We have been dancing Tango for EIGHT YEARS!
We can hardly imagine what life was like without Tango. How did we pass the time without milongas, practicas, classes, workshops, local, national and international Tango extravaganzas, and yearly (or bi-annual) visits to Buenos Aires? And what about 24/7 Tango music on the stereo, hours of surfing Tango websites, Tango blogs, Tango Youtube and Tango Facebook? We haven't even started considering the dozens, no, hundreds of times we have watched "The Tango Lesson" and Cosmotango 2004 and 2005!
We have only vague memories of what life was like way back when. Vacations in Paris - Ice cream at Berthillon. Long weekend road trips in the fall. Visits to exciting art exhibitions in town and across the border. Dinner with friends at least twice a week. Movie nights. Shopping!
And now - "Hurry up and finish your sandwich - we have a milonga to rush to!"
"Why, to think of it, life was kind of blissful back then..." said Man Yung, dreamily.
Yes indeed, life was blissful - and in more ways than one! Not only did we have a lot more time on our hands, we were definitely a great deal less disillusioned. I don't know about everybody else, but Tango has been a constant process of bubble bursting. What we wouldn't give to turn back the clock, to that time of precious innocence and ignorance...
All we can do is lament - and write sadly about
IRENE AND MAN YUNG'S THE THINGS THAT WE THOUGHT WERE, BUT WERE NOT REALLY
We take our first Tango class.
Man Yung was so looking forward to learning a dance in which he would have to wear a see-thru fishnet shirt unbuttoned to his crotch and skintight shiny satin pants. And all I wanted to do was to chomp down lasciviously on some rose stems while sporting a sequiny, fringe-y red and black ensemble.
We were headed for disappointment. I think Man Yung was confusing Tango with Salsa. I think I must have been confusing Tango...with Tango!
Our first milonga.
What, we have to pay extra to get into the post-class milonga? Our instructor never told us that!
What, you can actually go the wrong direction on the dance floor? Our instructor never told us that!
We just finished our first set of ten classes.
We ask our instructor, "How long will it be before we learn how to Tango?"
Our instructor snickers and struts off without replying.
We attend our first international Tango event (in Paris!)
We have been taking lots of classes (we thought)! We were very diligent students. We must be ready to dance at the fancy milonga.
But we can't even complete a ronda on the dance floor. It's crowded and bumpy. We keep on trying to do a salida. The other dancers snarl at us. We try furtively for one tango... and return to our seats at the end of it shaken, disturbed, and lucky to escape with our lives.
May - June, 2004.
Some random chinese guy in the milonga introduces himself to Man Yung and starts dissing our instructor. He claims to be an instructor at the Jolly Happy Tango Association and tells Man Yung he was invited to teach classes "somewhere in the West". "You take classes with ____________? Pfffft!" he says.
We take a pre-milonga class with another local instructor. She asks us who our "regular" instructor was and upon hearing the name, rolls her eyes and makes a "tsk-tsk" noise.
We thought that these were isolated and specific incidents of disapproval. But no. It's universal. No matter who you are learning with and when, everyone will not agree with your choice and would be quite convinced someone else (probably themselves) would teach you better and faster.
Man Yung has finally learned 10 steps (and remembers them)! "Now I can finally go all the way around the dance floor when I dance!" he said, hopefully.
We take a workshop with yet another local instructor. It cost $35.00 (per person). The instructor has no clue as to what she is teaching. She asks, "What would you like to learn today?"
As if any of us newbies had any idea. The instructor spends 75% of the workshop talking "embrace theory" and showing us books written in Spanish that may or may not have anything to do with Tango. The other 25% was also bullshit.
Our first Tango Christmas Extravaganza. We were so excited. We even dressed up.
It was crowded. It was cold (a big draft blew in whenever someone opened the front door of the restaurant). The main course was tough, dry and tasteless. We were seated with people we didn't know and there were lots of awkward silences. The performances were not very good. There were too many rambling speeches.
Only half an hour was allotted to actual dancing at the end of the evening. The floor was sticky and it was impossible to pivot on it.
We attend a "Practica". Our instructor has decided that it is time we learned how to dance "Milonga". He plays a milonga. "Dance faster! Dance faster!" he says.
I don't have to tell you that is not quite the way to learn how to dance the milonga.
Our videotape of Pepito Avellaneda's "Asi se baila la milonga" arrives.
"Oh, that's how you dance the milonga!" exclaims Man Yung.
Our videotape of Daniel Lapadula's "Tango Estilo del Centro" arrives.
"Oh, so you could dance Tango musically and enjoyably without being young, extra bendy with the ability to do superhuman underwear flashing flying leaps and Can-Can kicks!"
It was a revelation of the grandest, most earth-shaking sort. Thanks, Daniel!*
* Conversely, Osvaldo Zotto and Mora Godoy's "Asi se baila Tango" and Juan Carlos Copes' instructional tapes were not quite as helpful. Maybe because we are not intelligent enough to make sense of the material in a social dance setting.
Our first milonga at a local Tango festival.
A tanda of milonga plays. We take to the dance floor.
A fellow Tango student couple (we had been taking classes with the same instructor - and they have been taking classes for much longer than us) spots us. They haven't seen us in class for a while. The man says to his wife in disbelief, "Look, they're going to dance milonga! I've got to see this!"
We dance milonga. I think they were disappointed that we didn't fall flat on our faces.
And we never encounter our fellow Tango student couple in class or in the milongas again. They must have thought we bribed our instructor to get him to teach us how to dance milonga (No, we got everything from Pepito Avellaneda!)
Our second Christmas Tango Extravaganza. We were still excited - but a little wary.
It wasn't as crowded, but there wasn't enough food. I think I managed to grab an empanada and a roll, and that was it. The organizers rationed out bottles of water like it was London during the Blitz, so there wasn't enough to drink either. The performances were so-so. They kept on interrupting the dancing with rambling speeches.
At least it wasn't cold.
"Remind me never to go to any of these Christmas Tango Extravaganzas ever again!" said Man Yung.*
* Ditto - Tango Extravaganzas in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.... even Extravaganzas held in Buenos Aires! "When will we ever learn?" asks Man Yung.
A local Toronto instructor appeared at the door of the popular weekend milonga and peered in.
"I say," he said loudly. "There's no-one good enough here to dance with me!"* He turned up his nose and left.
All of us swivel our heads to look into his direction and some of us ladies were even quite angry at this affront. Unfortunately, what he said could be somewhat true and pushing insolent Tangueros down the stairs is illegal.
* I would say that now, the opposite is true. The arrogant instructor is now not good enough - for any lady to dance with him!
We take 52 hours of classes with Martha and Manolo when they stayed in Toronto for an entire month. We learned Tango Salon, Canyengue, Milonga and Milonga Fantasia. When Martha and Manolo hugged us, they really meant it. When Martha and Manolo told us that they loved us, they really meant it. Our dancing improved and our perspective and insight into the dance deepened so much we will never have to look back again.
And yet, when we enthusiastically recommended Martha and Manolo's classes to a local tanguero, we were dismissed quite out of hand.
"I'm not interested in learning Tango Salon of the fifties," he said.*
Our expressions of incredulity can be found here.
* Funnily enough, the said local tanguero's tango level has remained up to now...firmly the same as his level in 2006! It must take a lot of intelligence, perseverence and skill to stay stuck in the same rut for this long!
We (and millions of Tango dancers all around the world) discover...Youtube!
Well, Youtube had been around since 2005 but there weren't that many good Tango videos until around mid-2006.
We got our first glimpse of Jorge Dispari and Maria Carmen. Javier and Geraldine.
I became a monkey-see, monkey-do rabid adornista. Fun and fabulous! And I wasn't the only one - because everyone can copy what they see in a video!
...And for evermore, you will get people running around telling other people, "You don't have to take classes/sign up for workshops/go to Buenos Aires, you can learn everything by watching Tango videos on Youtube! I did!"
...And for evermore, high-kicking show-tango instructors masquerading as social tango instructors who were relying on the lack of information about authentic social tango in the pre-Youtube days can't go around saying, "If you want to learn how to dance Tango socially, you only need to take classes with me!" Because one quick look on Youtube would prove otherwise.
Comme Il Fauts come to Toronto!
I realize that the tango shoes I was wearing before were not only uncomfortable...they were ridiculous.
We take our first trip to Buenos Aires - to attend Martha and Manolo's Camicando festival! We learned a lot and made friends with many warm, welcoming and wonderful Argentinians.
A lot of things we were warned about Buenos Aires turned out to be fiction.
We met and took classes with Alberto Dassieu. He improved my following TONS.
I paraphrase his advice: "Quit going faster than your partner and stop doing all those gratuitous adornments!"
My days as a rabid adornista were fun while they lasted.
I danced with Osvaldo Cartery for the first time!
Nothing else would ever compare to that experience. For all you out there who claim that dancing with ____________ or ______________ or _______________ is Tango Heaven on Earth, I tell you this:
Ladies, I've danced with ________________ and _________________ and _______________, and it was no way near Tango Heaven on Earth. Dancing with Osvaldo Cartery is Tango Heaven on Earth.* Period.
* Dear Man Yung: Don't be jealous! You have received a lot of advice from Osvaldo. I assure you, don't waste all that good advice and dancing with you too, one day, will be Tango Heaven on Earth! (In your dreams!)
Irene and Man Yung start writing their blog, aptly named "Irene and Man Yung's Tango Blog", in which they recount their day-to-day journey further and further away from oblivious innocence. You may wish to start at the beginning here. Or you may not.
We go to the milonga. We look around us.
New Tango is Dead. Toronto Tangueras follow beautifully - if they adorn, it is with subtlety and musicality. Toronto Tangueros are following the line of dance - and perhaps, they are not tailgating, or barging into other dancers with their eyes closed. There are isolated pockets of Tango insanity, but for the most part, the Hokey-Pokey dancers and the Crazy Chicken Ladies have vapourized into thin air. Fabio is nowhere to be seen.
The World (of Tango) is a better place.
How I long for the days gone by. Man Yung also feels nostalgic.* The fun we had, galloping around dancing milonga like it was "Tango, but faster." The great anticipation before every Tango Extravaganza. Our toe-pinching, bunion-inducing tango shoes were treasured because those were the only tango shoes we had. The pre-Youtube mystery of what "Good" Tango should look like - anybody could be fooled by an idiot with confidence and a well-written resumé. "Bumper-car" dancing was not only normal, it was desirable!
Now we are just jaded. We don't dance every tanda. We don't even go to every milonga! Tango Extravaganzas - we skip them entirely!
We might have been a lot more naive back then...but we have to admit: "Tango used to be a lot more fun!"