Angel D’Agostino

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Argentine tango orchestra leader and pianist Angel D’Agostino did not achieve the same recognition as the likes of Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Fresedo or Juan D’Arienzo, but he was still a respected and admired figure in tango. D’Agostino was one half of “Los Dos Angeles” (“The Two Angels”). Jose Angel Lomio or Angel Vargas the singer of the two was also called “El Ruiseñor de las Calles Porteñas” (“The Nightingale of the Buenos Aires Streets”).

Before he became a professional in the tango scene, he was born Angel Domingo Emilio D’Agostino on 25 May 1900 in Buenos Aires. He was born into music, with a father and uncles who were all musicians. There was a piano at home that grew up playing often. Musicians Manuel Aróztegui and Adolfo Bevilacqua were frequent visitors and the latter’s tango, “Independencia,” made its debut at D’Agostino’s home in 1910. The young D’Agostino studied at a conservatory and even played in public. Their group was a trio, which included his neighbour Juan D’Arienzo. They were infantile at the time and when they weren’t paid for their performance at the Zoological Garden, they started a fire, which was soon put out.

D’Agostino quit high school, choosing to focus on music. He played for aristocratic families’ parties and at a night local, where he tried different rhythms, like ragtime. In 1920, he assembled his first orchestra, playing a mix of tango and jazz. One of his musicians was Agesilao Ferrazzano, considered by D’Agostino as the best tango violinist. Others included Juan D’Arienzo, Anselmo Aieta and Ciriaco Ortiz. When silent films were playing, D’Agostino’s group was one of the first orchestras to play at the cinemas.

The cabaret Palais de Glace, among others, hired his orchestra group, but they never went on tour. Supposedly, this was due to D’Agostino’s mysterious behaviour. He was something of a character in Buenos Aires. He was a skilled gambler and stubborn bachelor. Eva Peron once gifted him a clock, one of three of a unique design.

Tango - Angel D'agostino and Angel VargasIn 1932, D’Agostino met Angel Vargas, but they did not team up until 1940. Together, they recorded 93 pieces. In 1934, D’Agostino collaborated with Aníbal Troilo and the singer Alberto Echagüe to form an orchestra strictly dedicated to tango. There was also a time during the 1930s when he performed in an orchestra under the name “Carlo Vargas.”

D’Agostino’s style has been described as “folk-like” and “simple,” but he succeeded because of his clear language and simplicity. Angel Vargas’ voice, considered sweet and charismatic, allowed for an expression that made the audience understand the lyrics. D’Agostino himself described his style: “I shaped my orchestras with two conceptions that I never gave up: respect for the melodic line and rhythmic emphasis to make the dancing easier. When the singer breaks into the scene and displaces the musician from the spotlight, the orchestra was structured in such a way that music and singing did not interrupt the possibility of dancing. For that, the singer had to turn into one more instrument, a privileged instrument, but not apart.”

On 16 January 1991, D’Agostino passed away. He promised his friends he would die alone and he kept it.

The Origin of ‘El Dia Que Me Quieras’

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‘El Dia Que Me Quieras’ (‘The Day That You Love Me’) is a tango composed by Carlos Gardel with lyrics by Alfredo Le Pera, originally recorded for the 1935 film of the same name. Gardel himself was the lead in the musical film opposite Spanish actress Rosita Moreno. Gardel and Le Pera wrote six songs in total for the movie.

Argentine Tango Classes BrisbaneGardel is considered to have introduced tango to the world at a time when the music and dance was a symbol of Argentina’s “Golden Age.” According to Horacio Torres, director of the Carlos Gardel Museum, the man revolutionized tango and created a sensation in the 1920s and ‘30s.

In the 1930s, Gardel and his ensemble of Argentina’s best guitarists toured South America, France, and the United States. His celebrity status was further increased when he began starring in Spanish-language movies. He eventually started his own production company and distributed 10 films through the Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures.

