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A show named Tango Argentino   2 comments

A show named Tango Argentino

The current revival of the tango spread with blazing intensity, thanks to the globalization of communications. It started to rise around 1990, after 30 years of no major tango activity, with the unexpected success of a musical revue aptly named Tango Argentino. Producers Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli synthesized all the implicit dramatic qualities of the tango on the stage. They focused on the taciturn man of Buenos Aires (who is secretly idealistic with a devastating sense of humor) and the seductive Buenos Aires woman (who is alluring and drop-dead elegant). But it was the performance of the dancing couples that captivated the public’s imagination, reintroducing a dance in which the man flaunted his masculinity and the couples embraced each other in a sensual ritual full of irresistible beauty.

This week, 30 years ago, Tango Argentino appeared for the first time on an international stage at the Paris Autumn Festival, which began on November 11, 1983. That run lasted one week, but those few days were enough to change history: the tango as dance resurfaced with an unexpected force, and became huge around the world. There has never been a time in history when so many social dancers are dancing Argentine tango as it was danced in the golden years of the 1940s and ’50s.

Posted November 14, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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Chicho is pissed off again   Leave a comment

Chicho is pissed off again

A Commentary By Alberto Paz
November 13,2013

Every now and then I run into a lengthy rant by the well known dancer Chicho Frumboli. After unintentionally inspiring an entire generation of dancers to act like circus acts on the dance floor, Chicho seems to have had some sort of epiphany because he keeps trying to ride out the storm that his adventures as a young transgressor helped create.

The latest manifesto landing on my desk informs us that Chicho keeps watching videos of great dancers “in the history of our tango… people who set the pace and marked styles, who defined milestones in the evolution of our dance…

I’m still learning,” he writes, “enjoying and wondering why those things are lost, why fashion and trends around the world are so empty?

 He reminds us that for years many professionals have given the best of their knowledge to many people everywhere… He seems to be incensed about the alleged rejection of Argentine DJs and professional dancers, by dancers and fashionable DJs in some European cities.

 I know, as an Argentino, how our personality is, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. But, how can anybody talk about or openly criticize a DJ or a pair of dancers…?” he asks. He would like to know who’s doing that and what are the basis for all the criticism. He asks, what knowledge they have to believe that there are better or worse DJs or dancers. “I don’t feel competent or able to decide who is good or who’s not,” he writes, “we are all learning, still learning.”

 He sadly admits that many of the people who are against the tango, spent a lot of time taking classes with him, as well as with many other professionals. He now wonders if maybe it was a mistake to give out so much.

 He reminds us of a well known fact. Nobody owns the tango, no one can appropriate this dance, and anybody who ignores that, is in for a big disappointment. Just as championships and competitions are promoting a cartoonish facsimile as Tango Argentino, European DJs (which for Chicho don’t meet the criteria he expects from tango DJs) present a tango from a very limited repertoire which is also not real.

Chicho addresses European dancers and DJs who know what he’s talking about, the selective ones, the critics, those who talk without knowing, those who teach after only a couple of months of taking lessons themselves, those who climb on a stage without being artists, those who want to become famous. For them, and those who lock themselves to dance for hours in a marathon shrouded by a complete vacuum, and those who decide on a style as a group tendency and exclude those who do not dance that style or are at that level, he says…

 Why don’t you open your minds, why don’t you keep on learning, why don’t you get informed, why don’t you share, why don’t you set an example, why don’t you make a contribution to the tango and do something for the tango instead of talking, talking, and talking???”

 Wrapping it up, Chicho quotes a female friend who said that the tango is stronger than all of that, the tango is above any trend, fashion and style. The Argentine tango is not going to die no matter how hard they try to make it disappear. It’s been that way since 70, 50, and even 10 years ago… There is much dancing yet to be done, there is a lot yet to be discovered, there is still plenty to listen to.

 “People, please open your mind!”

Posted November 13, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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The heir of the great poet   Leave a comment

The heir of the great poet

By Alberto Paz
Augusr 4, 2013

On the night of Saturday, July 27, 2013 the world of tango suffered a great loss.

Acho Manzi, a poet, a musician, and a very dear friend of mine died in Buenos Aires at the age of 80. Acho was the son of the great Homero Manzi and he devoted much of his life to keep alive the memory of his father.

Acho was born Homero Luis Manzione on March 6, 1933 in the neighborhood of Boedo. He inherited his father’s poetic vocation and at age 15 he collaborated with his father penning the lyrics of El ultimo organito

Acho was 17 when his father died. In 1954 he wrote a poem entitled Father.
Fleeing the burden of being the son of Homero Manzi, he choose the anonymity of an adventurous life in the United States. Far away, he put away memories of another life and the dream of becoming a poet. But the experience of confronting himself a cancer diagnosis changed his plans.

Some friends who moved to Spain, left him a huge ranch home in California. He went into a downward spiral beginning to feel discouraging physical symptoms. We got together once week at my house in Sunnyvale, and took turns to cook fro each other. He couldn’t decide whether to go ahead with the treatment recommended by the doctors. Then he met an Argentine woman who was doing tango research, they became friends, and that was a magical encounter for him. She convinced him of the need to take care of his illness.

He returned to Buenos Aires, got treatment, and beat the cancer. He married Marilu, a wonderful woman and they had a daughter which he named Malena, like the famous tango written by his father. We kept in touch and he was there in 2005 during our Katrina exile, inviting us to spend Christmas with his family. Then in 2008 he joined us at Club Sunderland for the celebration of my birthday. We last saw him in 2009 when we met him at the offices of the Society of Authors and Composers to discuss the possibilities of handling the North American offices of royalties collection.

He was among the first to call Valorie to offer his unconditional support when I suffered an almost deadly cardiac arrest in Calgary. Knowing that I had been in an induced coma for 48 hours, he asked me a week later, “Did you see my dad by any chance?” His deadpan sense of humor was something we both always cherished and were proud of, in good and bad periods of our lives.

The news of his death came late and took me by surprise.

