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The tango show like no other - Carmen the Tango

(Photo credit and copyright David Andrews)

As tango shows go, this one is quite different. Still incorporating the story telling of unrequited love, passion, deceit and abandonment (which is common is almost all tango shows), this show embraces the beauty and expression of both Salon and stage tango and also folkloric dance, allowing the storyline and characters to be easily conveyed and developed through the talented dancers ́ beautiful movements. 

You are probably familiar with Carmen, the Bizet opera that shocked its French audiences back in 1875 with its passionate and scandelous storyline which climaxes with the lead character´s murder on stage. Carmen is a free spirited gypsy who seduces military man Don José, making him release her despite being arrested for assalting another woman and he is thrown in jail for not doing his duty. Despite reuniting with Carmen after his release, and running away with her and a group of smugglers, Carmen gets bored of Don José and sends him back to his mother. She then falls for the enigmatic bullfighter Escamillo and a love triangle ensues, which ends with Don José murdering Carmen in a jealous rage. 

Musically, Carmen has given us two of some of the best known operatic arias: the Habanera from Act 1 and the Toreador Song from Act 2. While Bizet adapted ¨L´amour est un oiseau rebelle¨ (the actual name of what is known as the Habanera from Carmen) from what he thought was a folk song, it was actually adapted from the habanera El Arreglito by Spanish composer Sebastián Iradier. 

Full of love and passion, Carmen is ripe to be remade and told through dance, and what more appropriate dance than the flirtatious and sensual Argentine Tango? That´s what went through Parasol Arts Creative Director Lorita Travaglia´s head who is the master mind behind this wonderful piece of choreography and dance. Seeing the emotional response of the audience to the 2018 production, she has been excited to present the show for its second year running in Denver Colorado. ¨If a show can move you to tears, it´s a success¨. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ44qLr-9fs

Featuring the talents of Donato Juarez as Don José, Diana Cruz as Carmen and Marcelo Molina as Escamillo, Carmen is presented by Parasol Arts which is a professionally operated non-profit organisation providing a space for the collaboration of dancers, musicians, vocalists and creative artists in unique and original theatrical productions. They endeavour to bring the joy and passion of Argentine Tango to new audiences. They have also recently brought us Tango Portraits in Love which is the stories of eight people whose lives are entwined. Their paths cross in a variety of roles (lovers, partners, exes, acquaintances) but ultimately in friendship.  It is described as ¨an exploration of love and human relationships through narration of poetry, lyrics, philosophy and Argentine Tango.

While the performances of Carmen the Tango have finished for the season, once a sponsor is found, this show will be on the road in the United States. It would be wonderful to see this interpretation of the opera Tchaikovsky described as ¨a masterpiece in every sense of the word … one of those rare creations which expresses the efforts of a whole musical epoch¨ brought to the home of its dance - Buenos Aires


Review of Carmen the Tango:

“Enthralling!

Bravo bravo!!!!! Bravisimo!!! Bravo!!!!

We both very much enjoyed your CARMEN: the Tango production Lorita, it was absolutely, utterly and completely magnificent!! I say this, as it brought tears of love to my eyes in the last few minutes!

The roles, the costume, the sound, the lighting, the colors, the movement, the expression, the telling… the entire event was magnificently precise and suffuse with fulfilling engagement!

Ahem… Well done, to say the least.

Again, great thanks and gratitude for the blessing of opportunity for our attendance.”

 

To find out more about Parasol Arts and the beautiful work that they do, you can find more information about the performers, shows and ticket sales on their website:


www.parasolarts.org. 



Tango and La Boca - 149 years on.

La Boca. You have probably heard of it. It´s a barrio down in the south east corner of Buenos Aires, squished between Barrancas, San Telmo and the River Plata. It houses famous tourist delights and tango milongas, but outside of this tourist area, it remains a relatively poor neighbourhood. However, this year it has a big celebration on its hands. 

Celebrating 149 years, this barrio (and indeed the tango dance itself) was heavily influenced by the many immigrants coming from Genoa, Italy in search of a better life. Together with African, Spanish, English, Italian, Polish and Russian cultures, this melting pot crafted out the beginnings of the Argentine tango  which has morphed and changed into what we know it to be today. Its beginnings are murky - indeed no direct origin for the word ´tango´ can be found - but it was born from gatherings of slaves and lower class free people, before gaining popularity and being taken out into the word by the traveling rich young upper class of Buenos Aires. Apparently in 1789, authorities placed a ban on tango musical gatherings which probably only served to make it more tantilising than it already was. It is worth noting, that the music and development of tango was not restricted to La Boca, but also was found in Montevideo, Uruguay as well, making it truly a gem of the River Plata.

Back to La Boca. This barrio is proud of its connection to tango, the musicians and writers that have come from its streets, and, of course, being the home to the infamous football team Boca Juniors. La Bombonera is their home stadium and it stands proudly in the middle of this barrio. Come game day, the streets are a mob of blue and yellow, and loud with the music from members of La Doce (or the Twelfth Player) who also dictate which songs are sung throughout the game.  You can practically taste the passion. There is even a saying that ¨La Bombonera no tiembla. Late¨ or ¨The Bombonera doesn´t tremble, it beats¨ since its one unique vertical side of seats was known to shake when fans started jumping all together.  And the fans jump together often. And wave their arm letting their hand shake towards the team. Their excitement is palpable. Many players have come and played on its holy ground, but probably none arguably as famous as Diego Armando Maradona who returned to finish his playing career for the Boca Juniors.

You have probably also seen the gorgeous pictures of brightly painted walls and the sultry tango couple striking a remarkable pose in front of it. This is El Caminito, a street musuem that was created in 1950 when neighbours and local artist Benito Quinquela Martín, decided to regenerate the area. Martín used the wood and sheet metal buildings as canvas, which were traditionally painted by whatever coloured paint was had left over from boat painting, so they say. El Caminito itself follows a dried up stream that linked to the river, and what had previously been a railway line. The conventillos or communal dwellings were where people lived but also gathered to dance.

If you are out and about over this weekend and want to catch some of the festivities, check out https://www.infobae.com/deportes-2/2019/08/23/el-emotivo-video-de-boca-para-celebrar-el-149-aniversario-del-barrio/. It also has a lovely video about the barrio that is worth watching. 

Eco-tourism, bikes and tango in Buenos Aires

If there is one thing the city of Buenos Aires was definitely made for, it was cycling. For a start, it is a flat as a pancake, with straight streets, in a grid like fashion. The only thing really holding it back is the traffic. As anyone who has taken a taxi ride in Buenos Aires will contest, driving here is very similar to being in a video game, where lines are more suggestions rather than actual lanes to follow, hazard lights flashing mean ¨looking for a carpark but will probably end up just double parked¨, indicators are just for show and very rarely used, the give-way-to-the-right at intersections has exceptions which include who has the biggest car or who is going fastest, the horn is an appropriate way to convey your feelings and speed limits are simply numbers that mean nothing. Biking, really, was taking your life in your hands and you needed eyes in all directions and it was inevitable that you would end up on the bumpy footpath to make sure you arrived safely at your destination. 

But all of that has changed since 2015. The city started building more cycleways - also know as bicisendas. These bicycle lanes are dual direction and are separated from the traffic with a little barrier. Usually these remain car free although it has been known to have had irate neighbours who are angry at their parking space being taken, parking in it anyway. In addition to that, the local council has also added Ecobici. Ecobici is the city´s free to use, bright orange bicycle rental system that allows you to access a free bike from almost 400 stations, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  And with 4000 bikes available, there should be one very close to you. There is over 200km of bike lanes interconnected throughout the city including through the infamous ¨green lungs¨ parks of Palermo, so whether you are after a small or large ride, you should be able to bike to your hearts content.

But what has that to do with tango you ask? Well, in today´s climate of sustainable tourism, a tango enthusiast might just find that biking from milonga to milonga is rather a good option instead of opting for waiting for a taxi. There are a few rules about using the bikes which include being over 18 if a tourist, only having an hour (or 2 hours on weekends and holidays) to use the bike before having to return it to a station and needing to use an App on your smart phone. If you need your bike for longer, you can simply return it and wait 5 minutes before asking for another. By using the interactive map at https://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/ecobici/red-ciclovias/estacionamiento, you can see the closest bike station to you and see all the lanes crisscrossing the city. 

If you fancy getting out and filling your night dancing tango, you could start off the evening by heading to La Glorieta, the open air milonga held in the old bandstand in Barrancas de Belgrano. Jump on an Ecobici bike and either head to Salon Canning or Club Malcolm in Palermo or even all the way to El Tacuari or La Mariposita in San Telmo. Thinking of finishing off the night at La Viruta in the hope to catch their 5am medialunas? There is an Ecobici station on the corner of Gorriti and Armenia, a block and a half away from the milonga. And rumour has it, the medialunas are totally worth it. 