‘El Dia Que Me Quieras’ was released in 1935 and tells the story of Julio Arguelles (Gardel) who wants to marry a woman below his social status, Margarita (Moreno). Julio’s wealthy businessman father is opposed to the marriage, but the two marry and elope. Margarita would be dead by the end of the film and Julio a rising tango singer. It is worth noting that tango revolutionary Astor Piazzolla had a small role as a young paper boy in the movie.

Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla claims ‘El Dia Que Me Quieras’ is one of the most beautiful melodies ever written.

Many of Gardel’s onscreen characters embodied the archetypal Latin lover–an elegant gentleman with a fedora, suit and tie. Santaolalla says of Gardel’s onscreen presence, “How cool he was. What a sense of style, as an artist and a gentleman. He always had that classy feel to whatever he did.”

However, tragedy struck towards the end of the film’s promotional tour. Gardel and Le Pera died in a plane crash on June 24 in Medellin, Colombia. Millions of fans around the world went into mourning and hordes came to pay respect as his body journeyed from Colombia to New York to Rio de Janeiro.

The legacy of ‘El Dia Que Me Quieras’ lives on. Mexican singer Luis Miguel recorded a cover of the song in 1994. In 2013, Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan wrote and recorded the first-ever English translation of the song, ‘The Day You Say You Love Me.’

Tender sighs like a whisper

Caressing my day dreams

You’re here by my side

I feel life smile above me

Whenever your sweet eyes

Can look into mine

And it’s my consolation

The sound of your laughter

Like music sublime

There’s no way of concealing

Every thought, every feeling

The day you say you love me

The most beautiful of roses

Will bloom in every garden

Of a color never seen

And from the highest steeple

The bells will sing our love song

And make the eager fountain

Spill over with our love

The night you say you love me

The skies above will listen

The jealous stars will longing

Will see us passing by

A playful ray of moonlight

Will dance along of pleasure

While witnessing this moment of our lives

We will always treasure

A playful ray of moonlight

Will dance along of pleasure

While witnessing this moment of our lives

We will always treasure

The Man Who Revolutionised Tango – Astor Piazzolla

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Once described as “the world’s most foremost composer of tango music,” Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla established nuevo tango (new tango), a blend of jazz, classical music, and tango.

Nuevo Tango BrisbanePiazzolla was born on March 11, 1921 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. His parents were Italian immigrants Vicente ‘Nonino’ Piazzolla and Assunta Manetti. At birth, Piazzolla’s right leg was twisted due to polio and he underwent repeated operations until it was fixed, albeit one leg was slightly shorter than the other.

In 1925, the family moved to New York, where they lived until 1936. They first went to New Jersey, then Manhattan, near Little Italy. While the young Piazzolla adjusted well enough to American life, he was expelled from school for fighting and consequently earned the nickname ‘Lefty’ because of his left-hand punch.

It was around this time when he received his first bandoneon at age eight. He learned to play this instrument along with the piano. Initially, Piazzolla was not argentine tango classes near mekeen on the gift. In one interview, he said, “[My father] brought it covered in a box, and I got very happy because I thought it was the roller skates I had asked for so many times. It was a let-down because instead of a pair of skates, I found an artifact I had never seen before in my life. Dad sat down, set it on my legs, and told me, ‘Astor, this is the instrument of tango. I want you to learn it.’ My first reaction was anger. Tango was that music he listened to almost every night after coming home from work. I didn’t like it.”

In 1929, The Great Depression struck and the family moved back to Mar del Plata in 1936, only to return to New York nine months later. At 11, Piazzolla began playing his bandoneon on stage and started taking lessons with Andres D’Aquila, an Argentine pianist. He also made his first recording, ‘Marionette Spagnol,’ and composed his first tango, ‘La Catinga,’ which has never been recorded.