I paraphrase verses he wrote about the loss of his father, to express my sadness for the enormous vacuum Acho has left in our hearts when he departed unannounced to his eternal rest. The pain that chokes my heart is so intense that I have not been able to shed any tears until this moment…

Acho, my brother in tango, how much we’re going to miss you.

Yesterday you were just a gentle and sad giant
Merciless claws ripped you away from me
You left in an instant without saying good bye
You never compromised the way you lived.
You accepted that one day we cease to exist
You were among the first to rejoice when I almost bit the dust
In a world where it is easier to forget
Forgetting you is not an option for me.”

Valorie and Acho rejoice as I blow the candle at Club Sunderland, April 19, 2008

Posted August 4, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in 1, IN MEMORY OF

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The night Pugliese died   Leave a comment

The night Pugliese died

By Alberto Paz
July 25, 1995

Like the guy at the street corner or the next door neighbor, that’s how PUGLIESE was. But deep inside that slender figure, beyond the thickness of his myopic glasses, there was a volcano that erupted with his tangos.

OSVALDO PUGLIESE was a figure that showed the way to the modernism of tango without leaving the essential roots. In 1924 he created RECUERDO, a composition far advanced for his time. The dialogue of the bandoneons still today represents the pinnacle of tango interpretation. Then, NEGRACHA, MALANDRACA and LA YUMBA became a trilogy that opened the way for the vanguard tango.

The orchestra of the MAESTRO grew up in the sprawling neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Leaving behind the mud and pathways described by BARDI, COBIAN and AROLAS, PUGLIESE absorbed the pulse of the new city and began to foresee its future. In those new places, he discovered a new Argentina, with a violent rhythm, powerful like gun powder, with all the strength of an industrial revolution, OSVALDO PUGLIESE captured the mystery of the city into music and named it La Yumba.

La Yumba was a lyric poem that made people tremble with emotion as they saw themselves interpreted by the captivating melody. There was Yumba in the ecstasy of the public at every venue where the orchestra performed. Yumba was floating in the air when a labor dispute tore apart the city and PUGLIESE entered the Ford Motor Co. factory that had been taken by the workers, and embraced each one of them as a gesture of solidarity with his people.

PUGLIESE died tonight and there is Yumba in my heart and it pounds so hard that I can’t hold on to my tears and I can’t tell if the music is coming from the speakers or from my soul.

Suddenly, is LA BIANDUNGA, then EL PENSAMIENTO and now LA MARIPOSA. Was it just yesterday that very dearly I held against my heart a beautiful woman and with my eyes closed I went around the dance floor falling in love with every beat of a PUGLIESE tango?

Tonight she is far away, PUGLIESE is dead, I’m alone, unable to stop the wrinkled box lodged in the middle of my chest from sobbing and the sound of his music is tearing me apart.
Tango, your music hurts like a dagger in my chest, and yet, I love you!

The night we danced La Mariposa

July 28, 2013

Posted July 30, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in ESSAYS

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Tangoman and the dancing butterfly   1 comment

Tangoman and the dancing butterfly
By Alberto Paz
August 1995
Revised July 2013

The Fifth edition of the legendary Stanford Tango Week in 1995 marked the beginning of the journey for many of us. We were treated to twin sets of tango weeks because of overwhelming registration. It was billed as the year of the milongueros, and American dancers were introduced to real life milongueros from the halls of Buenos Aires milongas. Our souls changed forever as we went our ways back across the United States.

Two weeks after it ended, I went back to walk through the empty halls , the cavernous rooms, the cozy studios, the quiet courtyards. As I entered Roble Studio I could hear the ghostly sound of tango past reviewing one more step. The choking voice of a teacher thanking us for the love and respect we have shown for our tango and its masters. It had only been just a dozen moons and countless tangos ago that we had anointed Veronica as the angel who came down from tango heaven to paint a smile on Eduardo’s face.

Remembrance. Reminiscence of sore feet soaking on ice cold water. A gentle and soothing foot massage. The cold sweetness of a milkshake in the early hours of the morning. Syncopation, music appreciation, infatuation, perspiration, revelation. New York, California. A connection. Conversation.

Danel and Maria, Michael and Luren, Daniel and Rebecca, Nora, Lampazo, Juan Bruno, Eduardo and Veronica, Graciela. Dispensers of tango. Messengers and message. Tango is about feeling. Tango is about life. Close your eyes, feel the passion. Hold her close. Who’s the girl with the red shoes?

The heart of Tangoman is a wrinkled bandoneon that moans and whines. What’s Canaro doing in Paris? Help me find the Caminito. Who left the room A media luz? Stop that piano that is pounding in my heart. Lazy bass, don’t hurry up. Sing a song with your voice full of smoke and alcohol. A mordida, a boleo, heavy breathing, gancho frenzy. Who’s the girl with teary eyes?

Empty halls, silent walls, water falling. Hear the tapping right next door. Tango club, salon style, orillero, milonguero. It’s so hard to say good bye!

One more glance, one last sigh. Old acquaintances here we come. Turn around one more time. Oh my God, over here, they are dancing in the park! Barefoot, she is dressed in white, he is all in black. The music is playing from their hearts. Pugliese is becoming immortal. Fragile like a pretty butterfly she has landed in his heart.

Please get real!. How corny can you get! I don’t know… how much longer can you stay? They’re not leaving. They refuse to let it go. Are they nuts, people say. Of course they are. Crazy for each other and for that tango with no end. And the night begins to smile. A three-minute love affair. All the intensity and passion of a lifelong relationship exploding in a turn. It begins. Then it ends, and then begins again. Close your eyes, feel the beat that’s coming from your heart, hold on tight. You’re going to be dancing quite a lot.

