The story of tango singer El Polaco Roberto Goyeneche

by Terry Clarke, author, journalist, and Alma del Tango board member

ango singer Roberto Goyeneche

Tango singer Roberto Goyeneche supported himself as a bus driver until he was “discovered.”

Roberto Goyeneche is not everyone’s cup of tea as a singer of tango. Although to this day one of the most famous singers of the genre, his arrangements and delivery are sometimes thought to be so unusual and innovative that the general public, especially the dancing public, doesn’t pay the kind of attention to him that I believe he deserves.

Born into a working-class family in the Saavedra neighborhood of Buenos Aires in 1926, Goyeneche’s voice was discovered through one of those chance occurrences that sometimes take place, which usher the newcomer into immediate stardom.

The singing bus driver

As a young performer, Goyeneche had to work as a municipal bus driver in Buenos Aires, to support himself while trying to make a name in show business. He had gigs. He was singing for a band here and there. But he wasn’t making a living wage as a cantor. He was definitely an oddity as bus drivers go, though, because of his constant singing of tangos, solo, while driving.

One day, a man named José Otero was riding on Goyeneche’s bus and heard the voice coming from the man at the wheel. Otero was the manager of Horacio Salgan’s orchestra. Salgan, an accomplished pianist whose star had been rising during the 1940s, had already attained a certain fame in the music and recording industries. Otero offered to introduce Goyeneche to Salgan and suggested that the young man sing a couple tangos for him.

His unique delivery of tango songs

The audition was a great success. No one had heard a voice like this, especially with the unusual manner in which Goyeneche essayed quite well-known tangos. There was a kind of lackadaisical-seeming precision in his delivery. He would start slightly behind the beat or before it, speed up, slow down, arrive at the end with the orchestra, right on time…or maybe not. Himself an adventurer musically, Salgan valued what Goyeneche could do. This was a style of singing that I believe was influenced somehow by the jazz idiom and its embrace of improvisation…as was Salgan’s music.

So, in 1952, Horacio Salgan hired Roberto Goyeneche. Success was immediate, and despite his Basque background, Goyeneche was quickly nicknamed “El Polaco” because of his skinniness and his light-colored hair. Goyeneche eventually won the attention of the very famous Aníbal Troilo, who hired him in 1956. Troilo himself had considerable daring as a musician. A legendary bandoneonista, he had hired a young musician named Astor Piazzolla in 1944, whose career as a performer and composer later sky-rocketed to the world stage.

Goyeneche’s career lasted almost to his dying day, in 1994. His last recordings reveal a singing voice almost destroyed, gargly, off-tune, way rough. But for me, that Goyeneche voice is simply the last iteration of a great talent that went through many innovative changes throughout his career. The recordings made by Goyeneche as an old man are some of my favorites. For an example, listen to his rendition, again with Piazzolla, of Astor’s famous Balada para un loco.

The Argentine journalist Ricardo García Blaya wrote “El Polaco Goyeneche appropriated to himself many of the classic tangos. Why do I say that? For the simple reason that he re-created innumerable tangos the versions of which had already made their own name…identified with other singers. But with Goyeneche’s interpretation, those tangos became emblems of his repertory.”

Book cover, The Splendid City, by Terence Clarke

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, with the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda as its central character, was published on January 1. Find it on amazonsmile.com and designate Alma del Tango as your nonprofit of choice.

 

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Student of the Month ~ Catherine Layton

Catherine Layton, Alma del Tango student of the month by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: Catherine’s tango path has been on again off again (until now). She had her first taste of Argentine Tango at City College in 2000. Then she took a detour into salsa, ballet and jazz, before finding her way back to tango.

Why tango: “I’ve always needed to dance in some way, and for some reason tango calls to me,” says Catherine.  A former salsa dancer, Catherine had performed in New York and the Bay Area, including a Raiders half time show. But, “there were a lot of changes going on in my life and I felt the need for a change,” she says. That’s when she turned to tango.