Piazzolla was introduced to jazz in New York, when he would sneak into clubs, where Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman and other jazz icons would play. Meanwhile, it was pianist and neighbour Bela Wilda, who taught him the piano and introduced him to classical music. One of Piazzolla’s earliest and long-lasting influences was Johann Sebastian Bach. Wilda even taught him to play Bach on the bandoneon.

Argentine Tango Classes BrisbaneAt age 12, Astor Piazzolla’s life would change. It was 1933 and he learned one of his idols Carlos Gardel was in town. Piazzolla went to Gardel’s building and what followed next was something straight out of a movie. Gardel’s assistant was outside and had left his key inside the room. Piazzolla volunteered to climb the fire escape and went in through the window to wake the sleeping Gardel. Turns out, it was lyricist Alfredo Le Pera. One thing led to another and the two became good friends. Piazzolla eventually became Gardel’s translator and his bandoneon player.

The Piazzolla’s moved back to Argentina in 1937 and the teenage Piazzolla immersed himself in tango. By the time he was 17, he moved to Buenos Aires and was invited to play the bandoneon in one of the most prestigious tango orchestras at the time, the Anibal Troilo Orquestra, and eventually became their arranger.

Piazzolla formed his own orchestra in 1946, the Astor Piazzolla Y Su Orchestra Tipica or commonly referred to as ‘The 1946 Band’. During this time, he composed his first “formal” tango, El Desbande as well as scores for films. In 1949, Piazzolla started in earnest his musical experiments, one of which, titled ‘Buenos Aires,’ was submitted to the Fabien Sevitzky Competition, where it won first prize. When the piece was performed by Sevitzky, however, it was met with negative reaction, with many complaining a bandoneon had no place in an orchestra.

Piazzolla travelled to France for his Paris Conservatory scholarship. Here, he played one of his tango-classical experiments, ‘Trifunal,’ for the great music educator Nadia Boulanger and she encouraged him to press on. And so, in 1955, tango nuevo was born with the formation of the group Octeto Buenos Aires. Even with growing criticism, Piazzolla carried on, touring the world with his unique blend of tango, jazz, and classical music. His favourite expression for tango nuevo was the bandoneon, violin, bass, piano, and electric guitar.

After a period of great productivity, Piazzolla had a heart attack in 1973. Shortly after, he moved to Milan, Italy and a year later he composed the infamous hit, ‘Libertango.’ This symbolised his break from classical tango to something new.

In 1985, he was named an exceptional citizen of Buenos Aires and in 1986, received the Cesar Prize for his score of the film ‘El Exilio de Gardel.’ One of his most well-known performances was in 1987 in Central Park in New York to a crowd of over 4,000. In 1990, Piazzolla suffered a massive stroke and two years later, the genius Tanguero died in Buenos Aires on July 4. He leaves behind more than 1,000 works and the legacy of having revolutionized tango forever.

The Origin of ‘Volver’

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In 1934, French Argentine composer Carlos Gardel along with lyricist Alfredo Le Pera created the tango ‘Volver.’ It is considered one of the most famous and beautiful tangos as it has become a symbol of nostalgia for all the Argentines forced to migrate from their homeland.

Like many migrants to the United States, Argentines were seeking better economic opportunities. However, it was in the 1970s when many of them fled the ‘Dirty War’ and political and military upheaval. They numbered 44,803 people.

Argentine Tango Classes BrisbaneThe tango was recorded on March 19, 1935 for the film ‘El Dia Que Me Quieras (The Day you Love Me),’ which was also written by Le Pera and starred Gardel. In the movie, Gardel plays Carlos Arguelles, the son of a wealthy man whose only interests in life are business and making money. While trying to succeed in show business he falls in love with a dancer and they elope to marry.

In ‘Volver,’ Gardel sings about the pain and nostalgia of exile. The tango symbolises the fleetingness of life and the destiny of a man who is heading down the path of no return.

