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Video Series: Tango Nuevo with Mariano 'Chicho' Frumboli


There is a plentiful amount of tango videos out on Youtube.com. Most performers are videoed while dancing at milongas and these are posted for everyone to enjoy. With amount of tango videos available online, it can be hard to find something inspiring amidst online lessons and blurry cell phone recordings with distorted sound. With that in mind, from time to time we´ll post the best of what is currently circulating the tango world, or feature some timeless videos that still inspire many tangueros around the world.

If you are unfamiliar with tango and wish to get a grasp on what it is before heading to Buenos Aires, keep a lookout for the videos explaining different styles and different music. Be warned though! Tango is very addictive and you may find yourself scouring youtube.com for videos of your favourite dancers late at night and listening to Pugliese as you walk to work.

(Photo copyright and credit Rebecca Travaglia)


Tango Nuevo is a term used to describe a dance form and also a style of music (also referred to as 'tango electronica') the exploded onto the world stage with bands like the Gotan Project and Bajofondo. If you want to incite some serious discussion within the tango world, mentioning tango nuevo is sure way to get some words flying across the table. There are many who have a passion against tango nuevo, often referring to as ´tango for export´, and stating that tango nuevo has lost something of the true essence of tango, filling it instead with flashy moves. Others feel it is one branch of the evolution of tango, where artists take risks and create change. 

While the terms Neotango and Tango Nuevo are often used to refer to a style of dancing, its founders emphasize that the term expresses the evolution of tango since the 1980s. They refer to the term as a way to describe a method of analysis and teaching that was developed during the 1990s by Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas which focused on applying the principles of dance kinesiology to tango. The style involves a fluid movement between the open and closed embrace style and can even involve breaks of the embrace. A more flexible embrace allow figures such an overturn ochos, linear boleos and volcadas to be performed with greater ease.

Mariano ´Chicho´ Frumboli is described as one of the founders of Neotango or Tango Nuevo. He is well known for his improvisation skills and interpretation of the music. With a strong musical background, he responds to the rhythms and melodies of the music, expressing it through variations in speed, movement and steps. While his footwork is intricate and involved, he also places importance on the intimacy of the embrace.  (source: Interview in El Tangauta 2009)  His partner, Juana Sepúlveda, has been touring and performing with Frumboli for several years. They often perform at European festivals.


This video is a little older - first posted in 2008. It features Frumboli and Sepúlveda dancing to the music Bajofondo.  Bajofondo is a band from Rio De La Plata, with members from both sides of the rio (Argentina and Uruguay). While their early music is seen by some as part of the evolving music genre ´Electrotango´ (combining acoustic tango music with electronic beats), Gustavo Santaolla explains that the group do not consider what they do to be electronica or tango music, but music created from all the genres that are present on the musical history map that belongs to this part of the world. Inevitably this includes rock, pop, tango and electronic. This song, ´Borges y Paraguay´, is from their third album ´Mar Dulce´.

Links of interest:



With Just One Look - The Art of Cabeceo


I can still conjure up the elation I had after my first successful cabeceo at a milonga in Buenos Aires. It felt like I had finally spoken the language. Sitting at the corner of the floor, I had been waiting for several tandas (set of 3 or 4 songs), smiling and trying to look relaxed as if this was all part of the evening. Inside I was a bundle of butterflies and eager to get out onto the floor. As the music of the cortina (a piece of music played between tandas to signal the end of a tanda) finished, I tried to look casual while scanning the room for anyone looking towards me. I caught the eye of a milonguero (dancer) I had seen on the dance floor several tandas earlier. Smiling, I returned his gaze with gentle indication and gave a small nod after he mouthed ‘Bailas?’  (you dance?) to me. I waited nervously as he made his way over and held out his hand to indicate that it was indeed me that he had indicated an invitation to dance. Delighted, I led the way onto the dance floor and thus began my understanding of the joy of the cabeceo.

The subtle art of cabeceo is the traditional and respected way to ask for a dance at a milonga. As you sit and watch the dancers at a milonga, you may be fascinated at how a man and a woman on opposite sides of the dance floor can come together to dance without having exchanged a word. So the story goes, the cabeceo minimises public embarrassment from rejection and eases congestion as invitations to dance can be conducted quickly and simply from your chair. It is suggested that back in the early 20th Century, eye contact was made between two dancers and the man made his way over to the table to politely ask for the dance. If there had been confusion and the woman rejected the man, he had to leave the milonga and she had to remain seated for the entire tanda. If she accepted another dance, the man and his friends would never ask her to dance again.

