Friday, April 18, 2008

Buenos Aires 2007 Part V

Dear Veronica,

It´s 2 a.m. on Monday morning and we have just got back from the milonga El Beso. Remember that guy with the blog that I had an online "debate" with regarding whether or not Geraldine loves her husband? Well, I finally met him, and to tell you the truth, I had a weird sixth sense that I would get to see him in El Beso. It's just the kind of milonga he'd like to hang out at.

We went to El Beso tonight to meet up with some new friends we had made at Glorias Argentinas last Saturday - Alberto Dassieu and his lovely wife Paulina. Alberto is one of the greatest living milonguero dancers - this is the conclusion that Man Yung and I have made after watching him on YouTube, in the show "Milonguismo" and on the dance floor, and also after taking a class with him on Friday. He really dispelled all that hogwash for us on the internet about the "Villa Urquiza" style - he is one of the very few people (alive) who dance this style, and many of the people who claim to be are actually not. Alberto put it this way: At any given night in Sunderland, which is the principal milonga of Villa Urquiza, out of 200 or 300 people dancing, only 5 will be actually true representatives of that style. Villa Urquiza is not a bunch of steps or adornments, even though it is being heavily marketed that way. It is more for Alberto a way of dancing with sentiment, really close to the music. When we watched on the dance floor at El Beso, he really showed an absolute continual contact with the music, it is really apparent when you compare him with all the adjacent dancers - with the other dancers, there are always breaks, choppiness in the musical expression, while Alberto dances a continuous, unbroken line. He is an amazing dancer, I feel so lucky to have a chance to dance with him not only because I enjoy dancing him him, but just dancing with him is educational. Man Yung got to dance with his wife Paulina and she is amazing too, he has never danced with someone so "grounded" but also so responsive to the lead as well. I am glad that finally Man Yung has danced with a really good dancer so that I can find out what kind of feeling I should be aiming for. I really have to thank Alberto for dancing with me the first night we arrived because after that, I am able to dance close embrace - no amount of watching videos or trying stuff on my own would have helped me as much as those 3 songs we danced.

Alberto is really too good to be true. I think I mentioned that we had dinner with him on Thursday night at a Parillada called “La Taberna” very close to the Congreso - and we had a really great conversation with him and his wife about tango (despite my so-so spanish, but they were very patient). They are very knowledgeable and fun, and gave us copies of DVDs with Alberto´s performances as gifts. After dinner, Alberto told us we have to go to his house, it is an invitation to dance tango, and he will get his assistant Eva to dance with Man Yung and correct him in a couple of things. We asked them about paying but Alberto refused to discuss at all.

Well, we were waiting for the "punchline", you know when something happens that shows you that it is too good to be true? Being cynical, we thought, "Oh no, he´s going to ask us to pay like a thousand bucks!"

Then the following day, we went to his apartment which is on the top floor in the oldest building in Abasto. It is a really lovely building elegant building, over a hundred years old, very close to a big famous mall called the Abasto Shopping Centre. We didn´t know what would be the proper thing to do, because the question of money was still up in the air, so we bought two very nice red Argentinian wines for him as a gift just in case (you know Man Yung likes to be prepared).

Alberto’s apartment is really beautifully decorated with mementos from his and Paulina’s trips, old books, and photos of his family and friends like Carlos Gavito and students. The main room is dedicated for tango classes – the floor is a red polished tile and there’s plenty of space for private classes.

Alberto arranged for his assistant Eva - an incredibly beautiful, young, lovely argentinian girl (!!!!) - to dance with Man Yung to correct his posture and find out what is wrong with his lead. And we got to film him dancing with me as well, and he gave me some really good pointers about technique that has helped me a lot in these few days. He gave us a signed large colour photo of him at an exhibition. After the absolutely outstanding private class, we asked him about how much we owed him and he still refused to discuss the question, in fact I think he was a little bit offended about it, but he realized that we would feel bad taking up his time, so we came to an agreement - 100 pesos, but he insisted that we must not pay for this class. It was the next class we are taking, which is tomorrow, that we pay, but not because he wanted us to pay but only so that everyone would feel comfortable about the situation.

Normally, it would be at least $100.00 US (or 300 pesos) for one hour private class, and Alberto was prepared to teach without payment as he considered us to be his friends! He even invited us to go to an area called Tigre for a fishing trip for the next day, but we can´t, we had to go to M& M´s seminars at the Galerias Pacifico. Well, to be able to meet up with such a well respected, expert dancer of the old school and be treated like friends in such a short time is absolutely astounding and totally not what we expected. We still can´t believe it is true.

Anyway, back to El Beso: It is much better than La Nacional in that the people are a lot more calm when they dance, but still at least 50% tourists. At around midnight to 1 a.m. the floor is really crowded, much more than we have seen in Toronto. I really felt Man Yung navigate the floor well in these conditions, he is really the best person to dance with on a crowded floor, and you know how critical I am of him all the time. Well, even Paulina said that Man Yung "drives" well on the dance floor, and I am pretty proud of him for that!

Alberto and Paulina left at around midnight because Paulina has to work the next day (she is a professor of philosophy and psychology at one of the Universities here) and she has to start work at 8 a.m. After they left, I recognized a short Asian guy on the floor that looked like ________ the blog guy I had the “heated disagreement” with. Anyway, I figured it must be him because of the resemblance with the photo on the blog, and the fact he was dancing exactly like Javier Rodriguez, who is his idol and his current teacher. Well, Man Yung arranged to "bump" into him on the dance floor to get a chance to talk to him and yes, it was him. So we talked to him a little bit and very courteously he asked "short, stocky, middle-aged, non-flaquita with glasses" me to dance (it seemed that he had only been dancing with all the tall, shapely flaquitas with the four inch Comme Il Fauts). He is a good dancer, Javier has taught him well, but I felt he was making too much effort in imitating Javier. From his perfectly rigid stick straight posture with the "ever so slightly" protruding behind, the “feel how soft and dreamy it is!” embrace and the way he moved and executed “these are the absolutely correct, appropriate and proper steps for Buenos Aires Milongas”, he was trying to do no wrong and replicate exactly what he had been taught. Where's the LIFE??? I felt like I was dancing with a Javier clone rather than a real flesh and blood person. From our conversation it seemed that Javier and Andrea (and perhaps once in a blue moon, Javier’s bad blood with Geraldine) are his entire tango world – he hasn’t even heard of Martha and Manolo!

As for what has been happening the rest of the weekend, I have been trying to obey your command to take lots of photos, today we have taking quite a few of the hotel bathroom for your viewing pleasure :) As you know we have been very impressed with the size of the bathroom and have spent many happy hours there (just joking! But actually showers are so absolutely necessary in this humid hot weather). We finished up with the Camicando classes on Thursday (We have photos to prove how gross Man Yung was with sweat after the classes) and on Friday night we went to the closing milonga at Confiteria Ideal, where we performed Canyengue (!) I couldn´t wait to tell Bryant and Faye that the reason we never perform in Toronto because we were waiting for our BIG debut at Confiteria Ideal ;) . It was a very nice closing milonga, there were a lot of tourists but people were slightly less crazy than at La Nacional, and it was really great seeing M& M and Osvaldo and Coca perform to live music by Tubatango. By the way it was Osvaldo´s birthday as well, Man Yung sent over a champagne which he promptly enjoyed by pouring everyone a glass. We really like how happy Osvaldo is, he really appreciates the good fortune that has been his since he won the Tango Salon Mundial, and really, it would be great to live his philosophy of life which is either ¨thumbs up¨or ¨two thumbs up¨, anyway, he is a very positive person.

Last night we were back at Glorias Argentinas and for us it is the best milonga we´ve been to on this trip - the people were so friendly to us, recognized us, spent time chatting and joking around with us and I even got invited to dance again by a very old milonguero regular at the milonga.

I felt really honored that he liked us and he would ask me to dance. A big shot famous Villa Urquiza couple were at the milonga with their direct students who were scheduled to perform - consisting of a young argentinian and a young japanese couple. They also had a big posse of some other asian students. For some strange reason the “Maestros” looked sour and grouchy and their direct students had this "nose in the air" attitude that they were much better than the locals and they were doing them a favour by going out to Mataderos to perform, and they couldn’t be bothered to stoop and “mix” with the locals. Our friend the milonguero didn´t even clap for the first couple and looked quite disgusted.

I guess we must be doing something right, because people were so nice to us at Glorias Argentinas. It didn’t matter that we didn’t dance “Villa Urquiza” or “Milonguero style” or whatever other label is trendy these days, or that we weren’t “performers” or “technically perfect” or “direct students of famous maestros” – at Glorias Argentinas we were considered friends and not strangers.

During the day on Saturday and Sunday we went to M&M´s intensive seminar on Canyengue and Milonga Fantasia. Not because we wanted to learn more, or practice more - as you can imagine we are dead tired from going out at night and all the classes at the festival - but because we wanted to spend as much time with them as possible before we leave Bs As. We really didn´t expect to absorb much more but the time spent was very productive and rewarding. The seminars were held at the Escuela de Tango at the Galerias Pacifico (really nice food court, by the way – real food, not just Wendy’s and McDonald’s)

When we knew about the seminar we knew that since we are so close to M&M there was no way getting out of it and we resigned ourselves to going. All in all, we had thought we were going to have a fairly slow paced and relaxing vacation, and instead we have been taking way too many classes and just having too much on our schedule. We were glad to go though, there were only about 5 couples including us and we get the sense M& M loves having us around, not only because we try to take care of them, but also because they are proud to tell everyone that we are their students!

But I did buy more shoes! Three more pairs of Comme Il Faut. The shoe tally: Six pairs of Comme Il Faut for me, with one pair of practice shoes from Tango Brujo, and Man Yung has one practice pair, one Neotango pair, and two PH Tango pairs. We also got some CDs of D Agostino and Rodriguez that I´ll make copies of for you. We haven´t bought much of anything else, the prices I guess are reasonable here but mainly we are focusing on tango things.

We really enjoyed our time so far on this trip, it has been very rewarding in terms of the time we spent with people we like, and the places we have been, and things about tango that we have been able to confirm, and the stuff that we have learned. Man Yung still misses the kitties though, I wonder if he would be able to tear himself away from home to come again next year?

Well, only a couple more days until we are back (please God no more delays or cancelled flights!)

Take care and see you soon,


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