Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016


...And what a bummer.

Honest Ed's closing its doors forever today.  We pass by this kitschy and beloved Toronto landmark at least once or twice a week on our way to one of the local milongas.  It's all going to be torn down to make way for a swanky new mixed commercial/residential development:

Goodbye Honest Ed's

Le Baron, our favourite camping and fishing store, also closed after 58 years in business.  We don't camp or fish (too busy tangoing) but we do like to wear warm winter parkas.  Can't afford to catch a cold in the middle of winter if we have all those milongas to go to! We got all our Canada Goose parkas there, we've been wearing them since the early 2000's, even before they became super trendy and everyone started wearing them.  We went to visit our friend Lily on the very last day to say goodbye - she sold us every single one of our coats.   So sad. 


 Goodbye Le Baron

We've been practising at Club 300 in Markham ever since Mad for Dance closed a copy of years ago.  It was a really outdated "cosmic bowling" bowling alley with a dance studio space - yeah, strange, but there you have it. Huge parquet floor, drop by anytime (except when there is a line dancing class going on) and just a five minute drive from home!  Some investors bought the building and are planning to turn it into - surprise - mixed residential commercial.  We had a fascinating eight months before the bowling alley closed for good of watching the building slowly crumble and turn derelict before our eyes.  Leaking from the ceiling, flooding, bits of parquet erupting out of the floor, lights being turned off to save energy etc.  Not much we can do except dress to the nines (well, me anyway) and practice among the ruins.  How Tango.



Yeah, yeah... I know, crappy.  But that was back in April!  I guarantee you that now, eight months later, I know 200% more steps, and dance 25% worse!

Also:

Goodbye Habeeba Dance Studios in Toronto.  We always enjoyed the lovely practicas and milongas held by Masha there.  Building already torn down to make way for condos.

And Goodbye Celia Blanco.  Lo de Celia, our favourite milonga in Buenos Aires, is not the same without her.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Adela Galeazzi and Horacio Prestamo - Tango Performance at the reopening of Salon Canning, October 31, 2016

The fabulous milonguera Adela Galeazzi wrote a email to us to let us know about her recent performance at Salon Canning with well-known milonguero Horacio Prestamo.  It was lovely to see the video of her performing with Horacio, and wonderful to see the renovations to the venerable old dance hall too:


As Adela said:

Han re inaugurado el Salon Canning con reformas muy lindas, ya que han sacado la alfombra y colocado piso "damero" y pintando sus paredes, cambiando la barra y reformando baños.....en fin.....ha quedado "hermoso" con esta renovación!!!
 
They have reopened Salon Canning with beautiful renovations, they have removed the carpet and placed "checkerboard" floors, painted the walls, changed the bar and updated the washrooms...and still, kept the dance hall as handsome as before with the renovations!
 
We are always happy to hear from our friends in Buenos Aires and receive good news about them and the milongas we have gone to.  This year we were not able to take a trip to Buenos Aires, as we had to take care of our two very elderly and ailing cats and couldn't travel anywhere.  In fact, our beloved girl cat passed on peacefully a month ago.  We only have our ginger tom left, 18 years old - that's 88 years in cat years!  If our cat danced Tango, he'd dance it salon style with plenty of pauses.  He's a very calm fellow - and being calm (and therapeutic massage every day) is one of the secrets of longevity, I'm sure. 
 
We wish everyone a happy and healthy 2017, with lots of great tangos!


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Floor

When we first thought about starting Tango, I called up a local instructor to find out about classes.  Even then as a complete newbie, I had enough common sense to ask a very important question:

"What kind of shoes should I wear to Tango classes?"

And I got the most STUPID answer:

"Oh, you can wear any shoe you want!"

What the heck.  And the Tango teacher's resumé said he had experience dancing.  Some shoes are NOT suitable for dancing any dance.   You cannot pivot properly in shoes with too much traction.  Try wearing work boots or soccer cleats to Tango and injure yourself for sure.

Man Yung being "manly" went ahead and wore regular street shoes to Tango.  Now, they weren't as bad as work boots or soccer cleats, but they had scoring on the sole to make them less slippery on the sidewalk.  He was fine with them for a whole year.

"See, you can wear 'regular' shoes to Tango!  No need to shell out $200 for a pair of Tango Shoes," he said.

Lucky Man Yung and his knees of steel.

But then, one night after a milonga, he got home, took off his shoes and blood GUSHED out from the bottom of his foot.  The bad shoes and the extra force he had been using to pivot had worn a hole in the ball of his foot.

"I think you should get yourself a pair of proper Tango Shoes, you silly ass," I said while scrubbing at the bloody carpet on my hands and knees.

Now, shoes you can control, but floor, you cannot.  Same principal - a floor with too much traction will hurt you.

In the summer, we have a number of outdoor milongas in Toronto.  The floors are usually pavement/asphalt or very rough wood.  When we go to these events, I watch all the dancers dance in awe.  They make it look so easy, they dance like they usually do in indoor milongas.  How can they even pivot?  Knees of steel, or they must be taking some rockin' joint strengthening supplements.

I can't do it.  I have bad knees and I keep on telling Man Yung "Take it easy!" and "Don't do anything more than walk!" but sometimes he forgets when he gets carried away by the music.   Fortunately, now we are a lot older and more experienced, he realizes that the best way for me to manage an outdoor milonga with a floor from hell....is for me to sit it out.  Or for us to stay at home.

Maybe I'm just a wuss (just look at all those people merrily dancing on horrible sticky/rough floors like it was the most normal thing in the world!) but the quality of the floor is really important to me.

Just because a floor is "wood" or "sprung wood!" it doesn't mean that the floor is great for dancing.  I've reinjured my knee over and over again on deceptively "good" wood floors.  I remember a local milonga announcing proudly that the floor of their venue had been "newly" and "beautifully" polished.  And indeed, the floor was very nice to look at, shiny as a mirror - but with a coating of varnish so sticky we were like flies stuck on fly paper.

And then we had the experience in which we kept on arguing whenever we danced at a particular venue.  At first we thought it was Fung Shui, but no, it was the shitty (wood!) floor.  Man Yung would keep on shoving me because I wouldn't "go" and I would keep on going too fast/anticipate to overcompensate for being stuck on the floor.*

* Now that I'm leading with Man Yung following, I am experiencing the same when the floor is bad.  He thinks I'm shoving, and I think he is going too fast.  All because of the floor.

Not all the floors in Buenos Aires milongas are good either.  I hated the wood floor at Porteño y Bailarin - we only went once and that was enough, I didn't want more permanent damage to my knee.  The tile floor at Confiteria Ideal was also horrible to pivot on.  Conversely, the wood floor at Centro Region La Leonesa and Salon Canning, and the tile floor at Glorias Argentinas are slippery (maybe even overly slippery) and great for turns.  

However, even slippery floors can be hard, without enough "give" that make them fatiguing to dance on.  One of the most surprisingly comfortable floors we have found is in Lo de Celia.  It's a tile floor with great "give".  We can slide along that floor for hours without getting tired, it's like dancing on a cloud!

The quality of the floor can make or break a milonga.  Time and time again we experience new milongas in Toronto held in some unexpected places, with floors (sticky gummy wood!  painted concrete!  lino! plastic laid on concrete! COME ON GUYS, ARE YOU JOKING?) that weren't intended for the kind of pivoting required in Tango.  The milongas have great attendance the first couple of times... and then attendance drops off because of the damn floor.  We ask ourselves, "Did the organizers even try out the floor before they decided to rent the venue?"  I'm sure they must have, but either they did a very cursory trial of the floor, or they have knees of steel and they just love dancing at outdoor milongas.  I certainly couldn't handle a floor that sticky and I'm sure a lot of their patrons couldn't either.

The problem with less than ideal milonga floors is so prevalent in Toronto now I went onto the internet to see if there is something I could do with MY SHOES to help the situation.   I found the following website with lots of tips:

http://www.gottadance.org/bad_floor_dancing.shtml

It has great tips for dancing on too slippery and too sticky floors AND there are ideas making shoes more slippery.  

I've tried using gaffe tape (hard to find, even online) but I find that it makes my soles more sticky.  I guess that would be good for people having problems with floors that are too slippery.

Tenacious tape (used for tent and waterproof clothing repair) was one method that works for me but it's quite expensive.  One box of Tenacious Tape (around $6.00) suffices for taping the soles of two pairs of ladie's shoes, or just one pair of men's shoes.  It makes slightly sticky floors a lot better but it won't transform really rough floors into ice rinks.

Sometimes there's nothing you can do about the floor.  All we can do is to pray for organizers to try out their floors before they launch a milonga, or ask for a second or third or fourth (or fifth!  Or ask us!) opinion, because it is better not to start an event on a terrible floor, than to start and then watch the milonga fail just because of floor issues.*

* Man Yung says, "Irene, the problem isn't the floor.  It's our LACK OF EXPERTISE.  If we were more EXPERT dancers, no floor will stop us.  Look at all those people performing on the road in San Telmo and Calle Florida!


Show Tango on a floor like this???  You must be kidding me Man Yung.  Knees of Steel!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"A six headed man eating monster on one side, and a whirling vortex of doom on the other"


A.K.A. Scylla vs. Charybdis.  Take your pick.

In case anyone wants an update:  I'm STILL working at leading.  The latest Man Yung imposed torture training method: Leading with torso only. 

As in "Irene, stop shoving me with your bird arms, they are puny and useless anyway, try to lead more accurately by pointing your body in the right direction.  And use telepathy more.  Stop rolling your eyes.  It'll work if you love me enough."

Amusing as this is, this is not the point of this post.  I want to talk about how I tried to navigate to a win-win resolution on a milonga dance floor that is clearly, for me, a lose-lose situation.

