Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nina Balbuena and Luis Cordoba, El Puchu, and Roberto Segarra at Rivadavia Club - October 18, 2010

We were at Nina Balbuena and Luis Cordoba's "Milonga del Centenario" at Viejo Correo on the first Thursday night.  We were dead tired, having just arrived in Buenos Aires earlier that day - but happy, to see Nina and Luis and many familiar faces at the milonga again.  Every time we are in Buenos Aires, we pay Nina and Luis a visit - they are wonderful people and dear friends.

Many milonga organizers come to Nina and Luis's milonga -  it's a friendly space where they can socialize, dance, relax, and promote their own milongas.  You could almost guarantee that Gloria, the organizer of La Shusheta, will be in attendance - we also met Ricardo of Saraza there on one occasion.  There were also many others that we didn't get the opportunity to know.

Sometime late in the evening, Clely, one of the organizers of the milonga at Rivadavia Club on Monday, came over to talk to us. She had short blond hair, a headband, and was dressed in a lot of white.  She wanted to invite us to her milonga.*  She gave us the flyer - with her handwriting and signature on the back.  "I'll see you two there!" she said cheerily, before scooting back to the other side of the room where she was sitting with all the other single ladies.

* We don't know whether you are familiar with the concept of "The Invitation".  Does anyone else get any invitations when they go to Buenos Aires?  Is it a common thing?  We haven't read anything on the internet about it. Just in case you haven't encountered any - we'll write a short post about our experiences with them after this post.

We met Alberto and Paulina the next Friday for lunch (a very delicious parilla called "Parilla Pena" on Rodriguez Pena) and asked them about "Rivadavia Club".

Alberto looked at the flyer and checked out the address.  "It's too far!  There are plenty of good milongas downtown that you could go to, with good dancing and good music.  Why go out of your way to the barrio clubs - these out-of-the-way places?"   Alberto and Paulina like to go to milongas closer to their home in Abasto.

"But we have a plan to visit all the barrio clubs in existence," I replied.  "Glorias Argentinas, Sunderland, Sin Rumbo, Nuevo Chicago, Caricias, Circulo Trovador, Kamel, Saraza, Circulo Apolo, Rivadavia Club..."  Alberto rolled his eyes, he knew we were kidding him - but that we were also serious about going to the barrio clubs to see how the local people lived, socialized and danced.

That said, we weren't originally planning to go to Rivadavia Club - it was truly pretty far even though there weren't a lot of choices for us on Monday nights downtown...We had dinner plans with Nina and Luis on Monday evening.  Where would they like to go after dinner?  I called Nina to confirm our plans.  "How about Rivadavia Club?" she said. That sealed the deal.

We always look forward to partaking in meals with our friends in Buenos Aires - milongas are a great gathering places, but conversations at a nice quiet restaurant or at home over a home-cooked meal are the best way to get to know people better.  In March we enjoyed delicious asado and empanadas at Nina and Luis's apartment (why are Argentinians all Iron Chefs at home?  They made such great food) and now it was our turn to invite them to dinner.

At Chiquilin, we had apple salad with palmitos and cheese, asado, a huge plate of fries and lots of red wine.  We talked about everything... Nina and Luis are encyclopedias of tango knowledge, having been involved in Tango so long.  Nina used to be Antonio Todaro's assistant at his school - she and Luis still teach Todaro's style in their classes at Viejo Correo and Club Oeste.  Tango wasn't all we talked fact, Nina and Luis made Man Yung cry by talking incessantly about their cat - sadly now frolicking over the rainbow bridge.  

Dinner with Nina and Luis at Chiquilin

After dinner, we took a taxi all the way uptown to Rivadavia Club.  We didn't know what to expect - the outside was all dark, like a shuttered up cinema, but already there were people standing outside who recognized and greeted Nina and Luis.

Inside it was like this:

Rivadavia Club

Everywhere we went this October (with the exception of El Beso), the places were not to capacity.  We heard that attendance at Leonesa and Gricel was also low.  Some rationalized that the tourists came in droves in August to the various tango festivals and to the Campeonato Mundial and so that month was extremely busy - to the detriment of the period that followed.

