Saturday, September 10, 2011

Buenos Aires 2009 - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Saraza - beginning of the milonga

Tuesday March 3, 2009

Dear V,

More Camicando. More classes. Unfortunately, the big egos in some of our fellow students continue their rampage.

The second floor in Salon Victorial is divided into small, interlinked and doorless rooms - there's not enough space to have all the students in one room so we kind of branch off  to practice wherever there is space.  There was a couple hogging the larger central vestibule next to the stairs.  Since there was more than enough space for twenty couples (and better ventilation - yes, it is hot again) we started practicing in the vestibule.  This apparently annoyed the couple who was already there.

They stopped practicing to glare at us.  "Can't you FOLLOW THE LINE OF DANCE?" they said.

We looked around to ascertain the "ronda" they were so adamantly insistent upon.  It was as we thought - the place was empty except for the four of us and the sound of crickets chirping.  Wow, they invoked the "Gods of Codigo" even though it was not remotely a milonga.  What do you think?  I'm thinking that what they really wanted to say was "Get out of our territory, we are taking the "Master Classes" and therefore we are more important than you!" So true: we are indeed so low on the hierarchy of tango importance, we haven't even made it to the bottom rung of the ladder.  We left them to their little kingdom.

When classes ended for the day, we went back to Santa Fe and Callao and shopped for paper to print our emails on.   We are too embarrassed to ask for more paper from the front desk. Then it was back to the hotel for a shower, and then to Saraza in Caballito.  We were running a little late so we flagged down the first taxi that came down the road.

It happened not to be a radio taxi, so I engaged the taxi driver in conversation all the way to the milonga.  We talked about everything - the taxi driver even told us about his daughter, who was graduating from medical school (he pointed out the school as we passed it on the way).  He was very proud of her.  We talked about the weather in Canada, the profusion of chinese supermarkets all over the city ("You really like Buenos Aires?  Then you should move here, and open a chinese supermarket!" he suggested helpfully), whether or not Buenos Aires is getting more dangerous (yes, he said, because of all the drugs from Mexico).  When we got to the inner barrio streets we were still chatting away and trying to find Saraza together.  In fact we were talking so much that the driver didn't pay attention to the road and almost crashed at the intersection!

Saraza is held in a Club de Barrio called Club Telégrafo y Crisol Unidos.  Apart from the dance hall there's also a kickboxing/martial arts/fitness gym - for guys only, apparently.  You can peer into the gym from the windows facing the cobblestoned street.  To get to the milonga itself you have to walk down a very long corridor painted in white.  We were there early, before the milonga patrons had arrived - because we wanted to take class with Osvaldo and Coca.

They were already there - we kissed and hugged each other hello, but their attention was focused the class which, including us, had eight people. There was a young argentinian couple (dressed in baggy clothing), a few singles, and one of Osvaldo and Coca's friends from Saturday night. It was still daylight outside, and the light filtered though into the room from the open air courtyard - all the french doors had been flung open to let the breeze come through.  Osvaldo and Coca had brought a little portable stereo and played music from a CD that had their favourite performance and class music. 

Osvaldo taught two or three simple and very short steps - all based on the walk.  You'd be surprised how difficult it is to get it right, even among "advanced" learners in the class.  Osvaldo's style is deceptively simple - it all looks like walking, but the fact that some people can find it difficult just shows how little of walking people have learned from their other teachers!  After a bit of practice and lots of coaching, Osvaldo and Coca made each couple demonstrate the steps they taught to make sure they had got it. Man Yung got a lot from the class. 

After the class we sat at Osvaldo and Coca's table at the back of the hall near the kitchen - people were starting to come in, and Osvaldo and Coca ordered Matambre.  They asked what we wanted to order - and we said we weren't hungry, we had a huge meal before class.  "What did you eat?" asked Osvaldo.  We explained we had noodles...that came in a cup.  Osvaldo rolled his eyes.  Osvaldo and Coca's friends came - we all sat squished together at the long table.

By the way, we didn't have to pay the milonga entrada - it turned out that this was the exact same milonga we got free passes to from the milonga organizer Ricardo who came over to us when we were at Milonga del Centenario the previous Thursday!  What a coincidence!

