Archive for the ‘HOME’ Category

International High School Inaugural Gala   Leave a comment

Posted June 8, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

It feels like 2000 again   Leave a comment

Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart teach tango in New Orleans at this studio – photo by Alberto Paz

To say that Alberto and I are excited with the way the upcoming Thursday Argentine tango sessions are shaping up, would be a major understatement. Really. Can’t tell if the moon is in the seventh house and Mercury aligns with Mars, but it really feels like 2000 again…For those of you who might wonder why 2000 is significant, it is because that is the year Alberto and I moved to New Orleans and became the resident tango teachers and promoters. We had our own dance studio (The House of Tango), taught several weekly classes, and over the course of the years right up until Katrina, hosted five acclaimed tango festivals in New Orleans. We also produced tango shows, and performed in many showcases.

Highlights in the tango career of Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart

After Katrina, things changed, even in our happy little tango world. But now, with Alberto’s health restored, and the city’s rebirth in full swing, we are ready to resume where we left off. We will be teaching weekly classes again at a beautiful ballet studio on Canal Street.

Fundamentals are not something we learn today and then discard tomorrow. Accomplished musicians do scales. Accomplished athletes do drills. Accomplished ballet dancers do daily classes at the barre. Accomplished artists draw every day. Accomplished writers write every day. This is how we use our fundamentals. They are the tools that we use every day as tango dancers. The more experienced we become, the more our fundamentals will look so spectacular that they will not be recognized as such by the untrained eye.

Our classes will be two hours long. Every week we will begin with a warm up, something we call Tango Fitness that drills technique. This session will be led by myself. Then, Alberto and I will introduce a particular aspect of technique which will be pertinent to the topic chosen for the evening’s lesson.

Tango is the ultimate touch dance between a man and a woman. It is a safe form for experiencing human connection three minutes at a time. It is an exercise in mutual respect and consideration for both partners as they both embark on a journey that requires full participation and cooperation from both ends of the partnership. No partner needed. Multiple lesson pass don’t expire unless we do first.

with Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart
Lelia Haller Dance Arts
4916 Canal St., New Orleans, LA

STARTS THURSDAY AUGUST 4, 2011 (and then every Thursday thereafter)

8 pm – 10 pm

$15 per person, $25 per couple
5 lesson pass $50 per person, $90 per couple

For more information, 504.535.3614, or email,

Grandpa got run over by a taxi   Leave a comment

We love to sit around the table at the milonga and listen to grandpa’s stories of the old days. The formative years of the tango, as he calls it, when men danced with women and age was not a reason for discrimination. Everyone knew somebody, even when they all went by their first names, and nobody knew where anyone else lived or what they did for a living. They abode by a code of conduct that had been brought from far away lands by legendary members of the “milongas porteñas.” For grandpa, the nineties were the golden years of tango in North America. He even calls himself a proud member of the class of 1995, when Stanford University in Palo Alto, California declared that 1995  was the year of the milonguero.

It seems that when a person ages, time passes by a lot faster and the pace of progress can be overwhelming for people who belong to  the last generation that listened to the radio. These people have an uncanny power of imagination, can visualize many things, and are able to think and comprehend concepts in a very complex manner exercising their brains at full capacity.  I’ve seen grandpa shake his head in disbelief seeing guys perched on a dark corner watching You Tube videos in their miniature screens. A man formed in the gracious and romantic art of glancing, raising an eyebrow, and nodding the head to engage a female into accepting an invitation to dance, he gets unsettled by the sight of females reverting to a primal state using their thumbs to ferociously send text messages on their phones at a milonga.

Imagine the surprise when the other night grandpa borrowed my iPhone and texted “Next Tanda?” to the lady across the table. Her eyes lit up with mischievous pleasure, and texted back, “Yes” and continued thumbing her phone.

The current tanda came to an end, the cortina ensued and the next tanda began. Grandpa got up, gave a kiss and a hug to a friend who had stopped by the table and began to go around the table to meet the texting lady, who was already up bright eyes and bushy tail. Suddenly her face went ashen in a panic sort of way. A guy was rushing across the floor heading in  her direction. She looked at my grandpa and said something like, “Sorry, I had promised him a dance on my way to the bathroom.” I was afraid that grandpa was going to live up to his reputation of making women cry, but he simply said, “Yes means yes,” and added, “Go and dance with him.” At that moment I fell very proud of the old man.

