Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There's always a party at Glorias Argentinas - October 23, 2010

After enjoying a few hours at Los Consagrados with Roberto and Olga and Ruben and Cherie, we hopped onto a remise for the long trip out to Glorias Argentinas.

There's always a party going on at Glorias Argentinas.  When we arrived, friends and family were gathering at their accustomed tables again, laughing, talking and eating merrily.  The lady who receives the entrada was so excited to see us and talk to us she forgot to say hello to the other people in line who just received their entradas from her.  "Everyone has been talking about the two of you since last Saturday!" she said.  We scratched our heads, what could "Everyone" have been talking about?

Carlos Anzuate insisted that we sit at his table - he was quite annoyed that we sat with Martha and Manolo the last time!  Hey, we have other friends too!   It's hard to say no or sneak by, his table occupies an important position right between the bar and the entrance.  One good thing though - Carlos has found love again since the sad death of his wife Porota last year - which meant that he was occupied most of the evening talking and dancing with his lovely new paramour.  We were afraid that he would feel lonely since Porota died, but now we were overjoyed to see how happy he was with his new girlfriend.  Carlos is in his eighties - more the reason to seize the day!

As usual, Oscar Hector prepared something special for the milonga.  His energy in organizing Glorias, other milongas and other events is inexhaustible.  On this night, he had a live guitar trio up on stage - playing music that was quite challenging to dance to!  The band encouraged everyone to get up and dance to their music.

Guitar trio to the people of Glorias Argentinas:  
Please dance to our music!  If you stay seated we will look like a bunch of asses up here on the stage.
Sorry we couldn't show you photos of the dance floor - we were too busy dancing there with the locals to the music!  It was more difficult to dance to the live music (not that Man Yung has any problems - I can play five minutes of bird calls from Naturespace and Man Yung could dance perfectly "to the music" with that), but everyone had a blast.  The couples all around us were smiling and laughing after every song.  In the middle of the set the trio asked whether people wanted to dance another tango, milonga or vals.  Some yelled out "Tango!", some yelled out "Milonga!", some yelled out "Vals!".... so the band played them all.

It was not a matter of looking slick on the dance floor, following the codes, or even being "Ambassadors of Tango", whatever that is - the band invited the dancers to dance, and the people happily obliged.  That's how you get a party going. In Buenos Aires, milongas are not the "Proving Grounds of the Tango Overlords".  They are just a big parties with music and dancing and food and friends and fun.  We (and the regulars of Glorias Argentinas) wouldn't have it any other way. 

Here you can see Bob and Viv in the foreground looking quite exasperated in the presence of locals engaging in "non-traditional music dancing".  We understand that they also frequently try to run away when the DJ plays Pugliese.  [Dear Bob and Viv: See, we haven't forgotten that you were there at Glorias on that night!]

You may be completely mesmerized by the expression on Bob and Viv's faces but let us draw your attention to the framed photograph to the left of the stage.... it's Carlos Anzuate performing with El Cachafaz's partner, the legendary Carmencita Calderon.

Apart from the live band, announcements, lucky draw, frequent tandas of rock 'n roll, salsa, folklore, swing etc., we also squeezed in a few tandas of tango, milonga and vals with friends new and old.  Here I am dancing milonga (candombe-style) with Carlos:

Carlos Anzuate dancing candombe to a set of D'Arienzo milongas with Irene at Glorias Argentinas, October 23, 2010

Chiche's brother Hector "Coco" Guaraldi arrived late but lost no time - I don't think he sat through any tanda!  This is a man who had major surgery just a few months back.  It proves that the solution to life's pains is not to let people treat you like an invalid and dance less... you have to dance more!  Every time we were at Glorias Argentinas in 2007, 2008 and 2009, we would see Carlos Anzuate and his wife Porota.  Porota's disease had robbed her of much of her mobility and memory, but that didn't stop her from taking to the dance floor with either Carlos or several of her friends supporting her on either side.  It was quite a sight to see Porota dancing with the assistance of her friends and husband when she could hardly walk - and all the regulars at Glorias were kind and supportive, and treated Porota with respect and care.  Carlos's love and attentiveness and the joy of being with friends at the milonga every week and dancing kept Porota going and out and about for longer than would have been possible normally under the circumstances.

You've seen Hector "Coco" Guaraldi's milonga traspie - here he is dancing vals:

Hector "Coco" Guaraldi dancing to valses by D'Arienzo with Irene, October 23, 2010

I returned to the table after dancing with Hector Guaraldi.  A tall skinny gentleman in a red shirt - his name is Aldo, and he also knows our friend Susy Tilbe - came over and started to complain.  "Why are you dancing like that with the short guy?  You are ruining your posture!  You should stand up straight and look elegant!"  And then he "proposed" to show me how "elegant" dancing was danced.

How annoying.  Yes, of course I could stand up as straight as a rod when dancing with someone a head shorter - but then, do I really want to have Hector's face lodged in my chest?  I could get Hector to accommodate me rather than have me accommodating him - but then do I want to pull him into an awkward position and aggravate his existing injuries? 

