Sunday, February 28, 2010

Love your DJ if your DJ loves you


There once was a time when deejaying in Toronto milongas was pretty horrific.

I'm sure that every tango community has a similar learning curve. In the beginning, you have "DJs" who weren't really DJs in the strictest sense, but a person who helped organize the milonga and pressed a button on the stereo. They inevitably played whatever music they or a friend of theirs brought for them from Buenos Aires or from visiting instructors - sometimes in the form of tandas, sometimes not. The "DJ" played the same four, five or ten CDs (or audio cassettes, remember those?) with the same mix week after week after week.

Dancers would just be enchanted that there was music playing. "A milonga!" they would exclaim. It was such a novelty. But at that point tango dancing itself was probably also a novelty - indeed, were they even dancing "tango" at that point?

Eventually, organizers became slightly more clever and/or slightly more sophisticated about the music. They may have actually heard DJs play music at milongas in Buenos Aires, or heard stories from travelers who traveled there. These intrepid pioneers put something together from scratch to try and approximate what they believed to be "appropriate" or "authentic" music for a milonga.

The "Tango DJ" was born - albeit in single-cell, embryonic form. They put their own personal stamp on the music, with mixed results. Some refused to play music with "singing". Some refused to play anything but De Angelis. Some played the same two painstakingly crafted playlists every week. Some dug deep into their psyche (and massive non-tango record collection) and played "innovative" music that was not only undanceable, it sounded like someone strung a whole series of cortinas together.

It started to become trendy for Toronto milongas to announce the "DJ" who was playing that night in their flyers and emails, the intention being that the "DJ" would be the selling point for the dancers.

Of course, in "El mondo de Irene y Man Yung", it never really worked out that way. We would read the flyer or the email, take one look at each other, and say: "Mr./Ms. So-and-so is deejaying tonight at _____________? He/she plays awful music! I think we would be more entertained if we stay home to clean the bathroom/make a casserole/watch paint dry!"

So there you have it - there was a time when tango deejaying in Toronto was either indifferent or repulsive. We would never just "go" to a milonga just because the organizers sprouted some hype about such-and-such deejay. Until recently.

Two hours before the end of the business day not long ago, I received an email from a friend. "____________ is deejaying at ___________!" We weren't even going to go out that night. But once we got the news, we changed our plans. The music that the DJ played was that good.

There's a time-honoured porteno piece of advice about tango deejaying involving observing the dance floor to find out what music you should put in the playlist - however, I don't think Toronto tango has progressed to a point where this can be considered a golden rule. How is a DJ going to get good feedback if the dancing on the pista is uneven or crappy and most of the dancers are just indiscriminately flapping their limbs to "noise"?

Just as the dancing has evolved here in Toronto, the deejaying as evolved as well. More and more, Toronto dancers are making the effort to dance well and to travel to Buenos Aires to learn from traditional teachers, dance in traditional milongas and to absorb traditional tango culture. It has resulted in better dancing - and better music in the Toronto milongas.

The best DJs in Toronto try to understand what is good dancing - which involves him or her seeking to become a good dancer himself/herself. A "good dancer" in this context, does not mean merely excellent technique (although technique is related to proficiency - a dancer with bad technique can only go so far) but something more.

I'll call it "dancing from your heart". The DJ has to recognize what is it about the music that thrills and inspires the dancer - and feel it their own feet and in their own heart. They have to understand the sublime feeling that a particular piece of music gives that makes every dancer want to leap to their feet and not stop dancing until very last note. And with this understanding must come generosity - the DJ must honestly, truly desire to give this gift to everyone in the milonga, regardless of what he or she thinks of their level of dancing, their personalities, and whether they are friend or foe. The DJ must LOVE.

There's a set of rules about playlist construction that a DJ can learn (no-one has got it exactly right yet, but they are trying) but it's never just about cold, hard, sterile music manipulation. In addition, good networking skills, clever PhD-worthy theories about music, business acumen, talent at self-promotion and at winning popularity contests do not love make.

