Archive for the ‘argentine tango’ Tag

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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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.

Summertime blues   Leave a comment

Summertime blues

By Alberto Paz
July 1998

Growing up in Buenos Aires, one gets used to the onset of winter during the month of July. The days are gray, the wind is unrelenting and the consumption of cold medicine becomes a national pastime. Winter is very cruel on the poor and destitute. As cruel as the catchy slogan “we have to make it through Winter,” coined during one of the many economical crisis that the people of Argentina had to endure, by a government official nicknamed The Pig by the people.

Our vision of the world and the life we live is acutely shaped by the amenities of the parental bubble in which we bloom from helpless little “stinkers” to fearless wanderers of a future we hardly know. For years after I left my parents’ home and the neighborhood where I grew up, I kept looking forward to September as a sign that another Winter had gone by and everyone I loved and cared for, had made it through alive and well.

Then July became an inconsequential month of Summer up until three years ago when the curiosity for finding out what people did for five consecutive days, eight hours a day during a Tango Week, became a self-indulgent vacation which I allowed myself to take in the wake of the most difficult period of my life. In an incredible turn of events my life changed, better yet, I found my life. I tore up the psychological mortgage that had burdened an existence molded under the prejudices of the past. In the process, new friends and relationships enhanced a new found purpose for living.

Amid the renewal of old friendships and the making of new ones, this July became once more a joyful time to celebrate the joy and passion of the Argentine tango, to discuss the pros and cons of interactive lead and follow and to ponder whether it is important in tango to tell the boys from the girls.

Then suddenly, the grim ghost of a faraway Winter chilled the air with the incomprehensible news of my mother’s death. Her eyes closed for the last time and the world kept on going. Like in every aspect of our life, somebody, somewhere, sometime had expressed what it feels like when such a loss occurs; more than ever I felt fortunate to know that somewhere in Buenos Aires somebody was a tango poet, and sometime in the past he wrote the words to songs that became the lullabies my mother hummed to cradle her little boy to sleep. But I did not grab the guitar and start singing “my poor dear mother, how many headaches I gave her,” nor did I feel compelled to sing how sorry I was for going away to live my life. Instead, I listened to many of the tunes she used to hum. I tried to bring to mind the time when we danced a tango, when I didn’t have a clue and I couldn’t even begin to imagine that forty some years in the future, dancing tango would be a way of life for me. She couldn’t understand it a year ago. Like most parents from her time she thought of tango as the gate to the wrong life. But I know that she could sense that she’d never seen me as happy as I am.

I don’t quite know how to handle the sudden blues that summer time has brought, but those who showed their sympathy and gave me a hug, have made me think that when it is too late to say the words we could’ve said and there is nothing else to give, all that is left, is to let the tears flow.

A time for recognition   Leave a comment

A time for recognition

By Alberto Paz
June 1998

We have become so enthralled with everything that publicizes and promotes the Argentine Tango to the general public that we have failed to pay attention to a very damaging flaw on the spin that is being placed on the description of the dance for the general audience.

Luis Bravo’s Forever Tango recent appearance at AN EVENING AT POPS, at Symphony Hall in Boston was a major achievement. Now, in anticipation of the national broadcast of the program, we read that born in the bars and bordellos of Argentina a century ago, the tango is described by show creator Bravo as “a way of life.”

Given the exotic appeal of the dance, it would be easy to infer that tango as a way of life means to act and behave like pimps, johns and prostitutes. Sadly, some do; poignantly, a notorious few carry out the beguiling practice of sleeping their way to dubious fame with every willing visitor traveling under the guise of a tango personality, regardless of their age.

This notoriety is so unfair for the thousands of respectable, distinguished and passionate men and women who, every day in every city, embrace with respect, affection and enjoyment the ritual of tango dancing. They are, for all practical purposes, responsible for the huge success that the Argentine tango is enjoying worldwide. They take classes, buy videos and CDs, attend workshops, travel to tango events and support all activities that heighten the awareness of the tango to wider sectors of our society. Remarkably they do it unassumingly, with the conviction of a true believer.

Unfortunately, sex sells even if it is gift wrapped under the seductiveness of an exotic dance and the promise of the ultimate experience. That is the price that a free society has to afford in order to enjoy many other freedoms and choices. I suggest that a cancer survives when it finds cells unaware of the ravishing consequences of its power of destruction. The magnificent body that constitutes a tango community needs to exercise its choice to reject the pernicious elements who debase the beauty and charm of the milonga as a pleasurable place for social encounter and gratification.

Luis Bravo and Forever Tango, who over the past few years have provided employment for hundreds of dancers, musicians, technicians and personnel of all ages, while offering a product of the highest quality, deserve the recognition and accolades that the critics and public have bestowed upon them, not because some like to portray them as promoters of low life bordello stereotypes, but because of their sheer talent, impeccable work ethics and relentless pursuit of excellence in the delivery of a production of the highest quality. They deserve our loudest cheers and applause.