The night we danced La Mariposa

July 28, 2013

Posted July 29, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in ESSAYS

Live and let dance   Leave a comment

Live and let dance
By Alberto Paz
This editorial was originally written on Nov 28, the year of the tango 1995 in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was part of ongoing discussions about what could be done to take care of the tango so it remained strong and not become a hollow shell like happened to ballroom tango. A little over three months earlier, the country had been introduced to the first wave of “milongueros” from Buenos Aires at the 1995 Stanford tango week.
Copyright (c) 1995-2013, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved – Permission to reprint and share is granted as long as the proper attribution is clearly indicated

Valorie and I were the first to publish an actual hard copy newsletter starting in 1994. El Firulete was born out of the need to educate an entire new generation of dancers, to provide a forum for open discussion, and to foster and preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Argentine tango. We did it while keeping a lighthearted attitude, sometimes laughing at ourselves, and working hard to enjoy our tango more. It can be argued that life is a tango, and that for many, tango is their life. It has been so for us since the early nineteen nineties.

Success breeds imitation, and sometimes envy and jealousy. As public figures we have buried our happy faces in the ground like the ostrich oblivious to the danger around, but like the ostrich we have left our behinds exposed to the proverbial kicks. To be honest, we have many good friends who have helped us spread the goodwill along the way. But it’s also disheartening to be surrounded by people who react in virulent ways to other people’s happiness. That is also tango for you.
Tango music and its dance are all about feelings and emotions. In a culture where emotions are held close to the vest, the way people act can have a profound effect on a community. For the good of tango we always tried to keep a good supply of olive branches, but for good measure we also have a few pieces of the tree.

1995 will become without a doubt the year in which the face of the tango in North America will change forever, and the onset of a global wave of social dancing will sweep across large and small cities in the United States. We’re still relishing memories of our first contact with “milongueros” during two memorable weeks in July in Palo Alto. And already we’re engaged in discussions about preserving the newly found essence of the tango from the influence of those who want to make it the eleventh dance of the competition circuit.

Within the tango there is a tradition of respect for the elders that tango dancers understand and value. But with some notable exceptions, our young communities lack elder milongueros. People who come to dance tango are often at the mercy of self-appointed teachers and tango experts. They can become pawns of politics and power plays. A word or two here and there can be enough to turn some people off, and for some to walk away and never come back.

So it is up to those who know, and who live and love the tango, to speak up against those who attempt to legislate behavior, and who pass judgment on who’s good or not based on their personal promotional agendas.

Tango will never become a hollow shell because the Argentine tango is about life. As in life, there are those who merely survive and those who live; those who simply get involved and those who truly make a commitment. Tango has evolved from obscure and hybrid origins to become a way of life for people all over the world. Many have and many more will attempt to “own” it, to make it the latest fad, and to legislate behavior. But unless someone puts shackles on people’s ankles, tango will continue to exist because it lives in each one of us: in those we love, in those who hate us, in those we care about, in those who ignore us, in those we know, in those we never met. Tango lives every time we say I love you and every time we don’t. It exists when we long for a hug or a kiss that doesn’t happen. Tango lives when we are angry, when we are jealous, when we feel insecure, when we feel powerful, when we are tired, when two lovers or two strangers embrace and move together.

We will die, but somebody else will walk across the floor and catch somebody’s eye. And silently they will move around the floor, oblivious to what you or I or anybody else might decide is good or bad. It is about their lives, not ours.
So live and let dance.

Posted July 28, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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Let’s Be Careful Out There   Leave a comment

Let’s Be Careful Out There

Mental health is a serious issue that doesn’t get the necessary attention it deserves. Occasionally somebody goes way over the edge and tragedy ensues. Like the absurd killing in her sleep of a tango dancer and Pilates instructor by her disturbed husband who committed suicide, leaving the proverbial question of why it happened, unanswered. A few days earlier the woman had written a foreboding poem on her Facebook page.

A social media site like Facebook,where people are in daily contact with a lot of “friends in name only (FINO)” most of whom have never met, is not the place to be abusive of ex-spouses, or to air dirty linen in public. Unruly children, regardless of biological age, are bound to run into parents everywhere. The world of tango is not excluded. Lack of tact and propriety in venting family or personal feuds in public are good enough reasons sometimes for an adult wanting to intervene.

When one of those FINOs went into a public tirade about her daughter’s “lame-ass father,” I commented on the wisdom of writing in public, “he hung up when she asked him to take her to the doctor for an infection that was giving her shooting pain. She was way upset and she called me at work asking what to do. He doesn’t give a damn and that’s that.

Her reply was very eloquent, “If you or anyone else can’t handle that, then you are the psychological screw up. I tell it like it is. He has time for his Bible studies, to distribute Gideon Bibles in Motels, has time to sit around and blow off his daughter while she’s suffering. And I’m divorced because I have a brain and don’t put up with this kind of crap! You’d better block me because I’m going to litter your inbox with TRUTH! So if you hate TRUTH, then hate me.

People may feel the need to be very sorry for this person. Personally I had no love nor hate available for her. I saw a dangerous person capable of a different kind of harm, as she continued.

BTW, my daughter is 18. She talks about how her dad treats her poorly. Yes, I confirm it so she doesn’t wind up picking up the same kind of man, a selfish, selfish, selfish man who is a major hypocrite. Puts on the airs at church and treats people badly at home. You would be contributing to the psychological screwing by saying I should defend his behavior. Shame on you!!!!!!!! Maybe you like hypocrites? Yes? Put on the airs of holier than thou, eradicating truth? You’d better believe I’m putting it on Facebook. I’m sick of the people who think he’s so holy when he doesn’t give a shit about his own kids. He deserves far worse!

But, but…

You sound like a sorry excuse for a man. I bet your tango dancing sucks…

But, but…

And clearly if you have kids, you must not give a damn about them like my ex doesn’t give a damn about her. Go continue to abuse women… I’ll be sure to warn my tango friends about your abusiveness in case you wind up in their tango community.

And that my friends, is how psychotic and hysterical words that have been repeated so many times in high school bathrooms all over the land, make their way into our sacred adult tango world. And that’s how character assassination begins.