Since then, the cabeceo has evolved (it is rare for a man to leave a milonga after one rejection) and has the potential to  make dancers from other countries a little nervous. Occasionally foreigners get lumped into a ´not respecting tradition’ pile because they use a direct approach of walking up to a table and asking someone to dance. Coming from New Zealand, I understand this. The tango community at weekly milongas can be small and everyone knows almost everyone so you become friends and feel comfortable asking directly.

But there are codigos (codes) to be followed and as tangueros, dancers should follow them. Adapted from websites online, here is a quick list of tips to help you understand the beauty of the cabeceo.

1. Watch the dancers. This is important for both men and women! It is a risk to choose to dance with someone that you haven’t seen dancing before for many reasons and it is not a good idea to judge a book by its cover.

2. Have your choice of partner (with back ups) decided. Of course your decision may change depending on the music that begins to play, but this should be relatively easy if you’ve already taken heed of Tip 1.

3. Use a purposeful stare without being intense. Men: if eye contact is not made or you get the feeling that you are being ignored, move on to your second choice. Women: Do not make extended eye contact with those you have no intention of dancing with. Also, make sure you indicate interest to those you do want to dance with by a smile or a simply nod of the head. NB: If you do make eye contact with someone you do not wish to dance with, make no reaction and look away.

4. Once the invitation has been sent and recieved, Men: walk over to the woman (not directly through the middle dance floor) and stand in front of the woman. Women: remain seated until the man is standing in front of you and it is clear that the invitation was for you. NB: it is possible in a crowded milonga for tandas to be accidentally ‘stolen’ due to a miscommunication between two women. Women, when it appears a man is looking at you, they may be actually be looking to the woman beside you. So it is best to wait until the man reaches you and you are absolutely sure the dance is for you.

5. When the dance is finished, it is respectful for the man to accompany the woman back to her seat before returning to his own.

Naturally, there are humourous and awkward stories that arise from when a cabeceo goes wrong, but these simply add to the colourful tapestry of the life of a milonguero.  Be sure to share them.

Websites of interest:

http://www.tangoandchaos.org/chapt_3search/6cabeceo.htm - Contains an 8-step tutorial from Alejandra Todaro on ‘How to Cabeceo’

http://www.totango.net/cabeceo.html - contains stories and discussion about the cabeceo

In the spirit of Gardel: Esquina Carlos Gardel Tango Show Review

(Photo credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia)

Nestled on the corner opposite the grand Abasto shopping centre, in an area haunted by his ghost, Carlos Gardel stands proudly in front of the late “Chanta Cuarto” - a gorgeous turn of the century building that now houses the Cena & Tango Show ‘Esquina Carlos Gardel’.

Upon entering the theatre, the world transforms into the golden era of Buenos Aires, with staff clothed appropriately in glamorous sophisticated dress that only the 1930s can achieve. Gorgeously decorated Art Nouveau style, in caramels creams and warm chocolates, Esquina Carlos Gardel’s theatre ambience does sophistication without unnecessary opulence. The theatre has a sense of warmth, with family portraits lining the walls and larger images of Carlos Gardel’s smiling face. Split in 3 levels, the main floor tables are for Regular guests, while Executive guests have private tables and booths that are slightly elevated. The booths offer a cosy and more intimate experience. VIP tables and booths are on the 2nd level, offering an elevated view of the entire show.

As dinner is served before the show, we were encouraged to order soon after being seated in our booth by our waiter. After generously pouring us each a glass of red wine, we were left to peruse the menu. Menus are written in English, Spanish and Portugese and each main food type (white meat, red meat, fish and vegetarian) has at least one option in the entree and mains section.  Each dish is appropriately named after a Carlos Gardel song and we opted for starters of Mano a Mano (empanadas de carne) and Soledad (thyme and corn-cream soup), followed by Mi Buenos Aires Querido (the infamous Argentine steak) and Sus Ojos Se Cerraron (roasted Atlantic salmon).  

