Archive for the ‘Milongas’ Category

A visit to my second home

October 28, 2021

Yesterday I visited the place I’ve referred to as my second home in Buenos Aires for many years.  It is located only ten blocks from where I live.  My plan wasn’t to enter my second home, but to stay outside.  It was a pleasant surprise when someone else changed my plan for me.  The last time I entered my second home was September 18, 2016.  My second home was Lo de Celia.

I climbed these stairs to the salon on the first floor two or three times a week for 16 years.  I noticed that a few dancers were taking the steps more slowly.  It’s a challenge for those in their 70s and 80s, but they manage.  The descent is easier.

 

The first man who entered as I was stationed at the door was Jose Marcos, with whom I danced regularly.  I remember his soft embrace.  I recognized him with his mask on.

 

Then Eduardo Ereson (84) came down the stairs, as if he heard I was there.  After a brief chat, he went back upstairs to get Graciela Cano (82).  Both of them have a very long bus ride to the milonga. Eduardo travels 90 minutes by bus from Berezategui.  Graciela lives in Sarandi, both in the provincia of Buenos Aires.

 

Graciela came downstairs to the entrance to greet me.  She said she can only afford one milonga each week, so she comes on Wednesday to Lo de Celia.  The entrada is 400 pesos, which is less than three dollars for tourists.

Hector was the next milonguero who arrived.  Please note the suit and tie he’s wearing on a day when the afternoon temperature was 85F.  No sweat.

I’ve never seen this photo of Celia before, but I was pleased to see it prominently displayed with framed certificates for her milonga.

Jonatan Rojas invited me from the top of the stairs to come inside for a visit.  I accepted and once again climbed the stairway I knew so well.  He welcomed me back home!

Graciela and Eduardo finished the tanda and came by for another photo.

I was so happy seeing Dany Borelli after five years.  I’ve only seen him virtually during seminars.  He is a wealth of knowledge about tango music, and he has always been my absolute favorite DJ in the milongas.

I stood in the corner near the bar where I had a perfect view of the salon.  I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Lo de Celia after five years.  I enjoyed every moment. 

Dany asked Anna to join us for a photo.  Her previous job was in the kitchen, and now is one of two waitresses.

Then Dany got Jony to join us for a photo.  I couldn’t believe how my plans had changed into a big surprise.  It was more than I could have imagined.

This is the corner table by the bar that I occupied in my second home on Wednesdays and Sundays for at least ten years.  My chair was on the aisle, a perfect position for greeting those passing by. Jonatan always had a bottle of agua sin gas natural on the table when I returned from the first tanda.

Felisa and I hugged and kissed when she arrived.  She usually sat at the table in front of mine and often joined me later in the evening. It was so nice seeing her after many years.

I had to take a peek at the ladies room and was delighted to see the improvements.

Some faces were familiar, but I didn’t know their names.  It felt like I was going back in time.

The dancers removed their masks at the table, but wore them while dancing.  It won’t be long before the milongas will be mask-free!

These are the two women who cheerfully take care of the dancers with food and drinks.  I can tell they are smiling under the masks.

I felt even more at home when I saw all the dancers I could recognize even wearing masks.

Dany must have detected a problem with one of the speakers, so he and Jony took care of it while the dancing continued.

As I was leaving, Elba Estay, la madrina de Lo de Celia, arrived.  She didn’t recognize me with white hair.  I was glad I didn’t miss seeing her.

Nestor Perez Vidal was the next one to arrive.  He hasn’t changed a bit.

Then outside I saw Carlos Lombisano finishing his cigarette.  He recognized me, and we had a nice conversation.

I didn’t stop smiling for the entire hour I was in my second home, visiting with the family.  And my smile continued the rest of the night.

Clandestine milongas

August 11, 2021

I’m probably not writing news that many of you haven’t already heard through the tango grapevine. But I wanted to share the big secret with those who may not know.

If it wasn’t for a Zoom chat with those who have a direct line to important people in the BA milonga scene, I would have no idea about what is quietly taking place here.

As a regular follower of this blog, you know that I live only ten blocks from the venue that I considered my second home for many years. Well, the organizer of Barajando opened the doors recently, after months of online music to keep his customers happy at home.  It has been 17 months since there were official milongas.

You won’t be seeing any announcements about these milongas until they get permission from the city.  Hoy Milonga.com will not have any information.  You have to contact the organizers privately.