Now, the words of a possible mentally unstable person are not as dangerous as those of the ones who willfully propagate innuendos and harmful gossip because they lack character and moral fortitude. So let’s be careful out there…

A void impossible to fill   Leave a comment

A void impossible to fill

This article is based on a taped conversation with Rodolfo and Maria Cieri after lunch at our former home in Sunnyvale, CA on June 21, 1996. It was first published on the Dec 2000 issue of El Firulete. Copyright (c) Planet Tango 2000-2012, All rights Reserved

For those who knew Rodolfo Cieri, his passing earlier this year meant sorrow, sadness and grief. It also rekindled the sweet memories of his presence on the dance floor. It has taken many months and countless dry attempts, to sit down and listen to three hours of a taped conversation we had with Rodolfo and Maria on June 21, 1996 at our former home in Sunnyvale, California.

We first saw Rodolfo and Maria early on June 1996 at a milonga in Berkeley, California. The introduction by the host barely cut across the indifference of a vocal crowd who seemed to have gotten used to the necessary evil of interrupting the milongas with “announcements.” All we could see was an elderly couple tastefully dancing to the Pugliese‘s rendition of Emancipacion.

Nineteen-ninety-six was a transition year for our tango dancing formation, so even when the couple on the dance floor was not “hot dogging,” flying or otherwise trying to impress the crowd, we were left in a daze by the craftsmanship and seductive allure of their ever precise and calculated moves. But what really touched me the most, was Rodolfo‘s cherub-like smile as he played with the creative genius of Pugliese coming from the speakers subtly marking the movements of Maria. A few days later, a common friend brought them to our house, where they lived for the remaining weeks of their sole stay in the United States.

A Club named Suerte Loca

Rodolfo danced the same way all his life never considering the possibility that something special would ever happen to change the course of his life.

In 1954 the orchestra of Anibal Troilo headed the cast of El Patio de la Morocha at a theater on Avenida Corrientes. They needed dancing couples Maria recalls, “This was before we got married, they came to talk to us but Rodolfo didn’t want to do it.

It’s not that he didn’t have the opportunity, but he never wanted to dance professionally. That’s just fine with Maria, because If he had started doing it then, we wouldn’t be here together today.

More than twenty years went by without dancing and being married with children. When the daughter finally got married herself, Rodolfo was working out of a Ford pick up truck doing what the UPS men and women do today, pick up and delivery of packages. Faced with an empty nest, he didn’t want to consider getting older quicker by coming home to watch television. He had heard about a popular tangueria that was in vogue, Volver, on Corrientes and Suipacha. One Friday, celebrating a windfall of money that had come his way at work, he invited Maria to go dancing at Volver. Arriving early, they told the maitre d’ that they were new to the scene, and asked for a good spot on the dance floor from where he proceeded to watch the caliber of the dancers as they kept arriving.

At 2 AM they played La cumparsita and ten to fifteen couples took to the floor. “The music of Troilo from the Forties gives you room to do a lot of things,” Rodolfo said, “so when they began playing it I told Maria, let’s lead the way and I went “pin, pan, pow.” Half an hour later a young couple approached our table. She was an Argentine woman living in France. He was her French partner.”

They had seen them dance and asked if they were teachers. No, they were told. They were just milongueros from Buenos Aires and that’s all. Rodolfo said that he always danced because he felt the tango deep inside. Later Rodolfo and Maria joined the young couple at their table and found out that they were staying at a hotel. They invited them to move to their home were they developed a good friendship while teaching them to dance tango the way they knew.

When the couple finally left for Europe they asked Rodolfo if they would consider traveling to France. Of course answered Rodolfo, but as the plane took off he turned to Maria and said, “I doubt that these people would want to pay me to go to Europe after they’ve seen over a hundred couples dancing at Volver.

Six months later they received a letter and two plane tickets. The trip to France was happening. As they pondered the reality of crossing the ocean on a puny airplane, Rodolfo and Maria couldn’t believe their insane luck on that fateful day of 1988.

The woman in question had a dance academy in Marseilles, and she had put together a major production based on the History of Tango. The expensive project played once at Teatro del Molino, and it included a full comparsa of black people entering the stage from behind the public to perform a candombe number that left Maria gasping.

Maria: “It was a wonderful experience and we’re forever grateful to that woman for giving us that first opportunity. Sadly, within twenty days things turned sour as misunderstandings turned into problems. The hostess, who later gave up tango dancing, erred badly with us. Gradually she began demanding to be Rodolfo’s partner. She wanted him to dye his hair and to get rid of his glasses.”

Rodolfo: I said to her: you saw me dancing in Buenos Aires; you saw me dancing with my wife. That’s how you agreed to bring us here, as a couple. Now, you can’t ask us to do something different. No way.”

Thirty days to the date they arrived in France, Rodolfo and Maria left the woman’s house and moved in with Elena, who with partner Alfredo tried very hard to help them survive for the remaining six months of their stay. Singing, dancing Tango and folklore, Rodolfo and Maria managed to make ends meet stranded in a foreign land, handicapped by the language barrier, with plenty of tools of their own and help from generous compatriots.
Rene Fabianelli was one of them. In the years that followed, Rene became the “guardian angel” who organized their successful tours around France and the rest of Europe. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires Rodolfo kept telling friends about their crazy luck, and that one day he’ll open his own Tango Club, appropriately named, Suerte Loca.

A Milonguero of good stock

Rodolfo learned to dance Tango from his father as a kid. His mother objected because she wanted him to go to school and be somebody.
Rodolfo did both. He pleased his proud father at the old man’s milongas in La Paternal dancing with sisters and cousins at the tender age of ten. Time came for Rodolfo to go to school. Dad insisted that he devote time to study rather than dancing. The night life could be dangerous and lead to no good.

Rodolfo: “After the first year of high school I quit. I told ‘mi viejo,’ I want to be a dancer. He didn’t insist a lot. That’s something I regret today, that he didn’t try harder to keep me in school.”

He developed a style and spent years as a night creature of the milongas. When he met Maria, she was barely fourteen. Dating in those days meant meeting her at the street corner by her house while the sun was up. A vampire would have fared better, but he kept his courtship up for almost three years.

