Arturo de Basi

On April 24th, 1890 was born Arturo de Basi, a tango pianist, composer, leader and author. The same year is the oficial year that Tango born as a genre.
We’ll share the story of his tango “El Cabure”.


At the contest for theater plays that the Teatro Nacional organized in 1909, the play El Caburé written by Roberto Lino Cayol with music by Arturo De Bassi was awarded the second prize. The first award was for José González Castillo’s La serenata, whose music had been composed by José Carrilero.

El Caburé was premiered —according to Jacobo de Diego— at the same theater, on December 30, 1910. And here is where the confusion among the historians springs up: Was or wasn’t the tango piece “El Caburé” sung at that play? Some say it was; others say it wasn’t.

In fact, during the first season the tango piece had not been composed yet.

The actor and director Juan José Podestá presented it on the Apolo stage, again according to De Diego, but the title tango did not turn up.

In the early 1911 the abovementioned musician composed the tango tune with the same title, but he did not premiere it at a theater play.

Luis Ordaz emphatically says: «In an interview made by Arsenio Mármol, a long time ago, Arturo De Bassi said that he had written that tango due to the success achieved by the little play and that he independently premiered it and it turned out a boom at the carnival balls of 1911». This information is strengthened by the dedication made by De Bassi when he published his composition: «A mi amigo Roberto L. Cayol».

De Diego, furthermore, says that the tango was included at the theater play during a later season and he thinks that José Muñiz sang it. «It is worth mentioning —he says— that Muñiz was member of the Vittone-Pomar company. The performance was probably made at the Nacional».

Muñiz —or whoever was—, sang then the lyrics of an author whose name De Bassi did not remember, but that Cayol signed as author of the play in which it was included:

A mí me llaman Caburé,
porque soy
un tipo que me hago temer
donde voy.

Later, another text whose lyricist is unknown appeared: “Me llaman el Caburé,/ creamé”.

Finally, in 1945, Carlos Waiss wrote a third lyric so that Hugo Del Carril would manage to sing it in the film La cabalgata del circo:

Me llaman el Caburé,
porque soy
el milonguero más mentao
donde voy.

Below there is the definition of the word caburé, according to the Lexicon dictionary of lunfardo, popular, jargon and foreign words and locutions written by the Chief of Police (R) Adolfo Enrique Rodríguez, published in Todo Tango.

«CABURÉ: A wooing individual, a gallant flirter, a seducer successful with ladies, irresistible, brave. A small bird of prey whose feathers are regarded as possessing special powers when used as a charm».

Recordings of “El Caburé”

Cuarteto Juan Maglio Pacho, instrumental (1913)
Rondalla del Gaucho Relámpago, instrumental (1915)
Orquesta Roberto Firpo, instrumental (25/08/27)
Orquesta Adolfo Carabelli, instrumental (28/10/32)
Orquesta Juan D’Arienzo, instrumental (22/09/37)
Orquesta Carlos Di Sarli, instrumental (01/08/46)
Orquesta Carlos Di Sarli, instrumental (1951)
Orquesta Ricardo Pedevilla, instrumental (1951)
Orquesta Lorenzo Barbero, instrumental (15/03/54)
Orquesta Francisco Rotundo, instrumental (01/08/56)
Hugo Del Carril con guitarras (31/03/64)
Orquesta Héctor Varela, instrumental (24/10/66)
Orquesta Miguel Villasboas, instrumental
Orquesta Juan Sánchez Gorio, instrumental (1977)
Conjunto Rafael Rossi «De La Guardia Vieja», instrumental (21/06/77)
Camerata Punta Del Este, instrumental (1979)
Orquesta Típica Corrientes (Angosta), instrumental (1980)
Cuarteto Oscar Bozzarelli, instrumental (1982)
Trío Cattaneo-Chambouleyron-Viggiano, cantan Soledad Villamil y Brian Chambouleyron (1998).


Can tango help our society become more human again?


Experts revealed that tango was actually a key factor of social integration in Argentina during the 19th century. By voicing the concerns and feelings of a population who otherwise had no voice helped to get people talking and expressing themselves.

Tango lyrics talk about the hardships of life; poverty, love (or lack of love!) and solitude, whilst communicating dreams of good fortune, travelling, luxury and wealth. This helped people to realise that together they had an identity and a voice.

Tango never talked about anything controversial such as politics, religion, etc. In fact, for a country obsessed with football, there’s not a single tango song talking about it! Thank goodness… Says a lot though doesn’t it?

