Edificio El Molino

January 12, 2020

Restoration work on the landmark Edificio El Molino across from the national congress has been ongoing for years.  For the last year, the work appears more serious than before.

There is a beautiful salon de baile on the first floor.  During my first visit to Buenos Aires in March 1996, I went one night to the milonga organized by Juan Fabbri of Solo Tango TV. The entrada was $8 pesos/dollars — the highest entrada of all the milongas at that time.

The restoration process is far from complete, but I have hopes there is a milonguero/a ready, willing, and able to host a new milonga in the salon of this historic 1916 building.

Buenos Aires is the tango center of the world.

Were there milongas in 1943?

January 11, 2020

newspaper

I received this page of a Buenos Aires newspaper April 17, 1943, with the comment — the word “milonga” is not mentioned — from a reader in India.

First, I tried imagining what it was like in those days when one opened the newspaper and read the list of tango orquestas appearing that Saturday night in the clubs.  Miguel Angel Balbi showed me newspapers from the 1940s years ago, so I am familiar with the advertising.  Was it a difficult deciding where to go?  How did people choose one among the list of orquestas in the Golden Age of tango? The page features the top nine orquestas of the Golden Age, missing only Pugliese to complete the top ten.

Based on my conversations with several milongueros viejos, the reason that “milonga” isn’t mentioned in the advertisements is because these dances with orquestas were held in neighborhood clubs on Saturday.  The “milongas” started around 1948 in nine confiterias bailables downtown with recorded music every day of the week.  The milongueros didn’t like the competition from the singers on stage who distracted the women from dancing.  The women focused on dancing with the milongueros when Raul Beron or Roberto Chanel weren’t around.  Hence the dances in the downtown confiterias were known as milongas where milongueros went to milonguear.  The confiterias bailables were small venues where the dancing changed.

With computer assistance, I enlarged the page to read the details in the ads.

Miguel Calo played in Asoc. S. F. Apolo at Boulogne sur Mer 547 (El Once).  The location is now the IFT Theater, a venue for alternative theater productions.

Juan D’Arienzo was announced to play on Sunday with L’Orchestre Lewis Varona (mambo) at Club Atletico Independiente, Av. Mitre 450, Avellaneda, from 19-23,30 hs. Entrada was 2 pesos.

Angel D’Agostino played at Racing Club, Av. Mitre 934, Avellaneda from 22-4 hs.  Male members paid 1.50, women paid 50 centavos; male nonmembers 5 pesos, female nonmembers 1 peso.

Anibal Troilo with singers Francisco Fiorentino and Alberto Marino, plus a jazz orchestra, were at Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield, Rivadavia 7855-67, in Liniers.  There were limited streetcar lines in those days and few buses, so people had to rely on a friend with a car for transportation. Ladies paid 50 centavos to enter.  Liniers is near the city limit.

Pedro Laurenz with Alberto Podesta performed downtown at Ocean Dancing at 25 de Mayo 279 that had another entrance on L. H. Alem, from 22-1 hs.

Ricardo Tanturi kept two groups of musicians working.  One played at Tribu Social Club at Sarmiento 1374 and another with Alberto Castillo plus a jazz orchestra in Circulo General Urquiza, F. D. Roosevelt 5345, a neighborhood sports club.

Lucio Demare was the headliner at Palermo Palace, Godoy Cruz and Santa Fe in Palermo, where men paid one peso and women entered free.

Carlos Di Sarli with Roberto Rufino appeared at Club Boca Juniors, Brandsen 805, Boca, from 22-4 hs.  This would have been my choice, even if I had to walk there.

Rodolfo Biaggi and two singers were at Club Miraflores at Boyacá 652, Flores, alternating sets with a jazz band from 22 hs.  Entrada was 2 pesos for men, 50 centavos for women.

Milonguera sighting

January 10, 2020

I saw Marta yesterday while walking in our neighborhood.  We live only five blocks from one another.  We had several long chats in her apartment years ago.  Now neither of us goes to the milongas.  She probably went many more years than I did.  She admitted her age (82) to me for the first time.  Marta is the only one I know who talks with milonguero Beto Ayala.  I haven’t seen or heard from him in years.  She gave me good news.

Salon La Argentina

January 9, 2020

While checking recent posts on Facebook, I discovered an  announcement of a new milonga opening next month in one of the oldest dance venues in Buenos Aires.  Seven years ago I had a peek inside Palacio Rodriguez Pena to see the beautiful dance salon.

