Monday, September 27, 2010

Bringing Buenos Aires to Toronto

In between attending Alberto and Paulina's workshops in Toronto and attending the milonga where they were going perform on Sunday night, Man Yung and I found ourselves taking a twenty-minute break at a Tim Horton's midtown.

Man Yung got a coffee, but what I absolutely craved was a Pepsi.

That's how I knew that Alberto and Paulina brought Buenos Aires to Toronto for us this weekend.  I know, it's obvious that Alberto and Paulina are physically here, right here in the city - but it's the little things, the things that take over your schedule and your habits and your whole psyche that, added up, make you feel like you aren't where you are anymore.  Or, in this case, makes us feel like we are in Buenos Aires.

For example, the Pepsi.  Whenever we are in Buenos Aires, we are dead tired.  When I'm that tired, I want sugar and caffeine.  I find myself drinking Pepsi whenever possible. Magically, perhaps because it's Buenos Aires, I don't get fat from it!

There are the other things too:

1.  Not enough sleep

In Toronto the weekend milongas end on average around one a.m.  That's a reasonably early hour, and in addition, we don't usually go to workshops during the day.  Weekends are good times for us to catch up on 8 hours of sleep at night at plentiful afternoon naps - Toronto life is placid and the utopia of good behavior and healthy living.

With Alberto and Paulina here we didn't get enough sleep.  Sleep deprivation plays funny tricks with our heads.

"Is Alberto and Paulina really here or are we hallucinating?"  we asked ourselves.  It was hard to believe - they had arrived, our friends and teachers from Buenos Aires were really here, dancing on the dance floors of Toronto Tango!  It seemed out of place to have dancers of their caliber here while everyone around them was doing their usual non-musical jerky crazy North American stuff that we are constantly joking about. 

But then, isn't that exactly what you would get in Confiteria Ideal?

2.  Really sore feet

Haven't had that in a while.  But when you are doing workshops followed by dancing at the milongas and workshops then milongas... well, that's how it's like in Buenos Aires every single day.  Out comes the Crocs (with socks)! The Pacsafe!  The Luluwear! We can be tango tourists in our own home city.*

* Wait a moment - we have this kind of gear on us all the time, Alberto and Paulina notwithstanding!

3. Contending with crazy traffic

Alberto and Paulina are staying with one of their hosts Patricia and their whole trip to Toronto has been organized by Patricia and Regina of Paradiso and Viva Tango in Toronto and Ray Barbosa of Chicago.  I can't imagine how stressed and exhausted the organizers/hosts must be getting the whole thing together - hosting, translating, transporting, and other preparations before and during the tour etc. etc.  We only helped a tiny little bit with driving Alberto and Paulina to some of the venues.  Our whole Saturday consisted of driving midtown, then out of town, then midtown, then downtown, then midtown, then uptown, then midtown, then uptown, then downtown, then uptown again - back and forth the whole day.

I don't recall that driving in Toronto on the weekend could be that challenging.  There were crazy drivers.  There were Sunday drivers.  There were traffic jams.  There were unclear road signs.  There was construction and lane reductions.  While rushing from place to place, Man Yung was beeping other cars, weaving in and out of lanes, making u-turns, and trying to avoid cars trying to cut in abruptly and other obstacles on the road.

Alberto and Paulina were impressed.  "Look, Man Yung is driving just like a Porteno!" they said.

4.  No vegetables

When we took Alberto and Paulina out to eat it was always heavy on carbs and protein and light on vegetables.  We wanted to treat them to some chinese food and vegetable dishes in the chinese restaurants were usually not a good idea - they cook them with way too much oil.

So instead of salad and steamed greens -

On Saturday we had Cantonese food:

Stir fried Lobsters with ginger and chives
Stir fried Dungenees Crab with ginger and chives
Deep Fried Tilapia
Steamed Tilapia with Soy Sauce
Stir Fried Grouper with XO sauce
Deep fried Pork cubes in sweet and sour sauce
Steamed rice

On Sunday we had Western Chinese Islamic Halal food:

Lamb Chops with special sauce
B.B.Q. cumin Lamb Skewers
Lamb and chives Dumplings
Western Chinese sesame bread ("Naan")
Royal style beef stew with bamboo shoots

Sorry, it would have been nice to see photos of the food - but we were so hungry after taking the workshops that we ate everything before we realized we should take a photo!

Now, in Buenos Aires, we wouldn't be able to eat these dishes with Alberto and Paulina but we always stuck to the same carb and protein food groups, Argentina-style.  Fries.  Beef.  Pizza.  Pasta.  More Fries.  Asado!!! (and wine, which Man Yung didn't have much of in Toronto because he had to drive).
5. Spanish

In Buenos Aires, I have to speak Spanish.  Now that Alberto and Paulina are here in Toronto, suddenly everyone is speaking in Spanish.  We are lucky to have lots of Spanish-speakers in our Toronto Tango. It's great practice for me to prepare for our next trip to Buenos Aires. Even our chinese waiter-friend tried to accommodate all that spanish-speaking... by speaking French.

