Charity Dances

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The Charity Dance…What a horrible term!

How about referring to dancing with beginners or less-experienced dancers as ‘Assisting the development of dance’ or encouraging others in their enjoyment of the dance’.

I’m so thankful for those more advanced dancers who were willing to dance with me especially when I first started dancing tango. I certainly (thankfully) didn’t think of those dances as charity dances. It was the main reason that encouraged me to keep dancing and improve. There was the occasional person who would not dance with me, but fortunately, these people were far outweighed by the helpful people willing to foster my enthusiasm.

And still now, the opportunity to dance with someone more experienced or advanced than myself can help my dance immeasurably. It is important that you take onboard the feedback you receive throughout the dance to gain the best opportunities to improve. When I say feedback, that is not verbal feedback but rather the kinaesthetic feedback you receive during every step you take as you dance.

A horrible story. I had a student (and this is not an isolated example) who had a dance with a woman who gave him a ‘score’ at the end of the tanda. The score was two out of ten! Fortunately for him (but not for Tango), the partners in Salsa were more encouraging to him so he no longer dances Tango.

It’s certainly not only men who are discouraged from dancing Tango. There are many women also who are discouraged by men, sometimes inadvertently. It may simply be poorly-timed coaching (e.g. at a Milonga) or making comments that are unfair, especially considering the length at time that person has been dancing.

When dancing with a less-experienced follower, dance within their capability. It should not be about impressing them with how many steps you can do and making them feel inadequate, or verbally telling the follower what to do in order to satisfy your own ego. If you do not have the ability to lead a particular movement and/ or the follower does not yet have the technical ability or experience to perform the movement, don’t do it. If you are unsure about the experience of the follower, keep it simple to begin with. You will soon feel (if you’re listening) what is possible.

Thoughts from a follower…

Generally, when I accept dances from leaders who are in their early learning years, I try to focus on my own technique, posture, balance and use that time to pay more careful attention to the music, to slow down, and to become more conscious of our body movements together. 

I prefer to ask a beginner leader than to be asked and I often try to do this once each time I’m at a milonga. Sometimes though, I do not feel like accepting a dance from anyone who doesn’t have the desire to keep improving their skills or musicality. Each time I dance with someone I always look forward to our connection being a little better than the last time, whether it’s because of the tanda selection or the creativity or the technique. 

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As with any dance that you have, be present in the dance. It is commonplace for people to be distracted within the dance when the dance does not meet expectations or their looking forward to their next partner. There is always something to be gained from and improved upon with every person you dance with.

Make it happen. Create a connected and positive experience for every partner that you dance with and be totally present within the dance.

What prevented you from not giving up in the early days of dancing Tango? One should remember more often those times when we were first starting out.

What else could you do to encourage others (or not discourage them)?

Argentine Tango Composer, Ricardo Tanturi

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Another figure from the “Golden Age of Tango” during the 1940s is pianist, composer and orchestra leader Ricardo Tanturi. He was born on 27 January 1905 to Italian parents in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Barracas, considered one of the poorest areas by the Riachuelo (small river). He first studied the violin under Francisco Alessio, uncle of the famous bandoneonist and director Enrique Alessio. However, Ricardo was convinced to give up the violin and take up the piano instead by his brother, Antonio, pianist and co-director of the Orquesta Típica Tanturi-Petrone.

In 1924, Tanturi launched his professional career at clubs and charity festivals, playing the piano. He also went on to study medicine and graduated with very good marks. While in university, he organised student bands. It was here where he met actor Juan Carlos Thorry, who would become Tanturi’s first orchestra singer.

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Tanturi founded a tango sextet in 1933 to perform at cinemas and theatres. The group was named “Los Indios” after a polo team. He would go onto call all his tango groups by the same name. Each performance always opened with a tango also called “Los Indios.” The tango, however, was composed by Francisco Canaro, but he never recorded it.

Tanturi started making records in 1937, beginning with a record that featured an instrumental version of “Tierrita” by Agustín Bardi, and “A la luz del candil“, with music written by Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores, lyrics by Julio Navarrine, and sung by Carlos Ortega. Tanturi’s greatest star would be Alberto Castillo. The singer seduced crowds with his perfect tune, mastery of pitch and mezza voce. He was a favourite performer thanks to his exaggerated gestures, masculine elegance and neat hairstyle, and intimate but lively mood. Together, Tanturi and Castillo made 37 records before Castillo left the group in 1943.

