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What is tango nuevo?   1 comment

What is tango nuevo?

Written by Manuel Gonzalez,
November 2009
Translated and reproduced by Alberto Paz in July 2012
Courtesy of the journal Punto Tango

I have noticed that when most people talk about the nuevo tango, they’re actually referring to electronic tango. Even when people talk about “dancing” tango nuevo, they mean dancing a very open style wearing baggy pants, designer clothing. A style that is more rhythmic than melodic, more attractive than sensible,  using electronic music or other rhythms that hardly qualified as tango .

I base these views, looking particularly at different practicas, and some milongas, where they teach new dance styles that have been flourishing in recent years.

Although I confess that I like and I dance several song by Gotan Project, and some of Narcotango, I must admit that for most people, electronic tango, is quite non-danceable.

On the other hand it is curious how the people who dance the invented  “new tango” style can not blend in other styles of the tango dance, while the other styles though reluctant, mix, live and grow daily in the milongas.

I have already spoken in another note about styles, and I remarked that it is always good to be flexible when you dance with someone who doesn’t dance your same style. But I notice that there is no style more complicated, disconnected and individualistic both physically and musically, than the so called “new tango”. Perhaps this emergence of a new dance is based much more on being seen as cutting-edge, alternative and fashionable than being sensitive or musical. I’m sure that when these boys and girls who dance the nuevo tango get to be in their fifties, they will embrace the more traditional and communicative dance.

But back to the music … what is the Tango Nuevo? In my opinion it does exist, it is growing and it is being created by musicians who compose their own tangos, by others who invent their own style, or put in a distinctive feel to their sound and to classic tangos, without falling for synthesizers, beats , samplers and machines that play recorded sounds.

By contrast, the electronic tango has been around for several years since its inception, and is something that does not evolve, nor does it bring anything new within its style, and everything seems to show a behavior that is more commercial than artistic.

My criticism is not based on whether the electronic music must qualify or not as tango, but in that it is used as a banner to claim “this” is the new tango, when the new tango is much, much more wider, and thankfully, much, much richer than the electronic version.

I would like to start hearing about a “tango nuevo” concept as something that grows and evolves from the traditional tango,  and not like other styles that take advantage of the sound of the bandoneon to continue selling something that already exists.

Perhaps many musicians who already were making electronic music, today choose the tango as a basis for experimentation so they can make free and rare versions to sell a semi-new product.

The tango has always been and will be a bit painful, rough, sensitive and passionate, because that is its essence. The purpose of this note is not to criticize or say that something is or is not.

What I seek is to point out that there are some great musicians playing and creating their own music, composing, arranging and creating variations with much talent, sensitivity and intelligence, keeping the true essence of tango even adding new things, and that’s what we should highlight and proudly name as “Tango Nuevo”

The electronic tango may be liked by many people, but if we must talk about quality and great changes, please let’s go back to Piazzolla and from there to the new fine musicians who are composing, growing and those who are being born today. That’s why in this note I dare to recommend some albums of “Tango Nuevo”, which are well above the electronics, which are played without the need to connect synthesizers, computers or gizmos:

The names of the albums I recommend are between brackets :

Julio Pane Trio: (A las orchestras) In this outstanding album, the trio plays and sounds like an orchestra. Pane has influences from the greats, but with his own texture and style. A luxury.Richard Galliano (French touch) Great French Accordionist plays tango with Piazzollean influences  bringing a new style with French airs of his instrument.

Orquesta Tipica Fernandez Fierro: (Envasado en Origen y Destrucción Masiva) Original and classic Tangos by a traditional orchestra with that has its own sound, strong, violent, passionate and very current. Really excellent.

Walter Hidalgo: (Tanguetnia) A genial kid … He plays the bandoneon, composes and sings!.

Angel Pulice and Ruth Divicenci:  (La Carnada y Tangos nuevos y usados) A beautiful combo. Guitars, Vocals and accordion. Great lyrics, great sensitivity and good taste.

La Chicana: (Ayer Hoy Era Mañana y Tango agazapado) band that has a fresh spirit between rocker, folk and tango.

Astillero: (Tango de Astillero) A rough Tango Orchestra, with lots of force, cruelty and violence in their sound.

El Afronte: (Tango al palo) Orchestra with traditional instruments, but a lot of power.

Buenos Aires Negro: (Turra Vida) A tango band mixed with sounds of Buenos Aires rock and murga. Strange, dark, perhaps far from tango, it has the air of a dirty slum.

El Terceto : (tocatangó) Excellent trio with their own sound, difficult to classify. Mixing jazz, tango and folklore.

Cáceres: (tocatangó) own and others’ compositions, Excellent lyrics, resurrects the black origins of tango and milonga. Sounds like candombe, murga and milonga. Creates a strange phenomenon in the milonga.

