Remembering Them

January 18, 2023

 

We will remember Vilma Heredia who was tireless in organizing milongas for decades.

We remember Hector Medina (1938-2000) who was a member of the Lo de Celia family.  A true gentleman who shared his passion for tango.  Monica misses him.

 

Pedro Faroldo  (January 3,1929 — January 2023)

Like a High School Class Reunion

January 16, 2023

Last night at Salon El Pial was like going to a high school reunion where you got to see people you haven’t seen in many years and even forgot some of their names, but you were still happy to see them and catch up on one another’s lives. Salon El Pial has the largest dance floor in Buenos Aires. And the salon was full to capacity last night with 400 or more.

I had a “senior moment” when I called her Gladys instead of Olga.  I pride myself on remembering names.  I was so happy to see Olga since I had tried so many times to reach her by phone on her birthday and Christmas after the line was disconnected.  We hugged.  We met in February 2007, in Salon El Pial when Olga was dancing exclusively with Roberto Segarra.  I remember Roberto was curious why a tourist came to El Pial to dance.  That was our first conversation.  Olga pointed out that Roberto was among the dancers in the photo poster on the wall.  Olga has a table in front of the mural so she is close to Roberto.

This photo gives a good perspective of the size of Salon El Pial.  It’s where people go to socialize and dance.  I noticed at times the conversation overpowered the music, although while dancing the sound was excellent.

Eduardo told me in a phone call that he has been going to Salon El Pial on Sundays, even though it’s a long commute from Berezategui in the provincia to Flores in the capital federal. At his suggestion, I took the A line subte there for the first time instead of the 96 bus. It took one hour from my door until I entered the salon after changing my shoes in the ladies’ room. Since last Friday was Eduardo’s birthday, I wanted to take his photo and dance with him.  I went looking for him at the entrance the moment he was paying his admission.

It has been years since I’ve seen Roberto Peralta and took this photo of him the moment he arrived at the Sunday reunion in Salon El Pial.  Now that Salon Canning is closed after decades of milongas, the milongueros had to change their Sunday routine.

I know Miguel from the days of El Arranque in Salon Nuevo La Argentina, which is now a gymnasium on Bartolome Mitre near the Congreso Nacional.

All the tables in El Pial are arranged for groups of dancers that want to sit together.  The first table was reserved for a group celebrating a milonguero’s birthday.

 

Betty Rodriquez greeted me when I arrived for the reunion.  She brought a cake for Manolo’s birthday.  Jesus Jose Carmayo (on the left) joined the celebration.

These two couples were literally squeezed into the corner, but they didn’t mind, although it may have taken a few more steps to get to dance floor.  Rodolfo and Olga enjoyed my videos of them.

Roberto is 48, so he was the youngest dancer at the reunion.  I wanted to tell him when we met and talked in Club Almagro when he was only 22.  He told me he remembered me and then said my name.  He lives near Noemi Norma Galli, whom I wrote about a few months ago.

I asked Roberto Peralta if he is still dancing.  He said he put on weight during the last three years and has a few more kilos to lose.  He mentioned how I took good care of Alito.

 

The salon was full.

The air-conditioning system was working well to keep us comfortable.

Salon El Pial had a staff of waiters serving food and drink all night.

Aldo Raspanti no longer has vocal cords to speak, but he communicates perfectly with his smile.

 

This milonguera arrived fashionably late.  She used to be a redhead, but now she’s a blond.  I finally had the opportunity to ask Lala about two milongueros, Eduardo and Tito.

Jorge “Cholo” Totoro was another milonguero who I was glad to see after many years.  He sadly informed me that his partner of many years Vilma Heredia passed on three years ago.  Vilma was a milonga organizer for decades.

 

Getting started with tango

January 2, 2023
Hi – I really liked your message on the site about living in BA. I’ve been living here off and on over the past couple of years. I’d like to find a local person to take tango lessons with outside the tango tourism scene…do you think that’s possible? Thanks Paul

Paul,

Let’s start with a few questions:

Why are you interested in learning to dance tango?
Do you listen to tango music when you are in Buenos Aires?
Do you have friends who dance tango?
Have you ever been to a tango show or a milonga?
Have you learned any other social dances?