By giving a beat to a nation, tango gave it in fact a heartbeat, the heartbeat of a rich and sensual dance and of two people whose encounter on the dance floor leads to rich and endless danced conversations.

This may be why tango is becoming popular for the second time. Tango, originally portrayed a feeling of loneliness to help bring people together. In a society which is increasingly de-humanised and impersonal, tango provides a creative way for people to express themselves, no matter who they are, where they come from, and whether they in fact speak the same language.

If you want to join the crowd of tango dancers in London and around the world, you will find different London based Argentine Tango schools offering tango private classes as well as group classes, every evening of the week.


Tango Meets Street Art

Buenos Aires is famous for rich artistic traditions from tango music to street art. On a short stroll around the barrio of Abasto, you can observe the colorful point of intersection between the two.


A barrio steeped in tango history

Carlos Gardel, the great tango legend, was born in France in 1890. But he emigrated to Argentina with his mother when he was only two years old, and spent his childhood years in the centrally located neighborhood of Abasto in Buenos Aires. So many years later – after playing a key role in popularizing tango music around the world, breaking hearts, selling tens of thousands of records, and perishing tragically in a plane crash at the height of his career – ‘Carlitos’ is still strongly associated with the barrio. Tourists come to visit Gardel’s childhood home, now the Museo Casa Carlos Gardel. The surrounding blocks are filled with street art paying homage to the tango great and his contemporaries.


Tango on the walls

Probably the best-known piece of street art in the neighborhood is the mural on the corner of Jean Jaures and Zelaya. Gardel’s smiling likeness – conventionally handsome and colorfully rendered, dapper in his signature fedora – marks the entrance to the short pedestrian promenade known as Pasaje Zelaya.

Along the passageway, several buildings have been painted with lyrics and music once performed by the tango great. Particularly well-preserved is the music to the 1935 tango  ‘Volver,’ with lyrics by Alfredo Le Pera. A key stanza of the bittersweet song, in translation: ‘To return, with a withered face, the snows of time have silvered my temples. To feel that life is but a breath of air, that twenty years are nothing…’


Further along the block, another mural spells out the lyrics of ‘Tinta Roja,’ a 1941 tango with music by Sebastián Piana and lyrics by Cátulo Castillo. The cheerful blue and white slightly betrays the melancholy edge of the lyrics (again, in loose translation: ‘Big wall, red ink on the gray of yesterday…’)


Look down: on the sidewalk, the words to ‘El Último Café,’ a tango written decades later with music by Héctor Stamponi and lyrics by Cátulo Castillo, are etched into the concrete. To translate, ‘The memory of you comes toward me like a whirlwind, returning on an autumn evening, I watch the rain, and as I look, I swirl my teaspoon in the cup…’


Also to look for in the neighborhood: a peeling mural that once pictured the music of the tango  ‘Cuando Tu No Estás’ (When You’re Not There) and an eye-catching wall on Jean Jaures that features Gardel’s face and the title of one of his most famous tangos, ‘Mi Buenos Aires Querido’ (My Beloved Buenos Aires.)



Episode 5: Black Roots of Tango

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We know that Tango surged as a marginal music from so many different sources like the Afro-Argentinean, the European and the Native-Argentinean coming from the gauchos in the 1880s.

Most tangueros agree that African influences were strong in Argentina in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when tango’s roots were watered by the candombe societies, resulting in the milonga that tangueros still dance today, and canyengue, tango’s “melting” predecessor.

Robert Farris Thompson, a professor of African art at Yale, champions black contributions to Argentina’s national dance in his passionate, polemical new book, Tango: An Art History of Love. Not only are blacks present on the Pampas and in the port city of Buenos Aires, he argues, but their influence has been disproportionate to their numbers, but has been acknowledged, the origins of tango are black. Tango, “the beautiful dance of the past hundred years,” started life as a creole: caught in a waltz-like embrace.” One of the paradoxes here: tango is black music that has no drums.

We know that Buenos Aires, like many cities in North and South America, was a big port used in the Atlantic slave trade that took place from the 16th to the 19th century. In the Rio de la Plata, on both Argentine and Uruguayan shores, there was a very common word in those times to refer a group of slave musicians that was Condombe, and they used to play a drum called Tango. Tango was also used to name the place where these groups used to perform the candombe. Dancers themselves were also called tangoes. During the first half of the 19th century, the candombe was also performed by a group of drummers to a large outdoor gathering African-Argentines that lived mostly in impoverished patios in the southern part of Buenos Aires. Candombe, represented a fusion of many rhythms and cultures that the different groups of Africans brought to Argentina. Couples would dance separately with no or minimum contact.

