Archive for December, 2009

Enrique Barrientos

December 23, 2009

June 25, 1944 —

Quique didn’t learn to dance from the age of 14 as the milongueros, but that doesn’t mean he loves tango any less than they do.  He began learning tango late in life in 1990.  He attended the classes of Virulazo in Centro Cultural San Martin on Corrientes as well as those of Antonio Todaro.  Quique couldn’t get enough of tango.   He taught many who became teachers and traveled to Italy and France to give classes.

He was the first “taxi dancer” I knew in the milongas long before they were as popular as they are today.  Quique earned his living giving private tango classes.  Women wanted to dance with him in the milongas, so he charged them.  There was nothing wrong with that.  He was a favorite partner of many women who didn’t mind paying him for dances. 

Quique danced for years with pain in his legs.  Doctors told him to give up smoking, but he stubbornly refused.  Eventually, he paid the price for the habit having one leg amputated and then the other.  Quique loved to dance and has to deal with the fact that he’ll never dance again.

He misses all the people he knows in the milongas.  His greatest desire is to visit a milonga one day to see everyone.  Quique is living in Hospital Israelita (room 368), but on weekends with the help of a friend, he manages to travel by bus and train to his house in Villa Domenico, where he can enjoy the outdoors.  A very generous friend provided him with a wheelchair which he is learning to manuever in the hospital corridors and on colectivo lifts.  Quique’s cell number is 15-3656-4500.

A benefit hasn’t been held in a milonga for Quique yet, but I feel it is long overdue.  He deserves financial support now that he is unable to work.


Julio Alejo

December 19, 2009

December 19, 1934 —

Julio has a front row table at Lo de Celia on Sundays where he joins his friends Adolfo, Antonio, Fernando and Gregorio.  He reserves the dixieland jazz numbers for me.  I waited years before he would allow me to take this photograph of him recently.  I only wish he had smiled for it, because that’s the way I’m used to seeing him all the time in the milonga.

The art of improvisation

December 16, 2009

Tango as a social dance is improvised.  There are so many variables: the venue, the floor, the other dancers, the music, the partner, and our mood at that moment.

Listening to jazz musicians discuss the creative process has brought insight to the art of improvisation.  They talk about needing to get inside the music.  This week I viewed another such program on Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation.  All classical music is notated and played note for note in performance.  Jazz music is intuitive and happens in the moment.  The bassist with the Jarrett trio commented that the music enters you.  When it enters you, you don’t have to think about it.  The music tells you what to do.

I believe this is the key to improvisation in tango: you have to allow the music to get inside you and take over.  Then it tells you what to do.  I’ve heard milongueros say this is how they dance.  They don’t have to think about it.  The music tells them how to dance.  It’s that simple.

Naming the anonymous

December 5, 2009

This is the 200th post of Tango Chamuyo.  It’s purpose is to write about the milongueros of Buenos Aires.   I had no idea when I began taking photos of them ten years ago that I would be using them in this blog.  Each post has unfolded on its own for sharing with readers.  I will continue to write as long as there are milongueros dancing, and people interested in reading about them. 

One thing I have learned about the milongas is that a person could know other dancers for thirty or forty years, but they can’t tell you their names.  This may seem strange for those of us from other cultures, but this is the way it has always been in the milongas.  Those who performed or traveled years ago became known through videos or publicity.  However, those who danced every night in the milongas remained anonymous.  Names weren’t important in the milongas.  People greeted one another without knowing anything about each other.  Many are known only by a nickname.  All that matters to them is that they come together for one common purpose — to enjoy listening and dancing to tango music.

The milongueros are married to the milongas.  They have no commercial interest in tango.  The milonga is where they go to breathe tango and share an embrace when they dance. 

These anonymous men who have danced for decades have helped to preserve tango as a social dance.  Their love of the music and the way in which they feel it are unique.  Let’s hope that their legacy will remain with us for a long time to come.  The milongueros know the essence of tango. 

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

Mario Alan "Alito" Candamil in Centro Region Leonesa

Jorge Garcia, Ernesto "Dany" Garcia, Miguel Angel Balbi

Roberto Bonavato and Ernesto Delgado

A reason to celebrate

December 1, 2009

When a milonguero hasn’t been at his favorite milonga for several weeks, I start asking others about him.  When Antonio Ignacio Cejas (July 11, 1934-) hadn’t been around for weeks at Lo de Celia, I wondered why. A friend knew that he was very ill.  Last Sunday, Antonio returned to the milonga.  It was a reason to celebrate, so I took this photo of him and his friends.

Adolfo, Antonio, Julio & Gregorio

In October, Alito was very ill and had to be hospitalized.  I visited him when he wasn’t able to walk.  Today I went to see him in the milonga.  I was amazed to see how he has gained strength and weight in the six weeks since I last saw him.  He goes to the milongas a few times a week and even dances several tandas.  I filmed him dancing in Maipu 444.  This was a reason to celebrate — the return of another milonguero.

Mario Alan Candamil in Plaza Bohemia