Mar 25, 2015

PARADISO_A short history of the longest-running milonga in Toronto

In anticipation of Paradiso’s 18th anniversary on April 17, we want to share a history of our milonga with you, our patrons. Milonga Paradiso made its first (tango) steps at a small Italian restaurant In Citta in the heart of downtown on Toronto street in April 1997. It was born out of necessity of then small Toronto tango community to have a place to dance Argentine Tango on a regular basis. Fridays was a logical choice – we tried not to compete with another event that was held once a month on Saturdays those years. There at In Citta we first welcomed such prominent tango dancers as Carlos Gavito and Marcela Durán, Hernan Obispo and Mariana Dragone, Florencia Tachetti, Julio Mendez and others.

We felt comfortable at In Citta – that’s where we perfected the milonga running business: built it on example of Buenos Aires milongas. For the first time Toronto tango dancers danced to music set to tandas with cortinas. We outlived two consequent owners of the restaurant but, unfortunately, the third one had a vision for In Citta that was not conducive to have us there: he changed the name and made it into an after work noisy bar. He knew what to expect from tango – the idea of axis, balance and one-drink-a-night did not sit well with him. We were asked to practice our tango steps elsewhere.

We were disappointed to lose our familiar and cosy hangout but fate really wanted us to survive and expand: soon we found a funky loft on Richmond street, a 1100 sq. ft. cavernous space equipped with a heavy sliding barn door, exposed brick walls, tall windows and full of theatrical props and sets. We loved it and so did our patrons. “Paradiso on Richmond” was a cool and bohemian place, not unlike milonga La Catedral in Buenos Aires (we did not have two matching chairs, just like La Catedral!). For two happy years we didn’t mind dragging our stereo equipment and drinks to the 3rd floor without an elevator to our favourite loft, until we became victims of gentrification once again.
Like true tango nomads, we moved from place to place – from a strange theatre studio space on Eastern Avenue, to a converted church on Ontario street (where we painted floors and walls, as a part of our rental condition), to a Portuguese social club Lusitania on Ossington – until The Dovercourt House became our permanent home.

Over the years, we were fortunate to host incredible tango dancers and musicians in addition to ones already mentioned: Graciela Gonzalez, Milena Plebs, Susanna Miller, Enriqueta Kleinman and Ruben Harymbat (Ruben de Pompeya), Alberto Dassieu and Paulina Spinosa, l
ate Marta Anton and Manolo, Nelson Avila and Madalene, Elias Navas, Metin Yazir, Ramiro Gigliotti, Elina Roldan, Junior Cervilla and Mylène Pelletier, Grammy Award winner Raul Jaurena, the whole Buffalo Tango Orquestra, Sergio Cortazzo and Gachi Fernandez, Alejandro Hermida and others.

The most important thing – we met hundreds of tango dancers not only from Toronto, but from all over Canada, United States and all over the world who came to dance at Paradiso over the 18 years of Paradiso’s existence and is still the most fascinating part of our history.

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