Thompson, describes milonga, modern tango’s “co-presence,” as the “Buenos Aires conversation” between two black rhythms—one imported from Havana. The contradanza habanera arrived with Cuban sailors around 1860 and fused with Argentinian candombe and the “habanera bassline,” which of course is a key register in any African-derived music.

This posture of canyengue—a word directly of Kongo origin, like milonga and malambo—is one of its most African features. Dancers are stone-faced, the knees flexed, rear extended, as couples meet in a leaning embrace derived from European couple dancing. Tango moves like quebradas (a hip twist), cortes (“break between the dancers”) and sentadas (the woman seated on the man’s thigh), which Thompson relates to the bumping of bellies, hips or rears called “bumbakana,” found in Kongo ancestry. Listen to this, a mix of milonga and candombe performed by maesto Francisco Canaro.

It is theorized that what we know as tango was danced in those African-argentinean venues attended by compadritos, young men, mostly native born and poor, who’d like to dress slouch hats, tight scarf and high heels boots.

They took the tango back to Buenos Aires and they introduced it in various low life places like bars, dance halls and brothels.

“Seeing connections where others see distance” is how Thompson describes kindred spirits Piazzola and Borges, but it applies to him as well. Thompson has a way of capturing muscle memory and footnoting it for posterity.


Dancing with the Locos

A Comparative Study of Argentine Tango and Psychoanalysis


Aside from the obvious — that it takes two to tango and two to form the analytic pair — Argentine Tango and Psychoanalysis were both born in the year 1881. This research discovers many other similarities between the two especially when the
two become one. Ms. Roséan explores the narcissistic transference in modern psychoanalysis and finds a parallel in a psychiatric hospital in Buenos Aires  where Argentine tango is taught as a therapy to schizophrenic patients.

Lexa Roséan began dancing Argentine tango in 1995. She teaches, performs, and DJ’s Argentine tango.
In  2008,  along  with  her  dance  partner,  she  won  the  US  Argentine  Tango  Championship.  In  the  same year, Dr. T. Laquercia invited Ms. Roséan to CMPS to demonstrate and teach a tango class to a group of Modern Psychoanalysts headed for Argentina. Not long after, Ms. Roséan entered the Master’s Program and is a graduate and former Student Association President of NYGSP. She currently sees patients in the Consultation and Referral Service of CMPS, where she is a certificate candidate.

Modern psychoanalysis rests upon the theoretical framework and clinical approach of Sigmund Freud, who defined psychoanalysis as any line of investigation that takes transference and resistance as the starting point of its work. It is the name given by Hyman Spotnitz to describe a body of developments in the theory of technique in order to apply the psychoanalytic method to the treatment of certain disorders previously thought to be untreatable by that method. It has been found to be applicable to all types of emotional illness including neuroses, psychoses, borderline conditions, depression, and character disorders. The findings of modern psychoanalysis have contributed new insights into both the dynamics of emotional illnesses and the mechanisms through which the analytic process cures these conditions.

The CMPS offices, library, classrooms and the Consultation and Referral Service are located at 16 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10011, within walking distance of the West 4th Street and Union Square subway stations. Office hours are from 9:00AM to 5:00PM Monday through Friday.

More information:

On the Tango and Buenos Aires


Borges’ Tango Drawing from University of Notre Dame | Rare Books & Special Collections

Stepping out onto Corrientes, you see the surge of lights, the waves of people, the blaring neon.  Buenos Aires: wind-swept, bipolar, insomniac, histrionic.  Not surprisingly, there are more theatrical shows here than in any other city in South America.
I now find myself here for more than three years, immersed in its culture and people, el castellano (the particular Argentine Spanish), and the tango.  Dancing the tango, singing the tango, painting the tango.

There is poetry in the forbidden, the languid nights, the time spent and misspent dancing the tango to the weeping of the bandoneón and the low sighs of the double bass.

Dancers sway in each other’s arms, on city streets, on choreographed stages, in meat-market milongas, in private homes, in the heady sweetness of a complex mathematics that looks at once simple and elaborate and only sometimes involves the heart.

A poetry of the body, a heightening of the senses that exalts the communication of the body between one person and another, a poetry of the senses overwhelming the five senses of the body — the tango.  The tango was born in the Rio de la Plata region that encompasses Argentina and Uruguay. Some of the great musicians and singers of the tango came from Uruguay.  Much the way Chile made its wines famous all over the world, Argentina made the tango its brand.

The tango is sultry and sensual, not sexual — that is for después.  After 17 years of being involved with the tango and relationships of the flesh and the heart, I have come to realize that every relationship is a tango, every movement between that leads from here to there, if it affects us, if it afflicts us, if it calls to our heart and recalls ancient memories.

The tango is more than just a movement, or a series of movements — it is that connection between yourself and your partner, between two hearts, two memories, two bodies moving as one.

I have found that more important than the dance itself is the relationship, a relationship.  Give and take.  Not just give, and not just take.  The follower gives of herself, the leader gives. If the energy is just right, there is a balance, and both are refreshed, renewed.  An exchange at once spiritual and sensual, a figure eight that is emblematic of eternity.

Buenos Aires is a city of intense passion, city of song and dance, pot-beaters and rioters of an unstable economy.  Things are taken light-heartedly and explained by “es lo que hay” — that’s what there is.  A city where if you can take the ups and downs and believe whole-heartedly in luck and the lottery, you can remake yourself in body and spirit.  But into what?

Writes Jorge Luis Borges in “El Tango:”  Esa ráfaga, el tango, esa diablura, / los atareados años desafía; / hecho de polvo y tiempo, el hombre dura / menos que la liviana melodía, / que sólo es tiempo.”  (This gust, the tango, this mischief, / the busy years challenges; / made of dust and time, man endures / less than the light melody / that is only time.)

A city caught and trapped in dust and time, while the mischievous tango endures.

The streets Corrientes and Cordoba surround my apartment.  The people are still primal, raw — connected more to the skies, to each other, to the universe than to any technological gadget.  One sees the desperation in the eyes of a child of four, reflected from the eyes of her parents.

Where the two main roads intersect, 9 de Julio and Corrientes, there rises a great obelisk, an emblem of the city itself. It is a streak of ego and daring into the sky, as if to say:  This is who we are, this is what we aspire to, this is what we were.  If we may but look inside ourselves, to what stirrings this ambition may lead us to . . .

This is the city where Borges masterminded and directed the great library, wielded his pen and the labyrinth of his mind in soaring blindness and darkness.

Where mind must function over matter, making matter immaterial.  Where a song is heartbreak, heartbreak is forever, and forever is longer than a thought.

For every motion, there is an equal and opposite emotion.  For every desire, a non-desire and a lurking fulfillment.  Everything — this too is about to extinguish . . .  this feeling, this emotion, and desire.

This is the moment I am most alive.  The moment I cross the street to meet you, eyes moist.  All the threads of a life . . .

Tango que fuiste feliz,
como yo también lo he sido,
según me cuenta el recuerdo;
el recuerdo fue el olvido.

— Jorge Luis Borges: “Alguien le dice al tango,” with Piazolla

(Tango that you were happy,
as also I have been,
following memory’s recounting;
the memory that was oblivion.

— Jorge Luis Borges: “Someone says to the tango,” with Piazolla.)


Episode 04: La Cumparsita

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It is undoubtedly the tango most widely spread, the one that every person recognizes notwithstanding its version, the one used as icon to represent the genre, the one most recorded in Argentina and in the rest of the world.

What mystery is hidden in its bars that they succeeded in becoming the choice of so many and so different people?

There are contradictions of opinions as for the date and, as we shall further see, also about what orchestra was the first one to record it. For Legido and for Matos Rodríguez´s grandniece, Rosario Infantozzi Durán, the dates are in 1917 and the first recording was by the Alonso-Minotto orchestra. It is not at issue that the Roberto Firpo orchestra had been the first that played “La cumparsita” in public. The dispute is about the year.

Truth is that it turned a centennial and became one of the most famous tangos in its different versions.

The title translates as “the little parade”, and the first version was a tune with no lyrics. Later, Pascual Contursi wrote words to make the most popular version of the song.