At a time when tango venues in the city are closing or being turned into a health club like Nuevo Salon La Argentina was (isn’t a milonga also a health club?), it’s incredible that Salon La Argentina will host a weekly milonga after decades without public social dances.  I wish the organizers much success in their endeavor.  During the 1950s, La Argentina was on the list of venues for the 18-35 year olds, who frequented the confiterias bailables along Corrientes from Avenida Callao to Avenida Florida.

Salon La Argentina in the early days

Milonguero sightings

January 2, 2020

The only place you are certain to find milongueros viejos is at certain traditional milongas in Buenos Aires.  I have written for a few years how their numbers are declining, because of poor health or death.  Three left us in the last weeks of 2019.

I am no longer going to the milongas after 20 years, so it is rare that I see a milonguero.  Recently, I had two milonguero sightings on the street.  Buenos Aires is a big city, but it’s amazing how small it seems with surprise encounters.

I was on my way home one day just before Christmas, walking down Avenida Belgrano, when I noticed a milonguero going in the opposite direction.  I decided to approach him, even though we had never spoken or danced before.  My first question was, don’t know you from the milongas?  I had to ask his name, since this was the first time talking with him.  He walks with a cane and doesn’t go to the milongas.  He lives at the intersection of Belgrano and Entre Rios and goes to La Continental restaurant on the corner where he’s a regular customer for lunch and dinner; I saw him another day seated outside while taking my morning walk.  Roque Iaria may be a familiar face to some of you who come regularly to Buenos Aires.  Juan Lencina was a good friend that he was sad to lose.

Then two days after Christmas, while on my way to an informal music session by several guitarists, I had yet another milonguero sighting along Rivadavia, across from Plaza Congreso.  I was so happy to notice Antonio and went up to talk with him.  He said he didn’t know me, although we had danced many times together at Lo de Celia.  He was dressed in a suit and tie as always for the milonga, so I asked if he was going to dance.  His wife died a few years ago, so Antonio lives alone in La Boca.  The milongas get him out of his apartment and provide the social contact he needs.  He asked me to join him for coffee, but I had to decline.  It’s been about two years since I last spoke with Antonio Ignacio Cejas, now 85.

Eduardo Roberto Masci

December 15, 2019

April 13, 1941 – December 14, 2019

Ernesto Hector Garcia

December 13, 2019

May 8, 1936 — December 10, 2019

 

I read the news today on Facebook about the passing of El Flaco Dany, one of very few milongueros since the 1950s who gained recognition world-wide for his dancing. He was fortunate to tour many countries in Europe where he taught and performed at tango festivals, and he was in Barcelona when he passed.  Dany was best known for his milonga con traspie.

Carlos Gavito, Eduardo Masci, Elvio Vitali, Cacho Masci, Miguel Angel Balbi, “Dany” Garcia, and Pedro “Tete” Rosconi

Roberto Bonavato, Mario Calorota, Ernesto Garcia, Jorge Uzunian, Hugo Belvisi, Miguel Angel Balbi

Jorge Garcia (Dany’s brother), Gilda, Ada Peloso, jantango, Carlos Gavito, Miguel Angel Balbi, Dany’s mom in red dress, Dany, Ricardo Maceiras, Stella Maris Hassan, Aura Tateossian, Lolo Garaban, Armando Giacovelli in front of Teatro Metropolitano after performance of Danza Maligna.

Video of Dany that I recorded October 2001 at Club Caribbean.

Dany began teaching with Muma Valino at La Turca’s milonga in Club Monte Carlo on Corrientes and Libertad.  I bought a video camera specifically to record interviews and the milongueros in the milongas.  I recorded Dany and Muma dancing in the milonga at El Beso, in Casa de Gerard, and an exhibition at Sunderland Club from April to June 2001.  My favorite footage is of Dany teaching a class of beginners in Centro Region Leonesa in October 2001.  I recorded other exhibitions of Dany at Lo de Celia, on stage at Teatro Alvear, Noche con Gavito at La Trastienda, and Danza Maligna at Teatro Metropolitan (2002-2003).

From street to stage

November 14, 2019

A street dancer creates rather than copies and improvises with the music without rehearsal or choreography.  A street dancer dances in the moment and derives inspiration from the music.

Ricardo Vidort talked about tango as a street dance that was practiced on the corner or in the park between boys who knew nothing about dance technique.  There were no dance teachers when they were learning tango in the 1930s and 40s. Feeling was their only technique.  They developed their own personal styles.  They were creating their styles in those days that we see today in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

Today we can find all types of dances being taught in studios.  Street dancing (hip hop, funk, etc.) originated in the streets of the ghettos just like tango did in Buenos Aires.  Contemporary street dance is so popular today that it is taught in dance academies and certified teacher training programs.  Professional instruction washes out all the creativity of a pure form.