Well, Rivadavia Club has a big, long boomerang shaped dance floor packed with local dancers. So here's where everybody has been hiding!  We saw some familiar faces and went to say hello - Roberto Segarra was there, surprised to see us so early - we had plans to meet him and Olga on Wednesday at Lo de Celia; this was a bonus.  There were also some of Man Yung's favourite ladies of Glorias Argentinas and Lo de Celia.  Apart from us, not a single tourist could be seen.

It seemed that Nina knew everybody in the room - every single person that we passed on our way to our seats on the other side of the dance floor got up to give her a kiss and a hug.  It seemed that the seated crowd was doing "The Wave" in slow motion as Nina made her way through. Luis, reserved and gentlemanly as ever, is Nina's rock, always supporting her by her side, content to let Nina be the Star that she is.  "Wow, that's impressive," I remarked to Man Yung as I watched Nina in action, "It's from all her years as milonga organizer, tango teacher and power socializer - something we've always known about Nina but never actually seen!" 

When we were finally seated people continued to flock to Nina to say hello.  If you ever get to meet her, you would find her as sweet as pie - and her exuberant warmth always draws people to her, she is ready for everyone with a big hug and a kiss with all of her heart.  The non-ending stream of well-wishers and friends lasted the WHOLE evening.

Nina's foot is still injured from a few months ago, so she couldn't dance - but we certainly did!  "Go, go on and dance!" Nina and Luis said.  So, Man Yung got to dance with his wonderful milonguera friends as well as Clely, who came over to ask him to dance - and I got to dance with Luis and also Oscar, one of the co-organizers of the milonga.  At peak hours, the milonga was as crowded, if not more crowded that El Beso on Sunday - but we never got poked in the back by any errant "Elbow Dancers".  If everyone respects one another on the dance floor, we can all get to dance and enjoy the music even if it's like a tin of sardines.  Just think about that!

Naturally, I also got to dance with Roberto Segarra.  He is always sneaking off to dance without his girlfriend Olga in tow (Shhhhhhhh!  Don't let her know! Just kidding)  Actually, Olga with Roberto is a bit like me with Man Yung - she can't keep up with all that dancing that Roberto unleashes upon her and is quite content to have him go and dance so she could take a rest.

Please remember that Roberto has just turned 90!!!!

D'Arienzo Vals with Roberto Segarra - Rivadavia Club October 18, 2010

Roberto is full of energy and life and love for dancing.  He dances like someone who is half his age. We always enjoy a few tandas together every time we are in Buenos Aires - I love his playfulness and musicality and, if you look at the last part of the second vals, you could see how we are flying to the compas together!  Que milonguero!

And now, for a real treat.  Remember in March when I was corralled into a "Surprise" performance with Alberto at Glorias Argentinas?  The headliner performer that night was actually El Puchu - a very well-known and beloved folklore and tango dancer in Buenos Aires.  Sallycat met him in 2007 and wrote a very interesting and informative post about him here.

Now that we've actually got El Puchu's permission, here are the videos of El Puchu performing in Glorias Argentinas back in March - a Biagi tango and a chacarera.  He is really loved by the locals - listen to the crowd go wild:

El Puchu performs to Biagi's "El Recodo" at Glorias Argentinas, March, 2010

El Puchu performs Chacarera at Glorias Argentinas, March 2010

At Rivadavia Club, we met El Puchu again.  He came over to say hello to Nina.  We got up to greet him too - and to tell him that we really enjoyed his performances at Glorias Argentinas in March.  He was probably scratching his head wondering where he had seen these Korean people (hee!) before, but he was very friendly, down-to-earth and humble.  We talked to Nina afterwards about him.  "I love him, he is such a good person," Nina said.  "I've known him since he was a child, he was always so kind and sweet." 

Later on the evening, I got a surprise - when El Puchu came over to ask me to dance!  (With Man Yung's permission, of course).  Here's the video that Man Yung took.  This is the first time I've ever danced with El Puchu.  What a beautiful dancer - with wonderful musicality, inventive improvisation, feeling and what everyone in the Tango blogverse is talking about - The Embrace:

Two Canaro Canyengues with El Puchu - Rivadavia Club, October 18, 2010

We urge you to study the video very carefully.  Who said that dancing in in crowded conditions has to be a boring two-step affair?  The floor was filled with dancers, but El Puchu was able to do all his intricate figures, keep to the edge of the dance floor, stay with the music (and express it like a dream), protect me from being bumped into - and he was never a threat to any of the other people on the dance floor.  The way he dances reflects his gentle kindness, his humility - and also his inner fire.  With dancers of the new generation like El Puchu and Santiago Cantenys, Tango has a bright future ahead.

An evening at the local barrio milonga isn't complete without a lively Chacarera.  Here's El Puchu again, leading the group - and dancing up a storm:

 El Puchu and the Chacarera  - Rivadavia Club, October 18, 2010

El Puchu teaches at and organizes a milonga at Salon Canning on Thursdays.  You can also find him on Facebook by searching for "El Puchu".  He's definitely a dancer to watch - and to learn from, if you ever get the chance!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the preview of Rivadavia Club; I'm going there next Monday, a holiday, which means it will be packed. Clely gave me a pass for the night.

The invitation (as I understand it) means someone invites you to attend but you pay the entrada. If you receive a business card with the organizer's signature, it's good for one entrada or a reduction. If you are given the password, you get in free anytime you attend.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Hi Janis,

This reminds us of a conversation we had about invitations. You had told us that only milongas which don't have enough patrons hand out invitations. It's not true at all - we have received invitations to very popular and crowded milongas like Rivadavia Club, Salon Sur and Leonesa. And from our conversations with organizers, an "invitacion" means that you don't pay to get in. They'll give you something in writing just in case you have to deal with someone else at the door and the organizer who invited you is busy. Any proposal for you to attend a milonga that doesn't come with a free entrada is not really an invitation.

As for passwords, shouldn't only the recipient of the password use that password? It seems that for someone to learn about a password and use it when it wasn't intended to be for anyone other than the recipient seems to be an abuse of privilege and inappropriate.

Glad that you got a pass from Clely - it actually means something to get invited, it means Clely actually wants you there at her milonga. How did you get one and where did you bump into Clely? Don't worry about going, Rivadavia Club has lots of people, even on nights that are not on a holiday.

Irene and Man Yung

Irene and Man Yung said...

Hey Janis,

While we are on the topic of Roberto Segarra, what you said about him in this dance forum was completely unfair:

You say that you don't consider him a good dancer or a milonguero, that he doesn't improvise, and that you don't enjoy dancing with him.

I don't agree with you. I enjoy dancing with him. He has great musicality and a wonderful embrace - he is a milonguero and he dances tango, Janis. How can you write that about him when you feature him on your blog and you appear to be friends with him and Olga? You are no friend to say that about him.

We are getting tired of you dictating to us and the whole world who is "milonguero" and who isn't. Is your definition of milonguero "1) Someone who is willing to dance with you and 2) Who is not too challenging for your level?"

You should give me a list of your milongueros. I know you won't include Osvaldo and Coca, Adela Galeazzi, Elba Biscay, Cherie and Ruben or Alberto Dassieu - and many other excellent dancers in Buenos Aires who represent the art and spirit of Tango at its highest. As for the people on your list, don't think I'd want to dance with them, they'd bore me to death.

Your criteria for "milonguero" is not impartial and is totally biased to cater towards your level of dancing. It has nothing to do with how they dance - and all to do with your personal politics.

At the end of the day, we don't care who is "milonguero" or who isn't "milonguero". What we care about is whether someone is dancing or not dancing. Someone who would rather nag than follow, who does distracting things like singing into people's ears to get them to "understand the music", who puts the leader in a stranglehold embrace and then pretends to be a deadweight to stop the leader from moving - that's not dancing, Janis.

We are very disappointed.

Irene and Man Yung

Anonymous said...

Clely hosts Club Gricel on Sundays as of three weeks ago. I saw her in Glorias Argentinas last Saturday when she invited me to come the next night and gave me the password to enter without charge. Then in Gricel she gave me a business card for her milonga at Rivadavia Club. I usually have a commitment on Mondays, but it's a holiday so I'll be going.

