Archive for April, 2008

Eduardo Carlos Gavito

April 27, 2008
April 27, 1942 — July 1, 2005
I saw him for the first time on stage with Forever Tango at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place in Chicago on April 25, 1996. That was ten years after Tango Argentino was presented at Arie Crown for one week. My two sisters saw Tango Argentino, but I didn’t. I was living in the suburbs without a car and couldn’t get to Arie Crown in 1986, so I made up for it by going to see Forever Tango five times during six months at the Royal George Theater on North Halsted Street.
During his time with the show in Chicago, Gavito was giving classes at Chicago Dance Studio. I had the pleasure of demonstrating with him during classes. He and the entire cast showed up one night at my milonga on October 12, 1996, at an Arlington Heights dance studio escorted by Bob Dronski and his wife Kathleen Kreher. Gavito encouraged Bob and Kathleen to open a space dedicated to tango in Chicago. There were few places to dance tango at the time. They were his proteges and put their hearts and souls (and lots of money) into the design of Tango…nada mas on Northwest Highway in Norwood Park. On May 3, 1997, they held their grand opening and, of course, their dear friend Gavito came all the way from Buenos Aires to be there.
The first “La Noche de Gavito y sus Amigos” was held at La Trastienda at Balcarce 460 in San Telmo on July 22, 2002. He invited six couples and two singers to perform in his show. Here is a photo from that night with Miguel Angel Balbi (“Pepino”), Ernesto Hector Garcia (“El Flaco Dany”), Carlos Enrique Gavito, and Ricardo Enrique Maceiras (“El Pibe Sarandi,” who was born one day after Gavito in the same hospital in Sarandi).

The tango embrace

April 25, 2008
Years of ballroom dancing in Chicago never prepared me for what I was to experience during my first trip to Buenos Aires to dance tango in 1996. I received an embrace while dancing completely different from any I had before with any partner. Those nights of dancing with Argentine men in the milongas confirmed for me that tango is a feeling that is danced. Tango is an embrace.
I know many women who have found that special feeling in tango when dancing in the milongas with Argentine men. It’s a feeling of security and being protected while losing oneself in the music. We can forget all our troubles and be present in the moment. No other dance has the feeling of tango.

When I think of all the teachers who travel from Buenos Aires to teach in the United States and other countries, I am astonished that the importance of the embrace is rarely talked about in classes. It’s what dancers are missing until they arrive in Buenos Aires. The embrace is something teachers assume their students understand. It requires understanding the culture of tango from those who have lived tango for many years—the milongueros.

The embrace is mutual giving. He embraces me, and I embrace him. Our hearts beat together as we share three minutes of a story told in music. Our souls connect. Tango allows two to become one.







Milonguero codes

April 23, 2008

I believe the codes of the Cosa Nostra (which means “our thing”) and the codes of the milongueros in Buenos Aires have many things in common.

The Cosa Nostra began during the middle of the 19th century, although confirmation of its existence in Italy wasn’t acknowledged until 1992. It is a brotherhood with rituals, rules of behavior, and a code of honor–don’t talk, listen, and observe. The codes are unwritten and passed on by word of mouth by its members. They are codes for life. The Cosa Nostra exists in only two countries in the world–Sicily and the USA since many Italians immigrated to New York before World War I.

From 1870-1914 (when tango’s predecessor the milonga was being created by musicians), there was a large migration of Italians to Buenos Aires. Many of the poets and composers of tango were of Italian descent-Miguel Calo, Carlos Di Sarli, Homero Manzi, Enrique Discepelo, Julio DeCaro, etc. The codes of the milongueros pattern those of the Cosa Nostra in many ways–behavior, silence, respect and nothing being written. With so many Italians living in Buenos Aires at the turn of the century, it’s no surprise that the codes of the milongueros were established and passed on the same way as the Cosa Nostra traditions. 

