Archive for the ‘Confiterias bailables’ Category

Salon La Argentina

January 9, 2020

While checking recent posts on Facebook, I discovered an  announcement of a new milonga opening next month in one of the oldest dance venues in Buenos Aires.  Seven years ago I had a peek inside Palacio Rodriguez Pena to see the beautiful dance salon.

At a time when tango venues in the city are closing or being turned into a health club like Nuevo Salon La Argentina was (isn’t a milonga also a health club?), it’s incredible that Salon La Argentina will host a weekly milonga after decades without public social dances.  I wish the organizers much success in their endeavor.  During the 1950s, La Argentina was on the list of venues for the 18-35 year olds, who frequented the confiterias bailables along Corrientes from Avenida Callao to Avenida Florida.

Salon La Argentina in the early days

Were there milongas in 1943?

August 19, 2015


I received this page of a Buenos Aires newspaper April 17, 1943, with the comment — the word “milonga” is not mentioned — from a reader in India.

First, I tried imagining what it was like in those days when one opened the newspaper and read the list of tango orquestas appearing that Saturday night in the clubs.  Miguel Angel Balbi showed me newspapers from the 1940s years ago, so I am familiar with the advertising.  Was it a difficult deciding where to go?  How did people choose one among the list of orquestas in the Golden Age of tango? The page features the top nine orquestas of the Golden Age, missing only Pugliese to complete the top ten.

Based on my conversations with several milongueros viejos, the reason that “milonga” isn’t mentioned in the advertisements is because these dances with orquestas were held in neighborhood clubs on Saturday.  The “milongas” started around 1948 in nine confiterias bailables downtown with recorded music every day of the week.  The milongueros didn’t like the competition from the singers on stage who distracted the women from dancing.  The women focused on dancing with the milongueros when Raul Beron or Roberto Chanel weren’t around.  Hence the dances in the downtown confiterias were known as milongas where milongueros went to milonguear.  The confiterias bailables were small venues where the dancing changed.

With computer assistance, I enlarged the page to read the details in the ads.

Miguel Calo played in Asoc. S. F. Apolo at Boulogne sur Mer 547 (El Once).  The location is now the IFT Theater, a venue for alternative theater productions.

Juan D’Arienzo was announced to play on Sunday with L’Orchestre Lewis Varona (mambo) at Club Atletico Independiente, Av. Mitre 450, Avellaneda, from 19-23,30 hs. Entrada was 2 pesos.

Angel D’Agostino played at Racing Club, Av. Mitre 934, Avellaneda from 22-4 hs.  Male members paid 1.50, women paid 50 centavos; male nonmembers 5 pesos, female nonmembers 1 peso.

Anibal Troilo with singers Francisco Fiorentino and Alberto Marino, plus a jazz orchestra, were at Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield, Rivadavia 7855-67, in Liniers.  There were limited streetcar lines in those days and few buses, so people had to rely on a friend with a car for transportation. Ladies paid 50 centavos to enter.  Liniers is near the city limit.

Pedro Laurenz with Alberto Podesta performed downtown at Ocean Dancing at 25 de Mayo 279 that had another entrance on L. H. Alem, from 22-1 hs.

Ricardo Tanturi kept two groups of musicians working.  One played at Tribu Social Club at Sarmiento 1374 and another with Alberto Castillo plus a jazz orchestra in Circulo General Urquiza, F. D. Roosevelt 5345, a neighborhood sports club.

Lucio Demare was the headliner at Palermo Palace, Godoy Cruz and Santa Fe in Palermo, where men paid one peso and women entered free.

Carlos Di Sarli with Roberto Rufino appeared at Club Boca Juniors, Brandsen 805, Boca, from 22-4 hs.  This would have been my choice, even if I had to walk there.

Rodolfo Biaggi and two singers were at Club Miraflores at Boyacá 652, Flores, alternating sets with a jazz band from 22 hs.  Entrada was 2 pesos for men, 50 centavos for women.

Confiteria Mi Club

August 5, 2013

During the 1950s, there were nine confiterias bailables in San Nicolas: Domino, La Nobel, La Metro, La Cigalle, Monte Carlo, Picadilly, Sans Souci, Siglo XX, and Mi Club.  Today , Mi Club is the only one of the nine still functioning as a dance salon.  La Nobel is a pizza parlour on Lavalle  since 1958.  La Cigalle is a hotel above Teatro Broadway.  Monte Carlo is the second floor of a restaurant on Corrientes.  Picadilly is a theater for live stage productions.

Suipacha 586

Suipacha 586

This is the new entrance to the former Confiteria Mi Club on Suipacha where Oscar Hector Malagrino held a one night tribute to the Lord of the tango, Carlos Di Sarli, on Sunday, August 4, 2013, with Orquesta Tipica Gente de Tango under the direction of Guillermo Durante.


Carlos Di Sarli and his orquesta had their last performance in Confiteria Mi Club in 1959.  Di Sarli died in January 1960.


I have not seen Gente de Tango for about three or four years.  I was so happy to see them again and meet the new members.  Two former violinists are in their 90s.


I attended their rehearsals in Devoto a few years ago.  I will never forget hearing La capilla blanca for the first time when I almost cried while Hector sang.  It was on the program last night.  Hector sings with great passion.


It was not difficult to imagine what it was like when Di Sarli was on stage in Mi Club.  The music of Di Sarli strikes a special chord in me, and my heart was singing last night.



DSCN5314It was a special night with exhibitions and  a variety of music for dancing.  The dance floors in the confiterias bailables were not large.  The young milongueros learned how to dance on crowded floors without touching others.  They are the expert social dancers in the milongas today.

Confiterias bailables

August 6, 2009

There were only nine of them downtown during the 1950s where recorded music was played from 5:00 to 9:00 in the evening.  One could go to one the confiterias bailables for a few hours of dancing before returning home.  It was a dancer’s “cocktail”  before dinner.  In those days, everyone who worked downtown was dressed appropriately to go dancing after work.  It’s no surprise that this custom continues today.  The confiterias bailables  are where the young milongueros went every afternoon.  They had to be at least 18 years old to enter, but many of them managed to enter by going with older friends.  The confiterias bailables were open seven days a week with different dancers and age groups in the evening until 10 and at night until 4 in the morning. 

A confiteria is a place where coffee and sweets are served.  A confiteria bailable was a place that offered cocktails and dancing to recorded music.

The confiterias bailables have been my favorite research project for several years.  It has taken time to piece together information about them.  The milongueros, now in their 70s, speak about their days at Montecarlo, Siglo XX, Domino, La Nobel, La Metro, Picadilly, La Cigalle, Sans Souci, and Mi Club.  Only Mi Club still exists as a dance hall; the others are gone, but hardly forgotten by those who frequented them.  No photographs of the interiors exist, so I took photos of what exists where the confiterias bailables used to be.  The downtown neighborhood of San Nicolas has undergone major construction changes although many architectural masterpieces still remain such as Confiteria La Ideal (1917) and Café Tortoni (1893). 

Corrientes 900 block

Corrientes 900 block

Confiteria Sans Souci was located at Corrientes 955 below street level and across from Teatro La Nacional.  Everyone went to dance there during the golden era of the milongas.  You had to not only be well dressed, you had to know how to dance well.

Corrientes 1218

Corrientes 1218


Roberto Angel Pujol told me that lots of school teachers went to dance in Confiteria Montecarlo in the late afternoon.  This is where Miguel Angel Balbi met Isabel Garcia, the woman he married in 1962.

I danced many afternoons in Montecarlo when Alicia “la Turca” Juan and Juan Carlos La Falce ran their milonga Pavadita  in 1999.  Their milonga closed in October 2000 when the club was rented to another tenant. 

Lavalle 888

Lavalle 888

Confiteria La Nobel was located below street level at Lavalle 888.  Today it’s Pizza Roma.  I would like to see the lower level where young milongueros went to dance during the 1950s.   
Corrientes 1524

Corrientes 1524

Picadilly was once a cabaret and then a confiteria bailable.   This may be the case for other places downtown when cabarets were on the decline.  They opened in the evening from 5:00 until 10:00, then closed an hour for cleaning, to reopen at 11:00 for a different crowd until 4:00 in the morning.  Recordings were played for the evening dances, but two orchestras (jazz and tango) performed at night.  Teatro Picadilly is downstairs and still has productions.

