Friday, April 24, 2009

GRICEL (And I'm not even talking about Monday's) - Is anyone else following this soap opera?

Has anyone else been following/enjoying Michael Ditkoff's reports about his first visit to Buenos Aires on Tango-L recently? Coincidentally, like us, he has been talking about his own personal experiences at GRICEL (See below. These excerpts have been taken straight from Tango-L. Click on each title to be directly linked to the post on Tango-L).

The moral of this story: SHHHHHHHHHHH! Don't say a peep if you have anything negative to say about GRICEL! (Boy did I learn MY lesson!) If you do (even if you are talking just about navigation) you will be criticized from top to toe about your ignorant lack of language skills, your naive lack of understanding of Buenos Aires culture and the codigos of the milonga, your gross and infantile misinterpretation of body language, your cowardly decisions, your embarrassing attempts to get a dance, and your total failure as a soulless, respect-lacking, Norteamericano dancer! Talk about getting maximum value for your money!

[Tango-L] Report from Buenos Aires #4: Before you dance

Here are some travel tips:
1) Buy the Insight fleximap of BA. It´s laminated so it won´t rip like
paper from opening and closing.The website is

2) Buy a BA Guide Book. Mine is lonely planet.

3) Get a copy of BA Tango Guide. Write to and
you´ll get on the email list. It lists practicas, advertisements for
shows and lessons, and the milongas.

4) Arriving at BA´s airport
A) Go through immigration
B) Collect your luggage and go through Customs. The Customs
declaration form asks for your cell phone serial and model numbers.
C) Currency Exchange
Use Banco de Nacional Argentina at the airport and not kiosks. There
is no commission charge at the bank. If possible, get all the pesos
you´ll need. You´ll have to wait in line if you decide to do it in
town. In fact waiting in line at the bank is the Argentine national
pastime, not futbol.

There are windows inside the security zone. If they´re closed, there
are doors outside the security zone. Have your passport ready.
(Remember to bring a copy of your passport and credit cards) so in
case they´re stolen you know the numbers.

D) At a newsstand, buy Guia ¨T¨de Bolsillo Capital Federal. It´s a map
of BA showing ALL the streets by barrio. It has more detail than the
insight map.

E) Use Remise instead of Taxis to get into town. Remiss charge a flat
fare (about $100 pesos) whereas taxis charge by the meter. You pay the
rate PLUS tolls.

F) Buy some sunscreen if you come during the hot months. You can buy
it here as ¨dermaglos solar.¨¨

Public Transportation

A. The subway ¨el subtle¨ (subterra´neo)
is easy to use. You can get a farecard called monedero though I don´t
know where. My guide had an extra which she gave me. You can add
value, just like farecards in New York and Washington, DC.

B. Buses
The bus routes are difficult to read in the Guia. In New York, they
are called buses, in Mexico called autobus and in BA are called
colectivos. There are 700+ bus routes, all operated by private
companies. Each route (outbound and inbound) is described in detail in
the back of the guia. However, when you look at a barrio in the guia,
you don´t see bus routes on streets. Each barrio is divided into map
grids. When I took my walking tour of Retiro and Microcenter, I found
the grids for both the house and Retiro (tour starting point) and
looked to see which buses operated in both grids. I found that bus 150
was listed in both grids so I took the 150 from the house.

There is a fare zone system. Tell the driver your destination. He will
punch a button that will display your fare on the farebox. Enter coins
(exact change) only. The machine will give you a ticket. Hold onto the
ticket in case transit enforcement comes on the bus to check for
Fares range from 1.2 to 1.75 pesos depending on distance.

Because the bus companies are privately owned, there are no transfers
which means you have to pay an additional fare if you change to
another bus.

Tomorrow is laundry day and Gricel, which I haven´t been to yet. Today
I took a 6 hour walking tour of Plaza San Martin down to Plaza de
Mayo. (I bought the Living Earth(?) guide book. Tomorrow I plan a
walking tour of the Port or La Boca.

