Archive for the ‘Milongueros’ Tag

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.
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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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NEVER MET A COMPADRITO   Leave a comment

There isn’t a single person alive who had a glimpse of what “compadritos” looked like or whether they were good dancers or not. That’s why any reference to the dancing of the “compadritos” (it is implied that the compadritos only danced tangos) is full of smoke and not supported by any verifiable evidence. As a matter of fact there is enough pseudo historical information that raises suspicions about the sexual orientation of the so called “compadritos.”

Unfortunately most of the published material from the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century is tainted with a conservative racist bias that represented the ruling elite of the Buenos Aires society. Conservative racism always suspects, demonizes and blames those who act or look different. Buenos Aires from 1880 on had enough diversity from poor European immigrants, disenfranchised blacks, and segregated homosexuals, to inspire volumes and volumes of descriptive pseudo history which some have used to institutionalize stereotypes.

My parents, and their parents were not “compadritos.” They never saw a “compadrito,” and neither did I.

My dad was born in 1911 and my mom in 1925. My dad became an adult in 1929 just a year before the second term of the first president elected under universal (male) suffrage came to an abrupt end by the first military coup since the adoption of the Argentine constitution. My mother was still a teenager around 1938, just about the time Radio El Mundo hired the Juan D’Arienzo orchestra for its weekly live tango broadcasts. For those who openly hate the traditional tango music, D’Arienzo took the music written between 1900 and 1910 and created new arrangements adding speed, rhythm and sonority.

The carnival season of 1938 is considered the moment in time and history that the golden years began. Having enjoyed the radio programs featuring live orchestras, in particular the new sound proposed by Juan D’Arienzo, people came out by the thousands to listen and dance to Juan D’Arienzo, Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli and Francisco Canaro, among the many orchestras featured at the carnival dances in clubs all over the city both sides of the Avenida General Paz.

That is the period when the tango we all dance today was initially created. The moment when the renovated rhythm of D’Arienzo opened the doors to a level of creativity unmatched in the evolution of the dance. The core ingredient of the tango that ruled the golden years was based on the structure of turns, the incorporation of women into the chemistry of the dance, and the concept of improvisation as dictated by the dynamic of the crowded dance floors.

The younger generation began to have an easier access to the dance floors, hiding behind the carnival masks, and taking advantage of the looser codes that the festive season allowed. There has never been any doubt though, that the tango is a dance for adults, and the primary motive for men to care about their grooming and their skills, was to conquer a woman. Women knew that and they had the added benefit of being choosers rather than beggars. From the get go, the intrinsic philosophy and purpose of the tango dance was to seduce and conquer. A very human act at a very special moment in time.

Many families got their start on the dance floors, and many milongueros left the dance floors once they got married and had to rise a family. During their waning years, widowed or divorced, many returned to the milongas, to relish on the rituals of hoping to take someone home at the end of the night.
There is no evidence that any “milonguero” ever got their dreams fulfilled, but until their deaths, they kept coming night after night hoping to get the Hawaiian greeting.

That’s what tango is all about in a nut shell.

Posted May 23, 2010 by Alberto & Valorie in ESSAYS

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