Are the milongas declining in Buenos Aires?

March 1, 2017

Recently, I commented to a visitor that she has the option of 120 milongas each week.  That’s the total that remained constant for many years.  Today I reviewed hoy-milonga.com and found only 78 milongas now listed.  That number excludes practicas, free dances which don’t pay licensing fees, outdoor places with no seating, places allowing jeans and sneakers, gay, and underground venues.

Today I came across a list of milongas that I compiled in March 2000, according to the magazines.  There are 135 milongas on that list.  I noted with a marker those that were still open in April 2009 and 2011.  Those that are crossed off are closed.

dscn9609

Saturday, I attended the last day of El Arranque, which opened on February 14, 2000.  The owners sold Nuevo Salon La Argentina to a developer. This is an important salon with a capacity for 700 that will leave a gaping hole in the tango scene for many seniors.  Video

The venues listed that still host milongas today are: Salon Canning, Gricel Tango Club, Club Maracaibo, Club Sin Rumbo, Salon Rodriguez, Salon Sur, Salon El Pial, Centro Region Leonesa, Club Social Rivadavia, Club Bohemios, Club Pedro Echague, and Club Fulgor de Villa Crespo.

The famous Confiteria Ideal closed its doors one year ago for major renovation.  We are hopeful that it will return as a venue for milongas and classes every day of the week.

Are the milongas declining in Buenos Aires?  The fact is they are.

Hugo Belvisi

March 1, 2017

September 18, 1936 – December 20, 2016

Hugo Belvisi en Centro Region Leonesa
A year ago I found out that Hugo was renting an apartment just one block from mine. I visited him several times a week so he would do simple exercises. He was gaining strength, and I was hopeful that he’d return to the milonga.

That never happened.  His health continued to decline.  I called him for the last time in mid-December when he told me he was preparing to move into a geriatric home.

On Monday, a milonguero who checked up on Hugo regularly was at El Maipu, so I asked how he was.  I wasn’t prepared for the news that he died just before Christmas.

Which technique do you prefer? bend over or leg lift

February 28, 2017

dscn9343

In 1996, I joined a tour group from Los Angeles for my first visit to the Buenos Aires milongas. The tour organizers knew the milonga codes and customs, including changing shoes in the restroom, not at the table.  Most women go wearing shoes for dancing.  I remember attending the milonga at Club Almagro on Medrano and going directly to the restroom to change into my dance shoes.  It’s one thing changing shoes for dance classes at your local studio, but the custom is different in the milongas of Buenos Aires.  You won’t see the milongueros changing their shoes . . . ever.  Even soccer players get dressed in a locker room, not on the field.

Oh, how things have changed in the milongas.

I don’t understand why so many women today change shoes at the table.  Where do they wash their hands before the first tanda?  Do they think no one is watching them?  Is it such a long walk to the restroom to change one’s shoes and attend to other personal matters? It’s such a big time saver to do these things at the table in full view of everyone.

There are two techniques of shoe changing at the table.  The photo above shows the “bend over” technique.  First, she removes her street shoes and leaves them under the table or packs them away in a bag.  How elegant is it to see bare feet? The milonga isn’t on the beach.  She may even take a moment to shake foot powder into her dance shoes or on her feet.  Buckling the straps takes a few minutes with the knees together.  Why waste time going to the restroom when the “bend over” is accomplished in full view of everyone?  Men get to size up your butt.

dscn9603

dscn9604

The second is the “leg lift” technique which has two variations: one is a knee lift to the chest; the other is placing a foot on the leg. The latter allows the woman seated next to you to get a whiff of your smelly feet if she is unlucky enough sitting out the tanda.

dscn9606

dscn9605

If you’re on the edge of the dance floor or near an aisle, you offer a private show for the men.  I couldn’t believe the scene yesterday in Obelisco Tango.  It was so outrageous that I stood up and stared at the woman changing her shoes with her skirt completely open as if there was no one else in the room.  Two men seated in front of me didn’t miss the show, and she got a tanda very soon with one of them.  I pointed out the scene to the other women at the table who both replied they always change shoes at the table.  A few minutes later, one of them asked me for directions to the ladies room and was wearing her dance shoes.

