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

“I hope to dance like you when I grow up”   Leave a comment

We have been in New Orleans now more time after hurricane Katrina hit than before. The way time squeezes through our mind resembles the way the flood waters came in and went leaving very little evidence of the biblical disaster that washed away lives, property and hopes during the hot and humid first half of September 2005.About six months ago I had a close encounter with my mortality that left me with the unsettling feeling of realizing how fragile life really is and how quickly, with the speed of light, the flame of life can go out. I don’t know if things happen for a reason, but I know that they happen. Deep rooted values, prejudices and attitudes have changed, like for example the hope that sooner or later people will give us public credit for all the wonderful things we have brought to their lives. The reality is that everyone is busy with their efforts to fulfill their own needs and desires.

Just the other day a wonderful young woman asked Valorie if she was the person who recently danced at an exhibition because she had recorded the dance and sent it to her mother. She was one of many young people having a good time at a home dance party. We know that on a good day, we can mix it up with the younger set, and go on like the energizer bunny while a lot of young feet, relieved of their shoes, throb laying on a couch.

The secret of course is that we know what we’re doing, and have worked very hard over the years to dance tango, milonga and vals cruzado, the way it has been danced in Buenos Aires since the 1940’s. As a matter of fact, we are too modest to remind us that we can teach anyone how to do it, and that we even have written a reference book on how it is done. We didn’t invent it, we learned it from authentic teachers, masters, only a handful of them, avoiding to fall by the mistaken notion that diversity makes up for better dancing. That’s why we don’t laugh nervously to hide the fact that we really don’t know why we’re doing what we just saw somebody else do. I know we don’t. Our happiness is because we love, respect and cherish the ritual of the tango and all the exhilaration that comes with it. And we’re ever so grateful that we have opportunities to dance, and that we can still dance.

I wonder what the lovely young girl would say to her mother when she sent her the video of our dancing. “I hope to dance like that when I grow up?” Of course not. I joke, I smile, and I say to myself, wouldn’t have been nice to document, archive and file away many of the wonderful memories pre-Katrina to be able to show it to those who came much later? To even remind us that no one can take away what we have danced. A poet once said, and I paraphrase, that a populace who doesn’t have myths is doomed to be frozen to death, but a community that is not aware of its past, myths and legends included, is already dead.

A couple of years ago, Buenos Aires cable channel Solo Tango commissioned a documentary about tango in New Orleans for broadcast in the Spring of 2007. They choose us to produce a living testimonial of the wonderful tango life we brought with us to the city of New Orleans in the year 2000. To show how things were before the levees breached after Katrina, flooding the city, and washing away lives, property and hopes.

Inspired by the candid question of the beautiful young girl, and excited by the desire of a group of youngsters to get involved in promoting tango activities in the region, we share this living testimony as a loving tribute to all those who never came back and also to those who have yet to come. To the ones who were part of those wonderful pre Katrina days, thanks for the memories.


Watch video in You Tube HERE

Mañana de carnaval   Leave a comment

Mañana de carnaval

Since our first year in New Orleans, we have honored a yearly tradition on Mardi Gras.This year made it eleven years that on the day before Ash Wednesday, on Fat Tuesday, we wake up, have breakfast, dress up for the occasion, and head for the French Quarter.

Every year we shop in our closet for something original to wear

We walk up St. Ann from Jackson Square and make our way to Pere Antoine on Royal and St. Ann. We put our names on the reservation list and proceed to enjoy the last of the St. Ann parade. Music blasts from upstairs, and the street is a cacophony of voices, laughter and happy Mardi Gras wishes.

People know where we hang out for lunch, but they don’t know how we’re dressed

After lunch we make our way to Bourbon Street, and look out for some of our friends wandering around until the sun begins to go down.

Everybody loves to be photographed with intriguing characters

We make one last stop at Quarter Past Time on Chartres where we dance a tango on the sidewalk.

The sidewalk on Chartres St. where we dance before going home

Then we head home to watch the Rex and Comus Balls with all the pomp and circumstances that is expected from royalty.

Words are not enough to describe what is like to be part of the sea of bodies that flood the streets of the Vieux Carre where alcohol and levity rule the day. Remarkably, in eleven years we have never seen or heard of a fight, an altercation, or rowdy behavior. Everybody is on their best drunken behavior, and everyone contributes to the common desire to have a good time.

Our video memories contain adult off color humor, political satire, and artistic displays of normally hidden body parts and suitable for an informed, adult mature audience…

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 housewatcher@hotmail.com.

Posted April 2, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

This girl writes beautifully   8 comments

The way some people act can make us all proud to be in the tango, or truly ashamed of that…

About a month after I suffered a cardiac arrest on the way to customs at the Calgary airport, the fog that had followed the initial total darkness in my brain, began to dissipate. The panic of falling asleep for fear of not waking up gradually faded away. Physically there was no residual damage whatsoever, but the emotional scars from the incident have changed the way I deal with unpleasant people.

