Archive for the ‘ Male Dancers ’ Category

1896, September 13 – BIRTH OF TITO LUSIARDO

The centennial, celebrated with great splendor on May 25, 1910, was a time of great hope in Argentina…the country was thriving and historians saw a great nation in the making…in Europe it was common to refer to a man of means as “he is rich like Argentinean”…Spain considered it important enough to send its beloved Princess Isabela De Borbon y Borbon whose ill-fated and epileptic husband Count Cayetano had committed suicide 40 years earlier…during the grand ceremonial procession, one of the boys carrying the train of the dress of the princess was 14-year-old Tito Lusiardo…it was an exhilarating experience for a boy who had grown up in the tenements of Buenos Aires…indeed it was from an early age that Tito’s exuberance and captivating personality began to open doors for him…eventually his extraordinary capacity as an actor and tango dancer would make him a legend…

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Along the way, he would become one of only a handful of intimate friends of Carlos Gardel…in fact when Tito finally died after a long, storybook career at the age of 86, as per his death-bed request, on his funeral car hung the portrait of Carlos Gardel…he began learning his craft as a stage hand at the Teatro Nacional….at the age of 22 he got his first break when he was included in the play “El Cabaret” for which he had to borrow a tuxedo…critics began to notice him in Alberto Vaccarezza’s “Tu Cuna Fue Un Conventillo” (which was also the place where celebrated singer Nina Miranda began to make her mark) but it was his performance in Ivo Pelay’s “De Gabino a Gardel” which cemented his career…throughout his career he played essentially the same character, the loveable rogue who danced tango…his dancing partners included Tita Merello, Olinda Bozan and Beba Bidart…he would star in over 40 films including classics like “Idolos De La Radio”, “Dancing” and “Con La Musica En El Alma” but he is best remembered for his performance in two Gardel films “El Dia Que Me Quieras” in which he sang the waltz “Suerte Negra”and “Tango Bar”

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1926, August 23 – VALENTINO DEAD AT 31 !!!

Valentino did not like doctors and although his dear friend June Mathis urged him to see one for the stomach pains that ocassionally gripped him, he refused; “it’s your bad American food” he like to kid….on August 15, 1926 while staying at the Embassador Hotel in New York, as part of a promotional tour for his new film “Son Of Sheik”, he was suddenly seized by a high fever, vomiting and severe abdominal pains….he was rushed to the “Polyclinic Hospital” where he was operated on for a perforated ulcer…in recovery everything seem to be going well and in fact in a press conference, doctors gave a sunny prognosis…however, on the fifth day Valentino was suddenly seized with severe stabbing pain in the chest…doctors soon realized that a severe  infection had spread to the lungs and that he would not recover….as was the custom at the time, the knowledge of his impending death was withheld from him…speaking in gasps, he even said that he could no longer feel the incision which unfortunately was a symptom of the advance state of infection…in his frequent telegrams to Paris, to Natasha Rambova whom he had divorced the year earlier, he spoke of plans for the future and their reconciliation…a few hours later he had slipped into a coma  and died…

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What had been the cause of his perforated ulcer which interestingly had also taken the lives of James Joyce and Rudyard Kipling…one possible answer was the fact that he smoked two packs of cigaretts per day; another one might have been the boxing match he had engaged in a few days earlier to assert his manhood after the Chicago Tribune, in a famous article, suggested that he was gay…apparently sugery was delayed for a few hours as surgeons were paralyzed by his celebrity status…outside, the police had cirlced the hospital to contain the throngs of women who had come to be near Valentino…that delay of a few hours may have worsen the infection to the point of no hope…his death plunged America into a nation of mourners…women wept with unashamed tears; two killed themselves that day…at his funeral services in New York, an estimated crowd of 100,000 gathered outside…when his body was brought back to Hollywood, thousands of fans stood in railroad stations across the country just to see the train as it sped past…in Los Angeles, an estimated 80,000 mourners crowded in and around the cemetery grounds…five years earlier Valentino’s performance in “The Four Horsemen and the Apocalypese” had been a major reason for the world-wide tango boom

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2009, August 22 – PREMIERE OF “ROMANCE DE TANGO”