I have been listening to and speaking so much Spanish that I even started to text message in Spanish with my Toronto milonguera friend.  I even had to turn off that pesky  auto-correction function on my iPhone keyboard - it kept on turning words like "Esperar" to "Emperor", "Enfermo" (after all that eating nothing but protein and carbs, you would be sick too) into "Engrams", and "Gente" into "Gents".


Alberto and Paulina will be teaching workshops tomorrow in the Kitchener/Waterloo area. Please check Paradiso's website for more details on these workshops and to arrange for private classes if you are in Toronto.

Stayed turn for the next post... in which we really explain how Alberto and Paulina brought Buenos Aires to Toronto!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Finally, here are the videos of Alberto and Paulina's performances at Paradiso on Friday night! 

The first is a tango - Pugliese's "A Evaristo Carriego":

The second is a vals - Orquesta Tipica Victor's "Sin Rumbo Fijo" - with the incomparable voice of singer Angel Vargas:

I wanted to upload the videos of the magnificent peformances right after I got home from the milonga, but Alberto and Paulina wanted to take a look at the footage first.

Saturday was very busy for us and for Alberto and Paulina.  In the morning, we took Paulina shopping in the morning while Alberto rested (the schedules for Alberto and Paulina's teaching tours are usually so packed there's hardly time to breathe, let alone do some shopping and see a little of the city!) and we had to squeeze in lunch before hurrying to the workshops at Toronto's Dovercourt House in the early afternoon.  When we had time to actually sit down, we showed them the videos on our iPad.

 Alberto and Paulina looked at the videos very intently and very quietly, without saying anything.

"¿Cómo salió?" they asked, anxious for our opinion.

I think that all artists tend to look at their own work with a critical eye. We certainly do (and we aren't even artists - more like dabblers), when looking at the videos of our practice sessions every week - yikes!  Sometimes it takes a little distance before you can see it for what it really is.  As outsiders looking in, we could be objective for Alberto and Paulina.

We observed the video very carefully.  We saw flawless technique.  We saw impeccable timing.  We saw grace and elegance.  We saw musicality and feeling. 

We saw two people dancing in the moment, full of enjoyment for the dance - the whole world had disappeared.

We saw Alberto and Paulina's love for each other.

"Veo solo amor," I told them.

I saw only love.  Alberto and Paulina smiled at us.  They were happy to see that we had understood the most important thing. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Alberto and Paulina in Toronto!

Alberto and Paulina have arrived! They brought Buenos Aires to Toronto.

Last night they performed and taught class at Paradiso. The classes were well-attended and the milonga afterwards completely packed.

We also took videos of their beautiful performances to Pugliese's "A Evaristo Carriego" and to Orquesta Tipica Victor's vals with Angel Vargas "Sin Rumbo Fijo" which we will upload later.

For more information on their workshops this weekend, please visit Paradiso's website.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Once upon a time in milonga

Once upon a time in Toronto there was an entire group of tango students who couldn't dance milonga. In fact, nobody who took classes with the same instructor could dance milonga. Whenever a milonga played in the milonga, all of the students of this particular instructor would sit down.

"This is sooooooo embarrassing," they would remark to each other as the whole group would make a beeline, en masse, to their seats - while everyone else in Toronto Tango merrily milonga'd away the next ten to twelve minutes.

Now, their young energetic instructor could dance milonga - kind of. He was young and fleet-footed and quick enough to be able hit all the beats with his steps. No-one realized that his milonga was the "Tango, but much faster" kind of milonga dancing (this was in the days before Youtube), so all the students were all fascinated and awed that El Maestro could dance milonga.

Just by watching El Maestro's frantic yet elegant movements, the students were misled into thinking that milonga must be some kind of special divine skill-set unattainable by ordinary mortal tango students. El Maestro was really and truly the yummiest, bestest Tango dancer they had ever seen (as I said, this really was in the days before Youtube). Unfortunately, it was also glaringly obvious: almost everyone in Toronto who hadn't taken classes exclusively with El Maestro could dance milonga - but they, who had, couldn't.

Toronto Tango laughed at the entire group behind their backs and in front of their faces, chortling as they whipped by in the ronda. Frustrated and angry, they asked El Maestro - "Why couldn't we dance milonga? You are one of the best dancers and teachers in Toronto!" But El Maestro was truly mystified why he could do it but his students couldn't. As far as he was concerned, milonga was really just the same as tango - but faster. He didn't understand that many of his students were old and creaky and can't speed up their movements like the fast forward button of the VCR.

