New managers and the old Cumparsita   Leave a comment

New managers and the old Cumparsita

Since October 2012 we have been hosting a fourth Sunday of the month milonga at a very impressive restaurant overlooking the Mississippi river with a panoramic view of the city skyline. It is a very rare circumstance to find such a prime real estate for tango in a city that lives off tourism and dollars spent drinking and eating. The concept of well adjusted adults sipping cheap Cabernet and munching potato chips in between long periods of elegant dancing is not enticing for most public establishments in the city. So, we were very fortunate that the space in question was available on slow Sunday evenings. A wonderful owner made the whole difference allowing our dancers to feel welcome in a separate dance hall with very tall ceilings and gigantic windows.

The restaurant industry offers great mobility to people who choose to pursue careers in the field from managers to receptionists and waitstaff. We have had four different managers in the course of our six milongas since October 2012.  As each new manager is hired there is a teaching moment they have to go through regarding the set up of the room, the placement of the DJ table, and how to provide table service without darting in and out of the dance floor. There is one especially important aspect of the revolving door managers that we have had to deal with on several occasions: handling closing time. Although the restaurant stays open past 10 pm, our milonga goes to 10 pm. We all agree that 10 pm means people no longer can expect to be seated and served, but every time a new manager walks in at a quarter to ten and begins to clear the tables, fold the chairs and remove the tablecloths while people are still dancing, we go through the same routineNew.

This is the opportunity for a teaching moment: explaining to quizzical eyes that the Argentine tango is a ritual that celebrates the culture and traditions of a far away city, and that we approach tango dancing with an understanding of how those traditions are adapted to our national, regional and local communities. We explain the concept of grouping the music in sets separated by a short interlude to allow people to take care of personal necessities, such as food, drinks and greetings. We also explain that the music is programmed to end very close to 10 pm, and that we make the announcement that the last set is about to play to give dancers an opportunity to chose who they want to share the last dances of the night with. Then, following a tradition common in the halls of Buenos Aires, we play as the very last song, a universally known tango called La cumparsita. That is the official end of the dance, and that is the time to start folding chairs, cleaning tables, and clearing the room. It is not very nice to start busing tables while the evening has not officially ended and people are still dancing.

For a month or two we enjoy a great evening end to end, until a new manager walks in at a quarter to ten, and another teaching moment is called for…

1. If and when the last set is announced, people know and may expect that there will be a last tango called La cumparsita.
2. While La cumparsita is playing, it’s not nice to start busing tables and moving chairs around those still dancing.
3. Wait till the song ends, people clap thanking the DJ, and the hosts thank those still present for their support.
4. Then have the bus crew move in.

Listen

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Posted April 28, 2013 by Alberto & Valorie in NEW ORLEANS LIFESTYLE

The Guest List   Leave a comment

The Guest List

Early in 1996 we dropped out of the corporate and high tech worlds to pursue our new found love affair with each other and the tango. Looking into the future we reckoned that we had at least twenty years of strong legs on which to dance our way around the world. Unknowingly we become the first full time couple teaching across the USA for a span of ten years on a continuous basis.

With still a few years left on that twenty year investment of good legs, we still dance and teach, but have become more grounded in our adopted city in the South, New Orleans. Unexpected events of life have made us stop, and look back, realizing that we had never set aside the time to rekindle the memories embedded in dozens of photo albums, VHS tapes, Digital 8 and Mini DV cassettes.

One photo in particular brought back memories of an aspect of our lives that we seldom talk about, or arguably brag about. The photo was of a sign that hung on the front gate of our Silicon Valley home. It was the first sign that welcomed those who entered our Planet Tango.

From 1996 to 2000, we served as the gateway into the Bay Area tango community for many well known and a few unknown artists… We promoted, translated for, and provided work opportunities to the initial wave of visiting dancers from Argentina. We were also innkeepers and house hosts to many of them.