I really want to follow the line of dance.  On the outer edge of the dance floor.  You know, like the milongueros do, because they are cool and they know what they are doing. But you can't do much if you want to keep that track.  You gotta behave yourself.  Walk a bit, turn a tiny bit, ocho cortado.   That's it.

"Why aren't you doing your back sacadas?" Man Yung says impatiently.  "You look great doing your back sacadas!  And the triple enganche gancho combos I taught you!  How about those?" 

Hmmmmmmmm......  Can't really do those fancy moves unless I want to send all the little old people dancing calmly and quietly on the outside track all flying.

That means I'll have to hazard into the inside track.  Or WORSE, spin like the dreaded whirling dervish in the dead centre of the floor.  Along with all the other loonies who are either 1) doing the same kind of movements as I am and really need the space, or 2) can't navigate worth a damn or 3) both. 

I go to the middle of the dance floor and do a couple of back sacadas.  I narrowly miss a couple of people.  Some guy tailgates me continuously, and another spins and kicks so hard with his partner they are exactly like that jagged saw teeth image I read on Tangocommuter's blog.  But that's ok, people who dance in the middle are used to bumping.  I use Man Yung as a human shield and it's all normal because that's what they do to followers in the middle.  Not an eyebrow is raised, much less an evil eye.

But I have a shining hope: there must be more to a follower leading than bad navigation skills.  I secretly try to steer us straight on the outside track.  But for some odd reason I can't even go straight.  This Irene leading Man Yung combo is definitely listing to the left no matter what the f*** I'm trying to do. 

On the bright side,  I am doing some killer left turns!  If I'm going to have a signature move, that's it.  Turning endlessly left.  I know about fifteen different ways to do it, WITHOUT PLOWING INTO ANYBODY AND WHILE FOLLOWING THE LINE OF DANCE.  I can see where I'm going, and Man Yung is kind of on autopilot because he is heavily dragging us to the left anyway.  Yay!

"Goddamn it Irene," said Man Yung.  "The milonga is half over and all you have been doing is turning left.  Where are all the movements I've taught you?  They're all going down the drain!"

Back to the middle I sulkily go.  Tailgater on the left, saw teeth on the right, and me spinning endlessly left in the centre with some random back sacadas thrown in.  Hey, Toronto leaders, don't laugh.  If I'm anywhere in your vicinity, that means you aren't doing too well either!




Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Simple

Some dancers think that the fancier the dancing, the better. 

"Simple is boring!" they say.  They complain if the tango performances they see don't have something body-contorting/death-defying/jaw-dropping/eye-popping.  They take classes not for basics or for navigation ("That's so BEGINNER"), but to learn complicated and flashy moves. 

...And then they go and do the stuff they just learned on crowded dance floors.  Enthusiastically and without any regard for the people they are barrelling into.  Thanks a lot.

It's probably useless showing them this video.  They are too busy practicing helicopter spins and triple enganche gancho giros (whatever that is) to pay attention.  It's a video of two of the biggest Tango maestros in the world....dancing simply.  And it's stunning:


Osvaldo Cartery and Elina Roldan dancing simply to a simple vals

They don't know or understand that it takes more experience and skill and musicality to break it down and make every movement expression and emotion.  It is actually easier to do a set of steps than to flow and be free to respond to every nuance of the music and to the changing conditions of the dance floor around you.






 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Roberto Segarra interviewed by PractiMilonguero

Monica Paz has recently posted her interview of our Milonguero friend Roberto Segarra on her PractiMilonguero Youtube page.  Roberto is a treasure trove of Tango history - and still dancing the night away in the milongas even though he is turning 96 this year!



Roberto is wonderfully energetic and musical and his enthusiasm and passion for tango is infectious.  Here's a video of us at Marta Fama's milonga last year - watching it is a lovely reminder of the tanda of vals we danced.  We have our feet on the floor but it felt like flying:


"Roberto dances simply but he is sooooo milonguero, don't you think?" I asked Man Yung.

"Oh yes!  I heard he is a big flirt!" said Man Yung.

"No, that's not what I mean," I said.  "What I mean is that he dances only a few steps, but it's pure 1000% tango!"

"Ah Irene," said Man Yung, "The Old Milongueros danced few steps because they didn't have the advantages that modern Tango dancers like me have."

I felt incredibly flattered.  Man Yung can be so sweet sometimes. "You mean, Roberto didn't have a partner as wonderful as me to practice with so he could expand his step repetoire?"

Man Yung shook his head.  "No, what I mean is that Roberto didn't have an iPad. With one swipe, I have access to all the steps and step variations in the entire History of Tango.  With my iPad, I will always have some more steps to learn and practice.  I love my iPad!"*

* Oh really.  What the Old Milongueros didn't have was the DISTRACTION of iPad.  Man Yung may have all the steps know to Tangokind at his fingertips, but with all that time he spends watching Youtube videos and trying to learn more and more steps, he won't have to practice them to the point where he could actually digest them!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

We know it is getting hot.....

