Thursday, July 29, 2010


We must be old fashioned. If a stranger grabs our beer right from our table and takes a big chug out of it, or pinches our cellphone and starts dialing a merry chatline - well, short of these actions being the result of an urgent, life-threatening, world-imploding emergency, we would consider the said unauthorized appropriation rude.

Has someone just expanded the etiquette rules with respect to tissue boxes?

Just last weekend we were enjoying ourselves at one of the local milongas. We have year-round allergies - so Mr. Tissues was out on the table. Normally, when someone wants to use a tissue from our box, they'd ask. Politely. And we'd say ok. The last thing we would want is for Man Yung or any other person we know to sneeze and drip all over their unsuspecting partner in the middle of Di Sarli.

The tanda had just ended, and Man Yung was returning to our table when - out of the blue, the little tanguero* passed by our table. Without saying hello, looking at us or even ASKING, he snatched a tissue out of our box and started swiping at his snotty, sweaty nose.

* Little, as in - dead ringer for Napoleon. And I mean the Man, not the Symphony. Without the heels. And not on a horse.

I gawked, jaws open, in disgust and awe. Man Yung took action. "Hey buddy - that's mine!" he shouted.

Little Snot Guy looked up from his sweat and booger swabbing revelry... and sneered. "I'll pay you," he said.

Notice that the statement "I'll pay you" was not followed in any way by an "apology", or a "valid explanation for rude behavior plus an apology", or even a "lame self-deprecating joke about the mistake and an apology".

We continued to glare at this stunning example of rudeness. Little Snot Guy shifted off...

...And returned five minutes later with two crumpled (perhaps only slightly used?) tissues that he had snaffled off someone else. WHICH HE PROCEEDED TO STUFF BACK INTO OUR TISSUE BOX.

Man Yung had to yell again. "WHAT'S THE MEANING OF THIS??!!???!"

That is precisely the existential question we have to ask.

We were scratching our heads still when we took the opportunity to observe Little Snot Guy on the dance floor. What fun he was having. He pushed the ladies in - then out. He dipped and tripped them. He flung them around, helicopter style, into other people. All in all, a one-man hazard.

"Ah!" I said. "I know what the problem is. He's one of those newly evolved types of tango dancers who have lost all sense of personal space. He can't recognize territorial boundaries, whether it is for himself - or for other people!"

Yes, evolution has struck Toronto Tango. We should have known better, because a couple of weeks ago, we faced a group of such beings head on at one of the weekly get-togethers of the "Happy Jolly Tango!! Association". While the rest of Toronto Tango is still sticking to its "quaint" practices of following the line of dance, trying to dance without bumping into other couples, trying not to lead movements that invade into other people's dance spaces, etc. - the beings of "Happy Jolly Tango!! Association" had obviously evolved into a higher level of person to person, ahem, integration.

Human Pachinko was the order of the day as people bounced against each other like it was the most natural thing for people to be concussively knocking into other people. Gleefully grinning couples piled up, several bodies deep, as an aftermath failed leaps and spins. Step on someone? No problem. Elbow someone in the face? Couldn't even feel it. Apologize? What for? It was dizzying watching the seething mass of hot steamy bodies kick and gouge and squirm and shove in a no-holds barred tango orgy. It was worse (for us anyway, with out old-timey, well-defined sense of personal boundary) to wade into the mess and try to dance.

It was clear that to the revelers, there was no such thing as "you" or "me" or "us" or "them" anymore. Where does "one" end and the "other" begin? It was Utopia.**

** Otherwise known as "Tango Hell".

We may be soon on the outs as more and more people in Tango evolve into this higher plane of spatially oblivious tango spaciness. Oh well. Let this post be a time capsule then, of times gone by, when you were still you and me was still me (or something to that effect) - and let us reminisce sadly about all the things that used to be


- Pushing, shoving, and general collision with other couples on the dance floor.

