Carmencita - never too old to tango!

Post date: Dec 1, 2014 1:56:13 AM

The great tanguera Carmencita Calderón, the partner of Él Cachafaz' was living proof of this!

You can see her performing here with Juan Averna. Now deceased, Camencita was 95 years old in this performance!

And here's Carmencita dancing a milonga at the age of 96!  Her passion for the dance and the sharpness of her dancing at such an elderly age is truly astonishing and inspiring!

Here's what I discovered about Carmencita, thanks to my trusted friend Mr Wikipedia... 

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Carmencita was born on 10 February 1905  into a poor Italian immigrant family.  Her name at birth was Carmen Micaela Riso de Cancellieri but she chose Calderón (the name of her maternal grandmother) as her stage name. She grew up in the iconic tango barrio of Villa Urquiza in Buenos Aires. When Carmencita was 13 years old her mother died, leaving her, an older brother, and two younger sisters. 

At the age of 13 years Carmecita began learning to dance tango at home under the guidance of her brother, Eduardo.  In 1932 she accompanied her sisters to a local dance at the Club 'Sin Rumbo' in Villa Urquiza. It was here that she met and danced with José Giambuzzi (better known as 'Tarila') who subsequently introduced her to 'El Cachafaz'1.  His real name was Ovidio José Bianquet, and he was also known as 'Don Benito'.  The following day she was introduced to Carlos Gardel at the Bar Corrientes.

Impressed by her dancing, El Cachafaz invited her to be his dance partner. They danced together for ten years in various productions. Together they created a unique style of tango which featured "sentadas, corridas y cortes" (sits, runs and breaks). 

Carmencita and El Cachafaz dancing in 1933 

Carmencita and El Cachafaz debuted with the Pedro Maffia Orchestra at the Teatro de San Fernando in 1933. She also appeared alongside El Cachafaz in  her first sound movie '¡Tango!' in 1933.  In 1940 she performed in the film 'Carnaval de Antaño' partnering Florencio Parravicini, whom she was introduced to by Carlos Gardel. She went on various tours including Francisco Canaro's show 'La Historia del Tango'.

Carmencita's  final appearance with El Cachafaz was in Mar del Plata on 7 February 1942. He died of a heart attack in her arms shortly after a performance. 

"We had finished our performance and I went to a room with the owner to listen to a soccer game between Argentina and Uruguay. All of a sudden, he appeared and told me: “Carmencita, I´ll be waiting for you to drink half a glass of whisky after the match.” – he always addressed to me formally. Soon afterwards a woman came in shouting to say that don Benito was lying on the courtyard. When I saw him lying on the ground I thought it was only a fall. 55 years have already passed." (Carmencita) 2

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Carmencita and Él Cachafaz'

After her partner's death in 1942 Carmencita continued making appearances. She danced at the Palermo Palace with the Ángel D'Agostino Orchestra, with singer Ángel Vargas. In 1969 she appeared in the musical film 'Tango Argentino'.

After the death of Ángel Vargas she continued dancing with other partners including Pibe Palermo and Juan Averna, in the 'El Abrojito' club, on Alsina street. The Buenos Aires Legislature paid tribute to her in 2001, at 96 years old, for her role in popularising the dance of tango. In 2002 she was again honoured at the Teatro Colón and at the IV Festival Buenos Aires Tango, where she danced with Juan Carlos Copes.

To mark her 100th birthday, Carmencita performed a milonga with Miguel Angel Zotto as her partner. This was her final public performance. This event also featured an exhibit of her outfits and unreleased videos of her life. A few months afterwards, on 31 October 2005, Carmencita died of pneumonia, in the district of Villa Lugano, Buenos Aires. Her remains were cremated at the Chacarita cemetery.

Here's more about Carmencita from another trusted source - Todo Tango:

"Carmencita transmitted a tango of the time when people used to whistle and hum in the streets and when her mother sang while washing clothes in the basin. A kind of tango walked on the Buenos Aires dance floors with neither hooks nor spectacular jumps, but with an untransferable hug, unique, sliding one's soles on the floor, with no sweet words or lustful hugs, because above all the main thing was dancing and feeling the bandoneon playing of El Gordo (Troilo), the piano touch of El Tuerto (Di Sarli) or D'Arienzo's beat...

Trained in popular schools, dance halls and local clubs, her body language was unique, full of feeling and a gallant simplicity that is not learnt in academies. She was neither wife nor mistress of the mythical Cacha, who always addressed her respectfully, even though he was 16 years older. She never practiced a choreography beforehand! And she used to recall her mother as her secret teacher: "She always told me: Raise your head and don't look at the floor, and she corrected my posture. She died at age 39, very poor, and my father died without knowing that I was a tango dancer because that was severely criticized then.""3

1According to the lunfardo dictionary by Adolfo Enrique Rodríguez, cachafaz, means: rascal, shameless, insolent, rogue, idler. I hope, for Carmencita's sake, he didn't live up to his name!

2 Source: Todo Tango

3 Source: Todo Tango