Friday, July 11, 2008

Fitting in with the "Natives"

Tango Gringos/as, we really sympathize with you, we really do.

Going to Buenos Aires for the first (or second, or third, or thirty-fifth!) time is truly a bewildering experience. A whole different system, a whole different culture! All those people speaking spanish so rapidly! All those pesky "codigos" you have to worry about in the milonga - when ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS "BOOGIE LIKE THERE IS NO TOMORROW" (Sorry, I mean DANCE TANGO).

You feel otracized, you feel like people are looking at you strangely, and the worst thing is, PEOPLE WON'T DANCE WITH YOU. You feel that everyone knows the "Secret Handshake" and they have very cruelly omitted to tell you.

Never fear, Irene and Man Yung feel for your plight, and we hereby present:


1. Be Prepared. Be Very, Very Prepared.

It's one thing to be grooving at your local milonga, where you are already King of the Hill/Queen of the Heap, everyone knows your name and the Champale (or Bud Light) is sparkling and always ready on ice for you at the best table in the room.

It's another thing entirely to be in a BUENOS AIRES MILONGA, where you are not even minor nobility, let alone Milonga King or Queen, when people are just refusing to acknowledge your existence. Obviously they have not had the time to truly appreciate your specially-ordered, carefully-assembled, "Forever Tango"-sanctioned tango regalia, nor have they seen all the fascinating moves/steps/adornments/floleo boleos you have been diligently been copying from YouTube.

All we can say, you must over-compensate for this woeful situation by being PREPARED. And by that, we mean VERY, VERY PREPARED. There's nothing like being prepared for everything and anything to make you feel like one cool cat, a total RICO SUAVE.

Extra tango shoes? Check. Different outerwear for 20 degree, 10 degree, and sub-zero temperature weather? Check. At least three different pairs of Crocs? Check. Four changes of shirt, pants and underwear? Check. Entire set of toiletries, including blow dryer, extra deodorant, soap and shampoo? Check. Portable GPS system just in case you get lost getting back to the hotel? Check.

The key is, DON'T HAUL YOUR GEAR IN PLASTIC GARBAGE BAGS (please see our previous post for our enlightening comments on this issue). Do you want the Argentinians to laugh at you?

What you need is top-of-the-line prestige travel lugguge, and you are all set! It is easy to hide all your gear underneath the table - just VERY POLITELY tell the Argentinians sitting nearby to move a little out of the way so that they will not step/trip/get their stilettos caught in all the straps of your backpack.

Or, if you want to be extra prepared, we have the following idea for you:

All your gear, safely secured by Pac-Safe exomesh and chained to any immovable fixture in the room! You may even want to pack your hiking shoes, yoga mat and sleeping bag within the mesh as shown in the handy informative illustration. The Argentinians will definitely be impressed with your confidence (you have nothing to hide), your ingenuity (WTF is that, man? It is Pac-Safe!), and you can boogie all night and not give a second thought to the security of all your worldly goods.

2. Carry your own personal translation device

As you may have realized by now, Argentinians speak a lot of Spanish. Why so many of them have not bothered to learn English is a mystery, because, as all gringos/as know, EVERYONE should learn English.

We know that you have tried out of "respect" for Argentinian culture to learn a few handy Spanish phrases (don't be ashamed to admit it, we've seen that Barron's travel phrasebook peeking out somewhere in that Pac-Safe exomesh) - but why do Argentinians look so confounded when you open your mouth, and stubbornly refuse to understand what the hell you are saying? All you want to do is ask them to dance! It's not like you are trying to explain the theory of relativity.

Put down that Spanish phrasebook immediately - you will only confuse your listener and yourself. Let us let you in on a secret.

The key to making foreigners understand you is simply to speak ENGLISH. BUT LOUDER.

The decibel level of your voice is directly proportional to the level of understanding you will achieve in your listener. Let us give you an example:

If you say,

"Please, please dance with me."

You will get bewildered looks and zero response.

However, if you say:

"DANCE WITH ME NOW, (insert your own expletive)!!!!!!!"

Argentinians will be tripping over their feet to get on the dance floor with you.

Following that logic, you should not need a fancy-dancy electronic "Spanish to English" and "English to Spanish" translation gadget to navigate the murky dangerous waters of BUENOS AIRES MILONGAS, all you need is this:

Be sure to get the same model used by S.W.A.T. teams everywhere around the world to assist them in resolving hostage-taking situations. Not only will your loudspeaker be well made, durable, handy, and bullet-proof, you will now be able to ask people to dance not only from the tables around you, but from right across the room, and perhaps even from the milonga down the street!

You will spark a trend and before you know it, everyone will be asking other people to dance using a loudspeaker. Who needs "cabeceo" when you have one of these?

3. Bring Sneakers

Dancing Tango is tough on your feet. Especially when you have been cramming all the private classes, group classes and milongas you can fit in your tight three week Buenos Aires schedule. Tango from 9 a.m. in the morning to 5 a.m. the next day is HELL on your arches.

Luckily, the footwear engineers at Adidas, Nike, Reebok and other sportswear companies have spent millions of dollars to conduct decades of research in order to ensure the continued podiatric health of their consumers. It is a well-known fact that state-of-the-art, comfortable and functional footwear is mass-produced by children in third world countries who really need the jobs and widely available at very reasonable prices.

In addition, did you know that contemporary Tango Gringos/as have chosen to participate in the "Forbidden Dance" at just the right time in tango history? Due to the style-setting trends of MASTER dancers like Chicho Frumboli, Fabian Salas and 95% of the cast of Cosmotango, the pivotal question is no longer "Where should I change my shoes at the milonga?" but "What kind of sneaker should I wear at the milonga?"

For the ladies, this is also an option:

Your feet will thank you for all that extra arch support (and quite possibly thank you even more than for bringing your Crocs, because as everyone knows, Crocs are ugly and you can't dance in them). And there's nothing like a little sneaker to enable the intensive leading skills you have been practicing with all your buddies at your local milonga! Again, the Argentinians will be tremendously impressed.

4. Method Acting

Did you know that Marlon Brando once convincingly played the character of an Okinawan villager for an entire movie? And that he was equally convincing playing the character of famous Mexican rebel Emiliano Zapata in another?

To what did he owe his astonishing, trans-cultural feats of thespiatic glory?


And now you can use it too to fit in the culture of the BUENOS AIRES MILONGA.

Feel like the wait-staff are ignoring you? You have been waiting 15 minutes and no-one has taken your order, or you have been waiting 15 minutes since you have ordered and still no-one has brought you your pizza?

Do you feel the humiliation? Do you feel the neglect? Does it bring back memories of your childhood?

CHANNEL your inner rage with METHOD ACTING, and feel free to jump up and down in your seat, wave your hands in the air, scream and yell your frustration, throw stuff at the waiters to get their attention, and leave no tip!

Or perhaps you really feel the music, you really do. And you really want the world to see what you look like in the throes of tango passion, because then they will all be running, not walking to get a piece of what is YOU.

Can we recommend a little METHOD ACTING? A little bit of this never hurt anyone!

5. Make yourself at HOME

By now, you may have realized that all the aforegoing tips and tricks have been careful compiled by "yours trulys" to make you realize that, to fit in the BUENOS AIRES MILONGAS, the point is the point raised by every self-help book and personal motivational speaker since the beginning of time.

Repeat the following mantras: "Be Yourself", "Be Confident", and last but not least, "Make Yourself at Home".

The Tango Gringos/as who have the best time in the BUENOS AIRES MILONGAS, who always "fit in" and get the most dances, are the ones who treat the milonga like their very own home. Who can deny the confidence of those dancers who sit on the sides after a lengthy dance session, placing their bare tired feet on the surrounding chairs and airing them out as if they were in their own living rooms? And the raging attractiveness of all those lovely gringo tangueras, talking loudly on their cellphones with their legs stretched out and knees assertively spread and splayed in a nonchalant, devil-may-care manner?

Such seasoned Gringo Tango veterans have even been known to pay visits to Toronto at our humble annual tango festival to teach Toronto dancers a thing or too about "HOME-making" skills. At the very first one, we saw amazing sights like: people dancing WITHOUT shoes, leaders dancing in Bermuda SHORTS, people lying down for a NAP on the dance floor, and people eating McDonalds and discarding their used up water bottles, coffee cups and napkins EVERYWHERE. Just as if they were at HOME.

Even Man Yung and I were totally IMPRESSED.

6. "Oh, what the hell! What's so important about fitting in?"

For those out there for whom the task of "fitting in" with the culture of BUENOS AIRES MILONGAS is just too much of a chore, no worries and do not fret.

Buenos Aires is a big city, there's all sorts of people everywhere, and all kinds of places, and surely, there is a spot somewhere in all that space where you can just BELONG.

Whoops, how did that get in there? What we really mean is this:


Deby N. said...

You guys are funny. You forgot to add a few like, grabbing the waitress when she comes by. Bringing a gym bag to the milonga, complaining about all the noise, and how the men .... just don't forget those politically incorrect men. Love your blog...make sure to come say hello to me next time you are in town...

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Deby,

Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading our blog! The milongas are our "minefield" of inspiration. We can't wait to experience the next atrocity in Tango Gringoland - where the fun never stops and the bad dancing never ends.

Thanks for sharing all your adventures with us in your blog!

Until the next milonga,

Irene and Man Yung

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