This is the office of a milonguero. For those if you not versed in the world of Argentine tango, a milonguero/milonguera is a person who is a habitue of the milonga, which is the place where tango is danced socially. He is also someone respected and revered for his dedication, knowledge, and love of the Argentine tango. Generally the “office” of a milonguero is the dance floor.
|The office of milonguero Alberto Pax
Alberto Paz was a milonguero. His “office” was the dance floor, and his office was also the archive and library we created for him in our home upstairs in the camel back part of the house. It was there that he kept his books on tango, his art collection, his video tapes, his music collection, his memories in dozens of photo albums of our travels together teaching tango all over the world. He made many videos, wrote many articles, translated tango lyrics from Spanish to English, compiled thousands of hours of tango music for dancing, worked on our tango website and my design website. He had five or six blogs about tango that he maintained, as well as a couple of tango groups on the Internet. He watched TV up there, a steady diet of political shows and news, futbol games (soccer), along with movies and sit-coms (he loved to laugh). He practiced the clarinet, and sang along with the tango music he played (I loved to hear him sing). He sent love letter emails to me when I was in my office downstairs. He napped up there. He would come down everyday to cook for me. We would sit in the kitchen at the table for a couple of hours and talk about our day. Then up he would go again, never bored, always busy and happy with affairs of tango.
|He practiced the clarinet…
There is a check list for grief and mourning the loss of loved one who dies. Starting with the sad and horrible event itself, and the surreal funeral days after that. As a widow (and daughter, son, or sibling who lost a parent), the subsequent weeks are dedicated to dealing with practical concerns of wills, sorting out finances, computer passwords, matters to do with cars, and the wrenching chore of dealing with the belongings of the loved one now gone. Oh yes, you are also trying to get dressed, eat, not get sick, take care of the pets, not let the house fall into the ghostly tragic realm of Miss Havisham, and of course assure your friends and family that you are not suicidal (though in truth you often feel this way). You also have to get back to work, whatever your regular job may be. You slap on your Facebook persona. Most of the time you sit and stare. Sleep is scarce. Or sleep takes over your days.
Downsizing is not unusual. Often a home is sold. In the case of a spouse the one left behind might move to a smaller place, whether to a family member’s home, or an apartment or smaller house. Immediately upon Alberto’s passing, many asked me if I would remain in New Orleans or go back to New York. Days after the funeral I had offers to get rid of Alberto’s clothes. Frankly, for at least a year or so after the death of someone you love, no huge life changing decisions are a good idea.
Alberto and I talked about what I would do if he died before I did. We did not have a huge savings, or insurance policies. We worked. We have our mortgaged home. I told him I would stay in New Orleans, the place of the happiest years together. And I would try and stay in our home. Years ago my 90 year old friend Miss Anne gave me a good piece of advice. She told me to have a home large enough to rent out a room or two in the event that Alberto passed away. So over those bright and breezy lunches and dinners at our kitchen table, when Alberto asked me what I would do if he died, I told him I would probably follow Miss Anne’s advice and turn our house back into the “double” that it originally was, and rent out a room or two. I also told him I would invite my sister to come and live in that half of the house, knowing that between the two of us we could somehow make it into our old age together.
It’s good to have a plan and a project. I knew I had to get the plan going before depression totally paralyzed me, and I did not have not enough money to keep a roof over my head. Of course I could outright sell the house and make a profit large enough to have a modest means to live in a shoebox of a rental. But that was not the plan. The house is 2200 square feet, so even half of that is a generous shoebox. And it is my shoebox.
So this past July I started to dismantle Alberto’s office upstairs, and turn it into my bedroom. The master bedroom will be on the side of the house that will be rented, or be my sister’s half.
It’s has been a journey filled with big emotions, and very hard work. It is phase one of the transformation of the home of a couple, to the home of widow. My aeire upstairs is like an old fashion widows walk in New England. I stand at the windows and look for my husband, my love, to sail home to me.
So I share these camera phone pictures of Alberto’s office just before I started to lovingly dismantle it.
There was not enough light, and I was snapping photos through a veil of tears. They are blurry, a shimmering mirage of time vanishing.
|Kitty Kitty Bang Bang was Alberto’s cat and constant companion upstairs
Written by Jon Racherbaumer
A Remembrance delivered by Jon Racherbaumer and Jessica Hack at the funeral of Alberto Paz, 15 February 2014
Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart at Sunderland in Buenos AIres
Although I’m not a tango dancer, all I now know about tango came from watching and talking with Alberto and Valorie. This knowledge was piecemeal and interpreted on the slant. Nevertheless, sometimes the perspective of an attentive bystander has its own merits, taken in from a calm distance. In a way, it’s as though one is looking on to what’s happening in the same sense we might imagine angels looking onto the human condition. And it’s from this vantage point that I want to say a few things about Alberto Paz.
