Sunday, June 29, 2008


Last Friday night's milonga was an interesting experience. It was like being invited to a sumptuous buffet with fine music, beautiful decor, great friendly service, and a long serving table with a bountiful cornucopia of exquisitely presented dishes.

However, between the lobster salad and the roast beef au jus, somebody has sneakily introduced menu items like "Aioli skunk tail tartare", "Roquefort mayonnaise gravel salad ", "Lemongrass satay lizard entrail kebabs" and "Strawberry and balsamic vinegar possum Crème brûlée". All beautifully presented on fine china and very clearly labeled.

So what do you do when the horror of it all strikes you, the room starts to spin and you start to hallucinate that the "Haas avocado mint and newt toes gazpacho" is talking to you and saying "MEEEZZZZ IREEEN, I EM DELIZZZZZIOUZZZZ, PLEEEEZZ EEEEETTTTT MEEEEEE?"

I have eyes and I have read the labels. Do you think I want to risk indigestion, nausea or worse? I think I'll use my better judgment, politely decline and say "NO, THANK YOU".

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wine appreciation

For all you oenophiles out there, let me give you an interesting (and vastly simplified - I am no expert) analogy.

When you first learn to appreciate wine, you are doing a good job if you can distinguish between what is a red and what is a white wine (don't laugh, there may be some individuals out there having trouble with the definition of the word "Wine").

Somewhere down the line, you will have learn about the different grapes used in the making of wine, and about the different wine regions of the world. You will have to learn about how to taste the wine, what glasses are appropriate, what foods go with what wines. You will have to learn about the process of wine-making. Later, you will have to learn about the different wine producers, and the difference vintage makes.

For the real hardcore wine aficionados, for whom intense and passionate love of wine has driven insane, wine knowledge is not complete until one has traveled to wine making destinations, visited and conversed with wine makers, immersed oneself in the terroir, and crumbled and felt the soil among the vines with one's own bare hands.

This analogy can be carried over into any obsessive pursuit of a passion, be it Motorbikes, Stamps, Cheese, Beanie Babies, Garden Gnomes etc. - the list is endless.

Tango music appreciation goes down a similar path. Most start off their journey by clearing space on their shelf for their three prized tango movie soundtrack CDs. Then there is the acquisition of more CDs (usually some nice and loud Pugliese) and listening to free tango music on the internet while washing the dishes or doing some other kind of housework.

Then, as tango music and tango takes hold on your life, there's the acquisition of even more CDs (maybe some Di Sarli or D'Arienzo!) and tango music in the car - can't listen to the radio anymore. Somewhere down the line, you start to differentiate between different orchestras, different singers and a lucky few can perhaps even name some of the tracks!

At this point in time, some people even become (gasp) professional DJs!

Well, I am not a professional DJ (not even an amateur DJ) - I am merely embryonic when it comes to tango music appreciation. But I love tango music and I want to know as much as I can about it, and how to make playlists that are enjoyable to listen and dance to.

I was very fortunate recently to get the kind and generous advice of friend and fellow tango writer and blogger Janis Kenyon (she's been going to the milongas, listening to the music and talking to the milongueros and DJs of Buenos Aires for years - and I can always rely on what she says because she is one of those rare people who always tell it as it is - Thanks Janis!) on how to structure my tandas. She pointed out to me that it was not necessary to have just instrumentals from one orchestra or just one singer in a tanda.

What is very important, however, is to keep all the music in a tanda from the same era - and by that, Janis means SAME YEAR.

My tango music collection has been reworked and reorganized to no end already. I started out sorting by album. But that was not efficient in finding tracks, so I ripped them into mp3 format and started sorting by orchestra. Then I had to rename all the tracks to include information on the singer, because well, that's kind of important too.

I was too lazy to put in the year before, preferring rely on my own "superior innate ear for the music" (ha! Lots of people think they have this superpower, but do they really? I know I don't), and now I have to go over all my tracks and insert painstakingly, by hand, information on the year. Not only is this excruciatingly slow, I have also encountered lots of "WTF" moments - as in, "WTF, all the tracks on my Reliquias CDs HAVE NO INFORMATION ON THE YEAR - what am I supposed to do, consult the Magic-8 Ball?"

I have only completed this work on a few of the orchestras in my collection - but it is totally worth it. Suddenly, a pattern is starting to emerge - listening to the tracks grouped by year really shows you the development of each orchestra's music. And arranging them on the playlist by year truly produces the best, consistent sounding tandas.

Yes, organizing the music is a pain, doing mindless research on the music and its history is a pain, but it why shouldn't it be important to do as much as possible to learn as much as possible about the music that you love so passionately (and want to DJ for the masses)? If you are truly serious, somewhere on your journey of tango music appreciation you have to learn spanish, travel down to Buenos Aires and really listen to the music at the different milongas, maybe even talk to a few Buenos Aires DJs and milongueros who have been immersed in the music forever and certainly know a heck of a lot more about the music than you think you do.

Here's my playlist for 06/28/08:

Before there were Supergroups like the "Traveling Wilburys" and "Rock Star: Supernova", there was:

Orquesta Tipica Victor (1929)

Cancion Mistonga (with Juan Carlos Delson)
Atenti Pebeta (with Roberto Diaz)
Rezongame en las orejas (with Juan Carlos Delson)

... an orchestra which, like the aforementioned "Rock Star: Supernova", was created by the mandate of the all-powerful record company as an orchestra which "represented the label".

A procession of celebrated tango musicians such as Adolfo Carabelli, Pedro Laurenz, Anibal Troilo, Ernesto Fama, Angel Vargas, Charlo, among others, joined its ranks at various times of its existence.

But instead of Rock'n'! with "Rock", Orquesta Tipica Victor Rock'd! with various fine tango tunes, including the Canyengues I have placed here on the playlist.

More on OTV can be found on the todotango website here.

Pedro Laurenz with Alberto Podesta (1943)

Que Nunca me falte
Alma de Bohemia
Yo Quiero Cantar un Tango

If OTV is the "supergroup", then Alberto Podesta must be the "supertangoman" - was there any major tango orchestra which did not feature Podesta as one of their main singers at one time or another?

His collaborations with the different orchestras became inevitably some of the best recordings that each orchestra ever had in their catalogue.

The last time I checked, Podesta is going strong and STILL SINGING.

OTV's bare rhythmic sound is echoed in Laurenz's music - which has a very strong, I'd say "muscular" rhythmic sound, probably from the drive of the bandoneons in his orchestra. Laurenz's music, however, is very much tempered and complimented by the lyrical and romantic voice of Podesta. It's a combination that is extremely refined, and also very down-to-earth and "real". The milongueros (like Ricardo Vidort) really grooved to Laurenz's music on the dance floor.

Milonga - Juan D'Arienzo with Alberto Echague (1939)

Meta Fierro
De Antano
La Cicatriz

I've never been keen on Echague's valses, but his milongas, wow! That rapid-fire tough guy delivery of Echague's singing is totally suited for exhilarating compas of milonga. The intro to "Meta Fierro" is like a call-to-arms, "You must dance milonga NOW!" This is a truly fantastic, you-can't-go-wrong tanda of milonga.

Carlos Di Sarli (1946)

Clavel de Aire (with Jorge Duran)
El Distinguido Ciudadano
El Pollo Ricardo
Gracias (with Jorge Duran)

Even in the mid-40's, Di Sarli was recording fairly rhythmic tangos, like this version of "El Distinguido Ciudadano". Man Yung loves listening to the voice of Jorge Duran, but he prefers the later tangos of the 50's like "Whisky" and Muriendome de amor" for their smooth, passionate and dramatic singing and deep long pensive pauses. Will he say that I have included some more rhythmic Di Sarli's to satisfy my innate inability to "pause" for more than three seconds, whether it is in tango or in my other endeavours in life? Most probably.

Edgardo Donato (1938)

Alas Rotas (with Horacio Lagos)
El Estagiario
Cantando Bajito
El Adios (with Horacio Lagos)

Any song that Osvaldo and Coca Cartery performs to becomes "theirs", including Donato's "El Adios". Can I ever listen to Canaro's "Tormenta" or "Noche de Estrellas" or "Con Tu Mirar", or to Di Sarli's "La Torcacita" without thinking about them immediately?

Osvaldo Cartery has been having respiratory problems since the beginning of this year. He has been in and out of hospital and away from the tango scene for months. I hope that Osvaldo recovers soon and is back on the dance floor with Coca, showing us what it is really like to dance Tango - "Asi se Baila el Tango".

Vals - Juan D'Arienzo (1936)

Corazon de Artista
Vision Celeste
Tu Olvido (with Walter Cabral)

It really makes a big difference keeping the music consistent by having all the tracks in the tanda from the same era. You are enjoying the music instead of being jarred by constant changes in styles and moods. It is also a good way to really get to know the music - a complete tanda of similar tracks from the same time period enables you to really hear the music and have a chance to feel it with your dancing.

To all you DJs out there who say, "Irene, you are such a music snob. Why bother with all this research and all these rules? Don't you have anything better to do with your time? When I play music I see people getting up to dance to it, and this must mean my music is just fine!"

Well, Mr./Ms. DJ, you are absolutely right.

Why savour Champagne when you can be swigging Champale Malt Liquor* outside the local 7-Eleven with your buddies? It's cheap and cheerful - no need to waste your time thinking about vintage - and it still gets you drunk!

* It also comes in the following scintillating flavours: Golden, Pink, Dry and Red Berry. Four ways to impress your company! If only it could strip paint as well, then it would be a perfect beverage!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Irene's "History and Origins of Follower's Adornment Techniques - Part II" (You knew there was going to be a Part II, didn't you?)

The "Booty" Undulation

Question: "Wow, Ms. Irene, I love the way that Ms. Visiting Nubile Professional's hips undulate in time with the music - it's sooooo groovy. ALL the guys are looking at the way her be-hind vibrates Dos por Cuatro. I REALLY WANT this kind of attention. Where did this move come from and can I do it too?"

Answer: Firstly and once again, a caveat: The "Booty" Undulation Tango Technique ("B.U.T.T." for short) is ONLY for professionals. For us mere tango mortals, our "Booties" are merely nature's way of ensuring that our legs remain firmly connected to our waists. The only other unfortunate function of our "Booties" are as repositories for cellulite and excess calories from overconsumption of Burger King and candy bars - just in case we have to hibernate or something and need layers of extra fat to last us through the lean cold winters, or if we want to make the most of tiny economy airplane seats.