Dema y su Orquesta Petitera: (Volumen 1) trio of two guitars and voice. Own compositions, with slang and humor.

And finally, I will not leave out without mentioning one of the greatest exponents of the Tango Nuevo.

Astor Piazzolla” (Suite Troileana, y Mundial 78´)

And I sign off paraphrasing the great Anibal Troilo, “Pichuco” who was asked once if there was a need for new tangos. He replied: There are no old tangos or young tangos… What we have is good tangos or bad tangos.

Note written by Manuel Gonzalez – El Amague Blog
Published in the journal Punto Tango No. 37 – November 2009.

The original women’s technique class   Leave a comment

The original women’s technique class
By Valorie Hart
Copyright (c) 1995-2012, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved
At Stanford Tango Week 1995, Graciela Gonzalez became the stuff of mythic proportions. This diminutive powerhouse of a woman was something the American tango student had not experienced. She was not part of a teaching couple, she taught alone. She was serious and outspoken. She demanded respect not only for herself and the Argentine Tango, but also demanded a self respect for each and everyone of us as dancers of Argentine Tango.

She is known as La Negra, and by calling her by her affectionate nickname, we got another viewpoint of political correctness.  Her Women’s Technique Class held in the huge Robles Gym late in the afternoon of a hot California Summer in 1995 is still talked about. There were about one hundred women all standing at the unusual position for social dancers, at the ballet bar. We were asked to perform the perfect and exquisitely painful technique of the forward ocho as explained by Graciela as something that emanated from the torso and the center axis of the body, down to the big toe and going from there to the rest of the foot, culminating into La Negra’s idea of a properly executed front ocho.

We stood at that bar for over three hours, long after the appointed hour that the class was supposed to be over. Earlier smiles were wiped off our faces, replaced by sweat and earnest concentration. La Negra walked up and down the rows of women with the demeanor of a queen combined with the attitude of the strictest ballet master, making gentle corrections and never letting on that she was either pleased or displeased with our efforts. Later on in New York, I took a private class with her, where we continued the same drill for two hours. At the end of the class she told me that when I visited Buenos Aires three months later, if I had practiced my front ocho enough to her satisfaction, we would continue the lesson with perhaps, the back ocho.When Nora Dinzelbacher announced that she would bring La Negra to her 1998 version of Tango Week (replacing the now defunct Stanford Tango Week), I was curious about what Graciela would bring to us this time around.
She felt a little disappointed with herself after her first visit to the US at Stanford ‘95, feeling that she didn’t emotionally reach the people, that they didn’t understand her way of teaching or appreciate her seriousness.

She wanted to revamp a bit, without losing her integrity. She presented her first classes using American music, asking the couples assembled to dance the music with the same emotion that they danced as teenagers. She asked that they not dance tango steps, and to rely on a sense memory that she hoped the music would evoke. She wanted them in touch with their own bodies, and the body of their partner. Later in the advanced class, she presented challenging material, not in the form of another quickly forgotten complicated figure, but by showing the partners how to look for angles in body alignment to invent and improvise figures.

Sounds simple? Let’s just say you had to be there, to watch some of the country’s best dancers struggle with the concept and execution. No one left her classes without being enriched and challenged.

By midweek, the legendary Women’s Technique class was offered at the huge Allegro Ballroom, minutes away from the Tango Week site at The Holiday Inn. The large space was needed to accommodate almost every woman in attendance of Tango Week. No one wanted to miss this class. Many of the women had been at Stanford ‘95, and were looking forward to the challenge, wondering if we would get to work on back ochos, three years later. Surprisingly, there were no ballet bars this time. The next surprising thing was that Graciela asked that we remove our shoes and sit down! A kind of peaceful, reverent hush fell over the room. She presented us with some circular breathing exercises, coaxing us to move the air up into our chests and torsos.

She talked at length about the way to stand in order to dance Argentine Tango, with the body weight slightly and naturally forward, with breasts (chests) over the feet. She called this the basic posture.

She talked at length about the porteña attitude assumed in dancing Tango. She demonstrated how a porteña would sit at the milonga in order to invite a dance. The posture was similar to the basic standing posture, torso elevated. She explained that it is almost confrontational, an expressed desire to get what is yours, to be let in from the outside, an expression of that ever present longing of the long ago immigrant culture excluded by the upper class native land owners. Of course she explained the ever elusive (for American dancers)gaze that Argentines use to get each other onto the dance floor. She also spoke about the woman needing to empower herself in the dance, to claim and keep the space she defines with her forward body position. She told us to give ourselves permission to dance, in essence to be the equal partner.

She got us back on our feet, and moving with partners, using our chests aggressively thrust out, to play a cat and mouse kind of game to induce mutual movement. Some of the women got wild with this exercise, running around the room and falling on the floor!