Tango originated a street dance.  Boys practiced together in order to dance well enough to invite girls at the dances.  Tango was danced in its purest form.  Watch the milongueros viejos in the milongas, and what you’ll see is pure feeling and simplicity.  They created their personal styles at an early age and then danced every night of the week in the downtown confiterias, cabarets and salons.

Today, the younger generation of dancers is studying tango, perfecting their technique and preparing choreographies to perform for exhibition and stage.  They are trained, but they lack the essence of tango.  They practice choreography hours each day for performance.  their goal is technical perfection, but they have no feeling.

What will the milongas be like when all the milongueros viejos are gone?

Cacho Dante

September 3, 2019

November 5, 1939 — August 2019

My friend Monica Blanco, a tango teacher in Mexico City, wanted to learn more about the man’s role. We attended Cacho’s classes in Club Bailable Juvenil in August 1999, where she practice the lead with me.

It was nice seeing Cacho after a long absence from the milongas and teaching.  I attended his seminar in November 2012 to translate for students from Singapore, Japan, and Korea.

Cacho was living in Mar del Plata for the last several years.

Ricardo Vidort lives on through his words

August 30, 2019

Today would have been his 90th birthday.  He’s still with us in our hearts.

These are Ricardo’s words a few months before his passing in May 2006.

Life is a beautiful thing if you know how to live it. We all try to live it, but we (milongueros) live in a different way for what we feel.

You move with the grace that the music gives you, to dance the way you want to. We put that movement in several steps, and from those steps we can make 500 or more. Put feeling — that’s the secret of the tango. So you move and you hold the woman with strength but softly. She feels safe inside, and she feels that you are taking care of her. In that moment the priority is the music and the woman. I don’t care about the people. I dance before 3,000 people, and I dance for two. For me, it’s the same. I dance for my partner. I don’t dance for them. The feeling is unique like fingerprints. Nobody can teach you feeling. I can see it in your movements, and I correct that. I don’t correct what I want you to do, I correct what you feel in a better way so it’s your way, your feeling, your thoughts.

Tango has a way, we call it close embrace. It’s very difficult for a woman, especially a foreign woman, to understand that a guy is going to put you here (on his chest). We bring our energy together in a close embrace, and our bodies enjoy the music. We try to move together, one helps the other to be in the music, one helps the other to do short steps, because we don’t need long steps. We need to walk like we walk on the street but with feeling.

You can copy my steps, but you can’t copy what I feel. If I were to dance now, and I danced this tango, I wouldn’t dance the same way as in the video, because today it’s another feeling. And that’s what people need to understand. You can love ten people in your life, with passion or whatever, but it will be different with each one. That’s the secret of life.

Most of those who dance tango are crazy for the steps and figures — I want to be a better dancer than he is.  No, be better than he is showing who you are. See me work and afterwards you tell me how much you are going to pay me because I give 100% and I enjoy it.

There are thousands who dance tango, but there are very few who dance tango with feeling. We are no more than 30 or 40 milongueros, so when we die, nobody will remember us.

Who is the best dancer? The one who shows he knows a lot or the one who tries to give you his heart, his feeling. I believe the latter, so I do that. A lot of people asked me to dance on stage in lots of places. I never wanted to do it because I would have to change my style. I have to dance what people want to see. No, what you want to see is what I’m going to give you, not what you ask for. I can give you love because you love me. I can give you love if I feel it. If not, it isn’t love. That is what I feel.

It isn’t true you need to learn special steps, that you need to go to a ballet studio to do exercises, no. You need to feel that your body is enjoying it so the body doesn’t stop. You can enjoy it five or six hours. You see people in Buenos Aires of 78 years who seem 25 years younger when they dance.

When I began to dance outside of my house, I was 14, but I already danced. Big guys, 23 or 24, took me along because if not they wouldn’t let me enter.

I feel that the most beautiful thing that you can do for someone is to serve them because it’s the only way you feel your worth. We are part of something that is like music. It’s like we are part of a mechanism — it works only if you put your own self. If you don’t put your own self, you’re out. So put your own self to continue because you’re going to learn something new every day. I wake up happy every day in my life. Why? Because I’m alive.

You need to die to be part of what you’re going to leave in energy to the world because we all are energy. So we need to leave the best.

Celebrating 59 years of tango

The woman in both photos is Jill Barrett of London, who organized classes and taught with Ricardo.