But to answer the first part of your question: Where did B.U.T.T. come from? That's tricky. Now, since I am forbidden by a newly enacted blog law to mention the words "Eugenia", "Parilla" or "Copycat", I'll have to break into "Ms. Irene's time capsule of vast, deep and non-essential knowledge" for this one.

Where did it come from, where did it come from? Could it be:

Beyonce's Booty Dance?

Nah, Beyonce's booty-wiggle is way too frenetic and too firm.

The Mandrill's colourful rear display?

While this surefire way to attract attention, the B.U.T.T. differs from our humble primate cousin's display in many respects. The B.U.T.T.: A lot less colour, a lot less scent, a lot more movement, and in addition, not meant to be at all reminiscent of the undulator's face.

What about Jell-O?

Hmmmmm............ The B.U.T.T. v.s Jello? The B.U.T.T.: Not as jiggly, and not quite as tasty (although I'm sure certain gentlemen would find the B.U.T.T. quite delicious in other ways).

What about Springs?

Weeeeeeeeelllll........ The B.U.T.T.: Maybe not as slinky. But the up-and-down wave-like undulation of both are just as hypnotic.

How about Jell-O on Springs?

Marilyn's tour-de-force performance in Billy Wilder's "Some Like it Hot"? I'd say Marilyn's derriere is bouncy, jiggly and springy and a beautiful thing in it's own right, but that doesn't amount to the amazing tango musicality and muscle control demonstrated on Friday night.

And the Winner IS (Drum roll please....)

The inspiration for B.U.T.T. could be no other than Five Time Mr. Universe, Seven Time Mr. Olympia, Actor, Director, Producer, Hollywood Superstar, and current Governor of California:

The Governator a.k.a. Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Who else would be able to exhibit the dexterity, the accurate motor control, the ripply muscles, and the precision mechanical alternating up-and-down musical action of the little B.U.T.T.* demonstrated at 1:10 below, than the Governator himself?

Who would have known? The origins of tango's current tsunami of undulating booty is Arnold Schwarzenegger's rippling man-Breasts.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Governor of California today - Tango Overlord tomorrow.

* a.k.a. Breast Undulating Tango Technique. Listen carefully, the tinkly background music is actually played at some milongas as Nuevo Tango!**

** Note that the lily pale girly-man just can't do the B.U.T.T., resulting in horrifying and scarring humiliation on national television. Mere Tango mortals are warned: do not to attempt this in public.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Irene's "History and Origins of Follower's Adornment Techniques - Part I"

Ahhhhh. Inspiration. Nothing like going to the milonga and seeing various wonderful things that sets the muse in motion.

Friday was no exception, going to the milonga and seeing all the incredible dance stylings of the professionals and the would-be professionals on the dance floor. It was truly, really much more captivating than any episode of SYTYCD, or DWTS, or ABDC*, and more delicious (to borrow a quotation of a dear friend) than a Greek salad.

But people always ask me, "Ms. Irene, where did such-and-such come from? What is the history and origins of these great moves that express e.g. Biagi or D'Arienzo or Firpo's etc. music so well?"

So, what about those special tricks and adornments that make not only the onlooker but the leader and the follower shiver with delight at the ingenious conflations of timeliness, uniqueness, drama, quirkiness and musicality?

Without further ado, I present to you:

The Shoulder Shrug

Question: "Sure, I saw the young, nubile visiting professional do it on Friday night to the beat in such an enchanting manner, but where did it REALLY come from? And can I do it too?"

Before we proceed, please realize - the "Shoulder Shrug" is ONLY for Professionals. Us mere mortals simply do not have the kind of shoulder-to-torso, torso-to-head co-ordination necessary for this sophisticated move. Unless you want to risk a "Shoulder Shrug" mishap and spend months in traction afterwards.

I know you are feeling disappointed, but do not despair! I invite you to look and gawk in awe at the expert execution of this move in action. Look no further than the alumni of CITA for an example of the "Shoulder Shrug" from the most beautiful and talented, the hippest of the trendiest Senorita Eugenia Parilla, here with the incomparable Chicho Frumboli dancing to Francisco Canaro's "El Lloron":

But as lovely and gifted Senorita Parilla is, such genius shoulder adornment didn't spring sui generis from the risque fashions or beautiful Comme Il Fauts of the said Senorita Parilla. It takes real awe-inspiring, earth-shattering talent to invent such a move.

So, where did it come from? From the hot sultry Salsa clubs of Miami? From the monolithic aboriginal dances of Easter Island? From Monty Pythons' Ministry of Funny Walks?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the "Shoulder Shrug" came from no other than the one and only "King of Pop" himself, Mr. Michael Joseph Jackson:

To be precise, the "Shoulder Shrug" was unleashed upon the world in the King's 1983 ground-breaking video for his hit single "Thriller".

Left shoulder shrug? Right shoulder shrug? Both shoulders shrug? Shrugging alternative shoulders while stamping a sumo circle in the dirt? "Thriller" has all this and more. It is the be-all and end-all of shrug adornment, done relentlessly to the beat and synchronized mercilessly between the King himself and a team of top-notch zombie back-up dancers spewing zombie corpse fluids.

