Alberto Bernardino Paz (July 16, 1943 – February 3, 2014) was an Argentine tango historian, teacher, and dancer. Alberto taught the traditional, social tango of the Buenos Aires salons, together with its codes and culture, to North Americans and Europeans.
Alberto Bernardino Paz
July 16, 1943
|Died||February 3, 2014 (aged 70)|
New Orleans, Louisiana
Argentine tango had a huge revival outside of Argentina beginning in 1983 with the success of tango stage productions, such as Tango Argentino, Forever Tango, and Tango x 2,. These popular stage productions encouraged many people to seek out tango dance lessons. In contrast to these stage productions, however; the social tango that Argentines dance in the salons (dance halls) is very different from the acrobatic dance that is often performed on stage. Alberto Paz was one of those Argentines. who taught Argentine tango as a social dance, introducing the dance style of the Buenos Aires tango salons to the world. Alberto and his wife and partner Valorie Hart through their writing and teaching had a strong impact on the growth of salon tango. The following quote from Alberto's tango magazine El Firulete is typical of his position:
The success of Forever Tango and Tango x 2, two critically acclaimed stage shows, has captured the imagination of many people and inspired others to consider tango dancing. Unfortunately, these shows and the ones tourists catch in Buenos Aires, do not have disclaimers that say, “warning, the performers on stage are professionals and they have trained for years to execute the breathtaking choreography you are watching. Please do not attempt to imitate, emulate or try these stunts at home.”
While the Broadway productions stimulated public interest in Argentine tango beginning in 1985, Alberto Paz was one those milongueros who, beginning in 1995, brought the culture, traditions and techniques of salon (social) tango to North America.
Alberto was born in Argentina in the Northern province of Tucuman. He moved with his family to Buenos Aires at the age of 9 months. He grew up in Buenos Aires, and like every other boy in Argentina, his passion was soccer. He didn't dance tango in his youth. For him, tango was the background music in the community where he grew up:
For the 25 years I lived in Argentina, I totally ignored the tango I heard every day at home. I liked rock & roll."
In 1968, with an engineering degree from the School of Electrical Engineering of the University of Buenos Aires, Alberto found himself in California working for high-tech video companies. By the mid-1980s, he became a U.S. citizen. During the 1980s he also worked at San Francisco's radio station KIQI as a soccer announcer and color commentator.
The revival of the tango began in 1984 and quickly spread through Europe, North America and Japan with the unexpected success of the musical revue Tango Argentino. Producers Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli had captured the dramatic qualities of the tango on the stage. Like many others, Alberto became interested in learning to dance tango.
1990's Tango San FranciscoEdit
In 1990, Alberto ventured into a dance studio in San Francisco and took his first tango lessons from Mary Schonbeck. At the age of 47, he was a beginner at tango. Alberto learned tango the way most people do—first learning a few basic steps. He later returned to Buenos Aires and learned from the masters in the tango salons. When he "felt the tango for the first time," he was hooked.
Although he was a beginning dancer, Alberto was already very familiar with the music, having grown up with sounds of Argentine tangos permeating his home. Utilizing his skills as a radio announcer, Alberto produced "Tiempo Nuevo," a radio program totally devoted to the Argentine tango in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1990 – 1992 at radio station KIQI-1010.
Tango was a growing presence in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1991, Richard Powers, the head of dance instruction at Stanford University, began holding a very popular Stanford Tango Week. The Stanford Tango Weeks continued until 1997, and many attribute the beginnings of local tango clubs in the Bay area and around the country to this annual retreat, as retreat participants returned to their home communities and shared what they had learned.
In the early days of this tango revival, beginning dancers were attracted to the show tango that they had seen on stage (with fast, high kicks and acrobatic turns) as opposed to the less flamboyant social tango that is appropriate on a crowded dance floor. By Alberto's own account of the early Stanford Tango Weeks, the focus was on a fantasia (or show) style of tango:
In 1995 Richard Powers took a dramatic stand acknowledging the futility of insisting on tango fantasia workshops when the locals have been jamming the dance floors Chez Louis, Ruvano’s, BA tango Connection, etc. to dance tango socially.
1995, The Year of the MilongueroEdit
In 1995, Alberto met his wife and life partner in tango Valorie Hart at the Stanford Tango Week, and together they began a tango school that was committed to teaching the rich culture of social tango.
Stanford Tango Week 1995 also saw a big change: The festival committed itself to teaching the salon tango of Buenos Aires by bringing in a new set of instructors, Argentine milongueros who taught the traditional close embrace tango of the crowded Buenos Aires dance floors. This brought the "milonguero style" to the West Coast. See Alberto's account in "Sweet and Sour Tangos" El Firulete October, 2000.
[In 1995] the “Year of the Milonguero” was “declared” by the head of the dance department at Stanford University to herald the inclusion of real milongueros for the first time in its memorable Tango Weeks. A new generation of dancers was born during the trendy summer breezes of the Palo Alto campus in Northern California. It wouldn’t be far fetched to state that the face of Tango in North America forever changed. Although much of what the milongueros had to say at Stanford fell through the cracks of inept translations, the impact of their humble demeanor and their unassuming dancing captured the imagination of those who witnessed and lived the fortnight of Tango during the summer of 1995.
1997 Mingo PuglieseEdit
In 1997, Alberto and Valorie traveled to Buenos Aires for an extended period of study under the milonguero Mingo Pugliese. Mingo's wife Esther and their son Pablo had taught at the Stanford Tango Week workshops. Alberto and Valorie went to Buenos Aires to meet him and learn his style of tango. Mingo and Esther Pugliese taught a method of tango that stressed good posture, careful foot placement and extensive body communication. Central to the style are eight count left and right giros (turns). Mingo Pugliese explains those eight body positions were the key to improvisation in tango. He attributed the method and style to the great milonguero Petroleo.
Alberto and Valorie Paz adapted what they learned from the Puglieses to their own the tango school "Planet Tango." Together they traveled the world teaching tango, and started many communities still in existence. From the Hudson Valley, NY, to Tallahassee, FL, from San Francisco to Germany, tango communities can trace their origins to workshops with Alberto and Valorie.
Alberto felt very strongly that tango should be taught as a complete package of culture, music, and connection—not just steps and kicks. In order to help non-Spanish speaking students, he translated the lyrics of hundreds of tangos into English, providing a free database of lyrics for learners.
From 1996 until 2000, Alberto and Valorie served as the gateway into the Bay Area tango community for many visiting milongueros from Argentina, bringing many Argentines into their home and helping some find work opportunities in the United States. They helped as translators when needed. The list of house guests includes many well known milongueros--- Facundo and Kely Posadas, Orlando Paiva, Pablo and Beatriz Ojeda, Pablo Pugliese, Esther Pugliese, Jorge Nel, and many others. They hosted the one and only exhibition in the United States by Pupi Castello and Graciela Gonzalez. After their relocation to New Orleans in 2000 (below), they continued the tradition of hosting well known milongueros at home until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit.
New Orleans 2000-2014Edit
In 1999, they taught in New Orleans. Their class was so popular, they were encouraged to move there to establish an Argentine Tango community in New Orleans. Planet Tango is still centered in New Orleans.
The Tango BeltEdit
Tango in New Orleans has an interesting history. In 1914, there was a concentration of halls, cabarets, restaurants and cafés around the French Quarter called the Tango Belt. The Tango Belt was a result of the popularity of tango in Europe and North America at the time. There are documented instances of tango in the French Quarter into the 1920s and 1930s; Rudolph Valentino with his unique tango style visited the city several times.
La Milonga de New OrleansEdit
Alberto and Valorie helped revive Argentine tango in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the 21st Century. Besides teaching numerous classes and workshops, they hosted a popular milonga at Galvez Restaurant in the French Quarter known at La Milonga de New Orleans.
Among the many, many tango events and retreats they organized, Alberto and Valorie hosted the first New Orleans TangoFest in 2002, and continued to host the event until 2005.
In 2005, Christine Scheu of Tallahassee, Florida, wanted to learn to dance. Focusing on tango, she invited Alberto and Valerie to come to Tallahassee. This was the beginning of the Tallahassee Argentine Tango Society. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, while they were teaching in Tallahassee. Alberto and Valorie were stranded; they didn't know if they had a home to return to. The 5 day road trip to Tallahassee turned into a 4-month ordeal for Alberto and Valorie. Fortunately, they turned this tragedy into an opportunity to research a book on tango that they were in the process of writing.
They flew to Buenos Aires staying in the flat of a friend. They took the opportunity to research their new book at the National Archives of Argentina. This gave them the opportunity to access primary sources for their research, as well as access to materials that were not available outside of Argentina.
There Alberto came across Hugo Lamas and Enrique Binda's classic work El Tango en la Sociedad Porteña, 1880-1920 (Tango in the Buenos Aires Society, 1880 -1920). Lamas and Binda attacked the accepted myth that tango is simply a provocative, sexual dance from the bordellos of 19th Century Buenos Aires. They presented a new history of tango as a social movement originating in the lower and working classes of Argentina in response to the many dictatorships the country has experienced.
Building upon this well-documented study, Alberto and Valorie wrote their definitive work Gotta Tango.
3rd Annual U.S.A. Salon Style Tango ChampionshipEdit
Upon returning to New Orleans, Alberto and Valorie continued sharing their tango around the world. In 2009, they won the 3rd Annual U.S.A. Salon Style Tango Championship. They followed that with the Mundial de Tango Salon (world salon tango competition) in Buenos Aires.
Tiempo Nuevo was a series of radio broadcasts totally devoted to the Argentine tango produced by Alberto Paz in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1990 – 1992 at radio station KIQI-1010. The broadcast recordings have been converted into podcasts and are archived online.
El Firulete was a tango magazine published from 1994 until 2014. Alberto started the magazine in 1994, then when he married Valorie Hart in 1995, they published the magazine as a team. It was published in hard copy from 1994 until 1999 and then as an eMagazine until 2014. The magazine is archived online.
Alberto's definitive work is the book Gotta Tango, which he co-authored with Valorie Hart. The book begins with the culture, history, and music of Buenos Aires that evolved into the Argentine tango dance. The instructional section of the book explains the fundamental concepts and techniques of dancing Argentine tango.
- "Obituaries of Alberto Paz". Legacy.com. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- FREEDMAN, SAMUEL G. (19 December 1985). "'TANGO ARGENTINO,' THE SEASON'S IMPROBABLE HIT" (National edition). The New York Times Archives. p. 15. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- Brown, Stephen. "Styles of Argentine Tango". Archives from Tango Argentino de Tejas 2000-2014. Tango Argentino de Tejas. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto; Hart, Valorie (2008). Gotta Tango. Human Kinetics. p. 185. ISBN 9780736056304.
- Brown, Marina (May 16, 2015). "Argentine Tango Society celebrates 10 years of dance". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto. "Good morning America". El Firulete (September 1997). Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Brown, Steven. "Styles of Argentine Tango". Archive of tejastango.com from 2000-2014. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
The term "tango de salon" refers to a variety of social dance styles, including Villa Urquiza, milonguero and club-style tangos that are danced socially in salons rather than for exhibition (like fantasia or tango escenario) or in improper venues (like orillero). Traditional tango de salon requires that dancers exercise respect for the line of dance, but the embraces and characteristic movements can vary considerably across individual styles.
- Paz, Alberto (2000). "Sweet and sour tangos". El Firulete (October 2000). Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "Obituary: ALBERTO BERNARDINO PAZ". The NewOrleans Advocate. Legacy.com. 12 February 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- Rendon, Jim (December 24–30, 1998). "Flirty Dancing". Metro. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- Sabá, Gustavo Benzecry. "Alberto Paz". TodoTango.com. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto (November 14, 2013). "A show named Tango Argentino". El Firulete. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto. "People doing some things right". El Firulete (July/August 1997). Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto (January 2000). "Dancing to a tango". El Firulete. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Paz, Alberto (October 2011). "As time goes by". El Firulete. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto. "The Best of Tiempo Nuevo". Radio del Tango. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "The Stanford Tango Weeks: 1991-1997". Stanford Dance Division. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- Tatum, Charles M. (2013). Encyclopedia of Latino Culture: From Calaveras to Quinceaneras [3 Volumes]: From Calaveras to Quinceañeras. ABC-CLIO. p. 929. ISBN 9781440800993.
- Brown, Steven. "Styles of Argentine Tango". Tango Argentino de Tejas (Archive). Retrieved 28 April 2018.
The term "tango fantasia" refers to an exhibition style of dancing that draws principally on the Villa Urquiza style of tango but uses embellishments more extensively and adds dramatic poses, ganchos and high boleos, all of which have their roots in some part of tango's history. This style developed for use in exhibitions during breaks in social dancing at milongas, but was carried to the stage. As the stage style evolved through the addition of elements outside the tango vocabulary, some people distinguished the result as tango escenario. Many people refer to all forms of exhibition tango as fantasia.
- Paz, Alberto (1996). "A prescription for the summertime tango blues". El Firulete. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- Hart, Valorie (2011). "My life and El Firulete". El Firulete. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto. "Mingo, a controversial link to the history of the Tango dance". 1997. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Powers, Richard. "STANFORD SUMMER DANCE WORKSHOPS 1989-2010". Social Dance at Stanford University. Stanford University. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto; Hart, Valorie. "Planet Tango". Planettango.com. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Kane, Walter; Kane, MariLynne. "Los Tangringos". LosTangringos. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Paz, Alberto. "TANGO LYRICS IN SPANISH AND ENGLISH". Planet Tango. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Paz, Alberto; Hart, Valorie (April 25, 2013). "Planet Tango". The Tango Life. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- McCaffety, Kerri (February 2007). "Dance of Fire". New Orleans Magazine. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "Jazz Neighborhoods Map". National Historical Park Louisiana: New Orleans Jazz. National Park Service. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Hémard, Ned (2017). "Two To Tango" (PDF). New Orleans Bar Association: Serving the needs of the greater New Orleans community. NEW ORLEANS NOSTALGIA Remembering New Orleans History, Culture and Traditions. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- Paz, Alberto (Nov 27, 2013). "La Milonga de New Orleans, Thanksgiving Edition" (video). YouTube.com. Planet Tango. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Paz, Alberto; Hart, Valorie (July 15, 2009). "Planet Tango". The Tango Life: Parties, Events and Festivals. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- Paz, Alberto (August 3, 2011). "The truth, the whole truth". El Firulete. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Lamas, Hugo; Binda, Enrique (1998). El tango en la sociedad porteña, 1880-1920 (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Héctor Lorenzo Lucci Ediciones. p. 313. ISBN 9789509958913.
- "USA Argentine Tango Championship Results". Celebrate Tango. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
- Paz, Alberto; Hart, Valorie. "Archives". El Firulete 1994-2011. El Firulete. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart dancing to "Emancipacion" by Antonio Polito and Alfredo Bevilacqua with the orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese on March 12, 2005.
- Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart, winners of the Salon Style 2009 3rd USA Tango Championship, perform to "Ahora No Me Conoces" with the Orchestra of Rodolfo Biagi, at the 4th USA Tango Championship 2010.
- Graciela Gonzalez throws a surprise birthday party for Alberto Paz April 16, 1997, at the historic La Galeria del tango in Buenos Aires. Mingo and Esther, Facundo and Kely join her and Pupi for a couple of great exhibitions. Birthday celebration Part 2