The time for recognition and appreciation for the countless young men and women, middle-age housemates and incredibly youthful grand parents from our tango communities, who open their arms and hearts to give us many very special “three minutes” of elegance, poise, and charm in a setting of decor and respect, is also largely overdue.

Tango Browsing and Dancing Modems   Leave a comment

Tango Browsing and Dancing Modems

By Alberto Paz
May 1998

I always find it rewarding when friends show a genuine interest in what is underneath the unexplainable attraction we feel towards the Argentine tango. And I mean not just the dance but the music, the poetry and all the accumulated life experiences of men and women who never imagined that their popular cultural expressions would prove Borges wrong, and instead of being relegated to being museum pieces, they would occupy a very important aspect in the lives of thousands of people around the world.

It happened on one of those overcast mornings when class was ending. Curiosity may have caused somebody to poke around the CD pile and fate did the rest. Suddenly it was the voice of Carlos Dante asking where was she going wearing a shawl from Manila, where was she going wearing such a pretty costume…? and the unmistakable sound of the Alfredo De Angelis orchestra. The tango is called Carnaval and deals with the ingratitude of someone who quickly forgot friends and loved ones after finding a wealthier companion. My late father used to sing it all the time. I guess it was very popular at the time. As a matter of fact De Angelis is credited by many as being indirectly responsible for their conception.

Yes, in the late forties and early fifties, the neighborhood clubs, especially at carnaval time, were the place for boys and girls to meet and flirt. The setting was a huge gymnasium dressed for the occasion with festive decorations. The music was equal shares of tango and jazz. The orchestra of Alfredo De Angelis with the voices of Julio Martel and Carlos Dante was hot, and people traveled just to dance to their music. Much later when the budding carnaval romances ended up in marriage, countless love makings and conceptions took place while De Angelis was playing on the radio. Now the imagery pops in living color and full of emotion..

A gray winter afternoon in Buenos Aires, the long bus ride sitting next to dad. Dusk is settling in. Calle Corrientes wakes up with a big yawn of noises and neon. Calle Florida is busy carrying serious men and women back and forth. Calle Maipu 555, Radio El Mundo, El Glostora Tango Club, Alfredo De Angelis, La pastora and her tra-la-ra-la-ra!

If it is true that in our mind we keep a record of every feeling and emotion we have experienced from the day that we were born, I must have run into some very old recordings which I did not even know I had. What is so great about these recordings is that they are stored with sound, images, feelings and emotions. Yes, a mind boggling piece of biological engineering, the kind of browser not even Bill Gates can figure out. Not that engineers and scientists have not attempted to rationalize feelings and emotions. Just listen in on any tango chats on the Internet. Well, maybe don’t, because you too may be tempted to become a tango browser and start dancing by modem.

Winds of change   Leave a comment

Winds of change

By Alberto Paz
March 1998

The Argentine tango has always been a reflection of the people who created it. This is not to say that the music and the way we dance today has any resemblance with the typical inhabitant of Buenos Aires during the last decade of the 19th century. Every time we spend a couple of hours at a milonga, we are moving back and forth in time, according to the mood and inspiration of the volunteer with the laptop and the time to run the music. As Pugliese is mixed with Canaro, D’Arienzo, De Caro, Troilo and Tanturi, we are unaware that we are zapping through a rich history of the music, the dance, the social values and the idiosyncrasies of several generations of porteños, the people of Buenos Aires, who as they undergo generation changes, reflect those changes in the tango.

The longevity of the tango and its resilience are founded in the respect and veneration with which Argentinos see aging. As children, they love and are loved by their parents and grandparents. As teenagers they learn to love and be loved by their parents and peers. As adults they love their children and their parents and each other. As they reach their senior years they love life and everything it brings to them every day.

That love is balanced by respect, tolerance, generosity and patience. They let life run its course as they first crawl, then walk and finally run. There is a lot of philosophy behind all this and most of it is reflected in the music, lyrics and dance of the Argentine tango.

The backbone of the Argentine tango is the connection that exists between generations, adults and children living in the same world, basking in the same sun and quivering in the cold of the same night. Staying involved forever, and greeting the presence of those who sit around the table every day and mourning the absence of those who have departed. Children don’t get kicked out when they begin to turn into young men and women. In turn, when they become adults, they don’t get rid of aging parents and grandparents. It is a very profound commitment that enhances the quality of life and as a side benefit it allows an orderly transition between generations.

This may clash against the beliefs of the politically correct crowd that fears to utter words like man and woman. Instead they neutralize the human connection required in the tango by calling each other “leads” and “follows.” They desensitize the intense passion that men and women bring into life and that are the key ingredients for the ritual of the dance. This attracts wolves wearing lamb overcoats, who aim to divide in order to satisfy their egos. Our communities suffer.

We are now well into the beginning of a new 40 year cycle for the Argentine tango. Where it will take us, we don’t know. What the renovation brings us, we don’t know. How we’ll dance the tango in the years ahead, we don’t know. Luckily, we are living the process instead of recanting it.

