Archive for the ‘Alberto Paz’ Tag

Reflections from the podium   1 comment

There was no New Orleans flag being raised, and no band to play the Saints, but the tears and the emotion were real when Sid Grant announced that couple number 20 were the 2009 US Salon Tango champions. The capacity crowd at the Stepping Out studios in Manhattan exploded in loud cheers and applause and the organizers and remaining finalists surrounded the winners in a sea of hugs and congratulations. Couple number 20 locked eyes and shared an emotional moment of pleasurable intimacy. We had never been so proud of each other. People we’ve never seen before seemed to be beaming with pride and joy.

True to form, we took the second place couple to dinner and at 4 in the morning we walked into our Brooklyn host home and left the First Place Cup on the kitchen counter and went to sleep. When we got up late the next day, we were treated to the first honest, sincere and overwhelming display of joy and admiration for what we had accomplished. This was coming from the other half of our set of friends and acquaintances, what some call the non tango friends and others consider a touch of reality.

The trip to New York in July was planned around three purposes. Valorie‘s birthday, Valorie‘s meeting with a publisher, and my secret desire to put our lifelong devotion to the tango out in the open for everyone to see, judge and criticize. Up until the moment our number was called in the semifinals, Valorie had humored me, from secretly “training” while dancing the full length of a huge dance floor in New Orleans, to showing off to friends on the outdoor deck of a magnificent estate in a remote corner of the hamlet of Kerhonkson in Ulster County, and on to the treacherous salons of Manhattan. She might not realize how good she is, or how I was betting on that to handicap and craft a come from behind victory. The much touted US championship was almost a family affair rudely dissed by the popes of New York tango who seem to have a high opinion of their dancing as long as they are not asked to put it on the line for others to judge. While the mostly local participants tried to outdo each other to show us out of towners a thing or two about dancing in the big city, we read the rules of the competition, and our winning strategy was to be the best at complying with them in every aspect.

The last few days of our New York trip we walked the city with one foot on the tango sidewalk and the other on the sidewalk where our friends in the publishing, interior design and financial world live their power point driven lives. Our friends from a pre-tango time, all immensely successful in their endeavors, treated us to delicious meals in their sumptuous mansions and made us feel so important in front of their friends that we began to like the celebrity treatment. In contrast, our best tango friend and his sidekick dutch treated us to a diner before running out like most New Yorkers do to pretend that they have something important to do.

At one milonga during a miserable rainy evening we were asked to dance after having paid the cost of admission and introduced as simple dancers. Before and after the dance, we were treated to a litany of complains from one of the organizers of the championship. We heard that people had complained about people who knew how to dance entering the competition, that it wasn’t fair to have an all Argentine professional panel of judges, and that very likely next year they’ll have American judges because the talkative senior citizen lady had perennially placed second during her ice skating days. What?? STFU.

At another milonga, the host we’ve known for years barely said hello. That evening we had the first of many puzzling acts of secrecy that followed us into our home city. People coming to the table and whispering things like, You opened a completely new side of tango for us! It was a pleasure to meet both of you! or, My teacher, my friend and I were impressed the way you dance. At home, people behaved much in the same way one approaches somebody who has had an irreparable loss. A hug, a faint Congratulations and a kiss. This in a city where people jump into spontaneous second line dancing when a crawfish makes it across the highway without being squashed. To be fair, a former disciple turned teacher and promoter managed to write in his newsletter that New Orleanians tangueros should be very proud of our beloved teachers becoming the US salon Tango champions . Later, he invited us to dance at a milonga he was playing the music for.

When it came time to crack the nuts, an eclectic number of our students and friends, plus a couple of strangers sponsored us with real money, and we went to Buenos Aires. Eventually we began to have a really great time being a part of the whole world championship there. We have our fans, both young and old. The young ones were fascinated by us. The old ones respected us. Valorie thinks that they should surround the stage with panels so the audience only see bodies from the shoulders down, showing the legs and feet of the dancers and not their  faces. Our lower half looks much younger, she says, adding that the government of Buenos Aires who funds this event is trying to brand tango. Like any advertiser, they want young, attractive faces as the poster children for the tango. They are packaging it for glamor now, trying to elevate the tango from the neighborhood social club image of the working middle classes.