Only three months after the recording, on June 24, Gardel and Le Pera perished in a plane crash in Medellin, Colombia. ‘Volver’ is reputed to be his last song for his fans, a melodic and nostalgic piece for the adoring millions in mourning. It has since been surrounded by an atmosphere of veneration and superstition. No orchestra or discerning DJ would play this piece in a tango ball.

This tango has been covered by multiple singers, including Julio Iglesias, Libertad Lamarque, Los Panchos, Andres Calamaro, and Il Divo. In 2006, Pedro Almodovar’s film also entitled ‘Volver,’ utilized the tango, but turned it into a flamenco sung by Penelope Cruz.

Below is an English translation of the lyrics:

I imagine the flickering

of the lights that in the distance

will be marking my return.

They’re the same that lit,

with their pale reflections,

deep hours of pain

And even though I didn’t want to come back,

you always return to your first love

The tranquil street where the echo said

yours is her life, yours is her love,

under the mocking gaze of the stars

that, with indifference, today see me return.

 

To return

with withered face,

the snows of time

have whitened my temples.

To feel… that life is a puff of wind,

that twenty years is nothing,

that the feverish look,

wandering in the shadow,

looks for you and names you.

To live…

with the soul clutched

to a sweet memory

that I cry once again

 

I am afraid of the encounter

with the past that returns

to confront my life

I am afraid of the nights

that, filled with memories,

shackle my dreams.

But the traveler that flees

sooner or later stops his walking

And although forgetfulness, which destroys all,

has killed my old dream,

I keep concealed a humble hope

that is my heart’s whole fortune.

 

To live… with the soul clutched

to a sweet memory

that I cry once again

Styles of Argentine Tango

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Within Argentine tango there are various styles you may hear people refer to.  They will say, “Oh, he’s a milonguero dancer,” or “She dances salon style.”  Styles are as unique as dancers and I think it’s rather foolish to try to categorise either. Just remember if you hear terms like ‘salon’, ‘milonguero’, ‘fantasia’, or ‘orillero’, someone is talking about a certain style.

As with any evolving art form, trying to pin down the rules is impossible. Every day, new styles come forward and dancers find ways to play with them and incorporate them into their dance. In the past few years, styles known as ‘nuevo’ and ‘liquid’ have appeared. Who knows what’s coming next? All we know is that it’s coming.

Many tango dancers dance in a range of unique and personal styles all over Buenos Aires and some parts of Argentina. However, they refuse to accept any classification of their dancing by any broad elaborate name. They’d much rather say that they are simply dancing tango in their own individual style or that of their region. In some cases, there is confusion with the styles as some tango dancers identify their own style by a name that other dancers identify as an entirely different style.

Tango Classes near meNevertheless, if we think of style as a way of dancing that closely follows the listed elements but has a number of incompatibilities with other approaches then I guess it’s safe to say that there are a variety of distinguishable tango styles such as: Tango de Salon, Villa Urquiza, Milonguero-Style Tango, Club-Style Tango, Orillero-Style Tango, Canyengue, Nuevo Tango, Fantasia, Tango Escenario, Nuevo Milonguero, and Liquid Tango.

  1. TANGO DE SALON

“Tango de Salon” refers to a plethora of social dance styles that includes Milonguero, Villa Urquiza and as well as Club-Style tangos. These are social dances that are often danced in salons or improper venues instead of the purpose of exhibition. Traditionally, tango de salon dancers are required to respect the line of dance, but they are allowed freedom to have their own styles in terms of embraces and characteristic movements.

In other countries, “salon-style” tango may refer to Tango Fantasia, Villa Urquiza, Tango Escenario or a fusion of these different styles. The combined styles is distinguished to have a looser embrace with a more prominent V than the Villa Urquiza styles. The distance between the partners allows the woman to pivot freely without much independent hip and torso movements.