The energy level was tremendous. She revisited the subject of the forward and backward ocho, stressing again the technique of it beginning with the forward basic stance, breasts out over the support leg, leg movement starting with the big toe… oh well you know the rest. We didn’t have ballet bars, so we got into couples and practiced ocho technique for a little while.

Two hours had passed quickly, and it was nearly time for the last exercise of the class. La Negra instructed us to stand and face the mirror.
The proposition was to use the basic Tango posture in movement; to imagine being on the stage in front of 10,000 people, perhaps on Broadway, to dance the performance of our life, and to never lose our own gaze in the mirror, to look ourselves in the eye constantly as we danced. We lined up in several rows at the back of the room facing the mirrors, each woman looking at herself. An expectant hush fell over the group as we readied ourselves for the curtain going up. Then she put on the music: the sound filled the room, Whitney Houston singing Hero.

She must have played the thing three or four times. It’s not a little three minute Tango, and it has compelling words and music, popular enough to be familiar to everybody. An amazing spontaneous “choreography” ensued, with sixty or so women moving as individuals and as a group. It proved to be moving and emotional and it became the defining and pivotal mid Tango Week cathartic experience. It was the release and that permission giving catalyst that we needed. It enhanced the rest of the week’s classes and milongas, and for many raised the bar for their dancing, taking them to the next personal plateau dancers always strive for. At the end of the session there were tears, quiet moments of reflection and a heartfelt appreciation for La Negra’s unique Women’s Technique class.

Later in the week, at an afternoon Tango talk featuring the women teachers, we were presented with some terrific role modeling. Guillermina Quiroga and Graciela Gonzalez credited Pupi Castello with their education in the world and ways of the Tango. They spoke about him, in his presence in the audience, with such love and respect, that he left the room overcome by emotion and tears. He was very proud of his two Tango daughters, each having respected careers as Tango professionals. Mina and La Negra both said that Pupi taught them how to exist in the life of the night, that he not only taught them how to dance, but how to understand the codes of the milonga, irreplaceable and valuable life lessons that they still carry with them today. Someone in the audience asked Graciela what a woman should bring to the milonga. It was one of those esoteric questions that might result in some dreamy ideas of what essence or nuance is required. La Negra answered with a frank and startling revelation saying that what she brings to the milonga is her survival kit that includes a pair of flat shoes, a toothbrush, money and condoms. She also advised us to know what we want from the Tango that night. Her surprising answer made everybody laugh and put a reality spin on what dancing Tango in the milonga is really about, i.e. to mate.

Posted March 29, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in ESSAYS

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“Madame” Yvonne   Leave a comment

Yvonne Murphy

There is one nasty pitfall of the so called social media, and that is that sometimes you read about people who have gone their separate ways because of unfortunate circumstances. It was shocking and painful to read recently on the Syracuse Yahoo Group that Yvonne Murphy from Penn Yan, NY passed away around February 10. Actually we guessed that, as the message mentioned Yvonne by her first name in the context of a series of routine announcements (“While we are greatly saddened by the loss of our dear friend Yvonne, we hope you will still come to Geneva this Friday to help us celebrate her life, her love & her spirit.“) It wasn’t too hard to find her Facebook page to confirm the sad news, as we read the absurd habit of people talking to, rather than about dead people. We immediately thought about her husband Dennis, and we want to convey our condolences and sympathies to him, as we lowered our heads in prayers for the eternal peaceful rest of Yvonne’s soul.

We met through our tango lyrics page when she first asked about the translation of Madame Yvonne, and that became her tango nom de plume. In 2007 she surprised us by traveling to the Hudson Valley to meet us at a workshop we were teaching in the region. A few months later she and Dennis came to Buffalo to pick up us after another weekend of workshops, to take us on a quick trip across the border to the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls, before driving us to their home in Penn Yan, NY. There Yvonne proudly hosted her first milonga party to introduce us to her tango friends.

During our stay in Penn Yan, we got to learn about the European Vinifera or Vitis Vinifera grape, arguably the best type of grape for wine making. It wasn’t until more recent times that vinifera grapes were grown in the finger lakes. It was originally believed that the cold winters would destroy the delicate vinifera vines. But because of the marvelous “tempering effect” of the Finger Lakes these varieties not only survived, but thrived to make some fantastic wines! Dennis drove us around the Finger Lakes where we were introduced to Cabernet Franc, a vinifera grape grown in the Bordeaux region of France, that had taken very well to the Finger Lakes region. Cabernet Franc is more hearty and full-bodied than Pinot Noir, but not as intense as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. We became instant fans of the wonderful Cabernet Franc bottled on the wineries perched on the shores of the Finger Lakes. Now the wine will also celebrate the life and joy of Madame Yvonne, every time we raise our glass to toast her memory.