El Maestro tried to show them that it was easy. During a Practica one day, instead of playing tangos - he played milongas! He pulled, dragged and shoved his faithful students (some were clinging to their seats with their nails and teeth) onto the dance floor. "Faster! Faster! FASTER!" he yelled. The students tripped over their own feet trying to chase the tempo. They were like a bunch of breathless, raggedy old nags in an obstacle course - spurred on to go faster but colliding catastrophically into the beats instead of leaping gracefully over them.

"Is there a happy ending to this story?" asked Man Yung.

"No." I replied. "In fact, six years later, dancing milonga for some of these students is still like flogging a dead horse."

They tried to dance milonga

Moral(s) of this story:

1. Milonga is not "Tango, but faster". Tango steps on the whole require more time to execute than what is permissible under milonga tempo. You must get yourself a milonga repetoire to enable you to express yourself, milonga-style.

2.  Ditto for Vals.  Vals is NOT "Tango, but medium faster".

3.  We reiterate: You are not supposed to dance Tango to Milonga or to Vals.  That means try not to do movements that make you pause and skip beats!  Doing this will make you look like you are miming underwater exploration in the middle of a fast-moving current.

4. This is not the Tango Hell of the eighties.  If you can't make it to Buenos Aires, there are instructional tapes and DVDS.  We also have Youtube.  If you are not sure how Milonga or Vals is danced, or if you suspect that you have been hoodwinked to think that the weird looking local thing is the "real deal", I suggest that you check out the following dancers for the fidelity of their dancing and their steps to the compas of milonga or vals (not an exhaustive list, but the ones we consider the best examples):

For Milonga:  Pepito Avellaneda, and Martha Anton and Manolo "El Gallego" are legends.  Osvaldo and Coca Cartery also do a very fine milonga. For Milonga Traspie, El Flaco Dany, and El Pibe Sarandi with Elina Roldan. 

For Vals:  Tete, Alberto Dassieu, Julio Balmaceda.  Osvaldo and Coca Cartery also do a very fine vals (Yes, they can do it all!) They are the best.  Don't even think of arguing with me - unless you want to keep doing your wishy-washy, underwater miming tango thing masquerading as vals.

We recommend the above because you can't go wrong in understanding the milonga and vals compas by watching these dancers. As for some of the other examples available on Youtube - including some of those who give "internet classes" on milonga and vals - all we can say is, the internet is a dangerous place.  All that "structured", oh-so-clear (and in English! you say) instruction may be mis-leading you right back to the same glue factory also known as "Tango, but faster"....

5. Your instructor may dance like a genius - or dance so-so, but sound like a genius from all his or her theorizing! If something doesn't smell right - e.g. how come everyone can dance milonga but not me?* - then don't you think it is time to take another approach?  You do not have to get stuck in a rut and embarrassed forever.  Broaden your horizons, take classes with others, even with teachers from Buenos Aires, if you could! 

*Or worse: "How come everyone in Toronto goes to the milonga, but we are still stuck in classes listening to our instructor's theories and too afraid to go to any of the local milongas to dance and it's been over 6 months/1 year/5 years!" We have dancers in Toronto who have been sucked into the black hole of various tango cults - in which students are forbidden or strongly, passive-aggressively discouraged to attend milongas, classes and events not run by their own instructors. I suspect that they have been told something like, "You are not ready" and "Dancing with those unruly people out there who haven't had my expert instruction will completely ruin your technique!" And indeed, they are not ready. When they do come out, all high and mighty from all the hierarchy climbing from within their tight little group and from all the compliments that their instructor has given them to stroke their egos and make them stay with him or her - the fact that they dance and navigate poorly, and cannot follow and lead anyone who hasn't learned the same choreography from the same instructor means that coming out to the milonga will be a traumatic experience. They usually retreat back into the safety of the "nest", where their instructor will continue to coddle them - and they can continue to pretend to "expert learners" of a tango which has no relation to reality. A vicious circle.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Life expectancy of a tango dancer

Man Yung was thinking of all the tango maestros one fine fall morning when suddenly he gave himself a little scare. He rushed into the living room to share with me his freak out.

"Irene, do you realize that almost all the great dancers died young?" he said, his hair on end and his eyes popping out of his face - kind of like a Hallowe'en cat, come to think of it. "You can just list them: Fino Rivera. Portalea. Pupi. Pepito. Lampazo. Rudolfo Cieri. Juan Bruno. Ricardo Vidort. Pedro Vujovich. Gavito. Now Tete too! I know there are all these medical/scientific/psychological studies that say that dancing, especially tango dancing, is beneficial to health. But look at the list of those who died at their prime or before their prime! Does this mean that being too great at Tango is actually dangerous for your health?"

I had the answer to that one.

"Man Yung, it wasn't the tango that killed them. In fact, I'm sure that if anything, the tango kept them going and going. Tango keeps the dancer youthful, mentally alert, physically active, and passionate for life. If the great dancers of yesteryear didn't have their life-sustaining tango, they would have pushed up the daisies a long time ago."

"So what killed them? Surely it can't be a coincidence."

"It was the smoke."

Even if there was some great dancing going on... you wouldn't be able to see it for the smoke

Indeed, it was all that smoke. Before the smoking ban in the milongas and the restaurants a few years ago, you could literally cut the smoky air in the milongas of Buenos Aires with a butter knife. The people from Toronto who went to Buenos Aires before the ban - some ended up avoiding the milongas altogether after the first few days. They found themselves too busy coughing and hacking up their lungs in their apartments and hotel rooms to even venture out. One even swore that the experience of stepping into the milonga and sucking up all that second hand smoke had the effect of shaving a couple of years off his life.

Imagine spending decades of your life, trasnochando-ing away in a toxic environment like that.

There's no better time than now to dance Tango - and to visit the beautiful, smoke-free milongas of Buenos Aires. Dance without the health hazard! Live longer and happier!

And for those Toronto Tangueros and other extranjeros whose tango is still wallowing in the slough of bumper-car tango and/or tango-ridiculo - you can now visit and dance in Buenos Aires (and we highly recommend it - run, not walk to your travel agent now) and still live to a hundred, or more! What a lucky break it is that you have the opportunity to live long and still dance tango...

... Because that's probably how long it will take you to finally start dancing a tango that actually makes sense. Don't despair - just give it some (and in some case, decades, centuries, even millenia) time - everyone eventually becomes a milonguero!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hokey Pokey

Does this look familiar to you in your local tango community? Here in Toronto, we unfortunately have a Leader who has been rendered completely, utterly, cuckoo's nest insane by his full-on mid-life crisis. He has been dancing for perhaps over ten years, but he dances worse every year - despite (or because of) all the practicing he does and the classes he's been taking.

His dancing and leading insanity consists of:

1. Bobbing Up and Down;
2. Pulling and Pushing;
3. Dragging and Lifting;
4. Shrugging alternate left and right shoulders, or both shoulders in unison, kind of like the leader's version of this famous women's adornment technique;
5. Wriggling and twisting his torso and tummy like he was Barney spinning an invisible hula hoop;
6. ...And telling the follower that she should be doing this and that* - so as to coordinate with his lack of leading.

* Just two weeks ago I rolled my eyes until they nearly fell out of my head observing as he coached a newbie follower to Put your right foot in/Put your right foot out/And you shake it all about. Hokey-Pokey style. And that's what it's all about!

His favourite advice to followers? "Relax."**

** As if anyone could after all that flagrant manhandling.

[Public Service Announcement: Toronto victims tangueras, you've all danced - and collided into other couples - with this guy. He asks everyone and anyone to dance, especially the newbies - so that he can try out all the nuevo tango helicopter, head decapitating moves*** he just learned in class. He also gets a kick out of coaching followers on the dance floor - and you can bet that he unleashes the most inappropriate, ridiculous, self-serving advice possible. Please don't encourage his antics by accepting his invitation. You will become a far better dancer by NOT dancing with (and not listening to) this doofus.]

*** As for the genius Toronto teacher who is teaching these Nuevo Tango helicopter moves - 1) Didn't you warn your idiotic students that this move is totally inappropriate and exceedingly dangerous on the dance floor? Maybe not - because you are doing helicopter spirals on the dance floor yourself! and 2) Didn't you get the news? Nuevo Tango is Dead.

It's a fact of life that a follower in tango will eventually encounter unsolicited (or solicited) nuggets of "following" wisdom from Leaders who really don't have a single clue. Mr. "Hokey-Pokey- Hey, Relax!" is not the only one in this community - he's one extreme on a slippery slopey gradient that ranges from mildly annoying to the totally out of control.

But how can a follower tell?

First rule of thumb: If he's telling you what to do on the dance floor in the middle of a milonga, he doesn't know how to lead it. And you should say "Thank you very much" and run for the hills - IMMEDIATELY.

Second rule of thumb: If he starts taking out the blueprints and flowcharts and hands you a 300 page thesis for your reading at home (quiz next Monday), he isn't getting to the point.

Third rule of thumb: If he reminds you of monkeys or geese or purple dinosaurs when he dances, i.e. dork-like - don't expect him to know what he is doing - especially when it comes to following.


On the flip side of the coin, the best pieces of advice I ever received about following were from Leaders.

Since one of our teachers Alberto Dassieu is coming to Toronto, I'll begin with the advice I received from him.

You may know him as a master dancer and teacher - but do you know that every follower who has taken classes with him after our recommendation have come back from Buenos Aires 100% improved?

