Archive for the ‘Pablo Veron’ Tag

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.


A table at a coffee shop seems the ideal place to solve the problems of the world, to catch up with the latest gossip and to passionately chat about The Tango Lesson; after all who better than those who have had their share of tango lessons to Siskel-and Ebert Sally Potter’s dream come through.

Dick saw it in Sweden and can’t stop talking about the tango valseado that Pablo and Sally did by the Seine, reminiscent of an unforgettable scene from An American in Paris.

Samantha was at the showing of the movie at the Venice Festival and now laughs at her emotional outburst of contempt for what she considered an arrogant attempt by Sally Potter to portray her movie as a love story. That’s not how love stories go on the dance floor, she wrote in a letter to the editor of an Italian newspaper, but then she reasons, not every fifty something Brit lady gets the chance to do a movie about tango and makes it look like half way decent. At best they get to start a war in the Islas Malvinas or to be featured in a Monty Python film.

Another round of cappuccinos, cafe lattes and Kalua makes its way to the table. The perky waitress has caught up with the conversation and she is eyeballing Jake Manzana who looks dapper in his blue blazer and gray flannel pants. He’s quick to say that the Tango Lesson is the kind of outing to which I could bring a date without fear of getting her bored. “Perky” bends over the table and gives Jake two good reasons to make him stare at her for a moment before he turns his head and gazes at the rain falling beyond the windows of the cafe.

She’d love to learn the tango and a flurry of business cards fall on her tray. Best tips she ever had…

Woody snaps, I guess the special effects budget ran short because in the scene where they dance a milonga in the rain on the streets of Buenos Aires, I can see that 100 feet away it’s not raining.

Come on, says Camille, a contra-artist who is always on the leading edge of creative ways to mix tango with art, you probably have enjoyed your quota of wet T-shirt contests in your life. Dancing in the rain? Don’t knock it until you try it.

Matt is patting his hair into place, enjoying his own reflection in the window he’s using as a mirror. He speaks to the group, but never takes his eyes from his reflection, or his hands from his hair. The real star of the film is Buenos Aires, the scenes at Ideal are just as authentic as they can be. Sally, he continues with the authority of a connoisseur, I can’t stand because she is so self-centered. On cue, everybody looks at Matt, with a quizzical question mark in their eyes.

Suzy is about to lash out something vitriolic, everybody can see that, but then thinking that they‘re gonna have to ride back together she just rolls up her eyes and deliberately opens the New York Post and reads aloud, The Tango Lesson doesn’t have legs.

What does the writer know? Tammy, jumping up from her chair, snaps, I dare him to prove that! She is in town on a grant from the Tango Cheerleading Federation visiting local hoofer Darren, serious, scruffy, with a trendy new growth of beard. Sit Tammy, sit. He’s a dancer; he’s born again; a single tear rolls down his face.

Milenita confesses that the look Alicia gives Carlos in the scene where he is hustling Sally is too close for comfort. Hay miradas que matan, rebuts Juanita with an air of complicity, using an acquired Spanish accent that drives everybody crazy. Indeed if looks could kill.

Do you think that Veron is French dipping in the airport scene?, asks Tito with a lecherous look on his face. It’s French kissing, you dirty old man!, snaps Margarita, his embarrassed wife.

I think Sally committed an act of wild hubris by assuming center stage in her new film about dance and love, says Janet, who writes for the New York Times. There is a moment of silence as everybody ponders the depth of Janet’s statement before everybody burst out laughing.

Come on you guys, give the old spinster a break. It takes a lot of guts to put in black and white a poignant story about the lessons of tango capturing with a very subtle sense of humor and irony the egocentric and chauvinist subtexts of the Tango scene both in Buenos Aires and abroad. Heads turn in disbelief to a bearded guy who’s tap dancing by the table, clad in a long dripping overcoat.

Can you guys spare a quarter for a cup of coffee?, he begs extending a paper cup with his right hand.

Outside the rain continues to wreck havoc with the traffic.

Margarita’s eyes have turned to the window where the capricious raindrops and the reflections of the street lights have drawn a smug image of Sally Potter’s face. Ave Maria purisima, it’s a miracle, she mutters as she slowly crosses her chest…

Posted April 8, 2000 by Alberto & Valorie in HUMOR

Tagged with , ,

The tango chose me   Leave a comment

The Tango Chose Me
by Valorie Hart
Copyright (c) 2000, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved

Every relationship, whether personal or professional, goes through the “honeymoon” phase, that special window of time where everything is new and fresh and interesting, filtered through the warmth of enthusiasm and a willingness to share and to receive. In the first part of the film “The Tango Lesson” Pablo Veron and Sally Potter are having a wonderful honeymoon period.

After a picture perfect cinematic dance in Paris along the banks of the Seine, they are caught in the afterglow and the dialogue goes something along the lines of Sally: “How did you choose the Tango Pablo?” Pablo: “The Tango chose me.”