That seems like a long time ago. Time grows older when friends part ways because of life demands.

Just a month ago I felt the urge to write to Yvonne, having read that had been dealing with some health issues. I told her we were so glad to hear that she was recovering well and hoped she could read our message of support and sympathy, with our wishes to see her back on the dance floor.” Now the time have stopped forever for her wonderful life, full of generosity, grace and kindness. Gray skylark, your loss hurts…

R.I.P. Yvonne Murphy

Andrea Mise   2 comments

Andrea Misse died in a quad crash west of General Acha, La Pampa, Argentina

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January 2, 2012 – A multiple collision occurred at noon today on National Route 152, west of General Acha.

The accident involved four vehicles, all driven by tourists, and as a result of the accident, tango dancer Andrea Misse, who was in one of the vehicles, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash was at the kilometer 34 mark of route 152. It was about 16.30 hours approximately.

According to the preliminary expertise, the Sandero may have tried to pass one of the vehicles and there the crash occurred.

The occupants of the Sandero were the most injured. The car was hit from the front and from behind. The woman on the Renault Sandero, identified as 34 years old tango dancer Andrea Misse, died instantly and was taken to the morgue of the local health center where an autopsy was performed to determine the cause of death.

Her husband, Diego Hernán Gienex, 38 suffered a fractured femur, and her 2 year old daughter is out of danger, at a hospital in the capital of the La Pampa. The same happened with the dancer’s mother in law, who was recovering from injuries she suffered as a result of the collisions. The family came from Tigre (Buenos Aires), where they live, but their destination was unknown.

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Courtesy of Konstantinoschalnt’s channel

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Andrea Misse’s true and unique philosophy of Argentine Tango

By Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz

It was a 1996 Autumn night in New York City. In fact it was a Thursday night. We made our way midtown to the restaurant Il Campanello, where Paul Pellicoro presented his Tango Nights show. We had seen this conglomerate offering before, mainly consisting of dynamic Paul and his striking partner Eleny and the professional dancers from his Dance Sport Studio. Raul Jaurena’s first class New York Tango Trio with excellent singer Marga Mitchell; a few expatriate local old timers from Argentina; and the visiting flavor of the month professional couple completed the ambiance. It was a pleasant night out in the world of the tango, a place to sit and eat dinner, have a few drinks, talk with our New York friends, dance a few tangos – you know, the kind of place where everybody knows your name.
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As the show got underway, a ripple of excitement went through this very experienced audience as two young dancers from Buenos Aires were announced. In true tango world fashion, only first names were offered: Leandro and Andrea. They were going to dance to the music of Angel D’Agostino’s version of Cafe Dominguez. Two very young looking slim dancers held the audience spellbound as they interpreted the music in an entirely fresh, but authentic way. Lots of sighs from the women in the audience as they coveted Andrea’s precise, pretty and musical footwork. Lots of sighs from the women as they drank in the perfect face of Leandro and the way he lovingly and generously partnered his Andrea. Lots of pride in the eyes of the men as they watched this young man execute fantastic figures, combining the speed of youth with the maturity of someone who might have been dancing for thirty or forty years.

And then it was over, and in the din of the very enthusiastic applause, we asked a table mate “WHO are they? Are they a new couple in Forever Tango?” The reply was that they were just a couple of kids from Buenos Aires trying their luck on the teaching circuit. We can’t even remember if we had the chance to say hello to them that night and congratulate them. But they made a strong impression on us.

A year or so later we were invited to do an exhibition at Matej Oresic’s Tango Generations Weekend event in Ithaca, New York. New York teachers Danel and Maria, Buenos Aires milonguero Toto Faraldo, and “those kids” from Buenos Aires, Leandro and Andrea where the teachers representing the various Tango generations for a weekend of workshops. It was December 1997. We rode the bus from New York City and arrived in a flurry of fairy tale snowflakes to a snow covered Ithaca.

The workshops were almost over for the day, so after the various introductions, our lovely house hosts whisked us away to a group dinner and then home to change for the night’s gala milonga and exhibitions.

The next day we attended the workshops: first an excellent Vals workshop with Danel & Maria. Then we took an authentic milonga workshop with Toto Faraldo, with Andrea assisting and translating for him. Finally, we participated in Leandro and Andrea’s Tango class.

We really appreciated the way they ran their class. They were organized; they presented fundamentals in a fresh and fun way; they were caring and attentive to everyone in the class; they spoke perfect and fluent English. The weekend was over before it began, and the last meals were shared, the last dances danced, the good-byes said. We both agreed to keep “those kids” in mind for future projects.

