Sunday, April 28, 2013

Milongueros


A Milonguero Couple you may recognize... 
Everyone knows their Tango is incredible.  So is their Milonga (and Vals!)  Talk about well-rounded!

Do you want to know what dancing with a Milonguero* is like?  Even a tiny little bit? 

* Now, when we say "Milonguero", we are not defining this term as "Good-for-nothing, dance all the time, no job and neglecting family worthless bum".  We are using "Milonguero" in the general sense of "Great Porteño Dancer of Tango from the older generation".

"Oh, I don't care.  I'm happy doing my own thing.  I'm sure that once I graduate with a black belt/diploma/PhD in Tango from my local Tango school, I'll be one fine dancer!"

Many Tangueros don't want to know because they are already hot-shots or will quite soon become hot-shots.  They think the Milongueros are passé.  However, they get the evil eye all the time from all the people they bump into all the time at the milonga while flailing in the historically interesting but no longer alive style of dancing called "New Tango". Talk about irony.  Anyway, if this is you - you should stop reading now.


For the Tangueros who want to know (and perhaps even guide their dancing in a "Milonguero" like direction) - Irene's the one to ask!  She's danced with quite a few Milongueros.  Not every single one in the whole world, but quite a good selection.

1.  The Non-Milonguero

Not every old Argentinian person who dances Tango is a Milonguero.  In fact, we were easily mistaken in the early years - quite absurdly referring to non-milonguero dancers as being "Milonguero" for no good reason except that they came from Argentina. 

Sometimes you could be easily fooled.  These gentlemen are old, dressed a suit, and attending a milonga.  But Milongueros they are not.

How can you tell that they aren't Milonguero?

Well, the quality of their dancing is the pits.  Their dancing has nothing to do with the music - they are constantly rushing ahead of the music, missing all the beats, and/or doing large complicated movements they learned off Solo Tango "Tango Fantasia" videos.  In addition, they are manhandling their partners.  Or else, they are leading like sissies - too scared to take a step, too afraid to communicate a lead - except they are not too timid to start telling their partners using frantic gestures and annoyed looks and outright verbal instruction as to what they should be doing.  Dancing with these actually quite ordinary Tango dancers is a torture.  But they like to call themselves "Milongueros".  Some may even hand out business cards and dispense unsolicited advice on dancing.


I'll let you in on their secret - they might have only started to dance Tango in the 80's.  Or 90's!

Thankfully, the longer you have been in Tango and the longer you have been exposed to Tango, whether through trips to Buenos Aires, classes with good teachers, or even literature and video on the internet, the more likely you won't be fooled by these "Non-Milongueros".

2. The Common Milonguero

Not every good dancer is famous or a superstar.  They can be quite content going to the milonga on a regular basis, enjoying their drinks and dances with their favourite ladies.  They dance simply but well.

There are lots of Common Milongueros still around in Buenos Aires.  You will find them most frequently in the milongas catering more to locals.  They can all dance to the beat, and some can dance to the music.  They communicate the lead firmly and clearly - easy for them to do, as they only have a repetoire of three or four (or even five) figures that they will do again and again and again.   

They are also able to embrace well.  It would usually be on the side of a firm embrace, since they need to be firm to communicate the lead with their arms and bodies.  Dancing with them is usually pleasant and fun, and you don't need to guess the lead.  But beware of the lack of pauses, or maybe there's pauses, but they are in exactly the same place in their rigid non-flexible step sequence no matter what the music is saying.  Their dancing is more suited to rhythmic Tangos by Biagi, D'Arienzo, Troilo, etc. and you can always see a rush to the floor whenever these tandas are played.  More than one tanda with them can be monotonous and repetitive, because they are doing the same things every single tango or vals or milonga. 


When the Common Milonguero encounters a Tanguera who is not following, he's in deep trouble.  He can't adapt his rigid limited style of dancing to unexpected movements from his partner.  He may use a death grip to keep things under control.  Ladies, if you have experienced this, maybe you are moving around too much!

