Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tribute to Gavito at Porteño y Bailarin - June, 2013

We aren't in Buenos Aires.  We have spoken to our friends in Buenos Aires though - and we've been told that it is rather cold!  Hasn't stopped Osvaldo and Coca from attending the milongas though - even though in every recent photo we've seen of them on Facebook, they are wearing tons of layers and sweaters and scarves - and that is, when they are in the milongas! 

We check for their videos every week on Youtube - they aren't able to keep track of their own videos themselves, so we hunt the newest videos down and let them know what has been posted.  This week we were in for a treat - not only did we get to see Osvaldo and Coca's performance at the Gavito tribute at Porteño y Bailarin in June, we also got so see an absolutely stunning performance of milonga traspié from El Flaco Dany and the beautiful, amazing Elina Roldan.

This is a long video, including a heartfelt speech by El Flaco Dany for the occasion:


Did you notice Elina Roldan's footwork?  Her adornos are so delicate and effortless, it is like she is floating on air.  El Flaco Dany is great, but this is really the best performance we have seen from him so far.  Could it be because of the wonderful following of Elina Roldan?  We just want to say - INCREDIBLE!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We go to La Boca to look for our Title Background

"FREAKIN' GOD DAMN GOOGLE!"

We opened our blog website yesterday to discover that our blog had mysteriously "lost" the background image to the title.

We were not happy at this turn of events.  We should have know better than to have trusted Google in the first place - being an evil, giant, "Take over the entire Universe" kind of Corporation.

"What shall we do?  We got that photo in 2005 from our Toronto Milonguera friend - a wobbly blurry souvenir of her first ever trip to Buenos Aires.  It had a nice, modern, "Mark Rothko" like vibe to it - and the only copy we had we saved on the blog!  Help!!!" we said, clutching our heads and screaming at the heavens.

We will have to time-travel to La Boca and find it again!

Our taxi dropped us off steps away from the dirty stinky river.  It was a bright sunny day - local and foreign tourists were out in full force, enjoying the spring weather and sights and sounds of La Boca.


"Multi-coloured buildings everywhere - looks pretty hopeful," said Man Yung.  "I'm sure we will find the photo somewhere here.  I bet that it's somewhere along Caminito - it's the busiest section and that's where EVERYONE who visits La Boca will go."

We walk along the street.  There are restaurants every ten steps - and in front of every restaurant there is some kind of Tango performance going on.


"Look, they serve the same food at every restaurant!"  We look at the tourists eating al fresco under the shades of the umbrellas at the tourist traps. "They even serve the same kind of Tango!"  And indeed, the cheesiest versions of Tango's greatest hits play incessantly in the background while bored sweaty performers in Tango "costumes" wreck their knees on the very rough makeshift stage floors.

Men handing out flyers try to lure us into the restaurants by speaking to us in Japanese.  "Are you Japanese?  Konnichi-wa!  Konban-wa!"  We try our best not to engage.  We are on a mission!

Caminito isn't very long - you don't have to look very far to see the whole street was pretty much all the same.

We duck into a promising-looking passageway - surely we would find our photo here, there are many colourful walls:


"Nope, that building doesn't look like what we had on our title background.  There's some guy selling Tango CDs though!" I said.   Not only Tango CDs - but Tango hats, Tango maté paraphernalia, Tango t-shirts, Tango knick-knacks....

We fail to take photos of the tacky Tango souvenir shops, but cannot refrain from taking a photo of this tacky asian tourist in front of the most colourfully exploding La Bocaesque wall.


We can't find our photo in Caminito - so we continue to wander deeper into La Boca.

These appears to be railway tracks.  No train though.  Not so many tourists here.


We hear someone playing Angel Vargas singing a vals in the distance and we head there.


"I think it is coming from that balcony," I said.  The music gets louder.

"Hey doggie, are you playing that music?"



Not only is the doggie not playing the music, he is pretty bored with Tango and with Tango gawkers too!

Everywhere we look, there are colourful buildings - but not OUR colourful building.  We follow the train tracks back into the main tourist area.  We figured that our friend the Toronto Milonguera wouldn't venture too far from the tourist places all by herself.


In the daytime, La Boca is relatively safe, especially in the tourist area - but at night, everyone says that it is a rough neighbourhood.

We go to the part of La Boca that has been photographed a million times for picture postcards and travel brochures.  Maybe we'll find what we are looking for if we look over the fences?


We actually stand on a platform and look over the fence - no luck.  And no naked orgy either.


And then we go and photograph "The Most Photographed Part of Caminito" ourselves - no use hiding the fact that we are unapologetically touristy.


We wander back into the main square.  Tourists can either take photos of themselves in tango poses by putting their heads through the cut out areas in the plywood Tango paintings...or they can pose with the "Real Live" Tango dancer.  You can even put on a Tango jacket and hat (that everyone's been wearing under this hot sun - ewwwww) for more 'authenticity'.  Guess which option will cost you more money?

We are too embarrassed to get a good shot of this fun La Boca activity.  Maybe we feel bad for the girl who has to pose with her legs up in the clutches of strange men, showing her panties?  You will only get to see the back of the baggy,  ill fitting Tango jacket on this tourist guy.