It is almost impossible to finish a glass of wine as attentive waiters are bustling past every few minutes to attend your needs and generously refill your glass.  While the waiters aren’t intrusive, this level of activity on the floor during the meal was occasionally distracting. However, considering the entire place seats over 450 people, the speed and professionalism shown by the staff meant every table was well attended and no patron was left waiting for either food or drink. When the show starts, every table is left with full drinks (both alcoholic and coffee if requested). Waiters try not to enter onto the floor during the show, so as not to distract or obstruct anyone's view.  Whilst the food is of a high quality and impeccable cooked, it seemed lacking a degree of flair in its presentation, which again, is understandable when so many tables order 3 courses within several minutes of each other. The presentation did not distract from the deliciousness of each plate and both my partner and I had no trouble polishing off all three delectable courses including our desserts - Recuerdo Malevo (assorted cheeses and fruit pastes) and Amagura (dark chocolate mousse).

What sets Esquina Carlos Gardel apart though, is its show. While described under the umbrella of ‘tango shows’, this is best described as ‘tango theatre’ as the entire evening provides the audience with snippets of tango stories through different characters and partnerships. Scene changes are fluid and impeccable and dance routines are interspersed by song and orchestral renditions. On a raised stage above the dancers, the 8-piece orchestra weaves life into the tango songs accompanying the dancers. The sound is of high quality and a greatest hits of tango repertoire and will not leave you disappointed.

The calibre of dance from this company is at a world class level. It is impressive and most importantly, each partnerships strength lies in a different element of dance, meaning you aren’t overwhelmed by endless flashy kicks and moves that the more inflexible of us in society can only dream of ever doing.  The audience is given the opportunity to appreciate speed, flexibility, grace and simplicity by different dance numbers. Guests are transported from a playful whimsical milonga (complete with a bunch of balloons) to a barrio milonga where the young fall in love despite the mother’s attempts to stop it happen; enamoured by a graceful ballet-esque tango before a lightning fast and dramatic tango leaves you breathless. Uniquely, the company includes an older couple dancing tango milonguero style - just as you will see in the milongas today. For the more traditional of the guests, this is a wonderful opportunity to see tango as it is danced everyday by those of us who live this dance.

Esquina Carlos Gardel offers so much history in both its setting and show, giving guests the opportunity to learn about tango through a video that is played prior to the show. Images and videos from Buenos Aires’ golden age are used to show tango’s history and whilst it is in Spanish, it includes English subtitles and the audio is non-intrusive.  Overall, the experience of ‘a night at the tango theatre’ that Esquina Carlos Gardel gives, is enthralling and unparalleled, well deserving of bearing the name and spirit of one of Argentina’s most famous tango artists.

Floreal Milonga and the warmth of the Argentine Spirit

(photo credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia)

If you had walked into this particular Floreal Milonga at the wrong time, you would have been forgiven for thinking that the advertising had it all wrong. The lights were dim, cumbia was playing and the floor was filled with jiving people, a conga line and a single guy surrounded by many people clapping and whooping.  Comme Il Fauts were being kicked around in salsa style dancing and bodies moved in and out of embraces. This wasn´t any normal night at Milonga Floreal. This was a special day.

Organiser, Macelo Lavergata, was celebrating his birthday surrounded by the tango community and friends.  The night was extremely warm and both men and women were using fans in an attempt to dry off before the next tanda. But this didn´t stop a substantial amount of regular and friends from coming to this milonga, both to dance and celebrate his birthday.

I began attending Floreal soon after arriving in Buenos Aires. There was something about the continuity of regular attendees, the sense of family from those who came, the approachability of the dancers and the relaxed atmosphere that made me feel that this is tango at its most real.  It is a small milonga and usually attended by local dancers, remaining a steadfast Sunday night must-do for some milongueros. Its tables are covered in red checked tablecloths and the fideos are simply devine - home made by the organisers. This trio, Marcelo Lavergata, Lucila Bardach and Mariano Romero, work together to run the milonga, held weekly on Sunday nights.

Located in Barrio Flores, upstairs in Club Ciencia y Labor on Cesar Diaz (2453), Floreal is accessible for dancers of all levels.  The tiled floor space is large and inviting with plenty of space to dance. Exhibitions by professional dancers are made every week and there are music performances ranging from solos to orchestras.  It is not unusual to see the waitresses taking to the floor during a lull in the fideos and drink orders, successfully dancing in sandals or sneakers.