- Dancing in Big, Obnoxious, and Dangerous ways that make people have to detour far, far around you to avoid being gored by stilettos and other flailing appendages

- Rubbing your intimate body parts onto your partner without your partner's consent (or, for the real experts among us, onto surrounding people on the dance floor without their consent)

- Not washing your hands after going to the bathroom, thus invading all the people you touch with your grimy germs

- Not taking care of your personal hygiene, thus invading all the people around you with your skunky stink

- Stealing drinks, cellphones, girlfriends, boyfriends, wallets, cars, small countries etc. and TISSUES, without asking politely first and getting permission***

*** Believe it or not, we have encountered tissue-stealing before - from a newly minted Toronto Instructor, no less. He snorted cheerfully into the tissue... and then threw it back onto our table! Man Yung took the damn thing, chased down the guy - and stuffed it back into his pocket. Where does it say on our milonga entrada ticket that we are supposed to clean up after someone else's snotty tissues that they pilfered out of our box? Did we not pay to get in too?

Until we, too, step up on the tango evolutionary ladder into the state of "Anything Goes" - considered yourself warned. BACK OFF. Don't make us piss on you to mark our territory!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The most beautiful woman in the world

A friend of ours used to always wear pants. Tight, unflattering white pants (even after Labour Day) that made her bulge in strange places and had the bizarre optical effect of making her look short, even though she was in reality as tall as an Amazon.

When we asked her about her wardrobe she told us that all she had were pants (she wanted to hide her weird-looking legs, she said), and that all her clothes were either black or white. "I only have one single black dress. I wear that to weddings, funerals and company christmas parties. That's all you need, right?" She was an efficient minimalist.

Since she took up tango she must have chucked her pants into an incinerator because we never saw them again. The transformation was gradual at first. She started showing up at the milonga in pants but with a black bias cut skirt in her bag to change into. Initially she wore her skirt OVER her pants. "It's too short! It's too short!" she complained. Then it was summer, so it was too hot to wear both. Out went the pants - the skirt was victorious.

We discovered that our friend had legs longer than than Yonge Street.

Then came the colour. "I found this beautiful ankle-length violet halter dress in this little boutique store next to the subway - it's on sale! Should I get it? Should I get it?" she asked.

She debuted the dress at the next big tango event. All the heads turned - she was a goddess.

Our friend was thrifty so she only added to her new wardrobe bit by bit - but every piece was a stunner. The canary yellow sheath dress with the abstract pattern. The turquoise baby doll. The pink and black femme fatale. She invested in a new haircut, a new perfume. And then there were the shoes. Neotangos, Comme Il Fauts....

Don't be mistaken to think that she spent all her time obsessing about her makeup and what she wore. She still ate (Lay's and glosettes are some of her favourites - as well as japanese food and tremendous eggs and bacon breakfasts on Sundays), still laughed, still played tennis in the sun, still stayed out until 3 a.m. with her non-tango friends a couple of times a month playing poker and drinking beer. She danced lots of tango. And became - the most beautiful woman in the world.

"Absurd!" you say. "Surely Angelina Jolie (or perhaps Gisele Bunchen) is the most beautiful woman in the world! That's what People magazine said!"

Well, if you think the above is wacko, then prepared to be shocked by the following:

Look around you on any given night at the milonga. The most beautiful woman in the world is everywhere!* She's asking the DJ the name of the tango that is playing. She's chatting and joking with her friends at the table. She is nodding her acceptance of an invitation in the cabeceo. She's melting into a tanguero's embrace on the dance floor. It's the college girl with the glasses studying for her M.A. It's the yoga enthusiast and the long distance runner. It's the computer programmer who works through the night powered only on freshly brewed coffee. It's the cashier at the pharmacy. It's the police constable. It's the scientist. It's the doctor. It's the psychiatrist. It's the mother of four with the three hour commute to work. It's the crafter. It's the the writer. It's the dreamer. It's the grandmother with the red flower in her hair who babysits her grandkids - when she is in town and not traveling the world.

They all made it in their own, quiet way - just by dancing the tango and loving it so. No plastic surgery, trendy diet, extreme makeover, personal life coach or lottery jackpot winnings required.

If you are dancing Tango five nights a week, what time could you have left over to feel bad about the way you look and wallow in misery over what to wear?

* Irene has not quite made it to "The most beautiful woman in the world" status, but tango has reduced the time she needs to prepare for a night out by an astounding 243%!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Homenaje a la voces femininas - Circulo Apolo 19 Junio 2010

Circulo Apolo in the barrio of Villa Urquiza often hosts exhibitions by the milongueros throughout the year. On June 19, 2010, they had an event honouring the "female voice in tango" - and invited some of our favourite dancers to perform!