Favorite part:  What really hooked her was the need to be so present in tango. At a stressful time in her life she found it almost therapeutic. “When the music comes on, I’m totally involved in the moment. It’s almost like a meditation. What I learn in tango I’m able to carry out into the world.”

And while she finds salsa dynamic and fun, there’s a romance and sophistication — and challenge! — to tango that always allured her to the dance. “They’re both sexy dances but in different ways,” she explains.

About Debbie & John:  Catherine had been dancing at Bay West but when it closed, she found Alma del Tango. “As soon as I walked in, I felt at home. Debbie and John were so welcoming, it felt like a family,” says Catherine.  She loves watching Debbie: “it’s beautiful to see her settle into the role with her face and body. I should be looking at her feet but can’t stop looking at her face!”

She finds both Debbie and John encouraging and supportive, “they want you to be the best dancer you can be. They’re also very generous with their time, their knowledge, and themselves.”

In addition to group classes, Catherine takes privates with John. “He has the ability to push you to the edge of what you can do…then a little beyond,” she smiles.  

Anything else? Catherine volunteers at Alma del Tango, helping with marketing, posting classes online, and collaborating with Philip Benson on fundraising projects. “Debbie and John have created something so unique, a little gem, right here in Marin,” she says, “and I want to help them keep it going.”

Catherine Layton dances tango with Philip Benson at Alma del Tango in Marin

No more fear of milongas! Catherine dances with Philip Benson at Alma del Tango milonga.

Last word: Catherine went to her first milonga on New Year’s Eve. Before that, she didn’t have the nerve, didn’t feel she was good enough yet. “It turned out fine,” she reports, “a nice mix of levels and leaders.” Now she has no more fear of milongas!  

 

 

 

 

 

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Carlos Gardel y Luigi Pirandello at the Cafe Tortoni

by Terence Clarke, author, journalist, and Alma del Tango board member

 

Cafe Tortoni, Buenos AiresTango is the blood with which Buenos Aires pulses, and great writing adds to that blood. The Café Tortoni has been a place for both, sometimes separately, sometimes in concert with each other.

One of the most famous meetings here took place in 1933 between the Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello and the legendary tango composer and singer Carlos Gardel. Pirandello, the author of Six Characters In Search Of An Author, and many other plays, was an intellectual.

One need only look at the sheer bulk of the work he produced to realize that this was a serious man, and according to eyewitness reports from the Tortoni on that evening, he was also distant and cheerless. He was being feted at the café by the local literati when the celebrated Gardel arrived.

Close up of tango singer Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel

Gardel was a very different sort of fellow. Like Pirandello, a man of the theater, but he was a performer, not a writer. He arrived in a Packard limousine dressed in his best, wearing one of the signature fedora hats that were specially made for him in London. He was accompanied by two of his guitarists, and, taking the three chairs immediately in front of the Italian playwright, they sat down and performed several of Gardel’s most popular tangos.

The hundreds of onlookers in the cafe burst into great, spontaneous applause upon the completion of each number, while Pirandello looked on, apparently bored.

When Gardel was finished, he grabbed Pirandello’s hand, shook it with great enthusiasm, and waved his guitarists out the door. The Packard disappeared into the night.

After the applause and shouting died down, Pirandello turned to one of the others at his table and asked, “Who was that?”

“Well, señor,” the man replied, a little nonplussed by the question. “It was Gardel!”

“Who’s he?”

“The greatest performer of tango in the world!”

“Ah!” Pirandello sighed. He sat back in his chair, waving a languid hand before his face. “Bravo,” he whispered.

Luckily, it is Gardel’s spirit, and not Pirandello’s, that breathes in the Café Tortoni. Perhaps the finest tribute to the place can be found in the words of the celebrated Argentine writer José Gobello, who observed that you can find in the Café Tortoni the entire city of Buenos Aires.

Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires, interior

The legendary Cafe Tortoni

If you’re planning a trip to Buenos Aires, don’t miss this landmark cafe. Here’s a preview of what awaits you at Cafe Tortoni.