Maria: “I was seventeen years old when I married the first and only man I had known. I wanted to sing, to play the guitar. Suddenly, the ‘no’ of my father had been replaced by the ‘no’ of my husband. Meanwhile, he kept going out addicted to the life of the milonga and the allure of other women. It’s a long story, but I wasn’t prepared for that. His parents played an important role making me come back every time I had decided to leave.”

Rodolfo: “We were separated three times until my Dad kicked me out of the house and told me I was worse than garbage for playing with the life of a decent and loving woman. He told me in no uncertain terms that I had to choose between the milonga and my family. Well, thanks to all that we are together today, enjoying something that I never expected: dancing and making friends.”

They have danced together and they have witnessed a time when there were real dancers at every club. Dancers who competed to be the best. Dancers who would never consider imitating anybody else. Dancers who dressed to kill to impress the ladies before dazzling them with their brilliance on the dance floor. They both admire Juan Bruno, the Juan Bruno from the time when he used to dance Tango Salon.

Maria: “Very few could dance Tango Salon. It is very difficult for the couple to walk with the feet on the floor. To execute paradas and turns with a smooth rhythm and with the feet on the floor. Juan seemed to walk like no one I’ve ever seen. Rodolfo doesn’t have the profile to dance Salon. It doesn’t look good on him.”

Rodolfo: “Before he quit Juan was a bailarin de tranco largo, a bird with long legs gliding over the surface of a lake. His moves were deliberately slow. What I showed you today in the canyengue, how to break your waist for example, in Tango Salon you have to do it very subtly, like a filigrana, like a watermark on paper, a delicate move which is both elegant and fancy. You have to stand up firmly and well grounded, and you need a partner who does not hang on you to drop you off your balance. When Juan stepped on the floor for a Di Sarli piece, chills ran down my spine before he even began to move. I have never seen any of today’s teachers attempting to dance that way. It’s very hard. Even Juan, when he came out of retirement a couple of years ago, was doing something totally different.”

Life is but a dream

Our table talk lingered past dessert time. As a matter of fact time seemed to hold still. Rodolfo seemed disturbed by the memory of his
father. The elder Cieri had died in 1966 but his presence still weighs strongly on this fragile man with the glassy eyes, leaning against the chair, holding a glass of wine.
It seems that his father kept appearing in his dreams. The recurring themes were answers to whatever was troubling Rodolfo at the time. Like a way to finish the barbecue pit he had built on the roof of the house he had constructed by hand, one brick at a time. Or the advice on where and how to install a bathroom on the upper floor. When Rodolfo talks about his father, the tone of his voice lowers, as if he is still aware of his presence.

He had repeated time after time stories about the early days of his childhood when the old man taught him to dance the tango in a way he had forgotten. How he began to hate as a child, having to show off in front of Dad’s friends at the neighborhood clubs. Later, when a young Rodolfo lived from garufa to garufa, a dapper ladies’ man at the milongas, he avoided facing a disappointed father with a pointing finger. For years after the passing of the elder Cieri, Rodolfo visited the mausoleum at the Chacarita cemetery. He tried many times to see his father with an inexplicable obsession until the time came for moving the casket from the mausoleum. The family had to decide between ground burial or cremation. Rodolfo convinced the family to have the body cremated and the ashes placed next to the graves of his grandparents. As a truck loaded with caskets arrived, Rodolfo demanded to identify the body. He was going to see his Dad one last time.

Rodolfo: “They had to use an axe to break the locks and when they finally opened the casket I yelled at the top of my lungs! My Dad’s body was intact like the day they put him in the casket. His face, his hands crossed over his chest still holding a fresh orchid… My sister hugged me…” (his voice breaks and the steady sob of a child fills the room as the tape recorder runs for a couple of minutes). He never went to visit the ashes at his Dad’s final resting place. Yet, the old man kept visiting him in his dreams. That’s life, he appeared to say.”

The tango my Dad once taught me

One day Rodolfo woke up and said to Maria, “I had a dream with my Dad. It was such a beautiful dream. He came to see me and he congratulated me because I had built my own house. I told him, you see viejo? I finally succeeded with the Tango. I have danced in Europe and here in Buenos Aires on the stage of Teatro San Martin. I told him all about my friendship with Carlos Garcia, ex-pianist of Roberto Firpo who was now the director of the Orquesta del Tango de Buenos Aires. He listened attentively and suddenly said, yes, but you never danced the Tango I once taught you.”

Maria had always been curious and excited about the canyengue, so she asked Rodolfo why he didn’t dance it. Rodolfo said no. He considered it too difficult, besides he had completely forgotten what it was that his Dad had taught him. Then, they got a letter from London inviting them to participate in a show. Excited by the opportunity he tried to remember the barrage of canyengue steps his Dad used to dance, but he could barely remember but a few. Once again Dad visited him in a dream and helped him remember many of the moments they had spent together. Rodolfo remembers telling his father, “Your son is going to dance the canyengue Dad.”

Rodolfo: “That year in London we presented the canyengue for the first time at Paul and Michiko’s Cafetin Porteño. People went crazy. This Saturday night we are going to dance it for you and Valorie at your milonga. Maria is going to wear the same vintage dress she wore in London. Pity that I did not bring my vest and my lengue.”

Alberto: You can use mine.”

Rodolfo: “Great! We’re going to do the canyengue. We’re going to do it.

He was now the only one left in his family and he seemed to wait for his time with resignation, whenever it would arrive. Did he know already about the illness that would take him away four years later? I’ll never know.Like the passing of my parents, Rodolfo’s departure feels like he just moved farther away. We’re reliving the fond memories now as we have finally sat down to watch the videotapes of those great classes in our living room, along with their compelling performances at the Dance Spectrum in Campbell.

The two of them dancing canyengue to El chamuyo.

Posted November 29, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in ESSAYS

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Was Carlos Gardel a grifter?   Leave a comment

Was Carlos Gardel a grifter?
A criminal investigation suggests that the changes of identity and places of birth were done to evade his police record.


His scam was “el cuento del tio” which takes advantage of people’s trust and ambition of easily getting great benefits.