We try another street.  It seems like we aren't getting closer to what we are looking for.  "Perhaps you misremembered - our friend the Toronto Milonguera took the photo in San Telmo?" asked Man Yung.

Here's a local greeting another local in the tourist shop.


We eventually ended up by the river again.  

"Where could our photo be?  We have walked through all the possible tourist areas in La Boca and nothing remotely resembles the scene that our friend photographed," said Man Yung.  

"We have been too aimless - we should have analyzed this better before walking all around willy-nilly." I said.  "Let's look at the known facts:

1.  Our friend said that she took the photo in La Boca.
2.  She explained that the photo was blurry because she had to take it from a MOVING TAXI.

Now, most of the places we went to are closed off to traffic.  Of course we weren't going to find our photo there.  She must have taken the photo on her way in or out of La Boca.  We have already travelled the way 'in' - and we saw nothing on that route.  Now we have to look sharp on our way 'out'."

We were all tired out by the touristy-ness but we tried one last street - a completely quiet one on the other side of La Boca that seemed a likely escape route.  No-one was walking about and there were even some "normal" houses.

We go down half a block.  "Maybe this is a dead end too," said Man Yung, wanting to turn back.

I spot something a few houses down. "Don't turn back yet - I think it's there!"

And whadyaknow?  There it was!

"THIS IS WHERE OUR PHOTO WAS TAKEN!" I said.  "Urrrr - it doesn't look so good close up though."

It had that 'grubby peeling paint and general decay' look going on.


Man Yung nodded.  "It looked so much better blurry!"

Don't worry, we eventually found our blurry Title Background photo in Google photos.   Ta-da! However, we soon discovered that not only did Google lose our photo, it also lost our blog template...now everything on the blog looks screwy!   FRICKIN' GOD DAMN GOOGLE!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Tango Story (without Tango)

It was late afternoon by the time we left Alberto and Paulina's apartment. We emerged from the shadows of their lobby to the golden glow of the tree-lined street behind Abasto. Thinking about the flight we would soon have to take to return back to Toronto, we walked slowly to the intersection to catch the taxi that would take us back to our hotel.

We flagged down the first taxi that came along. The driver was clean shaven man of about forty. He seemed to us somewhat cold and detached - responding curtly as we said good afternoon. We shuffled into the back seat of the car. "Callao and Santa Fe", I said.

The driver repeated my instructions - however, instead of saying Callao with a hard "g" sound in the way of the Porteños, he pronounced it with a "y" sound. And what an odd, drawling accent he had.


A mini American flag hung proudly over the dashboard. Too curious, I had to ask. "Es usted Americano?" I asked.

"Si," he replied. "De donde son ustedes?"

"We're from Canada. You must be very brave to be driving a taxi here!" I said.

The driver continued to reply in Spanish. It took him some effort to speak and the words that rolled off his tongue were slow and stiff, like he was reading phonetically from a language instruction book.

"Oh, it is not that difficult. People want to go to the same streets. If it's somewhere I haven't gone before, my passengers will tell me how to get there. And if they can't, I have a map."

"What about the mad traffic?  I'd be too scared to drive here with every car trying to cut in and force everyone else off the road!"

"I used to be in the Marines, so I've seen worse.  You just need to keep calm, and you will get to where you are going."

It was the weekend, so even though the streets were filled with people, the road was relatively clear and our ride was smooth.  "Your Spanish is very good," I said.

"I practice with my passengers.  Right now I am practicing with you!" I think he was smiling.

Not that I was that helpful as a practice partner.  Although my pronunciation was better my vocabulary and my grammar was not as good as our cabbie.  Nevertheless, I had the feeling that it was easy for him to talk to me.  We were just two gringos in a foreign land, talking the best we can in our broken Spanish.

"How long have you lived here?"

"Almost two years."

"Do you miss the States?"

"Not too much.  In my job, I had to travel around.  So wherever I am, I am."

"Why did you choose Buenos Aires?  Do you like it here?"

"No, this country is crazy!" he exclaimed.  "The politicians are inept, the people are insane, and everything is completely disorganized!"

Yep, he's been here long enough not to have any more illusions, I thought.

"You must be here because of true love," said Man Yung.

Our driver turned the corner - we had reached our destination.

"No," he said.  And he sighed.

Did he lie? 

I think there must be a Tango out there, written just for him.




Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fantasy Milonga

Was going to post something really entertaining, amusing and thought-provoking about Tango yesterday (as if!) when we were tragically interrupted by the power outage spawned by the Mother of all Toronto Storms.

Highways turned into lakes!  The lights went out!  People were trapped in trains, cars and trees! Sexy young women in short shorts posed in knee-deep water and wet t-shirts!

We know we have made you all excited now...sorry, you only get to see a photo of her legs

We were lucky, we only lost power for four hours, and we had a propane gas burner so we were able to cook a pot of shrimp noodles and didn't have to resort to cannibalism or kitty-cat tartare.*

* Our cats did not like that joke.

Since power was out for most of Toronto, we wondered, were the Tango events that were being held on Monday cancelled?  Were people bummed?  Did any intrepid dancer even show up?  The last time the bottom of the Don Valley Parkway got flooded so badly that cars were washed into the Don River (ohhhh, just a few years ago), we went to Tango anyway - and the Practica was open!

We also wondered (while sitting on the sofa bored and not watching TV for once), who enjoys dancing Tango the most?  It seems to us that once people in Toronto Tango think they are good at Tango, they think about teaching or organizing or DJ-ing or competing or being "like a Milonguero" (whatever that means) and that makes them carry the big burden of being "expert" or "professional" (even though they might not be, they just think they are) and they don't look like they are enjoying dancing Tango anymore.

"Sometimes it looks like that the dancers who look like they enjoy dancing Tango the most are the ones who don't dance all that well," said Man Yung. "Maybe it's because they aren't chained up and weighed down by their own expectations."

Another thing we wondered was: How would we run our own milonga if we had like, millions of dollars?

"First of all, I will rent the venue with the best, silkiest dance floor and with air-conditioning," Man Yung said.

"I'd pay someone to take the entradas and organize refreshments. I would even hire a host so that they can go and greet people and be friendly and sociable and stuff so that I can concentrate on playing match-three games on my phone - whoops, I mean, 'Dancing with Man Yung', " I said. "And even though I will arrange my own music, I'll hire someone to monitor the volume and adjust the quality of the sound all night.  I hate it when DJs run off to dance or socialize and then the music volume sudden explodes in your ears - sound quality is just as important as sound selection, in my books."

"I hate the sound explosion - and I hate it too when the music gets so low you can't hear it!  You can't just leave your music like that.  On another note, when I promote the milonga, I will emphasize that it is a Strictly Traditional Milonga, so that people will not show up expecting to have the freedom to kick people in the shins with their Show Tango/Nuevo Tango moves.  If I don't care about money, I wouldn't care about excluding inconsiderate dancers from my milonga!"

"Nah, I don't think that saying it's 'Traditional' will make any difference - there's plenty of people who don't use the cabeceo and who pretend to be bumper cars in the 'Traditional' milongas in town.  In fact, some local 'Traditional' milongas are now even hosting Tango Professionals so innovative, they think Narcotango and Volcadas and Colgadas are passé.  Didn't we just watch a performance at a 'Traditional' milonga in which the man did not lead, the woman did not follow, and instead of Tango music there was a lot of drumming and yodeling?"

"Hee!  I remember that.  Nice example to give to all those people who thought they were somewhere that promoted social dancing.  I saw that lots of real 'Traditional' dancers avoided the milonga until the Cutting Edge Tango Circus left town!" Man Yung said.  "So, what would you do to keep things calm and orderly on the dance floor?"

"I would hire BOUNCERS MAFIA OFF-DUTY POLICE OFFICERS"

"Isn't that overkill?  Wouldn't it be better if you asked people politely who were kicking too wildly to tone it down?"

I shook my head.  "You have to give your dancers confidence that everyone will behave.  People will feel totally safe when they see that we have like, half-a-dozen Police Officers with GUNS protecting the floor."

Anyone want to come to our milonga?  We will have macarons - and Police!






Monday, July 1, 2013

Vantage Point

The view from our condo isn't usually very exciting.  Lots of buildings, lots of road, and no CN Tower.

I'll let you in on a secret though - every Canada Day, we can see up to SIX municipal firework displays from our windows.    We just finished watching a fifteen minute firework extravaganza - some near, some far, all amazing - in the night sky above the glittering lights of the city.

Our surprisingly spectacular vantage point makes us think about Tango.

On the surface, it looks like there's not much you can see when you're dancing.  You, me and the music.  With eyes closed, it's down to listening and feeling.

Usually if you are busy, time flies by.  Tango keeps us busy - but we feel that Tango has slowed time down!  It's been ten years - but it feels like twenty.  It's like we've already seen and lived through several lifetimes of experiences.

Who were we then, the newbies taking our first steps in Tango?  We became less ignorant dancers, more experienced dancers, better dancers. We got to know Toronto much better by traveling to milongas in different parts of the city.  Some milongas stayed where they were, some have moved or closed down.  We've made friends in Tango - friends who became closer to us than family.  We also had friends who became jealous of us and turned into our enemies.  We've seen people fall in and out of love in Tango.  We've seen some dancers evolve, and some dancers stay exactly the same.  Some of the people we danced with then are still dancing now, or they may have moved on to something else.  A few people we knew have died.  A few people we know had babies.  Some dancers lost weight, some gained weight, some got more gray hair and more wrinkles, some always look beautiful as time passes.  On some days there's drama, and on some days everyone is just dancing as usual. Though some faces remain the same, it's like every few years it's a different crowd.  The stories that have unfolded in this little world keep on repeating.  It's always interesting.  You can write a library of books based on all the things that have happened.

We got ten years older - but we feel younger than ever!

Tango may seem this little insignificant thing...who knew, a bit of embrace and a little compas gave us a great view of Life.

Happy Canada Day to everyone!




Alberto Dassieu

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