That was quick

February 15, 2019

I saw a sign on the street today announcing the opening of Smart Fit Congreso on Bartlome Mitre 1759, so I went to check it out for myself.  I wrote about the demolition of Nuevo Salon La Argentina in December, and its conversion to a gymnasium.

Smart Fit, a Brazilian company, opened its first site in Argentina on February 9th, two blocks from the national congress.  What was once a spacious dance salon with stage was quickly turned into a modern fitness facility with wall-to-wall machines.  The place is open from six in the morning until eleven at night.  I noticed only a handful of people on the premises today at 7:00.  Membership is $800AP per month.

My next investigation will be Club Gricel on La Rioja.  Yes, it is another milonga venue that has permanently closed its doors, and all the milonga organizers found new places.  I’d like to know what plans Hector Chidichimo has for the place.  Stay tuned.

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Buenos Aires is a great city for retirement

February 3, 2019

Today marks my 20th anniversary in Buenos Aires.  I want to share some of the reasons why I’m so happy in this great city.

Blue skies and sun during the summer and the winter!

Great weather all year around.  I have no complaints.  My hometown Chicago was hit this week by the polar vortex and registered cold like the south pole.  I feel sorry for family members, while I enjoy summer in Buenos Aires.  Even when it’s colder during the winter months of July and August, we don’t get freezing temperatures in the Paris of South America.

Citizenship.  It’s relatively simple for a retired person with social security benefits to get citizenship through the court.  You can do it yourself or hire a lawyer to handle the process which takes about a year.  I have dual citizenship since 2013 and two passports.  I have the right and the obligation to vote in all the elections.

Bilingual culture.  English is taking over the world.  I’m glad I studied Spanish for two years in high school or I’d be lost.  Knowing the local language facilitates making a connection with people.  Without it, I’d be at a loss for words, literally.  I meet people all the time who studied and speak English.  Store windows have signs in English, and restaurant menus are bilingual.

Social Security is enough to live on.  I started receiving monthly retirement benefits at age 62.  I own an apartment that I bought in 2005 with money from my mother’s estate.  I can live comfortably on my small retirement income and have savings, but I don’t know how I would manage if I still lived in Chicago.

Public transportation.  Buses and the subway are the most efficient means for getting around the city.  The highest fare based on distance is 17.50AR — about 50 cents.  We have electronic cards to pay the fares, and most lines are air-conditioned.  Buses run 24 hours a day, and the subways have extended hours on the weekends.  You don’t need a car in the city.  The downtown is pedestrian friendly.

Tango is everywhere in the city.  The dance and music brought me to Buenos Aires.  The milongueros viejos are the reason tango is unique in the city where it was born.  I learned what tango means to them, and they taught me how to feel and love tango.

Teatro Colon

The National Symphony Orchestra – Centro Cultural Kirchner

The Chamber Orchestra of the Nation in the National Congress

Philharmonic of Buenos Aires in Usina del Arte

Cultural life.  This is a city that values the arts and makes them available to all.  I attend free concerts at several venues.  It’s like having a subscription to four orchestras, except that all the tickets are free.  There are weeks I attend as many as six concerts and a concert lecture.  My years of instrumental music study helped me appreciate the cultural life I have in Buenos Aires.

Community involvement.  I attend neighborhood meetings every three months  hosted by the mayor and his staff when residents express their concerns and make suggestions.  Participation keeps me informed about our neighborhood.  The police commissioners hold monthly meetings at the police stations to stay informed and handle problems.  In my opinion, this is a city that works on improving all the time, and I like being involved.

Neighbors.  Having lived in the same apartment for 17 years, I have gotten to know many neighbors by name when we meet on the street and talk.  It makes me feel I’m a part of the community, like the one in the 1950s and 60s in Chicago when we knew all the families on the block.  Life is fast-paced today with technology, but I don’t feel anonymous here.  The owners of the health food shop greet me by name and know my purchase preferences.  I returned to the local pasta shop this week after a year, and the new owner, who met me only once, remembered I’m from Chicago. This happens regularly for me in Buenos Aires, and I love it.

House sales and resale shops.  These were my shopping destinations when I lived in the USA.  I’ve been a regular at the weekend house sales and resale shops in Buenos Aires since I heard they existed here.  I furnished my apartment going to house sales, and all my clothes and shoes are second-hand.  I give what I no longer wear to a church-sponsored feria americana.  I recycle everything.

Organic fairs.  When I finally learned that eating organic is important for my health, it wasn’t easy finding markets that sell it.  Fortunately, the city organizes organic fairs on the weekends in the parks.  I go on Friday or Saturday to buy fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, and beans.

Friends.  I am grateful for my friendship with these three women–Marilyn, Ines, and Romaine.  Concerts are our common interest, so we enjoy music together.  It’s always a special time for me being with them.

A long search for a milonguero

January 21, 2019

His daughter Veronica reported him missing November 22.  Friends  announced his disappearance on social media.  He was found hospitalized in a coma.  He’s recovering.  What a relief.  Veronica was searching for him for almost two months.  Juan Carlos is 81.

Members of the family

January 19, 2019

I was out grocery shopping this afternoon.  While on my way back home, I saw Olga and Mario Cozza walking in the opposite direction.  I haven’t seen Olga for years.  She stopped working in the coat room at Lo de Celia because of health problems.  Mario continued a bit longer, but finally retired.  I was so happy to see them.  Anyone who was a regular at Celia’s milongas knew them.  They were the ones who greeted everyone at the door, Mario collected the entradas, and Olga took care of coats.  They are such a dear couple who were always ready with a greeting and a smile for everyone.  They live about five blocks from Celia’s.  I told them I’ve stopped dancing and that other members of the family tell me they are not dancing anymore either.  We all felt like one big happy family at Celia’s.

Pedro Faroldo

January 13, 2019

January 3, 1929 —

Pedro (Toto) FaraldoToto celebrated 90 years dancing an exhibition at Club Gricel.

Video    Interview

José Guillermo Salurso

January 10, 2019

May 17, 1934 – November 22, 2009

I remembered the feeling, dancing in his embrace.  I was only dreaming this morning.  El Tano Guillermo, as he was known in the milongas, was the first milonguero with whom I danced.  That was in Milwaukee where he was living with his family for decades. Eventually he returned to his roots in Buenos Aires.  His teaching and dancing had a tremendous impact on me.  El Tano was a character who I will never forget.  I’m glad he appeared today in my dream.

My newbie years

January 8, 2019

Most topics posted recently on the Argentine Tango section of Dance Forum relate to newbies and beginners.  I want to share memories of my beginning steps and introduction into the world of tango.

I had the advantage of dance classes and piano lessons from a young age, so dance and music were second nature for me.  My parents were ballroom dancers who had a collection of tango recordings by American orchestras in the 1950s.  My sister and I were learning tango at home and dancing in the living room.

I started taking social dance classes at a Chicago studio in 1988.  There was a small group of Argentine tango enthusiasts who studied with local teacher who had been to Buenos Aires.  A man from that group who also had been to Buenos Aires offered to teach me what he learned.  We met regularly at my apartment building clubhouse to practice sequences for performance.  We watched videos by Gloria & Eduardo and Los Dinzel.  There was no connection to the music or my partner.  This version of tango focused on sequences.  After only six months of practice, we performed at a dance studio.

In 1992, I heard there was an Argentine couple on sabbatical in Chicago who were giving classes.  I signed up for private and group lessons.  I thought I was learning the tango danced in Buenos Aires milongas, but it was tango de salon for exhibition.

In 1993, I attended a Tango Week at Stanford University where Juan Carlos Copes taught his choreography for stage.  I added tango to my social dance classes at community education classes and park districts.

I thought that Chicago should have a tango week like Stanford, so I started planning it with Northwestern University for June 1995.  The teachers invited were not milongueros, so classes had nothing to do with social tango. The week was a success, but a disaster as far as learning social tango in the embrace.