The song was originally a march, whose melody was composed in 1916 by a student in Montevideo, an 18-year-old man named Gerardo Hernán “Becho” Matos Rodríguez, the son of Montevideo’s Moulin Rouge nightclub owner Emilio Matos. That year, Matos Rodríguez asked his friend Manuel Barca to show orchestra leader Roberto Firpo the music in the cafe called La Giralda. Firpo looked at the music and quickly determined that he could make it into a tango. As presented to him it had two sections; Firpo added a third part taken from his own little-known tangos “La gaucha Manuela” and “Curda completa”, and also used a portion of the song “Miserere” by Giuseppe Verdi from the opera Il trovatore. Years later, Firpo reported the historic moment as follows:

In 1916 I was playing in the café La Giralda in Montevideo, when one day a man was accompanied by about fifteen boys — all students — to say he brought a carnival march song and they wanted me to review it because they thought it could be a tango. They wanted me to revise and tweak the score that night because it was needed by a boy named Matos Rodríguez. In the march score there appeared a little [useful melody] in the first half and in the second half there was nothing. I got a piano and I remembered my two tangos composed in 1906 that had not had any success: “La gaucha Manuela” and “Curda completa”. And I put in a little of each. At night I played the song with “Bachicha” Deambroggio and “Tito” Roccatagliatta. It was an apotheosis. Matos Rodríguez walked around like a champion… But the tango was forgotten, its later success began when the words of Enrique Maroni and Pascual Contursi were associated with it.

Firpo recorded the song in November 1916 for Odeon Records. He used the recording studio of Max Glücksmann in Buenos Aires, and employed two violinists, one bandoneón player (Juan Bautista “Bachicha” Deambrogio), and one flute player to join him as bandleader on piano. The song was pressed as the B-side of the release, and had only a modest success, fading in familiarity after several years.

In 1924, “La cumparsita” was something forgotten, but something happened which caused its revival. Without the permission of its composer, Pascual Contursi and Enrique Pedro Maroni added lyrics and a new name to it: “Si supieras”. This made Matos Rodríguez be furious, giving rise to a lawsuit that finally was settled in the year 1948.

This new sung version was premiered by the actor Juan Ferrari in a one-act farce, on June 6, 1924 and later, Gardel recorded it that same year in Buenos Aires and four years later in Barcelona.

Living in Paris at that time, Matos Rodríguez discovered that the song was a big hit, when he talked with Uruguayan violinist and tango orchestra leader Francisco Canaro, who was playing the tune at Paris engagements as “Si Supieras”. Canaro told Matos Rodríguez the song was “all the rage by all the orchestras”. Matos Rodríguez spent the next two decades in various court battles over royalties, and finally succeeded in ensuring, that “La cumparsita” was re-established as the title of the song. However, Contursi’s lyrics became intimately associated with the song.

Canaro formulated a binding agreement in 1948, one which would end the lawsuits. He determined that 20 percent of all royalties would go to the estates of the lyricist Contursi and his business partner Enrique P. Maroni. The other 80 percent of recording royalties would go to the estate of Matos Rodríguez. Canaro established that future music printings would show Contursi’s lyrics in addition to less well-known ones written by Matos Rodríguez, and no other lyrics.

Famous versions of this tango include Carlos Gardel’s vocal and performances by orchestras led by Juan d’Arienzo, Osvaldo Pugliese and Astor Piazzolla. La Cumparsita is very popular at milongas; it is a common tradition for it to be played as the last dance of the evening.

About the title:

Cumparsa: Lunfardo word that denotes a group of people that attends the carnival festivals dressed in a similar fashion (usually, but not exclusively, wearing masks.)

The term seems to be a corruption of the italian ‘comparsa’.

La Cumparsita: The little cumparsa.


If you realised,

that still inside my soul,

I uphold that affection

I had for you…

Who knows if you realised

that I haven’t forgotten you ever,

when turning back to your past

if you think of me…


Friends no longer come

not even for a visit,

nobody wants to console me

in my affliction…

From the day you left

I feel anguish in my chest,

tell me, darling, “what have you done

to my poor heart?”



I always remember you

with the devine affection

I had for you.

And you are everywhere,

part of my life,

and those eyes that were my joy

I look for them everywhere

and I can’t find them.


In the abandoned flatlet

not even the morning sun

peeks through the window

as it did when you were here,

and that companion puppy,

that didn’t eat in your absense,

upon seeing me alone the other day

it also left me.


Tango glossary

Not sure about a particular Tango term?…find it here!


