Friday, November 18, 2011


 Marc Chagall - "Double Portrait with Wine Glass" 1917

"Hey Man Yung, we better not stay too late at the milonga tonight - let's go to the Marc Chagall exhibition at the AGO tomorrow morning!" I said over lunch.

I think Man Yung heard "not too late" and "milonga" and that may have turned him right off. He grunted. "Where are we going tomorrow?"

Don't be misled by Man Yung's response. For those out there who think that Man Yung is only a Chinese-speaking, Tango-Dancing, Soup-making, Kung-Fu practicing old person - let me explain.  Man Yung appreciates art more than I do - and I'm no slouch either!  One of his first loves was Rembrandt - and then, focusing on more realism, he starting studying the works of Jacques-Louis David.  Degas opened another vista for him - viewing his paintings gives Man Yung a feeling of "moving tranquility" - and he started to appreciate the post-impressionists as well, such as Gauguin, Cezanne and Van Gogh ("Except that looking at Van Gogh's brushstrokes drives me crazy!" says Man Yung).  The first time Man Yung saw a painting by Modigliani, it was like being struck by lightning.  It's too bad that Modigliani died so young though - his style never really evolved very much, but his art will always hold a very special place in Man Yung's heart.

But Man Yung's absolute favourite artist is Picasso.  He is known for breaking down in tears in front of certain paintings by Picasso - which I find quite amusing.  Man Yung didn't want to like Picasso - it seemed to him that every boor out there with no real feeling or interest  towards art would say they liked Picasso or Van Gogh just because their artworks are renowned for being the most expensive at auctions. But there's a reason why Picasso's works fetch the prices that they fetch - it's because his work is really and truly "genius".

Unfortunately, Man Yung hasn't paid that much attention to Chagall. But I know how to get his attention.  "Did you know that Picasso thought very highly of Chagall's works?  In fact, he said  - 'When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.'"

Man Yung's ears perk up.  "Whose opinion was that again?"

"It was Picasso's opinion.  That's PABLO PICASSO." 

I think we are going to the AGO tomorrow after all!


Which brings me to the following:

1.  Alberto Dassieu was teaching a group class in __________________ (somewhere not in Buenos Aires - are you surprised?  But luckily, not in Toronto either).  The class was filled with gringos who were either very beginner, or very beginner AND trying to show off their "show/nuevo moves" so that the visiting maestro would be impressed at their intrinsic "tango-athleticism".

Now, Alberto is a very gentle teacher. When it came time for Alberto to instruct one of the worst offenders - ahem, most enthusiastic practitioners of "show/nuevo tango athleticism", Alberto had just a few, kind words of advice.

Mr. Show Tango snarled sarcastically.  "Oh, is that your opinion?" he said. And he continued whirling and high kicking around in class like the Tasmanian Devil.

Now, why did Mr. Show Tango take Alberto's class when he was not prepared to listen to Alberto's opinion? 

2.  We were taking group classes with Osvaldo and Coca at El Tacuari last year.  A tall, skinny, young, attractive blond gringo couple dressed entirely in blinding bright white was taking the class with us.

Osvaldo and Coca were teaching us how to move in the context of a milonga.  "This is something you can do when there's too many people around you and you can't go forward."  Osvaldo grabbed a couple of us and made us stand around pretending to be a crowd so that he could demonstrate how the step worked.

Mr. and Ms. Beautiful turned up their noses.  Instead of doing the "boring, stupid, simple, old-timey step" - they proceeded to execute high velocity whirligigs.

Didn't they know they were taking a class that had nothing to do with twirling at high speeds and knocking onlookers over using centrifugal force?

3.  "Ah, Irene - I see that you are perplexed," said Man Yung.  "There is a very simple explanation why you will find, all over the world, scenarios like the ones you described above."

You bet that I am puzzled.  "You'd think that these people paid good money for the classes in order to learn something from real Maestros.  But why are they persistently doing their own thing instead of listening to expert opinion?"

"Don't be naive - they aren't taking the class to learn.  They are taking the class with the hope that the Maestro - whom they have no real interest in learning from - will see them (and who can avoid it - especially when they are kicking and spinning like that and wearing radiant, eye-piercing white!), admire them, and give them copious compliments to validate their Tango existence.  Anytime you get within a twenty meter radius of a visiting Tango Maestro, there is good chance you will encounter this kind of behavior - no matter whether you are in a class, at a milonga, or even in the middle of the street!"

I sighed. "No wonder milongas here become like nuthouses when Maestros visit.  Remind me to avoid going to the milonga when any of them come to town."*

* When I said "Avoid" and "Milonga" - Man Yung immediately said, "NOOOOOOO!!!! Not 'Avoid'! We go anyway but 'Just be careful not to get kicked.'"


Chris said...

You hit the nail on the head, Man Yung. And additionally to validationism there's CVism - when these students promote themselves for tango work, they get to include on their CV the names of the mastros they have "trained with"... even if the only training they did was in ignoring the word "Nooooo...!!!" :)

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Chris,

The flagrant "Resume-building" efforts of wannabe, semi- and full fledged professionals continue to astound - we believe that it is a subject for not just one, but probably ten or twenty more posts! But we have upset too many people in Toronto Tango already (or at least we've filled our quota for this week) so we will refrain...except we will say that the worst that we have seen is one particular "professional" who lists no less than FIFTY teachers on her CV.

You'd think that with the amount of confusion she would get after taking classes with FIFTY teachers, she would hide, rather than advertise the fact!

Thanks for your comment!

Irene and Man Yung

Chris said...

"You'd think that with the amount of confusion she would get after taking classes with FIFTY teachers ... "

Sounds like a good way to learn fifty times as many steps as the typical good dancer... :)

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather