Requiem for a Niño Bien   4 comments

Requiem for a Niño Bien

Like the mythical milongueros of the golden years, who went to the milongas for the sole purpose of taking a girl out for coffee afterwards, but went home alone till the day they died, there are people who believe that some dance organizers get “rich” with tango. We don’t know anyone who got rich but over the years we’ve known plenty who have faced hardships because of their love affair with the tango. If you pay attention, there are always signs that the demise of a milonga is probably underway. At the local level it begins when organizers begin to plead with their patrons to “buy a drink, tip the waitress,” or both. It is very difficult to find businesses that show an interest in tango beyond the amount of drinks they pour or the number of menu items they serve. On a much larger scale, many well established milongas in Buenos Aires that take place at social institutions find the executive committees not interested in the good of the tango, but in the money they make without investing a peso on the infrastructure.  According to Marina Gambier, who blogs for daily La Nacion, Tangocool, a nine year old milonga at Club Villa Malcom, created as a challenging alternative at the time for many young people who were looking for a more relaxed tango with less behavior and dress codes, held a farewell party, with tears and some anger on Friday, March 22, 2013. In this case the signs were evident long before the outcome. Villa Malcolm‘s bathrooms were notorious for their filth. They were never cleaned on the days when there was dancing, and sometimes during summer classes, the air conditioning was not turned on.

On, Thursday, April 4, 2013, milonga Niño Bien became another casualty on the downward slope of the current forty year cycle of the tango. Organizer Luis Calvo opened the milonga in 1998 at the legendary Centro Region Leonesa hall on Humberto Primo 1462. By early 2000 the Niño Bien milonga had replaced the legendary Club Almagro as the place where the old and young dancing elite gathered to excel in front of a growing foreign audience. It was the place to be, to see and to be seen on Thursday nights. And during low tourist season the locals were able to enjoy the magnificent salon with a polished wooden floor during low tourist season. The milonga organizers were getting hit on several fronts: the high cost of rent and taxes, tourists who came with fewer tangodollars, and locals who were broke because of inflation and a bad economy. It’s not known how teachers are faring. Today, with more and more Europeans “teaching” and people learning to dance from You Tube, there are worse dancers than ever on the floor. This discourages the locals even more from going out dancing. The only ones who seem to be doing well are the tango for export dinner/show venues which are raking in up to 50% of the 1.5 billion tourist tango pesos, .

We first visited Niño Bien in 1999 while escorting two ladies from Hawaii as part of a guided tango tour of Buenos Aires. The hall was a lot bigger than Almagro. It was rectangular instead of square, and negotiating the dance floor was quite an eye opener for the traveling ladies. We returned six years later during our Katrina exile tour, and we became part of a group with a reserved table on Thursday nights. At the time we didn’t know whether we’d ever be able to return home to New Orleans, nor where we’d end up hanging up our shoes for the evening. To this day we crack  a smile when we talk to our friends about fancy dancing on a crowded floor. “If people could see us now,” sometimes we whispered in between songs, “actually doing all the footwork we try to teach them in those cavernous American halls.” But today, a Facebook post read,  “I can’t believe it. Maipu 444, Villa Malcolm and now Niño Bien,” and we gasped, looking at each other as if trying to hold on to a memory that wanted to escape like the last breath of air that precedes death.

Click anywhere on the picture above to play, or HERE to watch on You Tube

We are very grateful for our time on this earth when we could set foot in Club Almagro, Akarense, and Niño Bien. We hope to have enough relevance left to be able to tell those who want to know, what it was like to be alive and dancing during those glorious years at the turn of the century.

A special thanks to you Valorie for being the inspiration to be myself.

This is how the Centro Region Leonesa salon looked like on the last night of the milonga Niño bien

Photo courtesy of Gerard Roche, a.k.a. Gerrysan

References:
Maldito Tango Blog
Gotta Tango Book
Planet Tango Archives

About these ads

Posted April 4, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in PEOPLE

Tagged with , , , , ,

4 responses to “Requiem for a Niño Bien

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I heard that Nino Bien will be opening once again on Thursdays in Centro Region Leonesa. The milonga organizers and the club board came to an agreement.

  2. I just came back to Los Angeles from Buenos Aires in March, 2013. When I was in Buenos Aires, I went to several milongas except Nino Bien ( I don’t know why). I said to myself I’ll dance Tango in Nino Bien next time I come to BA. Now this news……..Sad, sad!!

  3. Luis Calvo and Gaby ran Nino Bien for 15 years. That’s a long time for milongas these days when some don’t last months. I heard about the closing one day after the fact. And I live 13 blocks from Centro Region Leonesa.

    The fact that dance floors are worse than ever may stem from the fact that most of the Argentine couples who travel to teach are dancing an exhibition style that is choreographed, not a social style that is improvised. People see them and think that’s the way to dance in the milonga. Is it any wonder the dance floors are chaotic?

    Teaching reflects life these days — fast and complicated. Simplicity is not in demand. Argentines sell what people want to buy, not what they need to progress as social dancers. The codes and customs of the milongas are not taught. I blame the teachers for that, not the dancers. Winning a tango championship guarantees work abroad. And they don’t even have to know how to dance in a milonga to teach.

  4. Wow, it is unthinkable to me that this has happened, but it’s also unthinkable to me that tango has become so tacky. But you and Alberto and some others of us are indeed very fortunate to have had the experiences we had in places like this with the people who mattered.

    Sad. Sad.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,806 other followers

%d bloggers like this: