Posts Tagged ‘Milongas’

Naming the anonymous

December 5, 2009

This is the 200th post of Tango Chamuyo.  It’s purpose is to write about the milongueros of Buenos Aires.   I had no idea when I began taking photos of them ten years ago that I would be using them in this blog.  Each post has unfolded on its own for sharing with readers.  I will continue to write as long as there are milongueros dancing, and people interested in reading about them. 

One thing I have learned about the milongas is that a person could know other dancers for thirty or forty years, but they can’t tell you their names.  This may seem strange for those of us from other cultures, but this is the way it has always been in the milongas.  Those who performed or traveled years ago became known through videos or publicity.  However, those who danced every night in the milongas remained anonymous.  Names weren’t important in the milongas.  People greeted one another without knowing anything about each other.  Many are known only by a nickname.  All that matters to them is that they come together for one common purpose — to enjoy listening and dancing to tango music.

The milongueros are married to the milongas.  They have no commercial interest in tango.  The milonga is where they go to breathe tango and share an embrace when they dance. 

These anonymous men who have danced for decades have helped to preserve tango as a social dance.  Their love of the music and the way in which they feel it are unique.  Let’s hope that their legacy will remain with us for a long time to come.  The milongueros know the essence of tango. 

Roberto Bonavato, Mario Calarota, Ernesto Garcia, Jorge Uzunian, Hugo Belvisi, Miguel Angel Balbi

Mario Alan "Alito" Candamil in Centro Region Leonesa

Jorge Garcia, Ernesto "Dany" Garcia, Miguel Angel Balbi

Roberto Bonavato and Ernesto Delgado

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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.

Besamé mucho, pero ahora, no!

July 7, 2009

Hugging and/or kissing almost everyone one comes into contact with on a daily basis is normal for porteños.  It’s a habit I have acquired during my ten years living in Buenos Aires.  I enjoy walking the streets and seeing people connected with each other–holding hands or arms entwined is common for everyone.  I have become so accustomed to the Argentine way that I normally take a friend’s arm while walking on the street.  I, too, like this feeling of being close and connected.

This normal pattern in porteño life has come to a temporary halt for some. It’s winter and the threat of flu is on everyone’s mind.  Schools are closed for the month, and some concerts have been cancelled.  There were fewer passengers on subway trains.  The milongas have a reduced number of dancers.   

I was walking in San Telmo this afternoon and noticed Ricardo Suarez at the door of his electrical repair shop on Estados Unidos 412.  I waited until the customer had left.  I knocked on the door, and Ricardo opened it, but apologized for not greeting me in the normal way.  He is 85 and doesn’t want to catch any virus.  He told me that he didn’t go to the milongas last weekend and doesn’t know when he will return.  Obviously, he is taking all precautions this winter to avoid being sick.  He can’t afford it at his age.

Argentines are used to greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek.  But for the time being, many are refraining from it.  Even a handshake is off limits.  The city where tango was born is taking a step back from warm embraces.  It’s not an easy thing to do.

Tanda Trifecta

April 28, 2009

A new visitor to Buenos Aires was going regularly to her favorite afternoon milonga.  She was gaining more confidence each day in using the cabeceo and was enjoying tandas with several Argentine men.  There was one in particular with whom she enjoyed dancing.  She accepted two invitations from him one afternoon.  When it came to the third tanda with her, other dancers on the floor were teasing him that they must be novios.

In our conversation that night, she related the sequence of events and wanted to know what people were talking about.  She thought she had done something wrong and needed clarification from me on los codigos.  I explained that if a woman dances three tandas with the same man, it is because she is either in a relationship with him or wants to be.  My friend was surprised and asked if she should stay away from that milonga because of the incident.  I encouraged her to return, because now she knew what three tandas, especially three consecutive tandas, with the same man means in the milongas of Buenos Aires.  Everyone makes a mental note of who is dancing with whom. This can be interpreted as a clear signal to all the other men in the room that she wants to dance the entire afternoon with the same man.  Other men will ignore her, just as they would if she was seated at a table with a man.

This is an example of why it can take years to fully understand los codigos milongueros.   The milongueros observe the women first, and if they see they do not have a compromiso with one man, an invitation comes later.  One codigo is never to dance with the partner of another man.

___________

Trifecta: used in horse racing in which the bettor must predict which horses will finish first, second, and third in exact order; a term used to describe any successful or favorable phenomenon or characteristic that comes in threes.