But what about the chaotic traffic, I hear you wonder. Well, cars are not the only thing you have to look out for while biking in this city. In a city where pedestrians are always in the right, new bike lanes are taking some getting used to for porteños who are used to only dealing with chaotic traffic. It is not uncommon for people to simply step out to cross the road without looking both ways, or to wait at an intersection standing right in the bike lane. Otherwise, get out there, feel the wind in your hair (no helmets required!), and enjoy all this city has to offer on two wheels.

Autumn and Tango in Buenos Aires.

(Photo Credit and Copyright Rebecca Travaglia 2013)

The city is in the grip of autumn with winter nipping at its heels. The trees are either bare or holding onto the last of their fluttering yellow and green leaves. The only pops of colour come from the orange trees that are found in various barrios lining the sides of the streets. Grey merges into grey as the concrete skyline blends into the moody skies that are accompanying this season. However, this is one of the best times that travelling the city with a soundtrack of tango just makes sense. You can feel the sadness and lament of the lyrics reflected in the puddled cobblestone streets, and sense glints of hope and warmth that lie hidden behind the closed and shuttered doors and windows. Strains of tango music creep under doors and down stairways, enticing you in from the sadness of the streets into a celebration of dance. And a malbec or two.

Porteños (local Buenos Aires residents), from what I can tell, are creatures of warmth and go into hibenation at the first sign of the artic wind and a cloudy sky. They rug up warm and reluctantly head outdoors if they have to, bustling through the narrow streets with head down, usually to make it to their nearest cafe for a piping hot coffee. But head to a milonga, and you are greeted with a different type of porteño. Away from the cold wind and with the warmth of a tango abrazo (embrace) , the spark of the people returns. 

Tango is a myriad of sentiments all mixed into one. It has the grit of the street and the beauty of love. It has the darkness of night mixed with the light of hope. It has the sentiment of loneliness whilst danced in an embrace of connection. The music can have the forlorn lament of sadness with the melodic embelishments of desires and dreams. It comes from the streets where this juxtaposition of worlds exists. Simply walk only a few blocks within the central city to pass from the gritty streets of San Telmo, the grandeur of Avenida de Mayo and into the parisian opulence of Recoleta. 

The great tango writers took inspiration from the streets and from love, for their lyrics and melodies. A great song to take you through this season is Rosa de Otoño or Autumn Rose. Written in 1923, it is a Vals (or waltz) that was made famous by Carlos Gardel (the golden boy of tango). A love song, it expresses his love for a girl/the city/tango  (it never really is explicit although we can assume it is love for a woman) and that without her, he will become sick. Despite all that he suffers, he remains ever hopeful and that is reflected through the melody that weaves its way through the vals. 

So if you are out on this overcast autumn day, why not add Rosa de Otoño to your playlist for a beautiful soundtrack as you walk the streets of Buenos Aires. 

Rosa de otoño

Tu eres la vida, la vida dulce,
llena de encantos y lucidez;
tú me sostienes y me conduces
hacia la cumbre de tu altivez.
 
Tú eres constancia, yo soy paciencia;
tú eres ternura, yo soy piedad
Tú representas la independencia,
yo simbolizo la libertad.
 
Tú bien lo sabes que estoy enfermo
y en mi semblante claro se ve
que ya de noche casi no duermo,
no duermo nada ¿sabes por qué?
 
Porque yo sueño cómo te aprecio,
de que a mi lado te he de tener...
Son sueños malos, torpes y necios,
pero, mi vida, ¡qué voy a hacer!
 
Yo sufro mucho, me duele el alma
y es tan penosa mi situación
que muchas veces, por buscar calma,
llevo mis dedos al diapasón...
 
De tu desprecio nunca hagas gala
porque, si lo haces, ¡pobre de mí!...
Quereme siempre, no seas tan mala...
Vamos, ingrata, ¡no seas así!
ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Autumn rose

You are the life, sweet life,
full of charm and brightness,
you support me and drive me
towards the plnacle of your pride..
 
You are perseverance, I am patience,
you are tenderness, I am piety.
You represent independence
I symbolize liberty.
 