The word “me” reverberates throughout this vanity piece of a valentine to Argentine tango in general, and Pablo Veron in particular. For a minute I felt like I was watching an old Bugs Bunny cartoon when Bugs decided to make a movie, and the credits roll: Starring Bugs Bunny; Written by Bugs Bunny; Music by Bugs Bunny; Idea by Bugs; Directed by Bugs Bunny in a fabulous story all about Bugs Bunny. Just insert the name Sally Potter for Bugs Bunny.

Now there’s nothing wrong with vanity or with valentines. But both are kind of skin deep and a little flimsy.

As another person that tango has chosen, I long for and embrace any attention that promotes Argentine tango. Sally Potter’s film is a first rate product. I like many things about it starting with the black and white photography, the story (that unfortunately never develops with any depth – but how deep are the sentiments written on valentines anyway?), the players, the locations, the music (Argentine tangos and the soundtrack written by Sally), the cinematography, the dancing. In fact I was excited to palpable emotion the first time I saw the film.

It was exciting to see Pablo Veron on the screen. The camera loves him, and he loves the camera. He’s a natural. His acting is creditable, even though his (and the other) character(s) are one dimensional. His dancing scenes are flawless. A glimmer of what he might do with his acting ability surfaced briefly in the backstage scene after his professional dance performance with Sally. His anger had the inner monologue intensity of other method actors well known to movie goers (Brando, Clift, De Niro, Pacino, Walken, Spacey). I hope other film offers come his way.

Sally Potter fared less well as an actor. Although in both cases Pablo and Sally are playing themselves, Pablo was playing a part, and Sally was being herself for the camera. Madonna did it more dynamically in her film debut “Desperately Seeking Susan”, (and never recaptured the success of that film performance again, until possibly in “Evita”). Sally’s serenity and Mona Lisa smile are at first charming, but ultimately lack energy and become stilted and self conscious. I think she was going for something more natural, and became confused in the process.

Her character seems interesting: successful; older woman; attractive (thin, interesting looking, Hepburn like style); an artist. The premise seemed interesting too: non -Argentine woman discovers the tango and it changes her life. The older woman/younger man love interest seemed equally promising. However, nothing ever happens with any of these interesting ideas. They simply don’t go anywhere.

A surreal scene happens when Pablo stands up Sally on New Year’s Eve, and later turns up at her hotel room, where they decide (at his suggestion) to “sublimate” their sexual feelings into their dancing. Right! Cut to the next scene where Pablo and Sally are rehearsing for their upcoming performance. Of course she’s hurt by his rejection of her as a woman, so she can’t give herself to him in the dance. He becomes frustrated with her for withholding herself as a dancer and feels guilty for rejecting her as a woman who he cares for and who cares for him. Perhaps if his character could really have been a scoundrel of complex and mythic proportions (think Michael Caine in “Alfie”) or a man fully in love with Sally something might have happened between these characters.

The real star of the film is the city of Buenos Aires (co starring a lovely Paris), looking breathtaking in the black and white cinematography used in this film. The real dancers of the milongas fare exceptionally well as actors too. Notable are Carlos Copello and Alicia Monti. Gustavo Naveira and Olga Bessio, and Fabian Salas do well too. Talented dancers Cacho Dante, David Derman, Omar Vega and Chicho all look great on film.

As for the dancing, Pablo Veron is a dancer of incredible and memorable talent. We of the tango world already know this. It’s wonderful that the rest of the world can appreciate this. Gustavo and Fabian and Pablo make up a good team that personifies the vanguard of the new tango dancers. It’s great to watch them dance and horse around. It’s a shame that Sally has to be in every scene of this movie (except for the fantasy scenes about her failed screenplay), so that we can’t see these characters let their hair down without their benefactress in tow. Pablo’s partner, Carolina Iotti is first rate, and it’s a shame we don’t get to see her dance more. As for Sally Potter’s dancing, it’s pleasant enough. Any of the men she dances with could make a paper bag move and look good. If you saw her at a milonga (or danced with her at a milonga) she would be classified as a good dancer. To carry a two hour film about the tango is another thing. I am sympathetic up to a point about her character’s daunting and exhilarating dilemma of learning to dance with the “big boys” of the tango world, and ultimately having to share the stage with the serious talent of Pablo Veron. To say she’s out of her element is an understatement, but I give her credit for even being able to perform any of his choreographic demands. As we all know learning and dancing Argentine tango ain’t easy. I wonder how easy it was for the vanity that propelled Sally to present herself as Pablo Veron’s dancing co-star.