Some ladies are already in ecstasy dancing with these venerable old fellows - it's not complicated, and when you are so used to the sequence you can do it blindfolded and in your sleep, things go  smoothly.  If the ladies want a little variety, they can dance different tandas with different Common Milongueros.

It's all good dancing, just a little repetitive, and not very flexible. 

3.  Milonguero

Moving on up from the ordinary run-of-the mill "Common Milonguero", we have Milongueros who actually have made a name for themselves for being good dancers.  They know at least two to three times as many figures as the Common Milonguero - and they actually react to the music with more depth of movement, rather than dance automatically the dance sequence they have known and practiced for fifty years.

Quite a lot of these Milongueros are filmed doing birthday dances or even performing at their local milongas, and the ladies view them as being their choice of favourite dancers over the Common Milonguero.  To be on the dance card of the Milonguero - well, it's something to look forward to and be congratulated on!

The musicality and skill of these Milongueros of course, is a great deal better than that of the Common Milonguero.  In their dancing, you will find pauses, steps that are chosen to fit the music (rather than being danced by default or from habit), with variations that may surprise you.  The leading too, has more finesse - you are less likely to be pushed around awkwardly, and ladies may even be led to do things that they don't "know" how to do.  Accordingly, the embrace doesn't have to be as rigid or in a death grip.  Glitches in dancing or uncooperative followers can be handled with subtlety, with inventiveness rather than brute force.

These Milongueros can give some good advice on dancing.  Some even teach, and have made a name for themselves as teachers and performers. 

Most ladies would be content to dance with these Milongueros the rest of their dancing lives.  But then, I've seen a lot of ladies who are not picky, and who would dance with Non-Milongueros and Common Milongueros with equal enthusiasm.  Perhaps they haven't danced with any Super Premier League Milongueros?

4.  Super Premier League Milongueros

When you are a professional football player, you are obviously good enough so that someone will pay to have you kick a ball around, and perhaps even pay to watch you.  But that doesn't mean that people would pay you an astronomical sum to slap your name on some t-shirts and on bottles of perfume, and then make millions of dollars selling them to your fans.

Some Milongueros are like the Messis and Beckhams of the football world.  If Tango had a market as large as professional football, these Milongueros would also make millions of dollars and hire agents to negotiate their contracts for them. 

Why are they so special? 

Let's do the football analogy again.  You have a lot of professional football teams out there.  They can all do a decent job of playing football - like, following the rules of football, lasting through whole matches and whole seasons, year after year.  However, unless you are a die-hard fan of your team, some teams play football that is so mundane, watching them play is just boring.  And they don't win games.  Man Yung hates it when two mediocre teams meet on the field.  "It's like water against water" he says.  By the way, the Chinese word for "Water" can also mean "Lousy".  The teams spend the whole time passing the ball up and down the centre without a breakthrough for the whole ninety minutes.  Yawn.

The best teams in the world have it all - attack and defense, interesting personalities, great teamwork.  And on the best days, their football tells a gripping story.  "Like the time when Liverpool was playing the 2005 UEFA Champions' League Final against AC Milan!" said Man Yung. "Liverpool was the underdog, and was losing by 3 goals at halftime.  It looked like all was lost - but Liverpool Captain Stephen Gerrard started yelling for everyone not to give up.  The Liverpool fans sang "You Never Walk Alone". Gerrard scored Liverpool's first goal at 54' - followed by a goal by Smicer at 56', and yet another by Alonso at 60' - TIED!  Liverpool grabbed the chance - and won on the penalty shootout!"


Watching this makes me want to cry, it's so good.  And I'm not even a Liverpool fan!

The whole thing gave Man Yung tears and goosebumps.  I didn't watch the match but I heard about it from Man Yung and it was a such a great story, I remembered it all this time and now I'm writing about it here eight years later!