  • abrazo: embrace (as in dance hold).
  • amague: from amagar. lit. “to fake”. To make a threatening motions. An amague is used as an embellishment either led or done on one’s own and may be used before taking a step. An example of an amague may be a beat (frappe) before taking a step.
  • barrida: sweep. A sweeping motion. One partner’s foot sweeps the other’s foot. Also called llevada.
  • barrio: a district, neighborhood.
  • boleo: from bolear. To throw. A boleo may be executed either high or low. Keeping knees together, with one leg in back, swivel on the supporting leg.
  • castigada: (from castigar – to punish) a punishment: A lofting of the lady’s working leg followed by flexing at the knee and caressing the working foot down the outside of the supporting leg. Often done as an adorno prior to stepping forward, as in parada or in ochos.
  • caminar: to walk. The walk is similar to a natural walking step but the ball of the foot touches before the heel. The body and leg must move as a unit so that the body is in balance. Walks should be practiced for balance and fluidity.
  • colgada: both leader and follower lean outwards, away from each other, off axis. They support each other from falling by maintaining their contact with their arms.
  • corte: cut. In tango corte means cutting the music either by syncopating or holding several beats.
  • cruzada: cross. A cruzada occurs anytime a foot is crossed in front or in back of the other.
  • desplazamiento: displacement. Displacing the partner’s foot or leg using one’s leg or foot.
  • dibujo: drawing, sketch. A dibujo is done by drawing circles or other small movements on the floor with one’s toe.
  • enganche: hooking, coupling. Occurs when partner wraps leg around the other’s leg.
  • entrada: Leader’s leg replaces partner’s unweighted leg position. Entrada doesn’t influence movement of the follower’s leg. This movement is called entrada or sacada in Spanish depending on instructor, and is often called a shallow sacada
  • enrosque: from enroscar. To coil, twist. While woman executes a molinete, man spins on one foot, hooking other foot behind the spinning foot.
  • gancho: the noun of enganche, a hooking move with the leg
  • giro: turn, circular walk in which the follower satellites around the leader.
  • lapiz (s) / Lapices (pl) lit. “pencil”: A decoration in which the free foot draws a circle on the floor.
  • llevada: from llevar. To transport (see barrida).
  • lustrada a.k.a “shoe shine: the follower gently runs the top of her foot up the leader’s calf (this is not lead but an optional decoration)
  • medialuna: half a giro (See giro)
  • media vuelta: half turn. Usually done when man’s right foot and woman’s left foot are free. Man steps forward with his right leading woman to take a back step with her left and then leads he to take two steps while turning a half turn.
  • milonga: may refer to music or the dance which preceded the tango, written in 2/4 time; or may refer to the dance salon or event where people go to dance tango (see below).
  • milongueros: refers to those frequenting the milongas and considered tango fanatics.
  • molinete: fan. Molinetes are forward and back ochos (figure 8’s) done in a circle.
  • mordida: same meaning as sandwich
  • ocho: eight. Figure eights usually executed with feet together (ankles touching) instead of one foot extended.
  • ocho atras: ochos backward
  • parada: (lit. “stop”)  In this movement, the follower is brought to a standstill, usually with at least one foot touching the leader’s extended free foot.
  • pasada: lit. “passing over”. This is where the leader invites the follower to step over his leg following a parada or sandwich. The lady may, at her discretion, step over the man’s foot or trace her toe on the floor around its front.pista: dance floor
  • planeo: A movement performed by the leader, or led for the follower, which uses momentum to cause the free foot to describe a wide arc on the floor as the dancer turns. The two legs resemble a pair of compasses drawing a circle, with the free foot the pencil part.1
  • punteo: A decoration where you tap the floor with the point of your foot. Varying from little taps low to the ground, or in such a way that the leg bounces high off the ground afterwards.
  • rulo: The rulo – also known as lapiz (pencil) or dibujo (sketch) – is executed by drawing one or more circles on the floor with the free leg, either as part of a movement or during a pause in dancing.
  • sacada: this can be either a shallow or deep sacada. For shallow version see ‘entrada’. A deep sacada causes displacement of partner’s unweighted leg.
  • salida: Exit, or start. It’s interesting that the word for the basic step (a place to start) should be a way to get out of a figure as well.
  • salida cruzada: the beginning of a pattern with a cross; i.e. side left crossing right foot behind left, or side right crossing left foot behind right.
  • sandwich / sandwichito: One partner’s foot is sandwiched between the other partner’s feet.
  • sentada: a sitting action.
  • sacada: see desplazamiento
  • soltada:  lit. “dissolved’ or ‘released’. Any move where the couple release the embrace either completely or partly.
  • trabada: fastened. It is a lock step – the step that the woman takes when man steps outside with his right foot and then straight forward left, together right. At this point the woman crosses and this cross is referred to as trabada
  • volcada: a move which involves the follower deliberately going off her axis and leaning towards her partner, who sustains her and prevents her from falling.



Tango Etiquette


The pure joy of dancing tango is found at the milonga. A milonga refers to the event where tangos, milongas and waltzes are danced (tango party).