(Not to mention the iconic red and black leather "Thriller" outfit worn by M.J., which immediately brings to mind what else - TANGO.)

Because of YouTube and copyright restrictions, I can't embed the original 13:41 minute Michael Jackson video. You will have to follow the link here.

However, as a consolation, I have embedded a video of a very special "Thriller" tribute for your viewing pleasure.

This version, and the many different versions you can find on the internet, proves this: that the music, the dance moves, and the whole existential post-modern essence of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" have an all-encompassing, universal, cross-cultural, multi-generational appeal - THAT WILL NEVER DIE:

WOW! I say WOW! That was FIERCE!

This artist really knew his Michael Jackson's "Thriller" back to front, top to bottom. Highlights include the "One shoulder shrug" at 0:15, the "Roundabout shoulder shrug" at 1:00, and even the "Double shoulder shrug" at 1:05.

Michael Jackson - Record-breaking recording artist, World-reknowned Superstar, and TANGO PIONEER. I salute you.

*Also known as "So You Think You Can Dance", "Dancing with the Stars" and "America's Best Dance Crew".

Friday, June 20, 2008


What's remarkable about this photo of a moment in time is not her super short fringe-y "Tango" skirt. Or her "Tango" fishnet stockings. Or their "Tango" attire. Or their dramatic "Tango" pose. Or their intense "Tango" facial expressions to go with their dramatic "Tango" pose. Or even the fact that they are performing "Tango" for the public for change on Calle Florida, one of the most touristy of touristy streets in Buenos Aires.

What's remarkable about this photo is the audience. Hands on hips; hands in pockets; hands on belt; arms crossed. Faces - perplexed; neutral; bored.

The trouble with Tango as "Product" - pose after pose, lift after lift, fancy step after fancy step, put together according to some sort of mathematical thrill and profit maximizing formula - is that Tango becomes no more than a mere "Product" with a limited shelf life.

Make Tango all about "moves" and put-on drama to the detriment of musicality, emotion, intimacy and connection between the dancers (a.k.a. "HEY!!!!!TANGO!!!!!" without Tango) and it becomes nothing more than a very amateur acrobatic act - and not a very interesting one at that, something to be looked upon by passerbys in mild curiosity and promptly forgotten. No matter if your "Tango Show" is on the street, in the middle of a milonga*, in a caberet, as part of a monstrous huge splashy event, or on a grandest stage in the world - you see one of them, and you've seen them all.

* A very sad and unfortunate situation, only for those couples really truly desperate for attention but can't get people to pay to see them. A la Fabio. We've also seen a lot of nuevo tango versions!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Juan Esquivel and Susy Tilbe

En el bailable La Yumba (Buenos Aires) organizada Por Nina y Luis, el 18 de Junio de 2008 se realizó un simple homenaje al gran músico don Carlos Di Sarli. La presencia de Dora Di Sarli, una de sus 2 hijas engalanó la jornada. Bailaron Juan Ventura Esquivel y Susy Tilbe un hermoso tango por la orquesta de C. Di Sarli. Musicalizó y realizó los anuncios: Quique Camargo.

I was scanning through the newest (and usually crappy) tango videos on YouTube this morning. I didn't know I was in for a real treat - someone had taken a video of the performance of Juan Esquivel and Susy Tilbe dancing to Di Sarli's "El Ingeniero".

Juan and Susy are two of the principal dancers in Oscar Hector's show "Milonguisimo" - the current line-up of milongueros includes Juan and Susy, Jorge Uzunian and Haydee Ester Malagrino, Horacio Prestamo and Gabriela, and Oscar Hector himself with Teresita Brandon. The singer and milonguero Miguel Angel Balbi sings in the show. The show's previous line-up included Alberto Dassieu and Elba Biscay and Pedro Vujovich and Graciela Cano (former Metropolitan campeonato winners).

In my opinion, it's the best tango show on the planet, but what do I know, I haven't gone to see "Tanguera" or "Tango Fire" or "Roberto Herrera's Nuevo Tango Show" lately.

I wish more people would have a chance to see the dancers in Milonguisimo dance - the first time I saw snippets of scenes from the show, my heart was beating so fast that if I was watching the whole show instead of just a few seconds from each number (the person who put it on YouTube didn't want to post entire numbers onto the internet) I think I would have had a heart attack. Where else can you get such a large range of traditional styles of tango danced so well with such incredible musicality all in one place?

Of the milonguero couples in the show, Juan and Susy have a sedate, elegant style. We haven't had a chance to talk to Juan at length about his style, but it seems to us it has much in common with the way that El Chino, Portalea, and Fino danced - elegant posture, long steps, powerful pauses and sustained smooth movements.

I had a chance to exchange emails with Susy and this was her advice to me:

Sabés que en la vida lo importante no es llegar sino SEGUIR.....

Know that in the life the important thing is not to arrive but TO FOLLOW.

More information on Milonguisimo can be found on the Confiteria Ideal Website here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I just got an email today that reminded me of one particular creep I had the misfortune to encounter back in my early tango days. I looked up "Creep" on google images - got this cartoon - and my sentiments EXACTLY.

