Archive for the ‘ON THE ROAD’ Category

Day of tango at the Copa   Leave a comment

Day of tango at the Copa

The December 1994 issue of the Argentine tango magazine El Firulete reported the first celebration of the Day of Tango outside Buenos Aires. Billed as the International Day of Tango, the event took place in Fremont, California at a place called La Cueva. Representatives of the Bay Area Tango Association, and event executive producer and publisher of El Firulete Alberto Paz, took turns to read from various essays about the lives of Carlos Gardel and Julio de Caro.

December 11 has been the Dia Nacional del Tango in Argentina since 1977 when it was decreed as such in commemoration of the birth dates of the creators of the voice and music of tango, Carlos Gardel and Julio De Caro, respectively. The person behind the efforts to establish a National Day of Tango was Ben Molar, a poet, editor, maker of stars and pop stars and patron of the cultural life of Buenos Aires (named distinguished citizen of the city), head of the Academy Porteña of Lunfardo and the Academia Nacional del Tango.This year, the Academy of Tango – Texas, an Austin-based non-profit, celebrates the first official “Day of Tango” (Dia del Tango) festival with live performances by area tango instructors, professional performers, poets and musicians.

The Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, recently issued a Proclamation designating December 11th as the Day of Tango, and the State of Texas Governor’s office has also recognized this date as a momentous event. With the approval of La Academia Nacional del Tango de la Republica Argentina, The Academy of Tango-Texas is proud to bring this momentous celebration to Austin!

Downtown Austin

The Copa Bar and Grill is located in the heart of downtown Austin in a very old building, offering the sights, sounds and flavors of Latin America. It features a diverse lineup of live music, and on Tuesday nights it is the home of Always Tango weekly milonga.

As we arrived, we were directed to the second floor where they had set up the room for vendors (shoes, dresses,and books) and a food table catered by Buenos Aires Cafe.
Shortly thereafter we came down to the ground floor salon where the festivities took place.

The first hour was devoted to introductions, readings on the history of tango, poetry and an Argentine folk group dance in typical native attires.
During the second hour, dedicated to the Golden Era, hosts Alicia and Juan Carlos took turns to dance with various members of the community followed by a group performance by students of Daniela Arcuri.
Gifted musician Glover played several tango classics on the piano and a short segment of open social dance followed.
At the 3 o’clock hour, a piano performance by Renee Casarsa took the audience through a quick trip back in time with compositions like El choclo and El entrerriano to Piazzolla’s Verano porteño.
Then it was time for the Evolutionary tango performances by several hot couples that included Monica and Gustavo, Julia and Jerry, and ourselves.

Participants Certificate presentation

The evening continued with more poetry reading, singing, and musical performances followed by Neo Tango performances (whatever that is because it all looked like So You Can Dance meet Forever tango) highlighted by Judy Foster, former disciple from San Antonio, and talented Daniela Arcuri. A final number featuring heavily tattooed dancers didn’t seem to meet the climatic expectations for a fair ending to an incredible day, but it got the mostly local audience whistling and cheering.

Happy to have been there

Valorie and Alberto dance to Indio manso with the Carlos Di Sarli orchestra

An emotional state of being nostalgic   1 comment

Tango Week for milongueros

Lisbon, Portugal

June 13-16, 2002



“This music is the life of the city, springing from the common people, associated with the bohemian life-style, the shady world, heat, a smoky atmosphere, wine, the commoner, the aristocracy, a more than 150 year-old companion, in political, monarchical, republican, socialist, and democratic struggles.”

As we walked through narrow alleys paved with cobblestones, Alex and Sol, continued to describe what we were about to hear as soon as we entered a small door carved at the foot of a hill. Little is known about the origin of this piece of poetry expressing pain, sadness, full of emotion, except that it was probably sung by slaves or sailors brought to shore by ships traveling across the oceans from remote continents.

We have heard similar claims in Buenos Aires and in New Orleans, both port cities, both early colonies, both cradles of tango and jazz respectively.

Our thoughts were interrupted as a voice from the shadows of the room said, “Hush, the fado is going to be sung.” The sound of a guitar and a mandolin preceded the voices of men and women as they took turns to pour out their hearts with tales of lost love, hopes and dejection. We were in another port city, an early colony, where a hundred people have promised to show us their love of the tango, their understanding of its ethos, and the way they treasure the opportunities to embrace and dance. “It’s because of the fado,” they have said, when after months of exchanging e-mails, Alex invited us to come to Lisbon to teach tango.