Here's one of the beautiful Adela Galeazzi (check out more of our posts on her here!), with Antonio Yofre (separated into two videos):


And here, a calm, elegant and musical performance by Juan Esquivel of Milonguisimo with his lovely lady Thomasina:

Here's the final group dance with all the dancers:

Youtube is great - we can get to watch the dancing of the dancers we admire even though we are half a world away!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What a 9 de Julio party!

Last Friday, we went to a really great Independence Day event organized by local teachers Roxana and Fabian Belmonte.

Now, we don't normally like to go to the big events - invariably, it's too crowded, there's poor organization, too many speeches and not enough opportunities to dance. We were lucky we went this time because Roxana and Fabian's event was superb.

There was live music all night, courtesy of Tango de Oro's tango quartet, directed by maestro Miguel Arrabal on the bandoneon. He grounded the music with his masterful and emotional playing. Roxana and Fabian also arranged for a singer to be flown in from Argentina - Ricardo "Chiqui" Pereyra, who the local argentines (many of them - there were more of them than the people from the tango community!) all recognized from the show "Grande Valores de Tango". Ricardo's deep voice and the tough-guy, macho delivery in his singing spoke of love, hope and despair in the "arrabal" in numbers like "Muneca Brava" and "Uno".

What we really enjoyed was that the quartet's music was music for dancing. No strange compas variations or symphonic arrangements of obscure themes. It was music we could all dance to and enjoy. It was like going back to the Golden Age where orchestras played nightly for dancers at the milongas of Buenos Aires.

And if you want to see a show - Roxana and Fabian put on a terrific show as the principal dancers, accompanied by their quartet. After the intermission, there was an electrifying demonstration of folklore - chacarera, drums and malambo - by the guest folklore dancers Claudio and Daniel of "Los Latigos Santiaguenos".

This was the first time we had attended an independence day event in Toronto and we were really glad we made it this time. There was so much music, so much dancing, and such great atmosphere* as every one in the room got into the spirit of the celebration, that one word comes to mind - generosity. Roxana and Fabian and their guests put their hearts and souls into this special event.

The 9 de Julio event is the opening event of Roxana and Fabian's "Tango Summit" Master Tango Week which continues with workshops by Miguel Angel Zotto (Can you believe it! Miguel Angel Zotto in Toronto!) and a Gala Milonga this week. For more information, please check out Roxana and Fabian's website.

* Not to mention - complimentary wine! Four bottles of delicious Argentinian wines at each table. You can bet that Man Yung especially enjoyed that!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Buenos Aires 2008 - Part 13

Sin Rumbo
(continued from Part 12)

I wasn't going to be satisfied until I made it to Sin Rumbo. I wanted to go last year but didn´t have a chance, and last Friday we didn't go because we went to La Milonguita with Alberto instead. After finally getting a taxi (La Baldosa is in a rough part of town with prostitutes on every corner) and a twenty minute drive into a very quiet neighbourhood (lucky our driver was a nice guy because it wasn´t a Radio Taxi - and he was from Villa Urquiza so he knew the way), we arrived at the Cathedral of Tango.

Like most glorious legendary places of tango, in the dark, all you get to see on the outside are bits of glossy whitewashed wall, florescent lights, and bugs flitting around crashing into the said lights. In the daylight it may be even more non-descript. But in any case, we were too rushed to look for the tile with the photo of the horse "Sin Rumbo" - a milonga was just steps away and we were late! We charged in with the kind of clumsy anxiety and excitement that tango dancers get when visiting a new, strange milonga.

The organizer, Julio Duplaa, always looks completely deadpan serious - but I suspect that he is struggling to curb a huge sense of irony. When you have organized a milonga (and a "legendary" one at that) for as long as he has, and seen all sorts of things, from the great to the mediocre down to the downright silly, you've got to have a sense of humour (and try not to show it). When we crashed in enthusiastically - wide-eyed and disheveled from our hair-raising taxi ride - he was just passing by the entrance. He gave us a "look" with a ever-so-slightly raised eyebrow that seemed to say "Oh, MORE tourists!". Then in a split second, he decided to be nice - and let us in for free! He must have been asking himself: "How much more damage to tango could these little Japoneses do? Everyone has already gone home!"