The new lead singer became Uruguayan Enrique Campo whose style has been described as ‘concerned in communicating with the public’. With Tanturi, Campo recorded 51 songs. The 1943 orchestra was comprised of Armando Posada (piano), Francisco Ferraro, Héctor Gondre, Jose Raúl Iglesias, Emilio Aguirre and Juan Saettone (bandoneons), Armando Husso, Norberto Guzman, Alberto Taido and Vicente Salerno (violins) and Enzo Raschelli, later Ramon Outeda (bass). These line-ups are considered the peak of splendor for Tanturi’s orchestra and, until its dissolution 1951, its main members.

In 1946, Tanturi achieved similar greatness with Osvaldo Ribo. Later on, artists like Roberto Videla, Juan Carlos Godoy and Elsa Rivas were able to revive Tanturi’s popularity. In 1956, Tanturi assembled his final orchestra, which included Armando Posada (piano), Natalio Berardi (double bass), Santos Maggi, Horacio Perri, Ricardo Varela, José Raúl Iglesias and Ezequiel Esteban (bandoneons), Antonio D’Alessandro, Emilio González, Fidel De Luca and Orlando Perri (violins).

Among his most popular tango compositions are “Amigos presente“, “A otra cosa, ché, pebeta” and “Pocas palabras” with lyrics written by Enrique Cadícamo; “Sollozo de bandoneón“, with Enrique Dizeo, and “Ese sos vos“, with Francisco García Jiménez.


Elitism in Argentine Tango Dance

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Dance should not be about competition or elitism, i.e. only dancing with people in your ‘class’ or at your ‘level’. Oftentimes, people will prefer only dancing with other people at their level and going to great lengths to avoid making contact with others they deem unsuitable. This is such a shame, not only for the development of the dance but for their own potential enjoyment possibilities.

From my experience, sometimes, you will dance with an experienced dancer and it will not be enjoyable, whether that be due to lack of physical connection, an energetic disconnection, you don’t connect to the music or maybe one or both of you are simply having a bad day! On a different day, that dance with the same person to the same music may be fabulous.

On the other hand, oftentimes, you can dance with someone who is relatively inexperienced or just beginning as a Tango dancer and yet have a wonderful experience.

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It’s about and allowing yourself to be totally ‘in the dance’ and coming together with another for a moment in time that may last just a few minutes. Your attitude together with your willingness to fully give yourself to the dance will largely dictate the quality of the dance.

Men, Listen with your body! Be aware of the lady’s axis, the position of her weight, her response to your movement and accompany her.

Women, be open to possibilities and allow your body to feel what is invited by the man without any preconceived ideas or expectations and without concern of making a ‘mistake’.


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Interview done in Buenos Aires, March 2008 

ATDRC: What were the influences in your life, artistic or personal, that helped you in the development of your style of dancing?

CHICHO FRUMBOLI:  My father had an artistic side that was significant.  He was a fine arts professor, he studied the guitar, and I believe that this had a lot to do with my own artistic development, and creativity.  I also remember that when I was a child my father often listened to Piazzolla, and that was my first contact with the tango; with the music more than anything.  That’s why before I became a dancer, I was a musician.  At the age of 13 I had my first drum set.  Ten years later I began to study theatre with the great teacher and actress, Cristina Banegas. 