Before you learn to dance, you need to know the music.

Janis

Hi Janis – Thanks for your reply to my note. Those are all good questions. I’m interested in learning simply because it’s a lovely part of life here, and it would be fun to be able to go to milongas and to participate in a relaxed way from time to time. Yes, I have a few friends here who dance tango, but not many because I don’t know many people here. I’ve been to a few tango shows, and a friend who is a keener took my daughter and I to a milonga at Bar Los Laurels in Barracas last May. I enjoyed that. I have listened to quite a bit of tango music but not in any systematic way. I know that there are lots of schools and that I can easily take lessons. I’m a little leery of the tango tourism scene, however, because it seems a bit impersonal and possibly a bit soulless. People working within mass tourism can become jaded. So I wonder if there’s another way for me to step into it? Paul

Paul,

Would you be willing to commit to going to a milonga (that I will recommend) once a week for three hours just to observe? That would be a good start before you take your first step on the dance floor.

Where do you live? Can you converse in Spanish?

Janis

Hi Janis – Thanks for an intriguing suggestion. I’d happily go to a Milonga if you have one to suggest. I’m not sure I would stay for 3 hours if I’m alone and not dancing, though. But if it’s lively and interesting, I likely would. My apartment is on the edge of San Telmo in Baracas, but I bike around and take the metro and buses and taxis all over the city so would happily check out a milonga anywhere. I can get by in very basic Spanish in part because I speak French. I have a fairly busy work schedule and will be fitting Spanish lessons into it in the new year, while also becoming a tango star. Let me know what you suggest. Thanks again, Paul

Paul,

You’ve given me a good idea of your schedule. It sounds like you should postpone the tango dancing on top of a work schedule and Spanish lessons. That’s my suggestion. Learning all the orchestras and listening to recordings for hours each day is a commitment that I demand as a tango teacher. I give free private classes to tourists who have some experience and want to improve for the milongas here.

I suggested visiting a milonga to see what you’re getting into. If you are really serious about dancing, then you have to commit to listening, watching, reading, and learning.

Here are some options for starting your research.

My blog Tango Chamuyo and my YouTube channel Jantango.

This investigation will help you decide if you are ready for a commitment to tango, because that is what it requires. I know. I left Chicago to live in Buenos Aires in 1999.

Janis

Hi Janis – Happy new year! Thanks a lot for your thoughtful and very informative note. I appreciate your rigour and seriousness. I’ve been talking with a few people about how to approach it, and I think I may have found someone to teach me who takes a less intensive approach. She is an tango experienced but non-professional dancer who teaches art in an elementary school and says she will give me lessons. My aim is just to be able to go to a milonga from time to time and participate casually in a relaxed, admittedly amateurish, way rather like a lot of local guys here seem to do. Once again thanks for all your kind and thoughtful insights. Paul

His observations are not unusual for someone who has never danced tango.  He assumes he can just show up and dance, without first “paying his dues.”  He will learn step patterns from the art teacher.  That’s fine.  He will have an awakening when he visits a milonga.  If you don’t practice tennis along with the rules of the game, you won’t find anyone who will want meet you on the court.  It’s the same with tango.

A difference of opinion

December 25, 2022

Hoy Milonga has given dancers the option of posting comments about the milongas they attend.  I took the opportunity to read all of the comments that are positive and negative.

For example, this positive comment is posted for El Maipu, now organized by Diana Cauvin in Lo de Celia.

Very nice milonga. One of the best dance floors in the city and an excellent selection of music. And an open atmosphere, too, with a good selection of experienced dancers. For me the best alternative every Tuesday to the crowded PARAKULTURAL.

The dancer expressed his opinion very well about many aspects of the milonga.

A negative opinion is from a newcomer to the milongas who lacks experience.  He makes assumptions to justify his complaint.