“The Tango Lesson” won the first prize at the Mar de Plata Film Festival, and has gotten it’s fair share of respectable reviews. It is a good product for the tango, but the definitive film about the deep myriad of images, the elements that conjure up strong opinions and provoke emotions that everyone of us who the tango has chosen knows well, has yet to find it’s place on the screen.


by Alberto Paz
Copyright (c) 1998-2009, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved

On June 12, 1998 the tango people of Buenos Aires packed Salon El Pial to honor Mingo Pugliese’s golden anniversary as a bailarin de tango. That is how the great master humbly defines himself, a tango dancer. The gala event started at 10:30 PM and lasted past 5 AM of the following morning. During the celebration Mingo was honored by many of his students who played, sung and danced tango and folklore numbers. There were people from neighbor countries Uruguay and Brazil, including several distinguished members of the Rio de Janeiro’s Jaime Aroxa Center for Dance and Sao Pablo’s Victor Costa Group. One of the most emotional presentations of the night was a surprise tribute by two of Mingo’s most talented and grateful disciples, son Pablo and daughter Marisa, who acknowledged their father’s enormous influence in the quality of their artistic and personal lives.

In sharp contrast with a common Buenos Aires practice of attracting customers for windfall profits by staging fake “homenajes” to both local and foreign individuals, the gigantic party was underwritten by the Pugliese family and admission was free. Long lines formed outside Salon El Pial as most of the evening, the salon’s capacity was largely exceeded. At the end more than 700 people have come to celebrate and joined those who admire and respect the son of Italian immigrants who started dancing in 1948.

Mingo Pugliese was born in the neighborhood of Villa Devoto. His father arrived to Buenos Aires in 1905 and first lived in a high crime area, by the Arroyo Maldonado, the creek that today flows under Juan B. Justo Avenue. In 1922 Gregorio Pugliese marry seventeen year old Maria Pugliese (no relationship), an Italian girl from Cozenza, Italy. They had three sons. Mingo is the youngest.

The arts claimed Mingo Pugliese’s attention at an early age but he never graduated from Fine Arts School because of political reasons. He was thrown out of school because his ideas clashed with the Peronist regime. It was around 1953-54. He had dissenting political views at a time when asking the wrong questions could get people in a lot of trouble.

By the time Mingo started dancing there was already a process of transformation in the way the tango was being danced. Two distinctive styles mixed in the dance halls. There were those who danced in the old way (an always illusive and subjective way to define something that has not way to be backed by credible evidence) and those who already were being part of the musical and dancing transformation.

In the early days (another fit all pair of words tossed around when there is no concrete evidence as to a real date), the tango appeared to have a 2 by 4 time signature, very much like a march . Around the turn of the twentieth century, a primitive tango hybrid derived a from other musical expressions, like the Habanera, the Candombe and the Fandango ws being heard and recorded acustically. The tango lacked musical arrangements until the appearance of Juan Carlos Cobian in the 1920s.

In 1940, a group of dancers led by Carlos Alberto Estevez, a.k.a. Petroleo and Salvador Sciana, a.k.a. El Negro Lavandina, were part of a new generation that was replacing the old dancing from the outskirts. According to Mingo, there has always been only two types of tango: salon and orillero. Salon was the tango that danced at the city salons. Orillero was the tango danced on the fringes of the city. Originally the fringes were the territory of scoundrels and rogues. Later the fringes became the neighborhood clubs. In other words, in the center of the city there were the salons and in the barrios there were the clubs. The tango salon was danced walking in a very simple way, plain, unadorned. The tango orillero was danced with steps (elaborated figures and patterns). This is the way it has always been.

Mingo lived through that period at an early age because he was lucky that being so young, the older guys accepted him in their circles. He entered in the dance circles by the hand of a person that was loved and respected but nowadays is one of the many forgotten people of tango, El Negro Lavandina, whose real name was Salvador Sciana, the name the Puglieses chose to name their tango school.

Eight years after the transformation of tango dancing had begun, Mingo joined a prestigious circle of dancers integrated among others by Petroleo and Salvador Sciana. This transformation and the movements that were being incorporated in the tango continued until 1953-54. Among the people of that era, there were still a few that mixed new and old dancing movements, that is why what Mingo teaches and the way he dances incorporates many principles that were utilized in the old style of dancing. The way to place the feet without raising the heels, for example.

Many dancers around the world have been “touched” by the impressive knowledge and clear teaching method of Mingo Pugliese. His knowledge has been passed to the new generation through the talent of his only son, Pablo Pugliese, who is just turning eighteen next month. Pablo and mother Esther have been regular touring teachers in the US since 1996 when Pablo became the youngest ever faculty member of Stanford University’s now defunct Tango Week. Some notables who publicly have listed Mingo Pugliese as an inspirational master include Lorena Ermocida, Osvaldo Zotto, Cecilia Gonzalez, Gachi Fernandez, Sergio Cortazo, Natalia Games and Gabriel Angio. There are bonafide witnesses who can also remember Pablo Veron, after Tango Argentino, spending countless hours under closed doors with Mingo (what they did there is not public domain, but the inference by members of the family who witnessed the encounters is that shop talk formed part of the reunions), a fact vehemently denied by Veron himself, who claims to be his own teacher. Many other names escape this writer’s memory but their images going up and down the old Naval Museum turned dance studio on Avenida Caseros in Parque Patricios are as fresh today as they were when we climbed those stairs during a month that forever changed our lives, our love and respect for the dancing, and the quality of our teaching.