The creator of stage show “Romance De tango” Leonardo Suarez Paz, is the son of renown violinist Fernando Suarez Paz who was recruited by Astor Piazzolla and toured with him for over 10 years…Fernando began to study violin at the age of five and in time became a first violinist with the National Symphonic Orchestra of Argentina although his father originally hoped that Fernando would become a doctor…Fernando’s talent was such that although still a teenager, he was invited to play with the legends of tango including Miguel Calo, Anibal Troilo and Fulvio Salamanca…Fernando has received enthusiastic reviews from critics throughout the world including a seven star rating from the New York Times

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Inspired and encouraged by his father, Leonardo earned accolades in his own right as a musican, dancer and choreographer…Fernando is an accomplished violinist, opera and tango singer and tango dancer which he refined under the tutelage of the legendary Juan Carlos Copes…with passion and devotion, he employed all of his talents to create the critically acclaimed “Romance De Tango” featuring the dancers from his Cuartetango Music and Dance Company…the show, which premiered on August 22, 2009 at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, features six dancers, a string quartet, a bandoneónist, a pianist, and two singers…with a daring repertoir, the production incorporates all expressions of the tango art: music, poetry, song, and dance…one reviewer said of the show, “amazing dancers who enliven the evening with fiery steps and the spirit of Buenos Aires”

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1898, June 2 – BIRTH OF PYOTR LESHCHENKO

Singer, Dancer (Gemini) – what gave Vera Georgievna the strength to endure years of hard labor in the Soviet gulag were the memories of her beloved Pyotr; her fellow inmates would nod courteously at her claims of having been the wife of the renown Pyotr Leshchenko….the day came when she was finally released and she resigned herself to the grey life that was assigned to her not realizing that her Pyotr was in fact still alive, languishing in a  Romanian prison believing that Vera was herself dead…lying on the prison hospital bed suffering from the effects of incarceration, just before closing his eyes for the last time, he said “friends, I am happy for I will return to Vera and the fatherland, I am going away but I leave you my heart”…he was fifty-six years old; Vera would survive him for another thirty-two years…Pyotr Leshchenko was the king of Russian tango; his rendition of “Serdtse”, the best known non-Spanish tango in history, sold millions of copies all over the world…he was born of a citizen of the Russian empire in Isaevo in Kherson Guberniya, now part of Ukraine into a poor, illiterate, peasant family…

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As a child he sang in the church choir and learned to play the guitar and the balalaika…after the World War I, he worked in restaurants serving and washing dishes and playing small roles in theater…after taking ballet lessons in Paris he started performing with his fist wife Zinaida Zakit…their act was a mixture of ballet, folklore and European tango which was so popular that they toured far and wide with their act including Egypt, Turkey, Germany and Briton…it was in Riga, Latvia when his wife was pregnant and he was performing alone that he improvised tango singing and was surprised at how much the crowd liked it; that launched him into a career as a highly popular tango singer selling millions of records…he was greatly influenced by the legendary Polish tango composer Jerzy Petersburski who would die in a nazi concentration camp…Pyotr opened the famous Leshchenko Cabaret in Bucharest where he sang and danced tango…he longed to return to his beloved Russia but he and his wife were finally arrested accused of being counter-revolutionary sympathizers

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1931, May 31 – BIRTH OF JUAN CARLOS COPES

Dancer (Gemini) – during the dark period of military repression in the 1950s tango, which was associated with the overthrown Peronist regime, was repressed…tango artists were blackballed, jailed, many had to go into exile; lunfardo was banned, tango lyrics censured…Juan Carlos Copes however, was an untouchable…when he was performing, on one side of the theater were the military, on the other the mafia and in the middle the common people…Juan Carlos Copes was an institution with world-wide connections…his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was a resounding success; he was called back several times…he was the first to choreograph tango argentino on broadway…at the “cathedral of tango”, Cano 14, Juan Carlos Copes first began to put his choreographic ideas together, the knife fight between the neighborhood toughs, dancing on tables, tango among poor immigrants…these would become standard and be copied all over the world…Robert Duvall described him as “a rolls royce without a spedometer”

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He choreographed the renown “Maria De Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla…he starred in Carlos Saura’s academy award nominated “Tango” where he danced with his daughter Johanna…Juan Carlos Copes grew up listening to tango; his grandfather was the first professional tango flutist in history…he was planning a career as an electronic engineer when one day he shyly walked in to the milonga Parque Norte in his Villa Puerreydon neighborhood… it changed his life, he knew instantly that this is what he wanted to devote his life to against the vehement objections of his father…one fateful day, he and Nata, entered a dance contest but the judges chose their favorites as the winners; the crowd went wild with rage, the judges were forced to change their minds and award Juan and Nata first prize…later he would unfold his career with her sister Maria Nieves…sixty years later after a career of breathcatching breadth, he is still going strong.

