Thursday, May 27, 2010

The best bits

Magic 8-Ball say: This is your Future

Evolution into something bigger, better, greater, mightier, tastier - it's not only a trend, it's DESTINY. Just look at a couple of reports in the Toronto Star lately and you'll see what we mean.

Firstly, look at the KFC "legendary", "culinary coronary", Double Down sandwich. A sandwich that gets to the lowdown on taste:

After months of maximum hype, the Colonel’s chicken empire introduced its latest “sandwich,” the Double Down, which uses two slabs of fried chicken in place of the bun. In between are bacon, cheese and sauce.

All for just 540 calories, 32 grams of fat and 1,380 milligrams of sodium.

Then, there's the "Worst Beverage in America" and "Blended Diabetes in a Cup" - Cold Stone Creamery's PB&C Shake:

One of Cold Stone Creamery’s new flavour ice cream shakes, with 2,010 calories and 68 grams of saturated fat, was declared the unhealthiest drink out of a list of 20 worst, according to Men’s Health magazine.

The ice cream company’s peanut butter and chocolate milk shake packs the equivalent of 68 strips of bacon in saturated fat, the U.S. health magazine’s Eat This, Not That website declared.

Mmmmmmmm..... reminds of my youthful days when I used to scarf up all the the MSG soup base packets from packages of Chewy Instant Noodles - by themselves without the noodles. Sure, it gave me headaches and violent nosebleeds, but what yummy-licious! Now that Corporate America is making salty oily deep fried chicken "sandwiches" with no yucky vegetables and no bread and ice cream shakes replete with the lardiness of 68 strips of bacon - my wildest dreams are coming true!

Humankind is always striving for the better and better. That's why all these Tango-Fusion dances - "Jango", "Swango", "Bacha-Tango", "Tango Salsa", "Ta-Chango", "Bungeeango", "Craperango" etc. - are all such winners. Why waste time on the "trance inducing", "mind-melding", "life-enhancing" and "soul-enriching" a.k.a. BORING aspects of Tango when you can just take the best bits, put it in a blender with some dynamite and VOILA! No embrace, no musicality, no feeling, no connection - but lots of jumps, lots of splits, lots of ganchos, lots of "colgadas" and "volcadas", lots of poses, plenty of teeth grinding and yes, continuous ochos. That's what people really want - more saturated fats, more sodium, more sugar, more calories = more taste!

And why bother to look to Buenos Aires for the future of tango when we can see it right here in North America in the latest edition of "Dancing with the Stars"? We present: "Tango Brutale" by Erin Andrews and her professional partner Maksim Chemerkovskiy:


HOLY COW!!!!

Like us, you too may be sitting in stunned awe right now. You must be completely, utterly dazzled - but did you observe carefully at 3:30 and 4:02? They have finally got to the Double Down, PB&C core of "TANGO":


Erin nearly broke Maksim's neck when she made that leap from the stage - so we have a lot to be thankful for. Because what we really, truly want in Tango, the thing that makes us salivate - is nothing other than the spectacle of FLYING BOMBACHAS.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Invasion

La Cachila, Toronto's Sunday night milonga, is currently being held on the top floor of Dovercourt House. Now, Dovercourt House consists of several floors of dance halls/dance studios, and the weekends are the busiest days of the week for events. Sunday is no exception - while La Cachila is held in the hall three steep flights of stairs up, the ground floor hall is occupied by a popular weekly Salsa dance.

The salseros are always milling about the lobby and the landing on the ground floor, chatting and taking a break from the literally sizzling hot atmosphere of their salsa dance. I say literally, because the sweaty crowd and the lack of air conditioning results in this humid, sweaty mist that permeates the area. To access the top floor milonga, tangueros have to wade through crowds of attractive young salseros sitting and lounging all over the steps. More so since so many of the salseros are overheated and have to take a breather outside the front door in the relative freshness of the night air.

Dovercourt House has nice floors and a great location but it really is an old building without air conditioning. The building's caretaker opens the ancient vertical windows - but to no avail. When you have a lot of sweating on the ground floor, the hot air rises up like it was the gulf stream and collects at the very top of the building. As more and more people crowd into the milonga (it's the long weekend, La Cachila has its regulars as well as plenty of people from out of town) the air gets thick with heat and moisture from the exhalations of many lungs. The milonga gets piping HOT.

I went to the ladies' washroom on the top floor and encountered a lady dressed to the nines in dancewear, diligently applying her makeup over the only sink. As she was going to take some time, she stood aside a little to let me wash my hands.

"Are you going to tango?" She asked.

I nodded. "And you.... you're from downstairs?" I didn't recognize her as a milonga regular, but then again I couldn't account for tangueros who were visiting Toronto from out of town. And sometimes the toilets downstairs are so crowded the salseros would head upstairs. In any case, there was something about her that didn't... seem to have anything to do with tango.

"I'm performing later downstairs," she said proudly. "Tango Salsa."

I must have blinked but I kept a straight face. I grabbed a paper towel and dried my hands.

"Have fun .... performing," I said. And made a hasty exit.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Asado

A whole week without Tango! Unthinkable, but true.

I was too sick with the flu to dance - too sick to even turn on the computer to check emails and blogs or surf Youtube for the latest in "el mundo de tango". In fact, I was too busy waging war against the demons of fever, cough, mucus and phlegm to even think about dancing.

Man Yung didn't get sick - but he claims that he was so stressed watching me be sick he developed an itchy rash! Poor Man Yung. No tango for a week and a rash. I'm sure it would clear up in no time - after a couple of tandas of dancing, that is.

I must be feeling better, because today, after a whole week of not wanting to eat anything but soup, I suddenly crave asado! I wish someone would invite us to a barbecue - after all, it's Canada's Victoria Day long weekend, and there's nothing like a good, fiery bbq to celebrate the holidays.

A very big asado

But who am I kidding? No Canadian homestyle barbecue can compare to the mighty Argentine asado.

Another very big asado

In Toronto, no backyard is complete without a gleaming, stainless steel, top-of-the-line Canadian Tire (or The Bay) propane barbecue grill. My parents had one - even though they didn't use it more than two times in ten years. My brother just bought his own house - and even though he is now saddled with huge back-breaking monthly mortgage/property tax/utilities payments, he went right out and got one too ("But it was on SALE!" he said). Perhaps there's this secret rule that you aren't an adult until you grill? No wonder my mother still treats me like an infant.

Oh, the big fuss my brother makes for his barbecue! He makes several runs to the grocery store for groceries and party supplies. He stays up into the wee hours the night before tidying the house, making salads, mixing drinks and marinating meat. And on the momentous occasion itself, decked out in full barbecue-wear and wielding his "tongs" and "prongs" (this is how ignorant I am of barbecue utensils), he is nothing less than the Lord of the Grill - like the volcano god Hephaestus ruling over his domain of flames and fire.

I don't have the heart to tell him - propane makes the meat less tasty! Your barbecue machine may have the most amazing features known to man - but when it comes to taste, you might as well use a WOK.

Let me tell you about the best asado we ever had. Rewind back to May 2006. Martha and Manolo had just wrapped up their classes in Toronto - they already had their general despedida with the other Toronto students, but they and their amazing, kind Toronto hosts Lisandro and Tatiana decided to throw one more small, private goodbye party the day before they had to fly back to Buenos Aires.

It was at this party that we tasted the best asado ever. Nothing would ever compare since.

Martha and Manolo were in charge of making the asado. Martha marinated the meat, and Manolo grilled it. It must have been the smallest barbecue in the world - no bigger than a laptop computer, it was just a metal box with a metal grill on top.

Into the metal box went the charcoal. On the grill went the meat - every square inch of grill space was filled. They balanced the grill on the concrete wall in the alleyway next to the studio - occasionally cars would pass by on the way to the small parking lot at the back of the building. Manolo set everything up, covered it, and barely checked again.

When the sun finally set and the alleyway was lighted by the fading indigo light from the sky and the palid white lights from the streetlights, the meat was done.

It was well-done, of course - that's the Argentine way of asado. But it was tender, and it tasted amazing. It needed no sauce to be absolutely, mouth-wateringly appetizing. Every Argentinian says their personal way of cooking asado is the best way of cooking asado. But tasting Manolo's asado, we had no doubt at all - his asado was the BEST.

All that was necessary for the best asado we ever tasted was a little Argentinian beef, seasoned with salt; a tiny charcoal burning grill; and the loving (but never fussy) attention - of a Tango Master. It was an asado... with compas.

Happy Victoria Day weekend to all!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bizarro world

When you're as obsessed as we are about tango, it's a very jarring experience talking to non-tango dancers about your "hobby".

Non-tango friends, relatives and work colleagues just don't understand what it's all about. When we tell them that we are going to Buenos Aires for tango, we invariably get asked the same question: "Are you competing in a competition?" As if the only reason that we dance tango is to wear the glitzy "TANGO!!!!" costumes they wear on "Dancing with the Stars" and win big shiny trophies!

Strangely enough, conversations with tango dancers can also end up in the pits of absurdity. Listening to gringo tango dancers who have been dancing for five, ten, fifteen years, we very often find we are not only not on the same page - we might as well be on different planets!

Is it just us, or are some of these comments really really bizarre?

"The level of dancing in Buenos Aires is very low. We have better dancers in Toronto!"

[Were they joking? Or could th
ey be talking about the state of world tango in the alternative universe in which Buenos Aires has been wiped out by alien Bugs from Klendathu?]

... When we took the Don Valley Parkway to downtown Toronto for a milonga, that's when

"Why doesn't Martha and Manolo smile more when they are performing Milonga? Milonga is supposed to be a happy dance!"

[Awwwwwwwww, you must be doubly disappointed when argentinian tango dancers from the golden age don't flick their heads aggressively from side to side, gnash their teeth and chomp lasciviously on roses while they are dancing "The Tango".]

"Your friend Alberto [referring to Alberto Dassieu] - is he American?"

[No, because then we would just call him "Albert". Or perhaps "Al". Oh, who are we kidding? We just call him "Alberto" because this is tango and we want to make his name sound Argentinian! Like how we sometimes call Man Yung "Manyunganito"]

"You can't dance Pepito Avellaneda's steps in a milonga! There's not enough space."

[Sorry to break it to you - the way you dance, it doesn't matter whose steps you are using. There's not enough space.]

"Why waste your time and money going to Buenos Aires? You can learn whatever you want from ____________ [insert name of local instructor]. He/She is the Best! No-one can dance like him/her in Buenos Aires."

[We agree, no-one dances quite like him/her in Buenos Aires. Thank God.]

"Oh really, this is your fourth time in Buenos Aires? Which tango tour are you with this time?" [A comment made to us while we were sitting in a milonga in Buenos Aires with Osvaldo and Coca]

[Well, that's obvious - the "Osvaldo and Coca Tango Tour!" Not that it would make any difference to you - you don't even know who Osvaldo and Coca are!]

"I don't dance milonga. It ruins my tango posture."

[I recommend that you stand stock still and don't move at all then. For tango, milonga and vals.]

"I'm not interested in learning "Tango Salon of the 50's - that's too old fashioned." [referring to some of Martha and Manolo's workshops in Toronto]

[So, what kind of tango are you really interested in learning? Tango of the 70's?


Or perhaps Tango of the 80's?


Trick question! THE FOREGOING ARE FIGMENTS OF YOUR IMAGINATION.]

"Let's go to Confiteria Ideal! I know someone who is staying in the same tango house I'm staying in who knows another person who is dating an Argentinian! He might show up!"


[How about let's not.]


It's enough to make our eyes glaze over and roll to the back of our heads. But who are the strange ones? Maybe it's us! There's no denying it - there is a bright happy tango world where people actually think like this:

1. I don't know any Argentinians (although it is rumored that they exist). I know plenty of North Americans though!;

2. Quit telling me which old person is a good tango dancer. They all look the same to me!

3. I and everybody I know are currently on or about to take a tango tour
(of course conducted entirely in English);

4. Tango of the 50's or 40's or whatever - who gives a darn! I want to learn from someone from the age of spandex! (Or polyester!)

5. The best tango dancers/instructors are the ones that live next door! There's a bonus - they make the most interesting faces when they dance!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Distinctive Styles - Part 3 (The Luckiest Tanguero in the World/The Mysterious Man in Black)

4 a.m. at Glorias Argentinas. It was the end of the evening, most of the people had already left. We were hanging out with both Adela and Elba and their friends and Osvaldo and Coca - on two different tables on opposite sides of the room, so we were constantly shuttling back and forth! Every night we spent in Buenos Aires was surreal, like in a dream.

Ninety percent of the people at most barrio milongas know each other - they may have grown up together, or have seen so much tango history together they consider each other family. The atmosphere is much more relaxed, and people joke around and have fun. If there are "codigos" here, they are loose and more to do with common sense, courtesy and mutual respect among friends, and not the staid, strict, ritualistic "codigos" of downtown strangers. Do you still have to stick to the codes so you won't offend people you consider as dear as your sister, your brother, your father, your mother, your son or your daughter? No. And so it is with the dancers in the inner circle, at the heart of the barrio milonga.

Some "codigo" gurus would have a fit if they saw what goes on at Glorias Argentinas as the night wears on. Gentlemen coming up to the table to ask for a dance. Ladies screaming and laughing "NO, NO, NO, NO WAY NOT ON YOUR LIFE EVER!" when asked to dance (they were just kidding). Ladies asking gentlemen to dance for multiple tandas. People not finishing their tandas, but not because their partner sucked - it was because they were tired (and/or old) or because the food had arrived. Ancient tangueras asking Man Yung to marry them (he declined - he didn't know what to do with multiple offers).

The night was drawing to a close, and since Elba and Adela are the kindest, most welcoming milongueras on the planet (and as Man Yung was too scared to ask them before), they asked Man Yung to dance! "Hey buddy, don't just sit there - how about a dance?" said Elba

So in these videos, you will get to see THE LUCKIEST TANGUERO IN THE WORLD.

First Man Yung danced a milonga with Elba:


Elba Biscay dancing milonga with Man Yung at Glorias Argentinas

Then they danced one tango to Troilo (last tanda!):


Elba Biscay dancing a Troilo tango with Man Yung at Glorias Argentinas

Now, Man Yung is considered somewhat a terror in Toronto Tango - it's something about all those turns and strange, unorthodox moves that makes some followers think they will trip over their feet and fall flat on their faces (in front of the "Toronto Milongueros" no less)! Some Toronto Tangueras are frightened at the prospect of having to follow all that, and respond in either of three ways: They say "No thanks! My feet hurt!"; or they say "yes", and then proceed to "slow" Man Yung down by digging in their heels and hanging onto him like a human straitjacket; or they say "yes", and then stop the dance in the middle of the dance floor to give Man Yung a lecture about "The Embrace" and "Codigos" (so they don't have to dance, they can just talk)!

Is Man Yung really such a "difficult" dancer? Pffffffffft! Hardly! Milongueras in Buenos Aires and especially dancers in the same caliber as Elba and Adela find following Man Yung a walk in the park. They have seen and followed everything humanly possible in Tango, what could be so difficult about a few extra turns from a little chinese fellow? "They make me feel completely secure and free to lead whatever the music tells me to!" Man Yung remarked. "Complete and utter freedom!" And when the Milongueras dance, they dance with such joy.

For the next tango, Elba proposed that she film us dancing:


Don't watch this if you are severely allergic to "Irene and Man Yung dancing" - you have been warned

Elba is so cool - there's this part of the video where she refuses to film us being ambushed by a milonguero wielding a business card - and we get to see her lovely, glittering, pastel pink and purple coloured shoes! Elba and Adela have some of the the most delicious tango shoes we have ever seen on the dance floor. The first time we saw Elba and Adela, they were both wearing sexy sky-high stilettos - if I recall correctly, Elba was wearing a metallic turquoise pair, while Adela was wearing a pair in black or dark dark red. You couldn't help but stare at their shoes - and their captivating walk and footwork as they danced.

....Ladies, this means one thing: "Beautiful Tango Shoes" and "Uber-Milonguera" status go together like peanut butter and jelly. Grab your credit card and make a beeline for your nearest Comme Il Faut dealer now!

Speaking of which, the LUCKIEST TANGUERO IN THE WORLD also got to dance one tango with Adela - who was wearing a marvelous striped and polka dot red, white and black graphic print dress... with black and white polka dot shoes to match!:



While I was trying to get this memorable moment on video, a mysterious milonguero in black suddenly tried to interrupt me and take my camera away. How annoying! Here on film is captured forever evidence of my inability to "walk and chew gum" at the same time - or rather, my inability to speak coherently in spanish (I swear I don't usually sound quite so stupid!) explain why I am filming Adela dancing (because it is "lindo"! No, I can't think complex thoughts while I'm trying to multi-task), continue to film AND try to run away camera-grabbing hands.

After that, it was the very last tango of the evening - La Cumparsita.

If "Codigo" violation is as bad for your "Tango Salvation" as breaking any of the ten commandments, then we must have been well on our way to "Tango Hell" - not only did I go right up to the table of the camera stealing milonguero to ask him to dance instead of "saving" myself for THE LUCKIEST TANGUERO IN THE WORLD a.k.a. Man Yung for the very last tango of the night - the camera-stealing milonguero said "Yes"! The only real "Tango Sin" here was heck, I should have put the camera down earlier to dance with him! "Codigos" be damned - everybody just dance!:


Julio Cesar Cordi dancing A SPECTACULAR "La Cumparsita" at Glorias Argentinas

Where have all these unbelievable dancers been hiding? On that night at Glorias Argentinas, it seemed that they all came out of nowhere - splendid leaders, dazzling followers - all with their own distinctive styles of dancing. And the mysterious milonguero in black, Julio Cesar Cordi* - we've never seen such a stunning "La Cumparsita"!

This is the end of our video reports on our trip in 2010 (March). Hope you enjoyed all these different styles of dancing - and we hope that we've opened your eyes a little to what's out there. Happy dancing - and may you all be distinctive, original, and muy, muy, tango.

* It wasn't until this week looking over videos of the television program "Entre Nosotros Tango con Osvaldo Rivas" that we realized - we've seen Julio Cesar Cordi perform before on the show! And I had NO idea at all when I danced with him. Deja vu again at Glorias Argentinas - it happened before when I danced with Ruben de la Pompeya in 2007 at Elba's birthday party and was oblivious to who he was. This proves once and for all, I am such a COLOSSAL dork.

Alberto Dassieu

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