This place always packed with porteños that will never accept a newcomer. Only the old cliques of the host.

Yes, the majority of dancers in El Maipu are porteños who live in Buenos Aires.  That’s better than a milonga full of mainly tourists. Tourists are newcomers who are always welcome. It is not true that a newcomer will never be accepted. I speak from first-hand experience. One needs to have patience and attend the same milongas regularly to become familiar to others.  This doesn’t happen after a few visits.  You need to prove yourself to others by respecting the codes and dancing well.  If one leaves after an hour without dancing, no one notices you.  The old cliques are the reason that tourists return year after year to dance.  They have been dancing for decades and are the backbone of the milongas, although  their numbers are declining for obvious reasons.  Consider yourself fortunate to dance with someone over 75, no matter what your age.  Then you will experience the feeling of tango with a porteño/a.

Hector Daniel Rodriguez

December 18, 2022

Dany and I danced at the milonga Re Fa Si (before it became Lo de Celia Tango Club in 2000).  He told me that he went to classes, but they didn’t teach the tango that he saw in the milongas.  He learned more watching the milongueros than he did in classes. 

Years later, he teamed up with Lucy Alberto to organize milongas in Centro Region Leonesa and Obelisco Tango.

Most recently, Dany held his milonga El Maipu on Tuesdays in Lo de Celia, and it’s still scheduled for Tuesday on Hoy Milonga.com without him.  We will know soon if someone else is taking charge.

Here is Dany with his darling daughter Eliana who was cashier in Obelisco Tango in 2017.  Eliana was fluent in English, so we always talked at the door when she was working.

 

 

Jose Mario Lopez Arias

December 16, 2022

December 16, 1944 —

I took the opportunity to take a photo of Mario at Nuevo Chique in Casa de Galicia, the milonga of Marcela Pazos with excellent music by my favorite DJ Dany Borelli.

Salon Canning

December 16, 2022

This salon has been a favorite of many milongueros for decades.  Dario Rodriguez organized milongas three days a week for 35 years in Salon Canning.  When he passed on, his daughter Patricia continued managing them until recently.

The story is that the owners of the building want to use the space for special events, so that means the milongas will end this month.  Omar Viola who has organized Parakultural in Salon Canning has found a new home for his milonga in Salon Marabu on Maipu 359, where Anibal Troilo debuted his orchestra in 1937. 

You can count the traditional tango venues where the codes are respected on two hands.  They are  El Beso, Centro Cultural Lo de Celia, El Nuevo Gricel, Casa de Galicia, Club Oeste, Salon El Pial, Salon Rodriguez and Salon Marabu.

 

Blanca Biscochea

December 8, 2022

December 8, 1924 — December 5, 2022

I read a post by Julia Doynel that Blanca has moved into a geriatric home.  It was always a joy to see her on the dance floor.  Blanca almost made it to her 98th birthday.

 

Miguel Angel Balbi

November 29, 2022

November 29, 1937 —

My notes from our conversation on September 10, 2000.

The milongas of the 1950s had recorded music of tangos alternating with latin and jazz music.  The deejay planned four tangos, four rumbas, four tangos, four foxtrots or jazz, four tangos, salsa, tangos, valses, tangos, milongas, etc.  Milongueros stopped going to the milongas in the 1970s because the musical format changed to what is more common in the milongas today: two tandas of tango, vals, two tandas of tango, milonga, etc. with only an occasional tropical or jazz/rock ‘n’ roll tanda.