Suipacha 586

Suipacha 586

After Club Montecarlo closed, Alicia “La Turca” opened her milonga in Mi Club in January 2001.  Ricardo Suarez and Luis Trapasso organized their milonga together for only a short time.  When Carlos Di Sarli and his orchestra performed at Mi Club they had 600 in attendance. The place is still open today as a nightclub.
Cerritto 550-574

Cerrito 550-574

Confiteria La Metro was on the first floor of the movie theater Cine Metro.  Today it is the dinner theater Tango Porteño that seats 1,500 for a lavish tango production.
Corrientes 1441

Corrientes 1441

Confiteria Siglo XX was located in the building at Corrientes 1441 where the public college of lawyers exists today. 
Corner of Lavalle y Esmeralda

Corner of Lavalle y Esmeralda

Confiteria Domino was in the cabaret district.  It opened in the late afternoon for dances.  Located at the corner of Lavalle and Esmeralda below street level with entrances from both streets, Domino was close to many cabarets–Lucerna (Suipacha 567), Tabaris (Corrientes 829), Novelty (across the street on Esmeralda), Empire (corner of Corrientes & Esmeralda), Casanova, Casino Pigall, Marabú (all three in Maipu 300), and Bambú (Corrientes 600).  Patrons chose a cabaret according to the orchestras (tango and jazz) that were performing.
Confiteria La Cigalle was located on the first floor of Teatro Broadway which continues with productions at Corrientes 1155.  
These nine confiterias bailables are where the confiteria style of tango originated.  They were small dance spaces where the milongueros created and improvised–what is called the milonguero style.  It’s the way the milongueros who went to the confiterias bailables dance today, so we know that it’s been around since the 1950s.  There is nothing outdated or old-fashioned about it. What woman doesn’t want to be embraced by a man dancing to the best recorded music of Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli, Miguel Caló, Ricardo Tanturi, etc.?  The simple, compact  style has been danced in the milongas for decades.  Let’s hope that continues for the sake of social dancing in Buenos Aires.
Please forgive the poor quality of photographs.  The film had expired by the time it was developed.  Future photos will be digital.

No lessons required

August 14, 2008
My sister Linda and I were regular viewers of American Bandstand, a television program of teenagers dancing to the rock ‘n’ roll tunes we heard on the radio. American Bandstand with its host Dick Clark was on five days a week after school beginning August 1957-1963, our preteen years. We listened to rock ‘n’ roll music on WLS-Chicago radio with Dick Biondi. We bought 45 rpm records of our favorites. We practiced dancing at home with the kitchen doorknob and each other. We aspired to dance like the teens on American Bandstand. There weren’t any dance classes for teenagers who wanted to dance to rock ‘n’ roll music. Teenagers just watched television and copied what they saw or their friends showed them how. We danced to the tunes we heard on the radio. It was our music growing up in the 1950s and 60s. My sister and I knew how to dance when we got to high school and attended Friday night sock hops. The problem was that the boys didn’t dance.
Teenagers on American Bandstand who have a nice embrace for tango

Teenagers on American Bandstand who have a nice embrace for tango

Dancing in Buenos Aires was entirely a different matter where teenagers were concerned. Tango was practically the only music on the radio in Buenos Aires during the 1940s and 1950s. Most families didn’t have a television in Buenos Aires until the 1960s, if at all. Boys wanted to meet girls, so the social activity of choice was dancing. Boys had family as role models at parties where dance and music were always present. They went to a neighborhood club to see others dancing. There weren’t any organized classes, so the boys in the neighborhood gathered on a street corner and learned from each other. Some practiced together until they were ready to dance with partners. Girls were escorted by an older relative to learn by dancing with the boys at a neighborhood club. They sat accompanied by their mothers or aunts at tables around the perimeter of the floor waiting for the boys standing in the center to invite them to dance. They learned tango and vals by dancing. No lessons required. The young men weren’t allowed to enter the downtown confiterias until they were 18, but that didn’t stop many from going with a relative or friend who had instructed them on the codes and introduced them to friends. As soon as they owned their first suit with long pants, they were ready to enter a confiteria where they observed for a year or two before dancing publicly. Then once they tasted the nightlife of downtown Buenos Aires they became regular inhabitants of the confiterias and cabarets lining the streets of downtown Buenos Aires. There they perfected their individual styles dancing to recordings of their favorite orchestras. A few of these men who danced in the 1940s and 50s are still dancing today. They are the milongueros—self-taught dancers who can dance well with any woman with musicality and elegance.

