Ghosts, skulls and pumpkins signaled the arrival of Halloween to the city as the sun set down Saturday evening on the last day of October. Valorie came home earlier and waved her magic wand to transform the front of our home into a trick-or-treater’s magnet, then we sat on the porch to greet kids, parents and grandparents from the neighborhood.
I read somewhere that the origin of Halloween comes from the well-known Celtic celebration Samhain, that means “summer end” and marks the end of the harvests season in Ireland. For old Celts, the door that separates this world with the one beyond opens with the arrival of the Samhain, allowing the spirits to pass through. The familiar ancestors were welcomed whereas the bad spirits were driven away with masks and costumes. With the passing of time, the Celts belief was mixed with the Christian celebration of the Day of All the Saints, and thus Halloween was born.
Anyway as the night grew older it was time for the adults to party and celebrate so we headed for the Vintage Room on Magazine where a Halloween tango party took place. We enjoyed ourselves very much, dancing to our content to pretty good music, and staying to the Cumparsita set (for the tango impaired, this song signals the end of the evening and the moment when those who want to go home together seek each other for the last dance) knowing that in the witching hours of the night we would get an extra hour to rest our bones, an event popularly known as “fall back” and consisting of turning the clocks back to 1 am when the time strikes 2 am.
That’s what I wanted to talk about… It seems that the excitement of the evening (a.k.a. early vodka tonics and late pinot noirs) set a chain of events as I entered our living room which can be described as unload your sorry rear end on the couch and do a thorough inspection of the interior of your eyelids. Sometime later I opened my eyes, or not, I turned back the clocks or not, the thing is that as some part of me seemed to be tampering with time, the hands of all the clocks kept turning counterclockwise and somebody kept yelling, “play that funky music!”
Something has changed in the way winter visits our city. It used to feel like it was a matter of days that we had to scramble looking for sweaters and jackets before the subtropical weather returned reminding us why we came here looking for a home base of year around bloom and greenery. So far this winter appears to have overextended its stay, or so it seems.
Last night was the coldest so far with temperatures dropping to the mid thirties and it took a lot of love for what we do to leave the toasty confines of our camel back bunker to venture out to the CBD for another tango night at Le Phare. Just as the car heater began to blow warm air around we started circling Gravier, Magazine, Poydras and Camp in search of a parking spot. Through the windows of Le Phare we saw the usual suspects, the loyal brigade that week after week work hard on their technique and styling for an hour before indulging in a couple of hours of intimate dancing.
At 5 past 8 something unexpected began to unravel. The spacious room was filling up with people we hardly expected to see. A gentle couple from California we had meet last July during Valorie’s birthday month made their unannounced entrance. A known horn player who had played at Myra’s wedding came in saying that Myra had recommended us as the best place to learn the tango. A couple of young Argentine college educators returned bringing with them a couple of young men very interested in learning the dance. Then, there were a handful of people whom we had not seen for the longest time. At one point it almost felt like the old days at the House of Tango when time after time we brought along a new crop of tango dancers.
There is nothing more inspiring than to have a room full of people expecting to be challenged, so we did. I never know why we choose a particular style of music and offer a lesson on choice moves that match the music. Last night Juan D’Arienzo seemed a natural choice to heat up a room that had started cold and empty. The This is the king CD from our collection got spinning and we proposed a sequence that uses the base in crossed feet to generate a double time change of direction using the opening step of the woman’s code and a triple pizza slice step for the man. As with all tango trickery, the devil was in the detail and once we put the turn in context with the use of known elements and familiar patterns, we experienced the second high of the night as the couples began to execute and understand the purpose of the figure and its relation to the beat of Juan D’Arienzo.
The dancing period that followed was also intense and full of energy lasting way into the midnight hour when the remaining Argentines began to wake up and squeezed out the last tanda before venturing out into the coldest night invigorated with the energy of the hottest night at Le Phare.
It is not an easy thing to describe one’s first impression of New Orleans; for a while it actually resembles no other city upon the face of the earth, yet it recalls vague memories of a hundred cities. It owns suggestions of towns in Italy, and in Spain, of cities in England and in Germany, of seaports in the Mediterranean, and of seaports in the tropics… Whencesoever the traveler may have come, he may find in the Crescent City some memory of his home – some recollection of his Fatherland – some resemblance of something he loves…
Lafcadio Hearn – At the Gate of the Tropics, New Orleans, November 19, 1877
One thing that strikes the most about the end of the year holidays in New Orleans, is the low key way in which people celebrate the holidays with a spirit that permeates into a desire to renew the vows of love and affection with friends and family.
To those who share a common interest in tango, the weeks preceding and following the turn of another year, bring the excitement of celebrating another banner year for the community, and the prospects of even better times to come.
As the year 2001 was coming to an end, Fortuna came on knocking at the door with the news that a building uptown might fulfill a long held dream about finding a place where to teach and dance tango.
What Fortuna did not mention is that one month later, we would be living, teaching and dancing under one roof. Our House of Tango became a reality, and soon a flurry of activities began to take place.
First it was an intimate gathering with those who had welcomed us, encouraged us, and pointed us in the right direction when we first decided to make this city our home. Then, our first milonga, followed by an end of the year dinner and dance billed as Una Noche Garufa and featuring dishes and wines under the theme Winter in Tuscany.
So far, visitors from many cities in the US and Europe have made their way to New Orleans, and had the chance to enjoy tango dancing with our local community. Next, our first workshop, and the beginning of a series of weekly group classes and regular Saturday milongas. But before, a visual chronicle of our second year end celebration named Una noche de garufa.