Now I won't tell you what the advice was (you'll have to get your own when you take classes with him!) but he only told me THREE things. In class (not on the dance floor). Three, short sentences with no more than five words in each.

Those THREE things took my following to an entirely new level.

Just this past March, Man Yung and I took a private class with Osvaldo and Coca. During the class, Osvaldo focused on Man Yung - but he gave me one little piece of advice about my following.

THREE little words.

And once again, everything changed.

Finally, there's Manolo.

What did he say to me?

Just ONE word.

And that was enough to sum up the whole point of following.

Is it a coincidence that our teachers Alberto, Osvaldo and Manolo are some of the best dancers in the world? And that they learned tango by following as well as leading?

If you followers out there ever get a chance to learn from the old masters, male or female - don't let the opportunity slip by. They really know what they are doing, and they could pinpoint exactly what's wrong. Remember to listen - and to follow that advice, if you are ever lucky enough to receive it.

And that's what it's really all about.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Buenos Aires 2008 - Part 16 (end)

Dog walker (with dogs!) in Recoleta

From: irene
Subject: Monday, Tuesday and off to Toronto
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2008 17:00:58 -0400

Dear V,

Already back in Toronto! We’ve been back a few days and already it feels like that it was just a dream.

The last email I sent you about our trip it was Monday and we were off to see Osvaldo at the Sanitorio –it was his birthday. By the way I got an email from Martha today telling me that he is much better, and although he is still in the hospital, some tests have come back and they are "all good nothing bad". I am very relieved to hear that. He's been in the hospital for almost two weeks now!

When we were at the hospital Osvaldo and Coca showed us a photo of all his forty grandchildren (that's what it seemed like), who had come to give him a big basket of breakfast on his birthday before we came to see him. They have a huge, loving family. We saw a video once of the Mundial that they won – when Osvaldo and Coca were announced the winners, their grandchildren all rushed onto the stage to hug them. Their tango comes from all that love that they give and receive in all aspects of their lives. Who could beat that?

It was pretty difficult getting out of Avellaneda - we didn't ask the taxi to wait for us this time, so we tried our luck trying to flag down a taxi on the street. Man Yung suggested that we walk down Belgrano, see the "sights" (not many, because it is like, the Oshawa of Buenos Aires, all concrete and asphalt and nothing going on - except we saw four big homeless dogs lying down in front of a store, all asleep) We tried several times to flag a taxi, but no one would stop for us.

Luckily we found a lady wearing an "Avellaneda TAXI" t-shirt outside the hospital. We asked her and she radioed an Avellaneda taxi to come and pick us up. The driver was kind of pissed off that he had to drive to Buenos Aires, but he had no choice because he worked for the taxi company - at the next taxi stand he stopped the taxi, got out - and went asking all his friends whether they can take us instead. Finally there was one willing to do it - and we had to change taxis. The driver had to call his friend to tell him that he would be late for his appointment because he had to head into town. We caused a lot of inconvenience to the taxi community of Avellaneda that day!

We headed to Zival's on Callao, bought lots of CDs, then had empanadas at La Americana, and back to the hotel.

After resting, we went to Martha and Manolo's class at 2211 Las Heras. It is the Recoleta location for La Escuela de Tango Argentino - but it is also a music school and a gym, and studios for hire. There were plenty of children and young adults running up and down the stairs to and fro from all the different studios (I think that if you survive walking up the ten flights of stairs to the studio, you have had enough exercise already and you shouldn't have to take any classes!) but strangely, we were the only ones who showed up for the first Martha and Manolo’s class! It was supposed to be a milonga class, we were trying to get Martha and Manolo (remember, they had to walk up all those stairs too - if it was Osvaldo he would have been killed by the stairs) to sit down and relax but they didn't, instead they decided to teach us tango salon.

It was a really good class, Martha and Manolo started with the salida of the 50's that was the very first thing they taught us in Toronto. We have forgotten how to do some of their basics. It was an easy class for me because all I had to do was follow - no need to remember any steps! Man Yung had to do all the work, but he got it really quickly so he covered a lot of ground. Now, taking a class with Alberto and Martha and Manolo really highlights a dilemma that Man Yung has. Alberto's style involves a completely different embrace than Martha and Manolo’s style, not only in the closeness but also the position - I am to Man Yung's right for Alberto's and dead centre for Martha and Manolo’s style. There is also different ways of walking and doing the parada. The musicality for Alberto, Martha and Manolo and Osvaldo and Coca are totally different - with Man Yung's natural steps and musicality closest to Osvaldo and Coca. As I told you, Man Yung's problem is not Canyengue - it's all the different styles of dancing that he is doing at the same time! It is not natural to do Alberto's steps in Martha and Manolo’s embrace, or Martha and Manolo’s steps in Alberto's embrace, or Osvaldo and Coca's steps to Martha and Manolo’s musicality, etc. etc. - but Man Yung doesn't mind, he is going to learn everything and then dance his own style.