The milonga may have been free but we weren't feeling up to enjoying the evening.  The music was ok.  Lots of locals, cabeceo-ing each other from across the room.  When we danced the people stared.  An older, very animated lady with reddish brown hair and dressed like a gypsy came to congratulate us on our dancing - we pointed at Osvaldo and Coca and told her they were our teachers. She didn't know who Osvaldo and Coca were.  She started to talk excitedly about folklore and we stood there nodding politely.

The standard of dancing at Saraza was very "barrio" (see Glorias Argentinas), but on the whole quite musical.  It's the outsiders who look out of place.  The young "nuevo" couple who took the class had a lot of skill, but the figures and the adornments they were trying to exert all over the music drained the musicality out of their dancing.  There was also a guy with a big handlebar moustache, dancing (actually, it was more like shuffling) in fuzzy fringed suede moccasins while leaning back awkwardly. He was just as bad a leader as his partner was bad as a follower, but nevertheless she proudly put in every clumsy, ugly adornment from the women's technique classes and youtube videos that she could muster.

But they were no way as distasteful visually (and I'm sorry to say it) as the "CANYENGUE!" couple who showed up.  Camicando alumni, unfortunately.

Canyengue really trains your ear for the music and looks pretty great when danced in a musical, subtle way. However, when danced to ALL the music (that means non-Canyengue music as well as Canyengue music - for some overzealous Canyengue aficionados, the whole Mundo de Tango is one big Canyengue party) with costume changes, uncontrolled enthusiasm and too much stamping of the feet (Man Yung compares it to roach-stomping) - it looks really, really embarrassing.  We had seen the lovely couple before - drawing the spotlight on themselves time and time again at all the other Camicando events.  It didn't look so bad when there were droves of other Canyengue couples around them (there is safety in numbers, I guess) - at Saraza, they stood out.  We watched them prance about splendiferously - and why not, the man had a Canyengue "hat and neckerchief" thing going on while the woman did her share of roach crushing in open-toed, flat-soled, gladiator-style flip-flops.  It was quite a show, especially with her booty exaggeratedly protruding in Canyengue embrace -  her panty lines clearly visible under her diaphanous, transparent, white linen harem pants.

They saw us!  We were hoping that they would not.  They leisurely stomped and jerked over to the table, still in full Canyengue embrace - no, not to say hello.  "Ha ha ha ha!" said the lady, looking at Osvaldo and Coca and then looking at us.  "Lookie who's here!  Taking classes with Osvaldo and Coca, heh?"  She gave us a sly wink.

We predicted that this Auntie Number 8 in the see-through harem pants will lose no time and tell Martha and Manolo at the first opportunity that she had "caught" us taking classes (and hanging out) with Osvaldo and Coca.  Good thing we told them beforehand.*

* Not like there is anything wrong with hanging with Osvaldo and Coca!  In fact, Osvaldo and Coca taught classes at the first Camicando we ever went to in 2007.  But from the way that the "CANYENGUE!" couple acted, it was like they had caught us red-handed in some kind of Canyengue Sacrilege!

It was all very tiring.  We were ready to leave at 11 p.m. - and not because we had contravened any of the ten commandments of Canyengue. We let Osvaldo know that we wanted to go - and he got Ricardo, the organizer, to call us a remise.  The remise came pretty quickly. "Have a good trip!" said Coca, cheerily (did she mean back to the hotel?  or back to Canada?). Osvaldo came outside with us to make sure we got into the right car.  Herding Chinese people (or is it Japanese?  Korean?) is like herding cats.

When we got back to the hotel, Man Yung realized with a shock that in the rush, he had left his big red Crocs at Saraza.   Sigh.  It was quite an ordeal for me to try to explain to Ricardo on the phone what it was that we left at the milonga.  Despite all our efforts at explaining (Ricardo probably got all the women sitting against the wall to stand up so he could look under the table), Ricardo couldn't find them.*  Man Yung was inconsolable.

* That was because Man Yung didn't actually leave his big red Crocs at Saraza.  He never brought to to the milonga - he left them at the hotel!

Can you blame me for not being hungry when we popped over to La Madeleine for late-night snack!


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