Sunday, July 22, 2012

Martha and Manolo in Toronto, April 2006

Martha and Manolo (and us!) in Detroit in 2007.  We had a great time attending Martha and Manolo's workshops at Lori Burton's Argentine Tango Detroit studios, and also their workshops at the Camicando festival in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Last post we talked about ordinary dancers from your local community traveling to Buenos Aires to bring back The Tango.  Although there's nothing quite like being in the city itself and steeping yourself in its unique culture, those who couldn't make it to Buenos Aires can still have a chance to experience it by learning from traveling Porteño teachers - especially those who have lived and danced in the Golden Age of Tango.

That's why we were so excited when we first learned Martha and Manolo were coming to Toronto, way back in our Tango infancy in 2006.  We didn't have Youtube (or, Youtube had only two or three rather poor quality Tango videos) back then - we only had a few precious and rare tango instruction videos ordered over the phone (Online Tango shopping was not yet a biggie).  One of these videos was a video about Canyengue, and had Martha Anton teaching with her previous partner, Luis Grodona - and one other video we had was of Manolo with his former partner Coca (not to be confused with Coca of Osvaldo and Coca), teaching his unique style of milonga.  And now, both Martha and Manolo were coming to Toronto!

Here's the story of how we first met Martha and Manolo.  But that's only part of the story.  Let us tell you about the amazing month we spent learning from Martha and Manolo!

Martha and Manolo had a LOT of material to teach - they are experts in Tango Salon from the Fifties, Canyengue, Milonga and Milonga Fantasia (being Milonga but in the very tricky reverse position) - and they were totally generous about it.  They had literally the fullest schedule of classes, ever - two classes every weeknight, six classes on Saturday and on Sunday too.  When we took a look at the schedule, we look at each other aghast, and wondered out aloud, "Who would possibly be able to take so many classes?"

After taking just one class with Martha and Manolo, we found out.

WE WERE THE ONES WHO WERE GOING TO TAKE ALL THE CLASSES.

It was the best investment of time and money we ever made in Tango.  After learning intensively from Martha and Manolo for 52 hours, we had an unbeatable foundation in Tango, Canyengue and Milonga.  The things we learned we would be able to keep with us for the rest of our dancing lives.

When we look back to those times, we don't know how we made it - and we're pretty sure we couldn't do it again (being pretty old and tired now).  I had to leave work an hour early every day to rush home, have a bite to eat - and then we would drive all the way downtown in heavy traffic to Lisandro and Tatiana's Tango Sur studio to take classes.  We were often late for class, but luckily Martha and Manolo are patient and kind (and they knew beforehand about my scheduling) and were never angry about the tardiness!

Classes were intense - Martha and Manolo were always going around to each student giving individual attention, explaining the material and demonstrating, working out the kinks. We've heard horror stories about unprofessional Tango Teachers - demonstrating a step here or there and then GOING OFF somewhere to drink a mate, smoke a cigarette, chat with their mates or girlfriend - while their students floundered helplessly.  Martha and Manolo gave the class their undivided attention - they expected everyone to work hard, and they worked harder than anyone else.  Martha and Manolo put their heart and soul into teaching, and everyone who took their classes felt it.  They wanted us to learn, and would do everything in their power to make sure that we did.

Classes on weekdays would last until 10, 10:30 p.m. - and then we would have to rush home, have another bite to eat, sleep - and then the same for the next day until the weekend rolled around.  The weekend was so full of classes it was hard to fit in lunch or dinner (or even laundry, or sleep)!  We'd be so tired we'd stop practicing and Martha and Manolo would catch us slacking off.  "But we are so exhausted and Man Yung is old!" I'd protest.  Martha and Manolo would smile and say, "We're much older than either of you and we have been on our feet teaching private classes even before your group class started!  Come on, keep on practicing!"  Martha and Manolo are tireless like that.

We only had a crappy Canon PowerShot A400 those days (Man Yung was too embarrassed to use it when we went on our trip to Montreal because it was SOOOOO outdated compared to the cameras of the Mainland Chinese Tourists from the China wrestling Olympic team who were on the same tour bus - another story, another time) and it only took three minutes of video at a time, but what memories we have preserved of Martha and Manolo's classes!

Here's Martha and Manolo demonstrating their Milonga Fantasia after class:



Here's a sample of their Canyengue:



Here's their Tango Salon of the Fifties:



And here's Milonga by Manolo - the Maestro's unique style:



If not for Martha and Manolo, we would have never made it Buenos Aires.  Part of it was from their patient teaching - because of them, we improved exponentially.  Part of it was from their endless encouragement - because of them, we started to have faith in the way that we danced.  And part of it was from their love and friendship.  "Come visit us in Buenos Aires, we want to see you again and we're having a festival!" Martha said in her email to us a few months after they had returned to Buenos Aires.

After meeting Martha and Manolo in Toronto, we knew that we will have them as lifelong friends in Buenos Aires - and so we took the leap, booked our flights, and went.  And started writing this blog. And the rest is history.

Here are videos of two more demos by Martha and Manolo in Toronto - first, a Tango Salon (they are demonstrating to Di Sarli's "La Cachila") and a Milonga (this time, "Milonga Sentimental" by Canaro):





Martha and Manolo - Muchissimas Gracias and we love you!








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Alberto Dassieu

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