Name Housed Provided work Comments
Orlando Paiva Yes Yes Deceased
Rodolfo Cieri Yes Yes Deceased
Maria Cieri Yes Yes
Pablo Ojeda Yes Yes
Beatriz Ojeda Yes Yes
Andrea Misse Yes Yes Deceased
Leandro Palou Yes Yes
Pablo Pugliese Yes Yes
Esther Pugliese Yes Yes Deceased
Jorge Nel Yes
Facundo Posadas Yes Yes
Kely Landam Yes Yes Deceased
Armando Orzuza Yes Yes
Daniella Arcuri Yes Yes
Marcos Cuestas Yes Yes
Guillermo Merlo Yes Yes
Fernanda Ghi Yes Yes
Nestor Ray Yes Deceased
Carlos Gavito Yes Deceased
Pupi Castello First and only exhibition ever in the USA
Graciela Gonzalez with Graciela Gonzalez

After our relocation to New Orleans in 2000, we continued the tradition of hosting well known artists at our House of Tango and yearly Tango Fests, until 2005…

Name Housed Provided work Comments
Nestor Ray Yes Yes Deceased
Patricia Garcia Yes Yes
Guillermina Quiroga Yes
Alberto Catala Yes
Armando Orzuza Yes
Daniella Arcuri Yes
Miriam Larici Yes Yes
Hugo Patyn Yes Yes
Orlando Paiva, Jr. Yes

Those were wonderful years of non-stop tango life, a period in time when we didn’t realize how important it was to help so many artists to break into the new world that the USA was to become for tango… With a few exceptions, we have never heard from most of them again. So we don’t know if they ever felt the love, dedication and generosity that was gifted to them.

For us, their walking through our doors and in and out of our lives constitutes a collage of experiences we’ll never forget for as long as we live…

Requiem for a Niño Bien   4 comments

Requiem for a Niño Bien

Like the mythical milongueros of the golden years, who went to the milongas for the sole purpose of taking a girl out for coffee afterwards, but went home alone till the day they died, there are people who believe that some dance organizers get “rich” with tango. We don’t know anyone who got rich but over the years we’ve known plenty who have faced hardships because of their love affair with the tango. If you pay attention, there are always signs that the demise of a milonga is probably underway. At the local level it begins when organizers begin to plead with their patrons to “buy a drink, tip the waitress,” or both. It is very difficult to find businesses that show an interest in tango beyond the amount of drinks they pour or the number of menu items they serve. On a much larger scale, many well established milongas in Buenos Aires that take place at social institutions find the executive committees not interested in the good of the tango, but in the money they make without investing a peso on the infrastructure.  According to Marina Gambier, who blogs for daily La Nacion, Tangocool, a nine year old milonga at Club Villa Malcom, created as a challenging alternative at the time for many young people who were looking for a more relaxed tango with less behavior and dress codes, held a farewell party, with tears and some anger on Friday, March 22, 2013. In this case the signs were evident long before the outcome. Villa Malcolm‘s bathrooms were notorious for their filth. They were never cleaned on the days when there was dancing, and sometimes during summer classes, the air conditioning was not turned on.

On, Thursday, April 4, 2013, milonga Niño Bien became another casualty on the downward slope of the current forty year cycle of the tango. Organizer Luis Calvo opened the milonga in 1998 at the legendary Centro Region Leonesa hall on Humberto Primo 1462. By early 2000 the Niño Bien milonga had replaced the legendary Club Almagro as the place where the old and young dancing elite gathered to excel in front of a growing foreign audience. It was the place to be, to see and to be seen on Thursday nights. And during low tourist season the locals were able to enjoy the magnificent salon with a polished wooden floor during low tourist season. The milonga organizers were getting hit on several fronts: the high cost of rent and taxes, tourists who came with fewer tangodollars, and locals who were broke because of inflation and a bad economy. It’s not known how teachers are faring. Today, with more and more Europeans “teaching” and people learning to dance from You Tube, there are worse dancers than ever on the floor. This discourages the locals even more from going out dancing. The only ones who seem to be doing well are the tango for export dinner/show venues which are raking in up to 50% of the 1.5 billion tourist tango pesos, .

We first visited Niño Bien in 1999 while escorting two ladies from Hawaii as part of a guided tango tour of Buenos Aires. The hall was a lot bigger than Almagro. It was rectangular instead of square, and negotiating the dance floor was quite an eye opener for the traveling ladies. We returned six years later during our Katrina exile tour, and we became part of a group with a reserved table on Thursday nights. At the time we didn’t know whether we’d ever be able to return home to New Orleans, nor where we’d end up hanging up our shoes for the evening. To this day we crack  a smile when we talk to our friends about fancy dancing on a crowded floor. “If people could see us now,” sometimes we whispered in between songs, “actually doing all the footwork we try to teach them in those cavernous American halls.” But today, a Facebook post read,  “I can’t believe it. Maipu 444, Villa Malcolm and now Niño Bien,” and we gasped, looking at each other as if trying to hold on to a memory that wanted to escape like the last breath of air that precedes death.

