Thursday, August 26, 2010

Buenos Aires 2008 - Part 14

Chacarera at Glorias Argentinas

From: Irene
Sent: March 10, 2008 3:32:32 PM
To: V (


Dear V,

OMG that's tragic, to lose any Comme Il Faut shoe - are you sure you didn't leave it at your boyfriend's house? If you really did leave it in the taxi then I'm 99% sure that's a "game over" - goodbye shoes. You have been kind of absent minded - well, that's only to be expected with all the tango trances that you have been in lately, dancing with all the best leaders in Toronto!

On Saturday we went to Martha and Manolo´s class at Galerias Pacifico. I was not feeling well (the food poisoning from Friday was still bothering me), so I sat out most of the class. Even though I tried to hide in a corner, I had to practice with this guy who couldn't even lead a back ocho. Remember that guy that looked like Kramer from Seinfeld who used to take beginner's class with us back when we just started? Yes, that guy who instead of leading, asked me "Do you know this really aggressive movement that women do? Can you do it?" (What on earth could that be? Let me see... hit you over the head with my handbag?) Well, this guy was just like that - the evil twin of the Toronto guy, except that... well, is there ever a good twin in these cases? I think he was Argentinian, so naturally by DNA alone he thought he was miles ahead of everyone else - but instead of leading, he would tell me what he wanted me to do. You should do this! You should do that! After one song I had about enough - I said I'm feeling sick, I'm going to sit down, thanks a million.

After the class we didn't go out for lunch, because Martha and Manolo can't eat too much salt because of blood pressure. We sat down for a chat over coffee at the cafe next to the mall.

Osvaldo is still in hospital, so we asked Martha and Manolo whether they had any news. In addition, we asked them again for their opinion whether it would be good to visit Osvaldo in hospital - we didn't know how sick he was or whether he was in intensive care.

Since Martha and Manolo were in constant contact with Coca on the phone, they had a good idea of Osvaldo's condition - and they said they thought it would be ok, even a good idea to give Osvaldo and Coca a nice surprise and some company. Osvaldo was resting at the "sanitorio" [I think it is a kind of rehabilitation centre] and stable. However, Martha had forgotten to bring the address of the "sanatorio" so we had to call them for the address once we got back to the hotel. They left to go home first - they needed rest after all the grueling hours they put in for CaMiCando.

We walked a little on Calle Florida so to give Martha and Manolo time to get home before we called them. A few steps from the Gallerias we caught a street tango show in which the performers were tangoing their darndest for export. The troupe consisted of a tough-looking woman and her "team" - a couple of young boys and a girl in their teens. They were all dolled up to approximate "glamourous" dancers of every tango cliche on earth, but the girl didn't even look like she had lost her baby fat - her face was rounded and pouty but staying out in the street like this day after day had robbed it of the freshness that it should have had.

Their leader wore a big lipstick grin but a hard look, trying her utmost to drum up interest in their show from the shoppers on the street. The dancers leaped and jumped and strutted their wobbly bow-legged walks on the tiled floor to a thumping tango soundtrack blasting out of portable speakers. Nevertheless, the "tango glam" was only a facade - in the daylight, you could see the holes in the fishnet stockings, the threadbare and dusty clothes, and the harsh and heavy makeup.

It started raining. The leader, street smart, stopped the show and started to pass out the hat to collect the change before all the onlookers dispersed to seek cover. What a way to earn a living.

We got the address from Martha once we went back to the hotel, and then we headed out to Avellaneda to visit Osvaldo and Coca. It's quite far, all the way across the big bridge to the south - the big nebulous unknown outside the confines of our Tango Map.

Luckily, we flagged down a taxi with a sympathetic driver - and older man with grey hair and a moustache and who was kind and easy-going. Obviously he had been driving for a long time, but even he had to radio to HQ for directions. We went along the Nueve de Julio to its limit and then on the highway for about ten more minutes... then we crossed this bridge amongst this nest of highway ramps and bridges - and we were in Avellaneda with its low buildings, big run-down boxy mall and gritty, down-to-earth neighbourhoods.

We arranged for our driver to wait for us next to the sanatorio because I figured that we were venturing to an unfamiliar area and it might not be easy to get a taxi back.

Osvaldo is in the "Sanitorio Itoiz", he couldn't go anywhere while he is waiting for the results of his tests. His room is on the second floor. We had to sign in at the nurse's station and were sternly warned that we couldn't go into his room without donning double masks. The corridors of the Sanatorio were narrow but brightly lit - claustrophobic considering the spacious, faux-cheery atmosphere of most the Toronto hospitals I've seen.

When we got to Osvaldo's room, Coca was there too. They were resting, and they were surprised but very happy to see us. It had been very stressful for them, and very boring too. Osvaldo looked energetic as ever - I think I've mentioned how animated he always is. He probably hates being cooped up in hospital and wants to be out and about - but we saw that he was also frail and had difficulty breathing.

There was so much we wanted to say to them and ask them, we had been studying their dancing on Youtube videos all year, and Man Yung had made a lot of progress in understanding Osvaldo's style - but obviously this was not the right time to be talking about steps! Osvaldo asked us about the festival (which we summarized as best as we could with all the positive words in Spanish that we could remember!), and we gave him fruit and a get well card. I had a video of Osvaldo and Coca dancing to the vals "Con Tu Mirar" on my phone and I wanted to show them that - but the video didn't work, only the audio, and Osvaldo took my phone and listened to that a little. We could see him getting immediately into the heart of the music like he always does.