Organizers go around to the milongas asking people to come to their milonga. It's been done for years. You were fortunate to receive free entradas; I pay the entrada when I go to dance for the past 12 years. I related my experience with invitations; yours is different.

Let's agree that we disagree on Roberto Segarra.

tangocherie said...

Hi Irene y Man Yung,

Thanks for putting us in your list of "excellent dancers!"

And I also wanted to say that Janis has gotten in trouble in the past for her snarky and critical comments, so don't take anything she says too seriously. The latest is on this same "dance-forums" site, where she wrote terrible slander about Ruben and put in a link to my blog! The moderator deleted her post, my response, and 8 others posts on the thread of "laughing in a milonga."

Several years ago she wrote me out of the blue with several complaints about us (mostly Ruben, probably because he never danced with her) and ended it by saying that we were only in the final cut of 15 Championship Finalists (2006) because SHE told the judges to vote for us!!

So just take her opinions with a grain of salt.

Tangocommuter said...

Wonderful stuff! I'm really enjoying your visit, and all the new videos. It's really good to get such a wide view of tango; there's such a rich variety of dance there, which is important on the dance floor as in the biosphere! Hope you manage to complete your visit to all the barrio milongas, and find many more wonderful dancers for us.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Cherie,

When we went to see you at Los Consagrados during our October trip, we did not arrange to meet Janis there. It was Roberto and Olga who wanted to meet with her and made the arrangement with her. From what we have seen, Roberto and Olga are very kind to her - they invited her to Roberto's birthday party at Fulgor, and they always speak of her fondly and mention her name even when she isn't around. They consider her a friend.

When we were writing this post, we searched on the internet for information on Roberto - and were shocked to read what Janis wrote about him on the forum. Roberto and Olga are her friends! Janis is entitled to her personal opinion, but why would she slag off a venerable, 90 year old dancer who has lived his life in the milongas - and who is her friend - to the whole world in a public forum? For what purpose? To make herself look like more of an expert? To blame him for her own inability to follow? To show that all her friendship for him is just for appearances, and that first and foremost she is a "Tango Historian" and that she can dissect him without emotion or mercy like he was just a specimen pinned out on a vivisection table?

As we said, Roberto is 90 and lives for the milonga. Tango is his everything, he has danced all his life. He was one of the milongueros featured in Susana Miller's Milongueando festival just a year ago. We would think that someone who has lived and breathed Tango for so long would know quite a bit more about Tango than some "so-called expert" who has only lived in Buenos Aires, what, 12 years (or whatever, we don't quite remember how long Janis has been there).

Roberto and Olga are our good friends too. We hope that they never find out what Janis wrote about Roberto - even though they should know the truth about her, they are elderly and we couldn't imagine the shock they would have and the hurt they would feel if they found out. Roberto and Olga's hearts would be broken by the betrayal.

She is no friend of theirs, nor of any of the other milongueros she pretends to be friends with, whom she uses in "features" in her blog, if she can make such cold hearted analyses. Milongueros and Milongueras are not butterflies to collect for a collection to impress others. Like all things in Tango, you have to approach everything and everyone with sincerity, open arms, heart and soul.

She is no friend to write what she did about Roberto and Olga - neither to them, nor to us.

Thanks also for mentioning all the other things that you have experienced about Janis. We once considered her a friend, and as a friend we supported her - but after this, no more.

Irene and Man Yung

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tangocommuter,

Your concept about the biosphere is very apt! It is interesting to see the different ways of dancing that have evolved in the culture and environment of the milonga. The factors that determined "survival" - ability to dance in crowded spaces, ability to express the music, ability to attract dance partners - and look at all the distinctive styles that appeared!

By contrast, it would seem that the nine tentacled, seven eyed purple with yellow spots and pink stripes thing that is Nuevo Tango didn't evolve from this particular biosphere.... rather it originated from the planet of Zolgar, where there's plenty of space to kick and fling to your heart's desire, and where everyone is young and athletic and had extensive dance training!

Thanks for your comment,

Irene and Man Yung

Joli said...

Sounds like the blog title Tango Chamuyo is the most fitting name!

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