Fast forward to Summer 1998. Final plans were in motion for our Labor Day Tango Getaway in Reno. A disappointing glitch occurred regarding one of the couples we had initially invited. We needed another couple to fill the position. We contacted “those kids” in hopes that they would be available.

Those who went to Reno know that the connection was successful. So now we all knew that Andrea Misse and Leandro Palou were professional dancers and teachers.

They both began dancing tango at a very young age, Leandro at 14 and Andrea at 11. Before that, Leandro studied acting for five years and Andrea studied Argentine folklore dances, appearing in many performances and television specials in Buenos Aires. Andrea began her tango studies with Carlos Rivarola, one of the stars of “Tango Argentino.” She studied for several years with Miguel Angel Zotto (Tango X 2) and later with Osvaldo Zotto and Antonio Todaro, considered by many to be the greatest teacher of tango choreography of all time. Leandro also studied with Miguel Zotto and with numerous milongueros. Leandro and Andrea’s partnership began in 1995.

They danced with the Color Tango Orchestra and toured in the show Milonga Boulevard. They presented successful workshops on both the East and West coasts of the USA, and also in Europe. As well as being a top rated professional dancer and Andrea had her degree in simultaneous translation.

They had a true and unique philosophy of Argentine Tango being danced as a fifty-fifty proposition for the man and the woman. Andrea had been in the presence of many important teachers and dancers, but she felt that something was lacking in the information provided for the woman dancer. She took it upon herself to investigate a system of techniques that enable the woman to create a beautiful head to toe body line, to be completely responsive to la marca, and create the possibilities for musical interpretation through embellishment. One of the teachers of technique that she greatly admired and appreciated was Graciela Gonzalez.

Andrea with Leandro dance to La bordona at the 1998 Labor Day Weekend Tango Getaway in Reno, Nevada
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Standing (l to r), Daniela Arcuri, Armando Orzuza, Andrea Misse and Leandro Palou
In front (l to r), Maida Zanaboni, Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart at the 1998 Labor Day Weekend Tango Getaway in Reno, Nevada
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To compliment Andrea’s approach for the woman, Leandro had developed a series of men’s techniques that also stressed the importance of body alignment and balance. He taught the men clearly and easily to mark the woman’s steps in a precise, understandable and generous way that allows her the time and the option to simultaneously interpret the music along with him. For him, this is the way to dance with the woman, which he contended is the reason men want to dance tango in the first place.

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Curtain call at the 1998 Labor Day Weekend Tango Getaway in Reno, Nevada
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Both young, but already world famous and acclaimed teachers from Buenos Aires, Leandro and Andrea teach in the tradition of best teachers from the Golden age. They remain faithful to and teach Tango de Salon, the most elegant style of tango dancing.

In 2005 Andrea became the professional partner of Javier Rodriguez and together they traveled all over the world with great success. In 2008 she and her husband Diego Hernán Gienex were blessed with the birth of Guadalupe. Her daughter and her husband both survived the crash that took the life of one of the most exquisite tango dancers of the new generation.

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Posted January 2, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in IN MEMORY OF

People doing some things right   Leave a comment

People doing some things right

By Alberto Paz
July/August 1997

There is a school of thought that encourages people who are in a position to motivate and encourage others, to make a point of trying to catch others doing something right. I’m reminded of this because there was a time when I needed the reassurance of being able to do some things right in order to survive. I think I did, survive I mean, as a matter of fact sometimes I feel like I was born again, religious pun intended. But then, feeling inebriated by the experience of dancing Argentine tango is as close as a religious experience as one can live without having to forgo ten percent of your income to support the leaders of a religious organization, who, by the way, make a point to catch you doing something wrong all the time. No wonder most people wait till they die in order to find peace and joy in paradise.

I found my paradise in San Francisco, the city by the Bay where visitors leave their hearts. It was seven years ago at a dance studio perched on the first floor of a movie house. What is beautiful about our image of paradise is that it is run by angels, creatures who by the nature of their job description find it natural to catch people doing some things right. When tango dancing was for me as far fetched as white water rafting down the Colorado river, some angels held my arms and walked around the floor with me finding ways to catch me doing some things right

MARY

Three of them had names like Elaine, Frankie and Mary. Because of their gracious and generous acts of kindness, I learned not to make excuses for my precarious balance or my occasional bad posture by blaming it on the other person.

I have not thanked them enough, I know, and now one of those angels just passed away. I don’t know if I’m mad because Mary missed our Saturday night milonga or because she chose to go to the big milonga in the clouds. Now, she is not coming back, she’s gone forever and now every time I hear La Cumparsita, I’ll turn around hoping to see Mary and Hector Villalba jamming it like they’ve done it many times while Emilio Flores waits his turn on the sidelines to do the same. You may wonder why I’m writing people you probably don’t know. You see, they are (Mary was) tango friends, the kind you encounter every week at the local milonga, the ones that’ll show up every time we give a party or have guests from out of town, the ones we can count on anytime we need them. This is an aspect of the tango that escapes those who because of their selfish, rude and vulgar behavior find themselves trying to catch people doing something wrong or they act wrong themselves creating bad vibes among the people in order to get ahead.