We really enjoyed that class. We were going to leave together to have coffee after the class but then a woman showed up for the Canyengue class – a lady with the poppy pink lipstick, deep tan and shellacked short blond hair whom we saw last year taking Martha and Manolo’s classes. She had taken classes with Luis (Martha’s old partner) and Mirta (Luis’s wife) and had a huge attitude problem last year. She was always challenging Manolo when he was trying to teach her – but Manolo as always had phenomenal patience (Man Yung would have blown a gasket). She had not improved at all, and she couldn't even do the most basic stuff. This year it was such a pleasure - showing her how much we had improved in Canyengue!

After the class we didn't go out for coffee after all, we suggested to Martha and Manolo that they should take time to go home and relax, and besides they weren't wearing sweaters and jackets and we were afraid they would catch a cold. Martha said that Manolo wanted to go to Salon Canning on Tuesday night and we were to call them at 6 on Tuesday to find out whether they were still going and we could meet up there.

We walked all the way back to the hotel from the studio. The weather was nice and cool, the area around the hotel was sedate and relatively safe – and it was nice just experiencing the city at night for once without tango.

Tuesday morning we went CD and luggage hunting. Our large suitcase is starting to fall apart, and we wanted to find a nice cheap and reliable suitcase to replace it - but everything was kind of expensive and the quality was just so-so. We looked on Santa Fe as well as Florida. We looked for the tango shop that was run by Martha and Manolo's friend Ariel on Florida, but it was not there anymore - something else is replacing it but the renovations had not been completed.

We continued to walk on Florida until the Diagonal Norte or Sur, I'm not sure. We tried to get luggage at the department store on Florida but we can't find anything reasonably priced (and their Lacoste polos were more expensive than at the Lacoste store on Santa Fe). We tried to buy some Tango T-Shirts at one of the t-shirt stores but they didn't have anything in large or x-tra large - but they had a lot of Simpsons' t-shirts for whatever reason.

Our whole day was free so we decided to be tourists and we hopped on a cab to go to Cafe Tortoni - hee hee, the taxi went like 200 metres on the street and we were there! The taxi driver was kind of embarrassed but we said it didn't matter, we didn't know the directions and so the taxi was our option. We went into the cafe, walked an entire circle inside (and looked at all the tourists there), no one said anything to us or tried to ask us if we wanted a table so we walked right out again. We weren't impressed, by the way, the café was just a café. We kept on expecting something more interesting or stunning, but we were disappointed – especially the complete lack of service.

We walked to 9 de Julio, on the way we stopped by a small music store, got more CDs. We walked on 9 de Julio for many many blocks, past the government building with the stands in the front selling law books (!?!) We stopped by a Tourist information booth on Corrientes, saw an ad for a tango shop on Suipacha nearby, and headed there.

The "Tango Shop" is on a part of Suipacha which screams "Tango Tourist Trap", where every restaurant has asado and a tango show and people stand outside handing out flyers for "Tango Extravaganzas". The Tango Shop is really good though - very thorough collection of Tango CDs, better selection than anywhere else we'd been, but more expensive. We didn't get anything though, because I had bought everything that I had wanted to buy at the other places. We passed by a little restaurant – and saw Toronto people! We said hello. I think that it may be quite easy to find Toronto people on Suipacha. Or in La Boca. Or in San Telmo

After lunch, resting at the hotel, we called Martha and Manolo at 6 p.m. If we didn't have plans with Martha and Manolo we would go to Viejo Correo again to hide from the tourists, neither Man Yung nor I particularly wanted to look at face dancers at El Beso or Maipu 444 again. But Martha already booked a table at Salon Canning, so we were going to meet them at 11!

We were taking a nap when Alberto called us, he was in the hotel lobby. A surprise visit! So we rushed down to see him. Alberto came to give us the CDs of the music I was talking to Paulina about - it was so kind of him to come to the hotel and see us on our last evening.

We had a coffee and a chat in the hotel lobby/café. Alberto is funny, he keeps on hinting to Man Yung, "I only have one wish this lifetime and that is to see someone dance MY style", and "Next time you are here, you have to see less of Manolo and more of ME!". And he is trying to bribe us and keep us away from Manolo by making us promise to spend a entire day with him "IN THE COUNTRY" - he says it will be asado and fishing and gaucho fun but it is probably an Alberto style tango boot camp. ;)

We arrived at Salon Canning before 11. Martha and Manolo were already there! Jorge Dispari and Maria Carmen were to be performing that night, so of course they also came over to say hello to Martha and Manolo. Martha and Manolo only had a chance to introduce us to Maria Carmen, who remembered us from Sin Rumbo the previous Friday. After saying hello she talked to Martha and Manolo - almost screeching, with lots of large violent hand gestures and table slapping and eye rolling – very dramatic. Wish I could have understood what she was saying, it sounded kind of exciting and scandalous!