Carlos Gardel was a grifter. This is the conclusion from a comparative study of fingerprints that leaves no room for doubt: before being established as a singer, Gardel lived off the money he got from the victims who fell into his cuento del tio, a swindle that was quite common at the time. Typically a person would go to a bar for several weeks claiming to have had received a multimillion dollar inheritance from a relative, an uncle, for example, who lived far away from Argentina, but lamenting that he had no money to pay for the fare. He would con someone into entering in some sort of agreement that stipulated that the scammer would cede part of his heritage in return for the scammed paying for travel, accommodations and sometimes attorney fees.

The conclusion about Gardel‘s criminal background was reached after a comparison of fingerprints from 1904, 1915 and 1924 using the AFIS (Automatic Fingerprint Identification System), and explains why the Argentine artist altered his identity and birthplace. Through changes in the spelling of his name and frequent change of address,  he avoided police records, as published by periodical Pagina/12. The criminal investigation revealed for the first time the actual police records of Carlos Gardel, known at the time by the alias of The kid Carlitos, a “swindler that uses the scam of the uncle.”

The copia obtained by Pagina/12 (no one knows who has the original) is dated August 18, 1915 and it is a great discovery: Gardel had his rap sheet destroyed by order of President Marcelo T. Alvear, but someone managed to save two in the province of Buenos Aires, the one shown above and one from 1904, when Gardel was a kid and fled home. Forensics Raúl Torre and Juan José Fenoglio determined that the fingerprints were from the same person. Even more significant is the fact that in 1904, when he run away from home and his mother was looking for him there was no reason for lying when she identify him as Carlos Gardez, born in 1990 in Toulouse, France.

Torre and Fenoglio compared the fingerprints of the run away from home kid in 1904, the 1915 police records and a 1923 passport, apparent from men of different ages, different parents and born in different places. The work was done in the Department of Forensic Science and processed in the AFIS, Automated Fingerprints Identification System. This software converts the fingerprint into a three-dimensional shape and makes the comparison. It is impossible to find two people with the same fingerprints. The computer established that the fingerprints were an absolute match. To further their findings, Torre and Fenoglio did ​​a manual matching process , which verified the existence of 18 characteristic points in all fingerprints. In jurisprudence only 12 matches are required for a result on an individual’s identity to be unquestionable.

Connecting the dots

It’s well documented that a very young Gardel sang at conservative party headquarters in the neighborhood of Avellaneda, one of the most important production centers of Argentina at the time. Raúl Torre relates that Gardel was close to Juan Ruggiero, a bully on the conservative party’s payroll. The party boss was Conservative leader Alberto Barceló. It is said that in 1922 Barcelo prompted President Marcelo T. de Alvear to take care of Gardel police records. And, at the request of the President, the Federal Police got rid of the singer’s arrest records. The Federal police also asked the province of Buenos Aires police to destroy Gardel‘s records, but it seems that a copy was saved.

Tango poet and researcher Martina Iñíguez found a few days ago a copy of the 1915 application Gardel filled out to get an identity card. All traces of this record was assumed to be lost until now. The province of Buenos Aires police had asked the Federal police if Gardel had a police record, and on August 18, 1915 the Police of Buenos Aires (as it was called then) answered that Gardel was known by the “nickname of Pibe Carlitos and he was syndicated as a specialist on the con of the Cuento del Tio.”

Another curious fact emerges from much of the first songs sung by Gardel. Its author was Andrés Cepeda, who was called “the poet of the prison.” Cepeda spent many years of his life in prison and ended up dying in a knife fight on the downtown porteño. He wrote numerous lyrics for the Gardel-Razzano duo. In medical records reviewed by Torre, Cepeda was also listed as a scammer of the Uncle story variety. Everything suggests that Cepeda and Gardel shared escapades.

One hypothesis suggest that they may have shared prison or detention in police stations. Torre says that at that time they clearly segretated offenders in prisons. There were those who committed crimes with guns, known as the “heavy ones”, because they were carrying a .45, a heavy weapon at the time. And the “light ones” who were grifters, scammers and con artists. This suggests that Cepeda and Gardel  hung out together as Cuento del Tio artists, or shared detention centers..

Carlos Gardel era estafador?  published Nov 12, 2012 by
El Pibe Carlitos published Nov 12, 2012 by Pagina/12

The weird hold   Leave a comment

The weird hold

By Alberto Paz
August 2012

The 21st century has witnessed a very curious phenomenon apparently intended to transform the experience of the Argentine tango by waging a frontal attack on one of its fundamental elements, the embrace. The mythical abrazo has fallen victim of fashion.  A new look to the dance, the weird hold,  has invaded dance floors around the world.

Contrary to what the new generation of dancers might have been led to believe, good teachers will always explain to their students from the first tango lesson,  that the tango begins and ends with the embrace. And that the tango is danced connected from and inside the embrace.  That is something not open for discussion.

Recently a former student and wonderful dancer from the early days made a rare appearance at the local milonga. After a while she asked with a perplexed look, “What’s with the weird way these women are holding the men?” I had seen that change in newer dancers for a couple of years now, but her question got me thinking again.

Argentine teacher Sol Alzamora, answering a similar question about the weird hold, pointed out in a workshop held recently in Los Angeles that “this is a fad, but not a good way for the woman to embrace. It closes off the shoulder and prevents the woman’s disassociation when she needs it.2

Julio Duplaá, veteran milonguero and organizer of the milonga at Club Sin Rumbo in Buenos Aires, was heard in a radio interview complaining about the abundance of boleos and kicks on the dance floors, and the new way to hold that has become fashionable among young women. “People, let’s respect the embrace. I don’t know why the girls grab you by the waist, or hang their arm from your shoulder, my God, you poor guys!!

