Posts Tagged ‘Club Almagro’

Looking back

March 23, 2011

Fifteen years ago today I arrived in Buenos Aires for the first time to dance in the milongas.   I didn’t know that the trip would show my destiny.  By the end of my three-week visit, I was certain that I would move to Buenos Aires.

Our tour group had daily sightseeing and classes on the schedule, but the milongas at night were what I remember most of all — La Galeria del Tango Argentino, Confiteria del Molino, Regin, Club Pinocho, and Confiteria Ideal.  The best of all was Club Almagro, a neighborhood sports center on Medrano near Corrientes.  Our group sat together so it was obvious to all that we were a tour group.  In those days, the tourist invasion in the milongas wasn’t common. 

Nicolas invited me for a tanda at my table after talking with our Argentine host.  As I embraced him and turned my head to the right, he gently touched my chin to turn my head straight so that I was looking over his shoulder.  This was new for me.  I had never seen anyone dancing tango cheek-to-cheek until that night in Club Almagro.  My Argentine teachers didn’t dance or teach that way.

Today, anyone going to Buenos Aires to dance tango for the first time is better prepared than I was for the milongas.  I’m glad I made the trip when I did because I got to see the milongas full of milongueros and milongueras who loved the music and respected the codes.


The battle of styles

August 8, 2009

Ten years ago today the Argentine newspaper Clarin published an article about the current trend in tango styles: Villa Urquiza with long steps, Almagro with short steps, and Naveira with a new variety of figures. [Spanish version] [English translation]

This is what Nito Garcia said in his interview published in the July 2009 issue No. 177, page 35 of El Tangauta:

“Does the Avellaneda style exist nowadays?

Nito: No, at times I taught a “milonga from Avellanenda,” but I called it that because they were the steps I learned in Avellaneda. I don’t believe that either the Avellaneda style or the Villa Urquiza style exists. I even doubt that the great creators of what they call today Villa Urquiza style ever lived in that neighborhood. How come the Villa Urquiza style appears now and did not appear before? When tango turned commercial, strange things began to happen.”

Carlos Alberto Anzuate

May 21, 2009
Delsa Cerallo, Margarite Guille, Carlos Anzuate  (photo B.A. Tango)

Delsa Cerallo, Margarite Guille, Carlos Anzuate (photo B.A. Tango)

May 21, 1930 —

Carlos called to invite me to his birthday celebration this Saturday at Club Glorias Argentinas in Mataderos.  He still manages to go dancing on the weekend with his wife of more than twenty years, Eufemi Delsa Cerallo (aka “Porota”), even though she can no longer dance.*  They were Saturday night regulars at Club Bailable Juvenil, and their photo was prominently displayed on the wall.  He and Porota have known each other for more than 60 years.

Carlos grew up in the neighborhood of Almagro and learned to dance from an early age by observing others at family parties.  Boys had to graduate to wearing long pants before they could attend dances at 18.  Carlos went to the first Club Almagro located on Gascón between Sarmiento and Cangallo (now named Tte. Gral. Juan D. Peron), before the second Club Almagro on Medrano organized dances for which it became famous.  He also danced at Club Oeste, Club Atlanta, and Club Buenos Aires. 

I have danced only once with Carlos.  He invited me to dance jazz with him at Club Glorias Argentinas in March.  Maybe he’ll invite me again on Saturday. 

Contrary to what a famous website on milongueros says about Carlos, he is not the uncle of Facundo Posadas.  He told me so himself.

* Eufemi Delsa passed on December 12, 2009 in Sanatorio Argentina where she lived the last two months of her life after many years with Alzheimer’s.

Exhibitions in the milongas

April 26, 2009

A milonguero goes to a milonga to dance.  He is not interested in watching exhibitions.  They are the nightly entertainment at most milongas these days in Buenos Aires.

I don’t remember exhibitions at milongas when I visited Buenos Aires in 1996, except for Club Almagro.  That milonga was organized from 1993 until it closed in 2000 by Juan Fabbri and Dolores de Amo who were interested in tango shows.  Today they produce the shows at Esquina Carlos Gardel and Tango Porteño.  It was a total change from the way the milonga at Almagro had been since 1960.  Not only were there nightly exhibitions, but announcements and raffles.  The entire milonga environment changed and others followed suit.  Famous personalities began coming to Buenos Aires to see tango, and they went to Club Almagro: Madonna, Julio Iglesias, and The Rolling Stones.  I was there when Wynton Marsalis and his band showed up the night before their concert at the Gran Rex on Corrientes.  They say that Almagro was no longer Almagro, and that was the beginning of its demise.

Couples are invited by organizers months in advance to perform in milongas so that advance promotion can be done on the internet and in tango magazines.  Organizers pay well for top performing couples because they bring more people to the milonga. 

The problem I have with exhibitions is that they interrupt the evening for those who came to dance, and the performances usually don’t demonstrate good social tango.  It’s all about fancy steps to gain applause and be videotaped for YouTube promotion.  If everyone danced like those who performed, we would kill one another on the social floor. 

There is one refreshing example of an exhibition that is simple and elegant.  When Beto Ayala dances an exhibition in Salon Canning with Amanda Lucero, he doesn’t change anything about his dancing.  He dances as he normally does in a milonga.  He follows the line of dance around the floor.  He keeps his feet on the floor.  And he dances for his partner and with the music.  Beto doesn’t dance for applause.  Here is their recent exhibition in Salon Canning dancing to El Tigre Viejo by Fresedo.  It’s pure tango.  Beto is a milonguero who feels tango and doesn’t have anything to prove.

I’m glad that there is at least one milonga where people can go to dance tango without interruptions for raffles, announcements or exhibitions. The owner welcomes everyone and mentions the times for her other milongas.  Then it’s back to dancing at Lo de Celia.  There is too much talking these days, another big change from the way things used to be only a few years ago when everyone wanted to listen to the music.

Primera fila

April 1, 2009

Who doesn’t like having a front row center seat at the theater or a concert?  It’s the best seat in the house to enjoy a performance.  The same can be said for the milongas in Buenos Aires.

I didn’t know a good table from a bad one during my five trips to Buenos Aires from 1996-1998.  I went alone, and I sat at whatever table I was given.  I was glad just to be there.  I didn’t know why certain people had reserved tables near the dance floor while others were seated near the wall.  All I knew is that I was happy not to be hidden behind a curtain or a post.  Tourism ten years ago to Buenos Aires was nothing like it is today.  When I danced a tanda, it was always with an Argentine.

I went regularly during my visits to Regin, Glamour, Pavadita, Club Almagro, and Club Gricel.  I had no knowledge of the hierarchy which existed in the milongas in those days.  It wasn’t first-come, first-served.  Those who were regulars had their table held for them every week without fail.  The best dancers (milongueros) were seated at the edge of the dance floor where they could observe the dancing.  A front row table was the best place to see the nightly show of dancing; and I don’t mean exhibitions because there weren’t any. 

The arrangement of tables depends on the size of the room.  Regin was an odd shape, and so was Pavadita.  Both salons were small, so table location wasn’t as critical.  Club Gricel has a  rectangular floor which makes it impossible to see dancers at the opposite end.  Then there was Club Almagro.

Club Almagro had a square parquet floor with three rows of tables on all sides.  There was an aisle between the second and third rows for passing through to avoid crossing the dance floor.  Every chair faced the dance floor. I used to go on Tuesdays and Sundays to Club Almagro and was content to be seated in the back.  It was where José Santoro would seat me.  I didn’t have difficulty seeing men across the room for the cabeceo.  I will never forget the night Jose seated me at a front table.  I could see the show, and believe me, it was a show not to be missed.

I have never gone to any milonga from opening day and then return week after week in order to have a reserved table.  That has never been my practice during ten years in Buenos Aires.  I go to the milonga when I need to dance and listen to the music.  I often observe women arriving late demanding a front row table when one isn’t available.  Those who want a front row table have to attend every week and arrive before the time when reserved tables are given to others.

Things certainly have changed in the milongas.  It’s no longer about how well you dance that determines where you are seated.  I have seen milongueros given back row tables when they deserve a front table.  I have heard of foreigners who come for a few weeks being given the best tables, and locals are seated at back tables.  Some organizers are forgetting how to take care of those who have attended milongas for decades in order to please those who come for a few weeks. 

Being seated in the front row doesn’t mean much these days.  If you are friends with the organizer, you have your favorite table held for you every week until you arrive during prime-time hours.  If you are a young, attractive foreign woman, you are likely to be seated in the front row of any milonga, unless you come with a dance partner.  You have the advantage of being more visible from the other side of the room and asked to dance more quickly that those in the second row of tables.  This doesn’t mean your dancing skills are of primary consideration; not at all, it’s what you’re wearing and your age that really matters.  The Argentines on the other side of the room are eager to dance with the steady supply foreign women who show up daily at the milongas and ready to dance with anyone who looks their way.  They don’t care how the women dance.  It’s about trying out a new partner, no matter what their age.  Men in the milongas love women and tango. 

Generally, the milongas seat single men together, and single women together on opposite sides of the room.  Couples are seated in the back tables or another section separate from the singles. 

I have gone to dozens of milongas in Buenos Aires over the past ten years. The only one where I have “my” table is at Lo de Celia which I call my second home.  It’s not in the primera fila, but it is the table I have selected where I am content listening to Dany’s music and seated alone when I’m not dancing with my favorite partners.

Eyes wide open

August 21, 2008

During my first several visits to Buenos Aires, I closed my eyes while dancing in the milongas in order to focus on the music and my partner. Then in October 1999, I began dancing regularly with Miguel Angel Balbi in Club Gricel. He noticed I had my eyes closed when I danced with other men. He commented that I would eventually open my eyes while dancing. At the time I doubted I would change, and I told him so, but it happened just as he said it would. His gentle encouragement was all I needed. It happened as I realized the difference in enjoying others dancing.

Miguel Angel told me that it was customary years ago for women to keep their eyes open while dancing. Women can see where the man cannot-to his right and to the rear. We help our partners avoid collisions on the floor by using a slight pressure with the left hand on the man’s shoulder. This gentle signal is useful. If a woman turns her head to the right or closes her eyes, a man cannot rely on his partner for this information; he has to turn in order to check the space around him.

I remember one night several years at Club Almagro where I gave my partners absolutely no help at all. First I danced with Cacho with my eyes closed for the entire tanda, never opening them even between dances. I did the same for the next tanda with Jose Luis and a tanda with Alberto. Dancers must have thought this was strange behavior in the milonga-even I do now. I didn’t want to lose my concentration while dancing, so I never opened my eyes. I didn’t know what I was missing at the time. I had never closed my eyes dancing other ballroom dances, but it seemed practical for tango. I didn’t want to be distracted by others. It has taken years for me to be comfortable, and I never close my eyes completely.

A friend shared an experience with me. An Argentine couple advised opening her eyes while she danced. It was the first time she had heard this in her short time in tango, so she asked a milonguero for his advice on the subject. Alito gave it to her straight-tango is a social dance. We come to a milonga to be with each other and to see one another. Therefore, you should have your eyes open when you dance. You help the man navigate and avoid being bumped with a gentle squeeze with your hand on his shoulder.

The next time you enter a milonga, look around and see how many women have their eyes open. They are the ones who are enjoying the dancing of others and helping their partners navigate.

Revised as previously posted on Tango-L, November 15, 2000.

Bailarina No. 6458

August 10, 2008
During my second visit to Buenos Aires in March 1997, I went to the milonga in Club Almagro on Medrano where a stout gentleman invited me to dance a tanda of Osvaldo Pugliese. Afterwards, he escorted me to my table and asked me to write my name on a piece of paper. He then gave me a small scrap of paper with a number on it. No, it wasn’t his telephone number. It was a number given to me as dancer No. 6458. I asked the woman with whom I was seated about the significance of this number. She told me that he is an accountant by profession and is keeping a record of the women with whom he dances in the milongas in a checkbook register.
In 2001, this same man—David Derman—gave me one of the cards he had printed to give to his dance partners with these words: You will always be registered in my heart for me not only as a name or a number. You will have this memory from one who deeply appreciates to have shared these minutes of dance in which we left the material world and we introduced our toes in the kingdom of emotion and joy that we call tango. Thanks for dancing with me. David referred to his register for 1997 and found my name and number.
One September evening, he parked his car on Riobamba in front of El Beso before going to dance. He never entered. David’s dance partners numbered around 7,600. His goal was 10,000, but he wasn’t given the years to accomplish it. He loved tango and jazz.
David Derman   —   April 9, 1933—September 4, 2002

Previously posted on October 3, 2002 to Tango-L

David danced with Sally Potter in “The Tango Lesson.”  See a clip

Club Almagro

June 16, 2008

I have vivid memories of the first time I entered the club at Medrano 522 near Sarmiento. It was in March 1996 during my first visit to Buenos Aires. Our tour group had no introduction whatsoever to the milonga codes, so I walked across the empty floor to greet a stage performer who had arrived. That’s a newbie blunder for you. No one told us that the dance floor is sacred. You don’t cross it during the cortina; that’s why there is an aisle between rows of tables. I also remember being singled out by a local dancer by the name of Nicholas for a tanda. He wanted me to put my right cheek next to his rather than turning my head to the right. I had a lot to learn about how things were done in the milongas. Buenos Aires was the best place to learn them by total immersion.
Almagro had many organizers over its 40-year history, and during the 1990s until its closing on December 19, 2000, Juan Fabbri was in charge. It had a parquet floor with three rows of tables around the floor. The long-time regulars had their reserved tables in the front row. The club was actually a sports club with swimming pool and basketball court that rented out the main floor. On one of our tour group visits the milonga was relocated to the basketball court. There were classes held before the milonga and exhibitions during the night, not the way things were in the 1970s and 80s. Milongueros go to a milonga to dance, not to see performances. Famous personalities like Madonna, Julio Inglesias, and the Rolling Stones showed up at Almagro. I met Winton Marsalis and a few members of his band when they were in town for a concert.
I was a foreign visitor going alone to Almagro, so I was seated in the back row of tables against the wall where I couldn’t see the dancing. Jose was the man at the door in charge of seating. He always wore a bowtie and never smiled. It was during my fourth trip in 1998 when Jose Santoro seated me in the front row. I thought I had died and gone to tango heaven. I didn’t ask to be seated up front; I was promoted there. It’s a different world from the front row. I went regularly on Tuesdays and Sundays. I didn’t attend closing night at Almagro. My friend Diana has a piece of the parquet as a memento.
 Here is footage of the way it was at Club Almagro in 1997.


Osvaldo Vicente Centeno

June 15, 2008

 June 15, 1937–

He is often referred to as “El Oso” (the nickname given to him by Laura Grinbank), but he’s as warm and gentle as a pussycat. He doesn’t talk in the milongas because he goes there to dance. He knows with whom he wants to dance each tanda, and a commanding tilt of his head gets immediate results.
During the daytime, Osvaldo drives a taxi. He is a porteno who lives in Avellaneda, the province of Buenos Aires. I regard Osvaldo as my friend. We have danced together since 2000 in Salon Canning, Club Carribean, Lo de Celia, Centro Region Leonesa, El Beso, and Club Gricel. He loves all the orchestras of the milongas, but especially Anibal Troilo and Juan D’Arienzo. He has told me he becomes completely absorbed in the music when he dances. I know the feeling. He began learning tango in Club Sol at Saraza 951 where he attended practicas. He started dancing in 1956 at Centro Asturiano on Solis and Venezuela. His favorite was Club Almagro, where he danced during its 40-year reign as the place to dance in Buenos Aires.  View his dancing on YouTube. Osvaldo and his partner were one of 38 couples in the semifinal rounds who went to the III Tango Dance World Championship for salon tango finals in August 2005 at La Rural in Buenos Aires.  His daughter Cintia and grandson Nicholas were there to see it all.