Posts Tagged ‘Cabarets’

Tango in the cabarets

August 18, 2009

There is nothing written about exactly what happened inside the cabarets of Buenos Aires.  The only way to learn about the nightlife in the cabarets is to talk to those who inhabited them–musicians and milongueros.  That’s exactly what Andrés Casak and Mariano del Mazo have done in order to gather pieces of the puzzle and tell the story of the era of cabarets in Buenos Aires from 1930-1960.

Tango in the cabarets

They invited Carlos Pazo, Mario Abramovich, and Alcides Rossi to share details as tango musicians in the cabarets during a conference of the Festival Buenos Aires Tango.  This included a special video presentation with  Leopoldo Federico and Alberto Podestá and clips from the film Vida Nocturna (1952) and Cuatro Corazones about the cabarets.

The city had cabarets in three zones:  along Corrientes from Calláo to Nueve de Julio, Nueve de Julio to Alem (known as “Bajo,” the lower part of Corrientes) and La Boca.  The cabarets opened at 23 hs and closed at 4 in the morning.  Orquestas de tango had contracts for six months, so the musicians had steady work in those days.  No one under the age of 18 was allowed to enter the cabarets, but Leopoldo Federico told the story of being hired as bandoneonist at the age of 17 to play at Tabaris (Corrientes 829).

The most famous cabarets (thanks to the orquesta that performed in them)were Chantecler(on Paraná near Corrientes) where Juan D’Arienzo’s orquesta played regularly; Marabú(on Maipu near Corrientes in “Bajo“) with Carlos Di Sarli; Singapur(Montevideo 348) with Miguel Calo and Alberto Podestá; and El Avion in La Boca.

I learned interesting morsels about the cabarets.  Chantecler had a swimming pool.  The coperas drank tea instead of alcohol with the male patrons in the cabarets who bought drinks for them.  Otherwise they would have been inebriated before the night was over. The musicians were strictly prohibited from talking with the coperas whose job was to sell drinks, engage in conversation and dance with customers.  Musicians were not allowed to leave the cabaret with a copera, although what they did outside the cabaret was their own business.

Musicians got their training with the orquestas in the cabarets.  They rehearsed in the salones of the cabarets.  In some of them, the orquesta performed from a balcony where the ladder was removed so they couldn’t return to the main floor and talk with the young ladies who worked.  That never stopped them from trying.  Some musicians ended up marrying coperas. 

The first 45 minutes of music in a cabaret was like a rehearsal when they didn’t play continuously.  Nobody danced the first hour.  The cabaret was important to the success of an orquesta for it was where new compositions were performed for the first time.  If the dancers liked it, it became a hit and then it was recorded.  An orquesta played six nights a week in cabarets from April through December with the summer months off.  The musicians were very well paid.

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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.