We didn't dance much at Canning. The place is full of tourists, and although it wasn't as unpleasant as Nino Bien (the music was better, but there was still face dancing and people bumping around) it was pretty crowded on the dance floor. We danced three tandas, but we didn't feel like dancing - we spent the whole evening talking to Martha and Manolo, drinking beer (or water) and holding Martha's hand.

Martha and Manolo asked us why we didn’t dance more. We replied: “We aren’t here to dance. We just want to spend more time with you!”

And Martha and Manolo replied, “Us too!”

And we left before the Dispari's performed - the evening was really all about spending time with Martha and Manolo.

So, I think I have given to you the day by day breakdown of all that happened on our trip. A dream that went by like a flash. When will we see our friends in Buenos Aires again?

A Summary:

- Our teachers can create the best tango feeling in their embrace - and Manolo do this in OPEN EMBRACE. And some dancers can transmit the intensity of tango with just a hug - not even dancing!
- The best follower we've seen on this trip - Elba Biscay. Although the way that Adrian's girlfriend dances should be the way we should all aspire to dance - as Manolo says, "to be embraced by her is like falling in love".
- The best dance I had - with Julio Duplaa. People also call him a "milonguero", but he does not dance in "Milonguero" style apilado close embrace! But he gave me such a big hug afterwards that my glasses got crushed to my face.
- The best fashion choice for March in Buenos Aires - Lululemon!

Hablamos mas esta noche,


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why everyone should go get themselves one of those Mundial Championship Numero Uno thingys

Like everyone else in the Mundo de Tango, I viewed the victory dance of the latest Tango Salon Mundial Championships as soon as it was available on YouTube:

Yeah, so who hasn't seen this before?

So, how was it? Were they very elegant? Muy-oui! Did they dance good? Bien sur! Do they look just a little wee tiny bit like all the other gazillion "Salon" couples coached by the same revered coaches? Mas o menos. Was any one surprised? No way!

So there I sat, head propped by hand in front of the video playing on my laptop with an internal dialogue going "meh...meh...meh...meh............." - when suddenly, "los campeones mundial de Tango Salon 2010" started to do rapid, continuous whirling dervishes. With enough centrifugal force to separate the curds from the whey - without any curdling!*

* Now, that's some awesome Skill!

My brow started to furrow and I broke out in a cold sweat. I slammed down the lid of my computer, got up, went to the window - and spent the next thirty seconds breathing loudly and looking blankly outside at the fading afternoon.

But it was too late. The image of them gleefully turning, turning, turning... had seared itself into my brain.

Then came the sleepless nights - a week of restless tossing in bed. The image of them going round and round played in my mind like a broken track of a music box with one of those creepy, spinning ballerinas. It even seeped into my dreams.

They spun, laughing and giddy, on the crumbling deck of my parent's house. They spun, happy and triumphant, in cereal aisle of the local T&T. They even spun, resplendent and invincible, in the zero gravity of the International Space Station - floating astronauts looking on in shock and awe.

Why did they do that? What does it mean? What would happen if they collided violently into a crowd of brittle little eighty-year-old milonguero couples at Lo de Celia - like a bowling ball flung into a set of unsuspecting pins? These were the questions that haunted me...

...Until I went to the milonga on Friday night.

After being charged and bumped on the dance floor the umpteenth time by yet another out-of-control Toronto Tanguero with no sense of personal space - it literally hit me.

"Man Yung, we've got to get us one of those Mundial Championship Numero Uno thingys."

Man Yung looked at me like I had gone mad.

"Look, we've seen it before - remember how the crowded dance floor always parted like the red sea around any "campeones" present at the milongas in Buenos Aires?"

"Yeah, I remember - so what?" said Man Yung.

"Well, I just realized why the latest Tango Salon champions were whirling around like they won Tango Stage. They had just been handed the ultimate tango freedom. They're eighteen, right? This means - that for the next sixty years, they will have carte blanche to do whatever lovely face-kicking, toe-crushing figure they'd like - and everyone will give them the space!"

Man Yung was flabbergasted. I was absolutely right. Maybe we, too, would be finally able to dance in peace without risking life and limb on the mean, dangerous Torontonian pistas.