Regardless, we had a blast. Valorie wore a classy black and white outfit both days, red shoes on the second day. I wore light striped trousers, white shirt with a tan tie one day, a golden tie the next. Black jacket. Red socks ala Fred Astaire, and my lucky burgundy and black shoes. We looked spiffy if I may say so. Our outfits really stood out as different, not trashy, and not corny and we were very comfortable in them too. Our look was one of classic salon dancers in the 1940’s. The first day we danced well, but the second day was even better. We worked the simulated dance floor on the stage very well. The music was great on both days. People gave us our fair share of applause, and when we came out the stage door, a whole flock of strangers congratulated us. Later we came to the realization that the strategy of following the rules to the letter in the cradle of tango that worked so well in New York, flew in the face of the alleged desire of the government to use fancy lipstick on the lips of… well you know what I mean, but…

I found out to my chagrin that the anxiety and nervousness of actually dancing on command in front of people resulted in chest pains as we took the stage on both days. It  must have been scary for Valorie fearing I might die me in her arms but she stayed in form cool as a cucumber trying not to shake in her Comme il fauts. She was my rock and I know she wanted me to have this moment, and for us to have it as the devoted tango couple we are, having dedicated our lives to preserving and fostering the tango for all these years, and doing this, seemed fitting. What’s amazing is that we were troupers and acted our parts very well, because no one saw the distress we felt sometimes. They said we looked like we were having a great time on stage (and we were!).

For us, we have already accomplished so much to be proud of and happy for but we want to go back in 2010 – thinner and healthier – we feel it is important that as mature dancers we don’t give up and keep showing our stuff. We made a statement in the preliminaries, and inspired many people. We would do it again, because we had a blast. And even though the public party line is that these championships are “fixed” and are less relevant than crawfish crossing the road unharmed, we garnered a lot of admiration and respect for even stepping up. It takes a lot of guts to show your stuff. And we are still the US champions, a fact that was proudly acknowledged by everyone we met in Buenos Aires. People were very proud of us, and we are very proud of ourselves for taking on this challenge. Oh, when the saints, oh when the saints go marching in…

The essence of giving thanks   13 comments

Thanksgiving is as foreign to Argentines as tango is foreign to Americans. They are traditions that need to be learned before they are understood and adopted. For Americans Thanksgiving Day is a time to sit down together, count their blessings, and give thanks for their families and their loved ones. Families in America are a reflection of the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share, and the traditions and rituals of Thanksgiving have been passed from generation to generation.

Tango is not that sacred for Argentines, but for those who consider it their way of life, it is a sociocultural phenomena rich in rituals and traditions that is celebrated all year around with the extended families that are formed with those who share the same love and passion for the music, the poetry and the dance. Likewise, the rituals and traditions are passed from generation to generation. Thanksgiving has not transcended to Argentina the way tango has been inserted into the American culture. But it ever does, you can rest assured that the traditions will be respected and preserved, and no turkey will be replaced with ostrich for an alternative Thanksgiving dinner. No High Five Giving Day either.

Imagine if you can, one who makes the decision to become an American as an adult. The discovery of a tradition such as Thanksgiving Day takes time to absorb and understand, but when it does, it takes on a special meaning of its own. Blame it on worn out neurons but I have little recollection of Thanksgiving Days before 1995. This was the year Valorie and I spent our first Thanksgiving together, less than a week after she moved from New York to Sunnyvale. We were the guests of an Argentine couple in San Francisco. The turkey was cooked in brandy. Then we danced tango.

The next year I was in Los Angeles and Valorie in New York. The year after we both were in New York, and in 1998 we gave our first Thanksgiving Grand milonga with turkey and all the trimmings at the Dance Spectrum in Campbell, CA. Then in 1999 we spent Thanksgiving in a corn field outside Champaign, IL. This started a tradition that continued in New Orleans, first in the French Quarter, then Uptown and the Irish Channel. Our devotion to the spirit of the holiday has been super sized by our love of the tango and everything good that it inspires.

Valorie and I are busy preparing Thanksgiving dinner, and setting the table to share it with loved ones. We’ll remember everyone who took us into their homes and those who came to ours over the years, and be thankful for the memories. We will toast to all of you, count our blessings and give thanks for having you all in our lives.