  1. MILONGUERO

Generally, Milonguero-style tango is danced with a somewhat leaning posture that unites the partners in their torsos from the stomach towards the solar plexus to form a joined axis, at the same time, allowing a slight distance between their feet. It’s an embrace otherwise known as “apilado”. In the embrace, the woman’s right shoulder should be as close to her partner’s left shoulder as her left shoulder is to his right. Her left arm should hang over behind the neck of her partner.

Constant body contact is maintained and the embrace does not loosen even when executing turns or ochos, which limits the partners walking steps and plain ochos until the woman is ready to execute her turns stepping at an angle instead of pivoting.

Milonguero-style tango is identified with the ric-tic-tic rhythm that is distinct in the music of Rodolfo Biagi and Juan D’Arienzo, as well as in other tango orchestras.

  1. CANYENGUE

Canyengue is a form of tango that can be traced back from the 1920s to the early 30s. It is a historical form of tango that may not be accurately captured by the dancers that currently practice it. At the peak of its popularity, women dancers wore long and tight dresses. In this form of tango, the couple’s embrace is close and in an offset V, they move with bent knees and the woman does not execute a cross. Therefore, the steps are much shorter and more frequent in the ric-tic-tic-rhythm. Some Canyengue dangers exaggerate body movements to emphasise their steps.

  1. CLUB-STYLE TANGO

Like Milonguero-style tango, Club-style tango share the same rhythmic sensibilities although it is executed with a more upright posture and separate axes. Its embrace is as close as that of the Villa Urquiza style. The woman is able to rotate more openly and pivot without much independent movement as the couple’s embrace is slightly looser. Like Milonguero-style, Club-style tango is also danced to the ric-tic-tic rhythm that is noticeable in the music of Juan D’Arienzo and Rodolfo Biagi, as well as in other tango orchestras. This style of tango also uses the ocho cortado and other rhythmic figures used in Milonguero-style tango.

  1. VILLA URQUIZA

A tango style named after one of Buenos Aires’ neighbourhoods, Villa Urquiza is generally danced with the couple maintaining an upright body posture and keeping separate axes with their eyes fixed towards their clasped hands. This position creates a slight V impression in their embrace, where the woman’s right shoulder is closer to the man’s right shoulder than her left shoulder is to his right.. More often than not, the couple allows the woman to rotate more freely by loosening their embrace although it is supposed to be closed. The more the woman rotates, the less the embrace needs to be loosened. This style is otherwise known as “Tango Estilo del Barrio” in some neighbourhoods and “Salon-Style Tango” outside of Argentina.

  1. FANTASIA (Show Tango)

This style of tango is influenced mainly by the Villa Urquiza style of tango. Fantasia or Tango Fantasia refers to an exhibition style of tango.  Fantasia is unique for its dramatic poses, ganchos,  high boleos  and thorough use of embellishments. It is danced during breaks in social dances in milongas but is also performed in the stage in which it has evolved into another style of tango as some elements have been added to it subsequently, turning it into an entirely new style called Tango Escenario.

  1. TANGO ESCENARIO (Stage Tango)

Its name means tango danced in stage shows. This style has developed from that of the Villa Urquiza and Orillero styles of tango and has recently drew some elements from nuevo-tango. In this style of tango, the couple dances in an open embrace with exaggerated movements and other elements foreign to the vocabulary of social tango.

  1. ORILLERO-STYLE TANGO

This style of tango is considered to be one of the older styles and basing on its name, it seems that it originated from Buenos Aires’ streets of impoverished rural tenements. It was later referred to the style where the man is dancing around the woman. During what is considered to be tango’s golden age, Orillero-style tango was not accepted in the refined salons of Buenos Aires. To this day, Orillero-style tango has become more like the Villa Urquiza style of tango.

Orillero-style tango is danced with upright body posture. The couple then keeps separate axes with their embrace a typical offset in a V that can either be open or close. The woman is free to move and pivot in the turns without the need for much independent movement between her hips and torso.