As he sat down hiding his hurt pride with a sweet smile, grandma leaned over and whispered in his ears, “Don’t worry, honey, don’t take it personally. That’s her taxi and she pays him to dance with her,” and then kissing him softly added, “You just got run over by a taxi.

Posted July 2, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME, Humor

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It ain’t there no more   Leave a comment

Sam and Kathy were part of the regular crowd at Le chat noir on St. Charles Ave where on Tuesday night the downtown dancers met for a few hours to massacre the tango.

Dispense the evocative image but consider that in 2000 we were newly arrived hardcore militants from the mecca of tango in North America, and not used to see middle age women wearing tight corsets, skirts with slits up to their navels periodically landing on their rear ends on the checkered tile floor.

They sure made a splash of lace, feathers, and white flesh as they struggled to get up while Oblivion was playing on the speakers.

The deal with Sam and Kathie was that they owned the Canal Guesthouse on Canal St. just a skip and a jump from the French Quarter.

The building was reported to have been a bordello way before David Vitter was of age to become a client.

We heard that the premium ticket to the Guesthouse was an invitation to watch the Endymion parade on the weekend prior to Mardi Gras. By February of 2001 we had already made our mark in the New Orleans tango scene, and we got invited to watch Endymion. That was a big deal, being on the balcony perched over the parade route experiencing for the first time the full shock effect of the mega krewe that Endymion is famous for.

The years went by and we didn’t see them around anymore, except maybe once or twice a year at some fund raising event. Then Katrina hit the city and the levees breached, and the city flooded, and life as we had gotten fond of enjoying came to an end.

We spent the next three years dealing with survivor’s guilt, providing shelter for dear friends who lost their homes, and giving one on one moral and spiritual support to many who were lost to the world of sanity and walked with an empty gaze in their eyes.

Gradually we returned to the sparse dancing events others were trying to keep going, and one day we read on a flier that Sam and Kathy were opening Canal Place, a mini dance studio on a former flooded garage at one end of the Guesthouse‘s ground floor.

One of our former dancers started holding classes there, and soon we suggested that he go ahead and moved his Friday milonga there.

Breaking a time honored tradition, we went out on New Year’s Eve fearing the bullets falling from the sky, and received 2010 at the Canal Place. It was a very important moment because we got to reunite with strayed friends.

We held classes there for a while, and the day I was released from the hospital after being rushed there because of a severe cause of anemia, the phone rang around 9:30 pm and when I picked it up, the Friday crowd at the milonga had stopped dancing and were singing happy birthday to me. That was April 16, 2010.

Of all the places we have danced in New Orleans, not counting the ones we hosted, the Canal Place was the most nurturing and non partisan place to dance tango. The long benches on one side instead of segregated tables perhaps discouraged the gossiping, evil eyes and tongue slashing that are so toxic to tango dancing.

So imagine how heartbroken I was the other day when driving by the 1900 block of Canal Street  I noticed something odd. There was an empty lot where I had become used to see the Canal Guesthouse.

The state of Louisiana wants to build a couple of hospitals on historic grounds on what New Orleanians call Mid City, and the plans have been on a fast track despite alternative proposals and citizens’s protests. Earlier this year, the process of expropriation went into full speed, but somehow it seemed that we had been in a deep state of denial.

As I kept heading to the foot of Canal Street, I found myself mentally giving thanks to Sam and Kathy for all the memorable opportunities we had to replenish our life memories with wonderful experiences, and channeling Benny Grunch.

Photos courtesy of Canal Guesthouse
Aerial photo by Jackson Hill courtesy of Inside the Footprint Blogspot

Don’t leave home without dancing   Leave a comment

Irish Channel couple doesn’t have to leave home to go dancing
Published: Saturday, April 02, 2011, 5:00 AM 

There’s nothing “typical” about typical shotgun houses. They may have side halls or no halls. They may have front porches but many have stoops only. Most are one story but some are camelbacks. Rooms can include living and dining rooms, offices, bedrooms, baths and kitchens, configured however the occupants have decided.

But a tango parlor?

That is exactly what Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz have in the front room of their double camelback (converted to a single) in the 800 block of Washington Avenue in the Irish Channel, on tour today as part of the Preservation Resource Center’s Shotgun House Tour.