....But is it SO hot that it is absolutely necessary for guys to show up in the milonga dressed like basketball players?

"But Irene and Man Yung, it is hot! Shorts and jerseys keep me cool as a cucumber.  And when I'm trying to navigate in a crowded milonga, it kind of feels like I'm trying to dribble past the opposing players in a Raptors Game."

We've also seem some guys dig deep into their closets so they can go Tango in their scouts uniforms.  And just because it was hot, and not because it was Halloween!

"I swear....this kind of get-up at the milonga is just goddamn inappropriate."

We can assure you that a real milonguero won't be caught dead wearing shorts to a milonga.  From the anecdotes we have heard from our milonguero friends in Buenos Aires, little boys in Argentina  wear "short pants" and aren't allowed to wear "long pants" until they are old enough and man enough. 

Kids in shorts are only allowed to dance with their MAMA. 

So you have all these milongueros who have spent all their early years trying to get themselves a pair of long pants just so they can go tango with the big boys and girls.  The right to wear long pants is an important manly accomplishment.  No way are they going to ever wear shorts to dance tango, not in 45 degree heat, not when the air conditioning is broken and the fan is not working, not when the humidity is so bad it is like moving through soup, no way in hellfire and flames with the devil waving a pitchfork.

"Oh Man Yung, stop complaining!" I said.  "I know your pet peeve (apart from reckless bumper car dancers) is seeing guys in shorts in milongas.  I know it is not the best look, but they don't CARE about being milongueros.  Anyone wearing shorts couldn't give a damn about tango tradition or dancing with the best tangueras/milongueras.  Tango to these guys... is just salsa.  Or like going to the gym!  Give them half a year and they will be merrily on their way to bachata or merengue or afro-fusion or whatever it is that next catches their fancy."

Irene is only so tolerant....because like many other tangueras, she is secretly looking forward to the day when all the good looking buff tangueros will show up in the milonga wearing SPEEDOS.  Ah.  David Duchovny.  Shhhhhh!


***  Dear Tango Organizer: Please tell guys wearing shorts to milonga to STOP wearing shorts to milonga.  It is yucky.  However, if David Duchovny shows up wearing red speedos, he is more than welcome.  Thanks.
 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mierda

As previously whined about on this blog, Man Yung is teaching me how to lead.  Although he seems to be having fun "following" (and making my life a living hell by teaching me more steps than I can digest, and then throwing fits when I can't remember how to do them!),  the Tangueras of Toronto are still running the opposite direction whenever I walk into the room.  So far, learning how to lead is not reaping me any rewards.  Why learn how to lead if I'm not going to impress any Supermodel Tangueras with my leading skills?

Notwithstanding, one has to soldier on.  And deal with things like this:  Last week while practicing to a favourite tango of Osvaldo Cartery - "Una Vez" courtesy of the marvelous Orquesta Tipica Victor - I suddenly realized something. 

I was crapping all over the music.

Maybe it was my insecurity talking.  Or perhaps I was sensing the disconnect between the steps I was doing and the music that was playing. Or quite possibly it was the sinking feeling I felt as Man Yung decided to take over and merrily dance how he thought the music should be danced - without following any of my lead.

I was reminded of something our maestro Osvaldo Cartery said in the documentary "Leyendas del Tango" which goes something like this: 

"Look at all the passion and effort that the composers and lyricists and tango orchestras put into their tangos.  Don't crap all over them!"


Osvaldo's advice at 56:30:  "Don't crap all over them!"

"Hey Man Yung," I said after I finished.  "I was crapping all over Orquesta Tipica Victor.  And I feel really bad about it."

"Yes, you were crapping all over the music," said Man Yung sagely.  "But at least you know about it. Look at all the people who DON'T know that they are crapping on tango.  They may think they are dancing to the music, they may be sprouting wise words about the philosophy of dancing well, they may even be Tango Professionals and getting people to pay them for their lessons/words of wisdom, but when they dance, it's pure crap. Isn't that much worse?"

"Oh no, Man Yung, it's much better if they don't know!" I said.  "Isn't ignorance bliss?  No pain if they don't know.  They are surrounded by other people who have no idea too, quite willing to blindly follow the blind.  You may be tsk-tsking but look at how happy they are.  Entire tango communities have been formed by people delighted by their own tango prowess but completely ignorant of crappage.  Get more people like me in Tango and Tango will collapse through sheer "futile give up-itus".  Before we know it we will all be at home making fancy post-modern macramé sculptures instead of dancing." 




Sunday, April 24, 2016

All the meat on the fire

Every Argentinian has their own secret asado recipe.  And it is the opinion of every Argentinian that their own secret recipe is the BEST asado recipe ever.  No self-respecting Argentinian will willingly admit that someone else's asado recipe is better than theirs - unless its their dad/mom's/grandparent's recipe or their husband/wife's recipe, in which case they will inherit the said recipe or have a hand in it, which means it's really their recipe and therefore it is still and always the BEST asado recipe ever.