There is a blog named Maldito Tango hosted in daily newspaper La Nacion‘s website where the topic has been discussed openly under headings such as Hold me well, that this is not flamenco, and I won’t dance you, never again.3

On the subject of the weird hold, a reader wrote that “it completely blocks the man’s right shoulder, it destroys it, and it limits the man’s dancing possibilities. The embrace,” he adds, “should have the feeling of a hug between friends who like each other. It must provide mutual containment, but not become a trap or a squeeze.” The general view in this blog seems to be that women are often judged harshly by the way they embrace. They agree that it is difficult to conform to all audiences. They give advice to women, “The ladies must be very careful not to hang from their partners, not to bury their heads like a “turtle” and not to fall on the guy as a resting cow. It is not advisable to place your hand on the gentleman‘s nape because this can be seen as a sign of “ownership” inelegant for a salon dance.” Some female dancers agree but add that worse things can be seen, “if the hug is flabby, or cold, the men will also complain.”

Well known artist Mariano Chicho Frúmboli, was asked about the women who hold the men by the love handles or placing their hand on the guy’s kidney. In a Yogi Berra fashion, Chicho prefaces his answers on controversial topics with, “I think I’m among the first to be in favor of freedom in the tango and its movement, whatever its expression, as long as the essentials are respected.

I could say,” he says, “that the women that touch you ‘there’ may be ‘franeleras’ like the hundreds of guys who’ve done it for many years, still do it and will continue doing it.” The jargon ‘franelera‘ describes a woman who teases men by repeating a provocative conduct, like stroking arms, legs and hands causing arousal, without the intention of following through because that’s the way they are.

But,” he adds, “I could also say that it is part of a trend, as it once was Geraldine’s personal embrace, Tete’s stacking or apilado embrace, the tango nuevo and those things that fade in the crowd after a while, and that luckily, are movements, postures, personal attitudes that belong to those who felt that way, really.

Chicho offers a third, perhaps more complex response to the weird holding conundrum. He says that the fad may have come from Europe, recalling that in the early 2000’s he saw in Paris a couple of guys he believes were the first ones to lower their right hands almost below the woman’s waist. A few years later the hand of the man holding the woman’s hand as if holding a “tray” become a style (if we can call it that way) very popular at the dreadful tango “Marathons”. So Chicho concludes that, the man’s hand holding a tray, plus the man’s hand almost touching below the waist of the woman, plus the woman’s hand touching the lungs, kidneys and love handles of the man are likely styles concocted in Europe and brought to Buenos Aires by the tango tourism boom of recent years.

Chicho concludes putting the blames squarely “in the lack of accountability of many professors and teachers who teach this type of tango hold only a few months after taking their first class. Without knowing anything about history, its traditions and the great dancers, they are giving seminars on “dynamic energy” teaching a deformed “style,” that’s far removed from what we know as Tango. At the end Chicho leaves a question in the air, “Who are we to criticize, judge and marginalize?” and a piece of advice, Guys, let’s take a step forward and do something for the tango … let’s not criticize but be generous, let’s teach and share essentially what we learned to save the tango from dying.”

Teaching and Sharing

The job of a teacher is not to judge or engage in subjective arguments about fads or to use fads as a teaching tool. A teacher has to be able to open minds by explaining, demonstrating and inspiring with logic and tangible evidence. A tango teacher should know and be able to teach that there is one fundamental reason for the way we need to embrace to dance Argentine tango. That reason is to establish points of contact between the dancers to allow the body language communication so essential for tango improvisation, the hallmark of Argentine tango dancing at the social level.

Style follows technique, and good dancers develop a personal style only after acquiring solid technique. What identifies people as tango dancers is the unique way they dance Argentine tango: with a higher-than-average degree of closeness. Tango is the ultimate contact dance.

When asked why they hold the men instead of embracing, some women said that a friend or a teacher told them to put their arms like that. None was able to give a reason for the middle finger poking on the man’s back or for shooting their elbows up and out, while others reacted with a blank stare as if not understanding the nature of the question. What is even more perplexing is that female tango dancers who pay such a detailed attention to their footwork and take pride in their footwear, don’t seem to mind the awkward look their upper bodies have when their hand is flat holding the man and their elbow is shooting out and/or up. It is possible that nobody has ever taught them the fundamental and important techniques required for embracing while dancing tango.

Experience has proven that a woman dancer can tell and appreciate the difference between a man who knows how to embrace her and one who just holds her with an open hand and pressing fingers on her right lung . Evidence shows that lots of men don’t have that same sense of appreciation, are afraid to request a proper embrace, or just come to dance with ulterior motives.

When the first generation of dancers in North America fell in love with the tango, we were mesmerized by the look of the dance. We learned that it was the direct result of the environment in which the dance had been developed. Since the late nineteen thirties tango dancing had always been danced in close quarters, in crowded salons where couples were constrained to a space that had the shape of a traveling cylinder. As they danced, each couple carried their own personal space around a very crowded dance floor. For people who have not danced in an urban place with hundreds of couples sharing the floor, it is difficult to wrap around the concept of dancing close, occupying just the space needed by the embraced bodies, and keeping the elbows tucked in and down so they don’t pose a hazard to other dancers. The claim of dancing the authentic Argentine tango, should be anchored very clearly on these images, even if there is nobody else on the dance floor.

There is another fundamental aspect of tango dancing we all learned in the early stages of development that has been gradually forgotten, misrepresented, or mistakenly equated to the lead and follow aspect of ballroom dances. Tango is not a lead and follow dance. When the man embraces properly, the woman moves when the man moves by virtue of her body being in the embrace. To the trained eye is very easy to spot people who dance tango as if it was another lead and follow dance. The time it takes to process a lead in order to follow makes them dance off the music. Some say that alternative music serves as a palliative for the frustration of being unable to dance the rich nuances of tango composed for tango dancing. So, what makes good tango dancers dance to the music that was composed for dancing tango?

Whole new generations of tango dancers learn to dance tango without the benefit of understanding or even knowing the existence of the ever-important concept of La marca, the way the man sets the pace and indicates where and when the woman’s free foot created a new axis for her body.1

There is not a direct and accurate translation of the Spanish verb marcar, as it relates to dancing.  It is definitely not  the action of tagging, branding, or stamping. The closest description of marcar is, setting the pace. La marca, is a language that is unique to the tango dance. It’s a corporal communication between the dancers that carries the beat and rhythm of the music from the loudspeakers into their bodies and on to the dance floor.