What is a Tanda?
At a milonga, music is played in sets called “tandas.” Usually three or four songs are played by the same orchestra followed by the “cortina” (the curtain) which signals the end of the tanda. If you ask someone to dance and they accept, it is assumed that it will be for the entire tanda.

Cortinas are an interesting little detail at a milonga. A cortina is unique to each DJ. Some will select one cortina for an evening and some will use a different one for each tanda. Some are humorous; some are grating on the ears; some are simply beautiful music. In any case, the cortina is supposed to be a piece of music that people know not to dance to. It’s your signal to smile, say thank you and (possibly) change partners

How Someone Asks for a Dance
In Argentina, men ask women to dance with a look—a certain glance, movement of the head toward the dance floor or smile that says, “Dance with me?”  This can take place from far across the room if the right eyes are caught. If a woman wants to accept a dance with a man, she smiles back and (most important) keeps looking at him while he approaches her. The slightest glance away is usually interpreted as meaning “I’ve changed my mind and don’t want to dance.” This system is very wonderful and full of pitfalls. What if the asker is looking at the woman behind you?  Did you really see a “yes” or a “maybe?”

Because we are caught up in this Argentine art form, the practice of asking people to dance with the eyes is also followed to some extent. In many areas of the world, however, you may ask someone to dance directly or with your best Argentine eyes. As in the dance, practice makes perfect.

Accepting a Dance or Saying “No, thank you”
Accepting a dance is as simple as saying “yes.” You can do this with your eyes—be on the look out for people who ask the Argentine way—or by accepting a direct invitation.

It is also perfectly acceptable to say, “No, thank you.” If you accept a dance remember it will probably last for the remainder of the tanda that is playing—three or four songs if you start at the beginning. If either one of you decides that one or two dances is enough, however, either person can simply say “thank you” and begin leaving the dance floor. Once you say “thank you” to someone in a polite manner, the dance with that person is over.

Dancing at a Milonga as a Beginner
As a beginner, you’ll either be eager to dance with everyone or hesitant to be seen as a beginner. If you’re eager to dance, go for it. Just remember that tango is danced in lanes that keep moving and the more experienced dancers tend to stay toward the outside. If you’re hesitant, I can guarantee you that everyone in the room has been a beginner at one time and understands how nerve wracking it can be to look around and see everyone gliding by when you only know three movements. Even someone who has been dancing for only two weeks longer than you have will look like they’ve been at it for years longer. I can’t explain it; it always looks like that.

The way to become a good dancer is to show up and dance. As Woody Allen once said, “98 percent of success is showing up.”


Episode 03. Gricel

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In this episode, we talked about a beautiful, sad love story, Gricel, the love story that was immortalized in a tango song. The most interesting of this, is that this story goes beyond this 3 minute tango written by Jose Maria Contursi, because it’s actually a real love story and, in real life, had a happy ending.

This tango tells the story of a character who tries to win Gricel’s heart. He finally succeeds on this, but he shouldn’t do it. He then lost her love and he regrets for this the rest of his life.

Jose Maria Contursi was an awesome lyricist, a close friend of Carlos Gardel and he composed for all the great tango orchestras and singers. Legends says that after a passionate and forbidden romance, Contursi left Grisel because he was married and they both propose themselves to forget each other, but they find that forgetting was impossible. Over time, Contursi became obsessed with the memory of his beloved Gricel and, from then on, in every one of his tangos (including “Gricel”), disappointment and unhappiness are present.

This tango was written in 1942 and Mariano Mores, another great musician and composer, put music to these beautiful words.

It could have been the plot of a soap opera, or a radio drama. But the story is not only real; it also became a symbol in the world of tango, where the musical poetry of Buenos Aires became universal. The title of the legend has only six letters: Gricel.

Susana Gricel Viganò was 16 when her friend Nelly Omar took her to see one of her performances, live, in the auditorium of Radio Stentor. It was one of the 20 stations that were in the City in those times. It was in downtown, Buenos Aires. They were friends because Viganó’s family had lived Guaminí where Nelly was raised. By that time the young Gricel was living in Córdoba, a Mediterranean province in Argentina, where her parents had a Hotel and a gas station. Her beauty was really impacting: her mother was German and she had inherited that blond hair and dreamers blue eyes.

In 1935 the radio announcer was José María Contursi , who was known as Katunga . He was a real seducer. Son of Pascual Contursi (one of the pioneers of tango song), José María had inherited that ability to write verses. He was 24 years old; he was married to Alina Zarate and was father of a baby. However, when he met Gricel his life literally changed forever.

It is said that the girl was also impacted by this young man. But she returned to Cordoba and he stayed in Buenos Aires. Some people say that there were letters between them.

It was then that fate stroke again: in 1938 seized by an intestinal fever and in the absence of antibiotics, Contursi was given the customary medical piece of advice in those years: try the air of the Córdoba hills. Nelly Omar again told him then: «Don’t you remember Gricel? She lives there, in the middle of the hills of Córdoba».

So Contursi left towards that place in the hills leaving behind in Buenos Aires his wife and their daughter. He carried with him not only his illness but also his inclination towards women, his love for horses and for his beloved San Lorenzo soccer team.

Egidio Viganó could do nothing to discourage the romance between his daughter and a «trained» seducer. So Katunga came back to Buenos Aires showcasing a new star in his banner of seducer and maybe he was humming: «Yo anduve siempre en amores, qué me van a hablar de amor» (I’ve always been flirting, how can they give me suggestions about love). But he was completely wrong. He ignored that he would soon say sadly: «¡Qué ganas de llorar en esta tarde gris!» (I feel like weeping on this cloudy afternoon!).

The romance was short: he returned to his city and she saw that her illusion was broken like glass.

Soon he returned to Cordoba, making up another intestinal fever. That was the opportunity on which Contursi fully dived into an unrestricted love affair that drove him to write so many tango lyrics. Finally one day he had to choose, and he returned to his wife with healthy intestines but with a broken heart just like Gricel’s. She saw his train depart with a deep pain in her soul but promising herself not to cry ever again.

So the ordeal began. In 1939 José María wrote “I want to see you again “. It was the beginning of a series of sad verses on his works, reflected in many tangos along his life. From 1941 are ” On this gray afternoon ” ( How I mourn in this gray afternoon / in the rain rattling talking about you ) , ” No Tears ” ( You see, my eyes have cried / mourn what I’ve lost / But in my heart torn , no beats , broken / is dying heart) and ” all my Life ” ( do not know why I lost / not know when it was / but to your left side all my life / and now you’re away from me and you’ve managed to forget / I am a passage of your life nothing more ) .

In 1942 the cry for that woman (that had also formed a family and had a daughter from that marriage) had finally a name the tango Gricel.

It says (“I should never think / in wining your heart / and yet I looked and try / until one day I found you / and stun you with my kisses / no matter you were a good girl / Your Illusion was glass / it broke when I left / as never I never again … /how bitter was your sorrow! )

A year later, he wrote “Sombras Nada Mas” (Nothing but Shadows) and “Cada Vez Que M Recuerdes” (Every time you remember me ) . And in 1945 “La Noche Que Te fuiste” (The night you left) and “Garras” (Claws). Gricel was still present but far .

Everything changed for Gricel too. His father and his German wife, their customers and people in the town began to live in an over sentimental life and Gricel since then was called: «Gricel, the one of the tango tune». At the beauty contests held in Cordoba Gricel was the indisputable winner. She began to very often go to the balls where men were eager to have the honor of dancing with her. Everything was insufficient, but Gricel did not want to cry in spite of her misfortune and made up her mind in order to rebuild her life.

In 1957 Katunga was widowed. The woman with whom he had four children died. Gricel was alone: her husband had abandoned her. In 1962, the bandoneon player Ciriaco Ortiz performed in Cordoba and told her that Jose Maria was widower and living in a great depression with alcohol problems. Gricel came to Buenos Aires and the reunion was a reality. They married in Cordoba, on August 16, 1967, 32 years after this love story began: he was 56 and she was 47. It was a religious ceremony.

The marriage lasted until May 11, 1972 when Contursi , died in that town in Cordoba where they had settled. Gricel lived two more decades. But that’s another story.

At present, an opera documentary was written to honor this love story. The name is “Gricel. Un amor en tiempo de tango”, by Jorge Leandro Colás The musical documentary goes behind the love story between the tango lyricist José María Contursi and a village girl named Gricel.  Here, an opera singer intends to make an opera that tells the story of love between Gricel and Contursi, visiting the places where the events took place and looking into the memories of those who knew the characters of this love story.

The tango song Gricel is a musical synthesis of love and passion is not strange for the fans of the genre, but few tango lyrics show this feeling so expressively as “Gricel”, that José María Contursi —Katunga,  dedicated to the great love of his life.

This is the real story of a tango piece that touched generations due to its beauty and profundity like all the things Contursi wrote. Most of his writings were inspired in this love that, at times, seemed impossible.