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 about...in 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:
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!