You very well know that I am sick
and in my face, clearly can be seen
that, at night, I hardly sleep,
I don't sleep at all, do you know why?
 
Because I dream how I appreciate you,
that I must have you by my side...
They are bad dreams, awkward and foolish
but, my darling, what can I do?
 
I suffer badly, my soul hurts,
and my situation is so painfull
that many times, searching for comfort,
I take my fingers to the diapason...
 
Don't you ever show off your desdain
because, if you do, poor me!
Love me always, don't be so bad.
Come on, ingrate, don't be like that!

How to taste the real Buenos Aires

Artist and Poet María Paz Levinson. Photo copyright Rebecca T

The thing I love about Buenos Aires are its hidden gems. They aren’t hidden exactly, but they are not screaming at you from each corner. It requires a lot of walking and an inquisitive nature to find what exactly is behind that grungy old door half way down that potentially dodgy looking street that looks like it could be a half in Lima and half in 1984. Of course, it is easy to find the nice places in the areas that look like they are part of an antique Paris, but while these can offer comfort, they usually lack the character of the real BsAs.

One morning after first moving here, I was bemoaning the fact that there are no cafes near my house to my early morning commuter buddy, I was made to eat my words (thankfully in the form of medialunas) as I happened to look across the intersection from my door to see a perfectly acceptable small cafe open for business. Let’s remember that I’ve been living in my current apartment for nigh on two months and this is the first time this cafe’s bright blue doors have made themselves known to me. And it was duly noted. Next time I have a desperate early morning need for coffee, I know I only have to roll out of bed and walk about 20 metres.

The schizophrenic nature of the buildings in this city impresses upon you the need to not judge this place by its cover. Last Sunday I was taken to an unimpressive corner building to eat some of the best fresh home made pasta around. From the outside, it could have been any type of restaurant from the 80s. Inside, the 1980s theme continued with the concrete walls adorned with a mishmash of artifacts from over the years. Old tango vinyl, pictures of what can only be assumed to be the owner´s favourite fútbol team, photographs of tango dancers and the obligatory argentinian flag, swaying in the wind produced by the air conditioner which frantically worked to take the chill out of the air.

Two women sat at the entrance of the restaurant, busy rolling the soft dough into various long worm looking shapes, crafting the delicacy that was soon to be enjoyed by the onslaught of lunchtime customers. And it was good pasta. Not just good but extremely good. The mafioso type family run business is a local institution (so my local guide tells me), which, before he died, had included the father of the family walking around handing out change from large wads of rolled up bills. As this was prior to the non smoking law that came in recently in Buenos Aires, it didn’t take much imagination to envision the head of the family chewing on a cigar as he schmoozed with his customers and friends, probably planning all sorts of mafia mischief.

Another not so hidden, but out of the way gem is Lo de Roberto. This bar is the smallest bar I have squeezed into with other people since my uni days when we used to frequent the aptly named Inch Bar (which for the record, only just qualifies as having enough room to swing a cat). Strains of tango guitar greeted us as we opened the door and it took just two steps from the door to reach the only bar stools left in the entire place. Those gathered to listen were nursing their drinks and dreamily listening to the laments of tango, respectfully waiting until the musician´s break before resuming their conversations. A small tango bar located beside Plaza Almargo and opened by 1984. Retaining a youthful feel by the artistic students that frequent it, it is well known as being a place to enjoy a wine and a very intimate performance of tango. 

One favourite memory from this city was another hidden gem which we enjoyed from the depths of a Centro cultural whose single glass door entry way is off of the tourist infested Florida. In the bowels of the building with just a sprinkling of other people, we enjoyed poetry and music from two local artists and poets. These intimate gigs are in abundance in this city, but its a matter of finding them. This is when you will feel that you get to experience the real BsAs.

 

El Momento Era Subir
De María Paz Levinson

Las noches de nieve eran divertidas
Subir la cuesta con los esquíes en la mano
Para tirarnos y llegar rápido hasta la ruta de abajo
Lo hacíamos en la noche hasta cansarnos

Y así llegábamos al fondo del invierno

Cada tanto autos en ambas direcciones
Cruzando la noche muy despacio con vidrios de hielo
La nieve se veía anaranjada
Las casas se iban apagando
Llenábamos las petacas con un licor fuerte
Era de guindas y estaba en un mueble oscuro
El botellón como una gota de sangre gigante

Y así llegábamos al fondo del invierno