Nestor Leon

October 25, 2017

October 25, 1934 —

Chiche probably never had anyone singing happy birthday by phone, but that’s what I did when I called him today.  He and Elba go every Saturday night to Club Gricel.

I first danced Chiche at the milonga called Pavadita and organized by Alicia “La Turca” Juan and Juan Carlos La Falce in the former Confiteria Monte Carlo on Corrientes and Libertad that closed in October 2000. Alicia moved to Confiteria Ideal on Mondays, and Juan Carlos eventually opened in Nuevo Salon La Argentina.  Not one of those three venues hosts a milonga today.  This is a glaring example of the decline of tango in the city where it was born.  There were milongas seven days a week at Confiteria Ideal.  Nuevo Salon La Argentina had milongas on six days.


Mario Hector Camartino

October 10, 2017

October 10, 1928 —

They say that age is only a number, and that’s certainly true in Mario’s case.  He’s full of energy and joy.  He knows all the lyrics, and I enjoy listening to him sing.  He is always smiling and always a gentleman.  I love putting my arm around him and holding him tight.

Arnaldo Koller

October 9, 2017

December 23, 1933 – October 6, 2017

I had a phone call today from Juan who never calls me. He called to let me know that “El Rubio” passed away on Friday.  It’s a year since I last saw Arnaldo.  He went to visit his son in Miami as he did regularly and returned last week to Buenos Aires.  He and Juan had their last visit on Thursday.  He received the news on Friday.  Arnaldo always asked me about Alito whom he knew since they were teenagers and went to dance at the Pista de Lima.

Stepping out of your comfort zone

October 5, 2017

That’s what we do when we decide to learn tango, whether we knew that fact or not.  It’s true.

Getting close to a stranger of the opposite sex is the first step outside your comfort zone, unless you are someone who gives hugs to everyone.  It’s a step worth taking, and the only way you’ll discover the intimacy and feeling of tango.  It is difficult at first, but once you get used to it, your comfort zone will expand.

Tango offers a social setting in which we step out of our comfort zone by meeting new people.  We’re not introduced or engaged in conversation.  We get to know them through the embrace.  The conversation is a silent communication with our hearts.  We can feel who they are without any words.  It’s the music that allows for us to communicate to each other.

Tango was born in Buenos Aires.  It’s a foreign culture to most people who are learning and dancing tango in the world.  Taking classes with Argentine tango teachers in Europe doesn’t mean you’re getting the tango of Buenos Aires as they danced here in the golden age during the 1940s.

Immersion in the culture of tango in Buenos Aires is the best way to understand what tango means to the milongueros and how it is so much a part of daily life.  A visit to the city milongas is essential to knowing tango.  It’s another step out of your comfort zone in a new city with a different language, where there is respect for the unwritten milonga codes.  There is no milonga anywhere in the world like those in Buenos Aires.

The weekend encuentros that are popular abroad bring dancers together for tango.  Those events try to imitate the tango culture of Buenos Aires, but they lack the most important thing that makes the milongas what they are in Buenos Aires — the milongueros.  These men learned tango as teenagers, know the orquestas and singers, and the lyrics that have meaning to them.  Life is the milonga for them.  They are married to the tango.

Many foreigners come annually to immerse themselves in the culture of tango and for the milonguero embrace.  Buenos Aires is their comfort zone.

Overcharging tourists is nothing new

September 21, 2017

The cost of admission to milongas increases once or twice a year without fail.  About twelve years ago, there was one milonga charging a higher entrada to foreign visitors than local dancers.  That policy didn’t help the bottom line and word got around.  It’s widely known that teachers don’t pay an entrada, supposedly because they bring their students, which most do not.  It’s only logical that the milongueros viejos who are the best dancers in Buenos Aires gain entrance without charge wherever they go.  Foreign female visitors come to Buenos Aires specifically to dance with the milongueros.

I thought that this policy of overcharging tourists at the milongas wasn’t around anymore until a friend mentioned that she was told the entrada was 235 pesos.  She had been away from the city for several weeks, and knew that 100 to 235 was an outrageous increase.  The cashier knows who the locals are and who the foreign visitors are.  My friend is a foreigner, living many years Buenos Aires.  She wasn’t about to pay 235 pesos, and ended up paying the general entrada of 120 pesos when she questioned the cashier.

What can you do if you are a newcomer or a returning visitor to the milongas in Buenos Aires?

  • write the organizer asking the price of the entrada when you make a reservation.  All milongas have FB.
  • ask me or your friends about the entrada at various milongas
  • wait to see how much others in line pay, and then pay the same.
  • have bills for the exact amount ready to pay the entrada (like a regular) without asking the cashier.  Very few milongas put a sign on the desk announcing the general entrada.

This same cashier, who was unsuccessful in overcharging my friend, quietly avoided giving me change one night when others distracted my attention.  We don’t know if the organizers are aware of the situation.  It’s not about the money, when the entradas are less in Buenos Aires than in many countries.  It’s the discriminatory policy charging unaware foreigners more than the local dancers and then pocketing the extra cash.

Roberto Segarra

September 18, 2017

September 16, 1920

There is no doubt that tango keeps Roberto active and happy.  When we dance, I feel like I’m dancing with a younger man.

Ismael Heljalil

August 30, 2017

August 30, 1929 —

Ismael is using an oxygen tank to breathe, so we probably won’t be seeing him again in El Maipu at Obelisco Tango.  We all miss him.

Rosa Cove

August 30, 2017

August 30, 1928 —

photo credit Royce Chau (Hong Kong)

Rosita and Pocho (Roberto Rafael Carreras) met at a milonga when he was 59 and she was 61. She danced only with Pocho for twenty years.

I know that Rosita’s apartment is around the corner from Confiteria Ideal on Suipacha.  Since I go to concerts at the Gran Rex theater nearby, I rang her doorbell one day before going to a concert this month.  She didn’t answer the phone when I called, so I wanted to talk with the building janitor about her.  I rang her doorbell, and I was pleasantly surprised that her granddaughter Milva was there to tell me that Rosita is living with family in Martinez.  There is no gas in the building which prevents her from cooking.  Milva gave me a telephone number, and I called Rosita the next day.  We were on the phone for almost two hours, talking about her life with Pocho and the milongas.

This is my favorite video of Rosita and Pocho recorded on her 80th birthday in El Beso.  I can see why she doesn’t want to dance with another man.

Alito, Rosita and Pocho in Club Gricel (Dec 2005)

Ricardo Vidort

August 30, 2017

Ricardo Vidort — in his own words

First posted August 30, 2012 on this blog.

By the time I was fifteen, I was already dancing in the salons.  I remember the afternoon dances and later the evening tango dances.  It was about 1944-45 that I became aware of the feeling that tango produced in me.  Then I began to go into the city to the big and small places where people danced.  Later in the provinces I realized without any doubt that there were some very great dancers, their style so different and individual, and they always walked with elegance and style.  There were no dance academies at that time, only practicas for men which existed in all the neighborhoods.

That’s how I pass through the great milongas in the city center, like Confiteria Sans Souci, which used to open at 3 o’clock in the afternoon until 4 o’clock the next day.  Dancing these hours we used to call “vermouth and night,” meaning afternoon and night.  About two or three thousand people would dance at Sans Souci every day and night.  At the same hour of the night at Confiteria Piccadilly, Desiree, La Cigalle, La Nobel, Mi Club and several more and at the cabarets like Novelty, Chantecler, Tibidabo, Tabaris, and many others, large numbers danced nightly.  In the 40s and 50s in the city center and the suburbs there were more than a thousand places to dance during the week.

In Buenos Aires which has dozens of neighborhoods, there used to be in each of them social clubs, sports clubs, cultural clubs, and all of them with Tango dance halls.  In Greater Buenos Aires, you could count the clubs in hundreds where people danced, so it was very difficult deciding where to go because in all of them there used to be a very high quality of dancing.

Today, in the sunset of my life in the memory of the good moments I have lived in almost 60 years of dancing, I have tried to give the best of myself, not only with steps, but through the feeling of the sensation of dancing with rhythm and cadence, chest to chest and cheek to cheek, the close embrace.  It was marvelous.  That’s why trying to preserve this, the tango, is my biggest desire.  Let’s preserve the tango…let’s dance for ourselves.

Today…now, without a doubt, there is a new tendency in dancing tango.  But not all these young men and women should think only in choreography, which is good only for those that dance in theater, but the real and true place to dance is in the salon, I mean, the milonga.  Practicing in the milonga will give them a better security and style, will develop their own personal feeling to understand this passion which is tango.

Feeling and dancing without thinking in steps, the feeling that each one of us will give to his own body in order that it can be expressed through the dance.  Improving in a small place where the leader has to find the way in the middle of a crowd of dancers on the floor, taking care that no one bumps his partners, with both dancers in the beat and rhythm, embraced inside a vibration which cannot be compared to anything else.  This is the therapy which liberates the soul.

Tango is a choice of a moment for all your life.  When the obsession is finished, you realize tango will be inside you for all your life, like a feeling that never dies.

To Be A Milonguero

To explain what is a milonguero is really very difficult because the feeling of this beautiful sensation is something new in each person — almost impossible to put into words, but I shall try without meaning to offend or hurt anybody’s susceptibility.

To be a milonguero, first, you have the feeling of the music, rhythm, cadence and your own style to dance; and when you do it, the music invades your body and mind and it begins the chemistry that makes you transmit to your partner as if both bodies were talking, whispering, sliding on the floor with sacadas, corridas, turns…dancing only one for the other, not for the people. In that moment that both are listening, the magic of the music, the skin of one in the skin of the other, the smell, the touch, produces the miracle of something like a mantra, and the yin and yang is there!  We are dancing tango!

The priority of a milonguero is the feeling and the woman.  The codes are like commandments that have been born with the tango, and we define the music in three parts: 1. a question, 2. a pause or prologue, and 3. the answer.  All this is in our feeling, and that’s why we always improvise, having the pleasure of being yourself, with your own style, the rhythm and cadence.

Today, people teach methodic ways and tango, the real one, does not have a method because it is a feeling.  Technique and choreography?  It’s only for performance.  It is a tango that has been learned for hours and hours for show business.  There are hundreds of couples in the world doing the same thing, and only four or five of them are very good because they are different.  And that is another thing.

My advice is to walk.  Walk with your toe first and inside the music, and practice always to have your own style — be yourself.


Published December 2003 in El Once Tango News (London) and republished here with the permission of Paul Lange and Michiko Okazaki, Joint Editors.

Live from Luna Park

August 21, 2017

The finals of the Tango World Cup in Buenos Aires will be broadcast live on public television.  Tune in a 19 hs BA time for the tango de la pista finals on Tuesday, August 22 and the stage finals on Wednesday, August 23.

I watched the finals on Tuesday for one reason.