When dancing in a close embrace, the couple slightly loosens the embrace in order to make room for the turns. The embrace would not have to be loosened that much if the woman is rotating her hips through the turns independently of her upper torso. What makes it different from Salon-style tango is that it has a more playful embellishment that requires more space and its figures do not strictly follow the line of dance.

  1. NUEVO TANGO

This dancing approach was originally made to be an instructive approach to tango, highlighting the structures where the connections to the elements of tango, as well as the step patterns and new combinations, can be found. The dancers following this approach have developed a style somewhat akin to nuevo tango which is danced in an open and elastic embrace with a posture that is very upright, emphasising the dancers’ axes. This tango style is distinguishable by figures such as linear boleos, volcadas, overturn ochos, single axis spin and cadenas. Such moves are best done in a loose embrace.

  1. LIQUID TANGO

An approach to dancing Argentine tango where the couple’s embrace shifts between open and close in order to allow the combination of different styles of tango such as the club and nuevo styles. We cannot really consider Liquid tango as an independent style of tango dancing as it is considerably similar to nuevo and does not have distinctive separate groups of followers.

  1. NUEVO MILONGUERO

Nuevo Milonguero is a somewhat recent approach to Argentine tango that includes some nuevo movements. Like Liquid Tango, we also cannot consider Nuevo Milonguero to be a separate style of tango as this approach is largely similar to the Milonguero style tango, plus the fact that it does not have a group of followers that is distinguishable. In fact, Nuevo Milonguero can only be considered as Milonguero style’s show version because of its showy elements that does not befit being danced in crowded venues.

Learning Tango: More Than Just Learning a Dance

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Argentine Tango is classified as a dance, but what sets it apart from other dances is that the process of learning and teaching tango is unlike that of the rest. In fact, learning tango is not even comparable to learning a dance. If anything, it’s more akin to learning a language.

Tango Lessons near meA dance that’s more like a language—how do you learn that? Well, just think of it as similar to learning a new language. So, the basics are to first learn the vocabulary (steps), then the pronunciation (execution of steps) and then the grammatical rules (rules that apply to the tango style that you are dancing). Simple concept, right?

Now, here comes the challenging part. In learning a language, you have to have something to say in order to practice speaking with another person. And for you to be understood, you have to say it well. The ability to express yourself clearly has little to do with the language itself but comes from your innate ability to be creative in expressing yourself. The exact same idea goes with learning and teaching tango.

A language teacher would teach you the language with its structure and order. At the same time, they would try to teach you literature so you could understand and master reading in that language. When it comes to creativity, it is entirely yours to incorporate to the language but the teacher is still going to at least try to teach you how it’s done. A tango teacher can teach you the steps and how to dance them well. They can be a language and literature professor all in one and it’s a significantly difficult task that only few know how to do.

What I usually hear people complain about tango teachers is why they keep teaching sequences. Why they keep repeating the same sequence over and over like robots and that they never teach about the creative part of dancing tango.

You see, the equivalent “words” in tango is steps and the sequence its poetry. In order for you to create good poetry is when you have read countless poems by other people. Yes, you can write your own poems without being influenced by others but you could do even better with more ideas and styles learned from others. Tango teachers, especially in Tango classes, teach you sequences to inspire you to cultivate your own creativity not by showing you exactly how it’s done but by leading you in the right direction.

Not everybody can create their own sequence though and most tango dancers will only keep the sequences of others, even tango professionals. And that’s perfectly fine. Students who are aspiring to learn the dance must be able to reach a certain level of understanding in order for them to appreciate the small things in dancing Tango.

For you to enjoy a certain sequence of steps, you have to have tried other sequences created by other dancers to see what you like and suits you best. You can either stick to just one way of dancing or sequences that you like or create your own movement as you see fit. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are in the moment and experience the emotion brought about by the dance that is Tango.

In Tango lessons and classes at the Brisbane House of Tango, we endeavour to not only teach you how to move in a natural way but also encourage you to explore your own creativity in dancing Tango.