Buenos Aires and tango are so closely linked by history and culture, that if you separate them, you end up with something else. Milongas in the United States hardly resemble those in Buenos Aires. Milongas are called as such because of the presence of milongueros. Americans organize parties for socializing and tango dancing, but they aren’t true milongas without the codes. In Buenos Aires, one’s personal life is left at the door when a man enters the milonga. Tango is more than a dance for the milongueros–it is their life, what they have lived.

The codes are disappearing from the milongas in Buenos Aires for a singular reason–the milongueros are disappearing.

Lo de Celia Tango Club

April 21, 2008

The space was formerly known as Re-Fa-Si (which was named after the tango by Enrique Delfino). In fact, Marina Palmer mentions dancing at Re-Fa-Si in her book, “Kiss & Tango,” on page 111. I danced at Re-Fa-Si for the last time in January 2000, just before it closed due to the death of the owner. 

celia-tango-club-constitucionCelia Blanco took over the space and spent months renovating it for her grand opening on July 14, 2000. I lived three blocks away on Virrey Cevallos and Carlos Calvo at the time, so I went to dance as many as four nights a week. At first, Celia’s was open only on the weekend, but eventually there were milongas on other nights.

I consider Lo de Celia to be my second home, and I know others who feel the same way. The staff sets this milonga apart from all others. Claudio is the security guard at the street door. Mario collects the entradas. Olga, his wife, manages the coat checkroom.  Johnny and Rosario are the friendly waiters. Daniel Borelli is the best deejay of all the milongas in Buenos Aires. Silvia is the friendly attendant in the ladies’ room who takes care of everything. Celia is always there to make certain that everything runs smoothly.

I have a reserved table on Wednesday and Sunday in a corner next to the bar. It’s convenient to check with Daniel for the name of an orchestra, etc. Here’s the view from my table in the photo below. The two men seated in front of the bar are Roberto Angel Puyol (left) and Orlando (right, who died two years ago). Lo de Celia (corner of Humberto Primo and Entre Rios) is the place I enjoy dancing more than any milonga in Buenos Aires. And the best thing is it’s only ten blocks from my apartment.

Rob Nuijten 2002

Clodomiro Ortega

April 19, 2008

Tito grew up in Villa Urquiza and went to dance downtown.  I danced with Tito in Nuevo Salon La Argentina during the milonga El Arranque the day of this photo–June 26, 2003.  He runs an almacen on Gascon near Corrientes.

Salvador Pedro Raiano

April 19, 2008

April 19, 1945—May 22, 2003

Christy Cote and Nestor Ray

He was born in Villa Ballester, Buenos Aires, and better known as Nestor Ray. His tango school was the milonga and the street. Nestor trained to be a jockey. He accompanied actor Robert Duvall around the United States when he was filming movies. I met Nestor for the first time at a swing dance convention in Atlanta in May 1996, where he and Duvall danced a tango exhibition. I danced with Nestor at the Tango Broadway milonga in San Francisco and in Lo de Celia in Buenos Aires. He traveled to teach tango in Europe and the USA during the last 12 years of his life with his partner Patricia.

Manuel Nicanor Garaban

April 19, 2008

April 19, 1932—June 2, 2003

Lolo and Aura in Club Gricel

I had the pleasure of dancing with Lolo whose favorite orchestra was Francisco Canaro. This milonguero never married but was “engaged” in December 2001, when he and Aura exchanged rings at a private party in her house with all his milonguero friends. They were the couple everyone watched when they danced milonga con traspie. Here is a photo of them dancing salsa in Club Gricel (July 2001).