When we begin to realize that our goal is not to avoid being caught doing something wrong but to work hard and play harder to create enough situations where others may catch us doing some things right, great things can happen. Like the fabulous party for the people of Tango Libertad, planned, produced and executed with success in mind, or the Welcome to Stanford milonga that brought many members of the tango community together to celebrate the joy and passion of the tango. We’ll miss Mary, because she liked to party. We pray for her soul to rest in peace and we hope her feet will be eternally drawing pretty firuletes on the clouds. And every now and then when they play La Cumparsita, I’ll hope her soul inspires us to continue looking forward to catch people doing some things right.

Posted December 30, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in Tangazos

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Good morning America   Leave a comment

Good morning America

By Alberto Paz
September 1997

The exaggerated boasting of some returning travelers and the generous eagerness of foreign visitors have created in the otherwise private environment where thousands of Argentines cultivate the social art of tango dancing in Buenos Aires, the perception that the world out there can’t have enough of Argentine tango dancers. The sudden explosion of the Argentine tango around the world has shaken the fundamental essence of the personal interrelation of a man and a woman engaged in a sensual embrace enjoying the beat and the melody of one of the thousands of tangos written so they could be appreciated on the dance floor. The success of Forever Tango and Tango x 2, two critically acclaimed stage shows, has captured the imagination of many people and inspired others to consider tango dancing. Unfortunately, these shows and the ones tourists catch in Buenos Aires, do not have disclaimers that say, “warning, the performers on stage are professionals and they have trained for years to execute the breathtaking choreography you are watching. Please do not attempt to imitate, emulate or try these stunts at home.”

Occasionally unscrupulous performers may hustle students by showing off at a local milonga, however, show dancers in Buenos Aires show up at the milongas to dance with that unmistakable look and feel of the well known and the not so well known Argentinos who dance every beat and every silence of the music with understated simplicity. While traveling abroad these professionals occupy their free time taking ballet or modern dance classes, they go to the gym to stay in shape, they attend yoga classes, they shop and above all, they rehearse every day to be ready to deliver every night a top notch performance. Many who have enjoyed and loved these performances, appreciate the work ethics and the social manners of the talented show dancers. They also value the increased awareness for the tango these shows create. Yet, in some American cities some aggressive women and some insensitive men lie to themselves by professing a passion for the dance and a religious admiration for that unmistakable look and feel of the Argentinos who dance on the floor. Then they fall for the latest fad, they “ooh-and-aah” at the latest contraption that hits the dance floor and they enact their denial by becoming amateur performers on the social floor.

This can be very intimidating for those who feel the attraction for the dance at the social level, and annoying for those who are working hard on learning the techniques and methods to circulate on the dance floor; to develop a good and comfortable posture; to feel the floor under their feet; to attempt to master the art of improvisation; above all to care and mind the person they are holding in their arms. These are the people who are missed the most when they decide to stay home. These are the people who form the core of the most enjoyable milongas and the ones who deserve the best music, the best teachers, and the best dance floors. The one who appreciate the best information and earn our deepest gratitude for keeping the tradition alive and letting the tango change their lives without pretending to change the tango.

When they go, it’ll be time to turn the lights off. Then across America we will have more “legends” and “world’s most popular” hustlers encouraging an uptight and repressed society to become tango hot dogs. Please, pass the mustard…

Reasons to be thankful   Leave a comment

Reasons to be thankful

By Alberto Paz
November 1997

November is turning out to be a banner month for Argentine tango in this country. Take for example the successful run of Forever Tango on Broadway which has already been extended until March 1998. Or look at the sensational US Tour of Tango x 2 through many cities across the nation crowned by a first class stop in New York City for the US premiere of Una Noche de Tango, a brilliant production that pays homage to the generation of milongueros that kept the tango alive through years of fierce competition with rock and roll and a frail economy that almost brought Argentina to its knees.
This month a constellation of Tango dance stars are shining bright in the USA tango firmament. Add to that the opening of Sally Potter’s The Tango Lesson starring Pablo Veron, Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas, Carlos Copello and Alicia Monti, and the soon to be released documentary Tango: the Obsession by Adam Boucher, a young San Franciscan who spent two and half years capturing the sights and sounds of the men and women of Buenos Aires tango.

That’s plentiful enough to be thankful for when the turkey comes to the table at dinner on Thanksgiving day.