After having spent one week in Italy teaching at Villa La Rogaia in Umbria, it was time  to get on the road, the railroad that is. The ride was wonderful, relaxing, and picturesque. The daylight finally turned to darkness around 10 PM, and by breakfast time, we were again speeding across the French countryside. In Paris, with four hours to spare, we had lunch near the Gare du Montparnasse, and wrote a whole bunch of postcards to our friends before boarding the high speed train to Lisbon.

The vineyards of Bordeaux flirted so briefly as the train sped by, with an invitation to taste the fermented elixir of its grapes to which we could only wave regrets. Our excitement for the days ahead had no point of reference, no prior experience to draw upon, and no knowledge of how the Portuguese approached the tango.

At over 200 m.p.h., seven unforgettable days were peeling from our eyes and lodging in our memory. The intensity of La Rogaia’s days and nights, the warmth and scent from the good bye hugs still fresh in our bodies, and the exhilaration of having opened new eyes to the magical spell of our tango, made it very hard to imagine what lay ahead for us in the land of Vasco da Gama.

The sun had set once more and the names on the billboards of the cities that were passing by the windows indicated that we had left France and we were now traveling through Spain. The topic of conversation at dinner time included which language we would be using to teach in Portugal. A couple of days later we would be standing up in front of fifty dancers, beginning our class in English, Europe’s second language, we had been told, only to be asked politely if we could switch to Spanish, a language which lusitanos were very familiar with.

Speeding into the night we were having our first taste of Portuguese hospitality as the train porter, attentive without being intrusive, refilled our glasses with the bouquet of porto. Soon our eyes shut down, our bodies went to sleep, and our minds dreamed of all the things to come.

Dozing off and on from village to village, from valleys to mountain passes, and from sunshine to moonlight, we couldn’t anticipate that in the seven days ahead of us, we would be part of some unbelievable experiences. The hands down favorites to win the World Cup, Argentina’s national soccer team would be unceremoniously sent packing back to a depressed Buenos Aires. After boarding a state-of-the-art train in the City of Lights, we would disembark and it would seem that we had traveled back in time to what Europe looked like fifty years ago. When entering the basement ballroom of the one-hundred-year-old Clube Estefania, we would gasp and shudder at the intense energy irradiating from the embraces of over twenty-five couples obliviously dancing in a collective state of trance.

We couldn’t have imagined that during the next seven days we would marvel at the hills and monuments of a city built on the banks of the Tagus River.

We would tour a city that in many places still maintains the colonial manners from the times when intrepid sailors set to sea in search of undiscovered continents and unimaginable fortunes. We would drink port wine, green wine, and more wine. We would taste delicacies at established restaurants, eat family style at the cafeteria of the Clube Estefania, and occupy one of five tables eating with the locals at a hole in the wall by the riverside.

There would be days when we would explore the narrow and curvy alleys of the Barrio Alto, the oldest settlement in Lisbon, and the center of its night life. On the way down we would spend hours at a flea market perched on several blocks of uphill and down hill streets. We would be able to do this day after day because in Lisbon, we would learn, the tango is a late night activity. Our tango activities would consist of daily three hour sessions starting at 7 PM, followed by dancing from 11 PM until 3 or 4 in the morning. In the process we would become affectionately attached to a group of people who loved to dance not just tango, but quizomba, an African rhythm which sounded like a mix of Brazilian samba and Cuban rumba.

We would swiftly be overtaken by the care, love and respect that the Lisbon tangueros profess for the tango, its cultural roots, and the people whose original image it reflects. We would quickly understand the meaning of saudade, an emotional state of being
nostalgic. We would be immersed in a love fest of embraces and osculations. We would quickly learn to love the unique sounds of a language which reads like Spanish, but sounds like a carioca bossa nova.

At the farewell party Sunday at the Club Barraca, we would see the full force of quizomba, fado and tango combined when the participants of the tango week would be joined by lots of young and middle age dancers curious about the intricacy of the tango, and attracted by the sensual appeal of the tango dancers.

That night we would discover another facet of Alex’s artistic life. The Argentine expatriate, a musician, modern dancer and Portugal’s leading tango promoter, would be the soul of the Barraca spinning music, arousing the crowd with the beat he kept banging on a cow bell, and playing a composition of his own to which the entire room would take to the floor and burst into a spontaneous line dance.

