Sunday, July 17, 2011

Buenos Aires 2009 Part 5 - Friday, February 27, 2009

Dear V,

Here’s my long-winded account of Friday.  You are not the only ones “enjoying” my emails.  Man Yung is also printing them out and reading them.  He is loving these accounts!

Friday began with breakfast at the hotel.  We had plenty of time before we had to be at Osvaldo and Coca’s house at 2 p.m., so we decided not to do anything except rest.  Timing of meals is always tricky.  The schedule for the day was Osvaldo and Coca at 2, Martha and Manolo’s class at 4:30, and then Sin Rumbo at 10.  We decided to eat the hotel breakfast as late as possible, and then have a meal after Martha and Manolo’s class - otherwise we couldn’t really squeeze anything in.

Alberto had not called us by noon so we called him. His condition is progressing very slowly.  He gave me a bunch of blood pressure numbers.  I guess that meeting us on Tuesday was really too much for him.  Our presence in Buenos Aires is killing the Milongueros.  We said we would not go to Elba’s party without him - we will go to Sin Rumbo instead, and for now he must rest and we can make plans later.  We had to tell Alberto our plans - to visit Osvaldo and Coca (he’s ok with that) and then “maybe” we will take classes with M&M, but maybe not because we are so tired.  Alberto doesn’t like us taking classes with M&M and dancing “Canyengue” style - he must consider it completely opposite his style and bad for Man Yung's tango formation!  He doesn't realize that it has been really good for our musicality and that by learning from teachers with different styles and different preferences in music, we are actually increasing our ability to  dance to any and all kinds of tango music.

It was going to be a long taxi ride to Lanus, so we went to withdraw cash first.  The machine didn’t let us withdraw more than 300 pesos last year, but this year it seems that the sky’s the limit.  First 400, now 500.  So exciting.  Could we withdraw 200,000? 

The radio taxi driver had to call for directions.  95% of the taxi drivers we encounter are so nice and friendly and professional.  I’ve been too tired (and feeling under the weather) to have long conversations with all of them this year.  I’m just thankful that we can take the taxi out to wherever we wanted to go.  When we traveled to Osvaldo’s house, we realized just how far it was.  First you take 9 de Julio until the end, and cross the bridge into Avellaneda.  Then you have to travel a bit in Avellaneda, cross another bridge, and circle around and around first commercial and industrial streets, and then residential streets, before you finally reach Osvaldo and Coca’s house.  The streets of Avellaneda and Lanus, or at least the ones we went through to reach the house, are kind of like the  areas of industrial Scarborough, Argentinian style.  There are very few green areas, but many run down auto shops with corrugated steel and hand painted signs, interspersed with local eateries and kioscos with peeling faded storefronts.  It’s dustier and people are sparse.  However it is still very interesting  for us to see all this, even though the taxi driver was feeling nervous and locked all the doors “for security”.  We crossed a rusty steel bridge to Lanus, with quite a few people waiting for the bus at the foot of the bridge, and even saw a horse drawn cart.

It is surreal to visit the residential suburbs.  The few times we have, we have observed that the streets are always eerily quiet - whether at night or in the day.  All the houses are gated and there's no spaces between the modest houses.  Sometimes you see graffiti - but not too much.  The area that O&C live is less run down than the area in Mataderos where Glorias Argentinas is - there you have gaping holes between buildings where the buildings had been knocked down.  Here, you don’t, but still, it was very very quiet on the street.  But thinking about it, it is kind of like Scarborough suburbia - except the subdivisions of Toronto are nicer with “better” looking houses (which all look the same) and there’s better security so the houses do not have to be gated.  There’s more effort to make the subdivisions here in Toronto look regular and “nice”, with lawns and tidy streets and such.  But really, it all means the same thing. 

I can’t imagine how long it took for O&C to TAKE THE BUS all the way from their house to Buenos Aires to compete in the Campeonato Mundial. It cost about 35 pesos for the taxi to get there - right to their door. By bus, I'm thinking may take 2 or 3 hours, depending on how many times you change buses.  I once had to take a 3 hour TTC ride from my LSAT exam - buses, subway, RT.  I was cursing all the way.

The gate and door of the house was painted a light green - there is a garden that’s the size of our hotel bathroom in the front of the house, with straggling climbing roses.  Since we were 15 minutes early, we decided to take some photos of the street, and walk a little bit to the park half a block away.  The neighbour peeked at us from the open door of his house (we peeked inside as we passed - it was chaos inside with stuff everywhere) - thinking who are these strange Chinese people taking photos?  I bet the taxi driver thought it was strange we would go all the way there in the middle of ??? too.