The other venue on La Rioja is quietly hosting a limited number of dancers.  The organizer has waited patiently for the city to include milongas along with movie theaters, concert venues, and other cultural events.  He has done what any milonguero and milonga organizer would do — take charge and provide a space for his friends to embrace one another and socialize.

These clandestine dances are helping people physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically.  Tango dancing makes us healthy and happy.  Nothing is more important right now.  The outdoor milongas at plazas and parks around the city are another option for those who are desperate to dance and don’t mind the cold.

Open the milongas of Buenos Aires

March 13, 2021

I found this announcement posted on Facebook today.  I wish I had seen it days ago so I could have been there to support it.

The Association of Milonga Organizers went to the Minister of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires to solicit approval of protocols for the milongas and economic assistance.  Dancers were invited to participate wearing black clothing, a mask, and holding a white sign with black lettering with one of the following statements:

  • TANGO IS AN INVISIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE
  • ONE YEAR WITHOUT WORK WITH TANGO
  • ECONOMIC SUPPORT FOR TANGO
  • TANGO WANTS TO RETURN TO WALK
  • TANGO IS THE ONLY CULTURAL ACTIVITY PROHIBITED IN THE CITY

Maintain social distancing during the protest.

I had no doubt that the organizers were planning something to draw attention to the plight of the milongas.  Let’s hope that they achieved the desired results that day with the Minister of Culture.

It’s been one year since the milongas closed in Buenos Aires

March 11, 2021

A “new normal” has emerged in downtown Buenos Aires so everyone can enjoy the outdoors during the summer months. . . with masks, of course.  I walked along Avenida Corrientes and was stunned by all the new establishments.  All the theaters are open with live shows, and movie theaters are open as well.  I saw new restaurants that are booming with business on Saturday night.  They have tables and chairs on the sidewalks, so there is less room for walkers.

Teatro Colon reopened this week for the 100th anniversary celebration of Astor Piazzolla’s birth with concerts every night that are streamed live on YouTube.  Central Cultural Kirchner has been open for concerts on Saturday and Sunday since January.  Children returned to school on February 17.

The one noticeable exception is the milongas.  I am certain that the association of milonga organizers is working diligently to obtain permission from the city after one year.  Everyone working in the milongas has been without income for the past year. The only tango dancing in the city happens at a few clandestine locations in plazas.  Of course, the fate of the milongas reopening in their previous venues depends on meeting protocols.

This is the entrance of the former cabaret Marabu, later known as Club Maracaibo at Maipu 365.  Every Thursday night there is a live orchestra for dancing.  It’s a very special place where Anibal Troilo debuted his orquesta in 1937, and Carlos Di Sarli’s orquesta performed regularly.

 

A case of nostalgia

February 19, 2021

There was a concert last night by the Orquesta Filarmonica de Buenos Aires in the amphitheater in Parque Centenario in the neighborhood of Caballito.  It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to Caballito, so I didn’t remember immediately which bus I needed to take.  I got off the 103 bus at Parque Rivadavia, where I decided to walk along Campichuelo instead of taking another bus to Parque Centenario.  I was walking down memory lane.

A case of nostalgia hit me as the bus passed by Club Italiano (founded in 1898) at Rivadavia 4731, where I briefly attended Alicia’s matinee milonga in the club’s magnificent ballroom.  In a few blocks I passed the street where I visited Alito at the geriatric home.  I couldn’t even look down the block where I walked many times.  Then as I continued down Campichuelo, I arrived at Club Premier.  The front has completely changed.  I knew it was Premier only by the number on the door – 472 and the street name.  As I reached Av. Diaz Velez that borders the park, I remembered going regularly in 1999 to Viejo Correo at Diaz Velez 4820.

My case of nostalgia continued today because I preferred walking to taking a bus on a beautiful day.  I walked along Riobamba and when I was close to Av. Corrientes, I turned around to look at the door of El Beso.  A man noticed my observation and commented something about it to me.  I knew it as Regin in 1997, where I had my first tanda with Alito.  We all have tango moments that stay with us forever.  On the next block, I looked across the street at the shuttered Club Castel, where I occasionally attended the milonga Porteno y Bailarin.

I have been living in Buenos Aires for twenty-two years.  I am grateful I have had so many years to dance in so many venues that no longer exist.  My hope is that there will be an active community of dancers in the milongas very soon.  Buenos Aires has lost its soul without milongas.  Dancers thrive on tango.