Milonguero codes

April 17, 2008
I had my first introduction to the milongas on my first visit to Buenos Aires in March 1996. I began watching and learning how things were done differently in Regin, Almagro,  Gricel and other milongas. When I think back to my first nights of dancing in those clubs, I had so much to learn about the codes and customs. Fortunately, I’ve had help along the way from the milongueros.
Women hear music, and they want to dance. We’ll dance with any man who asks us that is, until we figure out he doesn’t know how to dance. Patience is a difficult lesson for us to learn when it comes to dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires, but it certainly worthwhile. I would rather sit and listen to the music than dance with a man who doesn’t dance well. A tanda is only ten minutes, but it will seem like an eternity in the arms of a man who pushes you around or who can’t connect to the music.
A milonguero will not invite a woman to dance until he has seen her dance. I’ve learned to do the same before accepting an invitation. I went to Gricel last Friday night and saw a man whom I had never seen before in the milongas. I thought he danced fairly well. Later, I was dancing with a milonguero and saw the other man watching me. When he invited me for a tanda, I was reasonably sure I wouldn’t regret it. We checked out each other’s dancing before we danced together. I accepted a second tanda with him. He told me that he waited to see how I danced before he invited me. That confirms he is someone who wants to dance well or not at all.
A few hours ago in Lo de Celia, the woman with whom I shared a table decided to accept the invitation of a man for the Osvaldo Pugliese tanda. He was seated close to our table and had recently arrived. She wanted to dance, so she took her chances. I warned her and predicted disaster, which she confirmed at the end of the tanda. We both agreed that we would rather sit and enjoy the music than dance with a man who doesn’t dance well. I danced only four tandas in three hours, but they were with Antonio, Rodolfo Indegno, and Anibal Serena, all excellent dancers.  

Patience is a code of the milongueros worth practicing.





Hernando’s Hideaway

April 15, 2008

On Sunday I went to my favorite milonga in Buenos Aires-Lo de Celia, at the corner of Humberto Primo and Entre Rios. I usually go Wednesday evenings, but decided I needed to dance on Sunday. Twenty-six year-old Viviana La Falce is deejay, and she has a more eclectic choice of recordings than the regular deejay Daniel Borelli (38) who keeps everyone satisfied with the best tango recordings.

I go to the milongas to dance, to listen to the music, and watch the dancers. I wasn’t dancing at 9:15 when I heard a very familiar tune. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so I walked over to the bar to talk with Vivi. It sounded like a tango from the USA entitled, “Hernando’s Hideaway” and it was. Alfredo De Angelis recorded it. The title in Spanish is, “Escondite de Hernando.”

After arriving home, I browsed the internet in search of the origins of this tango. I wanted to know if “Hernando’s Hideaway” originated in Buenos Aires or the USA. My search revealed that the music and lyrics were written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross for their Broadway musical, “The Pajama Game,” that won a Tony award in 1954. Archie Bleyer, arranger and band leader, made the most popular recording. Everyone from Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald to Guy Lombardo and Harry Connick, Jr. made recordings of it. Hernando’s Hideaway was used in the movie, “Some Like It Hot,” with Jack Lemmon, who dressed as a woman, dances tango with Joe E. Brown.

This is the first time I’ve heard an American tango recorded by an Argentine orchestra played in a Buenos Aires milonga. Vivi informs me that “Escondite de Hernando” is being played in the milongas. You won’t hear it with lyrics, but you may recognize the tune. Just to refresh your memory . . .

I know a dark secluded place,
A place where no one knows your face,
A glass of wine, a fast embrace
It’s called Hernando’s Hideaway

Luis Domingo Ferrari

April 13, 2008
April 9, 1924 — April 1, 2004
His friends called him “Pirucho.” His birthday gatherings were big events as you can see in the photo below. He is there in the front waving at me as I’m snapping the photo. Always included were his milonguero friends with an asado at Club Bristol where he and his wife Dolores lived and worked as caretakers. Cacho and Raquel were always helping out in the kitchen.
My fondest memories of this milonguero are the times we played our imaginary bandoneons together at his table in Lo de Celia during tandas of Juan D’Arienzo. Pirucho wasn’t dancing much during the last years of his life, but he went to the milongas to enjoy the company of friends. He loved to dance milonga more than tango, but I never had one dance with him.
Pirucho spent the last few months of his life in two public hospitals. I went to see him on his birthday, only to learn that he had died on April 1 at 3:00 a.m.



Ernesto Delgado, Pirucho, Carlos Alberto Rodriguez

Ernesto Delgado, Pirucho, Carlos Alberto Rodriguez