But, in terms of giving thanks, nothing comes first but our own deepest and heartfelt appreciation to you, who subscribe to our passion and who share our emotions. Month to month, without realizing it, we have crossed the three year mark and we are already one fourth of the way to our fourth anniversary of publication. It all happened because of you, who grew fond of El Firulete, (sometimes you may have gotten jilted by controversy and heated debate, but you recognized our commitment to excellence). In either case, with your support you told us to keep it up, you praised our work many times, you supported our events, and above all you opened your arms to us on every occasion that we had the chance to see each other.

So it is proper and fulfilling to say “thanks” to you.

This is also a good time to thank all of those who have provided a place so we could all dance and to those who played the music while we danced. Thanks to those who danced with us and to those who danced for us and to those for whom we danced.

This issue is very special because it came about across three time zones, from the sunny Golden State to the nippy North East. We are always obsessed with and dedicated to the tango and everything that, and everyone who surrounds it. We believe that the Argentine tango is a living experience and that both young and old have something to contribute. Wherever you might be, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and many good tangos to you and those with whom you share them.

Just Call Me Charlie   Leave a comment

Just Call Me Charlie

By Alberto Paz
December 1997

A nation that lacks legends, said a poet, is condemned to freeze to death. It is arguably possible. But the populace that lacks myths would be dead already.

December is the month anniversary of Carlos Gardel’s birth. Since orchestra leader Julio De Caro also was born on the same day of the same month albeit in different years, the Republic of Argentina declared a few years ago, December 11 as the National Day of Tango.

The only memories of a snow fall in Buenos Aires date back to 1918 and 1955, that is why poet Raul Gonzalez Tuñon once wrote about Gardel, “nobody has surpassed his touching voice, on the face of a record or in the rose of the air. Perhaps, when the snow falls again over our city, another voice may come close to match his“. Betty, Julie, Mary and Peggy loved his voice. They were the blondes of New York, “delicious perfumed creatures” kissing Carlos with their “pretty painted lips as if they were fragile pleasure dolls“, in a scene of El Tango en Broadway filmed in 1934. A year later Gardel burned among charred metal on the tarmac of Medellin, Colombia’s airport.

Many believe that when he died the myth was born. Of five Argentine myths (presidents Yrigoyen and Peron, Eva Peron, Diego Maradona and Carlos Gardel), only the latter has been accepted by all levels of society. While the errors of the other four were never forgiven and their lives have been questioned and defamed suffering the consequences of political hatred, antagonistic rancor and class discrimination, all is forgiven of Gardel. Writer Horacio Salas points out that “in the same way that nobody in his/her right mind would dare criticize the chromatic qualities of the flag or the literary deficiencies of the National Anthem, the cult of Gardel has elevated him to that same plateau“.

In many ways the myth of Gardel identifies the common people of Argentina’s middle class, sons and daughters of immigration. Gardel is the man who made it to the top. He arrived. He conquered. All this in spite of an obscure past and an almost impossible to trace heritage. The second wave of immigrants in Buenos Aires totally identified with the French immigrant who grew up in a conventillo, who experienced segregation, poverty and lack of shelter like those who had to start from the very bottom of the pit in a foreign environment and without a father figure. Through his voice, Gardel went beyond the meager horizon of the slums to become the symbol of the tango song, first in the City of Lights and finally all throughout North and South America.

When Gardel sings, and he does it better every day, the dancers stop because The Voice is reminiscent of joy, The Voice is the wail that announces the miracle of a new life arriving to this world. Gardel is born again in the soul of every Argentine that is far removed from the source. Because Gardel is a winning attitude, a posture of arrogance and conquest. Because he has elegance and class, with an irresistible smile, a slick hairdo, shiny shoes and an impeccable wardrobe.

Women loved Gardel, but he never tied the knot, playing the myth and the legend to the end. He was the eternal groom only married to his singing the way a priest marries his religion. He created the ethereal fantasy for the women who fantasize about the day when the idol will become Prince Charming and make their dreams come true.

Witnessing the first snow fall of the season through the window of a high-rise apartment in New York City, the twilight had overcome the first flurries of snow; its gray tones were now pierced by a thousand points of light. Soon the city would get ready for another night of tango on Broadway, an experience that seemed to last forever. As the snow continued to fall, I headed for the milonga. Nobody noticed when I walked into the hall carrying Carlitos in my heart. They might have thought that it showed that I was a porteño by the way I moved and walked. And when Robin, Jane, Valorie or any other New York blonde asked me who I was, I flashed a big smile and coyly whispered in their ears, “just call me Carlitos, darling, Charlie if you wish…

RUBIAS DE NUEVA YORK

Earning Our Daily Tangos   Leave a comment

Earning Our Daily Tangos

By Alberto Paz
September/October 1998

Time flies when you are having fun. Far removed from the stereotypes and clichés that the Argentine tango seems to induce when we first become aware of its existence, learning to retrain our bodies and finding out more about our inner souls, brings about a change in the way we conduct ourselves and the way we restructure our lives. That is, if we are willing to change and assume the new found responsibility of taking care of ourselves in ways that perhaps we never thought of.