I began my study of tango dancing like most people do by learning the basics and the structures of the dance. But all of this was so technical that it started to feel quite limited to me. I was a milonguero, I came from studying with Tete and Maria, which was a style that took into great consideration the physical connection with the person you found yourself dancing with in the moment. I needed to express with my body something more and it was at this time that I found my first tango teacher, Victoria Vieira, before Tete, and she took me to meet Gustavo Naveira who had developed a structure to the dance that I had never seen before. Gustavo and Fabian Salas had a practice group where they researched these new forms and they invited me to participate. This was all completely new for me, I had to re-learn the dance within that new form by listening and watching. In one month-and-a-half I learned what I hadn’t learned in two years. That’s why for me Gustavo Naveira has been the greatest influence in my dancing, and in my early development. Gustavo and Fabian often traveled abroad to teach, while I stayed behind with all of this information, practicing, and waiting for them to return in order to know where to go with all of this new information that was changing my dance. For me, my work with the dance became a very solitary practice. This coincided with my first trip to Europe, where I went to Paris, and I gave workshops in several other cities. I went with the idea of staying one month but ended up staying for 5. During those 5 months, I began to dance occasionally with Lucia Mazer, though I was still dancing with Victoria. When I returned to Buenos Aires, I stayed for 3 months and then returned to Europe because in that moment it was difficult for me to be accepted with this new style of tango that I was dancing, which was not very well received in the world of the traditional tango. When I arrived in Paris, they welcomed me with open arms. They wanted to learn that freedom within the dance, and not fall into the same basic structure that everyone was already familiar with in the tango. It was in that moment where I began working more seriously with Lucia Mazer, and we worked for 4 years together in Paris. Those were the most creative years of my career. I began working with Eugenia Parilla after this period, and we worked together both in Buenos Aires and Paris. She arrived right at the moment where I had processed a huge amount of information that I had not been able to give form to yet, and it was together with Eugenia that I had the most artistic moments of my career. In that moment there appeared a different dynamic of the tango that has to do with using the partner in order to facilitate movements. Up until that point, historically there was always a scenario where there was a lead and the woman followed, but today the connection is works differently. There is much more working with the body of the partner and the woman appears much more as a protagonist in the couple than before. We found a new way of showing ourselves, standing out both singularly and together as a couple in this new dynamic, creating new movements, because even the sacada didn’t exist 7 years ago. 

ATDRC.: What is the order of priority when you think about the woman’s role?

CHICHO:  I don’t think that woman is going to occupy more or less space, if not that the couple takes on more strength and power when it is a couple, with an equality between the two, and today that is really a division of 50/50.  This has to do with the way the man is marking in the moment, if she cannot feel comfortable dancing, then I cannot dance.  If I am only thinking in my own figure, in my step, in my elegance, and I forget completely in my partner and then surely there will be an accident, or a kick or some kind of total disconnection.  If I want to take the movement to create a sacada, I have to communicate to my partner in the gentlest way that we are going to do that particular movement.  To do it gently I have to be subtle in my marking, I can’t mark only with my hands, I have to do a completely corporal marking, or I propose something and she responds but she does it with another proposal and I then follow her.  The strongest thing I achieved with Lucia was this kind of connection and balance.

ATDRC:  Do you think your way of dancing has changed the tango? And if it did, in what way?

CHICHO:  I think that yes in some way my form of dancing has changed the tango, I know this mostly from comments that people make to mean also because of the process I have lived over these past 13 years I have been dancing.  I know that there are people who follow the method which I teach because I see them in the milongas, I see movements that were created by me.

ATDRC:  Do you believe that Tango Nuevo really exists?

CHICHO:  Tango Nuevo does exist, but it has so for a very long time, it’s not from 5 or 10 years back, Copes was dancing a new tango, Miguel Angel Zotto had a new tango, so we can say that there have been periods.  Every once and a while there is someone who appears and proposes something new and that is the new tango of the moment.  To think that ‘Tango Nuevo’ is something that occurred only 10 years ago is a commercial exploitation that we owe to the festival organizers, I don’t think I am doing ‘Tango Nuevo’, I feel that I am dancing tango.  Because today there is a new generation that learned to dance 2,3 or 5 years ago, who only know how to do the new styles, the ganchos, the colgadas, but who are not in contact with everything that came before, and I go to the milongas and I see people that know how to move but that don’t know how to dance, people don’t breathe tango like they did before.

ATDRC: How does the woman influence in this contemporary style of the tango?

CHICHO:  Like I said before, today the woman has a lot more participation. Before the man gave orders with the hand in the back of the woman, or it was all choreographed and the woman had an idea that she had to do everything on her own.  Today it is another playing field, on another level, she has a much greater freedom within what happens inside of the embrace.

ATDRC:  When you dance with a woman does she dance with her own style or is it something that you develop together?

CHICHO: I don’t care with what style she dances, what interests me is that in the moment when we are dancing together, that we are having fun together in the moment, I need to feel good next to that person.

ATDRC:  But the individual style of the woman, does it change when they dance with you?

CHICHO:  Actually, her style changes and mine as well, more than anything because of a need to adapt to one another.  For example, when I danced with Lucia I did things in one way, and when I began to dance with Eugenia she proposed a different way of dancing, and so my body had to adapt itself.  Because it can also be said that the professional dancers dance in one particular way and that the woman who comes to dance with them has to change her style and completely adapt herself to the way he dances, because he is incapable of changing, and that for me is a great error.  Because if they were capable of adapting their dance to a new partner, the tango would go through a much faster evolution.  For me the style is something you search for with your partner, and not something that you find separately. 

ATDRC:  What differences do you find in between the more traditional tango and the tango that is being danced today?

CHICHO:  I believe the greatest difference is exactly that, the space that each one occupies, and to be really dancing as a couple and not as separate entities.  And so, the difference is between dancing a violently marked tango or to be able to dance without barely touching one another.  Because in regards to style they can’t be compared, they are time periods completely different.

ATDRC:  In regards to the music, has it changed or does it have new influences?

CHICHO:  I haven’t heard anything new yet which reflects what a real tango can make you feel.  The dance of today has adapted itself to that kind of music referred to as electronic tango, and it doesn’t fall into the same category as a Pugliese or a Troilo.  The tango was hidden for almost 30 years and that is the emptiness which is present today in the tango.  There are people who are 60 or 70 years of age, and now there are those who are 30 years old, which is saying that there is a 20-year gap within the tango, because there aren’t really that many people in their 40’s and 50’s in the milongas.  I believe that same thing occurred in the music, there was Piazzola and then there was a jump to Gotan Project, directly to Narcotango, and there hasn’t been a musical process that has accompanied the dance through its evolution.  The music hasn’t evolved, it jumped and skipped a very important part of the creativity that is happening in the dance, which continues to grow and evolve creatively.  

ATDRC:  If you had to do a self-critique of your form of dancing, what would you say are your strengths and weaknesses

CHICHO:  I believe that my best qualities have to do with my musicality, and obviously my creativity within that realm.  I began as a musician and I continue to be one.  The music is what moves me on all levels, I need to feel it in order to be able to dance, and I believe that is visible in my dancing.  And I believe my weakness has to do with my inhibition, I still don’t feel that I have exploited and showed everything I have to show, almost as if I haven’t been able to give myself completely as I would like to.

ATDRC:  There are people who belong to a more traditional style of tango, who think that what you do isn’t tango.  What do you think in regards to those kinds of comments?

CHICHO:  I can’t talk to someone who thinks that way, because I believe that they haven’t understood anything, and they haven’t understood what the tango is.  I am more interested in what it is that really touches people, and the recognition that I have received, I am not interested in sharing that with other professionals

ATDRC:  How do you see your career unfolding in the future?

CHICHO:  I think that everything I do from now on until my last days on this earth will have to do with something artistic, today that is the tango, tomorrow that can be something else that allows me to express myself artistically.

ATDRC:  To start wrapping this up, what do you think about the direction the tango is beginning to take, socially and artistically?

CHICHO:  I think it is a very critical moment, there are many new young people who are beginning to dance today and if we as teachers can’t transmit what was taught to us as the essence of tango when we began, the tango will be lost, because the essence will be lost, and therefore losing its foundations.  The most important element is to keep the tanguero essence alive, the style doesn’t matter, but that the people are really dancing the tango.  Today the road is confusing, it’s in this space where or it either takes a turn towards modern dance or it continues being tango.  Today people are dancing tango, but they are not living the tanguero essence, they don’t love the tango.

ATDRC:  Do you think the large and increasing interest that foreigners have in the tango is affecting the dance?

CHICHO:  My idea, and that of Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas as well, was always that the tango needed to be popular in the world.  Obviously, it is born from one country and has its origins, but it needs to be universal.  It cannot belong only to Buenos Aires. There is no way to prevent this expansion from happening, as every day more and more people are dancing tango in every part of the world.

The Magic Hands of Rodolfo Biagi (Argentine Tango Composer)

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Tango composer, pianist and orchestra leader Rodolfo Biagi was given the nickname “Manos Brujas (Spellbinding or Magic Hands)” for his energetic and easily recognizable rhythmic style.

Biagi was born on 14 March 1906 in Buenos Aires and gave up his studies after finishing grammar school. The young Biagi wished to devote himself entirely to music. Naturally, his parents disagreed, but they struck a deal. Biagi’s parents would buy the violin he wanted, but he had to enter the Escuela Normal de Profesores Mariano Acosta. Biagi, however, was drawn to the piano when he was enrolled at the conservatory of the newspaper “La Prensa.”

