Sunday, October 21, 2012

How to belong in Buenos Aires

 La Milonga del Moran

Since we started writing our blog, many of our Tango friends and acquaintances have reacted in fear over some of the stuff we have written.

“Are you sure you want to say that?  Aren’t you afraid of offending Mr/Ms X?” they whisper perilously, with their hair standing on end and with eyes wide open as big as saucers.

Some have even told us that as much as they “like” us as people, they can’t comment on our blog or link to us from their own websites/blogs or even acknowledge that they read our blog for fear of “Well, you know, I’m a tango teacher/organizer/professional and you don’t want me to get into trouble for being associated with you with your rather brave remarks! Ha ha ha (fearful embarrassed laughter) etc.”  In fact, one particular lady used to sit with us and bug us incessantly with her malicious backstabbing gossip (hoping that we would write humorously about the targets of her hatred, in fact) but only at certain milongas or on the phone.  At other places where she needed to maintain a certain “image”, she would pretend not to know us and not even say hello because, “Well, you know....”

Yes, indeed, we know - you are too chicken, and heya!  You aren’t much of a friend.

Of course, secretly, these folks are overjoyed when we deride the latest arrogant Tango Fabio who has descended into town, or the inconsiderate jerk who keeps flinging his partner into everybody’s shins.  And to tell the truth, do we regret writing what we have written? 

We don’t regret it at all!

We have never set out to be Tango teachers/organizers/professionals etc.  We aren’t even that interested in dancing with any body other than each other.  We don’t really NEED anyone to approve of what we say, or what we are, since we aren’t pining for people to ask us to dance, or to come to our classes or our milonga or to like the music we play.  Or even to read our blog, which must be by now the LEAST read blog in the Tangoblogaverse.  Our moms have raised us to “Tell it like it is,” and we do.  If you don’t like it, too bad, because we don’t care!

And you know what?  Tango needs more people to tell the truth.  The idiot with no sense of personal space who is completely oblivious to the people he is bumping into on the dance floor?  The road rager who tailgates the couple in front even though there are only two couples dancing?  The guy who stages his own Calle Florida high kicking spectacular in the middle of a crowded milonga?  Well, we are happy to report that they are all dancing a lot more considerately now.  Not only are they dancing better and getting more dances, there is less of a chance that other, perhaps new dancers are emulating their bad behavior thinking that that is acceptable in a milonga.  The level of dancing and the pleasure that milonga attendees have in attending the milonga can only increase.  Think about the reverse situation - no one saying anything, inconsiderate behavior being the rule rather than the exception, the milonga pista descending into a free-for-all, everyone-for-himself/herself mess....that’s one sure way to Tango Hell.

This is the eighth time that we have traveled to Buenos Aires, and we are happy that we have made wonderful, enduring friendships with Porteño milongueros and milongueras, and have become closer every year to our beloved Porteño teachers and mentors.   Some people back in Toronto have commented on how lucky we are to be close to so many people in Buenos Aires - and yes, having the chance to meet Martha and Manolo, Osvaldo and Coca, Alberto and Paulina and all the other lovely, magnificent people of tango was sometimes about luck and timing.  However, to become part of their Tango family - to see the sheer joy in their eyes whenever you return to the city, to be embraced by them in crushing embraces which lets you know they never want to let you go, to be missed and talked about fondly when you leave ... That is nothing to do with luck.  We can tell also you that it has nothing to do with strict compliance with certain expert advice you may find on the internet about “codigos” - you know, all that nagging about where you should change your shoes, etc.  - either.  As Elba Biscay once said to us, "Go ahead and change your shoes under the table - remember, just your shoes, and not your underwear!"

Now, we have to talk about something “fea” (ugly) - as an example of what not to do.  There is one lady (not going to say who, you will have to guess) who thinks she is getting it right, but in fact, is getting it all wrong when it comes to endearing herself to the dancers here in Buenos Aires.  Famous for causing disturbances back in Toronto milongas (she has since toned down - yes, we wrote something about it), she was kind of famous for this in Buenos Aires as well, to the point where our Porteño friends would ask us nervously whether we knew her, since she was from Toronto - and they’d be completely relieved when we said no. 

We heard with our own ears back in Toronto all her boasting.  “I know _________ and _____________ really well and I treated them to dinner at MY fabulous apartment and I'm going to invite ______________ and _______________ to dinner as well and they will come because I'm like real chums with them and I am so generous and you know what, I spent $__________ on classes with ________________ and _______________ and I bought _________________ CDs and DVDs from them as well and spent $________________!!!!”  It was like she was the second coming of The Messiah with her money and how she was lavishly treating the poor third world Porteño teachers/milongueros with her first world money and largesse.  Her attitude was abhorrent - we couldn’t even believe our ears when we heard her boasting and she even pronounced some of the names of the teachers she was mentioning wrong.  Some of the names she mentioned were people we knew.  She was lucky that she isn’t a man with the insulting and condescending things she said - because if she was, for the sake of honour, we’d have to invite her outside and give her a drubbing. 

The funny thing was, when we asked some of the persons she had mentioned whether she had indeed, had paid for or bought whatever it was that she so proudly boasted about - the answer was that sure, she took a few classes, but the rest of it was completely untrue!

How could she expect to be loved when she had no respect?  No respect for the milonga - causing a ruckus and hoopla wherever she went, disrupting dancers who are trying to enjoy the music.  No respect for herself - touching and forcing herself onto people whose forced, embarrassed smiles and tense body language clearly said “No”.  No respect for the teachers and professionals she should honour and revere for their wisdom in teaching her - instead treating them as objects whose affection can be bought with money for her own aggrandizement.  She didn't care about the feelings of the people she said she was "generous" to (what, are they beggars or leeches who need her to feed them?) - it was all about herself, and how to make herself look and feel important when she boasted. Instead of treating people honestly, with respect, she connives and calculates to draw attention to herself.  Yes, her behavior gets her noticed in the milongas - but only as an object of pity or horror, or perhaps as a target for those men looking to take advantage of foreign women with money.

To belong here - and to belong in Tango, and by that, we mean the rich, emotional Tango culture of the milongueros, not the washed-out copy you may find somewhere else - you have to be honest and respectful. You have to come with humility - with an open heart and a sense of wonder and appreciation for the things you can experience and learn from the masters who have lived Tango all their lives.  You have to treat the dance floor and other dancers with respect.  You have to dance with tranquility and sincerity, for yourself, for your partner, for the music - and for Tango.  The milongueros and milongueras will welcome you into their world - and your teachers will be proud of you.  This is how you make Tango your family, your home.


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Alberto Dassieu

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