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, will be published on February 1, 2019

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The Lost Love of Ada Falcón: Part 2

Argentine singer Ada Falcon

Argentine tango singer & film star, Ada Falcon

by Terence Clarke, journalist, author and Alma del Tango board member

In one of the most famous disappearances in the history of Latin American music, Ada Falcón, the great Argentine tanguera, left show business. Her retirement was sudden, completely unexpected and extremely strange.

She had begun to appear on the streets of Buenos Aires in disguise, her head swathed in scarves, multiple shawls hanging about her shoulders, her lovely eyes hidden behind slab-like sunglasses. She stopped recording. There were reports in the newspapers about strange nighttime peregrinations, about her odd dress, and her raving. Eventually her mother realized the depth of Ada’s distress, and took her to Cordoba, Argentina, where Ada entered the Molinari Convent of Franciscan nuns.

There is a great deal of speculation about the end of her career, the entertainment life she had known almost since birth, and the decision to enter the contemplative life under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Most center upon her love for the orchestra leader Francisco Canaro, because Canaro had a wife.

Evidently Falcón had been very guilt-ridden about her affair with a married man yet overwhelmed by the love she felt for him. She pleaded with Canaro to divorce his wife so that she could marry him. Canaro agreed but did not actually go through with the divorce action. He kept Falcón on one arm and his wife on the other, for years. There were family reasons, Canaro said. The Church. The need to wait for a while to keep it respectable. Careers. Obligations.

Falcón waited, until the day Canaro finally admitted to her that he would never leave his wife under any circumstances.

Falcón went to the streets and wandered, swathed in craziness. Eventually, in desperation, sheltered by her mother, she entered the convent. Ada Falcón died in 2002, at ninety-six, in the convent in Cordoba. She seldom left the place, she never recorded another song, and apparently never recovered her heart.

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, with Pablo Neruda as the central character, will be published in January.

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The Lost Love of Ada Falcón

Argentine Tango singer Ada FalconBy Terence Clarke, journalist, novelist and Alma del Tango board member

The tanguera Ada Falcón made her stage debut in 1910 at the age of five. Known then as La joyita argentina (The Little Argentine Jewel), she was an immediate hit as a singer during interludes between acts in Buenos Aires stage productions. At the age of thirteen, Ada made her first film and became an immediate star.

Her voice was mezzo-soprano, and so had a profundity not shared by the more usual women sopranos. When she sang a sad tango, there was a kind of playfulness in her voice that seemed to make fun of the possibilities for betrayal and desperation that fill so many tango lyrics. When she sang of the disappointment life can bring, Ada did it with a smile in her voice, fresh and genuine, and with a suggestion of jaded desire for the person to whom she was singing.

Evidently she did not attend school. Rather, she had personal teachers who worked with her when she was not making movies or singing or making records. By the time she was in her twenties, she was driving around Buenos Aires in a red luxury convertible, owned a fabulous three-story home in the Recoleta neighborhood and was appearing in public wrapped in fur and glittering with jewels.

In the early thirties, she made approximately fifteen recordings a month. She was a superstar, and when you listen to her recordings you understand why. There are few singers in any genre who approach their songs with as much casual authority, yet fine artistic judgment, as Ada Falcón. For an example, listen to Te quiero (I Love You), in which Falcón sings:

Te quiere como no te quiso nadie,
como nadie te querrá.
Te adoro, como se adora en la vida
el hombre que se ha de amar

“I love you like no one has loved you,
like no one will ever love you.
I adore you, as is adored in life
the man who must be adored.”

In terms of record sales and concert appearances, Ada Falcón was one of the most successful singers of tango in the 1930s. She was less successful, however, in the actual matter of love. Ada fell for Francisco Canaro, who was one of the most successful tango orchestra leaders of the twenties and thirties. Many of Falcón’s greatest recordings were made with Canaro. So why, in 1943, at the age of thirty-eight, at the peak of her career, did Falcón suddenly abandon it?

Find out what happened next month, in Part 2 of this article.

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, with Pablo Neruda as the central character, will be published this coming January.