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1933, April 27 – PREMIERE OF MOGLIA BARTH’S “TANGO”

Toward the end of the film, Alberto, played by singer Alberto Gomez, says to Elena played by Libertad Lamarque, “Now I love tango more than ever, all this life with you I owe to him….Elena responds, “and I too love tango, it is through a tango that I met you and with a tango I began to love you”…nevertheless as soon as Alberto finds out that his first love Tita is available he leaves Elena…in fact it was to presage Libertad’s real life which would be full of pain and disappointment with love…it was in this film that Tita Merello, a woman of many men, would meet actor Luis Sandrini, her only true love, but who after ten years of marriage, would leave her for a young woman…The success of this mythical film was due in large part to the stellar performances of these two legendary women of tango, Tita Merello and Libertad Lamarque, it was the cinematic debut for both of them…Libertad would go on to star in over forty films in her career; Tita in over forty five including the acclaimed “Mercado De Abasto”

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The lead male role is played by singer Alberto Gomez who was to have a great career singing all over the world even if he acting was atrocious…”Tango’s” all star cast made it possible for audiences to finally see the beloved singers and musicians which they knew from radio programs…the cast included singers Azucena Maizani, Mercedes Simone, the orchestras of Juan de Dios Filiberto, Osvaldo Fresedo and Edgardo Donato and dancer El Cachafaz…”Tango” was a trailblazer on a number of fronts; it was the first film of production company Argentina Sono Film, it was the first sound film in Argentina (using the new Movietone system on which both film and sound were on the same tape), it was the first sound film to use tango as it primary theme…Argentina Sono Film was the idea of director Luis Moglia Barth who went to his friend and colleague, businessman Angel Metasti with the idea…the studio was to have a long life producing films for various directors and branching into movie theaters and television well into the 2000s…

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2003, March 28 – PREMIERE “ASSASSINATION TANGO”

Tango has a power over the human soul like few things in existence…in “Assassination Tango” it changes a hired killer named “John” which is played by academy award winner Robert Duvall…”John” starts out as a hired cynical killer; when his client trys to tell him why they have ordered the hit on a despicable Argentinean general he essentially says, “Never mind, I don’t really care, I just want to do the job, get paid and get out of here”…but the general’s return to Argentina has been delayed and to pass the time he spends time with a beautiful dancer, “Manuela”, who introduces him to the fascinating world of tango…as he progressively gets into tango, it  begins to begins to change him…tango demonstrates similar transformative power in a another great film, “Scent of a Woman”, (1992) where in an explosive scene, a suicidal blind colonel played by Al Pacino, with a gun in hand, screams to his student assistant, “give me one reason not to”….the boy answers, “you dance tango better than anyone”…somehow this mysteriously snaps him out of his suicidal spiral and he begins the road to recovery…tango has even been found to be the best therapy for Parkinson’s patients

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Robert Duval fell in love with tango when he saw “Tango Argentino” on broadway around 1988…it became an obssessive hobby resulting in over thirty-eight trips to Argentina…in time he became an accomplished tango dancer; he once danced tango for President Clinton and guests at the White House…he had written the script  for Assassination Tango and essentially had left it in a drawer….Frances Ford Coppola, who had also been in the theater that fateful night to see Tango Argentino, urged Duvall to make the film and eventually Coppola produced it and financed it….In “Assassination Tango”, Robert Duvall writes, directs and acts; he stars with the alluring Luciana Pedraza who would become his wife ands is forty years younger than he…however, the critics were merciless, they slaughtered the film and it was a dismal failure at the box office…in its defense, it is entertaining and the tango dancing is  well staged; perhaps the best scene of all is the dance performed by Pablo Veron with Geraldine Riojas during the credits at the end of the film

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