The history of the name of Floreal is somewhat interesting. From the information available, Club Ciencia y Labor was formed in the early 1900s for immigrants and socialists with links to anarchists. A popular name amongst anarchists at the time, was Floreal. One of the most famous sons of Barrio Flores is Floreal Ruiz, son of an anarchist and tango singer known for his delicate voice and love for singing. Lavergata wanted a name for his milonga that respected the history of the club where it was held and during a conversation with the first musicians who played at the first milonga, decided on the name Floreal - a name relating to both the club and tango.

With such consistency of attendees, it is easy to feel the warmth of the Argentine spirit within the room as you enter. One of the things I was searching for when coming to Buenos Aires, was to experience the love that porteños have for dancing tango in their own vivid city. At Floreal, there is a real sense of community and this was evident during the birthday celebrations.

Things to Know

Floreal Milonga

Sunday evenings at Club Ciencia y Labor on César Díaz 2453.

Head along early at 8pm for a tango class with Marcelo and Lucila.  The class can cater to a range of levels and Marcelo and Lucila are great attentive teachers that can offer personal attention if you need it.  The milonga begins at 9.30pm and finishes at 2pm.  DJ Mariano Romero provides an extraordinary arrange of fantastically arranged tandas for the evening.

Contacto: 4542-1418 / 155-962-3195 / florealmilonga@gmail.com.

Check their profile on Facebook for further details http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002256837021&sk=wall

Floreal Milonga is also supported by Vos Baila Zapatos which have a great range of shoes. Check their website www.vosbaila.com.ar.


A Portrait of Cafe Tortoni: Where Tango History lives On

(Photo credit to Aram Kudurshian)

It had been on my To Do List for awhile and I had no particular desire to join the crush of commuters that were bound to be filling the subte from the city centre at that time.  To make matters worse, the heavens had opened up and was trying its hardest to wash away the colours of the cityscape. Did I need any more excuses to grant myself permission to take advantage of one of the many cafes in Argentina? Certainly not and it was with delight I skipped through the raindrops to Cafe Tortoni.

I pushed open the curtained wooden doors to step into a cavernous ballroom filled with marble tables. Not the only one with ideas of escaping the rain, these tables housed a variety of people enjoying coffee and medialunas. The first time visitors were easy to spot - they were the ones with their SLR cameras out. But you can not blame them. This is one of the most beautiful cafes in the world (according to UCityGuides) rating it amongst other cafes in Paris, Rome and Prague. But it is by no means pretentious, retaining the warmth and accepting nature that I have come to love about Buenos Aires, so feel free to get out your camera as you won´t be alone in oohhing and aahhing over the decor.

Located at 825 Avenida de Mayo, Cafe Tortoni was founded in 1858, making it one of the oldest and most famous cafes in the country.  Its founder was a French immigrant (Touan) who named the cafe after an establishment on the Boulevard des Italiens in Paris.  Within its wood panelled walls, have sat some notable artists including tango singer Carlos Gardel and literary great, Jorge Luis Borges.  Apparently, Gardel used to drop by the cafe regularly, and on one occasion brought in his guitarists and gave a performance of Piradello´s plays. Tango still remains an important part of Tortoni and there are regular tango shows here. In 1979, Hector Negro penned the tango ´Viejo Tortoni´ which was dedicated to the cafe and sung by Eladia Blázquez.  Its beautiful lyrics describe the cafe as a living entity with its history alive and breathing.

Back in my era, the only table left was squeezed in the corner, from which I could survey almost the entire cafe. Waiters swarmed around the bar that runs down the side of the cafe, collecting many plates of medialunas to distribute to the hungry customers. The cups proudly display the Cafe Tortoni logo which notes the 2008 date when celebrations for its age began.  The walls are littered with paraphernalia linking its history to the present and one need only sit back and breath to feel a sense of nostalgia. The other great thing about cafes here in Buenos Aires is that you never feel rushed so I was able to sit back and savour the taste of the coffee and warm medialunas that had been served to me.

There are a significant number of notable cafes in Buenos Aires (around sixty) which are recognised as official Cultural Heritage sites and are given the name ´Bares Notables´. Cafe Tortoni is one that you must, without a doubt, take time to visit.

Things to Know

Cafe Tortoni

825 Avenida De Mayo, Buenos Aires

Being in the centre of town, this cafe is very easy to get to. It is very close to the subte line C (Avenida De Mayo station) and several blocks from Plaza De Mayo where the Casa Rosada stands.

Tango shows are also a regular event. See http://www.cafetortoni.com.ar/html/shows.html for information.