 

 

 

 

 

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Student of the Month ~ Erinn Loveland

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Erinn Lovelandby Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: Erinn is fairly new to Argentine tango—she started taking classes in February of this year. Before long, her nine-year-old daughter, Kira, decided to accompany her to class because “it was more fun than staying home.”

Why tango: “I had no previous interest in tango,” says Erinn. A friend invited her to go to a class at Alma del Tango, and since it was in her neighborhood she thought, “why not.”

Erinn always liked social dancing but she had no formal dance training. Her friend, a swing dancer, left the tango class after a month. Erinn stayed on and now takes three to four classes a week!

Favorite part: “It’s fun, the set up as a social event made it easy for me to feel I could fit in,” she says. “I felt welcome, it was easy to show up and be part of the event.” She also likes that tango is challenging, and “there’s a lot of room for growth.”

Chris Allis leads Kira

For Kira, the challenge is dancing with grown-ups because of their size difference.“There are three or four leaders who dance with me,” she says.

About Debbie & John: “They are wonderfully gracious, they make it feel familial,” says Erinn. “They even welcome Kira and encourage her to come to class.”

Erinn enjoys having the opportunity to dance with both Debbie and John, “so you can get different perspectives.”  She hadn’t anticipated that making friends would be one of the perks of taking tango lessons, but “because of the interaction Debbie and John encourage, it happens.”

Anything else? Erinn watches videos of tango performances to pick up on different styles, and she often sees things she’d like to do. And, she really likes dancing to alternative music.

Alma del Tango students practice tango

Erinn & Chris Allis practicing their tango

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Who was Max Glücksmann and how did he influence tango? Part 2

by Terence Clarke, journalist, novelist and Alma del Tango board member

Argentine tango singer, Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel, signed to an early recording contract by Max Glücksmann.

 

We learned last month about the beginnings of the Argentine recording and film industries, principally through the efforts of Max Glücksmann. Eventually he was to build those industries into a business powerhouse. But Glücksmann also had extraordinary taste when it came to popular music, and he knew he was onto something when he first heard the singing voice of Carlos Gardel.

A former street singer, Gardel had made an early reputation as half of the Razzani-Gardel duo that was popular on the Buenos Aires music scene before and during World War I. Eventually the two split up, and Gardel continued on as a single, signed to an early recording contract by Max Glücksmann. Gardel was still a criollo singer whose music had a country flavor heavily influenced by the music of the Argentine pampas and the gauchos.

But he was an urban kid.

As in many great cities, there were populations in Buenos Aires that had been forced to emigrate from other countries by war or economic difficulties. There was chaotic urban noise and emotional dissociation, the alienation that comes from the break-up of families, the loss of community and the anger and rage that can result.

Gardel was no stranger to this, and his first solo recording, in 1917, was a tango entitled “Mi noche triste,” about a man sitting alone in his Buenos Aires room, crushed because his lover has just left him.

The first such recording ever made

Tango had existed for years before this, but more as a folkloric music and country dance. What Gardel was singing was urban, new, and instantly popular. Gardel went on to become the biggest-selling music star in the Spanish-speaking world, an international phenomenon of enormous proportions.

Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore in Buenos Aires

Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore located in Glucksmann’s former “special” concert theater in Buenos Aires.

On October 12, 1924, Gardel made one of the first live radio broadcasts to be produced from the studio of “Lo Grand Splendid,” Glücksmann’s new headquarters housed on the upper floor of his new “splendid” concert theater. (Now transformed into the most beautiful bookstore I’ve ever seen, the Ateneo Grand Splendid is located at Avenida Santa Fe 1860 in Buenos Aires.)

Gardel became a movie star so well thought of by Hollywood that by 1934 he was being prepared by Paramount Studios to become the next Maurice Chevalier. On March 5, 1934, Glücksmann arranged for a short wave radio hook-up, broadcast by Radio Splendid in Argentina –- from a studio in the Grand Splendid — and NBC in the United States.