Miguel Angel went to the milongas seven nights a week from 1952 until he married in 1962.  His regular schedule was:

Monday – Mi Club, Suipacha 586

Tuesday – Confiteria Sans Souci, Corrientes 955

Wednesday – Confiteria Domino, Lavalle and Esmeralda

Thursday – Club Oeste, Alberdi and José Maria Moreno (Caballito)

Friday – Club Almagro, Gascón and Corrientes

Saturday – Juventud del Belgrano, Virrey Aviles 3153 (Belgrano R)

Sunday – Club Social y Deportivo Buenos Aires, H. Puerreydon y Gaona

During the reign of the military, lunfardo was not permitted.  The milongas continued, but tangos with lunfardo weren’t permitted for dancing.  Tango with lyrics in lunfardo were not recorded.  If a club played music with lunfardo, it ran the risk of being closed.  There were municipal inspectors who would do random inspections at milongas.  If they heard music with lunfardo, the place closed.  The government initiated this measure as respect for the language and raising the level of life in the city.  Miguel said that even the word “milonguero” was not permitted.  This term has been around since the late 1940s in the milongas.  This ban on lunfardo was not a problem for milongueros at the city confiterias because their favorite orchestras — Anibal Troilo, Ricardo Tanturi, Miguel Calo, Carlos Di Sarli, Angel D’Agostino — didn’t record songs with lunfardo lyrics.  The orchestras of the barrios Juan D’Arienzo, Francisco Canaro, Roberto Firpo, Rodolfo Biaggi.  The orchestras of the cabarets were Osvaldo Fresedo, Lucio Demare, and Julio DeCaro.

The two most important elements of a successful milongas are excellent music and a square floor like Salon Canning.  The milongas today have bad music, bad floors, bad dancers, and lots of bumping and kicking.  There are dozens of milongas in Buenos Aires today, and none of them as good in his opinion.

The music of the tanda has to be of the same style and compas.  Often DJs play music of one orchestra from different years.  There is tango for the milonga, tango for dancing, and tango for listening.  A DJ has to know the difference.

In the 1950s, milongueros went to the same place every week on a certain night because the music was always different.  There are 5,000 tangos for the milongas, but the milongas today in Buenos Aires have the same music every week.  A milonguero wants to hear different music each time he goes to a milonga.  He knows the music after listening for so many years.

Miguel Angel feels that a disk jockey should study the music of the milongueros and have a good choice of rumba, jazz, Foxtrot, salsa, not just tango.  The milongas should have different music each night.  The disk jockey should watch the floor for help in mixing the music.  When someone asks for a particular orchestra or tango, he should try to fit it into the program he has planned for the evening.  He should also watch the dancers and ask himself why isn’t so-and-so dancing?  And find out why not.

A milonguero takes pride in the way he looks and always dresses elegantly.  He has a reserved table at the milongas.  He often waits an hour before dancing.  He watches the floor for someone who dances well.  He also enjoys watching good dancers.  He never has to move his head to invite a woman to dance; he simply makes eye contact with her and moves his lips as if to say, “Bailamos!” because women in the room are patiently waiting to dance with him.  He won’t stretch his neck or leave his table to ask a woman to dance.  He knows that there are women waiting to dance with him.  He doesn’t dance every tanda.  He patiently waits for music which inspires him to dance.  He doesn’t dance for the sake of exercise or meeting women.  He may dance only once a night, but that is enough for him.  If nobody dances well in a new milonga, a milonguero will leave and go to another.  A milonguero takes care of his appearance and has a wardrobe of suits, shirts, ties, and good shoes.  When it’s 40 degrees in the summer, he still wears a suit to the milongas.

Miguel Angel learned tango from his four uncles who were milongueros (they never married) and took him to the milongas when he was 15.  He began singing tango at home from the age of 6.  His uncle would put him on a table to sing.  He developed his own personal style.  Today, people have a tango style imposed on them and not the freedom to choose how they want to dance.  New dancers today lack individuality in their dancing.

Ernesto Jorge de Gouvea

November 20, 2022

November 20, 1934 —

I was ecstatic when I finally saw Jorge after three years at his front door.  I didn’t let him know that I was coming for a visit on Monday afternoon.  I have missed seeing him in person.

Jorge says that he’s going to get back to dancing in the new year.    When he goes to Joni and Norma’s milongas in Lo de Celia, the ladies will be competing for a tanda with him, especially when the music is Juan D’Arienzo with Alberto Echaugue.