Archive for the ‘New Orleans’ Tag


You can only understand what aging really means when a ten year span no longer feels the way it did for the first five decades of your life. It strikes you in the face when those you have known for ten years seem to look, with a few exceptions, the same, but the reflections in windows and mirrors insist on showing pictures of your father or mother back at you.

During the Halloween week of 1999, we came to New Orleans for the first time. Although it might seem superfluous to quantify the reasons for that visit, living in a city which recently placed 45 out 55 in order of smartest to dumbest America’s largest cities in the Daily Beast ranking, we came to New Orleans to teach the very first ever city wide Argentine tango workshop. Because that is what we have been doing full time since 1996, and still try to do.

The occasion was a succession of firsts for us. By 1999 we had three years under our soles as the only full time traveling teachers across the United States. We had been the first ones to teach and contribute to the creation of a large tango community in Anchorage, Alaska. We had taken Argentine tango to Hawaii and put into motion another group of passionate tango dancers. But coming to the Deep South was a first. It was the first time we didn’t stay at our hosts home. I remember being met at the airport by our Ecuadorian hosts, who in a very circumspect way drove us to some stranger’s house. Looking through the windows of that house into Claiborne Avenue, I had the willies thinking about the humid four days ahead before we would continue on to sunny Florida and then back to cool and dry California. It’s amazing what an aging mind remembers on demand.

The workshops were a major success with 19 couples participating of four days of hard and exciting work. It was held at the old studio on David Drive. Can I get a “who-who?”

This was also the first time that we stayed in a city beyond the prescribed amount of time needed to hold the workshops before moving on to the next stop. Sabina (far right with the classic foot extension pose that distinguishes tango dancers) had a lot to do with that. Something about cemeteries, vampires and po boys convinced us to accept her invitation to move to her home. As a matter of fact Sabina would have a major influence in the change of course our lives took over the next ninety days.

She was instrumental in inviting us to spend Halloween in New Orleans. We finally got to see a different side of New Orleans, the groomed side reserved for tourists. The visits to the French Quarter were charged with emotional recalls of childhood memories listening to traditional jazz and dixieland on a transistor radio. The architecture, the iron balconies, the narrow streets had an eerie resemblance to the rundown quarters in San Telmo before the tango craze. This city just didn’t feel American at all. It seemed to be part of a third world with people very proud of it. The artists creative juices seemed to seep from every daiquiri dispenser along Bourbon street.

She explained in detail the “natural” division of the almost non existent tango community: “Downtown people don’t have cars so they don’t go to the burbs. Suburbanites have cars but are not comfortable driving to the city, parking, and dealing with the diversity of bohemian characters found in the city.”

It was at a place called Cafe Brasil where we met a cast of characters wearing outlandish costumes, and playing unusual tango music. The hostess, who never considered greeting the contingent of workshop participants and the visiting teachers, turned out to be a nightmare and a pain in the ass to our unassuming, polite and respectful hosts. Such seemed to be the severity of the infighting that we were actually  invited to move to the city “to teach that girl what a real tango teacher looks like.” Seriously.

When we realized how mortified these kind, educated and generous people were about the downtown dingbat’s perceived threat to good tango practices, we convinced them about assuming the leadership role the community needed, to become teachers and to move on. It took many hours of private and personal coaching and tutoring, and lots of encouragement over mojitos and Thai food to overcome their reluctance to take a leap of faith.

Two months later, we received one of the most rewarding emails in our tango life. They had decided to begin teaching a small group as we suggested they do. They began a process that eventually became the root of a congenial tango community.

Then in January 2000 we called Sabina to tell her that we had made the decision to downsize, sell our Silicon Valley manor, pack the cat and the dog in the bimmer and head down South. She said come, come on down, the Love Shack is ready for you… Was that really ten years ago?  Where did all that time go? Well that’s another matter.

Posted October 30, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

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We never hear from Kenny. He works and lives out of state but he ventures into New Orleans ever so often. The last actual contact we had with him was shortly after he found out that there was a picture of him dancing in our book Gotta Tango.

So it came as a surprise when I opened the email Friday morning and I saw a reply from Kenny to my Thursday afternoon email reminder titled, What to do tonight… simply saying, Tiki nite in the lounge and restaurant and Tango nite (back room 8pm)… Come on in and have some fun with us… La Thai, 4328 Prytania.

Kenny’s reply was also a short, The Lamotas are having a workshop tonight and thier (sic) weekly Friday milonga!. Since we were planning to take a couple of visiting friends from NYC to the Friday practice, I asked Kenny the times of the milonga. He confirmed what we already knew, 8-10 pm.

I was actually looking forward to seeing Kenny but he was a no show. During the evening, after a pleasant dance, a good friend asked what was all about “that tiki message.” Suddenly it all made sense. I had send the short last minute email reminder Thu 8/13/2009 at 5:22 PM. Most people by then had left their places of work so many read the message on Friday.

For years I have tried to figure where the insidious rumors about making women cry and scheduling conflicts came from, and here was Kenny providing the answer with his misreading of our announcement but having the respect and courtesy to point out what he saw as a conflict to me. I would guess that Kenny doesn’t have a bone to pick or envy issues or a deep sense of inadequacy, so he did what honorable people do. He communicated instead of joining those who repeat unfounded innuendos for the sole purpose of bringing harm for the sake of hurting.

Posted August 16, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

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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

IT AIN’T DERE NO MORE   1 comment

We’ve been suffering from severe tango deprivation syndrome ever since the levees breached on the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and much of the tango community we had worked so hard to support was washed away by the floods that destroyed much of invisible New Orleans.

To the bright eyes of the visitors that have gradually returned in record numbers things look a lot better than they were. For the long time residents and residents in exile, there is an awareness about things that ain’t there no more, as well as a keen appreciation for institutions that link the present to a nostalgic past.

Our TDS gets ameliorated ever so often when people come to do bed and tango with us. We have an incredible beautiful home with a guest area that sooth the senses, a private dance parlor, and a location that’s just a hop and a skip away from glam Magazine Street, legendary New Orleans culinary temple Commander’s Palace, and the streetcar named St. Charles.

Whether our visitors are our house guests or just in town wanting to tango, we look forward to Friday nights because it includes an early dance session at an Uptown restaurant hosted by the Argentine Tango Club of Greater New Orleans, a late fried chicken dinner at Fiorella’s in the French Quarter, and a stroll to The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny.

Overflowing crowds always waiting to get in

Overflowing crowds always waiting to get in

All sorts of funky roots music can be heard there on a nightly basis. At least two bands perform each night – the first starting around 6 p.m. and the second about 9:30 p.m. Music ranging from blues to trad jazz to Latin and various permutations make the Cat a current favorite hang for many on the Frenchmen Street scene. On Fridays, we listen and dance to the Jazz Vipers. The venue is one of the few remaining places where you can hear jazz that sounds the way it was intended to be heard, on acoustic instruments in a small venue with super dirty floors.

On a given evening a parade of musical guests would sit with the Vipers

On a given evening a parade of musical guests would sit with the Vipers

Tonight, we had been looking forward to another fabulous Friday. First, newly married Tim and April from Maryland completed their week long sessions of private lessons and had their first real live tango dancing experience at Nirvana. Next, we joined Maria and Russell, fresh from their successful participation on the Tales of the Cocktail Conference and Exhibits, at Fiorella’s for fried chicken, fries and mashed potatoes. Finally we made our way to the Spotted Cat and almost had what it amounts to a serious case of the sadness. The side walk was deserted, and the music, well, it sounded Bourbon Street, amps and electronics included. As we stood there, we realized that The Spotted Cat ain’t there no more.

The sign at the door read Jimbeaux’s which is Jimbo’s in pig French, and the floors had been painted. The band stand was on the opposite side of the entrance and the bar was out of Abita Amber. It appears that as of April 30th the lease ran out and the landlord, Jimbeaux, decided to have a go at running the bar himself just in time for Jazzfest. The place got shut down during Jazzfest for numerous infractions about a day or two after it opened.

We first were introduced to the Spotted Cat by our friend Sabina whose sax playing husband Joe sat in many times with the Jazz Vipers. Gradually we became to appreciate the place as one of the most reliable live music joints on Frenchmen Street. We had to hang around for a while to grab one of those few seats by the window, while inching in for some space among the crowd of enthusiastic fabulous jitter-buggers.

The last time we were at the Spotted Cat was in March when Aaron and Rose visited from San Antonio. That night something especial happened to us. Half way through their set, the Jazz Vipers charged with their rendition of William Christopher Handy’s Saint Louis Blues. Before we realized it, we were on the small dance floor putting on one of the most inspired tango performances ever seeing at the Spotted Cat.

The memory of that unexpected last time at the Spotted Cat lingers on as the notes of Saint Louis Blues fill in the emptiness of a New Orleans institution that ain’t there no more.

The Jazz Vipers – St. Louis Blues

THE OTHER SHOE DROPETH   Leave a comment

I respect you in the morning and the check is in the mail have been forever two of the most quoted lies when it comes to highlight empty promises that people often make but have no intention to follow through.

Although it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone within spitting distance in this town, many of you readers from the blogosphere may appreciate getting a background about the lukewarm support of tango at Le Phare, how the romance came to a sudden end, the sadness began and a few things more.

The nice manager of the former Loft 523 seemed very eager to resurrect “the tango night.” He had heard so many tales about the pre Katrina tango night at the Loft, he had said when  we happened to walk by the place and see it open again after two years in the aftermath of Katrina. During that time we had been nurturing the emotional wounds caused by the bitterness and bile of a few former dancer/student/friends who for some evil reasons were “unhappy that we had returned to New Orleans.”

There was a  caveat though, and that was that the available day was Wednesday. Not good because there already was a very well attended dance in Baton Rouge which we liked to attend every now and then on Wednesdays. For the rest some do swing and others suck on sour grapes. But there was a core of dedicated dancers from the past, a number of friends who promised to respect us in the morning, and a handful of new bodies so we went ahead and got back into providing an opportunity for good tango dancing on September 17, 2008.

We managed to survive through the holiday season which this town takes very serious, focusing on family and friends, and even took in an unusual amount of thunderstorms and even a snow fall. The word lukewarm kept defining the support the community at large gave to arguably the best floor, the best ambiance, and the best music available to indulge in the intimacy and exhilaration of the tango. Yet, Mr. Nice Manager kept assuring us that all was good, that he enjoyed the small group, and that the rumors that a hip hop DJ wanted to move in on us were unfounded. Then came the last minute email, “it’s not you, it’s me.” The other shoe dropeth. The party line is that the finance people (nobody’s ever seen them, but they do exist, don’t they?) were not happy with the meager $150 tango dancers were dropping at the bar every Wednesday.

I have another theory. Two weeks ago as I approached the bar counter I was shocked hearing a most offensive racist statement regarding Mr. Nice Manager who was even closer to the wingnut than I was. Somehow the racial rant was about, and I paraphrase, how Mr. Nice Boy Manager got to have an education, a job and a good life because of the money that the federal government took away from the Mayflower families coffers midway through the twentieth century.

The “it’s not you, it’s me” email continued, “I regret to inform you that after my meeting today, the managing partners for Le Phare have decided that Tango Night isn’t what we’re looking for on a Wed. Night.”

I think that Mr. I Carry a Card That Proves That My Ancestors Arrived In The Mayflower got Mr. Nice Manager pissed. Thump, kaboon, and the tango got kicked out of Le Phare.

