Robert Youngson & Patricia Petronio are dedicated to the improvised tango danced socially in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires. Their classes focus on developing musicality, connection & sound technique, as well as confidence with milonga etiquette.
Eight Adelaide tango dancers won the privilege of attending Steve and Robyn's "Tuna Masterclass" held last Sunday. When we bid for our places at the Milonga Solidaria, the description of the activity had suggested a relatively low-key event - a glass of bubbles on arrival, a demonstration of tuna preparation skills, and a dish of one of the recipes to illustrate just how good tuna can be.
What actually happened was far removed from this expectation: 15 courses of small delicacies, prepared creatively in a variety of styles - all simply exquisite (see photos). While we all brought some wine to share, there were other treats supplied by Ray and Steve. Joan, the very generous hostess, added her touch of elegance and warmth to the evening. An event we thought would last a couple of hours, starting at 1o'clock in the afternoon, stretched to almost 8pm!
Bidding for this event had contributed significantly towards the US$3,000 for the student residence in northern Argentina. However, the social activity that brought 12 people together was a memorable gift in itself.
Looking back on annual visits to Buenos Aires since 1999, it's clear that the city and tango have changed a lot - some things for the better, others not so.
I remember when ...
... milongas were held in the iconic Maipu 444, the magnificent Club Espanol and the gorgeous Confiteria Ideal (pictured)
... garbage littered the footpath each night, pedestrians constantly had to dodge dog droppings, and Avenida 9 de Julio median strip was a no-go zone resembling a rubbish tip
... AU$1 would only buy 50 centavos, and it cost 5 pesos to enter a milonga
... La Viruta milonga (then known as La Estrella) attracted hot-shot milongueros. Men wore jackets and ties to milongas, the standard of dance was high, and the milonga codes were strictly adhered to
... the only coffee available, including in the grand old confiterias, was not good at all
... Flabella was the go-to place for tango shoes
... a number of the dance venues have closed - some converted into office space or gyms - but at least efforts are being made to renovate Confiteria Ideal
... the City of Buenos Aires has made a big effort to clean up and beautify the streets, including a campaign to educate dog-owners. 9 de Julio is now more functional for traffic and pedestrians, and has been landscaped beautifully
... May 2019, AU$1 buys around 30 pesos and going up! Entry to Lujos milonga is 200 pesos, and other milongas 140 - 180 pesos
... La Viruta/Estrella changed its persona some years ago and now appeals to dancers interested in dancing non-traditional tango. The standard of dancing and respect for the codigos has declined. Many of the old milongueros have passed away, taking their example and authority with them. Many dancers now find they can afford to attend only one milonga each week, while others have stopped attending completely
... there are many small, specialty coffee shops in the city & suburbs serving coffee to satisfy even the most demanding coffee-snob
... tango shoes are everywhere, but it's hard to beat Katrinski cushioned, hand-made to order shoes that cost around AU$150 Bob
Many thanks to the tango community in Adelaide and all those who attended the very busy Comme il faut on Sunday.
A number of dancers made cash donations before the milonga and at the door. Thank you to Glen, Larry, Janice, Russ and Janett, Bob and Pat, Dee, Dru, Tango Adelaide Club, Mariangela, Lorraine, Anne R, Paul Br, Joan N, Sheila, Siempre Tango, Tricia N, Jan, Terri, Carl, Vicki Sk, Judy, and there may have been others because there was some extra cash in the bag.
Thank you to the donors to the silent auction and raffle: Nicole, Cris, Pat, Rafael, Martin, Jan, Larry, Kylie, Steve, Robyn, Karin, Gerda, Anne R, Lucy, Mariangela, Lidia, Susanna, Sheila, and Nihada.
Many thanks to Mariangela and Sheila who did the rounds constantly, selling raffle tickets. The six prizes were worth around $100 each; thank you to the donors: Paul M, Mt Osmond Golf Club, Lorraine, Dee, Bob and Pat, Southern Cross Tango, Gerry and Anna, Susanna, Karin.
All of this means that over $4,000 were raised for the Albergue Universitario in Villa Atamisqui, Northern Argentina.
Adelaide tango is renowned for being an extremely friendly scene. It is also extremely generous!
'Comme il faut' on 17 March will support the completion of this student residence enabling young people from remote parts of northern Argentina to complete their teaching studies. Weekend vocational & community health courses will also be run. So important for the communities in this impoverished part of Argentina.
ALBERGUE UNIVERSITARIO. Presente Escuelas Rurales - YouTube
Silent auction items are coming in for the milonga. You'll be able to bid for Rafael's traditional Asado, Tuna cooking master class, a 6 week yoga intro course, French breakfast & conversation, Tradie work for 3 hours, gnocchi making workshop, Tango taxi-dancing, lovely handbags & jewellery, and more.
Got an activity or item you would like to add to the silent auction or raffle? Please let us know.
You probably have heard of Héctor Mauré, Alberto Echagüe and Armando Laborde - all wonderful singers at various periods of Juan D'Arienzo's orchestra. I love them all, as each one brings a different colour to recordings. (Oh, to have experienced them singing live!!)
But, have you heard the expressive voice of Juan Carlos Lamas? He didn't sing for long with D'Arienzo, before forging a career in the movies, according to the biography in Todotango. (His good looks may have helped a little.)
Listen to this very danceable tanda with a few of my Lamas favourites. Though, I would have included the superb Viejo tintero.
I do wish more DJs would play his songs! PP
Tanda Juan D'Arienzo con Juan Carlos Lamas - YouTube
Well, for a start, having a conversation while dancing seems to miss the point of tango. Unfortunately, it can be rather anti-social, too.
So, let's re-imagine and replay this scene: You're at a milonga, and the DJ starts playing a tanda of romantic Di Sarli. You're in luck when your favourite Di Sarli partner looks in your direction.
As you dance, you begin to feel that the 'tango angels' are watching over you. You are completely in the moment. The connection with your partner and the music is deep, and at the same time heavenly. This is the blissful and elusive experience sought after by dancers. And when it happens, it gives you goose-bumps.
But suddenly, you are brought back to Earth. A neighbouring couple's continued conversation while dancing has broken your trance. You can't help but overhear the discussion about a recent movie, which they could easily have conducted elsewhere. Are they unaware of the wonderful opportunity which they are missing?
You also happen to notice that their navigation on the busy floor has been affected. Preoccupied with sharing views of the movie, the man is unable to pay enough attention to leading his partner, and experiences some near-misses with surrounding couples. In fact, you have to take evasive action to protect your partner.
What to do? Do you say anything at all? Do you put your index finger to your lips, discreetly suggesting that they be quiet? Or do you do nothing, but shake your head and grumble to yourself about their lack of awareness? PP
On another note, imagine that you find yourself dancing with someone who also wants to chat. What do you do? For a few options, take a look at Talk and tango? I just can't do it.
He'd be seen sweeping ladies, young and old, off their feet at Buenos Aires milonga venues, such as Obelisco Tango. We'd shake our heads and wonder how he did it. Last May we saw him, as always in great form at the ripe old age of 97!! Born in 1920, he had danced to the great Golden Age orchestras playing live. Imagine that!
In this interview, Gabriel Misse talks about the importance of the milonga - where, he says, real traditional tango is danced.
Among his thoughts he also states: You have no pause, you have no tango. This got us reflecting on how much we value the pause, as crucial to connection and musicality. However, it's not easy. Here's some food for thought: What dancers might be experiencing at a pause
What's he doing now? (anxiety, apprehension, tension in the body, readiness to leap into an anticipated movement)
People might be watching me now that I've stopped (self-conciousness)
I don't think I have enough control to lead the pause effectively, and then hold it (fear of failure)
Ahh, I can put both feet down now, and have a rest (balance problems)
I'm not sure I can get the timing right moving out of the pause (lack of confidence in skills)
What figure is he going to do next? (brain in overdrive)
This feels beautiful. I'll savour the intimacy of this shared moment.
Certainly, the pause can be challenging until it's mastered. But it's definitely worth the effort!
... and finally, a quote from Carlos Gavito:
I believe that tango isn't the dancing step but rather it's what's between one step and the next, where there's nothing, where the silences are, where the memory and remembered things are.