Before this all happened, we woke up to see another morning  and a shroud of fog carpeting the valley below as the train rode high above the mountains. Just before noon on June 11, the train pulled into the old terminal by the river. Something special was about to begin: “Maestros Alberto y Valorie ben-vindo a Lisboa,” said Jose Serrao welcoming us to his city. Soon we were in a taxi climbing the narrow streets of old Lisbon on our way to the hotel. A couple of hours, a shower, and a few sardines later, Alex and Sol picked us up to take us out to dinner and listen to the Fado.

Sorting out our way around laundry hanging from balcony to balcony across the narrow cobblestone streets, Alex said, “This music is the life of the city, springing from the common people, associated with the bohemian life-style, the shady world, heat, a smoky atmosphere, wine, the commoner, the aristocracy…”

Posted January 20, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in ON THE ROAD

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A night Chicago will never forget   2 comments

Not long ago, tango in the US was one happily dysfunctional family. We were young and wild and we loved to visit all our brothers, sisters, and cousins at a time when tango traveling was not yet an option for the grand majority. We had begun the life of the traveling teachers in 1996 going up and down the state of California.

In 1998, some tango in-laws had opened the only salon in the Midwest devoted exclusively to the promotion and preservation of the Argentine tango. A series of life circumstances led them to work very hard to renovate and decorate a 4,000 sq ft studio on a property where an A&P supermarket once existed, before a laser tag game room, and a martial arts studio did business at the premises.

One balmy Chicago night, precisely Saturday, June 6, 1998 we culminated a week long series of workshops with a memorable tango party at Tango nada mas. As weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, the family grew apart, feuds developed, and people went their separate ways creating their own micro communities, shoving the welcome signs in the attic of oblivion.

As time went by, many memories vanished, including the overwhelming elegance of Tango Nada Mas, the carefully selected tango music, and the way we felt for these members of our tango family for whom we had the most sincere affection and friendship making their happiness ours.

Then, just the other day, looking for something else, it was such a enormous surprise to find a videotape containing some great memories of our Chicago visit that we had long forgotten, but after watching it, we’re almost sure that Chicago will never forget… Just in case, here is reminder.

A Night Chicago Will Never forget video

How many steps do you really know?   Leave a comment

For those who have been paying attention, I just went through a major life adjustment experience involving a little wire fed through the groin, carrying a micro roto rooter snake and a microscopic size wire mesh to the congested coronary arteries just around the corner from the heart.The effects have been borderline miraculous. Among the newly found wonders, is the ability to have a clear mind and a refurbished memory. Of course, there are things one remembers no matter what, but others vanish as if they never existed, so it is a thrill to have a moment of remembrance courtesy of a long forgotten disc buried somewhere in the man’s cave. One thing led to another, and watching the video reminded me about something I’ll never forget but I’ve always been reluctant to repeat.

In 1997, on the last day of our month long intense personal sessions with Mingo Pugliese in Buenos Aires, the veteran sage told me, “At this moment, you have more power of improvisation than Miguel Zotto.” Say what? It took years of processing and putting into context the wealth of knowledge we had acquired, to understand the profound meaning of what he had said. While the greatest professionals rehearse and rehearse to perfect what they sell to an audience, the one who masters the concepts of the structure of the tango and understands the distinctive yet complementary roles of the man and the woman, has the ability to create at will, free from choreography constrains, driven by an unlimited power of improvisation.

As the years went by and we developed a unique methodology to explain the structure of the dance, and use it as an intelligent framework to teach into the brain rather than the eyes of the learners, we understood the difference between how many steps one may know, and how many steps one is capable of executing. That difference is improvisation, the ability to dance in the spur of the moment. I don’t know how many steps I know, but I can dance an unlimited number of them.

I have now danced more in the last two and a half months than in the last two and a half years. I have been feeling stronger and stronger with every tanda, and we have lost the fear of dancing in front of others. We have been building on incorporating many of the highly technical moves we used to teach for fun and inspiration. As a matter of fact, a lot of our greatest dancing moments have taken place in front of a group of dedicated group of learners after a grueling weekend of lessons. Maybe is because the content of the lessons are still fresh, maybe is because we just love to unwind while everybody is trying to catch their breath.