A Thanksgiving to Remember

Women who listen don’t’ cry   2 comments

Rumors and lies propagate around the world before the truth even gets out of bed.

We don’t know who started the rumor that “Alberto made women cry,” and we assume that it wasn’t that sex starved matron who can’t take no for an answer. Maybe it was the naive stubbornness of Gisela, may her soul rest in peace, who went around dishing out back handed compliments comparing our ethics when it comes to taking your money in exchange for your responsibility to listen and learn, with a penchant for making women cry. Or it could be… well never kind.

Over the years some people felt mortified hearing the repetition of the chant, “Alberto makes women cry” as a blanket excuse to justify lack of money, talent or self esteem. The ill conceived rumor has become one of the most often whispered maladies to virgin ears who are just joining the tango scene in New Orleans.

Eventually, the truth finally got out of bed and found its way into a Canadian blog.

DANCE AS LIFE
By Cafe Girl
Published by courtesy of Cafe Girl Chronicles

I used to think my dance lessons were all about timing, steps, musicality, and technique. Lately I have come to realize that that there’s more too it than that. The more I dance, the more I learn about life. According to my teachers – dance is life.

And nowhere was this more apparent than on my recent trip to New Orleans where I managed to squeeze in a two-hour tango lesson with the very elegant, “man in black” – Alberto Paz. He was gracious and patient, and I immediately felt at ease with him despite the usual stage fright I feel whenever I dance with someone for the fist time.

“There is no test,” he said. “You’re here to learn.”

Lesson #1: “Dance is like life. You have to understand that it’s not about pass/fail; it’s about getting the most out of it.”

Alberto was surprisingly complimentary at what little technique I had managed to pick up in Buenos Aires. (Ah, me of little faith.) He liked working with beginners, he explained, because there were few bad habits to correct.

Doubting myself – as usual – I told him that it was his excellent lead and clear direction that enabled me to dance well

Catherine,” he said. “It’s a compliment so take it and just say thank you,” he said.

Lesson #2: Dance is like life. You have to give yourself a little credit.”

I decided that the next time someone paid me a compliment, I would own it.

I would say: “It’s mine. I worked for it. I deserve it.”

As the lesson progressed, the steps started to feel different – they started to feel “right.” Alberto’s small tweaks were making a big difference to my comfort level. But just to be certain, I asked, after a particular sequence of moves, “Is this right?”

He tossed the question back at me, “Does it feel right to you?”

“Yes,” I said. “I can definitely feel a difference.”

“Then, it’s right,” he said, then added: “Never ask a man his opinion. He’ll never tell you the truth. If you ask him if something looks good, he will always say yes.”

As naive as it sounds, it came as such a revelation that I actually asked Alberto if I could write that piece of wisdom down before I forgot it.

He laughed, put his arm around my shoulders, and gave them an affectionate squeeze . “But you already knew that!” he said.

Lesson #3: “Dance is like life, It’s about how you feel and not how someone else makes you feel.

Probably the hardest lesson of all was just learning to slow down. Tango, more so than any other dance, requires the dancer to be in the moment, wait, and savor each step. However, I sometimes I approach tango as something “to do” rather than something “to dance.” I want to make sure I do all of the steps whether I enjoy them or not.

As Alberto so eloquently put it as I rushed through my steps of our last tango together, “Slow down, you always have time to make a step, but once it is made you can never take it back.”

Lesson #4: “Dance is like life. Make every step count!

Posted November 18, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

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IT ACTUALLY DID (GET BETTER)   3 comments

Today the Festival and Mundial de Tango came to an end with a great closing milonga at the Harrods building in downtown Buenos Aires. As milongas go, we expected people to attend and the live orchestra to thrill the crowd that would come to listen and those who came to dance. The dancing exploded into the street, and Calle Florida become another dance floor.

Well, there he was Anibal Gomez recreating the sounds of the Orquesta Caracteristica Feliciano Brunelli and the place was packed wall to wall. The characteristic orchestra in the 40’s and 50’s was like a Lawrence Welk-like all around orchestra that played fox trots, polkas, cumbias, valses, pasodobles, and milonga among many other popular rhythms favorites at the time. The sound of the accordion was predominant and the rhythm section was supported by guitar, bass, and drums.