Obelisco Tango

January 23, 2021

If you’ve visited Buenos Aires over the last seven years, you probably attended a milonga in Obelisco Tango, which opened its doors on April 19, 2013.  All the milongas of the city have been closed since early March 2020 when the pandemic began, and no one has any idea when they will be allowed to safely reopen.

I heard the news about the sale of Obelisco Tango.  Two milonga organizers posted on Facebook.  Since I live only nine blocks away, I went to check out the building with the for sale sign.  The photo shows the facade of Obelisco Tango which was removed.  The previous business was a children’s indoor playground El Patio.  The owner of the building died last year, and his family is selling the property.  The land has value for new construction, so the sale price is US$1.1M.

Dancers are losing yet another milonga venue, but we will always have our memories of friends, the music, and the tandas we danced in Obelisco Tango.

 

Who are these masked men at the milonga?

November 23, 2020

Last week a tango friend called to tell me about an outdoor milonga in the Palermo neighborhood on the weekend. I decided to check is out on Saturday night. I went mainly to see who was there, who was playing the music, and take photos to share on my blog and Facebook.

It’s been more than two years since I went to a milonga. I was curious to see if there were more young dancers or old dancers. Saturday night at 9:00pm was the perfect night for dancing outdoors in a park.

It doesn’t look like much, but things were just getting started. The deejay is on the left behind his portable boom box.  There is some seating on risers on the right.

I don’t know if the milonga is announced on social media or how people learned about it.   There was music, and people were dancing.  That was enough after eight months of no tango whatsoever in Buenos Aires.

These milongueros came to dance and didn’t waste any time.

This is Carlitos who is the organizer and programs the music.  I’ve known him for years in the milongas.  Thanks to him, dancers were back to doing what they love.

This area where the milonga began has circles painted on concrete.  It’s where children run through the fountain on hot summer days. 

Lights.  Music.  Tango.

When the roller skaters went home, the milonga moved to a larger area of smooth concrete.

You get the picture.  Dancers embraced.  Excellent music.  Perfect night.  I danced a lovely tanda of vals with Ruben for the first time. We both wore masks.

The milongas are at risk of extinction

August 7, 2020

Translation of today’s article by Andres Valenzuela for Pagina12

“They have already closed spaces where milongas worked and others are about to do so; the quintessential cultural event in our city is at risk of extinction and if this situation is not reversed, the damage will be irreversible, ”the A.O.M. (Association of Milongas Organizers) and Mi.Se.So (Association of Milongas with Social Sense). Both groups call “for reflection and dialogue to the corresponding officials to reach solutions.”

The situation in the sector is, as in other cultural spheres, dramatic. But with the addition that the milongas anticipated quarantine by several days (they suspended their activities on March 11) and that, with devastating realism, they understand that they will be “the last of the last” to reopen: that of dancing embraced and in close contact with strangers, sometimes with foreign tourists, sounds like a chimera today. Specifically, they regret the closure of three spaces and warn for the future of many others, and for their workers. The complexity of the situation is aggravated because many milongas operate in other people’s spaces and their continuity also depends on the articulation of measures for those spaces. They also claim this year’s BA Milonga grant, which “has not yet issued the Administrative Resolutions” and say that their request for extraordinary help was rejected by the Buenos Aires Ministry of Culture led by Enrique Avogadro.

Furthermore, from the AOM they denounce that they were contacted by Festivals to join without payment “for lack of budget” for the online “celebration” of the Tango Festival. “If they who are the government, who can defend and protect culture, exploit it, what they do is bring job insecurity to an increasingly worse stage,” criticizes Julio Bassan, from the AOM. Valeria Buyatti, from the Milongas with Social Sense, points out that the extraordinary help could come precisely from the budget originally assigned to the Festival and the Tango World Cup, which should have been carried out by this time. “The budgets were already allocated since last year, they were not applied and they are not using that money for extraordinary aid,” he says.

So far La Aurora (Abasto), Estudio Mario Morales (San Telmo) and DNI Tango (Almagro) have closed. In the latter, for example, more than a dozen teachers and dancers worked and there were dozens of classes per week, in addition to a very popular afternoon practice on Saturdays. All three are from the AOM. Of MiSeSo, they say, none has yet closed, but there are “more than half a dozen spaces at specific risk, seeing how to negotiate rentals to continue when activities are reopened,” says Buyatti.

