I attended the “one-night only” milonga at Club Premier in the barrio of Caballito on December 8, 2001. The outdoor sports area became a dance salon with lights, tables, chairs, and music for a night of tango. December weather is usually warm, but this night was unseasonably cool, which kept many of the advance ticket holders (ten pesos) away. Elisa Fardella and her partner Antonio Barone had planned this night for months.
In the 1950s, this club de barrio held dances on Saturday nights where young ladies went escorted by a female relative or family friend. They sat at tables along the walls while all the young milongueros stood in the middle waiting for the opportunity to invite a young lady to dance.
A few of the men who danced at Club Premier in the 1950s returned for this special night. There was an aire of nostalgia for them as they remembered their younger years. Pedro Sanchez, Roberto Alvarez, Guillermo Mourinio, Juan Topalian, Alito Candamil, Jose Luis Aceto, Osvaldo Centeno, Eduardo Naldi, Hector Delgado, Ernesto Delgado, and Miguel Angel Balbi all took a step back in time to recall those days while they danced under the stars on this cool night. Pedro told me how beautifully polished the surface had been in those days. Eduardo said, “it’s cold tonight, but it’s beautiful.” Then the deejay selected Recuerdos by Osvaldo Pugliese to begin the next tanda.
Miguel Angel Balbi recalled when he was dancing at Club Premier on Saturday nights almost fifty years ago. He said, “words don’t exist to express the feeling of happiness I had here. I have so many memories. Premier was one of the best places to dance on Saturday night. All the men stood in the middle, while the women sat at tables along the wall. There were nights with more than 500 people.”
I could see how much this club meant to Ernesto Delgado when he told me that this was where he had met the woman he eventually married and who gave him three wonderful sons.
Club Premier was and still is a neighborhood sports club on Campichuelo. Mothers would not have permitted their young daughters to go alone to dance at a milonga the city. Women went to the city milongas unescorted. This is an important difference between the milongas in the city and the neighborhood clubs of the 1940s and 50s.
This post was revised as previously published December 17, 2001, on Tango-L. I knew how special the occasion was and brought along my camcorder to film it. I made a video cassette for the organizers and thought I had recorded over the master. Early this year I discovered that I had the 16-minute video master. It’s my tango documentary and one of my most important videos.
P.S. I decided to go to Club Gricel tonight. Among the hundreds of dancers there was Antonio Barone who hosted the night at Club Premier! I went to tell him about this post and the video master. He recalled that cold night when dozens with prepaid entradas stayed home.