Click anywhere on the picture above to play, or HERE to watch on You Tube

We are very grateful for our time on this earth when we could set foot in Club Almagro, Akarense, and Niño Bien. We hope to have enough relevance left to be able to tell those who want to know, what it was like to be alive and dancing during those glorious years at the turn of the century.

A special thanks to you Valorie for being the inspiration to be myself.

This is how the Centro Region Leonesa salon looked like on the last night of the milonga Niño bien

Photo courtesy of Gerard Roche, a.k.a. Gerrysan

References:
Maldito Tango Blog
Gotta Tango Book
Planet Tango Archives

Coupons   Leave a comment

Coupons

They say that when she arrives, she starts clipping virtual coupons asking people to make sure that they will have a dance later.
However, they say that when she’s engaged in a fascinating conversation with the Most Interesting Man in town (a conversation of substance, as neither of them likes superficial chit chat), she doesn’t like the stress of looking around to pay attention if she might catch someone’s eye inviting her to dance.

They say that she prefers to give her full attention to her conversation, especially if a free meal is involved. In all honesty she has been heard saying that she doesn’t like the etiquette  of the cabeceo. If a gentleman comes up to her and asks for a dance, she chooses to dance with him, or refuses him.

They say that after she leaves, she discards the imaginary coupons, and feels sorry that she did not get to use them.

Posted December 26, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in Humor

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Life is about learning how to dance in the rain   Leave a comment

Vincent Sylvain, Publisher
504-232-3499
Vincent@SylvainSolutions.com
www.NewOrleansAgenda.com

Learning How to Dance in the Rain

Why people live in New Orleans Despite the Hurricane

By Dr. Andre Perry

Dr. Andrew PerryThe recovery phase of Gulf Coast hurricanes means more than cleaning up debris caused by intense winds and torrential downpours. Recovery also means addressing insistent questions of “why do you choose to live in New Orleans?” While askers obviously have not thought deeply about this question, I do think it’s philosophical in nature. So, I offer a philosophical response with special considerations for lukewarm transplants, newbies and temporary residents who have not embraced the idea of being New Orleanian.

Living is less a question of where than how. I make a plot in New Orleans because living with storms is a way of being that I trust leads to peace. Being New Orleanian means actively deciding to live with the inevitable. I’ve reached this conclusion because the psychological concept of denial never worked well for me (or for anyone else for that matter). When one accepts the idea that storms are inevitable, a more operative and important question I wish skeptics would ask is “how do you prepare?”

Whether its hurricanes, divorce, getting fired or death,storms leave with much less fan fare than their anticipated arrivals. Life is horribly anticlimactic. Most storms come and go like Isaac. Yes, there are days-long power outages, but you struggle through it. Troubled times are eventually replaced by joyful ones.

Living with the good and the bad is about acceptance. It’s about learning how to ride out a storm. The day before Isaac’s landfall, my friend in D.C. asked, “Why don’t you evacuate?” I replied, “If another storm comes next week and the week after, do you leave again and again?” The social and fiscal costs are clearly impractical. Likewise with the storms in our lives, do we pack up and leave every time there’s trouble?

Certainly, there are events when no amount of personal preparation will do. Evacuation is often necessary. However while it was the anniversary of the U.S.’s worst natural disaster, Isaac was not Katrina. We shouldn’t equate all hurricanes to Katrina, whose devastation should have been avoided. Her disaster revealed our policy and social inadequacies. Bad education, housing and levee systems hurt us more than the storm itself.

In the hours before Hurricane Isaac’s landfall, I didn’t ask myself “why am I here” because my city and family were better prepared. In fact, my day of preparation ended with a nighttime hurricane party. After a day of securing yard stuff, filling gas tanks, and completing other practical chores,my wife and I went to Irvin Mayfield’s I-Club. You know it’s a hurricane party when Soledad O’Brien, Anderson Cooper and Dee Dee Bridgewater are watching the band take shots a day before landfall.

But that’s what we do in New Orleans. We’ve learned how to accept and prepare for the inevitable challenges of life. One of my favorite sayings is, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” That’s what it means to be New Orleanian. So when asked, why do you live in New Orleans, you can pass along my thesis and share that learning to live with the inevitable is a lot more fun than denying it exists.

Andre Perry, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Education Initiatives
Institute for Quality and Equity in Education
Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70118
Phone = 504.865.2782
Email = aperry@loyno.edu
Follow on the web at www.drandreperry.com

Milonga traspie workshops with Alberto and Valorie   Leave a comment

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

TUITION

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,

Valorie Hart
808 Washington Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130

Posted June 11, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

International High School Inaugural Gala   Leave a comment

Posted June 8, 2012 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME