Tango in an age of Covid

We now live in an age of restrictions and cancelled events, so I thought it about time I gave my take on it all.

We had arranged our annual trip to Buenos Aires to coincide with the returning to Europe of the ship Costa Pacifica. These return trips are usually cheaper as they are classed as re positioning cruises. People had talked of “The Virus” but dancing every night in BsAs we gave it little thought. Even when we told people and they said we would get “El Virus” we thought little of it. We were off on a cruise for the first time in our lives, and we were going to enjoy ourselves.

The story of our eventual disembarkation you can find here 23 March The Journey Home. The whole story is told in blogs from 3rd March 2020. We came back to a world without Tango.

We set ourselves schedule where we wold clear the room and tango Tuesday and Sunday and sequence dance Wednesday and Saturday. Of course by the time we had decided to do this we had not sequence danced for almost a year. We had forgotten so many of the dances we had to refer to youtube in order to do them again.

Later on we started hiring Pulford Village Hall just for us to dance. It was in somewhat of a state as they were using the time to do essential repairs. We could not organize a dance due to the restrictions, but with just the two of us, we assumed we were within the rules and harming no one.

And so we managed to get some dancing, but little socializing. The local walking group was not meeting and the only interaction we got was in the shops.

Until we moved onto the next stage.

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Gran Hotel Victoria

For my second article I have chosen this tune, that almost every orquesta seems to have recorded. I shall be doing some unashamed plagiarizing here. It just means that if you have any problems with the facts, you can blame someone else.

For those who do not know the tune, here is my favourite version by Francisco Canaro (without the Gran); https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlVAeanW4qg and here we have D’Arienzo (with the gran) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wtXFUkzqgc

You can spend hours on Youtube looking into this tune, I am sure you will find your favourite does not agree with mine.

There is an Hotel Victoria in Buenos Aires, on the corner of Alsina and San Jose, but this is not it, as you will see. That one also is also not very Grand.

The historian from Córdoba, Efraín Bischoff, says a different thing. He affirms it is a tango from Córdoba which was composed by Feliciano Latasa for the opening on January 4, 1906 of the enlargement of the Gran Hotel Victoria which was run by Pascual Andruet on 133 San Martín Street in the city of Córdoba».

We shall present a short biography of the composer or, maybe rather, alleged composer of the piece. Pianist and violinist, Latasa was born in San Sebastián —Guipúzcoa, Spain— on September 25, 1870 and settled in the city of Rosario, province of Santa Fe, at the dawn of the twentieth century. At that city he led the orchestra of the Sociedad España and the Orfeón Gallego.

When in Córdoba he appeared at the Club Democrático España and at the Roma and Victoria hotels leading his orchestra lined up by José Ferreras and Cristóbal Boday (violins), José Aguilar (flute), José Guisado (clarinet), Ernesto Di Blasi (trombone) and J. Macia Granja (bass). He composed the tango “Gran Hotel Victoria” (Hotel Victoria), the chotis “Carmencita”, the zarzuelas “Risas y lágrimas” and “Celeste”, and, according to Vicente Gesualdo, numerous dancehall pieces, chotis, mazurcas, polkas, waltzes, pas de quatre, etc. He died in Córdoba on September 18, 1906 when he was nearing age 36.

This is taken from an article in Todotango.com. Look it up if you have time, there is a lot more interesting stuff in there.

The Hotel itself has had many refurbishments. It is built in a conventillo arrangement and now has a roof over the central courtyard with a lift to the upper floors standing in the corner. We visited in 2014 but only managed this one picture.

It had just completed another refurbishment when we there and the staff were more than happy for us to look around.

As I always say, if you have any issues with what I have said here, please comment, I am always happy to hear other views.



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Milonga Sentimental

I have been asked to write about a weekly tango tune, to help us through these hard times. I will research as much as I can, but please forgive any errors or omissions. Any you spot you can post in the comments and I will try to correct my mistakes.

People often ask “Why milonga” and why is the event the same as the dance. I will try to answer that here.

Long long ago in the days before Rap music even in the days before Tango people met up to create music. Now in old Buenos Aires it started with people creating songs to the same tune. Where they met was called a milonga and so the tune was also a milonga. Milonga is an old African word for words. So we think this was started by African immigrants or possibly slaves. Slavery was not completely abolished here until 1861.

This carried on for a time span that is largely unknown. Then along came a guy called Carlos Gardel. He may be French born or not, but we know for certain his mother was and he spent his formative years in a house behind the Abasto Centre around Almagro.

Now Homero Manzi wrote the words for Milonga Sentimental and needed it putting to music. He asked a guy called Sebastian Piana to do this for him. Now Sebastian was a bit of a rebel and did not want to simply copy everyone else. So he went across the Rio De la Plata to Uruguay and listened to their candombe rhythms. He wrote a tune with the same catchy beat and fitted it to the words. So here was born the milonga, but it would probably would have gone no further without Carlos Gardel.

Now Carlos Gardel was the most famous tango singer of the time, he heard this new tune and rhythm and made a record of it. The rest, they say, is history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27HlY0umlmA

The song has gone down through the years having many iterations. I do not intend to list them all here (It would take a book ) My favourite recent one is Miguel Di Genova’ s Otros Aires. If you listen there is a cameo from the Carlos himself at the end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIZj1m-rt1c

Much of my knowledge on this comes from Christine Dennison, other references are Wikipedia and much I have absorbed through osmosis.

As I say if you have any issues with what is written here. please comment. I don’t profess to be the font of all knowledge and am always open to corrections.

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23 March The Journey Home

Our Cruise up until now had been well organized and a lot of fun. We were now in unprecedented circumstances and no one was coping well. To be fair to disembark three thousand people when no country wanted us there was never going to be easy.

We left our luggage at the theatre entrance and were herded inside. We queued to fill in yet another form and received a number 10 stuck onto us.  Then we waited again.

“Will all passengers with number 2 go below” and we waited then number 3 was called then number 4. The guy on the stage who was trying to sort things out was getting stressed. Then it all got just too much for him “Anyone who has a number go below”

So we traipsed out and collected gloves a mask and our luggage, but it seemed we had not had our temperature checked.  We had to go in again it was now total chaos. We had been over two hours and where our luggage was, was a toilet. So I made a quick call, but for some reason that totally defies logic, they had taken this opportunity to clean the ladies.

Once outside the ship we were in some alien hostile world.  We were huddled together on a cold windswept dockside. Across the road was a terminus with two men standing guard.

I was not dressed for this and no one was helping so I crossed into the building, followed by the other passengers who had been standing with me.

We passed through stopping various times to hand over forms and answer questions. At every stop nobody told us what was going on or where we should go next. We wandered around lost until finally we arrived outside again and saw a row of buses. We were not yet free though we had to wait until we had permission to get on.

I put our cases into the boot and got on the bus “Fill from the back and leave a seat between you” we were told.  We had all been dancing together and socializing until an hour ago, even herded together in the theatre. One guy was most put out when told to sit separate from his wife “We were sleeping together last night” He said.

It took us nearly an hour to reach the airport. Once there we again did not know where to go, eventually we found a queue for the plane we were due to get on.  I got to the Check in and Andy was there before us. He got through but when we got there, there was a problem.  At first we got no indication what it was then she said “The gate is closed”. She asked who was in charge and we told her we had just been dumped here. Then she asked how many were for this flight. I turned around and shouted “WHO Is ON Flight 238?” everyone in the queue behind us put their hands up.

We now had all the check in desks occupied and were not going anywhere. Next She said that Viv Was now Ok.  We both said “That is not happening, we fly together or not at all” Then there was more panicking.

Eventually we got a new flight number and headed through flight side. Once there we saw Andy “You’ve missed you plane” Viv said. We pointed him to the information point, which by luck, we happened upon. Until then we too had been lost, there was nobody in the airport giving directions and no notices telling us where we should be.

We managed to get some crisps and a drink in a kiosk but otherwise we were left totally alone, It was like some post apocalyptic world.

Up until now we had been kept separate but here at the gate we could sit together, but as we passed through we were again separated, until we got down onto the tarmac. Then we were herded onto a bus like cattle and driven at speed across to the other side of the airfield. On the plane we were again made to sit separately. If we had got contaminated on the bus, we could now keep it to ourselves.

I found out how useless the face masks are. Unused to wearing one and not of the best quality I was constantly touching it. If I get Corona I know exactly where from.

Some good news Andy is sitting opposite Viv on the plane, we don’t know how but we are happy that he has made it.

We arrive back safely to Heathrow and there is some semblance of sanity here. People are still wearing face masks and keeping their distance, bur things seem to be moving normally. We see Andy again at baggage reclaim and we talk about getting a car. He does not have his licence with him, so I agree to take him home. It will add to our journey time, but I could not just leave him.

At the Enterprise desk there is just a phone and we order a car.  We are not yet into this quarantine thing, and it was only later we realized what a contamination risk the phone was.  We have eaten nothing for hours and at the office Viv fights with the vending machine, eventually getting two chocolate bars. We have a Dacia Duster to drive home in, it brings back memories of the 1980s for me, but this one seems a better car. It never occurs to us that we could have got contaminated by the telephone.

We finally drop Andy off just before midnight in Stafford, and we have trouble opening the boot. No one had thought to tell us how to operate it. We managed to get it open but did not know how. Luckily we had Andy’s bags out getting ours out could be done in daylight if we have a problem. It is more than an hour home from here but Viv has bought a sandwich so we stop off to eat it. The traffic is good, because I think people are not travelling. When we finally arrive home we are greeted by Mary and a very cold house.

I still struggle to open the boot, but somehow it opens and we get our luggage out. It seems I am not the only one to have problems. when I returned the car to Chester the guy there said that one lady had her shopping in the boot for a week and could not get it out.

We called at the local Coop on the way back. I stayed in the car while Viv got some essentials. Many of you will already be familiar with the routine, but to us it was an alien world, one way walking, social distancing and only fifteen in the shop.

Did those so desperate to get off the ship know what they were leaving for? I wonder.

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22 March Rome

After two days in Gerona we have sailed to Rome. We are told that we will disembark here, only time will tell.

Meanwhile we have all the daily activities to attend. There is less of the animation team as they are attending to people getting them off the ship.

The animation team have organized another party night in Rhapsody. We were still having fun in Round the clock but decided to go down there.  There was a different feel to the night.  I suppose it was me but I never recognized any of the people on the dance floor and we did not get up much. There was no space to sit either we sat behind the glass panel and I was struggling to get through my G&T.

I asked Ars for a chocolate but The Amarillo had closed early and I could not have it.  A Scots guy said he had some packets and brought me some Ars then brought me two cups and some hot water. Nice that people are so kind and Angela brought me some Rennies. But somehow this evening fell a bit flat. Eddie was definitely the worse for wear and we all went to bed a bit early.

The following morning we had our breakfast  and waited around. The animation team were all busy, and it was looking more and more like we would be leaving.

We socialized in the Rhapsody bar, drank coffees and our new drink “Pink Panther” a non alcoholic cocktail. The group we usually sit with here has been broken up there are two sisters who are still here but the two couples who sat with them have been sent home, or at least no longer on the boat.

I checked around midday and our cabin has been made up. Does this mean we are to stay another night? Our bags are packed ready to leave at a moments notice, but I have my doubts we will be leaving.

Then mid afternoon there is a call “All Passengers from cabins **** go to the Theatre” They called so many cabin numbers including the next one to ours, but we were still here. Later there was another Call “All remaining English speaking Passengers go to the Theatre”

I guess this was it.

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19 March Gerona

We have sailed to Gerona and understand that some will be disembarking today.

Despite the letter we got, all the dance events in the day have gone ahead. Viv did not rouse until almost eleven as we were told that the animation team events would not be on. I had got up and had my breakfast and was in The Rhapsody when they did the latino class. I was happy to partner another lady and afterwards I went to the cabin. Viv was up by now and having some breakfast. She was not best pleased when I told her about the class.

The afternoon classes were also on, it was all a bit of a mystery. Two other friends had missed some classes and we got them to join in as well later.

We keep getting called down to Ricks Bar to fill yet more forms in. Mainly telling the Italian Authorities we do not have Corona Virus.

At the restaurant I learned that the couple who sat with us were about to leave. Now these two had been on to The BBC and had also tried to get off at Marseilles. I found out later that all the Argentines were also getting off here. Well they seemed happy about it, I was not so sure.

I found out afterwards that they had been on a bus for six hours and then left in the airport. It looks to me like they were getting rid of the troublemakers, because after they had gone all the entertainment was back on. Our next stop was to be Rome, but we would be sailing in comfort.

The music was back again that night, but my alcohol intake was down, you can only drink so much gin I find. Still we watched Gerona disappear as we partied again into the night.

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17 March Marseilles

We continued to steam on after the canaries, we don’t stop and we have no idea where we are until we reach Marseilles. The  fun however continues but the natives are getting restless. I am at a loss to see what their problem is as most of us are not scheduled to leave the ship for another three or four days. We are safe, no virus aboard, we are entertained, we have food to spare and alcohol likewise.

There is talk of disembarkation here, but time will tell. Then we are told that only the French will be allowed to leave. This is the point things get ugly. We are stuck here two days.

On our first night a fight broke out. I saw a guy flinging his arms about going from table to table. Next he collared agroup on their way out, it looked ugly but then group just left him. Later he was again in Rhapsody causing trouble and the next thing there are three guys on top of him. Viv thought it quite funny; men in their sixties and seventies brawling like school boys. We learned the next day that the Argentines had tried to hold the French hostage.

They just do not get it; there is nothing anyone on the ship can do.  So we just party on.

On the second night in Marseilles we join the Londoners in Round the Clock, having ignored all the calls to meetings. There is no live band playing in any of the bars.  The couple who play here have arrived and are setting up, but then stop and sit down. I go over to ask what is happening and they get very defensive. Apparently they have been told not to play by the cruise director. They were obviously as unhappy with this as we were, so there was no point having a go at them.

Our table were not about to have our fun stopped, somebody arrived with a bluetooth speaker and a smartphone with internet access. Viv was by now knocking back the Tia Maria and we were dancing around the tables, challenging the waiters and experimenting with anything that they had behind the bar. My new drink is Lemoncello and Tia Maria mixed.

This may be a boat of three thousand people but at least eight of us were not about to let events or the captain keep us down.  I think by now we were outnumbered by staff in this bar and even if they could not drink with us we were determined that they would enjoy themselves as well. They danced with us and sang along even excepting a challenge to do an exercise with the tray.

Again I missed my chocolate, so tonight I had stomach trouble. Nothing at all to do with all the drink, you understand, although Viv would not believe it.

We are home safe. I write this after our return. So do not be concerned if you see me about.

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15th March Things are not looking good

Our daily routine carries on. All our entertainment continues and somehow they can still supply fresh food. The rumor mill has started though. We already knew we would not be able to meet our friends in Santa Cruz, they have an unbreakable appointment.Now Though it looks like we will be unable to land at all.

There has been an Hotel locked down due to Carona virus and someone I know is staying close by. As far as I know it has not affected him otherwise, but we are in a black hole here and get no news, even the BBC world news has been denied us of late.

Nothing yet affects the fun on board though, so we carry on and await news. Later in the day we learn that Spain has locked down all ports and we will be unable to land in The Canaries or Malaga. How this will effect our landing in Barcelona we have yet to find out but things are looking doubtful.

Through a drunken haze we hear the ships engines thrown into reverse around midnight. We are still told nothing but believe that we are stopping for food and fuel. Again we do not know where we are, but as we are due in Santa Cruz in the morning, I suspect we are somewhere off Tenerife.

We have a party group assembled in the round the clock. Drunken tales of the 70s and 80s are the order of the day punctuated by trips to the dance floor when we hear something we like.

Missed the chocolate tonight, ah well, have to have another G&T then.

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March 11th Bautismo del Mar

Today is a special day after our breakfast it is party time.  As mid day approaches everyone is up on deck 9 for the party.  There are some children dressed up and they are escorting Neptune as he comes to baptize us with the sea. It is just one massive party, There is a lot of dancing and loud music, then Neptune stands on a stage throwing water over everyone.

We are celebrating crossing the equator. The sea is totally calm and the sun is overhead. With the sun live music we are in an idyllic situation.

We are travelling through the doldrums and the sea state certainly agrees. I am put in mind of The Ancient Mariner when we see an albatross above the ship. It stays with us for some time appearing to maintain flight with little or no effort. I think it must be getting some lift from the heat we generate, and just like the mariners of old I am saddened when we loose sight of it.

Later we receive a certificate from the captain saying we had crossed the equator. Viv joins me tonight in the restaurant and we head once more to Rhapsody bar. Then we move on to the Round the Clock again where there is yet another party night. This time it is a latin theme. We manage the dance moves better as we have been to the group class, but by midnight I am struggling.

Before the party is over I drag Viv to the Amarillo for a hot chocolate. Amarillo closes at half past midnight and I need that drink to settle my stomach. I am having trouble with it at the moment, not sure if it is a bit of motion sickness, too much food, or all thhe alcohol. Still the dark cabin, rocking motion and the alcohol means I get a good nights sleep while on here. My step counter is recording an average 16,000 steps each day mainly up and down stairs, so that may also help.

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March 10th Back into the Blue Yonder

So we return to the shipboard routine.

Viv is up early for the stretch class, then we breakfast. After breakfast we have our dance class on Deck 9.  More Kizomba and then relaxing reading and more exploring. There is a lot to see on board and today I find that ther is a Scuderia Bar on deck 12. As you would expect it has a motor racing theme and there are simulators just inside. I relax here for a while until it is time to go down to Rhapsody on deck 5 again for another dance class.

Viv is not keen on the My Way restaurant so I go alone.  Not wanting to be Billy no mates I wait outside until Julia and Dave arrive. Then we settle down to another six course meal. After being fully sated and entertained, I leave them for the Round the clock to meet up with Viv again.

We manage to get to Rhapsody in time for Three tango tunes. Later we return to Round the clock where they have a 70s themed party night. The group do a great job on the tunes and the animation team lead us in some great dance routines. As someone who was there I can state we did not dance like that, but we had a great time. We dance the night away and finish with a Hot chocolate in Amarillo again.

Tomorrow we will go to the group dancing class so that we can follow the routines.

A reminder that this is all written after the event. We are home now, so do not be surprised if you see us.

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