We asked him about his condition. Osvaldo declared he can eat everything - except not drink whiskey! He remarked to Coca that Man Yung danced really well with the short little steps on his toes...remember that Alberto criticized Man Yung for this? That's because Man Yung was dancing Osvaldo steps!

We asked him if there was anything he wanted to eat, we could bring him some and he said it was fine, all we have to bring for him was a kiss. We promised to visit him again on his birthday, which is Monday. When we left Coca gave us big hugs. It is a very stressful situation for both of them, we hope that Osvaldo will feel better soon.

That night we went to Glorias Argentinas with Martha and Manolo. We were more popular than they were with the locals! That's because we come back to the milonga every Saturday that we are in Buenos Aires - and also because we are chinese and goofy-looking (just joking). Actually, people have a pretty good impression of us. We said hello to Oscar Hector, to Carlitos [Anzuate].

Carlo's little blond milonguera friend took a liking to Man Yung - and since we were friendly with Carlos, she asked Man Yung to dance. After that, she kept on coming back to ask for more dances! Martha was a little shocked at her contraventions of the codigos (and the way that she danced - as Martha said, "Ella baila sola" - the little lady was dancing a solo no matter what Man Yung tried to lead). Martha told Man Yung he didn't have to dance with her - but Man Yung was too much a gentleman to refuse.

So she kept on coming back - Pugliese, Calo, Milonga, etc etc. you name it, she was game for every tanda. She was really having a blast, and I didn't want to spoil her fun (I thought it was nice that someone liked dancing with Man Yung that much), and if I remember and understand correctly, Carlitos did ask us last week whether Man Yung will dance with his friend.

With respect to the continuous dancing with the little blond milonguera - the funny thing was, instead of sneering at the chino gringos and their lack of knowledge of the codigos, the locals thought it was great! Nobody but people from Carlo's table and Oscar Hector danced with this lady, perhaps precisely because of the "enthusiastic" way that she danced - but she was one of their own, and everyone wanted to see her happy and have a good time. They smiled and nodded approvingly and even stopped to joke and talk with the milonguera and with Man Yung when they encountered them on the dance floor. Man Yung didn't understand what they said to him but it was probably to the tune of "Hey there, take it easy... don't break your new boyfriend so quickly with your crazy dancing now!"

Martha danced a swing with Oscar Hector (a really great swing dancer - as Martha said,"he leads with his whole body"), Martha and Manolo danced quite a bit too. It was lovely spending time with them, watching them dance tango and milonga and even some tropical (salsa and cumbia). Martha can dance anything, she is a dancer through and through. However, they had to work the next day and couldn't stay long, and they bid us goodbye while we stayed.

Martha and Manolo loves us but having to dance when they are around is very nerve-wracking! They are our teachers after all and they always have an eye on our progress, so we have this immense self-created pressure to "do better" - even though they are always encouraging and never critical, especially at the milonga. When they left... we were actually relieved! Without them watching us, our psychological burden to "be good" was gone!

When you dance for nobody but yourself, you can dance ten times better - and we did, especially the vals. As we whizzed by one of the tables, I actually heard someone say "Go little chinese people, go!!!!" And someone else remarked "I don't know why, but I like it!" People were giving us thumbs up and spontaneous applause again, like in Sin Rumbo.*

* I think the appreciation doesn't come from the fact that we were "amazing dancers" (because we are not) but really from the fact that they liked us, the way we respected the milonga and the people in it, and that we danced more or less to the music without kicking other people in the shins all the time. The Portenos also like to see people enjoying the dance - seems simple enough but many tango tourists don't, they dance in Buenos Aires for such ulterior motives such as to add to their teaching resume, show off their movement repertoire or to prove their tango authenticity. To be accepted by the locals, your dance has to come from the same place as the locals. Man Yung doesn't speak Spanish but he always says that he understands the older generation Portenos and they understand him - they "speak the same language".

We told the guy who always sits in the middle table of the front wall that we couldn't dance well when Martha and Manolo were here watching us, and he said "You shouldn't give yourselves pressure. Who is Manolo anyway? I've known him for thirty years, it's not anything to get worked up about." I got to dance with him again, like I did last year, to a tanda of D'Arienzo.

Every year we see a bunch of ______________ tourists come of the milonga - dressed like they were going to compete in the Mundial.* They put everyone off with these sour faces and superior attitude, as if they were the true disciples of tango because they stood straighter and walked longer. What's with that? I'm sure that they are very serious about tango, so serious... that they were in some kind of elitist stratosphere of a exceedingly refined and greatly sanitized "championship tango salon" dance, nothing to do with the energy and the compas of the barrio. They kept to themselves, except the times they took to the dance floor to "teach" the Argentinians a thing or two about "Elegance in Tango". The Portenos observed them coolly, and you could see the barriers go up.

They don't realize that even the lowliest Porteno tanguero with an unremarkable shuffle but a glorious feel for the music and emotion in his heart is more "Tango" than they could ever hope to be, with their prize-winning postures and plethora of standardized "walks" and steps. But that's the way tango seems to going these days, back to the ballroom all over again.

* I'm not going to say from exactly where, but they're from Asia and they like to compete a lot in the tango competitions. Which means competing every single year after year.... until they win (or die). That's some teeth-grinding, fist-clenching determination there.

We were such a contrast to them, and we loved everybody and everybody loved us back - such silly fools aren't we? Even the waiter Oscarcito came out from the back room especially just to say goodbye to us with a hug and a kiss.

[to be continued]...

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