The artists were Carlos Gardel and his long-time guitarists Guillermo Desiderio Barbieri and Angel Domingo Riverol. This occasion was memorable for a unique reason, since in fact Gardel was singing in New York while the guitarists were playing in Buenos Aires. It was one of the first such international broadcasts ever made.

Glücksmann had essentially gained control of the Argentine record industry. He did it while nonetheless becoming a hero to musicians through his practice of paying them royalties. He was the first in Argentina to suggest this, and in so doing made Carlos Gardel a world-class star and a multi-millionaire. Other Argentine musicians may not have climbed to Gardel’s heights of fame, but they all benefited from Glücksmann’s careful protection of their artistic rights.

Max Glücksmann died on October 20, 1946.

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, with Pablo Neruda as the main character, will be published in January 2019. A translation to Spanish by the noted Chilean novelist Jaime Collyer will appear later in the year.

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Student of the Month ~ Philip Benson

Alma del Tango Student of the month Philip Bensonby Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: Philip’s relationship with Argentine Tango has been start-and-stop since 2008. Due to his business obligations he was only able to dance in spurts, as he had to be on east coast time, meaning getting up at 4:30 a.m., so no late nights for him.

Back story: Philip has always been into dance. During his early years in New York, he danced salsa and cha cha cha at a country club his parents belonged to. But later, when he saw Argentine Tango performed, he was wowed. “I wanted to do that,” he says. He discovered Alma del Tango in May of this year and has never looked back.

Why Tango: Philip is drawn to tango because of the elegance of the dance. And, “because it’s improvisational, it’s always interesting,” he says “Ballroom tango is by the book, and salsa, is similar, the same thing over and over.”

Favorite part: “The hook for me is the connection between my partner, me, and the music, it’s like a triangle. The music is so moving, sometimes it moves me to tears.”

Philip listens to tango music all the time. He prefers the music of the Golden Age of tango. His favorite composer is D’Arienzo, “he’s both smooth and rhythmic,” he explains.

About Debbie & John: “Debbie and John have created Alma del Tango to share their passion for Argentine Tango with others,” says the tanguero. “I find them incredibly giving in so many ways. Their commitment to the details of form, their willingness to share…for example by offering mini tandas to students at the Friday night practicas. My sense is that they do it for the love and passion.”

Anything else? On the dance floor, Philip prefers to keep it simple and not try to impress.

Tango dancers Philip Benson and Errin Loveland at Alma del Tango, Marin

Philip Benson partners Erinn Loveland at Alma del Tango

“I’m convinced it’s better to do fewer things well than a lot of things poorly. I think my partner will be happy if I lead her properly.”

Last word: “I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to pursue Argentine Tango to my heart’s content. I envision traveling the world going to milongas everywhere.”

Next spring Philip will be pursuing Argentine Tango in Buenos Aires when he goes to CITA with Christy Cote and Chelsea Eng. He plans to stay an extra nine days to explore Buenos Aires on his own and take more classes.

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Slip on your tango shoes and join the celebration…

22 years of Alma del Tango in Marin and 11 years in San Anselmo

Dance Studio sign Alma del Tango

by Lanny Udell

Time flies when you’re busy dancing, teaching and building a community around Argentine Tango. Just ask Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell.

This month they are celebrating 22 years of Alma del Tango, and 11 years in San Anselmo. Join the festivities on Friday, September 28,  with a class, milonga, performance (by them) and live music by Seth Asarnow y su Sexteto Tipico. .

How it all began
You may know the story of how John and Debbie met at Stanford Tango Week back in 1996. It was love at first cabeceo, and since then the pair has been devoting their lives to each other and to the dance that brought them together so many years ago.

Read their story here, in our June 2013 Tango Lovebirds article

Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell, tango dancers

Debbie & John in 2001

At the time they met, Debbie was working on an undergraduate degree in dance and teaching in Auburn, CA. John began commuting from Marin on weekends to be with her and they formed Alma del Tango as an umbrella for their tango activities. In 1997 they started going to Buenos Aires to study with the masters for a month each year.