Love your DJ if your DJ loves you. When the DJ loves and understands the music from the depths of his/her heart to the bottom of his/her feet (and knows the difference between "love" and "narcissism") and loves his dancers, the result is pure tango heaven.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Power of “No” (and conversely, the Power of “Yes”)


There’s a place in Toronto where no-one ever says “No” to anybody else. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it is mostly true – the inhabitants of this special place pride themselves on being extraordinarily friendly and accepting. To say “No” to an invitation is considered an abomination, akin to tying tiny animate talking teddy bears to anvils and drowning them in Lake Ontario, or using pink furry bunnies carrying baskets of pastel coloured Easter eggs for bazooka target practice.

I found out the hard way when I mentioned to one of the inhabitants of the land of "Yes" of my habit of refusing to dance with most gentlemen - she turned as white as a sheet. “I NEVER SAY NO IF SOMEONE ASKS ME TO DANCE,” she exclaimed in utter horror.

The place of the never-setting “Yes” has a very merry crowd. Perhaps it’s this aura of universal love and acceptance. It has the more dancers and attendees than anywhere else in Toronto. That’s the power of “Yes”.

It is also the place with the worst dancing in Toronto. Musicality? Poor. Floorcraft? None. Rushing around the dance floor and crashing into everyone else within a three foot radius while doing dangerous high voleos and ganchos and space-hogging figures? Plenty. At least they are having fun.

Manolo once gave a little talk about what it was like in the milongas in the Golden Age of Tango. In those good old days, when a gentleman wanted to dance tango with a lady, it was a very difficult undertaking indeed.

Firstly, you had to get past the front door to get into the milonga – if you weren’t dressed presentably or if the organizer didn’t like the look of you, you were out.

Secondly, once you were in the milonga, you had to stand in the MIDDLE of the dance floor and try to catch the eye of the young ladies sitting on the sides. The young ladies, by the way, were all sitting with CHAPERONS i.e. their moms. So you had to be presentable not only to your target but to her mother as well – and that was before you even spoke to her.

Thirdly, you had to be a good dancer - no, an excellent dancer to get dances. You had to impress the girl, you had to impress her mom – and you better not bump into other couples because three strikes and you’re out!

The guys practiced for years (or, as the older Argentinians say, “since the time they were still in their short pants”) with their buddies before they even dared step into the milonga. And they better be ready and good when they go, because if you get banned for any infraction of the codes (or plain bad dancing) you were banned for life.

That’s why the good dancers from the Golden Age are so extraordinary. They had to face so many possibilities of “No” that they had to do their utmost to improve their dancing. It was constant competition - and constant excellence. They had to be the best to even dream of dancing the tango.

If you have to make today's leaders go through what the guys went through in those days for tango, no one will be dancing! Poor Man Yung will have to be tossed out on the street! And Irene will have to sit FOREVER with her mom and have no chance to dance.

That being said, the example of "Yes-Land" is cautionary too. Say "yes" to every bogus, half-baked dancer (and every dancer who tries to cop a feel instead of dancing, or who doesn't enforce a strict code of hygiene, or every would-be Fabio) and that said dancer will think it is ok to keep on doing whatever the hell he is doing. He will be able to dance with any tanguera he wants and he will have no drive or incentive to improve or to become a better dancer.

So what is the conclusion, is it "Yes" or "No"?

Thank god I can still dance with Man Yung in the land of the “Yes”. Even though Man Yung will have to be extra quick on his feet to avoid the collisions and the slashing stilettos - or else pack a handy first aid kit.

Thank god I can still dance with Man Yung in the land of the “No”. Even though we might not make it into the milonga itself, we could always dance in the street, or at the bus stop. Perhaps passersby will even toss us change!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Buenos Aires 2008 - Part 11

Tranquility in Buenos Aires: You can find it in one of the many parks
(like Parque Vicente Lopez, above).... or in the mind of the true milonguero


Thursday

From: Irene (--------------@------------.com)
Sent: March 8, 2008
To: V (---------@-------.com)
Dear V,

Today was the same as yesterday - wake up for breakfast, sleep again, then off to the festival. We brought a portable cooler bag from Shopper´s Drug Mart [a chain drugstore in Canada] just so we can bring Martha some Heineken at the festival when we were in Buenos Aires. We learned that Martha loved Heineken when she was teaching in Toronto. When we presented her with the bag and asked her to guess what was in it, she was only perplexed for about half a second - and she guessed right! There's no escape - we are the official "bringers of beer" of the Camicando festival!

Today at the festival we saw movies of Martha dancing with Manolo. When they danced tango salon to Donato's "El Adios", Man Yung was very very moved. When can we ever dance tango like that, with so much gravity, with so much feeling?

I didn't managed to reach Susy Tilbe by email about meeting up on Thursday so our Thursday night was free. Our European and Chilean friends from the festival wanted to go to Nino Bien, even though we had originally planned to go to Viejo Correo. Ever since a taxi driver recommended Viejo Correo to us during one of our rides, we have been intrigued about that venue. However, when we left the festival at the end of the day, Martha asked us if we were going out dancing tonight - and when we said we wanted to go to Viejo Correo, both M&M suggested in unison that they highly recommended Nino Bien instead.

So with that kind of recommendation, we decided that we should at least try and check out Nino Bien. It´s about a 20 peso taxi ride from the hotel, around the same distance as Lo de Celia [in fact, within walking distance of each other on the same street]. The tango map listing said it started at 10, but when we got there a little past 10, there was a class going on - and who was teaching but Graciela Gonzalez! She was teaching a "Villa Urquiza" class with this older gentleman (I believe the name is "Pajaro"), and there were about fifteen couples in the class. She came over to say hello, it was a surprise to see her (and have her recognize us!). Man Yung watched the class intently for a little while. It appeared that Graciela and her partner were teaching Pupi´s steps, Man Yung recognized them from the videos of Pupi that we had. They taught very clearly and the students absorbed the lesson at a very high level of comprehension.

The ground floor of Centro Region Leonesa is covered with black and white baldosa tiles - go up the stairs to the second floor and you'll find the grand rectangular hall where Nino Bien is held behind a huge curtain. The hall itself is very bright, big and fancy, with rows and rows of square tables with immaculate tablecloths. We weren´t able to make a reservation - the phone message we got said they weren´t taking any, and so when we arrived were seated at the last row on the side, about four tables from the edge of the polished wooden dance floor. That was fine by us. There´s a very complete menu with wine, champagne, desserts, snacks etc., and the waiters were friendly and professional. We sat quietly for a bit, waiting for the class to end and just absorbing all the grandeur.

It was almost 11 before the actual milonga started. However, we felt very quickly that something was "off" tonight in the milonga. From the beautiful venue, the presence of big name teachers like Graciela Gonzalez and from the huge crowd that appeared, it was certain that Nino Bien was as exactly as Martha and Manolo had recommended - it was the place to "be" on Thursday nights. But unfortunately, on this night, many (apparently tourists?) were showing off instead of dancing for themselves and for the enjoyment of tango.

I saw lots of asian women dressed up to the nines doing the "face dancing" thing. There were also many so-called tango salon "championship" style dancers, walking rigidly in their "salon tango costumes" (yes, there is a costume - look at the campeonato videos on Youtube and you will see it! Something to do with stiff suits for the men, and flow-y, bias cut dresses for the women - very "tasteful" but somewhat artificial) with facial expressions as sour as pickled lemons. Teachers, local and foreign, preyed on the crowd, busily trying to get students and handing out business cards. There was a lot of wheeling and dealing and dancing to get noticed.

Our european friend Ms.___ apparently was not considered as pretty as her friend J (with her big eyes, alabaster skin and va-va-voom figure) so J got invited to dance again and again while Ms. ___ sat through tanda after tanda, invisible.

We were seated next to a bunch of older non-tango tourists who were on a tour of South America. They must have decided to come to Nino Bien from a recommendation in a guidebook like Fodor's. I overheard one of them asking the other: "Why do the people on the dance floor look so grim and snobby?" They laughed and joked - if that´s what tango was all about then they didn´t want to learn it. And we thought that we were just too sensitive, picking up on the odd "vibe" in the milonga tonight - we were surprised that non-dancers could feel it too.

I turned around and struck up a conversation with them - turned out that one of their party was originally from Burlington, Ontario! They were friendly and curious about this whole "tango" thing, and asked me the same question about the "grim" dancers that they posed to each other. I explained to them that tango isn´t like that - you are supposed to be natural, and your facial expression should match what you feel and not what you think is appropriate to feel. And the music is so beautiful - it makes you feel so many things. In other words, I agreed with the non-tango tourists that all those put-on dramatic "tango faces" and the "elitist aura" were a bunch of baloney. We pointed out to them the dancers on the floor who were dancing for themselves and their partners and for the love of tango, and not in order to impress onlookers or to get business. I don't know if they got it, but we told them emphatically: "This is what tango is really like. Don't let the others mislead you by their appearance! You should learn the tango - you will feel transformed by it!". Hopefully they weren't too put off by the bizarre show and they would still consider taking up tango - even if they were getting back on the cruise ship the very next day.

After dancing two tandas with Man Yung and after Man Yung danced three tandas with Ms. ___ (because no one was asking her!), suddenly Man Yung and I came to the same conclusion - it just wasn't the right night for us at Nino Bien. The place was beautiful and there was quality dancing, but there was too much pretension - we should return another night. We looked at each other and nodded: Let´s get out of there and go to Viejo Correo! We hopped out of there fast.

And when we got outside we saw Tete at the door by himself, smoking. He recognized us and seemed very kind and sweet as we kissed hello. It was so peaceful outside, with the light from the doors and windows flooding into the street while Tete calmly smoked his cigarette. Tango music drifted out without bringing the hustle and bustle of the milonga into the night air. We explained to Tete that we had wanted to buy him a drink on Monday, but he had left. He said next time. There's always a next time, right? We said goodbye, we hopped into a taxi and went all the way to Abasto to Viejo Correo.

What a contrast! Nino Bien was packed to the roof with more people coming in - the milonga at Viejo Correo was only a third full, with only locals. Centro Region Leonesa is a grand hall - while Viejo Correo is a humble place, with tiled floor, where we could only order a one litre bottle of Stella Artois because they were out of all the other beers and they forgot to refrigerate the Quilmes (we had an awkward five minute conversation with the waitress before we figured out that that was what she was going on and on about). Nino Bien was filled with famous names and elegant dancers with just the "right" tango clothes (nothing that screamed "SHOW! BABY!") and expensive shoes, who had taken private classes with all the big names and were now putting everything they learnt on show to the public - Viejo Correo had dancers wearing clumsy looking shoes and sparkles and spandex, and yes, they were dancing a little bit of show tango, and most of them weren´t what anyone would consider good dancers at all. But we immediately felt at ease - perhaps because we too, are a little strange and odd-looking and goofy and silly. We had never met the hostess before but she welcomed us into her milonga with a hug and a kiss.

The music at Viejo Correo was not very intellectual - they just played what they liked to dance to. We danced some very nice tandas that weren´t very "chic" - Pugliese, Di Sarli, De Angelis, DÁrienzo, all the common tunes, even Bahia Blanca and Nochero Soy, for god's sake! There was lots of space so Man Yung had a blast just doing whatever he wanted - all the big steps he likes to do in Toronto, even a little milonga al reves (I told you we are total nerds)!

By the time we left we had fully entertained the locals and they gave us lots of smiles and thumbs up. The hostess was so kind - as we were leaving, she ran up to us to tell us that we were "more argentinian than the argentinians", which kind of shocked us. I have a feeling that it was not so much our dancing but the fact that we managed to make a good impression with our friendliness and style of dancing as untrendy as the one danced by the majority of the patrons in this milonga! The hostess introduced herself as Nina, and I immediately recalled that there´s a couple of videos of her dancing with the American Anton Gazonbeek on youtube. According to the information from Anton, Nina is Antonio Todaro´s student and no stranger to a little tango al reves and big movements herself (Antonio Todaro is Miguel and Osvaldo Zotto´s teacher, and is the father of modern show tango). I asked her about that and I was right, it really broke the ice even more and we got a lot more kisses and hugs from her before we left.

There´s one thing I have come to realize more and more on this trip, and I know that M&M know it too - that is that Man Yung has his own path in tango. It´s not about trying to emulate a certain style, or being able to copy a master´s steps. That´s why M&M doesn´t really care whether Man Yung can do all that they teach him. They see what he dances and they know that he is developing as a dancer, and that so long he retains their most important lesson, to dance with feeling and with the music, and to dance genuinely, without pretension, he will be fine. We are planning to take M&M´s regular canyengue class on Saturday at the Escuela and then we can go out to eat. They didn´t even care about whether we were going to take private class with them on not, the most important thing to them was having the opportunity for us to spend time together.

Tomorrow we have private class with Alberto. It´s the weekend soon, have fun dancing!

Irene

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chacarera, Chacarera

Step into many of Toronto's milongas these days and it's almost like stepping into a milonga in Buenos Aires. We have lovely, traditional music. We have musical, traditional styles of dancing. We, of course, have milongueras. We even have milongueros. I know I make fun of "Toronto Milongueros" but really, Toronto leaders as a whole are getting better and better. The fancy-pants show-offs of yesterday, looking to burn a hole in the dance floor with their repertoire of fancy high falutin' moves - are seriously pass é. Instead, we have leaders who respect the dance floor and dance for their partners and for their love of tango. Que lindo - our milonguera friends report that it is heaven dancing with these leaders and melting in their embrace. Dancing with Man Yung, however, is still like taking a piggy-back ride on a whirling dervish. But I digress.

What I really wanted to say is that in Toronto, we also have the Chacarera. You know, the Argentinian folk dance that the Portenos frequently indulge in in the milongas of Buenos Aires, interrupting the tango experience of the gringos who were dead set on getting their entradas worth of dancing and dancing tango all night.

Seriously, we've seen gringo tango tourists sit on the side looking extremely sour whenever the portenos leap to the floor for a round of chacarera in Buenos Aires. But they shouldn't, because the chacarera is a wonderful thing. When it becomes a regular fixture, as we have seen at Toronto's La Cachila and Milonga Argentina - and when it is danced with the spirit and energy of Argentina - the chacerera enhances the milonga.

Let me give you an example of chacarera not done right. You don't dance the chacarera daintily or wimpily. You don't dance the chacerera like it was line dancing. And although you can take a million folklore dance lessons and become an expert, it looks extremely weird (to our eyes) for gringos to aim to dance the chacarera "correctly" like it was something out of a championship competition rulebook. When we were in Glorias Argentinas two years ago and people got up to dance chacarera, a tall, elegant asian couple leapt up to join them. They had been taking lots of lessons to learn how to dance chacarera "authentically", and indeed, they had really great, ram-rod straight posture and incredibly precise arm positions. But all the things that they did that they thought were making them "authentic" just made them look "off" and they stood out like sore thumbs.

I think that there are parallels to be made between a good tango and a good chacarera. Both dances have a structure, but should not be danced "academia" - by some academically set rule. Both the tango and the chacarera have to be danced from a feeling that comes from inside. Perhaps I'm just a romantic, but I think that this short video clip captures what I think chacarera's about:



The chacarera has something to do with joy, freedom, spontaneity, personality, and passion for life - and the natural expression of this feeling. The musicians have it, the kids have it - just look the expression in the girl's eyes and at how that little boy leaps and jumps! And you know what, Toronto tango is starting to have it too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Seppuku

Anyone who hasn't been living under a rock these past few months would have heard about the massive Toyota Recalls. In fact, Akio Toyoda, grandson of the Toyota company founder and current CEO and President of Toyota Motor Corporation, gave a very public apology on February 5:

Akio Toyoda apologizes: Whoops! Sorry.

When Man Yung and I heard about the Toyota recalls, this is what immediately came to our minds:

1. Boy, aren't we glad we didn't buy a Toyota.
2. We hope that the Toyota chief and his Board of Directors will not commit seppuku.

From cradle to the grave, samurai honour and the glory of ritual disembowelment are deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. Look no further than the story of the 47 Ronin - they avenged their master's death but were still required to committed seppuku en masse. You can even find the spectre of seppuku in children's comics - Japanese manga like the immensely popular series Ranma 1/2:

You never know.... there is an odd chance that the Toyota apologies may be accompanied by a public spectacle of the age-old ritual of seppuku. We hope that it never comes to that - you don't want Toyota to set a public precedent for the consequences of corporate failure. Could you imagine the messy cleanup and biohazard (not to mention psychological trauma) that would result if all the key people in the finance sector responsible for the recent recession were to ritually disembowel themselves on tv?

Nevertheless, Man Yung thinks it is admirable that Akio Toyoda has publicly apologized for his company's mistakes - it shows sincerity and bodes well for the company's willingness to address it's failures. Likewise, though it is old news by now, Chicho Frumboli did good when he came out and admitted that heck, maybe Nuevo Tango was not a good idea for Tango.

Lucky for Chicho, ritual embowelment is not a cornerstone of Argentinian culture. No need to fear that Chicho and all his followers will be staging a huge seppuku event to the beat of the Gotan Project at the Luna Park stadium!

Unfortunately, I don't think Chicho has started a recall. In addition, although Toyota has figured a way to fix their recalled vehicles, there's been no word yet on how Chicho is going to fix all those faulty gears in the nuevo tangueros and tangueras that cause them to charge around the dance floor throwing colgadas and volcadas and linear boleos willy-nilly with absolutely no relation to the music.



Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yuyu Herrera y El Chino bailan "Una Emocion" de Tanturi



We discovered this new video of El Chino on Youtube last week. I think it's our new favourite among all of El Chino's performances! Coincidentally, his partner is none other than Yuyu Herrera, the candombe instructor of Camicando.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Buenos Aires 2008 - Part 10


San Telmo (and not the part where you can buy souvenirs
and watch people perform tango on flattened cardboard boxes)


Wednesday


From: Irene (--------------@------------.com)
Sent: March 7, 2008
To: V (---------@-------.com)


Dear V,

We are getting into the "Dance until the wee hours and sleep during the day" mode. After the excitement of "Tete" Tuesday, we slept until 10:30 a.m., had the hotel breakfast, went back to bed and woke up at 1:30 p.m. to go to the festival. We got there before the Canyengue class started and while Gabriela and Elias were still teaching their milonga traspie. Manolo looked at his watch and said that we were late, we answered "No, in fact we are early!" And he thought that was funny because that confirmed we are such slackers - we really never wanted to take the Milonga traspie class and preferred to sleep in!

I don´t think I have really talked about the classes. Well, we are taking only Canyengue and Milonga with Martha and Manolo, and since Osvaldo is too ill to return to the festival, Adrian and Roxina are teaching the last class as an extra Canyengue class as a substitute. Does Man Yung take it easy in class? You bet not. He is always on the go, practicing all the steps in class like there was no tomorrow. He claims that he is "taking it easy this year!" I don’t have the energy to keep up. I am glad to have Ms X. there to help me out with him – she can partner up with him while I try and sneak off into a corner and hide to take a break - but she can´t dance too much because she has bad ankles. By the way Ms. X is taking both the M&M and the R&A Canyengue classes and she is doing really well, Man Yung is looking forward to dancing Canyengue with her when she returns to Toronto.

The movie section today had videos of Osvaldo and Coca’s exhibitions. We really miss them. One of the main reasons we are in Bs As this year is because we really wanted to learn more from them, but it is impossible at this time. Osvaldo is still in the hospital, we heard that he needs an operation. We had hoped that he would get better in time to be released from the hospìtal on his birthday, which will be Monday. Anyway, we are all praying for him and hoping that he will get better soon.

We didn´t take the last class, we wanted to rest a bit before heading out to the festival milonga at Dandi. But instead of taking a nice long nap Man Yung watched soccer and I hand-washed clothes. It is a nightmare trying to get the washed clothes to dry in this humidity, it takes several days. We are starting to give up and using the hotel laundry service, at least for the big items of clothing.

Wednesday´s festival milonga was at Dandi, this tango hotel-classes-milonga full-service setup. It was quite a trip from Santa Fe and Callao to San Telmo, where Dandi is located. Our taxi driver smoked all the way, but instead of giving him a hard time, I talked to him about the smoking ban in Buenos Aires. He’s hurting, he can’t smoke wherever he wants anymore like they did in the old days. If he wasn't driving he'd be crying on my shoulder talking about this. He told us that the only places you can smoke are in the casinos and some of the bars. I remember you telling me about the crazy smoke-filled milongas the year that you went – well, the milongas are now smoke-free!

At last we arrived at Dandi – just seconds before Martha and Manolo! The dance floor at Dandi is very small and bisected by two big pillars. All the spaces on the side have chairs and tables crammed into every inch of space. There are lots of "Tango!" décor which I’m guessing is aiming for “authentic” but comes across (in my opinion) as “kitschy” and “touristy” instead. There’s even a fold-down stage on which graduated students of the "dandi tango program" can perform in their own tailor-made tango production. Dandi must make a lot of money because they can afford to put very attractive, very glossy, professional-grade advertisements in magazines. I read one at one point and it promised a shuttle from the airport, champagne welcome with live music, fresh fruit baskets and tango tv on demand in your room, in-house classes and milongas, escort and guided tours to the milongas outside, in-house bbq and shuttle to the airport when you leave. You can experience Buenos Aires and tango without taking a single step in Buenos Aires proper! Dandi is another place that caters, big-time, to tourists.

At the milonga, we saw the requisite “San Telmo Tango Show” teacher-performer (sharp suit and slicked back hair – except this one was a little long in the tooth) doing the whirling dervish giros and the requisite Nuevo guy teacher with the baggy pants and untucked shirt looking after the students and doing the high kickin’, boleo whippin’ and rhythmic boppin’ with the ladies. Someone has been doing their marketing work - people who are attracted by the idea of Dandi will gravitate to either of the two styles! The level of dancing was very very low - lots of people trying to do show tango and nuevo moves, but who can’t navigate for the life of them.

The festival people were all seated together at the back of the dance floor next to the bar and washroom, very squishy. Guess who came? Graciela Gonzales came to see Martha perform - they are "friends of the soul", as Martha describes it. Elias and Gabriela performed first, their famous milonga traspie and Chacarera. Elias was exhibiting a lot of "fancy" fast footwork. Martha and Manolo did really great milonga and milonga fantasia. After M&M performed, everyone went to congratulate them. Graciela was very moved and there were tears in her eyes. Man Yung saw that and gave her a hug and wiped her tears for her! By the way, Graciela has been such a big name in tango for so long, we were expecting someone as old as Martha, but in person, she is very young and pretty.

Man Yung danced a lot with some people from the festival, our european friends... and Graciela Gonzales! Graciela actually asked Man Yung to dance (well, she was sitting at the table with us and M&M and Man Yung paid for everyone´s drinks, but also because Martha explained that we were her friends and Manolo made Man Yung the keeper of his keys and wallet while he was dancing – that, my friend, means that Man Yung is FAMILY). They danced a tanda of later DÁrienzo. Manolo got very angry at Man Yung though - because when he was dancing, the pocket of his jacket flipped out and Manolo said that was very very ugly! It´s funny, on this trip, Manolo isn´t very concerned about Man Yung´s tango progress anymore, doesn´t correct him at all and thinks it is very amusing how inventive Man Yung is with steps. But he is always very strict on correct attire. The last time he got so mad was when Man Yung forgot to button his jacket!

Man Yung also danced with Adrian´s girlfriend who was an amazing dancer. She really followed beautifully everything Man Yung did and dancing with her was like dancing with honey. Apparently I whizz around too fast and I am too light, I should emulate this honey thing. Now I´m jealous!

We didn´t leave the milonga until it ended at 3! And we had a curious adventure when we were travelling back to the hotel. The taxi driver knew all about M&M and the Canyengue thing at Dandi. We had a long conversation about tango music, how to dance it, and how all the best dancers are from the south of Bs As - they are more inventive. The taxi driver was very authorative, and said he also taught tango. He had a lot of opinions about how people should learn to dance. I asked him for a card but he didn´t have one, he told me his name I think but I didn´t catch it and I couldn´t understand everything he said - but afterwards, I think he is Osvaldo Centeno, who is a milonguero who drives a taxi. I will have to ask Alberto to see if he knows him.

Alberto Dassieu

Loading...

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather

Twitter!