At thirteen years old, without his parents’ knowledge, Biagi made his debut as a pianist, playing the musical background for silent films at a local cinema. One evening, the maestro Juan Maglio had been to that very cinema and was impressed upon hearing the pianist. Maglio invited Biagi, then only fifteen, to play with him. Biagi later on would join the orchestra of bandoneonist Miguel Orlando at the cabaret Maipú Pigall.

By 1930, at the age of 24, Biagi was approached by José Razzano to accompany the famous tango singer, Carlos Gardel on some recordings. On the first of April of that year, Biagi recorded the tangos, “Viejo smoking”, “Buenos Aires” and “Aquellas farras”, the foxtrot “Yo seré para ti, tu serás para mí” and the waltz “Aromas de El Cairo” with the violinist Antonio Rodio and the guitarists Aguilar, Barbieri and Riverol. Gardel invited Biagi to join him on a tour of Spain, but Biagi declined.

He then joined several other orchestras, the Juan Bautista Guido orchestra and the orchestra of Juan Canaro. He met Juan Carlos Thorry during his time with the latter and composed with him the tango “Indiferencia.” Working with Canaro brought Biagi to Brazil and upon his comeback, Biagi left Canaro’s orchestra. Biagi remained inactive for a time, during which he was a frequent patron of the cabaret Chantecler, where his friend Juan D’Arienzo played. D’Arienzo’s pianist, Lidio Fasoli, was notoriously late for everything and one evening, D’Arienzo asked Biagi to replace him.

Biagi and D’Arienzo worked together for three years and during this time, Biagi established his defining style of playing. The D’Arienzo orchestra was a popular and successful group, appearing on the radio, at balls and clubs, going on tours and performing for Enrique Santos Discépolo’s movie “Melodías porteñas.”

When Biagi split with D’Arienzo, he put together his own orchestra, which made their debut on 16 September 1938 at the cabaret Marabu. His and D’Arienzo’s orchestras were crucial in the traditional positions of tango interpretation. Biagi had a show on Radio Belgrano which launched his nickname of “Manos Brujas” when he played a foxtrot by Jose Maria Aguilar at the beginning of each show. Biagi’s orchestra was the first to appear on Argentine television in the early fifties. His tango group saw many talents, including singers Jorge Ortiz, Alberto Lago, Alberto Amor and Carlos Acuña. Musicians such as Alfredo Attadía, Miguel Bonano, Ricardo Pedevilla, Marcos Larrosa, Claudio González and Oscar de la Fuente were also involved. Biagi performed for the last time in public on 2 August 1969 at the Hurlingham Club. Forty-one days later, on 24 September, he passed away from an extreme drop in blood pressure.

Argentine Tango Singer – Roberto Goyeneche, ‘El Polaco’

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While the Argentine tango singer Roberto Emilio Goyeneche was nicknamed ‘El Polaco’ (‘the Pole’) for his blond hair and thinness like Polish immigrants of the time, he was actually of Basque descent. He is considered to have epitomised the bohemian life of 1950s Buenos Aires.

Goyeneche was born on 29 January 1926 in the neighbourhood of Saavedra in Buenos Aires. His career in music began in 1944, when he was 18 years old. After winning a local contest, Goyeneche joined the orchestra of Raul Kaplun. His debut performance was broadcast on Radio Belgrano. He then went on to sing with Angel Diaz for Horacio Salgan’s orchestra. It was Diaz who gave Goyeneche the nickname ‘El Polaco.’

In 1956, Anibal Troilo, a dear friend and a bandleader with an eye for talent, hired Goyeneche to join his orchestra. Together, they recorded 26 songs. In 1963 he started his solo career, which had the highlight of Goyeneche being the first singer to record Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Balada Para un Loco’ (‘Ballad for the Crazy One’). He continued to sing under other great maestros of the time, such as Armando Pontier, Raúl Garello, Atilio Stampone, Baffa-Berlingieri and many others. Goyeneche later reunited with Troilo to record two LPs, ‘El Polaco y yo’ (‘The Pole and I’) and ‘¿Te acordás Polaco?’ (‘Do You Remember Polish?’)

Goyeneche had the reputation of being a singer like no other. His diction was deemed perfect, even in the later years of his life. He was expressive in his phrasing and added particular details to his recordings and performances which made him a unique vocalist. He had his way of handling accents and silence, he delayed some words of the lyrics, he would intimately whisper a line–all of which made him exceptional and easily recognisable.