International Argentine Tango Congress teachers – Chicago 1995

Finally, in March 1996, I went to Buenos Aires to see the tango in the milongas for myself.  I was still too brainwashed by all the classes over five years to immediately notice the differences.  The crowded floors were something I hadn’t seen before.

In February 1999, I moved to Buenos Aires.  It was a slow learning process that took years of development.  I didn’t grow up on tango music from the 1940s like the milongueros.  I couldn’t tell one orchestra from another.  I had to work my way up from the bottom of the barrel, dancing with horrible dancers, and recognizing the difference.  I knew I had come to the right place when I felt tango when embraced by the milongueros.

Tango is not something anyone learns quickly.  You need to know the music and that takes years of listening.  It takes time being comfortable in your own body as an adult who never danced as a teenager like the milongueros did.  They had time to practice, and time to create their own personal style.  There’s no hurry when you’re young.  Today adults who want to learn tango have no self-confidence and very little patience.  They expect proficiency in a short time.

Take it from a one-time newbie who had to start over from the beginning after learning performance tango for years — give yourself a break, take your time, feel the music, forget about your feet, and let your dance come out of you.  Don’t think tango, feel it.

Alberto Luis Ayala

January 5, 2019

July 2, 1941 — ?

I saw Beto this morning.  He was smiling and gave me the news that we were going to dance together very soon.  I was so happy to see him after such a long time.  I think of him every so often.  Seeing him today was significant, even if it was only a dream.  It proves he is still in my thoughts and in my heart.  I don’t know where he is and have no way of finding him.  He doesn’t answer his cell phone or call me.

I joined Beto and his wife Teresa at their table in the milongas for several years.  Beto and I gave private classes together in my apartment.  I loved dancing with him.

Encounter with a machista

January 4, 2019

It’s a man’s world, but times are changing.  Women around the world are demanding change in the things as they are in a male-dominated society.  We have power and have to own it.

I had an interesting situation today while walking to the bank.  Buenos Aires is a walking city.  It’s normal for men to move aside for women, young to change their path for seniors.  There is courtesy on the street.

I was walking next to the buildings on a wide sidewalk when I was suddenly confronted by a man from the other direction.  He decided that I should move for him because he wanted to enter an apartment building a few feet away.  In all of my twenty years in Buenos Aires, this was the first time I met someone who didn’t behave as a gentleman.

We were standing there for a few minutes.  I smiled and asked if he knows how to dance.  It felt like I was meeting someone on the dance floor.  No, I don’t dance, he said.  I was speaking in a normal tone of voice while smiling at him.  I said, gentlemen move for ladies.  You’re aggressive, he said, and I’m no gentleman.

If I had to deal with this situation regularly, I might have left the country years ago.  The milongueros viejos I’ve known over the years are gentlemen.

When I entered and left the bank, gentlemen held the door for me.  That’s the way it is.  Courtesy hasn’t gone out of style.

Retiring from the milonga

December 31, 2018

I often meet people on the street that I know from the tango community.  I’m finding that I’m not the only one who has retired from the milonga.

Carlos and Lila live two blocks from me.  They were passing by one day recently on their way to the vet with their dog.  I asked how things are at Lo de Celia.  Carlos said they haven’t danced all year and don’t plan on returning.  I saw them every Sunday at Lo de Celia.

I was out walking along Av. Callao on Saturday when I saw a familiar face.  She was sitting on a bench with her dog.  I asked, don’t I know you from Lo de Celia?  Susana recognized me and remembered my name.  I asked if she was still dancing at Lo de Celia.  She replied, I haven’t danced all year.  Lo de Celia isn’t the same without Celia.  It was like family then.  Things have changed.  So many feel the same way.

The same day I saw Eduardo on the street.  He lives a block from me.  He, too, said he no longer dances at Lo de Celia.  He had his reserved seat at the front table near the bar.

Celia was the glue that kept her milonga family together.  She worked hard to build and keep the milonga going for many years.  The people who took over her business have no idea what it takes to run a milonga, so organizers are in charge.  Jonatan Rojas has Wednesday and Sunday; Alberto and Edit have Friday, Adriana has Saturday, and Bibiana Ahmad opens on Monday, January 7.