Tandas at the milonga

July 22, 2008

A tanda is a set of four dances followed by a change of music (called the “cortina”) for dancers to return to their tables. The deejay selects four pieces of music by the same orchestra with the same singer that were recorded around the same time in order to provide continuity in style and rhythm. The orchestras that played specifically for dancing recorded enough tangos for an entire night of tandas. Those who liked the recordings of Troilo would go to dance where the night was dedicated to his music. However, some orchestras have very few recordings of valses and milongas, so a deejay often has to blend different singers of the same orchestra to form a tanda.

The music of the milonga today is programmed differently from the way it was in the 1950s during the “golden age of the milongas,” (1948-1960) even though mostly the same recordings are used. The format of tandas was changed in the 1970s. Today, the common format is two tandas of tangos (alternating rhythmic and melodic), four valses, two tandas of tango, a tanda of milongas, etc., with only one tanda of latin (salsa, cumbia, merengue) and one tanda of jazz in the course of six hours. About three years ago, the city government restricted the milongas to playing only tango, vals, and milonga, but that law was changed to allow once again for other music to be played for dancing as it had been during the late 1940s and 1950s.

By questioning milongueros, I learned that there was a wide variety of dance music played in the milongas during the 1950s. The milongas of Buenos Aires originally included other dance music, including foxtrot, rumba, bolero, salsa, and jazz. In the 1940s, recordings were made on 78rpm vinyl discs that had to be carefully turned or changed for each dance. In the confiterias bailables, the deejay announced the orchestra, singer and titles for each tanda. For example, “vamos a bailar a Anibal Troilo con Francisco Fiorentino–Yo Soy El Tango, Toda Mi Vida, Cachirulo, Milongeando en El Cuarenta—two vocals with the same singer and then two instrumentals. The first three tangos I’ve mentioned were recorded on the same date—March 4, 1941—an example of how deejays carefully programmed a tanda for consistency of style and rhythm thereby providing a high quality of music for the discriminating tastes of the milongueros. They selected their partners according to the tanda.

Young milongueros went to the confiterias bailables in downtown where they could hear the recordings of their favorite orchestras. In the 1950s, there was competition among the milongas. The milongueros wanted to hear different music each night of the week. The deejay’s knowledge and music collection was key to a milonga’s success.

The cortina music was played very low while dancers were returning to their tables, and it continued for five minutes in order to allow dancers to rest, smoke, retire to the ladies’ or men’s rooms, or have a drink. The atmosphere of the milonga was certainly more relaxed than it is today. People dressed elegantly. Men always wore suits and ties, even in the summer months when there was no air-conditioning, so they needed time to rest. It’s common today for deejays to play 30-45 seconds of different music for each cortina at a high volume like nightclubs. There is no thought of resting after a tanda these days where the milonga is more like a gymnasium for a workout. Sweat on the brow and the perspiration-soaked clothing proves it.

There is tango for the milonga (i.e., Troilo), tango for dancing (i.e., Osvaldo Pugliese), and tango for listening (i.e., Carlos Gardel). A deejay has to know the difference in order to provide quality tandas for a milonga. The orchestras of the milongueros are Anibal Troilo, Ricardo Tanturi, Miguel Calo, Carlos Di Sarli, Angel D’Agostino, Pedro Laurenz and Enrique Francini/Armando Pontier. The orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese performed for large dances every Friday night at Salon La Argentina on Rodriguez Pena. The orchestras of Osvaldo Fresedo, Lucio Demare, and Julio De Caro performed regularly in the downtown cabarets where there were two orchestras alternating half hour sets between tango and jazz. The orchestras of Rodolfo Biaggi, Juan D’Arienzo, and Roberto Firpo were popular in the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Of course today, the music of these orchestras and others are included in tandas at the milonga.