The tip of the iceberg   Leave a comment

The tip of the iceberg

By Alberto Paz
February 1998

Like an unsinkable gigantic vessel steaming across the waters of an inexorable destiny, some people’s lives proceed night after night with a certain degree of complacency, trusting that the sun will rise again and another day will soon be past.

Suddenly those lives unexpectedly take a hit and a flood of shivering emotions begins to inundate their innermost feelings. Dumbfounded by the experience, they begin to sink into a gorge of sounds and silence. The next day someone may notice that these people have been hit by the tango and have sunk into a deep ocean, their bodies held in close embrace, sort of a dancing ritual done to the sound of wailing instruments. And that tango was just the tip of an iceberg, the visual experience projected perhaps from a stage or from a movie screen.

Below the surface, the Argentine tango’s massive structure widens into an enormous density of musical, poetic and traditional values that only those, who sink deeper below the surface than the dance presents, can appreciate and enjoy.

Take for example the tango lyrics. They have chronicled periods of time along the base line of evolution of a city and its inhabitants. In general, the Tango lyrics as a whole, have roots in a medieval Christian concept where the female of the species is seen as a demon-sent emissary whose purpose is to incite the men to sin in sexual ways. This resulted in an antagonistic conception of the human roles where the immoral female disdained and disregarded the male efforts and betrayed him through infidelity.

After 1910, the lyrics began to show some tolerance, comprehension and even justification for the shortcomings of the females. Gradually, as the medieval roots began to disappear, the males began to accept the sexual activities of the females as a result of their need to participate in them on demand, especially if their need was strictly physiological.

By 1920, the male writers and singers were reflecting a certain lack of interest in spiritual and material self-improvement as a result of an economical, social and political set of conditions established by a capitalistic society where the distribution of wealth was limited to a privileged few, who in the Tango sense, used their power to lure decent women from their humble abodes into a life of sin and excesses.

Along the way, the tango lyrics have casually been labeled sad and summarily dismissed as interfering with our dancing joy. Perhaps, remembering that one can only see the tip of an iceberg, we could acknowledge what most historians have said, and that is, that the tango lyrics as a whole, are a condemnation by the working class, of the ethical, judicial, religious, cultural and political norms and canons of a bourgeoisie society.

Fortunately, a renewed effort is underway to disseminate and publicize the contents of tango lyrics as a way to understand more and more that flood of shivering emotions that inundates our innermost feelings when we dance a tango.

The gift of tango   Leave a comment

Summer vocation

By Alberto Paz
October/November 1999

Standing in the living room, we formed a circle and held hands. One by one we introduced ourselves. Some came from Texas, others from Chicago. Then there were the hosts, the family who owned the farm surrounding the home where the ritual was taking place. We were from California, and the words “traveling tango teachers” sounded awkward and somehow out of context with the spirit of the moment. Suddenly, and all at once, they began to sing a harmonious hymn that filled the room with sounds of purity, love and a heartfelt appreciation for the joy of being alive, surrounded by friends and family. Then, we sat down at the dinner table and celebrated Thanksgiving in the heartland of America.

We’ve been traveling quite a lot embracing our chosen vocation of preserving and fostering the development of new and established Argentine tango communities. We bring along our passionate love and dedication for the music, poetry and dance, empowering the force of knowledge to free the minds, to encourage the bodies to accept the closeness of other bodies for engaging in enjoyment of the music and joyful sharing of the dance. Returning to places we have been, where the Argentine tango already has a established presence, we have also discovered new fledgling hamlets. There, the desire to dance the tango is only surpassed by the energy and passion with which the people go out of their way to reach out, grasping as much tango as is humanly possible.

In retrospect, our intuition, our confidence and our faith in people has allowed us to establish a presence for the tango as far north as the city of Anchorage in Alaska, and as deep in the south as the city of New Orleans. Along the way, we met great people in Winnipeg, Canada, and found ourselves a family in the heartland of America. So, when Thanksgiving caught us wandering through the prairie, we never felt away from home. We never paused to question what does a traveling tango teacher do when the moan of the bandoneon and the whine of the violin, are replaced by the call of the turkey on Thanksgiving day .

We found ourselves holding hands with our new friends and their families, saying grace and feeling thankful that our lives are so blessed with the gift of tango. We are thankful for the possibility of sharing that gift with warm, gentle, generous and caring human beings who had morphed from total strangers to affectionate friends in the brief time it takes to embrace and walk a few times around the dance floor.

This is the kind of rewarding experience that reminds us about the quality of life that Argentine tango can bring to those who dare to be close. There is nothing like the shared intimacy of a sound, a scent, a gesture, a look, a smile, a tear. Intense moments that soothe the soul, energize the heart and make us feel alive, vibrant, inspired, and above all thankful. We have connected, we have made an everlasting impression, and there is a part of us that forever will be special. Step by step we keep navigating the dance floor of life. As we go around, there is always something or somebody who reminds us how important it is to be at peace with ourselves, to give each other the gift of tango, to hold hands, to embrace, to love the music, to absorb the culture, to teach by learning and to learn by teaching.