In addition to Auburn, Debbie taught in Sacramento, Davis and Nevada City. While deciding on her career path, she realized that she was fascinated by the cultural aspect of social dances. Ergo, the name of their nonprofit became Social Dance Cultures with Alma del Tango as one of several programs under its auspices.

Dipping their tango toes into the Bay Area
Every other weekend, the couple went into San Francisco to dance and John introduced Debbie to the local tango community. They frequented the Club Verdi, Broadway, and the Golden Gate Yacht Club. After seven years of commuting, Debbie and John settled in Marin together. John was teaching tango classes through Tam Community Education at the time. Among his first students were Alex and Karina Levin.

“John was one of Alex’s and my first tango teachers,” says Karina. “We first took classes with him in 1999-2000, and later we studied with Debbie and John. They played a dramatic role in our development as tango dancers.”

Couple dancing tango at Alma del Tango in Marin

Alex and Karina Levin 

When Karina’s life dramatically changed in 2013 with the untimely death of Alex,

“Debbie and John were the ones who embraced me and carried me through the pain. They are not only my tango teachers, they are my dear friends.”

Time out…briefly

After they married, Debbie and John took a break from teaching to concentrate on artistic endeavors. But it didn’t last long. In 2004, Debbie founded Tango Con*Fusión, the all women professional dance company. But the urge to teach grew too strong to resist, and in 2007 they started a class at Drake High, which long-time student Boyer Cole describes as “a hot night in the cafeteria with 57 students on a concrete floor.”

Dart and Dottye Rinefort got their first taste of tango the following year. “2008 marked the start of our journey into the world of Argentine Tango with John and Debbie. It was in a small, windowless room at Drake High School, filled with faces eager to learn this challenging dance. Many of those faces have continued on this journey with us and are among our treasured tango family,” says Dottye.

Dottye & Dart Rinefort at Alma del Tango in San Anselmo

Dottye & Dart Rinefort greet guests at the milonga

Dart adds: “To a non-dancer, John and Debbie’s step-by-step approach along with tons of patience and encouragement helped turn an incredibly formidable dance into an enjoyable and rewarding experience. For us, they have brought to life the rich history, music, passion and improvisational possibilities of tango.”

Building community in San Anselmo
Driven by the desire to build a tango community in Marin, Debbie and John began searching for a venue. At that point they were teaching privates in the living room of their home. They rolled up the rugs and moved out the furniture. Clearly, a studio was needed!

When they found the current space in the Knights of Columbus hall, they started renting by the hour. “I got tired of carrying in the sound equipment for every class,” John says, so they decided to rent it on a permanent basis as the home of Alma del Tango.

“We wanted a studio where people who wanted to dance well could learn and grow,” says Debbie, “and we wanted to offer programs that would enhance their experience as a community, including classes for all levels, practicas, milongas, performances, student productions and guest artists.”

To transform the space to match their vision, they had the stage built and added stage curtains. John installed video equipment, lighting and sound equipment, turning the bare bones dance hall into a tango center, the only one in Marin.

“We put a lot of time into designing the classes and making students aware of the historical context of the dance,” explains Debbie. “At the same time, we want to be cutting edge, which is why we continue to study the new developments of the dance and have visiting teachers as well.” 

Tango maestro Eduardo Saucedo teaching at Alma del Tango in Marin

Eduardo Saucedo, guest artist in residence for the month of August

Deborah Loft, a long-time supporter says:

“Over the many years I have been studying tango with Debbie and John, I have seen them go from weekly classes in a generic space at Drake High, to building a community with our own studio, stage and boutique; several classes a week (sometimes with visiting dancers from Argentina), monthly milongas (often with live music), and performances. What an accomplishment! This has taken great dedication on their part, and I am so grateful that we have these resources right here in San Anselmo.”

Philip Benson became a regular at Alma del Tango in May of this year. “Alma del Tango is the jewel of Marin for Argentine Tango students and dancers, he says. “John Campbell and Debbie Goodwin are superb instructors and hosts. They have created a warm, encouraging environment in which to learn, dance and connect with others who have an interest in or passion for this unique form of communication and connection. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful community.”