Ladies, if you know a particular leader is a creep, please point them out to other followers, especially newbies, so they can avoid dancing with them. Too many followers are either too nice to say no or, if inexperienced, unsure of what is appropriate behavior from the leader in the dance. Your kind knowledgeable advice will also help beginning followers gauge what is acceptable and not acceptable from a leader on or off the dance floor.

Tango is an intimate dance, but certain lines should not be crossed. No-one deserves to be harassed, molested or otherwise victimized by the tiny minority of leaders who are predatory. Luckily, Tango communities are small - so please spread the word.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Toronto International Tango Festival OR International Toronto Tango Festival OR Tango International Toronto Festival?*

Sorry folks, I know we had one (or all of them) here in Toronto over the past weekend, but we can't give you a review of it here. We didn't go.

But I'm sure that lots of people from Toronto and around the world who did had a truly lovely time hanging with people with exactly the same interests as themselves!

Saw some videos of the performances on YouTube though. Was disappointed that Maestro Alex Kreb had abandoned his trendy signature black beret. Was only slightly compensated by the fact that he still retains vestiges of his flappy black tango slacks.

I know you must be all quite upset at the absence of a proper review, please let me make it up to you with this amazing photo of Cirque du Soleil!

* Ah! I see. They have dropped the "International". The correct name of the festival this year is "Toronto Tango Festival".

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dancing Monkeys

Toronto Tango Community need not feel threatened: There are PLENTY of Toronto tango dancers who exhibit superior dancing skills than a bunch of MONKEYS!*

* But I am definitely telling Man Yung, "You better not try to be one of them!"**

** And yes, I am WAY more fascinated by my Arby's sandwich.

Correction on "Gazebo Dancing"

Janis Kenyon, well-known tango writer and blogger and expert on the milongas and milongueros of Buenos Aires, was kind enough to correct me on some of the statements I made in the previous post about arranging a playlist:


There is nothing wrong with a tanda of two instrumentals and two vocals of the same orchestra from the same period. This is the way it was in the 1950s in downtown Buenos Aires according to milonguero Miguel Angel "Pepino" Balbi, singer with Milonguisimo. He also told me that the man in charge of changing the 78rpm records would announce before each tanda: Vamos a bailar a Troilo con Fiorentino and then name the titles. That's how everyone learned what music they were dancing to if they didn't know it already listening to the radio.

One of the advantages of writing this blog is the opportunity to find out what the experts know. This information will be helpful for me to arrange my playlists - and to anyone else trying to arrange a playlist who is reading this blog. Thanks Janis!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gazebo Dancing

One thing about dancing tango with your significant other - the two of you become your own self-contained entertainment system. Bored at a bus stop? Waiting for a delayed flight at an airport? Walking from the door to your apartment to the elevator? Shopping past midnight at a 24 hour supermarket? All of these situations are golden opportunities for you to break out into a little dance. If you leave out the ganchos and the kicks people might even think you are just walking!

Kidding aside, now that the weather is getting warmer, Man Yung and I like to head out to the various gazebos (Kind of like the one in the photo! Except without the hot tub. And a lot bigger. Because the last time we checked, we are not Legos.) in the parks around town and dance for an hour or so. It's a great way to enjoy the outdoors, and it's romantic (except that Man Yung ends up turning it into tango bootcamp). This is the second year that we have been doing this.

Here's a tip: For all those "top tango dancers" in the city who think that they are so hot and enjoy putting on unsolicited impromptu "shows" in the middle of the milonga - try dancing for an hour in a gazebo in front of an unsuspecting public who has absolutely no knowledge of tango and who have not come to the park to be entertained by you. You will find that you are not really a tango god/tango goddess, but actually............. kind of boring. Sometimes we dance at a gazebo that is right on the corner of a busy intersection, visible to all the people getting off the bus, going to the No Frills across the street, driving by, walking in the park with their kids, etc. etc. You know what? NO ONE CARES, and even if people are curious for two seconds, unless you are really really exciting (And I mean the "Roxana and Fabian" kind of excitement), your tango will more likely elicit yawns than applause.

Well then, thank the gods that, unlike some other people we have the misfortune to know, we don't need tango to prove that we exist. All we need is Man Yung and me, a boombox, a folding chair, a wooden floor that may be a bit sticky but still better than carpet or concrete, a nice breeze with swallows flitting about everywhere, and some tandas of the best tango music we can possibly compile to generate more fun than a barrel full of monkeys!

We can even get lazy and play music we compiled back on September 21, 2007. We played the last CD representing the last hour in a playlist of three hours:

Carlos Di Sarli with Jorge Duran
Hoy al Recordarla
Porteno y Bailarin
Muriendome de Amor

These are the classic tracks from Carlos Di Sarli with Jorge Duran singing - I can't think of any Duran/Di Sarli tango tracks more "classic", except "Vieja Luna" perhaps. People will leap onto the dance floor with their favourite partners for this tanda.

I like to stick with one singer whenever I make a Di Sarli and vocalist tanda. There is such a wealth of music out there by his principal singers - Jorge Duran, Alberto Podesta, Roberto Rufino, Roberto Florio - you can make a whole tanda with just one singer and without any instrumentals. It's important not to mix it up. A singer's voice is a unique instrument, with its own personality and passions, and the singer deserves to be showcased for the entire tanda. This is the way you get to know the singer, to understand his (not her - unfortunately tango music with women singing is not great for dancing - I don't know why but I will explore this later) motivations and emotions, and most importantly, to learn how to dance to his voice.