Dancing to Remembranzas at the end of a long weekend of lessons, June 18, 2006

Posted August 5, 2010 by Alberto & Valorie in ON THE ROAD

THE NYC BLACK AND WHITE TANGO BALL   Leave a comment

Celebrate Tango Week NYC, July 19th – 26th, 2009 was proclaimed The Official NYC Argentine Tango Week by Mayor Bloomberg & the City of New York ! This year’s Elegant Black & White Tango Ball was the place to see and be seen on Saturday July 25th at Stepping Out Studios 37 W 26th Street. By the time the clock stroke midnight, a capacity crowd was primed for some amusing entertainment after having danced for a solid two hours non stop.

THE MIDNIGHT SHOW

Sid Grant and Gayle Madeira as the Tin Man and Dorothy

The 3rd USA Tango Champions! Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart

Guillermina Quiroga and Junior Cervila

THE CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG   2 comments

Tonight is the night when we fulfill a personal dream that began a year ago while totally unexpected I found myself being wheeled to the operating room of East Jefferson General Hospital. Conflicted and uncertain of the outcome, I was haunted by thoughts of life after the unthinkable. My dearest love and life partner continuing the journey without her Tangoman was a thought hard to formulate. A cynical New Jersey housewife wrote later, “Bud, she’ll do OK,” projecting in the reality of her statement a possible lack of partner intimacy, the kind I have been so fortunate to nurture with my dancing butterfly.

Most social tango dancers I know reach a level of mediocrity where they begin to view the way others dance in a negative way, passing judgment and lamenting their shortcomings on account of others behavior. I stopped playing the game of judging the way others dance when we began to dance together. I realize now how much I love the way we dance, the way we economize movement and milk the three minutes of any tango, and how each time feels like a new beginning. It’s almost sinful not to share it.

During the recovery process I promised myself to enter the US Salon Tango Championship held annually in New York City in July, the birth month of my dear Valorie. What could be better than to treat my dear Mariposa with a reunion with friends from the previous life while doing what we love the most in our current life. The perfect birthday present that keeps on giving.

So here we are getting ready to head for the Stepping Out Studios, pouring rain or not. We will be dancing three pieces with eleven other couples in front of a panel of three judges. All the preparation, the long walks, the late night milongas, have got us ready to go out on the dance floor and dance tango, our dance.

SOWING GOOD INTENTIONS AND HARVESTING KINDNESS   1 comment

As Father’s Day approaches, we don’t expect getting greetings cards from Walter, Joe, Ann, George, Nicole, David, Mario and a few other long forgotten tangosons and daughters whose names have faded down memory lane. These are people we gave birth to as tango dancers, teachers, promoters along with helping them build their fledgling communities since 1996. Today, from Anchorage to the Hudson Valley, across the Pacific Ocean to Honolulu, and across the country through Champaign-Urbana, Sarasota, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee,  our tangosons and daughters are the trunks who have grown from the tango seeds we’ve been sowing since the days when the passion for tango really meant that. Until recent, we even had a special mention at the bottom of one those communities websites, where forever gratitude and appreciation for having started it all was wholeheartedly expressed with the exuberance of those who still have not lost their bearings. It is a fact of life that kids who never grow up renege of the experiences of the early years, denying the existence of those parental figures who took them by the hand and taught them how to walk without tripping, and how to skip around the potholes of tango life. They continue to be children in oversize bodies being bound by the shame that blinds them.

As the years went by we slowed down the itinerant nature of our lives, settled in the South, downsizing and investing time and money in a local community, only to see it wiped out by Katrina. Boo hoo, boo hoo… Well there are things that needed to be said while being alive, because we are seeing an alarming increase in the death announcements of people we know. Paraphrasing Ana Maria Rabatte’s poem IN LIFE, BROTHER, IN LIFE,  let’s not wait for people to die to talk about our affection. Let’s do it while they’re still alive brothers and sisters. If you want to give a flower don’t wait until someone dies, send it today with love, while they’re still alive.

Anyway, when we were looking forward to sitting on the porch, sipping Malbecs, and watching the jazz funerals pass by on their way to the Lafayette cemetery nearby, we got the call to go out and help bring to life a new tango community. Right in the Emerald Coast, the Hamptons of the New Orleans well to do, the Floridians Redneck Riviera. Let me tell you, if feels good to be taking new steps all over again along with our newest tangosons and daughters… The planting of good intentions yields a harvest of kindness.

A memorable weekend along the Emerald Coast