We parked ourselves at a table on the edge of the dance floor right under a colour photo of an ancient but cheery and minuscule Carmencita Calderon. Good omen, I thought, whatever good omens in tango are. The floor was half filled with locals and half filled with crazy Geraldine and Javier clones. Well, not "filled" so much - it was really late so a lot of people had left, only the die-hards remained. We had to be patient with the waiters with regards to ordering drinks - because they had basically deserted the room.

Guess who we bumped into at this late hour? It was C and A, a couple from Toronto [now instructors]. A was noticeably pregnant and looked extremely happy. They were as shocked as we were at our chance meeting on the other side of the universe. But to think of it, nothing should be shocking, since Argentine Tango = small world. They were just leaving.

We started to dance immediately because there was good music and we had nothing else to do but to wait for the waiter to come. It happens all the time: Music starts playing - and we can't keep sitting down, we are never cool. We were such a contrast from the Urquiza clones - all were dancing the style that you find everywhere these days on Youtube with the women doing crazy crazy and precise adornments and the men with really stiff backs doing "walks" and "enrosques". They even had "Villa Urquiza" costumes on - I wonder if they go to the same tailor? Man Yung's suits always in the wrong kind of colours ("orange-red" and "yellow" come to mind) and ride up in all the wrong places making him look like a hunchback with a claw over his head and no neck. These tangueros wore suits that won't ride up and that made their frames perfectly ninety degree angular even in gale force winds.

Teasing aside, we've got to admit, the technical skill that those dancers had was pretty high. One slim young girl with short, boy-cut hair in Comme Il Fauts with criss-cross black ribbon ties up to her knees was particularly remarkable - I don't think there's any tanguera on earth who could do such rapid adornments, it was like machine-gun fire the way she worked it.* I was thinking: the adornistas at home (professional and otherwise) should just hang up their hats and give up. No way they were going to beat that.

* It was SAMANTHA. We didn't know until the next year we saw her again with her parents in Sunderland. We couldn't recognize her face - despite watching many videos of her performances, we had never seen it clearly before (Thanks a lot, Youtube!)

No matter, no dejection for me because I'm certainly not in the competition. We really enjoyed just dancing together at milongas when we weren't hanging with other people on this trip. It was just us - as it should always be. We danced to Pugliese, to Troilo (lots of Troilo on this trip, whereas there was a lot of DÁgostino last trip), some vals, some milonga, all fun.

The few remaining local stragglers seated at the sides started to stare. At us.

So we were just doing our own thing, Man Yung doing all his steps and looking like Quasimodo (him) spinning around a flapping black-clad dying swan trying to take flight (me) and then we passed by a table of locals still staring. They had been waiting patiently for us to make it to their table in the ronda. Then they completely shocked us because they started applauding!

It was kind of awkward, to say the least. I was so embarrassed I couldn't even look, though Man Yung acknowledged the applause and thanked the onlookers with a nod and a smile. And some other local gave us a thumbs up on the dance floor. Was there something about our dancing that the locals could identify with? I'm not saying that we are great or anything, there was just something - was it because we were more human than machine? More underdog than wi(e)(n)ner? More old than young? A mystery.**

** Or, according to Man Yung, perhaps not a mystery and something to do with Man Yung's musicality... loud jackets and good looks!

We saw a guy that looked like Jorge Dispari [Geraldine´s step dad] seated way back near the big wall with the mural, but we were not sure. He had a little posse of the "Villa Urquiza" dancers around him and Julio Duplaa would check in on them once in a while. It was none of our business, we just carried on dancing. Then a plump lady with wavy black hair in a deep burgundy dress said hello as she passed our table, and we said hello back and we exchanged kisses in greeting - hesitantly, because we didn't know who she was, but we didn't want to disclose that we were bewildered and thinking, "Who the hell are you?". She looked familiar... I asked her if she was Geraldine's mom - and bingo, she was. So in fact we were in the presence of Maria Carmen and Jorge Dispari and we didn't know! Blame Youtube and its grainy dance videos. We had no idea that Maria Carmen and Jorge Dispari would look the way that they looked - it was shocking to come face to face.