The best Milongueros are well rounded.  They can dance Tango, Milonga, Vals with equally impressive flair.  They aren't just hitting the beats - they are telling a story with their dancing.  It may come in the form of changing their steps whenever the phrasing of the music changes - or pausing "When the music is telling them to pause".  When they lead, you don't feel the mechanics of the leading - the shoving this way or that, or the strong-arming - it feels like magic, like their partner is hypnotized into just doing whatever springs out of the thought process of the Milonguero.  When something goes wrong?  Nobody knows - the Super Premier League Milonguero has just improvised right around the problem.

And they don't just dance the same steps again and again.  With the best Milongueras, these Milongueros can do anything.  They don't have to stick to the same recycled step sequence.  In fact, they are full of surprises - even if you have been dancing with them for fifty years.  Even the same step doesn't have "sameness" - it is loaded with different feeling according to that moment in time and the music you are dancing to. Super Premier League Milongueros live and taste every second of Tango like no-one else on earth.

When all this comes together, it is complete Tango magic in a package.  Unfortunately, there are not a whole lot of Super Premier League Milongueros out there.  To get there takes a lot of experience dancing, but also a natural born talent for music expression through movement.  That's why dancing with even one of them is an earth-shattering experience - you don't know that dancing Tango could be like this!  And if you can put some of that Magic in a bottle or on a t-shirt, Tango-lovers will be lining up for miles with their credit cards out to get some.

5.  What about Milongueras?  What is it like dancing with Milongueras?

Well, to know more about that, you have to ask Man Yung.

"You have to tell me what it is like dancing with a Milonguera!  With some idea in mind, maybe I could emulate their magic!"

"I have no idea except it was really great!"

He is so blissed out dancing with Milongueras he comes out of the fog with complete amnesia as to what he has been doing.

So, until Irene gets a chance to dance with a good cross-section selection of Milongueras... you'll just have to wait!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Career Counseling


Glenn Close in "Damages": She became wildly successful and incredibly powerful.  However,
she wasn't happy, and people around her kept on getting killed. 
But her suit looks good!

I was seventeen and hanging out with my younger brother and sister, telling jokes and making funny faces.  It was Sunday and we were waiting for our parents to get ready so we could go out for our weekly dim sum brunch.

Maybe dad was feeling touchy.  He saw me fooling around and started to yell.

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?!! My friend's daughter is the same age as you, and she has got a part-time job in an office while studying business in university.   You slob around in jeans and t-shirts, while she looks like an adult and wears a suit and heels!  Why can't you study something more useful and look more grown up?"

Like, WTF?????  I was going to university too (and studying English Literature rather than something "useful" like "Business" or "Accounting") and I worked every Saturday teaching kids in a math tutoring centre.  Somehow, my choice of a major and lack of a professional hair-do, makeup and the "suit and heels" made me a complete loser? 

Nice Chinese "Tiger Parent" career counseling, dad.

I graduated from university, went to law school (not my first choice - but to the Tiger Parents it was their way or the highway), graduated from that - and continued to fail to grow up.  I tried wearing a suit and heels for a while for the first few years of my law job but I gave up.  The suits were too tight and the heels hurt my feet.

Fast forward fifteen years later - I must be the only lawyer within a twenty-five mile radius who wears crocs flats when meeting with clients.  Forget about the matching skirt suits.  I wear jackets - in colours like pink and orange.  And pencil skirts with floral motifs so loud that even Man Yung was worried that people would think that I had worn the skirt to a paintball tournament and forgot to change.

Much to the disappointment of the Tiger Parents, I still don't carry expensive designer handbags, drive fancy cars, have a monster home or whatever material things that people equate with success.  I don't conform to some "VIP Power Professional" ideal, but my clients like me and keep on coming back.  I'm might not be making a ton of money but I do meaningful work every day. 

I met with a headhunter recently.   She wore a matching skirt suit in a dark conservative colour and her hair was really nice.  I didn't want to shock her so I wore a gray pantsuit with a white blouse.  But I wasn't fooling her.  She was worried about me and gave me some advice. 

"You've got to go out there and increase your visibility. Network more.  Why don't you join a professional association?  You will form more connections - even get more clients.  And you should try to write and publish more articles relating to your field.  All of this will look great on your resumé and help you in your career.  Bottom line is this - you are not doing enough to maximize your career potential."

Instead of walking away from that meeting feeling liked a popped balloon, the first thing I did was giggle when I called Man Yung from downtown. 

"No surprises here - I've heard all this advice before.  Looks like there's a lot I have to do to make myself a complete professional success.  The grand prize is that I would make hundreds of thousands more, but I'll have to work 120 hours a week both in and out of the office and never get to see the light of day.  Oh, I'll be able to buy more expensive stuff - but then I'd be too busy to enjoy anything I buy!"

I'm not saying that the advice I got was wrong - it's great career advice, but just not for me.  And was I hallucinating?  I had a feeling while speaking to the headhunter that she admired the way that I was living - and the fact that tango was such a big part of my life.

Looking back at the last fifteen years, there's nothing I would trade for more "success".

Would I trade in my M.A. in English Literature (which I did part-time for five years while working full-time) for a more "Professional" and "Career-Advancing" degree?

No.

Would I trade learning to knit Alice Starmore sweaters, learning Spanish (instead of French or Mandarin, which would have been more "helpful" to my career"), or being a slave to our cats for a chance to "Network" more?

No.

Would I trade any of my tango experiences - all those times I spent dancing, traveling to Argentina, making great tango friends, enhancing my relationship with Man Yung through tango - for a formidable and valuable client roster?

No.

Would I trade in a single word of this very amateur and not-at-all popular non-revenue generating blog for a impressive list of "Professional Publications"?

No.  I'd rather continue my tango blog-equivalent of telling jokes and making funny faces.

As for the trappings of success* - my beat-up old Honda will get me to the milongas.  I don't need an Audi.  I am out of the house dancing so much that even if I had a luxury 5,000 square foot villa I wouldn't have time to invite all the important people of my "Network" to come and admire my crown mouldings anyway.  Designer heels?  I'm not wearing them so that people will be impressed and give me more business.  I'm only wearing them to dance tango!

Maximizing my life potential is more important to me than maximizing my career potential. I can predict that on my deathbed, I won't be lamenting that I should have worked less, and lived more!

*  I can only live this way because my lovely husband Man Yung has the same attitude as me.  If he lived to show off what car he drove, or what house he lives in - then none of this, and no tango, will be possible.  Hurrah for my 110% supportive partner - who is more milonguero than I am!














Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Canyengue, Tango, Milonga - Action packed exhibition by Martha and Manolo at Yira Yira 03/29/2013

We couldn't be there in Buenos Aires to spend time with Manolo on his 81st birthday - but we did call him to wish him the best of health and happiness, and to have a great time at his birthday party at Yira Yira that night!

Through the magic of Youtube, we finally got to see Martha and Manolo's exhibition at Yira Yira today.  As usual, they brought down the house with their performances.  Just watching the amazing milonga exhibition at the end, could you believe that Manolo is 81 years old?



Martha and Manolo, we love you!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Adela Galeazzi and Jose Lopez perform to D'Arienzo's "Ataniche" at El Maipu

Here's a lovely Sunday treat for everyone!  Adela just emailed us the link to her performance with Jose Lopez at Dany and Lucy's "El Maipu" held at La Nacional.  They are dancing to D'Arienzo's "Ataniche":



This performance was part of the joyous celebration of Jose Lopez's 81st birthday.  The energetic way he dances it looks like he isn't a day over twenty!  And, as usual, we are mesmerized by Adela's dancing - every step she takes has such great Tango personality.  Thank you Adela for letting us share your video!


Alberto Dassieu

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