Roberto Alvarez

February 20, 2009

February 20, 1933 —

Roberto and Mary

Roberto and Mary

Roberto is called El chueco because he is bow-legged.  He has been the M.C. at the milonga El Arranque of Juan Carlos Falce in Nuevo Salon La Argentina for many years. When I didn’t see him there a few months ago, I asked about him.  I decided to call him at home to find out how he was.  He was fine, but he wasn’t at the milonga because he was taking care of Mary.  She told me they have been together for 25 years when we spoke in October 2008.  Roberto has worked as a handyman doing general repairs and electrical work.  I danced with him years ago when I went regularly to El Arranque.  He usually shared a table with his friends Jorge Orellano and Julio Alé. 

This photograph is from the book A Los Amigos Milongueros (6th edition) by Angel Battelini published in 1998.  Angel (12/23/22 – 5/28/07) found inspiration for his poetry in the milongas and self-published them.  He gave me an autographed copy of his book in October 1998.  This is part of his poem about Roberto El Chueco and Mary (page 53):

El demuestra de salida…
que es milonguero de raza
en la milonga, se pasa
deja en el tango, la vida…
y eya, dulce, sencitiva
elegante pispireta
muestra qu para el gotán
le sobra clase y carpeta…

Julio, Victor, Roberto and Jorge in El Arranque

Julio, Victor, Roberto and Jorge in El Arranque

Eduardo H. del Bueno

October 28, 2008

October 28, 1932 —

I have seen Eduardo on only a few occasions in the milongas since this photo of him was taken at Buenos Aires Tango (Milonguero) in Mundo Latino on Esmeralda and Lavalle in November 2001.  He usually shared a table with Alito.  Perhaps it’s because he lives in Mataderos, a 45-minute bus ride from the downtown milongas.  He was at work when I called him to wish him a happy birthday.

Nestor Leon

October 25, 2008

October 25, 1934 —

It was in 1999 when I danced my first tanda with Chiche in La Turca’s milonga Pavadita in Club Monte Carlo.  He has an energetic style that matches his outgoing personality.  He lives in Valentin Alsina and spends most of his time in Colegiales with his partner Elba Patiero.  Health problems haven’t allowed him to go to the milongas as much as he would like for the past several years.  After losing some weight, he has renewed vitality.  The last time I saw Chiche and Elba dancing in Salon Sur I couldn’t believe his enthusiasm and energy.  He danced as if he was 50 rather than 73. 

A few years ago when they came for dinner at my apartment, I put on some tango music and filmed them.  Elba is one of the best female dancers I know in the milongas.  She, too, is very particular about with whom she dances.  Both of them lost their spouses and have been together for many years.

Luis Trapasso

September 30, 2008
Luis in Lo de Celia (Sept 2001)

Luis in Lo de Celia (Sept 2001)

February 20, 1941 —

Luis hasn’t been present at his milonga Entre Tango y Tango for several weeks.  He had major surgery in August.  While he is recuperating, others are in charge of Wednesdays and Fridays in Centro Region Leonesa.

Luis has organized other milongas–La Portenita in Salon Kass and one in Mi Club on Suipacha for a very short time with Ricardo Suarez.  He began Entre Tango y Tango in Lo de Celia, then moved to Leonesa and later in Plaza Bohemia.  He returned last year to Centro Region Leonesa.

Of all the large salons in Buenos Aires, his milonga on Fridays has the highest level of dancing with milongueros.  This is the place where Hugo Belvisi, Roberto Bonavato, Osvaldo Centeno, Miguel Angel Balbi, Alito Candamil, Ricardo Suarez, Carlos Alberto Rodriguez, and Pedro Sanchez go to dance.

Julio Ale

September 29, 2008

September 29, 1932 –
He used to be a regular at all the afternoon milongas like Pavadita, El Arranque, and Caribean. Julio, like so many other men his age, doesn’t go to dance very often. It has been a while since I’ve seen him or danced with him.

Julio’s daughter-in-law is a filmmaker. About six years ago they showed up on a Friday night at Club Gricel to film for a documentary about tango. It took a bit of convincing the owner to allow her to film the milongueros talking with Julio on camera. I’ve never seen the film since it was made for television in Denmark. It was Julio’s film debut.

Four years ago, a young man from Montreal wanted to learn tango from Julio, and I danced with them during the class. I filmed Julio talking about his life in tango and what he wanted to share with his young student.

 

 

Hector Guaraldi

September 21, 2008

September 21, 1936 —

I danced with “Coco” last week in Lo de Celia.  He was surprised that I remembered his name and that his birthday was coming up soon.  We danced a tanda of Carlos Di Sarli, and it was wonderful.

He has been teaching with Susana Minana before her milongas on Thursday and Sunday evening in Salon El Pial where there is a crowd of 400+.  El Pial has one of the largest dance floors in Buenos Aires, so there is always room to dance.