I asked an Argentinian how this works.  How can every Argentinian's secret asado recipe be better than the recipes of all the other Argentinians?  Surely this is logically impossible.

He was not even ruffled by the question.  "It is perfectly logical.  Every asado prepared by an Argentinian at any given moment is the BEST ASADO THERE EVER WAS."

"What if there are two, or a hundred, or a hundred thousand asados being made at the same time? Surely they can't be all the BEST."

"Ah, but we live in a world where time moves forward.  Things happen consequentially, and not exactly contemporaneously.  The asado that comes a split second later is again the BEST ASADO THERE EVER WAS, and so on, and so on."

Ha ha.  But can Argentinians make a Chinese BBQ Squid?

He was rightfully stumped.

Actually BBQ Squid isn't really roasted, it is a marinated/stewed delicacy often found in Chinese BBQ restaurants/stalls.  That orange colour isn't from roasting, it is from tanning lotion.  But the Argentinians don't know that!  Shhhhhhh.....

This is a little known fact, but apparently every Argentinian's Tango is also the BEST TANGO EVER. 

Okay, I made that up.  But Argentinians who dance Tango do know a couple of things about how to dance it better than anybody else and in fact, they treat it like their asado.  

"All the meat on the fire!"  Don't hold back, just throw all those cuts of prime Argentinian beef, intestines, kidneys, sweetbreads etc. on the parilla.  They will all come out well done but the Argentinians like their meat thoroughly cooked anyway.  Rick McGarrey has already talked about it here.  While no Argentinian has actually said this to us in real life it is actually a very good Asado to Tango analogy.  Think this way and you are on your way to reach a mental and spiritual state to dance Tango well. 

"Hey Man Yung, do you think we can do a Chinese BBQ to Tango equivalent?  Like, all the Crispy BBQ Roast Pork in the....oven?"

Man Yung thought for a while.  "Not really.  Chinese Crispy BBQ Roast Pork, BBQ Roast Pork, BBQ Ribs, BBQ Duck, BBQ liver and hearts and BBQ sausage all have different cooking times and preparation methods.  Besides you know that your beloved BBQ Squid isn't even roasted, throw that on the fire and it will come out like a piece of charred leather.  BBQ Squid isn't really BBQ, it's been lovingly soaked in tanning lotion for it's sunny golden/orange glow....And don't even get me started on the marinated duck wings, duck heads, tofu, kidneys and seasoned jellyfish.  You can get all of these at the Chinese BBQ store but they aren't roasted AT ALL."

I made a face.  "DUCK HEADS."  Gross little fellas, consisting of soy sauce halved duck heads with the bills attached.  Man Yung likes them with beer. 

This is why I will never dance Tango as well as an Argentinian.  You can throw all your duck heads into the soy sauce, but would you want to eat them afterwards?* ** ***

1. * A local (Non-Argentinian, but excellent and exceeding popular, not always available for cabeceo due to being busy with hanging out with supermodels) dancer recently described to me the same concept.  "The old guys always told me, 'All the meat on the fire!'  That's how you can dance the best Tango."

I saw this as a splendid opportunity to fish for a compliment.  "You're right!  Now, in your opinion, who in Toronto dances with all their meat on the fire?"  

Hint:  Me!  Me!

 He rubbed his chin pensively for a few seconds.  "Nobody really."

Darn.


2. ** Man Yung said, "Irene, I know you have a thing for avoiding soy sauce duck heads but that's not the whole extent of your problems with dancing Tango well."

"What do you mean?  There's something else?"

"Every Argentinian thinks his mom's cooking is the best.  I think my mom's cooking is the best.  Do you think your mom's cooking is the best?"

I vaguely remember spitting out my mom's cooking and trying to hide it behind my rice bowl at precisely the angle opposite from where she was sitting so she couldn't see what's going on. 

Darn.


3. *** Man Yung wanted to add another nail to my coffin of being able to dance Tango well.   "Well Irene, what do you think of our cats?  Do you think they the most beautiful cats in the world?"

I look at him suspiciously.  "Come on!  What are you getting at with this?"

"Well, do you? Because I do."

I looked at our cats.   A bunch of old grumpy lumps.  They are cute and everything but realistically, they are not THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CATS IN THE WORLD. 

"They're ok but I'm not going to say they are the most beautiful cats in the world."

Man Yung shook his head.  "Too objective, Irene.  I have the most beautiful cats in the world, I dance the most wonderful Tango steps and I communicate the best Tango musicality and feeling in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE.  And my tango partner wife is the BEST TANGO PARTNER WIFE in history.  Can you think that?"

"Like, no.  Not unless I was like INSANE."  And whose freaking 'tango partner wife' was he talking about?  Must be some OTHER LADY judging from all his bloody whining and complaining about my dancing and housekeeping skills!   "And don't forget, I have stubby bendy legs."