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Goyeneche was also considered a singer who was a respectful interpreter of the tango rhythm during a period when soloists mixed with ballads or other sophisticated songs with a tango influence. He recorded hits like ‘El Motivo’ (‘The Motive’), ‘La última curda’ (‘The Final Curse’), ‘Naranjo en Flor’ (‘Orange Blossom’), ‘Qué Solo Estoy’ (‘How Lonely I Am’), ‘Lejana Tierra Mía’ (‘Far Away From My Land’), ‘Volvió una Noche’ (‘He Returned One Night’), ‘Pompas de Jabón’ (‘Soap Bubbles’), ‘Afiches’ (‘Posters’), ‘Maquillaje’ (‘Makeup’), ‘Malena,’ ‘Soy un arlequín’ (‘I’m A Harlequin’), ‘Maria,’ ‘Garua’ (‘Drizzle’), ‘Cuando Tallan los Recuerdos’ (‘When They Carve Memories’), and ‘Ya Vuelvo’ (‘I’ll Be Right Back’).

He toured internationally, with notable performances like singing in the ‘Tango Argentino’ at City Centre in 1985 and in Paris in 1987.

Even in the 1980s, Goyeneche was still an active performer, appearing as a special guest in movies like ‘El Exilio de Gardel’ (‘The Exile of Gardel’) and ‘Sur’ (‘South’) directed by Fernando Solanas.

Goyeneche died of kidney and heart failure on 27 August 1994 in Buenos Aires. He is considered one of the greatest tango singers of all time. He made more than 100 records over his 40-year career. An avenue of his childhood neighbourhood of Saavedra is named after him.

Tango Composer – Osvaldo Fresedo, ‘The Kid from La Paternal’

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As his nickname suggests, tango songwriter and orchestra director Osvaldo Nicolas Fresedo grew up in La Paternal, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He happens to have the longest recording career in tango, spanning from 1925 to 1980. In the course of 55 years, he made 1,250 recordings.

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Fresedo was born on 5 May 1897 into a middle-class family and coming from a wealthy background influenced his artistry. His music was a favourite of the upper-class and aristocratic folks. Fresedo was not born in La Paternal, but his family moved to the somewhat humble neighbourhood when he was ten years old. There, he learned to play the bandoneon.

In 1913, Fresedo started out with public performances with a trio of other youngsters, including his brother, Emilio, who played the violin. They served as entertainment at local parties and played at neighbourhood cafes. This was around the time he was regarded as “El Pibe de la Paternal” or “the kid from La Paternal.”

Two major tango stars became Fresedo’s friends and invited him to play. First was Eduardo Arolas at Montmartre cabaret and Roberto Firpo at the Royal Pigall. In 1916, Fresedo formed a bandoneon duet with Vicente Loduca and recorded the tango “Amoniaco.” A later collaboration with pianist Juan Carlos Cobian would prove to be pivotal for the tango orchestra evolution of the 1920s. He was considered one of the great tango innovators of the 1920s, along with Cobian and Julio de Caro. Their style was characterised refined taste, legatos, nuances and pianos solos aimed for the upper-class. This would become known as the tango of the “New Guard” or “Guardia Nueva.”

Fresedo then went to assemble his own group, first with pianist José María Rizzutti and the violinist Julio De Caro, but they would later become a sextet. In 1921, Fresedo travelled to Camden, New Jersey in the United States for the Victor company. Other musicians on this trip included the pianist Enrique Delfino and the violinist Tito Roccatagliata. During this time, they recorded a few albums with a quartet. Upon his return to Buenos Aires, Fresedo reassembled his sextet. He joined Carlos Gardel on two recordings: the tangos “Perdón, viejita” (composed by Fresedo himself) and “Fea.”

By 1927, Fresedo was so successful that he managed to keep five different orchestras running at the same time. Fresedo worked tirelessly. From 1925 to 1928, he recorded about 600 pieces for the label Odeon. Fresedo’s second era began when he left Odeon and started a larger orchestra with a new style. Roberto Ray, perhaps the most well-known vocalist for Fresedo, joined him during this time. Their recordings are among the most memorable in tango, such as “Vida Mia“, “Como Aquella Princesa” and “Isla de Capri.”

When the 1940s began, a new generation of musicians with new styles rose up. Fresedo tried to adapt, but his style was critiqued for losing the strength of his initial style. His orchestrations became slower, but Fresedo continued to record through the 1930s and 1940s. Fresedo continued to lead orchestras until his retirement in 1980.

