Archive for the ‘Champaign-Urbana’ Tag

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


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