Osvaldo Pugliese - Instrumentals
El Rodeo
Seguime si Podes

Once again, I didn't want to break out the big popular Pugliese tracks, so I ended up with this perfectly danceable (and not at all "Forever Tango"! Well, except for "Patetico", which is a signature track for Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves) selection.

I didn't like "El Rodeo" the first time I heard it (I had only been dancing tango for a year. My idea of authentic tango was "Tango" by Carlos Saura. Sorry). It sounded funny, almost kind of jokey. Where's the tormented passion, fedoras and fishnet stockings and the red rose gripped firmly between the teeth? And who would name a tango after a Rodeo?

Pocho is always hanging out at El Beso, seated next to Tete next to the bar with a sour and disapproving expression on his face. Must be all the crazy gringos colliding on the dance floor that troubles him. But anyway, I saw Pocho and Nelly dance to "El Rodeo" on YouTube with nary a fedora, fishnet or rose in sight - and now I like it just fine.

Milonga - Carlos Di Sarli with Roberto Rufino
Yo soy de San Telmo
La Mulateada

Man Yung's reaction to "La Mulateada" - "That's really hard milonga to dance to!" I'm not a music expert, but I agree with Man Yung, there's something about the rhythm of "La Mulateada" that's different from most other milongas. But that doesn't mean that this tanda isn't loud and fun and Roberto Rufino singing is always a bonus.

Francisco Canaro - Poema
Osvaldo Fresedo - Fumando Espero
Edgardo Donato - El Acomodo
Francisco Canaro - El Flete

Yep, I mixed up the orchestras. If I was a good girl and a real DJ and focused more on the music and dance of Canyengue in my tango life, I might be as sensitive to Canyengue music as I am with Di Sarli and his vocalists.

But I'm bad girl, and not a real DJ, and I haven't evolved to the stage in which mixed up Canyengue tracks with different orchestras would really annoy me. So here they are, and they all sound pretty great together to me.

Introducing a Canyengue tanda right after intense Pugliese and Di Sarli tandas can sometimes be a welcome relief from the intensity, especially when played after a tanda of vals or milonga (which also gives people a chance to have a break). Since most milonga patrons have not partaken in either any Durian or Chinese Herbal soup, sometimes it's good to turn it down a notch late late in the evening so that people have a chance to wind down. The Canyengues still have to be lovely though - a DJ should never ever play something undanceable or awful just to clear the floor and get everyone out!*

Anibal Troilo
Cachirulo - Instrumental
Tinta Roja - with Francisco Fiorentino
Toda mi Vida - with Francisco Fiorentino
En esta Tarde Gris - with Francisco Fiorentino

Did I put "Cachirulo" in there? Another no-no! Instrumentals mixed with vocals - what a disaster. All I can say is that they are from the same era of Troilo, so they all have the same peppiness. And I have been lucky enough to see the cast of Milonguisimo performing to "Cachirulo" and "Tinta Roja"- visions of some of the best tango dancers in the world dancing to these tracks in my head makes the music so much more delightful. I hope you can all have a chance to watch Milonguisimo (and soon!) so you will be able to know what I'm talking about.

Vals - Anibal Troilo
Lloraras, Lloraras
Flor de Lino
Romance de Barrio

Some of the best, most romantic, most melodic Troilo valses on the planet, what can I say?

Except that the sticky floor of the gazebo was killing my feet, so we never got to dance to this tanda. Instead it was home, lamb chops, Euro Cup 2008 and two fresh batches of blackberry and mango sorbet from the Cuisinart Ice-30BCC. A perfect end to a busy Saturday.

* Whoops! Did I mention Fabio again? I should really stop referring to Fabio all the time - people would think that we were in love.

Monday, June 9, 2008

21 Random Aspirations

Salon Tanguero












Villa Urquizero

Mundial Campeones


Universal Guru

Mafia Don

Toronto Mayor

Monkey Queen

Prime Minister of Canaro

President of the United States of America

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Angel Vargas - El ruiseñor de las calles porteñas(The nightingale of Buenos Aires streets)

I think I mentioned somewhere that I would like to dance like the way that Angel Vargas sings.

If you are one of those dancers who run off the dance floor whenever the DJ starts a tanda of music by Angel D'Agostino with Angel Vargas because it is not the type of music that suits your fancy triple enganche/triple colgada drag, jump and fling combos, then you will have no idea what I'm talking about here.

I am not going to regurgitate facts about the life of Angel Vargas - you can read a pretty good account of his life and works here at the Todotango website.

How listening to Vargas makes me feel is a secret treasure in my heart and something I just don't want to share, like our experiences with our tango parents Martha and Manolo. I am not a good enough writer to express myself about this with words - any attempt would sound tawdry, clichéd and banal.

I also figure that if you still don't "get it" even after you have listened to Vargas (or after you had spent some time with Martha and Manolo), you're simply not yet at a stage where you will "get it". No amount of expository writing by yours truly will fix that, and worse, I would be telling you what you should be feeling and thinking instead of letting you evolve to a stage in which you can understand what I mean.

However, I will say this:

Listening to Vargas, you never get the feeling that his ego gets in the way of the music. Yet he is entirely his own person. Strength in humility.

Talking to porteños - no matter if they are dancers, teachers, waiters, taxi drivers, or just anybody on the street - mention any other singer as your favourite and I guarantee you'll get a bit of a debate. However, if you say that your favourite tangos are by "D'Agostino con Vargas", and you will find eyes lighting up, and heads nodding in agreement - "Muy lindo, muy lindo."

And no matter how disgusted, annoyed or exasperated I get when experiencing the sheer ugliness of encounters with the ignorant and the egoistical, the users and the abusers of Tango, listening to Vargas sing makes the whole vain world fall away.

I love D'Arienzo's version of "La Bruja" with Alberto Echague to bits, but the 1955 version by Angel Vargas and Alejandro Scarpino's trio is a whole other revelation:

La Bruja
Musica J. Polito
Letra F. Gorrindo
Ahogando ese grito que sube del pecho
y llega a los labios cargado de rencor,
yo vuelvo a tu lado, atadas las manos,
pero pa'decirte que todo acabó.

Que ya no me importa,
tu risa o tu llanto,
que a fuerza de coraje
enfrié el corazón.

Y que hoy como nunca,
mirando de cerca,
te veo realmente
así como sos.

La bruja, que ayer fuera reina
de todo mi ser,
hoy roto el encanto
no es más que mujer.

La bruja, montón de caprichos
que me esclavizó,
hoy es un paisaje
cubierto de horror.

Me vuelvo a una vida
sencilla y honrada,
me vuelvo a un cariño
que es noble y leal,
y puede que un día
curada mi alma
a fuerza de hombría
levante un hogar,
entonces acaso
me habré redimido
y vos para entonces
quien sabe si sos,
un cacho de invierno
cargado de frío,
un resto de vida
un poco de tos...!"

CaMiCando Report

My article on the Camicando festival 2008 has just been published on the Paradiso website here.*

This is a video of the Canyengue performance of Adrian and Roxina, direct students of Martha and Manolo, at the closing milonga of the festival at La Baldosa:

And here's a video of Martha and Manolo's Milonga performance to Lomuto's "Parque Patricios" (Man Yung and I have loved this milonga since we saw Manolo performing to it in his "Bridge to Tango" instruction video. It is quirky but nostalgic and melancholic at the same time) at the MoCCA anniversary party this year:

* Thanks to my editor Patricia Katz who puts up with my erratically timed submissions, implausible grammatical errors and gratuitous use of the word "fun". I must bribe her with homemade ice cream one day.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Things you give up for Tango....

Man Yung and I started learning tango because we had some free time and we wanted to learn something new and fun that we could do together. Little did we know that our little diversion would turn into this great big part of our lives that would occupy all our time and our thoughts and take us all the way to Argentina, a country that we never, ever envisioned of visiting.

If you are spending your precious time now reading this (and other) tango blogs, you probably understand what I'm saying when I say that TANGO is LIFE ALTERING. The list of things that people would (and have) given up for tango is astounding. All that furniture in your house impeding your tango practice space? Sell it all in a garage sale, and use the proceeds towards brand new wooden flooring for the new dedicated "tango nook" in your home. Non-Tango friends? Non-Tango husband/wife and children? You don't have time for them anymore if you are trasnochando-ing all night at the milongas weekend after weekend and traveling to Buenos Aires for weeks at a time for tango bootcamp at DNI - I'd say all sorts of divorces are in order. Have a promising career with steady income but staid, boring old 9 to 5 just doesn't mesh with the new spiritual mindset of your Tango lifestyle? Do a Marina Palmer, give it all up and dance for change on Avenida Florida!

Luckily, Man Yung and I haven't had to make many sacrifices for the sake of tango (the last time I checked I'm still at my job) but there's one thing we won't be able to do soon in the foreseeable future because of Tango. We're already committed to a trip to Buenos Aires in March 2009 for the Camicando festival - there's so many people we've promised to see - and we're at the stage where we can't even imagine going anywhere else with our precious vacation days (and precious vacation money) EXCEPT Buenos Aires.

This means that we aren't very likely to be here anytime soon:

Before Tango, we used to talk about all the places we wanted to travel to - Florence, Rome, London, Moscow, Tokyo - and about the trips we'd take looking for Bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, Scotch distilleries in Scotland etc.

But our most favourite, favourite place of all was Paris.

We had two wonderful trips there, but we won't be going there again soon as we must go to Buenos Aires. Thinking about Paris, Man Yung would sigh and say he misses the culture, the streets, the museums, the art, the quiet green parks, the architecture, the concerts in the cathedrals, the views of the Seine etc.

I can rhapsodize about the same things too - but who am I kidding?

What I REALLY miss is Berthillon ice cream.

Berthillon ice cream shop on the Ile-Saint-Louis in Paris

In the far distant days of my youth, I once stayed an entire month and a half with my aunt and uncle who lived (and still lives) in Paris. They were the ones who introduced me to Berthillon ice cream.