"Precisely." said Man Yung.  

Darn.


As you can see, Irene may not be doing too well with Tango, but she knows a heck of a lot way too much about Chinese BBQ!  You can read all about it here and here.





Sunday, April 3, 2016

Legs

Somewhere along my tango journey, I picked up the notion that to have that real, authentic tango look (and dance), I got to have straight legs.

Which I didn't have.

Maybe I had OD'd on too many videos of glamourous young tango performers in sky high tango stilettos, kicking and foot flicking their way through brassy modern interpretations of 'Quejas de Bandoneon'.  Neck straight, back straight, legs straight, feet straight - and flying across the dance floor.  The golden standard. 

It was painful for me back then to look at the way I danced.  Crooked, bendy, with feet turned out just slightly less humourously than Charlie Chaplin's.  I strained to step straighter, using all my mental willpower (and hours of practice) to get those damn knees straight and feet together.  To no avail.  I had neither the genes nor the years of rockette/ballet practice.  And - Damn those karate classes.  Sensei made us practice for years, kicking imaginary butt without overextending our knees. 

It was too late.  Bendiness was ingrained; Tango elegance was forever out of my reach.

It got so bad I took to wearing long skirts to hide my crazy ugly bendy knees.  A expat Tanguera in Buenos Aires once asked me, why, sweetie, are you hiding your legs under those long skirts?  It's kind of matronly for a young person.  I flushed red to the top of my head.  My knees are bent, I whispered sadly.  Expat Tanguera nodded sagely and somewhat condescendingly.  Oh, poor dear, I understand.  Yes, you need good straight legs to look nice in Tango.  Practice more!  And off she went dancing (rather woodenly, in retrospect) with some random milonguero.  Well, at least she had some good straight legs.

Man Yung tried to console me.  "Look at Geraldine!  She doesn't have straight legs."

"What?  No way."  I took a look - ok, she was kind of bendy.  "Yeah, but she is a superstar.  She can pull anything off." I said.

"How about Adela and Elba and Susy and all your favourite milongueras?  Their legs aren't super robot straight either, and they look fantastic dancing.  Your legs aren't made from one straight bone from hip to ankle (you moron).  It is natural to bend."

 "You mean, I don't need Fembot legs to look great dancing Tango?"

Maybe there was a point in what he said.  But I wasn't completely convinced yet.

Osvaldo, god bless him, never said anything about my legs or knees or posture or whatever.  The only piece of advice he ever gave me about dancing was, "Pick up your feet", i.e. don't drag them like I was sweeping the floor with them when I was dancing.  He didn't have any tango advice for me really (ever), but he did think I was a wiseass.  He said one time to his daughters when we were having lunch together at his house, "Be really careful when you are talking with Irene.  She's a smart one with the devil in her!  She'll make a joke with what you say before you know it!"  And then he rolled his eyes while we all laughed.

What he did say to Man Yung was this:  "Don't walk like you are 'DANCING TANGO'.  Come on, relax."  And he would give his shoulders and arms a little shake and fling like he was trying to relax to show Man Yung what he was talking about.  "When you are dancing, walk like you are walking to the supermarket.  Like you were walking in the street.  Like you were taking a walk in the park with Irene."

And I bet there was never any doubt for Osvaldo that the woman with the most marvelous legs in the whole world was Coca.   He'd walk hand in hand with her anywhere and just being with her was the best thing in the entire universe.

I didn't get it right away.  Maybe there was never any need to "get it" in the first place.  But after dancing tango for twelve years and getting a bit older and wiser, I have become less conscious more accepting about my freakish just fine and dandy legs.  It's just something I realized one day - among other things.

The best look:  It may not necessarily be any of bombshell/vamp/virgin/beauty pageant contestant/model/Forever Tango Tanguera.  The best look to have is well rested.

The best outfit: It may not be any of fashion forward/trendy/classic/bohemian/couture.  The best outfit is clean, neat and appropriate to the occasion.

And the best legs for Tango: Whatever legs you have naturally!  Bendy or straight, doesn't matter so long they are yours. 

















Saturday, March 26, 2016

WTLTRSS?

Man Yung is still teaching me to lead with great enthusiasm and dedication.  This means a curriculum of High Level Youtube steps and a lot of throwing me into the deep end of the pool, i.e. making me lead him in the most crowded milonga in Toronto with the highest number of similarly High Level Youtube step leaders. You see, he figures what doesn't kill me will just make me stronger.

True to some extent.  But just to be safe, I made sure that IN ADDITION to fancy schmancy moves like triple enganche giro volcada gancho barridas, he taught me how to 1) Walk, 2) Turn left, 3) Turn right and 4) Stand still.  With this deadly arsenal handy set of directional movements at least I would be able to get us off the dance floor if it gets to be too rough and bumpy out there.

Or, if I can't get us out, at least I can stand still in the middle of the pista and cry.