 

el-maipu

The two women next to me are culprits. The woman with her back to the camera asked me for directions to the ladies’ room and has no problem with changing shoes at the table.

Carlos Biccai

February 15, 2017

February 15, 1939 —

dscn9424-carlos-biccai

These days everyone is on social media, and Carlos is no exception.

This video of Carlos proves that tango is a feeling.

Remembering them

February 5, 2017

They loved tango and were married to the milonga.  I had the pleasure of dancing  with most of them.  I interviewed, photographed and filmed many of them.  I called many of them on their birthdays.  I visited some of them in the hospital, a geriatric, and at home.  I share a personal story about each one in this blog.

Luis Domingo Ferrari – Manuel Nicanor Garaban – Salvador Pedro Raiano – Eduardo Carlos Gavito – Rodolfo Cesar Indegno – Jose Guillermo Salurso – Alfredo Barcones – Luis Santillan – Juan Carlos Oviedo – Jorge Majluta – Miguel Aprile – Pedro Vujovich – Ricardo Vidort – Carlos Bugarin – Julio Ale – Luis Trapasso – Enrique Rosich – Luis Grondona – Eduardo Naldi – Raul Poli – Eduardo Calo – Rodolfo Brizuela – Ernesto Norberto Castello – Jose Alberto Scapafino – Roberto Alvarez – Roberto Angel Pujol – Ricardo Hector Suarez – Ricardo Eduardo Cacheiro – Carlos Alberto Rodriguez – Omar Benito Masci – Carlos Alberto Anzuate – Cliver Gomez Araujo – Pedro Alberto Rusconi – Salvador Angel Molinari – Walter Felix Baeza – Eduardo Aguirre – Ernesto Ramon Delgado – Hector Carlos Delgado – Roberto Rafael Carreras – Osvaldo Ruben Bottino – Gregorio Gricajuk – Nestor Gonzalez – Leonardo Lerman – Humberto Albiri – Guillermo Eduardo Mourinio – Ruben Harymbat – Sergio Tomas O’Connell – Jorge Gindzberg – Eduardo Santos – Juan Jose Alvarez – Enrique Barrientos – Jorge Mansur – Manuel Castro – Hugo Soto – Clemente Hector Aquino – Alberto Accunzi – Norberto Farro – Adolfo Adan Garcia – Henri Nasello – Marcelo Socolowski – Alberto Guerrero – Norberto Manuel Olivia de Villacres – Ismael Niella – Alberto Dassieu – Juan Carlos Pontorielo – Abel Peralta – Osvaldo Cartery.

Jorge Slaiman

January 29, 2017

January 29, 1939 —

DSCN7733

Here is Jorge (on the left in front) with Luis Ferre, Jose Luis Aceto, and Rodolfo Tejedor at Plaza Bohemia (now closed).  A tanda of Carlos Di Sarli with him is memorable!

Tango is macho?

January 25, 2017

Recent conversations prompted my search on this topic. The following is a translation of an article by a blogger in Europe.

 

In the milonga you listen to comments from people close to you that sometimes make you happy, others make you sad, others leave you puzzled, some annoy you, and others just do not understand them, let alone in a society like the one we live in today.

It was early and the milongueros were arriving little by little, greeting others, occupying tables, changing shoes, and preparing for the night. Then a young girl, whom I’ve known for a long time, arrived. After greeting one another, we decided to catch up, but as usual, we ended up talking about tango, the milonguero codes, hugs, what we like and didn’t like about them.

She told me that she likes a firm close embrace and that she does not care for those in which she can barely move, since it is the man who marks and the woman who follows, and that, after all, tango is a macho dance. I also like the close and firm embrace, but I also like that you can breathe in it and be flexible, and what I definitely do not like is for the man to ignore me and do not bother to “listen” to me when I dance.