One taste, and I was hooked for life. Where else can you find a glace de chocolat noir that tastes more chocolate than chocolate? A sorbet de mangue more mango-ey than a bursting ripe mango straight from the tree? Or a glace de vanille that inspires dreams of flight in pale golden, soft, fragrant vanilla scented ice cream clouds years after you took the last bite?

I spent almost every single day of my stay in Paris walking three hours from my aunt and uncle's apartment in the 15th arrondissement near the Place du Commerce to the Ile-Saint-Louis in the 4th arroundissement for two scoops of Berthillon's ice cream. If that isn't passion I don't know what is.

Nope, none of the ice cream specialists here in Toronto can compare - and I apologize, but reknowned Freddo and Una Alta Volta in Buenos Aires doesn't quite make the cut either (although they are both very good).

What I have given up for Tango is Berthillon ice cream...

(cut to sound of teeny-tiny violins playing a tinky-tanky sad music)

Well, that is, until I decided to be pro-active about it, and MAKE MY OWN ICE CREAM! I did some research on the web, and apparently, all you really need to make ice cream like Berthillon are the following:

1. All real and natural ingredients with no preservatives and nothing artificial. You know, like real cream, real chocolate, real eggs, real (ripe) fruit...

2. An ice cream maker that operates by mechanically turning the canister instead of the beater. This results in a less airy ice cream, but there is more flavour precisely because there is less air (commercial ice cream makers call the extra volume you get by beating a heck of a lot of air into your ice cream "overrun" - and you can have up to 120% overrun in some commercial ice creams). Less air also means that the ice cream is less likely to go into "shock" in the freezer within a few days of making it, resulting in a lot of crunchy, tasteless and distracting ice crystals.
For my ice cream making endeavour, I chose the Cuisinart ICE-30BCC.

The Cuisinart ICE-30BCC churning Pistachio ice cream

3. A copy of David Lebovitz's ice cream recipe book "The Perfect Scoop". This man is an ice cream/dessert genius. Not to mention a very funny blogger. And his salted butter caramel ice cream recipe (available only on his blog) makes a caramel ice cream which is allegedly superior than Berthillon's!

I have only had my ice cream maker for a week, but I have already made a honey vanilla ice cream (recipe from the internet - way too sweet), Vietnamese coffee ice cream, Chocolate sorbet (both from David Lebovitz's book - both absolutely delicious and it's the first time I have had a chocolate ice cream that matches Berthillon's glace de chocolate noir in intensity) and, Man Yung's current favourite, which I think is even better than Berthillon:

Durian ice cream


2 cups of heavy cream
one package of individually quick frozen durian (yields about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of durian paste)
1 cup of half and half
1 300 ml can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Remove seeds from durian and mash flesh into paste.
Whisk all ingredients together thoroughly to form a smooth liquid batter. Freeze according to the ice cream maker's instructions.

This recipe yields about 2 litres of scrumptious, sweet, creamy, fragrant durian ice cream. And because the durian quotient is not too high, you are less likely to make sensitive tangueros and tangueras run screaming for the exits.

Still, enjoying this lovely dessert at any of your local milongas is not entirely recommended.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Photo of Monthong and Kan Yao Durians in a South Asian market

From Wikipedia:

The durian (IPA: [ˈdʊəriən, -ɑn][1]) is the fruit of trees of the genus Durio belonging to the Malvaceae, a large family which includes hibiscus, okra, cotten, mallows and linden as the "King of Fruits," the fruit is distinctive for its large size, unique odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk. The fruit can grow up to 30 centimetres (12 in) long and 15 centimetres (6 in) in diameter, and typically weighs one to three kilograms (2 to 7 lbs). Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale-yellow to red, depending on the species. Widely known and revered in Southeast Asia.

The hard outer husk is covered with sharp, prickly thorns while the edible flesh within emits a distinctive odour, which is regarded as either fragrant or overpowering and offensive. The odour of the ripe fruit is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Due to the unusual odour, the durian is forbidden from certain establishments such as hotels and public transportations in Southeast Asia. The odour has prompted many people to formulate evocative descriptions with views ranging from those of deep appreciation to intense disgust.

This is a very good account of what a durian tastes like.

What to do with a Durian:

1. Eat it.

2. Make ice cream with it, then eat it (please see the following post for this spectacular adventure).

3. Massage the soles of aching tango feet with it (No, actually, scrap that - did you mention "sharp prickly thorns"? Bad idea).

4. Tip for frustrated DJs who want to clear the room: Open one up and within seconds, the pungent fragrance will motivate your patrons to exit the milonga on a quest for fresh air. This tactic is much more effective than playing tanda after tanda of De Caro and De Angelis back-to-back for an hour, or playing twenty different kinds of "post-modern" "international" and "alternative" "tangos" without cortinas or tandas starting at 10:30 p.m. because you really, really want to make sure that everyone has left by midnight.*

5. You've run out of roses but you still really want to show your sincere appreciation of Fabio's Fancy-Falutin', High-Kicking, Space Consuming Macho Tango Ballet of Hyper-Virility in the middle of your favourite milonga?

Can we suggest a cascade of Durians?**

* This happens to be a true story. Guess who the fabulous DJ was?

Remember, the Durian is the "King of Fruits" - what else would be a more fitting tribute for certain other special "Kings of Fruits"!

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