One day I ran into an exchange between two women on our local tango list. One had forwarded a series of long posts describing in tabloid like detail the confidential information Valorie had been sharing during the ordeal, including very intimate family information regarding my status. The other’s one line response was This girl writes beautifully, and then she went on writing that she had forgotten something she wanted to gossip about.

This girl was Sandra Miller. She is the host I never got to meet in person.

According to her partner Ralph Bennetsen, she is a former Public Relations executive he took under his wing and helped to found the Epicurean Tango Society early in 2010. I know, because I spent almost a year of weekly telephone calls mentoring, advising, and teaching her how to be an honest promoter and a successful member of an established tango community. During that time, I sent her CDs with music for her milongas, Mardi Gras masks, and even Chicory Coffee. Such was the relationship we had developed. It seemed the right thing to do, to share the knowledge and to support a total neophyte trying to fit into an existing community. We have done many times over the years, and I don’t regret doing that with her.

Almost a month passed after my return from Calgary, when I realized that I had not heard from Sandra and Ralph. I wrote expressing my gratitude to both of them for being there to support and comfort Valorie and my daughter, and hoping that they had understood that for Valorie and Gina, the person lying on a hospital bed was a husband and a father, and that their only concern in mind was to make sure he received the right medical treatment and that he could return home safely.

I was also very happy that they had resumed their activities with success, and wished them both a very special Merry Christmas and a Happy and Very Prosperous New Year.

I wrote to Sandra and Ralph a number of times in the span of two months. They have 66 copies of our Gotta Tango books that we had shipped to Calgary to sell there, as per her request, along with a couple of dozens of Mardi Gras masks Sandra planned to sell at the Epicurean Tango Society‘s Mardi Gras party in March 2011. We wanted to a figure out a way to dispose of our books.

It has been been four and a half months, and we have not heard or read a word from either one of them. I asked for ideas and suggestions to many people I trust. I was shell shocked by the responses! Here is a sample.

– Sorry because she took a traumatic event in your life and used it to promote herself in tango. How pathetic is that? It hurts me too much to see people like Sandra use tango so selfishly to promote themselves.

– Whatever Sandra was to you before you went to Calgary, she obviously isn’t a friend to you now…

– I guess you can never tell about people by appearances. Sorry to hear that you’re having to deal with this kind of person.

– This lady sounded like a piece of work from the start. Asking Valorie to do a class while you were in intensive care? She is crazy. It sounds like you are not going to get your books back… And, tough if the post upsets her. She was your friend. She’s acting like SHE got screwed. Like you guys just didn’t keep your commitment because of some silly reason. Sorry that you have to deal with people like that.

– Unbelievable…..she was using your tragedy to gain “friends” for marketing purposes. She’s gone from my friends list. Sorry this happened to you 😦

– I did find it ‘weird’ that after your misfortune she asked to be my ‘friend’ on fb. I thought a friend of yours would be a friend of mine. I will ‘unfriend’ her immediately.

I’m very disappointed because I trusted and believed that these two were honest, ethical and decent people. I can’t figure out the reason for their behavior, what’s in their minds, or why they’ve chosen to act in such an uncivilized manner.

The odyssey tested my family’s resilience and determination in making sure I had the proper care, and that my return home was safely planned. I know that their focus on the real crisis is what saved my life. There is no doubt that they did the right thing.

I’m grateful for having lived to talk about it, and for getting to see what life might have been if I hadn’t come back.

So, the time has come to bring closure to this unfortunate chapter. Sandra Miller had the choice of acting like decent, honest, and responsible adults do. Both her and Ralph seem to have chosen to act the ways dishonest people do, and that makes me sad and sorry. We are writing off 66 books that we sell for $25. each, and the cost of two dozen Mardi Gras masks. I would have preferred to tell them to keep them for all their troubles. Instead, we feel our trust violated, and our property stolen.

The way some people act can make us all proud to be in the tango. This girl writes beautifully, but her dishonesty and lack of ethics are a real shame and she doesn’t deserve to be part of the tango world we live in.

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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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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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

Two styles of “argentine?”   Leave a comment

It seems that 2006 was a very busy year for us, according to a recently found CD with a series of videos of performance at various locations. Somehow the memory of these presentations had been erased from the cognitive mind, much like the good times during the kids growing years vanish after they start acting like jackasses forgetting everything they’ve been taught. Or at least, that’s what one thinks simmering in a latent state of resentment

There is no doubt that we were happy to walk into a ballroom function, and step onto the dance floor to show “two styles of argentine.” The beige suit was acquired in Buenos Aires during our Katrina exile, and I recently took it to the tailor for a two size shrinking alteration.

But what really strikes me as I watched the performances, is the appreciative reaction from the audience to even the simplest of moves improvised as we go through the motions of a tango and a vals cruzado. Valorie tells me that ballroom people are taught and encouraged to applaud, cheer and show their appreciation to a performing couple. Maybe you’d like to watch…

Dancing in front of an appreciative ballroom audience at a Senior Center on July 22, 2006

Posted August 6, 2010 by Alberto & Valorie in Out of town