Posts Tagged ‘Confiterias bailables’

An unforgettable night of tango

April 7, 2015

With 50+ years of experience, Oscar Hector knows how to organize special tango events that are worth attending.  I’ll travel an hour by bus to one of his events.

I arrived before 21 hs., and there was already a line formed at the door to enter.  The entrada was 70 pesos — the first time I paid that much.

I had my first glimpse of the remodeled salon of El Pial in Flores, and it’s more elegant than ever.


Large poster-sized photos of tango and folklore celebrities adorn the walls.  Here is Juan D’Arienzo and his orquesta tipica.


Alberto Castillo and his orquesta tipica.


And Roberto Goyeneche with Anibal Troilo.


This is a large poster-sized photo of the dance floor at El Pial before the remodeling.


I had the pleasure of sharing a table with milonguera Nilda Garcia, who began dancing tango at 13.  She was dancing all night with a friend.


Since it was A Night of Di Sarli, the first 90 minutes of music was exclusively Carlos Di Sarli recordings.  There was a time decades ago when the confiterias bailables featured the recordings of one orquesta.   Oscar Hector is the only organizer in Buenos Aires who continues the tradition.  He welcomed each couple as they arrived and brought them to their table — a perfect host.  When he spoke about the singers of Di Sarli’s orquesta, there was total silence in the salon.  He featured them with clips of their best recordings.  The dancers were there to honor El Señor del Tango.

The lower ceiling over the tables allows for recessed lighting.  The tile dance floor is the largest in the city.


Oh, no.  Could it be?  Yes, that’s Tonino dancing.  I hadn’t seen Antonio Pisano for years.  I haven’t called him on his birthday since he has a girlfriend at home.  He turned 84 on March 12.  He noticed I was filming, but he made a point of not acknowledging me.  Seeing Tonino dance again was another reason I was happy to be there.


I went mainly to hear Orquesta Gente de Tango, which has new blood with several younger musicians replacing the original ones who have finally retired from playing.


Orquesta Gente de Tango performed transcribed Di Sarli arrangements on stage for the audience of 300+.  Hector Morano sings with great passion.


Guillermo Durante plays the Di Sarli style. Unfortunately, he discovered too late that the piano wasn’t tuned.


Mary and Maru were the belles of the ball.


I patiently waited for one milonguero viejo to arrive.  Finally, one came.  Jorge Uzunian lives about three blocks from Salon El Pial.  We’ve danced at Lo de Celia and other milongas.  One tanda with him would have been enough for me for the night, but he didn’t stay around for long after calculating the shortage of potential dance partners.  I was ready with my dance shoes, but I didn’t dance.

All in all, it was a wonderful night of music.  I stayed until 2:30am and patiently waited one hour for the bus to take me home.  That’s the sacrifice I’ll make for a Night of Carlos Di Sarli.

7 years of Tango Chamuyo


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.