The city of New Orleans shares an uncanny resemblance to another port city colonized by the Spaniards, culturally influenced by the French, and originally created to serve as a human dumping ground for the most undesirable characters from the Old Continent.
Settled on the banks of a mighty river, the blueprints called for a Cathedral and the Cabildo circling the central square. Today, New Orleans is without a doubt the most authentic European city in the United States. Buenos Aires continues to be the most European city in South America.
From the late nineteenth century settlements of Buenos Aires, the tango emerged as the dance and music of the disenfranchised lower class and in a little over one century it has become an international ambassador for the cult of the human embrace.
We first visited the Crescent City in October 1999 invited by Casa Argentina of New Orleans to teach a four day Argentine tango workshop to about twenty couples. Actually it was Sabina_Nola (an e-mail handle at the time) who had originally asked the proverbial question, “when are you coming to New Orleans,” after she had missed us in San Francisco while visiting California. When she approached the Casa Argentina, the task to host us, promote us and introduce us to the local dancers fell upon a couple of Ecuadorians who were having dances in Metairie, just outside the Parish limits.
Barely a couple of years old, tango in New Orleans had been quietly practiced in a downtown cabaret and at a quiet suburban studio fifteen minutes away. We remember getting the impression that these were two groups separated by a common passion (and a stretch of Interstate 10).
On December 29, 2000, six months after we had moved to the Crescent City, we wanted to share with our new tango friends a taste of the good tango life that lies ahead.
So, we gathered in the heart of the French Quarter for a night of “garufa,” a night of partying the tango way, a night to thank and be thankful for the renovated spirit of friendship, camaraderie and unselfish love of the tango.
UNA NOCHE DE GARUFA -RICARDO TANTURI
The location was the second floor room of a nearly two-hundred year old restaurant, which was smartly decorated with garlands, Christmas lights, multicolored ribbons, votive candles and freshly cut flowers.
Four round tables were set around the dance floor, each one with centerpieces topped with candelabra and individual flower vases. The open bar began serving the first arrivals at 9 PM as they gathered to greet each other, their lively conversation leading to a delicious dinner which included paella, salmon, shrimp pasta, Caesar salad and a delicious bread pudding for dessert.
The evening stretched into the first hours of the morning when the last couple literally dragged their happily tired feet off the floor and marched, with the reverberation of the sounds of legendary orchestras in their hearts, into the misty gray halo that wraps around the colonial street lamps.