My Journey in Tango

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Imagine……… the music starts, you take a woman in your arms (or a man if that’s your thing!) and you start to move, as if you are one. Every move you make is met with a response from your partner just like in a conversation. Your hearts beating in unison, your legs entwined and hooked together as you move silently across the floor, it’s just you, the music and the floor on which you dance. It’s as though you are the only two people on the floor. The music ends, and that bliss which is Tango ends, until the next song starts to play.

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I first discovered Tango whilst on holidays in Seattle, USA. At the time I was walking home from a ballroom dance (a style of dance that at that stage, I spent many hours per week dancing) and heard music that was kind of familiar but different. Following the music, I found a group of people dancing Argentine Tango, a dance form unlike anything I had seen before. It’s funny how one can be involved in the world of dance and be totally unaware of other dance forms. The passion and connection created within the dance grabbed me and I quickly enrolled in local Tango classes. Three weeks later, I was back in Australia and eager to continue my journey in this new dance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy finding suitable teachers and nearly gave up hope. Luckily, I found my first Tango mentor in Brisbane and then later continued my development as a Tango dancer in Sydney. My love of the dance continued to grow as I found myself dancing many times every week. Tango now takes me to different parts of the world to attend festivals as a means of continued development and enjoyment. The journey continues.

As the name suggests, Argentine Tango started in Argentina (although Uruguayan’s may argue that) and was first danced in the 1890’s.  The dance originated in lower-class areas of Argentina. It would often be practiced between men before going to brothels to dance with women.

During the early part of the 20th century, the Tango found its way to Paris and soon after, London and Berlin. This is when Tango gained popularity with the upper classes.

Tango has had a chequered past in Argentina with restrictions in the 1930’s and then suffering another decline in the 1950’s as a result of economic depression and the banning of public gatherings. On each occasion, however, Tango has recovered and in 2009 was declared part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO. Today, thousands of tourists visit Argentina every year to experience Tango at its home and also to develop their own Tango.

Argentine Tango includes 3 different dances, Tango, Vals and Milonga, each with their own unique rhythms.  Within Argentine tango there are also various styles that you may hear people refer to.  Styles are as unique as dancers and I think it’s rather foolish to try to categorise either. Broadly speaking, Tango may be danced in a ‘close embrace’ where the torsos remain in contact throughout the dance or ‘open embrace’ where the embrace will be opened during the dance to allow more complex figures. As with any art form, Tango continues to evolve with new generations of musicians and dancers adding their own interpretations.

Tango is danced at social gatherings called Milonga’s (different to the Tango dance form named Milonga) whereby it is common for a couple to dance a series of 3 – 4 songs (called a tanda) followed by a short break of 20 – 30 seconds (called a cortina) before inviting another partner to dance the next “tanda”. Unlike some dance forms, it is most common for people to dance with a wide variety of people during a milonga. For an example of a milonga go to

Any form of dance is a great creative outlet as well as a means of socialising and increasing activity. Creatively, it allows you to express your personality freely without the restrictions some people may feel in life generally. It is a valuable skill to have from a social standpoint as it can help you to experience different cultures around the world whether that be through the dance itself or in meeting new people. It is also a great skill to have at social functions such as weddings and other celebrations. The benefits of dance for fitness include improving strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness (depending upon the vigour with which you dance). Posture, balance, agility and co-ordination can also be improved making it a valuable activity for people of all ages.

I continue to be amazed at the effect that Tango has on people. I have encountered many people who after ‘discovering’ Tango, have found themselves living in Argentina for 3+ months. So beware, Tango is addictive.

Tango can now be found in most cities throughout the world as well as a lot of smaller towns. Most cities will have a website with information on where you can dance Tango in that particular city.

As a beginner dancer, I was not very good, certainly not a ‘natural’. I struggled with most aspects of the dance but through persistent effort, became more accomplished. When I now hear people say, “I couldn’t do that” or “I’ve got two left feet”, I shake my head because I know that in by far the majority of cases, it is possible to become an accomplished dancer and enjoy the many benefits of dancing. I look forward to seeing you sometime on a dance floor somewhere.

