March 14, 1924 — October 2, 2015
The milongas are for dancing, not for practicing and offering feedback to your partner. Argentine men are clear on this when they enter a milonga.
Jose invited me for a vals tanda. I looked to him because we’ve enjoyed many vals tandas together. After the first dance, he made a suggestion that I change the my head position because, as he said, it would look nicer. He is taller than most of the men with whom I dance, and it’s a stretch for me to see over his shoulder. I danced with Jose as he suggested, but felt I’d lost connection with him.
Last Sunday, Luis invited me to dance. After the first dance, he asked me to change my head. This request came days after the first one. Luis and I are about the same height. He asked me to turn my head slightly to the right, placing my forehead on his, with my nose pressed against his right cheek. I dance with my eyes open, so I was staring into his eyes and giggling about it. Not only did it feel strange to me, but made me dizzy. It was impossible to focus on the music while trying to adjust to this odd angle.
During our teaching days in Chicago, Carlos Favre and I gave a workshop at the Museum of Contemporary Art called, “The Art of the Embrace.” A large number of couples with no social dance experience signed up for our tango workshop. Carlos and I began our demonstration with a two-armed, cheek-to-cheek hug with each other and then transitioned to the dance embrace. It was the simplest way we knew to show the tango embrace. It was obvious to us that many couples were not big on hugging each other. They needed help getting close for a full-body hug.
Tango is a hug between two. I don’t even consider how I look when I hug a friend and share my energy. It’s the same for me when I dance tango.
September 18, 1936 —
A friend of Hugo’s told me that he moved to a new apartment only three blocks from mine, but he didn’t give the address. I rang doorbells, but couldn’t find Hugo. His phone number is still listed at his old address. I’d like to visit Hugo and see how he is doing. A stroke in November 2013 has kept him from going to the milonga.
There is a new documentary film coming soon to theaters telling the story between Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves.
I read about the First Tango Congress of the Academia Nacional del Tango in a tango magazine shortly before it took place on August 27-29,2015, with time to register. The purpose was to celebrate 25 years of the Academia, founded in 1990 by the late Horacio Ferrer and housed in the Palacio Carlos Gardel in three floors above Café Tortoni on Avenida de Mayo, inaugurated in 1858. The venue was the Salon de Los Angelitos on the first floor of the Palacio Carlos Gardel, adjacent to the Museo Nacional del Tango.
There were three panel discussions on two days. The first panel was TANGO DANCE: its history and evolution with Milena Plebs, Gloria Dinzel, and Eduardo Arquimbau, followed by questions from the audience. They spoke about their personal experiences in the show Tango Argentino in the 1980s that contributed to tango’s popularity world-wide.
Gloria Dinzel talked about how boring it must be for women to dance a tanda with the same partner who does the same steps over and over, and she added “it’s the same with a man in the bedroom.” She couldn’t come up with the word “tanda” and Milena helped her out; that’s because Gloria only performed tango with her late husband Rodolfo Dinzel. Gloria’s comment drew applause from some women in the audience, but I held mine. Gloria likes flash and showing off, and their videos prove it. That’s fine in choreography. Tango for the milonga is improvised in the moment to a specific tune and orchestra, with a different partner each tanda, and the feeling is never the same. I know that Gloria hasn’t felt what I have from the milongueros who give all they have to every tango with every woman they take in their arms. They don’t perform for anyone; they share an intimate dance with the woman in their embrace. If that’s boring, then why do the milongas still exist today after 70 years and welcome so many visiting dancers from around the world?
Friday’s program began with Tango and Lunfardo by Oscar Conde, Otilia da Veiga, Oscar del Priore and Alberto Romero.
Did you know that in 1943, about 80% of Carlos Gardel’s recordings could not be broadcast on the radio because they contained lyrics in lunfardo? Oscar del Priore commented on how difficult Edmundo Rivero songs with lunfardo are for him to understand; not for the milongueros viejos. He said that the 1920s and 1930s had an avalanche of tangos in lunfardo. By 1943, there was a total prohibition of tango with lyrics in lunfardo. The law prohibiting the use of lunfardo was made in 1933, ten years earlier and finally enforced. La Maleva was changed to La Mala. Grela was changed to mujer. Only a small part of lunfardo originated in jails, and most of it came from daily life among the immigrants. If you want to understand tango, you have to learn lunfardo.
Coleccionismo: Records, Movies & Documents was presented by Enrique Binda, Carlos Puente and Gabriel Soria (president of the Academia) and moderated by Ricardo Garcia Blaya, who I’ve wanted to meet for years to thank him personally for creating Todo Tango, an invaluable website for tango.
The 78 rpm recordings of tango began in 1943, after almost 40 years with other speeds. ODEON recorded tango from 1907-1951, and then turned to folk, jazz and other popular music. Tango wasn’t profitable. Alfredo De Angeles was the first to make 33 rpm recordings with six tunes on each side. Carlos Di Sarli recorded in Peru because it was less costly to import the recordings than make them in Argentina.
Every inch of space in the Salon de Los Angelitos has something related to tango. The display cases are filled with memorabilia from dancers and collectors.
Carlos Puente is the force behind Euro Records. He meticulously digitized only the best recordings of his record collection for CD compilations. His was a labor of love, not to make money. The record producers aren’t interested in tango, even though the demand is world-wide today. You get an idea of how little they thought of tango when all the masters were destroyed without giving it a second thought.
The Congreso was filmed and projected simultaneously in an overflow room nearby.
I took a selfie with Anibal Troilo.
This statue is a tribute to the most notable bandoneonista in the history of tango.
The carved borders of the ceiling have angelic figures, for which the salon is named.
This diagram on the wall is my favorite piece in the museum. It tracks the evolution of tango orchestras by decade. It’s an amazing chart for study.
This is the main room of the museum with the history of tango’s development in text with photos and lots of memorabilia.
This is the bandoneon played by Pedro Maffia.
Only one tango orquesta used a xylophone for its distinct style. This is the instrument played in Fresedo’s orquesta.
The Congreso included the first Tango Book Fair on the third floor of Palacio Carlos Gardel.
Along the stairway are framed posters of tango greats, and I stopped to take this one of Carlos Di Sarli.
The original elevator functions in the palace. They don’t make them like they used to.
The original tile floors are works of art.
Participants of the Congreso received a portfolio with program, a copy of their quarterly magazine Pichuco (No. 2) and a CD compilation of 20 songs from various record productions by the Academia.
The Museo del Tango “Horacio Ferrer” is open to the public Monday through Friday from 14,30-19,30 hs. Contributions are accepted. The Library is open to the public from 18-20hs Monday through Friday.
Horacio Ferrer welcomes all to the Academia Nacional del Tango.