now live in Puerto Vallarta. After over 56 years living, traveling and working together and almost 30 years in the embrace of tango, the Garveys are introducing their passion to Mexico’s most charming overgrown village.
Most of Al and Barbara’s marriage was spent in Fairfax, California, about 18 miles north of San Francisco, in an 90-year old house centered around a dance floor and its Tango Bar. They have visited 36 countries, lived for extensive periods of time in Paris, Mallorca and Israel, and experienced the magic of Buenos Aires as well as the Sinai, Sahara and Baja California deserts. They built the first Japanese-style communal bath in their patio and invited their friends, thus initiating California’s hot tub culture. Before tango their dance experience included ten years of Greek folk dancing followed by a vintage period inspired by the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra.
THEIR LIVES IN TANGO
The first time Barbara saw the show Tango Argentino, on a business trip to New York in 1985, she called Al from the hotel to say “I’ve just seen what we’re going to do the rest of our lives”.
A year later, the touring company of Tango Argentino had come and gone from San Francisco, leaving behind a small but enthusiastic group of aficionados. Barbara continued to actively promote all tango activity in the area, developing a mailing list and information center to support a growing community of teachers, students and entrepreneurs.
In the spring of 1987, Al and Barbara were among the first Norteamericanos to travel to Buenos Aires in search of tango. On that first trip they were fortunate to meet the legendary Fino Ribera and take a lesson from him, only a few weeks before his untimely death. This encounter clarified dramatically for them the distinction between salon-style, or social tango, and the exhibition version, tango-for-export, to which they had been introduced by cast members of Tango Argentino.
Back in the States, looking for a proponent of social tango, they discovered Orlando Paiva, a milonguero of exceptional elegance, then resident in Los Angeles. They invited him to present a series of workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area. After his return to Argentina, they continued to organize seminars in Northern California for Danel & Maria Bastone of New York, and Michael Walker & Luren Bellucci of Los Angeles, Orlando’s proteges.
On a number of subsequent journeys to Buenos Aires they studied with many other leading maestros, among them Roberto Grassi, “El Pibe del Abasto”, Pupi Castello, Graciela Gonsalez, and Lampazo. In 1991 they met Nito & Elba Garcia in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and, through the auspices of friends Hector & Ana Villalba, brought them to California for the first time, launching their world-wide teaching career.
As the Northern California tango community grew to the largest in the US, keeping up with all its activities prompted the founding, in 1995, of the non-profit Bay Area Argentine Tango Association. This organization serves as an inspirational clearing house for all, hosting events and maintaining a communication network for all tango-related classes, dances, workshops, exhibitions etc. from Carmel to Santa Rosa.
Al and Barbara have performed and taught tango over a period of almost 25 years, but think of themselves as milongueros and tangueros, interested in all aspects of its culture, from the dance to language, literature, music, history and philosophy.
AND OUTSIDE OF TANGO
Professionally, Al is a Renaissance man; his artistic breadth extends from drawing and painting to fine printmaking, graphic and architectural design and woodworking. For decades he created works of art in the form of one-of-a-kind entry doors for unique homes throughout the Bay Area. Now retired from DoorWays, Al is immersed in oil painting, the creation of digital portraits and designing a new home.
Barbara was one of the three founders, and later president, of Folkwear Patterns, a clothing pattern company that reproduces ethnic and vintage garments. Folkwear continues to thrive, serving the contemporary sewer under new ownership. In Mexico Barbara studies guitar and joins Al in teaching tango and house-planning . The Garveys can be found almost any day in their beautiful home, overlooking the original old town of Puerto Vallarta and the magnificent Bahia de Banderes, ready and willing to welcome any Tanguero who comes to visit paradise.
Abrazos, Al and Barbara