As for BA Milonga, it is a support program of the Buenos Aires government that has existed for three years and that was created after long demands from the sector, which included street milongas in front of the legislature with international media repercussions. This year there were two novelties: the expansion of the designated budget to 16 million pesos (which will not be definitively incorporated into the budget and which, the milongueros warn, did not acknowledge receipt of inflation either), and the advancement of its call, which excited to the organizers. But although the call closed at the beginning of May, there are still no results. “We are in August and the approved projects, the money or anything like that has not yet been determined,” denounces Buyatti. “In addition, the Advisory Council completed its task more than a month ago, so it is already a decision of the Ministry to approve or not the projects,” says the MiSeSo representative.

A few days after completing five months closed, from the associations the balance is dire. For Bassan, the paralysis in BA Milonga is “a shame”. “We closed when there were no protocols for anything anywhere and we continued without a protocol with which to work in different phases, something to incorporate some activities of the sector when changing phases,” he says.

“Larreta has already borrowed 150,000 million. They say that all the money goes to Health, but it is a lie. In the budget there is an item that we are reviewing with lawyers and that is called Artistic Disclosure — it is 1,856 million pesos. Tell me what artistic disclosure did. What percentage does tango have? It seems that we need help from Unesco, because here the Buenos Aires government neither helps us nor listens to us.”

Club Almagro

June 21, 2020

I wrote about the milonga at the Club Almagro I knew on Av. Medrano near Sarmiento.  The milonga closed when the club ownership wanted to expand their space for exercise equipment.

This post is about the original Club Almagro during the 1940s, located at Gascon 552.  Like so many venues that were social clubs with a salon for dancing, Club Almagro was demolished for construction of an apartment building on the site.  Milongueros often spoke about this club and the high level of dancing.

These two ads from El Mundo in 1941 are a perfect example of the two tango worlds that coincided in the same venue at the same time.  Thanks to Michael Krugman’s research at the library, where he secretly scanned the newspapers for ads, he discovered the first proof I have ever seen of a “baile” with live tango and jazz music and a “baile” with recordings in the same venue.  Dancers applauded the orchestras on stage after each tune, but dancers never applauded after recorded tunes.

Of course, bailes con grabaciones were referred to as milongas by the milongueros.

These dance ads from the 40s have U. T. XX – XXXX somewhere in the text, and I wanted to know what it was.  U. T. stands for: Union Telefonica.  The number in these two ads was the six-digit telephone number for Club Almagro!

Social distancing

May 4, 2020

The new social behavior, forced upon us during the pandemic, is the antithesis of social behavior for tango.  This new normal is strange for portenos who are accustomed to closeness, not distance.

In a way, I’m glad that I was no longer dancing tango this year.  My visits to the milongas ended in 2018, after 20 years.  I found other activities to replace my milonga routine.

Elba Pateiro called me last week to see how I’m doing during the quarantine.  I told her that I’m fine and get out for exercise on my building terrace on sunny days.  She hasn’t left her apartment in weeks.  Her partner of 17 years was a milonguero, who passed a year ago.  She misses going dancing, even without him.  Her solution is listening to tango radio all day long and dancing alone in her apartment.  She dances her tango from the heart, wherever the music takes her.  This is how she manages the social distancing and quarantine alone at home.  She feels that the milongas will not reopen, and social tango is gone forever in Buenos Aires.  We don’t know the future, but I tend to agree with her.  I always said that when the milongueros are all gone, there won’t be anymore social tango in Buenos Aires.  We didn’t know that a pandemic would change everything.

Jorge DeGouvea called me today to see how I’m doing.  He’s been in his apartment for 49 days.  All he does is eat, sleep, play cards, and watch television.  I could tell by his voice that he is stressed during the quarantine.  A milonguero lives to dance tango.  Jorge has nothing else to do.  It’s not easy to accept the possibility that he may never dance tango again.  The milongas were his social life and exercise routine.  I told him about Elba and suggested he do the same.  Listening to tango will bring him joy.  He needs exercise that will help him reduce stress.  Even if he doesn’t feel like dancing, I know that listening to his favorite orquesta Juan D’Arienzo with Alberto Echague will make him sing along. That will take care of stress.

Both of them are 85.