Argentine tango dancers Debbie Goodwin & John Campbell

For Debbie and John, teaching and performing together is so fulfilling

For Debbie and John, the years of dancing and teaching together have been fulfilling. “Not a week goes by that I don’t learn more about teaching and gain a new appreciation of movement and helping people,” says John. “I never thought I’d have a second career as a dancer!”

Alma del Tango gave  Debbie a place to pursue her creative work and to have community. “Especially with the kids away,” she says, “I love having my tango family around.”

“John and I really enjoy teaching together, that’s why I’m so happy to be back teaching the full program since recovering from my knee injury.”

Reflecting on her experience at Alma del Tango, student Errin Loveland says:

“I came to ADT in February of this year at a friend’s invitation. I had no dance experience of any kind, though I was open to whatever I encountered. I felt welcomed immediately as Debbie and John have created a warm space for those that are absolute newbies. Their own love of tango shines through, and they are eager to share what they know both technically and around the music and history of Argentine Tango. Debbie and John encourage a community atmosphere that supports learning what can be a very challenging dance. I look forward to attending for years to come. There is so much more to learn and explore.”

Tango dancers Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell

Debbie and John invite you to join their anniversary celebration at a class, milonga and performance, September 28 at Alma del Tango. Live music by Seth Asarnow y su Sexteto Tipico.

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Who was Max Glucksmann and how did he influence tango?

The first of two articles about Max Glucksmann by Terence Clarke, novelist, journalist and Alma del Tango board member

 

Max Glucksmann’s is not a household name, to be sure. But were it not for him, the Argentine recording and film industries would not have developed as quickly as they did or –- especially in the recording of tango– with such formidable results.

An Austrian and part of the important Jewish immigration to Argentina in the nineteenth and twentieth  centuries,  Glucksmann arrived with his family in Buenos Aires in 1890, when he was 15 years old.  Max was a very industrious young man, and he went to work soon after his arrival in Argentina for  Lepage y Compañia, a photography studio. He was one of three employees in a shop that was seven by twenty-five meters in its entirety.  He often bragged later in life, shrugging his shoulders in the Buenos Aires manner of humorous acceptance of one’s fate, that his first salary was fifty pesos a month.  Even in 1890, this was not a lot. 

The arrival of moving pictures and voice recordings

Max Glucksmann, Argentine movie and recording industry mogul

Max Glucksmann, founder of Argentina’s cinema and recording industries in the early 20th Century.

Lepage y Compañia recognized the coming importance of the moving picture, and expanded its operations in 1900 to that primitive but exciting art.  In the meantime, the possibility for recording voice and music had also become a reality.  In a 1931 interview, Max explained what had been happening in Buenos Aires: “Forty years ago, the first Lioret phonographs were imported from France.  They used celluloid cylinders.  Then came cylinders made of wax. And finally in 1900 disks appeared, even though they were pretty bad.” 

Max understood that, although these first recordings were mostly by opera singers like Enrico Caruso, the real market lay in popular music artists of the period.  In a day in which radio was in its own infancy, these recordings were usually the only way that large numbers of people could hear different kinds of music. 

“When the gramophone really came into its own in Argentina,” Max said, “it was thanks to the popularity that, day by day, was enjoyed by criolla music (music from Argentina itself). From the time of the payadores (itinerant singers) like Negro Gazcón, Gabino Ezeiza, Villoldo and others, who were singing just as the disk was perfecting itself.”

Max, recognizing that cinema and recording were the coming industries, applied himself to his work so intently that, in 1908, when Lepage y Compañia now had one hundred fifty employees, he bought the company.  Soon thereafter, he built the first recording studio in Argentina, taking advantage of new technology that allowed recordings to be made by the thousands. He also worked to establish the legal rights of music authorship for performers, something that had not previously existed in Argentina.

Next month we’ll see the profound influence that one of Max Glucksmann’s first artists, Carlos Gardel, would have on tango and the world.

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, will be published next year.

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