After a few tandas, Man Yung went to the washroom to change his shirt and the place started to clear out for real. Julio Duplaa, to be polite, asked one of Dispari´s "posse" to dance. Probably a student of the Disparis from abroad - leggings and a short dress. She had just taken off her shoes so she accepted the dance barefoot. They started to dance - but it didn't work out. For some reason her whole body was at an angle from him - to make space for her non-stop twirling feet. He was trying to dance but she was leaning and wobbling and pulling all directions in the embrace, trying to do adornments to prove her tango-mastery... including a really nasty one during a giro that made her look like a dog lifting its leg to pee.

Julio Duplaa appeared to have reserved his expletives for some other time and looked suave and calm as ever in his cream-coloured sports jacket. Perhaps he thought, "I'm on a roll here, I will dance with all the other (remaining) tourists in this room and the Tango Gods will put me on the good books for this year even though it's only March" - because the next thing I knew he was snapping his fingers and looking slightly annoyed [codigo experts - try and analyze this] to get my attention and to invite me to dance!

I knew that he had been looking at us dancing and talking to some of the regulars about us, but the invitation was kind of unexpected. Despite the strange "snapping fingers", you know, I'm just a tango tourist and game to dance with any milonguero (if only for the chance to write about it at nauseating length afterwards). I popped up out of my seat, ready to polka!***

*** Refer to Part 9 of our 2008 adventures where Tete had to disturb a whole section of seats at El Beso to get my attention for more Irene-flavoured awkwardness.

It was a tanda of Troilo with Fiorentino, not usually chosen by modern "Villa Urquiza" dancers who like their music nice and slow and dramatic to show off all their elegant "lines" and "pauses". Their dance interpretation of anything faster or peppier could sometimes look like they were, as the chinese would say, "trying to drag a bull up a tree". I was therefore, curious how Julio Duplaa would interpret early Troilo.

No worries - Julio Duplaa is a complete dancer, like all the milongueros. He dances really pleasantly - easy going, gentle leading, great musicality. Lots of giros - pretty difficult but not as difficult as Tete with his dynamic explosions! No problem following for me, Man Yung does so many giros that giros are now easier than walking :-P I certainly enjoyed this dance and Julio may be just happy that I followed without tripping over either my feet or any imaginary fire hydrant - well, I'm being modest, more than that because he was smiling and not grimacing or looking irritated anymore. In fact, it was the nicest dance I´ve had with a "milonguero" this trip so far. Julio asked me to dance again and even got his wife Elsa Marie to dance with Man Yung when he came back from the washroom.

Julio Duplaa with Natacha Poberaj at Buenos Aires Gran Milonga Nacional 2009. I tell you, dancing with Julio himself was even more awesome than this video could ever express.

After all this Julio took us by the hand and asked us whether we "knew" Maria Carmen and Jorge and whether we would like to be introduced. We had said hello to Maria Carmen but not Jorge so we said yes - and we trekked over to the back of the room to be "properly" introduced. Maria Carmen and Jorge were nice and friendly. Jorge didn't mind at all when Man Yung proclaimed Jorge danced well... but Maria Carmen danced even better! Afterwards Jorge danced two tangos with Maria Carmen and we got to watch them dance without the graininess of Youtube intervening. Yes, Maria Carmen has amazing, bold, clean but intricate footwork - the two of them together are classic.

The locals who applauded us were leaving and before they left we exchanged a few words and kissed goodbye. It may seem strange for strangers to tell you that they liked your dancing, but it appears to be normal in Buenos Aires. I recall something that Osvaldo said in an interview - when he was young and attending milongas for the first time, the milongas were filled with Tango Gods and Goddesses. If they liked someone's dancing, they would say it, even if the dancer was from some other barrio. It was honest appreciation and encouragement. Here in Toronto, it's a different mentality. No one would speak up to criticize and especially not to praise, unless one was naive or had ulterior motives. Would it make us seem like losers to admit someone was dancing well? Our egos are wrapped up in cocoons.

It was time for us to leave too. Julio got Elsa Marie to call us a remise, and it was time to say goodnight. We had a pleasant conversation with Julio about where we were from (and where we got the chance we got to correct any lingering misconception that we might be Japanese) and he gave us his business card. Julio works in an important advertising agency downtown when he isn't being the lord of his milonga. The remise came - and off we were again into the night.