Reporting from Buenos Aires where it still feels like summer instead of fall
Michael Ditkoff
Washington, DC
I'd rather be dancing Argentine Tango

Tango-L mailing list

[Tango-L] Report from Buenos Aires #5

When my father taught me how to drive (I took driver´s education for the 10% insurance discount), he taught me more than how to make the car go and stop. He taught me NAVIGATION! I remember going to a deserted shopping on an early Sunday morning to learn parking and stopping distances. Much the same happened when I learned tango, except it wasn´t from my father nor in a shopping center. Joe always told me about small spaces on the dance floor in BA and to be ready for anything. (In reflection, that was an understatement.) My final exam to come here was a 2005 Denver Tango Festival. Could I maneuver through the MERC? I managed quite well because everybody followed the line of dance. In fact, there were 2 lines of dance; one around the perimeter and another one inside that one. Both lanes moved independently but they MOVED and there was room for everybody. It was a sight to behold!! Down here, in the home of tango, it´s terrible. There´s a perimeter and then there´s the inside, I call the VORTEX, where powerful forces pull dancers all over the floor. People dance clockwise and diagonally across the vortex. The Argentines could find the line of dance if you gave them a map, compass, radar, and GPS!! I have a theory on the cause. I already wrote they love to talk when the music begins. I timed how long it takes for the line to move. It usually take a full MINUTE. Some begin to move at :15, :30, :45 and a few need the whole minute. A musical selection lasts about 3 minutes so 1/3 of the music is wasted on chatter. In the States, Americans are off to the races when the music begins. It´s rare you see a couple talking instead of dancing. And if the dance was exquisite, the couple will silently embrace between the musical selections. Couples don´t do that down here, but that´s another dispatch. Argentines don´t have a monopoly on poor navigation. It´s also in the States, but I don´t think it´s as bad. Nevertheless, I think teachers and milonga promoters should teach navigation instead of figures that can´t be danced in small spaces. But of course, ´Moving with the traffic' will never draw attention like "Colgadas-the missing ingredient from your dance." Alan Forde of the Atlanta Tango Festival said more than once "You´re not just dancing with your partner. You´re dancing with everybody in the line of dance.¨" Gricel has a rectangular floor. Tables face the front wall, seating 6. The tables are so close to each other, you can have trouble moving away from your table to dance. Your legs can get caught up in the chairs legs. (Mine did.) Dancers in the vortex were going clockwise and counter clockwise. Then tried to change direction at the end of the floor. BUT there were people behind them so the end just got jammed, like people getting on a bus but nobody wants to move to the back. Another problem is Argentine leaders can´t do spot turns to lead molinetes.The man moves over to the next lane and the woman slams into anybody who in the way. For me, I can´t tell is the man is going to try to return to his spot in front of me. I hope the Argentines drive better on one-way streets than they navigate on the dance floor. I´m probably finished for the night. I danced at Arranque and I want to take a walking tour of Recoleta tomorrow. I´ll try to send a milonga review before I leave. Just listing names of milongas really doesn´t help anybody. To paraphrase Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion That´s the news from Buenos Aires Where all the women dance in close embrace All the men need navigation lessons All the children speak Spanish Michael Ditkoff Washington, DC -- I'd rather be dancing Argentine Tango _______________________________________________ Tango-L mailing list

[Tango-L] Gricel

I was in Gricel the night Michael was there.  It was crowded.  This is a
milonga well attended by locals and by regulars. It is rare to see
people who normally do not come to this milonga. While some of us may
not come every week, we know each other.

There is navigation on this floor. Perhaps at times it may not be the
best but it is there. This is Buenos Aires at its best. A tightly
packed floor of dancers with hardly any room to move. There are several
"lines of dance" and if you dance here regularly you know where to find
them. If you are new to Buenos Aires and our milongas, I am sure it
would seem like chaos. The center of the floor is for newbies. The
outside is for more experienced dancers, the rest dance in the middle.
When the floor is very crowded it sometimes seems impossible, but
somehow the dancers always seem to find their way. The best dancers
wait until the floor clears. They rarely dance before this. Only if a
favorite dancer is going to leave or a favorite tanda is played.

There were no fights at Gricel. I have no idea what he was talking
about. In my 9 years in the milongas here I have only seen 1 actual
fight and that was in Niño Bien when a tourist got really drunk and
started throwing chairs. Sometimes men purposely bump into each other
and fake a disgruntled attitude, They always smile and hug afterwards.
Even when they do bump into each other and there are "some faces" and
maybe an exchange of words there is never a "fight". Perhaps Michael's
lack of the language is the reason he thought the men were fighting. I
have no idea how he could come to this conclusion. Fight in my opinion
would mean loud yelling and fists and there was nothing like this at
all. Nothing.

For the record, Michael actually came to my table and asked me to
dance. So much for his recognizing me and doing the cabaceo. He was
shocked when I turned him down. He was actually dazed when I had to say
no twice to him. He would not give up. I don't accept dances at the
table from strangers. From my friends who know I want to dance with
them yes.

Of course Argentine women danced with him, where is he? It does not
mean he is a good dancer, it only means he danced with Argentine women.
We have lots of new people in our milongas and they will dance with
foreigners. It is not like the old days or even when I first came
here. People are interested in dancing with new people. Not all of us,
but some of us. It depends on the milonga.

It does not matter how many years one has danced. There are plenty of
people here who have danced for 40 years that do not dance well. There
are others who have danced for less than 5 who dance very nicely. I do
think though it is very arrogant for someone to come here and judge the
milongas based on North American criteria. I think it is also sad that
he only went to a few milongas rather than to go others outside his
barrio. I don't know what he was so afraid of. He was more at risk
walking in his barrio late at night than taking a taxi. The worst thing
that could have happened is that he would have been overcharged by 5
pesos - a whole whopping $1.35 USD.

To come here and not experience the culture - the food - pizza,
empanadas, parilla, and the many other things that Buenos Aires has to
offer is sort of sad. This is a city that has so much. Buenos Aires is
tango. When people say they think that North Americans dance better
than Argentines? What your little feet are pointing better? You have
more figures? The one thing you do not have is that you do not
understand the music, the soul of tango. North Americans, generally
speaking are so concentrated on being the best technically they dance
without soul.

Perhaps if Michael had come to Gricel and tried to enjoy himself instead
of judging us on his North American values, he would have had a better time.

Tango-L mailing list

[Tango-L] Fw: Gricel

>I was at Gricel Thursday April 16. I'm surprised it took Deby one week to >respond if she was actually there April 16. I danced at Lo de Celia which >is also very crowded with navigation problems. At Gricel, I stayed on the >outside. Just about everytime I did a molinete, there was somebody >different behind me, which means that men were jumping in and out of the >line of dance. > > I never wrote there was a fight at Gricel. I said two Argentines ARGUED. > It didn't look good natured from the look of the partner of one of the > men. She look absolutely embarrassed. > > Wrong, Deby. I didn't come to your table and ask you to dance. I don't > know who went to your table, but it certainly wasn't me! I don't go to any > woman's table and ask her to dance. I exclusively used cabeceo my entire > stay. > > My ONLY comment about the Argentines was on their navigation skills and > nothing else. > > The Argentines thought I was Argentine until I told them I wasn't. They > spoke to me in Spanish and I told them in Spanish I was a NorthAmerican > and that Spanish > isn't my primary language. > > I wasn't afraid to go out of my barrio. I didn't want to go outside. > Experience has proven that when the women see me at milongas in the > barrio, they are more likely to accept my invitation. I don't see any > reason to go to a lot of milongas and be a stranger at each one. At my > last milonga, El Arranque, I danced eight tandas, which is a lot. I > danced two REPEAT tandas with two women. One of them waved to me when I > walked in to let me know she was there. > > Deby's attitude is similar to other people who didn't like my postings. > Instead of offering corrections, like Shakruh on a woman declining an > invitation, they just launch into ad hominen attacks in public and private > emails. > > And Deby, I didn't have any trouble connecting with the women who wanted > to connect with me. I've lost count because it doesn't matter. It's not a > competition. > > Michael > I danced Argentine Tango- - with the Argentines

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Club Gricel gets the reviews it deserves. Michael didn't read your blog to know ahead of time how bad the navigation is there. He wrote his personal experience.

It's interesting how Deby simply will not allow anyone to comment on Gricel without rushing to attack them on every point. Her "nine" years of experience in BsAs began in December 2000 on her first of many visits; then she moved to BsAs in November 2004.


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