So do the best you can, do it with honesty and I think you are going to die peacefully, and that’s important. Because you need to die to be part of what you are going to leave behind as energy in the world.”


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