OK, I have to take a nap now to get ready for dinner at Alberto´s tonight. I´ll tell you all about Saturday´s adventures later.

Hablamos pronto,


Monday, July 5, 2010

The Death of "New Tango"

"Hey you, New Tango - you're going thatta way."

New Tango (or “Tango Nuevo”) is in its death throes. I knew it when I saw the snippet of the “Milonguero Nuevo” DVD that Cherie posted on her blog a few days ago.

Yes, Tango Nuevo is dying – maybe even dead. I say this cautiously, in sotto voce, like the old wise folk in the olden days as they laid the bodies of the recently deceased out for the wake. There’s always a chance that a cat will jump over the body and the body will get up stiffly, shuffle a few steps over and bite you in the ankle.

“Why, Irene and Man Yung,” you say, “Are you crazy? Just last night I was kicked in the groin by an errant stiletto let loose in careless triple colgada/volcada combo. And aren’t there more and more festivals dedicated to this kind of thing?”


But look at the thing. Look at it closely. And look at who is doing all this “New Tango”.

The only ones still doing it are the idiots. Now, idiocy is one thing never goes out of style. It could be “New Tango” or “Old Tango”, but idiots will still find a way to be dangerous on the dance floor. Even the “professionals” are edging (discretely, quietly) further and further away from the fiasco that is “New Tango”. Or morphing it into something that tells people it’s “Nuevo” but is really “Nuevo-lite”, like “Milonguero Nuevo”.

A few months ago we visited a nearby “important tango community” on a lark. We have been disappointed with the tango scene every time we have gone there. This was supposed to be some “legendary tango centre outside of Buenos Aires” but we have always found the floorcraft to be abysmal and the music horrendous.

We went to two milongas on this trip. More people were dancing New Tango than not.

“This means that New Tango is alive!” I here you exclaim.

But once again, look at the people who are doing it. Older Gentlemen in sneakers with thinning hair and paunches pinched in half at the middle with mercilessly tight belts – shirttails squished in or left messily out. Ladies of “a certain age” trussed up like exotic birds in satin babushkas. These couples “performed” their New Tango and Show Tango moves (badly) with equal enthusiasm. Catch a leg here, whirling vortex of doom there. Jump and dive between the legs; kneel and sweep kick everyone within a two metre radius.

It was a desperate bid be “relevant”. Think of all the middle-aged crisis clichés, like swapping your Honda for a Corvette or your wife for a new girlfriend twenty years younger. I’m dancing New Tango because I want people to look at me – and because I still can.

But for how much longer? A couple of ancient chicas were visiting from out of town. Grabbed by a few of the “New Tango Idiots”, they allowed themselves to be flung around the dance floor with glee. They didn’t mind slipping and falling heavily a couple of times, and laughed it off each time. Perhaps they were lucky on this tango trip, and went home with nothing more than a couple of bruises and vague memories of graceless leaping and giddy spinning.

Next time, the souvenirs will be broken bones and dislocated hips. It’s only a matter of time – New Tango is for the young and flexible, and not for persons over the age of thirty-five with self-esteem issues and an overwhelming desire to draw attention to themselves with movements that their aging bodies simply cannot execute.

“So, the ‘young and flexible’ will carry the torch?” you say.

No, the ‘young and flexible’ will only get older. And creakier. And discover that, short of having enough talent and training for the circus or the Olympics, there is a limit to what a body can do. There’s another problem. How many triple/quadruple volcada/colgada combinations can you invent before it becomes boring and repetitive? Every year “New Tango Professionals” try to come up with contortions that are more difficult and complicated, only to risk crossing the line from dance into pure acrobatics, unfit for normal human consumption (and idiotic regurgitation). What’s next, do we have to climb a rope ladder and swing naked spiral somersaults from a trapeze?

A few years ago, even tried and true traditional tango teachers felt the threat of “New Tango” and tried incorporating some into their curriculum and their performances to gain back market share. But now, the opposite is true. The “New Tango” dancers are turning back to tradition to attract the students back. New Tango is dead (or dying) but you’ll still have some “New Tango” teachers here and there teaching New Tango. Why? It’s hard to relinquish something that you’ve studied for so long and worked so hard for. And it’s theoretically a tango cash cow: a system [a.k.a. "scam"] that provides boundless material – combination upon combination upon soulless combination – that could never be mastered.