"Irene, let's keep this between ourselves," Man Yung added cautiously. "So many people in Toronto are already dancing like they are champions - all they need is to win an actual championship, and no one will ever complain that they aren't dancing any kind of tango fit for a milonga!" "

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Buenos Aires 2008 - Part 15

El Beso

[Continued from Part 14]


We didn't sleep until at least 5 a.m. on Sunday morning after our adventures at Glorias Argentinas. Accordingly, we slept in on Sunday - but finally dragged ourselves out of bed to buy a birthday gift and birthday card for Osvaldo. We went back to Christian Dior on Callao and got him a light blue polo in medium. We bought two magazines, a Maxim for Osvaldo (and if he was offended by all the semi-nude vixens in that magazine we were going to tell him it was all Manolo's idea! - just kidding, but it would be interesting to see how he'd take the joke) and a Cosmo for Coca.

We had lots of free time so we walked all the way to Feria Recoleta again and then to 2211 Las Heras where Martha and Manolo were going to have classes on Monday, just to see how far it was from the hotel. It's yet another branch of the Escuela de Tango - we decided that we were going to take classes with them to see them one more time. We had originally decided to go see Elina Roldan and Ramiro Gigliotti in their class at Galerias Pacifico (we took their classes a couple of years ago when they came to Toronto), but we would rather see Martha and Manolo once more before we left.

I have to say that La Recoleta has more dog poo than any other area we have been in Bs As. It's because dogs are pets in Recoleta... and everywhere else they are food! (Just kidding! Just a little chinese joke for you)

At 8:30 we went to Alberto´s house for dinner. They made lots of appetizers, like pickled peppers, guacamole, argentine -style marinated olives - Man Yung's favourite ever since he had some at the restaurant that Alberto and Paulina took us to last year. The main course was a fragrant roast pork loin with applesauce. Alberto and Paulina spent a lot of time preparing the dinner! All of it was incredibly delicious - and of course tasted even better with the excellent company and conversation. You would be proud of me, we had a very long conversation over dinner and all in spanish! Definitely a great improvement over last year, when I was stumbling over all my words and succumbing to huge awkward, non-tango pauses... trying to find words to express myself.

Alberto asked us how it was at Glorias Argentinas the night before - and we amused him with the story of the milonguera who kept on asking Man Yung to dance. Alberto thought it was very funny how popular Man Yung was - but he too agreed that it was not necessary to accede to her requests for every tanda. On a serious note, Alberto wants us to enjoy a day in the country with him and Paulina the next time we come, with fishing and asado. To see and experience a little bit of Argentina that we won't necessarily experience going to classes and milongas all the time. Without tango? How can it be possible for Man Yung? ;)

After dinner we went together to El Beso, only a few minutes away by Alberto's car. Sunday nights at El Beso is crowded - hard to navigate the floor, especially with some crazy people bumping around.

The big name milongueros love El Beso - Tete, Pocho, Abel and probably quite a few we didn't know or recognize - were all there. Abel came over to say a few words to Alberto and we were introduced to him. Abel was cool and distant but since Alberto introduced us to him, he sat next to us as a courtesy and gave a placid monologue for a whole tanda about how he loves Maipu 444 on Saturdays and how the young flaquita Korean girl danced really well. You know, the Korean girl whom we've seen at several different venues who puts more passion into her "face dancing" than into her actual dancing. I think it works in impressing the men, you should try it! :-P

As the night progressed, Ricardo Viqueira, Cacho Dante, and I think Alito also appeared. We got to fulfill our promise of buying Tete a drink, and he ordered a scotch which we made into a double - and he drank it really fast without passing out, and still whirled around in a dancing frenzy all night. He has the best endurance for dancing you know.

By the way, I saw Tete dance with the Korean girl, she is not so hot despite all the faces she makes when she dances, because she obviously can't follow Tete. It was weird watching her keep her eyes squeezed shut and try to retain the same transcendent expression after being jarred abruptly awake every two seconds by trips and bumps and other mishaps on the Tete rollercoaster. There was also a girl wearing yellow daisy duke shorts so thin that nothing is left to the imagination - I think I saw her last year as well - she's a stunner [and now she is the new partner of a former Mundial champion! Hooray for translucent daisy dukes!]. She can't follow Tete either. As for me, alas, I didn't get another opportunity to dance with Tete - perhaps it was all for the best. The air conditioning in El Beso was antartic cold, and Tete sneezed explosively no less than three times! Man Yung looked aghast at all the visible spray in the overhead lighting. No, seriously, I didn't want to carry his germs to Osvaldo on Monday.

I danced a lot with Man Yung, especially milonga, and we had a good time dancing with each other (especially after Alberto and Paulina left at 1 a.m. - yes, it is stressful to have your teachers looking at you all the time, no matter whether it's Martha and Manolo or Alberto and Paulina). I said to Man Yung that at the end of the evening, I was dancing with a milonguero - that is, I was dancing with Man Yung! ;-) He is getting really really good, and it is really good practice dancing in such a crowd of people.

OK, don´t get buried by the snow, hope you can find your shoes, but it doesn´t matter, because you dance like a milonguera no matter what shoes you wear!

Hablamos pronto,


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