What I admired most about Alberto was his single-minded fervor and dedication to tango. The passionate dream he shared with Valorie was to create a vital tango community in New Orleans, their adopted home.
Alberto’s vision was steadfast and ongoing and in this regard, he was a true American milonguero.
And to this let me add that, yes, he often seemed blunt and demanding. However, for the most part, it was in his nature to be a keen and ardent taskmaster. He could endlessly argue points finer than silken threads…or defend matters as deep and wide as the Sargasso Sea.
But what fueled these apparent excesses was his deep love of tango. And by the same token, this abiding love gave rise to unexpected and unaccountable bursts of generosity. I cannot count the number of times I witnessed his gentle kindnesses and good-natured humor.
When he was operating in full-tilt overdrive, these teeter-totter lifts and dips of extremes were amazing to observe. Yet all of it was worth it in the long run. And those who persevered and paid attention really learned and happily improved as dancers…and as human beings. Even if one didn’t fully attain what was expected of him or her, one appreciated how high bars can be set and how beautiful the art of tango can be.
This makes sense because Alberto had great teachers himself and was then inspired to responsibly carry on a tradition that included everything: the dynamics, the music, the history, and the poetry… Everything!
When I first saw Alberto and Valorie dancing together, all of these important aspects were on display.
I saw them interpreting the music they heard.
I recognized how they adored the pauses.
I marveled at how their movements achieved balance in their turns and leans.
Most of all, I witnessed how Alberto led Valorie to disclose her skills while minimizing his. (Which I later learned is the way to do it.) If the woman partner is made to look good, the dancing will look good…and Alberto and Valerie looked that good. It was a sight to behold.
From time to time, I thought that Alberto had a lover’s quarrel with the world of tango…. Again, this was probably due to his ardent and complicated temperament. He knew there would be disappointments—disappointments with others and disappointments with himself. But he always struggled with this aspect, knowing it came with the territory.
Nevertheless, he felt responsible and obliged to pay the dues of tango’s demands. This is why he put his heart and soul into it and gave it everything he had! Most of all, he was committed to being as good and true as possible rather than settling to merely look good and be false to one’s sacred ideals. This is also why he wanted every aspirant to love tango as much as he did. This is why he wanted to show us ways to the heart besides just ways to the feet.
He wanted the lyrics and the lyricism. He wanted it all.
Sometimes it’s the little things that gain access to our hearts. For example, I always adored the way Alberto pronounced “tango” with a short “a,” sounding it out as “tong-go.”
Whenever he said it, a glint sparked in his eyes—the pronunciation, respectful and loving, the equivalent of a kiss.
So it went.
And as mentioned earlier, Valorie Hart—his dedicated partner in living and loving–was the steadfast accomplice of their shared dream…in their dancing…and in their teaching. And both fully accepted the challenges and chances the Tango Life affords. Both were willing and able to move as one to its irresistible music and calling.
Uttering and hearing the words now being spoken and shared right now makes me realize how grief can paralyze people and make them feel helplessly unqualified to speak about abject losses and possible future gains.
Yet we try. We falter. We try again.
And this reminds me of two sentences that have always stuck with me:
“We enter this world alone. We leave it pretty much the same way, and in between, there is a dance we call life.”
Between Alberto’s entering and leaving this world, besides the love of his children and grandchild, two primary forces energized and inspired his soul: Valorie and Tango.
The cliché is that it takes two to tango and dancers who truly and deeply embrace this enchanting form look for signs to find their perfect partner. Well, Alberto discovered these signs when he found his precious Valorie. Together they profoundly embraced the art, striving to be exemplars as they taught and shared tango’s fierce and nourishing beauty.
When a soul as uniquely loved as Alberto disappears from our landscape, words cannot capture the sensations aroused by such an unexpected and abrupt disappearance. We are, after all, accustomed to the countless appearances and disappearances of persons sharing our daily lives.
They go. They return.
And if and when we are told that—“No! No! No! This time they’re really gone!”… We protest.
We protest because the spirit of this person, this presence, remains within us. And we have faith that this spiritual presence can be revived to sooth, console, and be with us in the here and now.
With this thought now fresh in our minds and hearts, for a precious moment, let us imagine and remember Alberto dancing and teaching students eager to understand the spirit of tango. Let us imagine and remember Alberto encouraging them to dance in the way it was meant to be.
Let us imagine and remember him dancing with Valorie…and as we do, imagine Alberto speaking these words:
They say there is a Paradise in Heaven, but does it matter? My wish is for one more joyful tango with my beloved Valorie in my arms. Let THIS be my Paradise!
And so it was.