That will change: even the young and flexible ones are holding each other tight and embracing to the music.*

In Toronto, the most popular milongas are the ones that have traditional dancers dancing to traditional music. The most hardcore tango devotees are the traditional dancers – they are the ones that pay, week after week, night after night, to dance. It’s not the exercise and the clever stunts but the emotional fulfillment and the connection that keeps them coming back. In addition, recent Toronto Tango Festivals are becoming more traditional than ever – inviting guest teachers of Tango Salon and Milonguero. New Tango “Maestros” - whose idea of tango performance is to moonwalk to cacophony and push against each other like bulls with locked horns - were conspicuously absent.

Tangueras will still dance with “New Tango” tangueros – some women will dance with any man, so long it’s a man. They might laugh and giggle and have a lot of fun being hazards on the floor. But who do they really want to dance with?

In Toronto, it’s the five or so tangueros/milongueros [sorry, Man Yung, this doesn’t include you!] that all the women want to dance with. If they haven’t danced with them already they are all wondering what it would be like to feel the emotion of music in their embrace. If they have danced with them already – everything else pales in comparison.

Show me a community where people don’t want to be held, where people don’t want to feel loved. Or a community of idiots. That’s where New Tango might live, and flourish.

For the rest of us, New Tango is dead.

* Back in March, we attended Osvaldo and Coca's classes at El Tacuari in Buenos Aires and were pleasantly surprised at the number of young Argentinos who were taking the classes. They were very serious about learning what Osvaldo and Coca had to teach, and were very respectful. A good sign.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Following her Heart

The past week has been an emotional one - as we all said "hasta luego" to a dear Toronto milonguera and the organizer of "La Cachila", Lorena.

Lorena is following her heart and moving to Buenos Aires to be with the man she loves. Some people would say that she was "lucky", but as we all know, it takes courage and determination to seize the day. In her goodbye speech last Sunday, Lorena was frank - she is not merely "lucky", she made it happen. She is the captain of her destiny.

"La Cachila" was a milonga that she created with help from her DJ Berenice to bring to Toronto what they both loved about Tango as it is danced in Buenos Aires. Whenever we stepped into their milonga, we were transported. Their milonga was always infused with the spirit of the cabeceo and the codigos, the joy of the chacarera, the magic of the music, and the pure emotion of the dance.

It wasn't easy - it took courage and determination, and unwavering belief in what they did. They never made any pale North American imitation to pander to the lowest denominator. And as a result, they attracted like-minded people - people with passion for Buenos Aires and its Tango - and made beautiful dancing and respect on the dance floor the standard to which all could look up to. The word spread, the dancers came - and loved what they found at "La Cachila".

We simply can't let Lorena go without leaving us some souvenirs!

Here's a video we took of Lorena dancing with Man Yung at "La Cachila" right at the very beginning of last Sunday's milonga before all the people came. Man Yung is the tango step-a-thon horror as he is always (look away, look away) but Lorena - que milonguera! Feel free to be rabidly jealous - that's how wonderful followers are in Toronto.

Man Yung and Lorena at "La Cachila"

And here's a video of an improvised Chacarera that Lorena danced with Ruben Bustamente, tango teacher and local expert in argentine folklore. Yes, you heard me correctly - improvised. Lorena had arranged for Ruben to give Chacarera lessons at "La Cachila" every first Sunday of the month, and now here in Toronto we dance a brilliant Chacarera. You can be doubly jealous - you would be hard pressed to find an improvised chacarera like this anywhere outside of Buenos Aires!

Ruben and Lorena - Chacarera at "La Cachila"

Dear Lorena: Thank you for your warmth and your good humour (she didn't mind at all Man Yung's lame jokes and flirting!) and of course, for dancing with Man Yung! Thank you for "La Cachila", and all the wonderful times we had there. We miss you already.

All the best to you and may your new life in Buenos Aires be filled with joy and love - and Tango!

(And see you in October. You thought you would be able to get rid of us and our terrible jokes? Not a chance ;-)

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