The Early Days of Tango

Tango dance Brisbane
Tango dance Brisbane

It was not uncommon for men to pair up with other men when dancing Tango during what was believed to be its Golden Age. The first thing that men learn in Tango is to be a follower, then, after about a year (and when enough expertise had been achieved) they would be taught the role of being a leader. People understood that it was generally because women were not allowed to go to practices which is why men had to practice with other men to prepare them in meeting women at the milongas.

A typical milonga congregation in the early days had more men than women. This means that the level of competition among men was significantly higher and, as a matter of course, higher skilled male dancers get to have a higher chance to dance with the girls compared to the lesser skilled ones.

The women’s part in being the inspirational influence of men for wanting to learn Tango was not clearly established at all. However, it was firmly believed that Tango began in the brothels, basing on the eroticism of the movements and the sex laden imagery of the song titles.

In the late 1800s, prostitution in different forms was commonplace as flocks of mostly male immigrants arrived, further elevating the demand in the sex industry specifically in the lower-class areas where Tango was believed to be born. Thus, men danced with men due to the unavailability of women and used their Tango skills to meet and attract women in brothels.

At that time, brothels in Buenos Aires were disguised as dance schools or cafes as they were known to be illegal. There, men danced Tango with women and engaged in sexual activities in exchange for money. The presence of men in the brothels were primarily for the purpose of obtaining sex with women and Tango just became a good excuse for them to be able to do so.

Miguel Calo

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Miguel Calo was one of those Argentine bandoneon player, composer and orchestra leaders who lived through the so-called “Golden Age of Tango” and is one of the genre’s most popular musicians. Calo was born on 28 October 1907 in Balvanera in Buenos Aires. The young Calo studied how to play the violin and bandoneon.

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In 1929, at the age of 22, Calo formed his first orchestra, which he later dissolved to join the orchestra of Catulo Castillo. Calo and the pianist and poet toured Spain together. They were also joined by musicians Ricardo and Alfredo Malerba and the singer Roberto Maida. When Calo returned home to Buenos Aires, he formed a second orchestra of his own, this time with the bandoneonist Domingo Cuestas, the violinists Domingo Varela Conte, Hugo Gutiérrez, and Enrique Valtri, the contrabassist Enzo Ricci, and the pianist Luis Brighenti. Once more, Calo left the group to join another, Osvaldo Fresedo’s, and go on tour abroad to the United States.

The first stage of his musical evolution is considered to have been around 1934, when Calo yet again formed another orchestra. His style at the time has been compared to Fresedo’s and the sound reminiscent of Carlos Di Sarli. The group’s pianist was Miguel Nijensohn and Carlos Dante lent his vocals on occasion, doing 18 recordings with them. Other singers included Alberto Morel and Robert Calo.

It was in the 1940s that Calo showed his maturity as a great director. He assembled talented and professional young musicians, all of whom would later organise their own groups. His style during this era was highlighted by violins, a rhythmic bandoneon section and the piano. The latter was played in the first year by Osmar Maderna, who was then replaced with the return of Nijensohn.

Other notable musicians who became part of the line-up included Domingo Federico, Armando Pontier, Carlos Lazzari, Eduardo Rovira, Julián Plaza, José Cambareri (bandoneons), Enrique Francini, Antonio Rodio, Nito Farace (violins), Ariel Pedernera and Juan Fassio (double bass). He helped debut great singers like Raúl Berón, Alberto Podestá and Raúl Iriarte.

Although he’s a great orchestra leader, his compositions are considered as not entirely remarkable. However, some beautiful works of his are “Jamás retornarás” and “Qué te importa que te llore,” both sung by Raul Beron. Other popular songs of his are “Dos fracasos”, with lyrics by Homero Expósito and the milonga “Cobrate y dame el vuelto” whose lyrics were by Enrique Dizeo.

In 1961, Calo reunited with some members of his old line-up from the 1940s. These included the bandoneonists Armando Pontier and Domingo Federico, the violinists Enrique Francini and Hugo Baralis, on piano Orlando Trípodi, and the singers Raúl Berón and Alberto Podestá. The group was called Miguel Caló y su Orquesta de las Estrellas (Miguel Calo and his All-Stars Orchestra). They played on one of the most powerful radios in Argentina, Radio El Mundo.

Calo passed away on 24 may 1972. Still, his influence lingers. In 2016, nearly 45 years later, the record “Siguen Los Exitos de La Orquesta de Miguel Calo” placed in the Top Ten in the Latin Pop Albums, number 48 at Top Latin Albums, and 25 on the Jazz Albums charts.