But the icing on the cake was the Los Reyes del Tango Orchestra alternating sets with the Caracteristica for an incredible evening full of spontaneous dancing in every available space of the old mega store of the fifties.

A beautiful aerial view of one of the dance floors inside the Harrods building. People were dancing, people were watching, everyone was sharing a state of unadulterated enjoyment on an unforgettable hot Sunday evening in the Buenos Aires winter.

Dancing with the Anibal Gomez Orquesta Caracteristica

Dancing with Los Reyes del Tango

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IT CAN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS   1 comment

It can’t get any better when being in Buenos Aires during the 2009 Tango Festival, we get the unbelievable chance to see the legendary Quinteto Pirincho playing at the milonga in Harrods. Enjoy a bit of our unforgettable experience: hear and dance with the original sound of one of the oldest tango ensembles. After we Flipped, we danced!

TOAST AND TANGO (THIS GIRL CAN’T STOP HAVING FUN)   1 comment

Everyone knows that employers routinely throw lavish birthday parties for their employees, so it should not come as a surprise to everyone that a few days after we returned from a two weeks trip to New York City, we took guests staying at our Bed and Tango to yet another birthday party for Valorie. Let this video clip speak or better show for itself…

Jack and Caroline give Valorie a fabulous birthday party

RAINDROPS KEPT FALLING ON OUR HEADS   1 comment

The weatherman at NY-1 forecast it as a typical New York City weekend, a nearly perfect sunny, gorgeous Saturday followed by a stormy, rainy, nearly miserable Sunday. For tango dancers that narrowed the choices since the allegedly popular outdoor Seaport milonga was definitely going to be rained out. That meant traveling uptown to 73rd to the corner with First Ave where long time New York tango fixture Lucille Krasne runs Esmeralda’s Sunday Tango and tapas at Session 73.

We go back thirteen years knowing Lucille

We go back thirteen years of knowing Lucille

Lucille’s sister greets dancers at the restaurant’s hostess station and immediately behind is the bar area with a small square area that continues into a narrow passage that runs the length of the bar. Tonight the music blaring through the sound system was being mixed from somewhere inside the kitchen area by Ilene Marder of Woodstock tango fame. It takes a fertile imagination to think about people being able to dance on a 6 foot wide space in front oif the bar, and that’s what Lucille has. Dancing was remarkable comfortable and the dancers quite accommodating and well behaved.

Dancing almost felt like a photo op for the papers, he he

Although the tango population has changed enormously in New York City and recognizable faces at any given milonga are far and between, once on a rainy day one can see walking through the door an old time friend who got married and moved to New Zealand, and somehow happened to be in town just about the same time we were there.

Maida Zanaboni, tango fashionista and a driving force for tango in New Zealand

It’s been now over forty eight hours since being crowned winners of the 3rd US Tango Salon Championship, and this is the first milonga we attended for the expressed purpose of dancing. As we settled in the bar stools we are quite taken by the warm reception people give us, by the congratulations almost everyone cast in passing, and by the hostess invitation to do an exhibition.

A simple dance

After being introduced as the Salon tango First place winners, and Valorie birthday’s being mentioned, people get the usual warning that what they’re going to see is a simple way to dance, with none of that three ring circus fireworks that Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You can Dance (colorful quote mine) have brought to the dance floor.

For a split second I see us cast as the cavemen of the GEICO commercial watching a banner that reads, “Winning the US Salon Tango Championship is so simple that even a caveman can do it.

But then I think about the reason why we came and entered the contest: I just love the way we dance and how we embrace the dance in a true partnership where everything we do is for each other. We’re happy that 12 years later we still enjoy the light side of tango like two dancers in love.

After all, the fringe benefits of being the champions are twofold; we get to show people the way we dance, and even more important, we get to dance with the entire floor to ourselves.

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

A DREAM COME TRUE   28 comments

All photos (available for purchase HERE) courtesy of photographer Kai Cheung

The 3rd US Tango Championship is history

The day finally arrived and once more we headed for the Stepping Out Studios to dance the final three tangos on the first round of the finals with three other couples.


Highlights of our round of three tangos

Then there would be a second round with the four other salon finalists. After that four couples would compete in the stage category before the judges would retire to deliberate.

Salon and Stage participants with Sid Grant, seventh from the left

The music selected by DJ Yesim tonight was perfect for our mood and our style. The previous day anxiety and nervousness was replaced with a taste of Malbec to tone the muscles and calm the mind. The tanda started with a Di Sarli classic, followed by a lively Biagi. When the chords of Al compas del corazon from the trademark sound of Miguel Calo signified the third and final song of the first round, we couldn’t help but to share an intimate smile as the countless times we have danced it since we first did it in 1995 took over us for the next three minutes .

The way we dance tonight

The way we waited the judges decision

The way we were overtaken when they called our number

The way we turned into each other

The way the people greeted our accomplishment

The way it settled in being recognized as the best tonight

Alberto Paz - Valorie Hart

The way we smiled for all our friends in our tango world

Tango SALON 1st PLACE – Valorie Hart and Alberto Paz
Tango SALON 2nd PLACE – Selena and Alberto Hoyos
Tango SALON 3rd PLACE – Sarah La Rocca and Lexa Rosean

THE HOPE ENDURES, AND THE DREAM LIVES ON   1 comment

Our ride to Manhattan was smooth and short. As we went in, we were given our registration papers. A number was affixed on my back, lucky 120. Then we were directed to the warm up room at Stepping Out Studios, 9 stories high on West 26th Street between 6th and Broadway. There was a conglomerate of nervous smiles, polite greetings, and last minute rehearsals.

Master of Ceremonies Sidney Grant went through the logistics and one of the participants suggested that all the dancers form a circle and hold hands as a symbol of the camaraderie that tango brings into people’s lives. The twelve couples ready to compete were,

120 Valorie Hart & Alberto Paz USA/USA
121 Colleen Liddie & Richard Isaacs Canada/USA
122 Jean Fung & Mark Greenglass USA/USA
123 Emily Vartanian & Pawel Cheda USA/Poland
124 Antoinette Tomai & Johnny Tablada USA/USA
125 Catherine Nicodemo & Edmund Fu USA/USA
126 Chino Hara & Yoshi Adachi Japan/Japan
127 Suki Shorer & Ramzi Edlibi USA/USA
128 Amy Zhang & Barry Black USA/USA
129 Selena & Alberto Hoyos USA/USA
130 Sarah La rocca & Lexa Rosean USA/USA
131 Ninah Beliavsky & Joseph Samaha USA/France

Antoinette and Johnny

Antoinette and Johnny

Valorie greets Amy

Valorie greets Amy

Pawel and Emily

Pawel and Emily

Valorie with Alberto Hoyos from Orlando, FL

Valorie with Alberto Hoyos from Orlando, FL

The format of the competition called for three rounds of four couples each dancing three tangos. DJ Carlos Quiroga spun Di Sarli, Biagi and Malerba pieces selected by judges Torres and Cervila.

But first the participants were introduced to the audience and had a warm up dance.

SEMIFINALS WARM UP DANCE

Video courtesy of RoseUnderMyWindow

At this point we haven’t been able to secure videos of our own round, but here is a sample of what it looked like had you been there.

SECOND OF THREE SONGS OF THE THIRD SEMIFINAL ROUND

128 Amy Zheng & Barry Black – USA/USA, 129 Selena & Alberto Hoyos – USA/USA, 130 Sarah La rocca & Lexa Rosean – USA/USA, 131 Ninah Beliavsky & Joseph Samaha – USA/FRANCE

The Judging Panel would be judging 4 different areas: musicality, circulation, walking style and the consistency of the embrace

The 2009 Official Judges: , Junior Cervila, Guillermina Quiroga and Jorge Torres

After the rounds were danced, the judges retired to deliberate and when they came back we heard the names of those who would return the next day. We did it. Our happiness was beyond description. We were among the finalists who will be dancing for the championship Friday night at Stepping Out Studios in Manhattan.

The hope endures, and the dream lives on.

2009 Salon Finalists

120 Valorie Hart & Alberto Paz USA/USA
123 Emily Vartanian & Pawel Cheda USA/Poland
124 Antoinette Tomai & Johnny Tablada USA/USA
125 Catherine Nicodemo & Edmund Fu USA/USA
128 Amy Zhang & Barry Black USA/USA
129 Selena & Alberto Hoyos USA/USA
130 Sarah La rocca & Lexa Rosean USA/USA
131 Ninah Beliavsky & Joseph Samaha USA/France