Using this corporal communication, the person playing the role of the “man” also marks where and when the  free foot of the person playing the role of the “woman” lands on the floor. This can be a radical concept for the thousands of followers all over the world who carry their weight on the rear foot in order to follow, as opposed to experienced tango dancers who carry their weight on the front foot closest to the man in order to allow the man’s mark to place their free foot on the ground when her body moves within the boundaries of the embrace. This is provocative and challenging knowledge that empowers tango dancers.

Good posture and the dynamics of the embrace are very important to learn, understand and use the concept of la marca, for the ultimate thrill of tango dancing, which is tango improvisation. In adopting the dancing posture, the man encircles the woman with his right arm, creating a wedge space where she will dance. The entire left side of her body has contact with the right side of his body. The embrace serves the purpose of establishing five essential points of contact.

It helps if the shoulders are relaxed because that keeps the elbows down. As the dancers stand facing each other, the woman indicates that she’s ready to  be embraced by slightly separating her left arm from her body. Then the man begins to embrace by extending his right arm forward and straight down until the inside of his forearm makes firm contact with the side of the woman’s body, regardless of her height. This will allow the man to mark the woman’s movements to his right as she dances into this right  arm, and to his left when he moves forward pressing against the side of her body.

Next, the man needs to bend his lower (right) arm from the elbow and encircle the woman just above her waist, loosening the right shoulder to reach without bending. He can adjust for the woman’s height by raising or lowering his lower arm from the elbow so that his right hand can rest horizontally on the right side of her back, keeping his fingers relaxed and closed. The placement of his lower arm and right hand is important to mark the woman’s change of directions often called forward  and back ochos.

Once the man has embraced her with his right arm, the woman loosens up her left shoulder to reach forward, raising her left arm, and placing the inside portion of her left upper arm triceps firmly resting against any part of the man’s encircling arm. Make sure you understand that this point of contact is the upper arm triceps against the man’s arm. This will allow the woman to receive the mark for the right foot by the action of the man’s right arm on her left shoulder.

Finally, the woman needs to rest her hand with her fingers closed anywhere along the shoulder line of the man, keeping the elbow down and always below the level of the left hand. Let’s repeat this, the left elbow must be lower than the left hand, regardless of where on the shoulder line the hands rests.  See the composite picture below for a variety of ways to place the left hand to complete the embrace.

It is the woman who determines what is close enough. If need be, the woman can scoop her hand under the man’s biceps and hold it like a small pocketbook. She can also rest her left hand on the man’s shoulder or upper arm or even behind his neck. The hand must be relaxed, with the fingers closed. No banana bunch, fingering or karate chop hands. There shouldn’t be any tension in the hand placed on the man’s body. The man should barely be aware of the woman’s left hand.

On the open side of the embrace, the man and the woman hold hands with their arms forming a double V. This happens as the man raises his upper left arm to his left pointing his lower left arm up toward his partner, to form his V, keeping his shoulder relaxed and pointing his elbow down.

The woman extends her right arm forward and up forming a V with her elbow pointing down not out, resting her right palm down on the gentleman’s palm.
The man closes his fingers around the lady’s hand gently, and slightly turn his wrist inward to create a slight tension between his palm and his partner’s palm.

This is not a handshake but a soft connection. There should be no squeezing or gripping. The open side of the embrace must not used for balance or to avoid falling off axis! If dancers approach the embrace in this fashion, any subtle motion of the man’s upper body will be felt very clearly by the woman, and her upper body will move accordingly. Since feet follow the body, dynamic interactions of the upper bodies result in a visually pleasant and smooth displacement of the dancing couple. There should never be any space between the man’s right arm and the woman’s left arm.

We think that embracing properly establishing points of contact is part of the “pre-flight” checklist that insures connection and the raises the expectation of a good dance. It does become the centerpiece of good posture, and promotes the much touted shared intimacy of the tango. However, very tempting as it may be to be lured by the subjective, romantic, and emotional qualities of a good embrace, we must be fully aware of the essential techniques regarding how to embrace when it comes time to dance the tango.

It takes two to provide the five points of contact, and it takes two to understand the dynamics of moving as one, now, with the man assuming the responsibility for circulating and the woman embellishing the ride. None of this is possible or even an option unless men are made aware of the existence of and the importance of learning the concept of La marca1. Unless they learn how to embrace to establish points of contacts, and are not afraid to move their bodies around the floor carrying women in their arms, rather than being concerned with the motion of their feet. When men embrace women, they must be aware that they are first and foremost protecting them with their bodies, from out control dancers. More than involvement, it requires commitment.

Freed from the misguided idea of following, female tango dancers can concentrate on honing skills such as always carrying their weight on one leg, establishing an axis, and using the free leg to receive her body when the man moves her inside his embrace. Perfecting the free leg extension forward, backward and laterally, feeling comfortable changing axis, and always keeping her weight on the leading foot closer to the man are probably the most important attributes tango dancing women should look forward to perfect. The hallmark of a female tango dancer is never having both feet on the ground. This is a phenomenal declaration of confidence on the skills of their males counterparts, that’s why in tango we trust. As men, we trust that our right arm and shoulder will not be compromised, blocked, or disabled by a hold that limits our dancing possibilities. We trust that a woman’s ability to disassociate her upper and lower body, to hold her axis without falling, and to embellish without interfering with the dance, will not be sacrificed be holding in a weird way.

One thing for certain is that the pure essence of the Argentine tango we dance at the social level requires commitment, effort and understanding by both men and women of the essential elements that define what we dance, Argentine tango. That’s probably the most profound meaning of “it takes two to tango.”


1. Gotta Tango by Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart
2. Put Your Arm on My Shoulders a Facebook group
3. El Abrazo Femenino a Debate by Marina Gambier, Maldito Tango Blog

Posted August 11, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in EDITORIAL

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