I was surprised by her explanation that tango is a macho dance. In my opinion, no dance is and, even less, tango. He is the milonguero – and for nothing they all are , who is sexist, whether they dance tango or not. What is certain is that if he is macho, it is convenient to say that tango is also, so as to excuse his behavior with the milongueras and in the milonga.

Some also say that the cabeceo is sexist. Again I think that is a tremendous nonsense. Maybe the one that nods is, but the eye contact itself is not. In the eye contact, it is the woman who looks at the milonguero with whom she wants to dance. Then it is they who perceive her glance, if they share the desire to dance with her, extend their invitation in the form of head movement; and finally it is she who confirms it or not. The nodding exchange is a totally bilateral non-verbal agreement.

I firmly believe that tango is a channel of communication between two people who embrace each other. What makes this communication bilateral is mutual respect and listening on both sides to the other person, in which there is a proposal and an acceptance or not of the movement. It is a free tango, nothing macho if the person proposing the movement isn’t, one who respects and has equal consideration for the other person. However, what makes this communication one-sided is a milonguero who imposes his will, who does not count on her except to follow him and do what he commands. This last case is the clear example of a macho milonguero, who surely in the privacy of his house is exactly the same: authoritarian, with an immense ego and a very accented pride.

And what does machismo have to do with tango? The same as fashion, cinema, relationships between people, labor relations,  family, and many other aspects of life itself.  Tango is just one more element in time and space, in which women have been treated and considered in a certain way throughout history.

 

 

Luis Abulafia

January 21, 2017

January 21, 1941 —

dscn8994-luis-abulafia-y-margarita

I see him every Sunday at Obelisco Tango.

Buenos Aires is a great city for retirement

January 19, 2017

festival-vaticano

This is the third year the Asociacion Civil Cultural Centro Historico Teatro Colon presents a series of concerts, opera, and ballet in the Plaza Vaticano next to Teatro Colon.  Last Saturday was Tosca by Puccini from the 2016 season in Teatro Colon, with the Argentine tenor Marcelo Alvarez.

I arrived at the plaza before the introduction, and some empty seats were still available.  I hoped that a friend would find me so we could enjoy the presentation together.  Marilyn spotted me, and I joined her. I’m wearing a black jacket.  No tickets to buy, no waiting in line — just go, find a seat, and enjoy the presentation on the big screen.  It’s better than attending inside because the recording bring us closer to the musicians, singers, and dancers.

I’m grateful for the outstanding cultural agenda available in the city.  I have a retirement life I never had imagined for myself.  The summer festival at Plaza Vaticano is unique.

Does he sweep you off your feet?

January 18, 2017
I went to El Maipu in Obelisco Tango on Monday for a slight change in my schedule. It was cold and rainy on Sunday, so I didn’t go to Obelisco.  I sat at my usual table with two local women and a foreigner.
The first tanda was Troilo, and there was Hugo indicating he wanted to dance with me.  It was wonderful.  The next tanda was Canaro, and Miguel caught my attention to dance.  Another enjoyable tanda of great music.  Then Jorge wanted to dance milongas with me.  I never miss the opportunity to dance with him.
I just listened to the music and watched the dancing during several tandas.  Then I heard the incredible music of Di Sarli fill the room.  With whom will I dance my favorite orchestra?  I know P is here, but where is he?  He suddenly appeared with a big smile, inviting me for the tanda.   In a split second I stood up and told him, “this is our tanda.”  I don’t dance Di Sarli with just anyone.
It had been a long time since I last danced with P.  We have one thing in common —  a passion for Carlos Di Sarli.  I immediately felt comfortable in his embrace.  After the first tango, he said Jorge Duran is his favorite singer. Then I returned to his warm embrace while others continued their conversations.  P and I wanted to dance every second possible.
As the tanda progressed, I sank deeper into music.  It took control of me.  We didn’t speak after the next tango.  We savored the music.  I never close my eyes, but I did during the last tango.
He guided me off the floor.  We shared twelve minutes.  Then it was over, and I basked in the feeling that took me completely by surprise.
Have you been swept off your feet dancing tango?  If not, you have something to look forward to.