For the second year in a row, the Labor Day Weekend in Reno, Nevada proved to be the pinnacle of our yearly efforts. That is the time of the year when we engage ourselves with a special group of friends for a weekend long of enjoyment of the tango experience. New ideas flow freely, old and new concepts are put under scrutiny, a fraternal spirit rolls in like a shroud of mystical fog in the middle of a serene ocean. It is like being invited to a major premiere and finding out that you are in it.

Soon after that, we embarked on another first time experience. Teaching our dance in paradise. The mere mention of Hawaii in connection with tango tends to make people smile with a “how lucky can you get” look, followed by an accomplice wink that presumes the making of a curro, the lunfardo equivalent of a con job that Buenos Aires journalists are using to describe the plane loads of “tango experts” and “movie stars” that are being auctioned around the country as the second coming of El cachafaz.

Indeed we got very lucky because soon after our arrival we met a group of dedicated tango dancers who weekly give up their God given right to sip Mai Tais on the beach, to dress in regulation tango black and put their bodies through the motions of salidas and cruzadas. Returning from ten days in Honolulu without a trace of suntan gave a better insight of understanding how committed a pig really is to the making of the ham that goes along with the eggs for breakfast.

It also gave a newer sense of respect for the people who want to learn to dance tango. That sense grew further when we went back to Troy, Michigan and then visited Cleveland, Ohio for the first time. No matter the color of their skins, the accent of their voices, the shapes of their bodies or the level of their education, we met some of the most wonderful individuals and we connected with everyone of them at the intellectual and emotional levels. In some cases it was very humbling to be treated as the cable repairman on a deserted island. It has added more weight to our sense of responsibility to continue bringing to you an honest and fair proposition.

We consider it a privilege sharing our personal experience, our love for the tango, and the teachings of the great masters passed along from Petroleo to Mingo to ourselves and to our friends. Nothing new, just the facts, the empowering thrill of knowledge, the good old time religion tenet of earning our daily tango with the sweat of our feet.

Contradictions and frustrations   Leave a comment

Contradictions and frustrations

By Alberto Paz
August 1998

Many things about tango and the underlying contradictions of the porteños are paradoxical and they can lead to frustration if we approach them with the bias of not accepting possibly complex codes of a culture that they themselves are still trying to understand. It is the educated guess of people who have taken an interest in trying to demystify the dense layers that surround the history of the tango, that the dance evolved over a long period of time. Primarily, people from the lower social strata, more precisely males with plenty of idle time on their hands, found cheap thrills dancing in a different, mocking way, the dances that were typically danced in the society halls and upper class residences of Buenos Aires.

Looking at this vignette could lead to thinking that those who mock the Argentine tango dance by introducing “dialogs, conversations” and the juxtaposition of calisthenics against any kind of music, may be the avant garde leaders of the new Tango of the ‘90s. Ha!

The guys who danced among each other in times so early that no accurate historical fact can be found, were rogues, scoundrels, rascals, low life who danced with each other to show skill, deftness, dexterity, prowess, who used the primitive forms of the tango as a renewed game of “mine is bigger than yours”. Dancing among men on the street corners of tough Buenos Aires neighborhoods was tantamount to the display of dare and bravado that goes on between gang members in large cities across the United States today. As the city population began to sprawl and the newer generations of immigrants began to send their children to school, the incipient concept of law and order being good for business forced the authorities to ban those street dances because of their rowdiness and the bad element that they attracted.

Dancing moved into the houses of ill repute as it continued its development as a show of virility and a form of entertainment that marked the beginning of a form of tango that has defied the pass of time and the changing times in which we live. Men and women embraced to meditate about their individual solitude and metaphysics to the sounds of their city arranged in a beat of 2×4 first and 4×4 much later.

For a while, most men gathered to show each other their skills and pass along the growing knowledge in a quest to always be the best, to be admired, to be wanted, to be considered beyond suspicion as a winner. Those who had a steady job, an education, a functional family, learned to dance with older uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters.

Men have not danced together or practiced in seedy bars for over half a century. As the progress changed the cobblestone streets of the barrios into multiple lanes avenues, equality for men and women became an issue, a militancy, a welcome reality that recognizes the values and virtues of human beings regardless of their gender. Today, both men and women have equal access to practice and classes. They both assume a shared responsibility for the quality of the dance. Trying to spin doctor one hundred year old fairy tales to justify the cult of mockery is to take away from meeting the challenge.