And so it should always be.
posted by Valorie Hart
It is with great sadness that I tell you that the love of my life Alberto passed away on February 3 in New Orleans. It was sudden. He was teaching a tango lesson in a dance studio and had a heart attack. I thank you all for the love and respect you have shown Alberto for these many past years. I hate to use a blog like this, but you have all been a big part of our lives and I thought you would like to know. I will let you all know the arrangements as they evolve. Pray for us. xo xo
Live from the tango belt
An original musical show by Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart
An original musical production conceived, written and directed by Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz for the Second New Orleans TangoFest, August 15-17, 2003 at the Doubletree Hotel in New Orleans, LA.
It is interesting to note that while Valorie and Alberto created the script and storyline and selected the music, they left it to each of the performers to interpret their presentations as they saw fit. This improvisational daring paid off in a spontaneous and surprising performance.
Valorie and Alberto set the bar high by having the performers dance to a live orchestra. For that, they hired a group of local musicians, the Orquesta Milonga, and coached them to acquire the authentic accent and phrasing, stylistic accuracy, spirit and passion we have come to associate with the sounds of the Argentine tango.
The film itself works on more than one level: one has a real sense of being part of the audience experiencing a live production. But with the interjection of early photo imagery, the film becomes an historical and entertaining entity in its own right.
The night Pugliese died
By Alberto Paz
July 25, 1995
Like the guy at the street corner or the next door neighbor, that’s how PUGLIESE was. But deep inside that slender figure, beyond the thickness of his myopic glasses, there was a volcano that erupted with his tangos.
OSVALDO PUGLIESE was a figure that showed the way to the modernism of tango without leaving the essential roots. In 1924 he created RECUERDO, a composition far advanced for his time. The dialogue of the bandoneons still today represents the pinnacle of tango interpretation. Then, NEGRACHA, MALANDRACA and LA YUMBA became a trilogy that opened the way for the vanguard tango.
The orchestra of the MAESTRO grew up in the sprawling neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Leaving behind the mud and pathways described by BARDI, COBIAN and AROLAS, PUGLIESE absorbed the pulse of the new city and began to foresee its future. In those new places, he discovered a new Argentina, with a violent rhythm, powerful like gun powder, with all the strength of an industrial revolution, OSVALDO PUGLIESE captured the mystery of the city into music and named it La Yumba.
La Yumba was a lyric poem that made people tremble with emotion as they saw themselves interpreted by the captivating melody. There was Yumba in the ecstasy of the public at every venue where the orchestra performed. Yumba was floating in the air when a labor dispute tore apart the city and PUGLIESE entered the Ford Motor Co. factory that had been taken by the workers, and embraced each one of them as a gesture of solidarity with his people.
PUGLIESE died tonight and there is Yumba in my heart and it pounds so hard that I can’t hold on to my tears and I can’t tell if the music is coming from the speakers or from my soul.
Suddenly, is LA BIANDUNGA, then EL PENSAMIENTO and now LA MARIPOSA. Was it just yesterday that very dearly I held against my heart a beautiful woman and with my eyes closed I went around the dance floor falling in love with every beat of a PUGLIESE tango?
Tonight she is far away, PUGLIESE is dead, I’m alone, unable to stop the wrinkled box lodged in the middle of my chest from sobbing and the sound of his music is tearing me apart.
Tango, your music hurts like a dagger in my chest, and yet, I love you!
The night we danced La Mariposa
July 28, 2013
Milonga traspie workshops with Alberto and Valorie
For the first time in the region, we will be introducing tango dancers to the “milonga traspie.”
The term “traspie” is a short form version of “pie detras” which literally means foot behind, and when applied to the dancing of tango and milonga it describes an action similar to skipping, or taking two steps with the same foot while the other foot is locked behind.
In tango dancing we use “traspie” to switch from parallel system to cross feet system or to syncopate with a double step.
In milonga traspie, we take the concept further by developing an entire different style of milonga dancing suitable to what it’s called “smooth” or “slow” milongas.
We follow, practice and foster the legacy of legendary milonga traspie dancers like the late Omar Vega, Gustavo Chidichimo, Flaco Danny and many other unheralded milonga traspie dancers…
We think that you will thoroughly enjoy learning a new and fun way to dance the milonga to add to your repertoire.
We hope you will join us in adding a new excitement to your weekly enjoyment in the city, across the lake and in the capital.
Milonga traspie workshops with Alberto and Valorie
Definition and concept of the Milonga traspie. Technique and posture.
Musicality, Rhythmic expression, classic figures and adornments, improvisation
Part 1, Sunday July 1, 2012
3 – 5:30 pm
Leila Haller Dance Academy
4916 Canal St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
For your convenience, you can register on line via secure server Paypal,
$25 per person, click HERE please.
$40 per partners, click HERE please
$20 for regular students of Ector and Kerry and out of towners, click HERE please
Or, catch us at the Eiffel Society on Tuesdays and the Presbyterian Church on Fridays.
It all else fails, mail your registration check to,
808 Washington Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130