Posted April 1, 2009 by Alberto & Valorie in HOME

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King cake season is over.

At midnight Tuesday February 24, the New Orleans police began its march along Bourbon Street from the uptown edge of the French Quarter. Led by fit cops riding spirited horses and the chief and his top brass on foot, the patrol cars blasted their sirens, flashed blinding red and blue lights clearing the street, and announced through its loudspeakers that the party was over, that it was time to go home or at least get indoors.

Looking like a modern version of Moses, the NOPD parted the sea of revelers revealing a sea of crap brewing and accreting in the streets, gutters and sidewalks, the garbage of Mardi Gras.

Marching right behind the police squad cars, Garbage king Sidney Torres IV riding a festooned garbage truck led the krewe of Sanitation parade as Bourbon Street was swept, scrubbed and rinsed so the dawning of Ash Wednesday would not see any traces of excess, sin and debauchery.

The city no longer weighs the Mardi Gras garbage to assess the financial success of Mardi Gras to discourage alcohol induced organized littering. But a mega success it was. Crowds matched the pre Katrina levels.

It was a gorgeous day, with blue skies, and warm weather.

Meanwhile, one week into Lent, we returned to our weekly tango night and were pleasantly surprised by the return of Jonathan, our favorite bartender back from training with the National Guard. We also continue to suffer from a shortage of decent male dancers, a curiosity phenomenon associated with the city I was told, something to do with Southern men laziness and sleaziness, I couldn’t catch the slurred phrase coming out of a sazerac sipping local’s lips.

I have long stopped worrying about those who don’t come since I began to pay attention to the quality of my dances with arguably the best tango dancers in the city. There I was feeling like a fox in a chicken coop sharing tandas after tandas with Valorie, Patricia, Linda, Jessica, Graciela… Contrary to traveling teachers or mail order “nuevo” acrobats, I have the satisfaction of having had an important hand in brigning up these ladies to the superb level they occupy. It’s like cooking with fresh herbs grown outside your window. It’s only fair that I love going dancing to Le Phare.

WE DO THE FAT TUESDAY   Leave a comment

The Rex Procession has been the highlight of Mardi Gras day since the Rex Organization was formed and first paraded in 1872. While there had been celebrations in many forms on Mardi Gras before that time, the Rex Parade gave a brilliant daytime focus to the festivities, and provided a perfect opportunity for Rex, King of Carnival, to greet his city and his subjects. The Rex Procession today is true to the long tradition of rich themes, elegant design, and floats built with traditional materials and designs. Most of Rex’s floats are built on old wooden wagons with wood-spoked wheels. In recent years the theme and design of the parade have been suggested in advance of the parade with the publication of Parade Bulletins, designed to give the public a glimpse of what will roll from the Rex Den on Mardi Gras day.

Themes for the Rex Parade historically have been inspired by the worlds of mythology, art, literature, and history, and draw on the rich images of ancient cultures and faraway lands.

The 2009 Parade Theme, “Spirits of Spring,” is true to that tradition. As New Orleans continues its process of renewal and rebirth, the 2009 Rex Procession illustrates the universal appeal of that theme, with beautiful images of Springtime and renewal. From Persephone to Poseidon to Eostre, ancient cultures created legends, myths, and festivals celebrating the arrival of Spring after the harsh winter. Flowers, butterflies, and bears awakening from hibernation—all are portrayed in this tribute to the renewing joys of Spring.

Our first order of the day is to pick a costume we will wear all day, then we head downtown to catch the end of the Rex parade on Canal Street and finally we walk around the French Quarter heading to our lunch destination at Pere Antoine on the corner of St. Ann and Royal. This year we have seen the crowds reach the level we were used to before Katrina. The sun reigned the entire day and we lived to do the Fat Tuesday once more.

Mardi Gras and the Rex parade


In Greek mythology, Endymion could have been a handsome Aeolian shepherd or hunter, or, even a king who ruled and was said to reside at Olympia in Elis, but he was also said to reside and was venerated on Mount Latmus in Caria, on the west coast of Asia Minor. There is confusion over the number of Endymions, as some sources suppose that one was or was related to the prince of Elis and the other was a shepherd or astronomer from Caria. In New Orleans, there is no confusion. There is one Endymion, and it is the mother of all krewes.

To fully appreciate the history of the largest and most successful Carnival organization in the history of New Orleans, it is helpful to examine the celebration in the years that preceded Endymion‘s inception in 1966. A typical  Mardi Gras season in the mid-Sixties consisted of about 20 parades with relatively small floats and fairly conservative amount of throws. Tableau balls were declining in popularity. Hotel occupancy rates of less than 60% at Mardi Gras were common. Many felt that carnival was in a slump. Something new was needed to inject life into the celebration. In 1969, the new Krewe of Bacchus issued a wake-up call and Mardi Gras was forever changed. Endymion’s 1974 emergence into a super krewe had equal impact.

Endymion brought young people back to Carnival, by changing the sound and feel of Mardi Gras. Contemporary music and pop stars from radio and television were presented within the parade, and Carnival suddenly had glitter and flash. The krewe also brought an element of variety to the celebration that had been absent.

A list of more than 50 stars that Endymion has imported for its Extravaganzas reads like a show-biz Who’s Who, yet the krewe has always included local talent in its entertainment. As the city’s number one cheerleader, if there is ever a way to stretch a Crescent City component into a parade theme, float title, or maid’s costume, Endymion does it. Even its fleur de lis logo is pure New Orleans!

With the largest floats ever assembled, and parade themes with which everyone identified, Endymion quickly became the people’s parade. The krewe also changed the look of Carnival, making an instant impact with its magnificent court costumes and enormous headdresses. The concept of showcasing the krewe’s royalty and court within a parade was novel. People actually came to see Endymion’s “pre-parade” of mini-floats, just to catch a glimpse of the visual spectacle.

People also came to Endymion’s parade to do more than look. As the most generous club in Carnival, krewe members lived up to their motto, “Throw until it hurts.” Literally, millions of beads, cups, doubloons and trinkets were tossed-then as now, no one goes home from an Endymion parade empty-handed.

Thanks to Bacchus and Endymion, four day hotel packages on Carnival weekend became an easy sell, much to the delight of tour operators. But Endymion did more than attract tourists and provide jobs; it played a major role in the democratization of Mardi Gras, opening its doors to some who had been barred from the old-line clubs. Endymion’s membership represented, then as it does now, a cross section, a virtual microcosm of New Orleans, from cab drivers to attorneys, from janitors to U.S. Senators. Without fanfare or fuss, Endymion opened its membership to the entire community. And what could be more democratic than Endymion’s selection process for its monarch? The club’s annual blind draw, performed by the reigning Queen, makes it an organization in which any man can wear Endymion’s crown.

Most of all, Endymion has succeeded because it is fun-fun for the public and fun for the members who live for their special and for their very special parade. This spirit has produced a sense of loyalty that is rare in Carnival organizations. All Hail Endymion! Mardi Gras Main Event.

The Krewe of Endymion Parade, rolls once again on Saturday, February 21st 2009 on it’s traditional Mid-City route. Although this year’s theme was “Tales of Sleep and Dreams,” we doubted that the hundreds of thousands of Mardi Gras revelers along the Endymion parade route would be resting as twenty-five spectacular Super-Tandem Floats led by celebrity Grand Marshall Kid Rock—carrying over 2,400 masked revelers—will bombard the enthusiastic crowds with MILLIONS of strands of Mardi Gras beads and Endymion 2009 Collectible throws.

What follows is our account of a day that started with maneuvering around police barricades in order to get to an undisclosed location where we proceeded to indulge in beverages and food, before heading for the neutral ground on Canal Street.

Our location on the route

Our location on the route

The 2009 Endymion parade exprience


One of the highlights of the carnival season for us is the Thursday before Mardi Gras. The Krewe of Muses parade rolls Uptown along St. Charles Ave. Muses is the first all female krewe to ride on a night time parade on an important night of the carnival season. Brush up on your MUSES trivia and memorabilia with the Visualvamp.

Being forced by the circumstances to forgo any tango activities during this sacred period in New Orleans kulture, the gigantic high heel shoe that leads the parade tickles my fancy and prepares me for the vapors I get when I see the Pussy Footers, the Camel Toes and the Bearded Oysters parade by.

However, being a sucker for intelligent minds, I look forward every year to the wit and equal opportunity tongue lashing that local and national politicians get as their names and peccadilloes make up the theme of each elaborate float. Few people get access to the Top Secret missions these divas have been assigned to.


Even though we got a little late to the parade route, the floats were running even later so have a look at the Krewe of Chaos who preceded Muses,


Finally the anticipated excitement of the night began to unfold ,


We hope you enjoyed our Muses parade evening and we pucker our lips for you inviting you to join us Saturday for Endymion and choripans

Muchos besos from parade route

Muchos besos from the parade route

CARNAVAL   Leave a comment

The celebrations of Carnaval began last night. In Buenos Aires 30 streets around the city were blocked so more than 30 corsos could take place every weekend until the end of February, Saturdays from 7pm – 2 am and Sundays from 7 pm to midnight. A corso is a carnival foot parade. More than 105 murgas with more than 17,000 members were chosen in pre carnaval competitions by panel of experts in music, wardrobe, dance and larger than life dolls and puppets. A murga is not quite like a Brazilian Samba School but more like a second line parade with a script. Murga has been one of the forms of social art that more grew in Argentina,  at the greater rate than the political and economic crises.

King Momo seized again the bodies and souls of more than 17,000 people, who got the 2009 Carnival dancing and singing in 105 murgas at the 30 corsos that were organized simultaneously in different districts from all the city. With ingenious names and colors the murgas, for more than ten years considered a cultural patrimony of the city, put rhythms to the barrios.

Carnaval celebrations go all the way back to 1869. That year the first corso took place in Buenos Aires, with comparsas of black and “blackened” whites, that shone with their costumes and their rhythm, while their singing and their wild and harmonic dancing shot legs and arms into the air. The music of La cumparsita, which means a small comparsa, was originally written as a marching song for a small murga of college students in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Back in the nineteen sixties, in the city of Buenos Aires the celebration of carnaval was a time of the year to let go of inhibitions and take to the streets to dance, parade and become part of a masked crowd that moved about the city engulfed in a cacophony of drums, chants and popular tunes. It was all about coming out.

As it happened during our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, all the popular social clubs offered the possibility to dance to the greatest orchestras of that time. The announcements filled full pages in the newspapers. Posters, fliers and hand bills were all over the city walls and sidewalks. In retrospect, the choices were overwhelming. Anibal Troilo in Avellaneda at the Racing Club. Osvaldo Pugliese in Atlanta at Villa Crespo. Juan D’Arienzo at Club Atletico Boca Juniors. Carlos Di Sarli at Velez Sarfield. Francisco Canaro at the Luna Park.

Carnaval was a time for venturing out and it was the greatest time to be young and bold at the end of summer in Buenos Aires. Carnaval was a time when eyes made the first contact from behind a mask, encouraging the shy to be daring, reassuring the undecided to take a chance to openly express the feeling of attraction.

That New Orleans, the Crescent City, is part of the United States baffles a visitor’s mind. Long after the city was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase, traces of nobility, aristocracy and the diversity of races, languages and cultural traits seem to preserve the rituals of celebration of the greatest free show on earth. They call it Mardi Gras, but it is carnaval minus tango. So we take a break from the ritual of the embrace and embrace the ritual of parades.

The Krewe de Vieux rolls through the French Quarter

More photos and videos HERE