In the park there was grass and trees (and one or two people sleeping in the shade) but there was also decaying concrete and a rusty children’s playground, and graffiti that someone tried to wash off - but layers of the graffiti traces remained.  What was it like to live there?  Where the regular day to day people lived?  It was so quiet, there wasn’t even any breeze.  We walked back and took a photo of the waterproofing shop right on the corner - they do balconies and kiddies swimming pools too, and there were two kiddie’s pools right in the front.  But apart from a lone man painting a sign on the whitewashed wall of the shop, there were no other people there.

At Osvaldo and Coca's neighbourhood park

On Osvaldo and Coca's street.  It was so quiet it was like the whole world was holding their breath for a showdown at noon in one of those old spaghetti westerns.

More of Osvaldo and Coca's neighbourhood.

We walked back to Osvaldo’s house, pressed the buzzer (and hoping that it really was his house!)  We looked in and saw Osvaldo getting up - and he rushed out to open the gate for us without a shirt on. It was very natural for him - because it was hot, he wasn’t going to sit around wearing a shirt.  It’s just like that in Hong Kong too, where people would sit around and even walk around in their council flats with just an undershirt and shorts. 

Osvaldo’s son was fixing the car.  We got introduced to a few of his daughters and his son as they came in and out of the sitting area, on their own business.  It was all very natural, like they weren’t even expecting guests.  It is a very humble house - the walls are wood paneled and covered with trophies, calendars, knick knacks and a big floor to ceiling drawing of Osvaldo and Coca dancing.  The living area was completely dark with red tiles, the only natural light was through the front door and the kitchen window.  We sat at the kitchen table - there was stuff on the table because they had finished eating and hadn’t completely cleaned up - and even a baby pacifier and such.  I sat on some wet crumbs.  They had two single sofa chairs in the living area but there was stuff on them and the floor too.  In any case, and this is what we treasure, we were welcomed into their house without fanfare to see how it was that they lived.  And it seems that the whole family including grandchildren lived in the same area.  It really reminded both Man Yung and myself of how people lived in Hong Kong before they started to make money in the real estate and stock markets and things became fancy.  Lots of my uncles and aunts lived with my grandparents, even after they married and had children.

Osvaldo and Coca's Home Sweet Home

So we gave our gifts to Osvaldo and Coca - a necklace for Coca from the Ottawa Museum of Civilization, and a scotch for Osvaldo.  He is feeling much better- gained a bit of weight - but last year he almost died.  He still gets out of breath even when he talks, and it is difficult for him to finish a tango without getting out of breath.  We talked about tango, and he remarked that there had been a tv special of the Campeonato and it talked about how Osvaldo and Coca’s style was distinctive and no-one else dances that style. 

We had the forethought to bring our mp3 and video player with the speakers.  We showed Osvaldo and Coca their recent performance at the Misterio festival last month (they thought it was ‘weird’ - everyone there was dancing and teaching Nuevo and they wanted to see them to perform?)  They liked watching the video very very much, they were so happy to have the opportunity to see - and perhaps confirm that they were still dancing as well as ever despite Osvaldo’s recent illness.  We had been talking about dancing in their style (not that they would believe us because they didn’t have a chance to see us dancing last year) and as fate would have arranged it, we had a video of our recent practica at Mad for Dance in Toronto to show them - dancing to their favourite Donato tracks of “El Adios” and “Tiempos Viejos”.  We showed them the video and they watched intently.

We showed Osvaldo and Coca this video of us practicing in Toronto to one of O&C's favourite tangos - "Tiempos Bravos" by the orchestra of Edgardo Donato.  We look at this video now and can't believe that we were dancing like that back in February of 2009!  Even our dancing was rough, green and naive compared to now. It was the first time that Man Yung found our dancing "marginally acceptable" (and not as likely to cause onlookers to lose their lunch).  We were happy that Osvaldo and Coca liked it, we were practicing a lot of their steps - but frankly, I think they were more impressed with the big fluffy red heart on the mirror (they like cute things shaped like hearts).  This was just before Mad for Tango's big Valentine milonga.

After watching, Osvaldo looked like he was about to cry.  Our video really surprised them - because we were dancing in their style!  Man Yung was doing Osvaldo's steps, and I was following like Coca.  "Your husband has very good hearing," they said, praising Man Yung's musicality.  They were also interested in my following, and said I was the “Coca of Canada” - hee!  They didn’t really care that we stole their steps from the internet, it was all about having someone dancing like them - because even after teaching so much no-one did, especially not in Argentina.  They did mention that some Italian guy did, but come on, obviously we are much more special (just kidding!)  Osvaldo was really moved and excited (time to worry about his blood pressure too - I told them that our presence was killing the Milongueros).  They watched the videos of us and of their performance at Misterio a few times - and called their children to come and see the videos (probably to prove to them “I told you so!  See, someone dancing in my style!”) The main thing Osvaldo was concerned with was that Man Yung had no “pauses”.  Osvaldo got up to show us what he meant, and even danced with me (which we videotaped) to show us how to do it:

We took this video at Osvaldo and Coca's house on our trip to Buenos Aires in February of 2009. They had just seen a video of us practicing their steps, and on the whole they liked it very much - except Osvaldo was annoyed that Man Yung didn't know how to pause! This was a little demonstration Osvaldo made just for Man Yung to study when he got back to Toronto.

Osvaldo was also a little concerned about Man Yung's leading and asked whether Man Yung was actually “leading” the steps or whether we were choreographing everything, and so asked Coca to dance a little with Man Yung to check:

Osvaldo wanted to find out whether Man Yung was leading his steps or whether he was just doing "choreography" - so he told Coca to check. I guess Man Yung must have been doing ok since Osvaldo was excited and impressed. Listen to him curse and say "Look at how that sonofabitch dances!"

I said to Osvaldo and Coca that we learned a lot from them, to dance with emotion and the music - and to not dance with so many intrusive adornments like before. Coca agreed that was the way to dance.

We didn’t want to take up too much of their time, so we said we had to go to Martha and Manolo’s class at the Galerias Pacifico at 4.  Coca called a remise for us, and as we were leaving, Osvaldo invited us to go to Sunderland with them on Saturday night.  Sunderland, the land of the cirque du soleil touristas and the “Villa Urquiza” clones!  We were planning to go to Glorias Argentinas, but the opportunity to go to Sunderland and perhaps even bump into Toronto people - while sitting at Osvaldo and Coca’s table, ha ha - was too precious.  We made plans to meet there at 11:30 Saturday night.  As we left in the remise, Osvaldo told the driver to drive safely with us - he had his eye on him!

The driver was from Spain, and although he didn’t dance tango he listened to it and talked about the orchestras.  He knew the area much better than the taxi driver so the trip was far quicker - but which really complicated.  We did drive by some green places this time - and passed by Racing Club stadium. The tango was composed by Di Sarli, according to the driver, but we were most familiar with Biagi's version.

It cost 31 pesos to get to Galerias Pacifico, even though there was a lot of traffic. We were just a little bit early for class.  50 pesos for the two of us again - this time Martha and Manolo were teaching Tango Salon.  There were some really beginner beginners in the class - because all the intermediates and up all want to take classes where they learn how to fly instead of walk.  Again, not many people. Anyway, I tried to rest as much as possible while Man Yung helped with “the ladies” in the class.  We took a peek at a video of the performance of M&M in Detroit on our mp3/video player to see if there was anything we wanted to ask M&M - there was only that particular figure that we could never quite get.  Man Yung says he kind of “gets it” now after asking them.  Martha said Man Yung “dancing very good”.  I said that Osvaldo noticed it was “without pause”, which Martha agreed.  But apparently he leads very well - he is able to lead beginners to do many things.  It’s the intermediates and so-called “advanced” followers who have problems following, because they are so intent on doing adornments and the figures they have learned, they can’t respond to his lead naturally.

Martha and Manolo doing a demo to an never-ending milonga at Escuela Argentina de Tango after their class on February 27, 2009. Just look at Martha's beautiful legs! And we always love Manolo's corriditas. What we didn't like very much were the tango tourists taking photos DURING the demo like they were at the CN Tower or Niagara Falls.

We are getting ready to go to Milonguita tonight, so more to follow about our chat with Martha and Manolo after class and what we saw at Sin Rumbo….



jessiechung said...

Hello Irene and Man Yung,

These are lovely journals you wrote! Thank you for the posting. We enjoyed watching the food puking in Vancouver at all, we assure you. Man Yung dances and leads beautifully! Lastly, I think that Donato instrumental piece is titled "Tiempos Bravos". Will you consider writing something about the Tango music you both enjoy dancing to any time soon?

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Jessie and Dorian,

Thanks for the correction and glad that you are enjoying these posts and videos (and not losing any meals). We assure you, we have worked hard to improve our dancing and now we only cause mild indigestion!

Once we're done with these 2009 posts, say, sometime in 2015, we'll post something about music! :-)

All the best,

Irene and Man Yung

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