Hart and Paz bought the bracketed shotgun from the Methodist Home in 2004, when the group was beginning to liquidate some of its properties. The building, situated on a double lot, had served as a group home for girls and looked nothing like the showplace it is today.

“There were fluorescent lights everywhere, linoleum, laminate — picture institutional,” said Hart. “Our agent and Alberto said to run the other way, but I saw that underneath all those finishes, the house was sound and had lovely proportions and loads of potential.”

Thanks to her keen sense of design and talent for color, Hart can see the promise in even the most dismal of interiors and has spent the past seven years working with her husband to transform the house into a stylish and comfortable haven.

The front door opens into the tango parlor where the couple teaches private lessons. Painted a warm cocoa color, its left wall is hung with a cluster of white-framed mirrors, in varied shapes. Another wall holds a grid of tango sheet music covers, all framed exactly alike, that add color and romance to the space. Overhead, a chandelier — painted a vivid coral color, provides soft light. A low bench where dancers change their shoes was purchased at a thrift store, painted white, and then upholstered in imitation white patent leather.

Orange and brown? Mismatched mirrors? Thrift store purchases? Fake patent leather? It’s all part of what Hart describes as her dynamic decorating style, a tricky pursuit that she pulls off with the deftness of a pro.

“When I was growing up, my mother loved to redecorate our house all the time, but not by buying new things. Instead, she’d say ‘I feel a little blue. Let’s rearrange the furniture!’ And we would,” Hart said. “My father would come home and play along. He’d say. ‘I must be in the wrong house! Why look at this place — it’s beautiful.’ It happened all the time.”

Hart says she also developed her confidence with paint at her mother’s knee.

“When spray paint became popular, I remember sitting obediently on the sofa watching my mother while she carefully spray painted polka dots on a wall,” Hart said.

A different kind of decor

You won’t find polka dots in the Hart-Paz home, but the cased opening between the tango parlor and living room (the first room on the right side of the house) is fitted with slab doors painted in wide stripes.

“The doors were there — part of the institutional décor — but I had paint left over from various rooms in the house and used it to paint stripes and tie everything together,” Hart explained. “They’re my ‘Loretta Young’ doors.”

The living room is painted the same warm cocoa as the adjoining tango parlor and benefits from the same jolts of accent colors: Orange on a sofa throw and side-table bust, acid green on the silk drapes and a wing chair. A striped animal skin bridges the space between the settee (“70s French” according to Hart) and graceful sofa, both upholstered white.

“I bought the sofa from Bridge House and fabric online and had the sofa, settee and dining chairs in the kitchen all covered with it,” Hart said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a great look.”

Hart should know. For a few years, she has been sharing her aesthetic insights and exotic do-it-yourself know-how on her blog, Visual Vamp. She works full-time as a design consultant at perch., a Magazine Street home design shop, and also performs interior design services for clients.

When she isn’t dancing, that is.

Alberto and I are ardent tango dancers,” she explained. “We first came to New Orleans in 1999 to teach a tango workshop and were seduced by the city. We were ready for something new, and New Orleans reminded us of Buenos Aires, where Alberto is from. So we cashed out of the real-estate market in San Francisco and moved here.”

After buying the Irish Channel house, Hart says top priorities were the bedroom, kitchen and bath.

“I knew if those spaces were in shape, I could be comfortable in this place while we were in the process of ripping out everything we didn’t like and making it over,” she said. “I am a great believer in finding ways to use what you have, so a surprising amount of things actually stayed.”

Instead of tearing out the closets and upper cupboards in the dining room/office (immediately past the tango parlor toward the rear of the house), Hart left them in place but removed the doors. The upper cubbies now hold a book collection and the lower portion has been converted to a buffet area by the addition of a mirror-topped counter and a burlap skirt below to conceal supplies.

In the kitchen, the original cabinet boxes remain in place, but Paz made new doors for both the tops and the bottoms. Up top, chicken wire inserts fill the doorframes and the cabinets now serve as a display area for Hart’s ironstone collection. Laminate countertops were transformed by the application of a mixture of pigmented concrete, extending all the way up the wall to the bottom of the cabinets, to yield a uniform and sleek look.

Style in motion

Recently, rooms from the Hart-Paz house were featured in “Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design” by Christine Lemieux and Rumaan Alam. But changes to the home’s interior design since the book photos were taken help explain why Hart uses the term “dynamic” to describe her design style.

“People have told me that they haven’t changed the location of the furniture or paintings in their house since they put them there 25 years ago,” she said. “But why? You can get a whole new look just by moving things around and changing colors.”

In the book, for example, a white console now in the living room is shown in a different room, painted shades of blue and green. The orange chandelier in the tango parlor was white. Where there is now ironstone on display, there had been majolica.

“Sometimes I paint rooms in the middle of the night,” Hart said. “Alberto wakes up and asks what happened.”

Throughout the house, Hart has employed strategies to make spaces feel more private, sometimes a feat in shotgun houses with doors leading from room to room. In the living room, for example, a burlap curtain stretches the width and height of one wall, concealing the door to the guest room on the other side. Likewise, in the guest room, a wide, tall curtain of white duck hangs behind the bed.

“It’s actually a drop cloth,” Hart explained. “Drop cloths are great for decorating because they’re made of good quality fabric and are big and inexpensive. All you have to do is wash them to soften them up a little.”

Hart employed another visual trick in her living room to improve its symmetry. Frustrated by the off-center side window, she installed a pair of shutters over it on the inside and a second pair adjacent to them on the wall.

“Now the ‘window’ is centered on the double doors to the tango parlor and everything is balanced,” she said.

Hart and Paz say they still have projects to do (think new appliances, and refreshing the master bath), and if history repeats itself, the evolution of the house will be a never-ending process. For the Visual Vamp, that prospect is just fine.

R. Stephanie Bruno can be reached at

Posted April 2, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

Opening night   Leave a comment

On Sunday, October 3, 2010 we hosted the opening night of a new monthly milonga to be held on the first Sunday of the month.
A wonderful venue on St. Charles Ave, Taqueros Restaurant has a wonderful floor, great sound system, and a very delicious menu.

P.S. On October 26, 2010 Alberto suffered a cardiac arrest at the Calgary airport from which he miraculously recovered without a trace of damage to heart and brain. On December 5, he made a wonderful comeback hosting with Valorie what was going to be the last of the short lived first Sunday milonga at Taqueros.

Posted October 4, 2010 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

The black and gold house party   Leave a comment

House tango parties are a rarity in the largest cities of the Northeast, Midwest and West. The critical mass of dancers makes almost impossible to dance in a living room. Not so in the Deep South where the culture of tango dancing has not caught up with the global explosion. From Birmingham, to Tallahassee and all across the South, somebody’s home is likely to be the center of tango activities. Tango dancing visitors must go sometimes through extreme maneuvers to find out where the social gathering is, and wondering if, as strangers, they will be welcomed.  It seems difficult to keep the tango from getting tangled into the complex social mesh that has been called the Southern hospitality. Not so in New Orleans.

In the five years before Katrina we managed to get people to like coming out dancing to a variety of public places to dance tango, and by the time the waters flooded the city, New Orleans had a prominent presence in the national tango scene because of weekly Saturday night milongas, a couple of weekly practices and monthly dances, and an annual major festival.

In the five years after Katrina, there has been a slow recovery process where former students have taken upon themselves to offer possibilities to dance, at least once a week and a couple of times a month. But something is still missing , and it is probably somewhere where the receding waters finally went taking the life and joy of a city that care seemed to have forgotten.

That’s why we welcomed the open invitation to a Black and Gold house party at an East New Orleans home that has been rebuilt on a site that had remained submerged under 6 feet of water for weeks after the breaching of the levees. The actual invitation read, Aaron’s Black and Gold Milonga (pre-pre Saints season), 8:00 PM – till,  Aaron’s house. There’s a pool, you can bring anything that will make the party better!

The key word is “party.” And that is something we know how to do with flair and style around here. Grant you, we all had in common our dedication and personal way to love the tango, although there were a few acquaintances of the host, curious about this tango thing he talks about all the time. There is really nothing mysterious or secretive about what makes New Orleanians drive across the lake, cross the river, or get in a car and head out of the city on I-10. It is a simple formula, free food and free drinks, and of course, as host Aaron says, being with people one likes…

The Black and Gold house party New Orleans style

Posted August 16, 2010 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME, NEW ORLEANS FUN

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