Monday, September 8, 2014


Life is not complicated.  The best advice is the most simple advice.

In personal finance matters, no doubt everyone has heard the advice: "Spend less than you earn".  Yet, levels of personal debt are always reaching new record highs and a third to almost half of Canadians are living paycheck to paycheck.

In terms  of personal health, everyone knows that in order to lose weight, you have to "Eat less calories, exercise more".  Three years ago, I lost fifteen pounds over a year's time and kept the weight off since then by simply not snacking, drinking water instead of sweetened drinks, eating balanced meals, and by being less sedentary.  I didn't have to attempt any fad diet, do any bootcamp exercise or try risky diet pills.  It worked for me, but when a friend of mine asked me for my secrets and I told her what I did to slim down, she stared at me in disbelief.  "What, no snacking?  Not even a little bit?  You can't NOT SNACK!"  It was like I was asking her to give up her firstborn.

In Tango, the best teachers give simple advice.   As Osvaldo and Coca always say to us, "LISTEN TO THE MUSIC!" and "BE MORE GENTLE!"

"WHAT?!???!!  I don't have to pay a million dollars, or waste time on hundreds of hours of private classes, or listen to bullshit metaphysical lectures by half-baked tango 'professionals' mixing post-modern philosophical theories with exotic eastern spiritual concepts for the secret of dancing Tango well?"

Yes, we are giving away the secret for free!  BUT IT WON'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE to 99.999% of Tango dancers anyway!  Everyone in Tango has probably heard one time or another the same kind of advice, and yet why are dance floors all over the world replete with dancers who are dancing like they are DEAF, who are also violently shoving their partners to and fro big manic grins on their faces?

The answer is simple.

It is easier to succumb to pressure of keeping up with the Joneses and buy the latest gadgets, handbags, clothes, dream cars, dream houses, and live the lifestyle you can't afford filled with expensive restaurant meals, daily gourmet lattes, and frequent luxury travel so you can fit in with your friends and acquaintances who are also doing the same thing and not saving a penny towards emergencies or retirement.

It is easier to satisfy your cravings for sweet or crunchy or convenient foods laden with empty calories and sit and watch marathon hours of tv and gain five pounds a year than to be active and eat right.

It is easier to disregard the music because you are too busy showing off all the steps (totally unsuited in a crowded milonga setting, by the way, but you were too busy showing off to notice) you have paid good money to learn at seminars or plundered off Youtube.  What is skipping a beat or two when you can draw attention to yourself and feel like a superstar?  It is easier to fling your partner around like a rag doll instead of treating her with respect and learning how to lead her properly and communicate with her.  You can push and pull her with all your might, no need to treat her like a flesh and blood person with feelings when it is easier to manipulate an object!

I tell you, the world is mad, mad, mad and people are crazy, crazy, crazy not to follow the simple advice to make things better.  Instead of doing things simple but right, people complicate things with their excuses and delusions and that's when things go wrong.

Over the weekend, we were assaulted on the dance floor by a leader who thinks he is an absolute hot-shot.  He has been terrorizing the dance floor for months with reckless tailgating, hazardous movements, weaving in and out of lines of dance and leading his partners into high boleos and kicks.  Every one we have talked to shake their heads when we bring up this guy.  Some have said, "I have been trying to get out of his way all night! I don't want a collision or to get my partner hurt!"  Others shrug their shoulders in exasperation, "What's up with him, is he nuts doing all that dangerous stuff on the dance floor?"

The guy tailgated us and led his partner into the usual dangerous high kicks and boleos.  We don't want to get sliced by his partner's stilettos so we told him to stop and control his movements, but he acted like he had every right in the world to do what he did.  Despite the warning, he tailgated us AGAIN in the next tanda and this time, he kicked me in the shins.  When we confronted him with this, his response was "What's the fuss?  YOU'RE JUST JEALOUS OF ME!"

Talk about staring in disbelief when we heard him blurt this out!  Any sane person would be embarrassed if they were dancing like this guy.  If we danced like this asshole we would want to COMMIT SUICIDE and all our teachers would disown us!  Instead of moving smoothly with cadence, he was always a furious frenzy of jerks and tics and twitchy spins.  Instead of dancing to the music, he was too busy shaking his booty and doing a tap dance to care about the beat.  Instead of embracing, he pushed his partners outwards so he could have space to execute his big flashy movements while staring with admiration at his feet!  Don't even talk to us about emotion, because for all his emoting "LOOK AT ME, I AM (SERIOUSLY) DANCING TANGO" - there was NONE.  He was too busy starring in his own internal "Tango Extravaganza Show" to be DANCING TANGO.

You would think it would be simple to respect others on the dance floor, to dance with care and not do anything that injures or may injure others...well, we have found out that the answer is NOPE!  It is IMPOSSIBLE - when you are too enthralled by your illusions of self-grandeur!

It is easier to self-inflate and believe you are dancing like the second coming of Pablo Veron...than to actually dance well.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Good or Bad?

Come on, admit it....this kind of thing in Tango used to make you cry (and not because you thought it was bad, but because you thought it was good!)

We were asked by a beginner of Tango recently - how can we tell who is a good dancer, and who is a bad dancer?

Our beginner friend pointed to a couple on the floor she felt were good dancers.  "What about them?  They look very good on the dance floor."

"They only look good because they are young, tall, athletic, good looking and skinny and they do a lot of movements, but in my opinion, they aren't really 'good' at Tango.  Look at how the girl is kicking up her heels and how the guy is occupying enough space for ten couples with his movements and how what they are doing has nothing to do with the music and there is absolutely no emotion in their dancing....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

In the middle of pointing out why this couple "looks good, but isn't really that good," I fell asleep out of sheer boredom of having to explain again what is good or bad in Tango. And as I slept, I had dreamy (nightmarish?) flashbacks of Tango we once thought was good....

The elegant local couple who moved Man Yung to tears with their rendition of "Nochero Soy".  The interpretation of "Recuerdo" by Juan Carlos Copes in the movie "Tango" that sent shivers down my spine.  The summer all the Toronto Tangueras fought tooth and nail to dance with the visiting Fabio because we thought that he and his "Tango" was the best thing since sliced bread.  The year we watched every one of our Cosmotango DVDs at least once a week because, gosh golly, what a treasure trove of REAL tango they were!

Of course, now we are all experienced and cynical and we can see all the faults of the things we once admired:

"Lacks music and emotion!"
"Completely choreographed and unsuitable for the dance floor!"
"Dressed like a bum and instead of leading, he shoved!"
"Lacks music and emotion, completely choreographed, lots of shoving instead of leading, and if anyone danced like that on the dance floor, they are looking for a thrashing (or at least, a lot of evil eye)."

Sometimes (and only sometimes), we wish were still caught in our little time warp of naivete.  We may be embarrassed now about the things in Tango we used to adore, but Tango dancers should have a time in their Tango lives when Tango is all wonderful, like a world made up totally of unicorns and rainbows.  Hardened veterans can give little snippets of crucial advice (like, "Tangueras, keep your heels on the floor so you don't kick anyone on purpose or by mistake!" and "Tangueros, don't tailgate and take up all the lanes in the line of dance!"), but on the whole, it is best to let the newcomers enjoy the process of their evolution.  Otherwise how else can you blackmail them with the sordid details of their past Tango preferences when finally, they inevitably blossom into expert international Tango Professionals/Luminaries?

I woke up from my refreshing nap.  Our beginner friend had just returned to the table grimacing and nursing a big bruise on her shin.

"What happened?" I asked.

"I got kicked on the dance floor by those guys!" She pointed to a couple on the dance floor still bouncing backwards and forwards frenetically and knocking into bystanders like they were the ping-pong ball and it was 999th level of Pong.

The perfect illustration.  "Now you know for sure what is good and what is bad in Tango.  Couples who have kicked you or may potentially kick you while you are dancing:  Definitely Bad.  Couples who have not kicked you and don't look like they are doing anything that may kick anyone: Good!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tango dancing with the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young

Recently, there has been a deluge of fresh, young(ish) followers in Toronto with long legs, sky-high stilettos and high-slit skirts.  The Bimbangueros/Tangorimbos have been piling one on top of another as they trip in haste to dance with these beauties...

"Delightful!" you say.  "Toronto Tango is definitely in need of fresh blood.  You are lucky to have such heavenly creatures in your Tango community. They look so SMASHING together!"

Ha ha, "Smashing" is the right word to describe what they are doing - the Bimbangueros charge recklessly up and down the dance floor while their wonderful partners use every opportunity to foot flick, knee lift, back kick and heel gouge in all directions.

"Once, I was sitting in the corner of the room at a milonga minding my own business (and surfing the 'net on my smartphone) when one of these dangerous seething masses torpedoed down the line of dance.  I thought, 'No way they are going to hit me, I'm huddled in the corner here with all my legs and arms tucked in' but I was wrong.  She kicked me with a back boleo - and didn't even say sorry!  Well, she didn't say sorry at first - until I kicked her back with a pissed off look on my face."

"Good job, Irene!" said Man Yung.  "If more people spoke up - or in your case, kicked back - when they are assaulted on the dance floor by people dancing dangerously, maybe these dancers will become more self-aware, less reckless and more considerate."

"Hey Man Yung, sometimes you ask ladies to dance before you see how they are dancing (you crazy man you!).  Have you ever danced with someone who looked perfectly normal and civilized when you cabeceo'd her but who turned into the 'Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young' once you embraced her in your arms?"

Where are these high-kicking gals from?  From Europe?  From Outer Space?  Mais non!  
They are the product of your local Tango School of the money-grubbing inconsiderate and reckless instructors.  Rather than curbing the rash enthusiasm of their numerous prodigy, they say nothing so these gals will continue to attend their classes and milongas.  They may even teach by example and kick quite a few people on the dance floor themselves!

"Oh, do you mean Shub-Niggurath, the perverse Cthulhu-mythos Outer God with the menacing tentacles and the explosion of countless writhing goat legs?"

"Yep, that's it.  I know you are too much of a gentleman to dump her mid-Tango or mid-tanda.  What do you do to minimize the damage she may inflict on the couples around you?  Do you just keep your distance from the other couples?"

"Keeping a good distance so her back boleos won't dig into any one's flesh is a good idea, but it may not always be possible if the floor is crowded.  What I try to do is not to lead anything that would give her the opportunity to lift her heels off the floor.  No boleos.  No ganchos.  No enganches.  Any leader who has been dancing for a while can feel when they've picked one of these ladies who can't keep their heels on the floor.  The lady would be all jittery and twitchy and just itching to launch a big high kick if you give her half a chance.   The unruly stuff you see on the dance floor isn't done just by the follower alone - their partners have encouraged them to execute dangerous movements by leading those movements."

"But Man Yung, you underestimate the power of a determined (rabid) adornista.  I have seen leaders leading perfectly innocuous back ochos and giros - but have them converted into weapons of destruction by ladies who hook their feet up behind them before stepping down.  If they are anywhere near a person that uplifted stiletto heel won't be slicing air - it would be slicing someone's shin!"

Man Yung shrugged.  "In that case, the leader could do nothing but walk.  And pause.  And pause even more.  It's funny, but the more you try to tire an zealous adornista out with more movements, the more energetic and ebullient they become.  Do exactly the opposite, don't move very much or at all, and they may even fall asleep!"*

* Man Yung says, "I still think it is the leader's fault, maybe they should observe first and not dance with a follower who is dangerous on the dance floor.  However, I understand that some ladies are irresistible to some leaders due to their looks or their sexy attire, and leaders will want to dance with them even at the risk of hurting others on the dance floor.  You know what, I STILL THINK it is the leader's fault - what can be so irresistible that you will cooperate in assault?  Haven't you guys seen a woman before? So immature!"

Alberto Dassieu


Roxina and Adrian Canyengueros


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