"Don't worry Irene - go ahead, lead away," said one helpful leader when I confessed my worries about navigation.  "I always make sure that I'm not dancing at all when you take the lead."

Hardy har har.

The first couple of times was terrifying.   Couples were flying at me from all directions and it seemed like there was no way to avoid colliding with everyone in the universe.  I managed to avoid major collision in any case.  Seemed like people were NOT trying to purposefully bump into me.  Maybe most guys don't really want to kick a girl.  Thanks guys!

It got easier as I got more of a handle on the walk/turn left/turn right/stand still (hereinafter termed as "WTLTRSS") combo.  I am amazed that it's an almost foolproof way not to kill oneself and others on the dance floor.

I have some questions.

In order to navigate a crowded and crazy milonga floor, could it be possible that one doesn't have to possess ESP/Special Forces training/Heightened Mutant Reflexes?

Surely every leader dancing for more than one year knows WTLTRSS?

Don't tell me that a crappy beginner follower leader (in heels) can avoid collision better than some multi-year so-called veteran instructors?

Nonetheless, judging from the number of people getting kicked and body checked, maybe everyone has checked their WTLTRSS at the door.

This doesn't sound right.  I had to ask Man Yung.

"Am I doing ok navigationally? Should I be dancing smaller?  Am I tailgating people or dancing obnoxiously? Obviously I'm not experienced and not very good yet...it seems a miracle that I can lead you under crowded conditions, not crash into other people majorly, and still emerge in one piece."

Man Yung was exasperated.  "Irene, you should dance MORE AGGRESSIVELY and WITH BIGGER, MORE DANGEROUS MOVEMENTS.  The problem with you is that you CARE TO MUCH about not bumping into other people.  What you need to do is to use me as a human shield MORE and ram me into others so that they will stop hurtling into your direction. All you need to do is to generate a couple of nuclear implosion explosion collisions, then you will be a huge badass and everyone will fear you and give you space.  Otherwise, you are doing fine, honey!"

Badass?

I smiled warily.  "Errrrrr.....nice advice.  I will write it in my notebook!"

And then do the exact opposite.  Thanks Man Yung!






Monday, February 22, 2016

More Adela and Gaston

As promised - here are more videos of the very talented Adela Galeazzi and her son Gaston Pumar:

First up is a video of Gaston dancing with Adela's good friend and wonderful milonguera Elba Biscay.  It's another lovely example of social dancing.  Elba dances in her own style, different from Adela, but just like Adela she has wonderful musicality, embrace, and entrega:



(If you've read our blog or admire the dancing of our teacher Alberto Dassieu, you may remember Elba's extraordinary dancing from this video.)

And here's another of Adela and Gaston dancing an energetic Biagi vals:



Last but not least, here's a video of Adela dancing milonga with Jorge Kero at a private party.  Adela unleashes all her footwork fireworks!



Sometimes when the music is good, the chemistry is right and the dancing is smooth, we feel as dynamite as the way Adela and Elba and Gaston look as they are dancing in these videos.  Kind of like flying!....

....Of course, we may feel great but the truth is we probably look more like we are flapping like pigeons caught in a net.  Oh well.  At least we have some great examples to look up to.  More practice required!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Adela Galeazzi and Gaston Pumar Vals and Tango

We received an email from Adela last week - she wanted to share some recent videos of her dancing with her son Gaston.

We had actually come across some of the videos on Youtube a few weeks ago, and we we were wondering who the handsome young gentleman was dancing with Adela.  Adela is one of the best (if not the best), most talented milongueras in Buenos Aires, she doesn't dance with just anybody.  Man Yung was very jealous and started crying. 

Joking!  When we watched the videos, we were impressed by the young gentleman's embrace, musicality and very milonguero style of dancing.  It was shocking to learn from Adela's email that in fact Gaston is her son! 

"But Adela looks so young, no way can she have a grown up son!" said Man Yung.

Not only does Adela have a grown up son, she has a grown up son who DANCES LIKE A DREAM.   Everyone should take notes from Gaston and Adela's dancing on how to dance musically, smoothly, with lovely embraces and excellent floorcraft - how to dance very milonguero milonguero.

Here's two videos, one of Adela and Gaston dancing Vals  at La Nacional, and another of them dancing Tango at home.  We'll post a video of Gaston dancing with another extraordinary milonguera and Adela's good friend Elba Biscay in the next post!  Enjoy.



 




Sunday, January 31, 2016

Become a Milonguero, impress the Ladies!

Man Yung has been trying to teach me how to lead for ages. 

My reaction?  No thanks.  And Meh.

"We argue enough and want to kill each other in Tango already with me following and you leading.  Why would we want to add more fuel to the fire?"  I said.

"Because it is fun!" said Man Yung.

"Driving a truck with square wheels with my hands tied behind my back on an ice rink filed with whirling dervishes with TNT strapped to their bodies is not my idea of fun," I replied.  

Leading Man Yung in a crowded Toronto milonga feels exactly like that.

Man Yung frowned.  "I don't agree.  But in any case, you should learn to lead because you will become a better follower." said Man Yung.

"But I'm so good at following already, there's no more room for improvement!" I said.

Ha, ha, just joking.  But honestly, learning to lead has made no difference in my following.  Or, I would have improved anyway and leading has nothing to do with it.  Or, I am just so sick and frustrated learning how to lead and leading that following feels like a breeze and I think I've improved but in fact I'm just relieved to be not leading!

Why should a follower bother about learning to lead?  I asked some of my favourite Toronto leaders what they thought about me leading.

 "Oooooh, your partner looks HEAVY," said the first one.  He rubbed his chin pensively. "I think you should practice more.  Weight lifting, that is."

"I don't like it," said the second.  "What if you get better than me?"

The third was sipping his shaken, not stirred martini on the deck of his yacht off the coast of Capri.   Surrounded by supermodels in bikinis, of course.

"Well, Irene," he said, "Tango is not something to be toyed with.  It is all about El AbrazoPasiónSentimiento.  Amor.  And the mysterious je ne sais quoi between un homme et une femme.  Zen.  And the Tao.  You've heard of the Tao, right?"

I nodded vigorously in agreement even though I had no idea what he was talking about.  I may be a hick hillbilly but it's no good to look like one in front of a tango leader I aspire (one day!) to dance with.

"Tango is El Arte.  It is La Vida.  What Tango should not be, my dear..." and he put his arms around three or four, or perhaps even five of the skimpily attired chicas beside him, "Tango should NOT be a way to get to get a hot girlfriend."

A lightbulb went on in my head.   But of course, learning how to lead in Tango is absolutely yes and positively a way to impress the ladies and get more dances.  You see, no matter how much I strive to be a better follower, certain unalterable circumstances (such as age, appearance, unflattering haircut, snarky wit, sitting next to Man Yung who is giving all the men the Evil Eye, being writer of unpopular tango blog, etc.) make me highly unappealing as a cabeceo candidate.  Even if I start wearing nothing but daisy dukes and a bra to a milonga, my dance popularity quotient will still be somewhere between zero and minus 50,000  But the men!  Even the worst of the lot have their pick of ladies to dance with.  Why not join them? 

I immediately entered into daydream fantasy land and pictured myself a sport jacket wearing Milonguero, like Ricardo Vidort (!) entering into the fabled halls of the legendary milongas of Buenos Aires.  Cool as a cucumber, spiffy as...spiff.  Heads of all the famed Milongueras turning in my direction for a chance to dance with me.  Yippee! No more snacking on Tango wallflower with a side of cabeceo fail

 "OK Man Yung, teach me your best steps!" I said - and waited anxiously for the moment I would turn Milonguero.

....Of course, things didn't turn out quite the way I planned.

One lady friend danced with me, and the next time I asked, she graciously declined.  "Naaaaaahhhhh...no way," she said.

Another had to let me down gently.  "It's not you...it's me," she said.  And then she ran for the hills.

"What's wrong with me?" I asked Man Yung during a particularly painful tango practice session involving me trying to push heavy boulders with my puny bird arms from point A to point B.  "Now it's not just the men, it's the ladies too who are avoiding me like the plague!"

 Try doing this in heels!

"Mwahahaha!" said Man Yung.  "With the High Level Youtube steps I'm teaching you, OF COURSE the ladies will be scared to dance with you.  They are afraid you will drop them!"  He patted me on the head reassuringly.  "But don't worry, you will always impress me.  Now get to work!"












Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year

Toronto's first extreme cold weather alert this season - temperatures are expected to plummet to -16 C tonight.  Winter has finally arrived in our city, after months of temperatures above zero, even above 10 C with sunshine and people out in shorts and t-shirts (what, are they crazy?)

What better way to enjoy chilly winter weather than in a cozy tango embrace?  Have been meaning to share this video for ages - DJ Erwin (our favourite Buenos Aires DJ) at Lo de Celia (our favourite Buenos Aires milonga) playing Orquesta Tipica Victor's Coqueta:



Watch how the crowd moves - as ONE.  Hypnotic harmony.  Something you can see in Buenos Aires milonga quite often where the level of dancing is high.  High as in calm, respectful and musical, not as in highly athletic kicks and daredevil spins!

We've been exchanging best wishes for the New Year with many of our tango friends.  Happy New Year, all the best, happiness, health, love, wealth, lots of tango etc.  We really mean it!  Happiness that isn't fleeting, but deep and profound contentment, lighting up all your days.  Health, energy and vigor, so you can enjoy and live your life to the fullest.  Wealth without compromising your dignity or sacrificing time with loved ones.  Love that is reciprocated and without heartbreak.  Lots of tango - without arguing (if you are with a partner) and without you knocking into people or people knocking into you at the milonga (that goes for everyone).

Happy 2016!

Alberto Dassieu

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