This reminds me of a conversation we had with Alberto back in March.  Alberto stressed how difficult it is to find a partner that is 100% compatible - and he was just talking about height.  Half an inch shorter could mean that his partner would be "hanging" on his neck... half an inch taller and the centre of gravity was off.  Alberto envied that Man Yung and I were just perfect for each other... height-wise.  But he doesn't know about all the times we have tried to kill each other arguing about tango! 

The conclusion is: there is no "perfect match", physically or otherwise, in tango.  Or conversely, all matches are "perfect".  You just have to make do with whatever you have and try to make the best dance possible between the two of you, tall or short, fat or thin. Dance like your partner is your first love, or don't dance at all (in Toronto, I frequently prefer the company of my iPhone).  Social tango should not just be about how you look, but how well you move with your partner to the music, and how you create tango between the two of you. I'm not tall but in Buenos Aires there are plenty of milongueros shorter than me, many of whom are in their seventies, eighties and nineties, some of them quite frail.  They take care of me on the dance floor - and I take care not to injure them with my movements and embrace.  That means I have to be light, I have to refrain from hanging or strangling, and ... crouch awkwardly if necessary.

And despite dancing so much with short men, I could dance perfectly fine with taller men.  You can see by the end of the tango by Aldo's big smile that any fears that Aldo may have had had dissipated:

The cabeceo exists at Glorias but it's such a family atmosphere people just ask each other to dance.  Friends of Oscar and Ana asked us to dance cumbia (we couldn't but we just went along), and at the end of the evening, Marta and Alfredo, friends of Oscar Hector and the teachers of tango at Salon Sur came over to ask us to dance too:

We dance with Marta and Alfredo, Glorias Argentinas October 23, 2010

Apart from teaching tango, Marta and Alfredo also dance a wonderful zamba - which they did as the night drew to a close.  It was another exciting evening at Glorias Argentinas.  Wished that you were there with us!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"I have no enemies"

From Wikipedia:

Liu Xiaobo

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to imprisoned Chinese human rights activist activist Liu Xiaobo "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China". The laureate, a little-known figure inside China due to official censorship, is a veteran of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and co-author of the Charter 08 manifesto for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison by Chinese authorities on 25 December 2009. Liu was chosen to receive the award over a record number of nominees – more than 200.

If you have been following our blog since the beginning, you may have noticed that other than tango, we are also concerned about the violation of human rights in China - and the erosion of these rights in Hong Kong since sovereignty was transferred to China in 1997.

Human rights abuses, corruption, censorship, and violent suppression of those who dare speak out - this is what it is like to live in a totalitarian regime in which no-one is truly free.  The Chinese Government has tried to divert the world's attention from its sinister, dark side with displays of the country's dazzling economic progress, the magnificence of its Olympics and Asian games, and the wonders of the Shanghai Expo.  We cheered when we heard the announcement that Liu Xiaobo had won the Nobel Peace prize - it showed that the world was watching.  You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Despite the Nobel Peace Prize announcement, Liu Xiaobo is still imprisoned - a political prisoner.  His wife was immediately put under house arrest - without being charged with any crime.  Other dissidents and associates of Liu Xiaobo were not allowed out of the country.  The Chinese Government would not risk to have any of his representatives attend the ceremony to receive the prize on his behalf.

On the stage, they left his chair empty.  The absence spoke louder than words - and reminded all of us not to give up, the struggle for human rights in China must go on.  Liv Ullman recited the statement that Liu Xiaobo had prepared to be read out at his trial for "inciting subversion of state power" - a crime for which he was sentenced to prison for 11 years.  Liu Xiaobo was not permitted to read the statement at his trial.  But now the whole world heard his words:

I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who have monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities, including Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing who act for the prosecution at present. I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on December 3.

For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love....

I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints.
Liu Xiaobo, 23 December 2009

No enemies, no hatred... defusing hate with love.  This has been the work of Liu Xiaobo for decades.

We should learn from the peaceful example set by Liu Xiaobo - but it's easier said than done.  Toronto Tango can be a snake pit of enmity - if all the different factions had access to nuclear arms, they would probably be nuking each other right now.  As for us - Man Yung is still working on not wanting to punch out the lights of the elbow dancer who has just poked him in the back on a crowded dance floor!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jorge Rodriguez and Malena Rodriguez dancing at Circulo Apolo, December 10, 2010

Just found this footage:  Javier Rodriguez's father and sister performing a Troilo tango at Circulo Apolo on December 10, 2010:

Jorge Rodriguez and Malena Rodriguez at Circulo Apolo, December 10, 2010

It's very interesting to note how much Javier's father has influenced Javier's dancing!  As for beautiful Malena - there's a Tanguera who is definitely not thinking of Wal-Mart

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cherie and Ruben dance Chacarera at Los Consagrados, October 23, 2010

Remember back in March when we wrote about the wonderful Chacarera that Cherie and Ruben danced at Los Consagrados?  Well, we have been kicking ourselves ever since for not being able to film them!

No trip to Buenos Aires would be complete for us until we pay a visit to Cherie and Ruben - and this time we had our camera ready.  You can see for yourselves the amazing Chacarera of Cherie and Ruben - and also the beautiful hall at Centro Region Leonesa, the comraderie between the dancers and the festive and joyful atmosphere at the milonga:

Ruben Aybar and Cherie Magnus dance Chacarera at Los Consagrados, October 23, 2010

Since Los Consagrados can get pretty crowded, we didn't dare barge onto the dance floor to film Cherie and Ruben dancing their beautiful tango, vals and milonga too in a milonga setting.... Sorry folks, that's a treat you will have to experience first-hand when you go to Los Consagrados to visit Cherie and Ruben!

Thanks Cherie and Ruben for your kind hospitality and hope to see you both soon!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Osvaldo and Coca at Salon Canning, October 22, 2010

We always go to Buenos Aires in February or March, so we were in for a pleasant surprise when we walked the streets of Buenos Aires in October... and found white jasmine for sale at every corner.   You could get the fragrant flowers even while traveling down Avenida 9 de Julio. Whenever traffic stopped, a dozen extraordinary brave (or perhaps foolhardy) street vendors would plunge into bristling traffic and walk between the rows of cars, selling notebooks, children's toys, ice cream, and of course, little bunches of jasmine.

Coca loves flowers, especially roses.  Once, a couple of enthusiastic fans ran out of the milonga after watching Osvaldo and Coca perform to buy roses for Coca.  They bought all the roses that they could find on Corrientes, and ended up with a huge bouquet.  Coca made a gesture with her arms like she was hugging Santa Claus. "It was SOOOOO big, the bouquet couldn't fit in my arms!"

We were on our way to Osvaldo and Coca's class at El Tacuari when we passed by a florist booth just on the corner of Callao and Santa Fe.  The florist - a big gruff guy with no neck in a lumberjack shirt - was delicately sorting and wrapping the jasmine.  The scent of white flowers and greenery filled the street.

"How much for a bunch?" we asked the florist, pointing at the jasmine in his basket.

"Five pesos for the small one.... Ten pesos for the large."

We got the large bouquet - which really wasn't that large, the blossoms all together were the size of a closed hand - and wondered whether Coca would like them.  It was just a small token... we hoped that she wouldn't mind, especially since she is used to getting enormous bouquets from her fans.

Coca was delighted when we presented her with the jasmine.  "For me?" she asked, eagerly taking the flowers from us with a wink and a smile.  Then we turned to greet Osvaldo - but when we turned back, Coca had disappeared.  Where did she go?  Class was starting!

After about two minutes, Coca emerged, balancing the loosened sprigs of jasmine in a small plastic container half filled with water.  "Water!  The flowers need water!"  she said.  She had dashed into the kitchenette at the back just to get the flowers a drink.  Our little jasmines were just as precious to Coca as a mountain of roses.

Osvaldo and Coca are always showing us how to appreciate the beauty of humble things.  Once, in class, Osvaldo and Coca demonstrated how to dance a tango simply - with only a salida, not even an ocho cortado or half a giro.  Tango does not have to be fancy to be rich and deep.  It was one of the most amazing, moving things that we had seen.

This is why Osvaldo and Coca are the once and forever champions.  But they won't be thinking of that when they dance.  Whether you find your tango under glittering chandeliers in the grandest hall of Buenos Aires, or in a cramped living room in slippers with the old sofa pushed to one side - at it's heart it is just two people, moving together to the music in the embrace.  And that's all it needs to be magic.

And here's Osvaldo and Coca, working their everyday magic in Salon Canning on October 22, 2010:

Osvaldo and Coca at Salon Canning, October 22, 2010.  
They dance to Di Sarli's "Todo", Orquesta Tipica Victor's "Carillon de la Merced", and Canaro's "Milonga Criolla".  
Includes all the speeches and shenanigans in between the songs!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Practimilonguero presents Osvaldo and Coca Parts 1 and 2

Just stumbled on this gem of a video posted today - a recent interview with Osvaldo and Coca!

Osvaldo and Coca in their own words - translated into English

We spend a lot of time with Osvaldo and Coca whenever we are in Buenos Aires but unfortunately, our spanish is not at a level where we could communicate with 100% understanding.  This is a great opportunity for us to be able to learn a little more about them - to get answers to the questions we wanted to ask but didn't have the language skills to pose!

Plus, we miss them very much and it warms our hearts just to see them.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The gigantic Salon Sur, and Tito and Gilda at Milonga del Centenario - October 21, 2010

First we went to Salon Sur.  Haydee Esther Malagrino had invited us [translation: she gave us free entradas!] when we met her at Glorias Argentinas to the milonga she organizes there with her brother Oscar Hector on Thursday.  Unfortunately, we were originally scheduled to go to Martha and Manolo's class at La Salsera...."What time does the class start?" Haydee asked us.  "Nine thirty?  Good then - our milonga starts at six - there's no conflict!"

When we arrived, Haydee and Oscar Hector were both excited and happy to see us.  What we had heard was that Salon Sur was gigantic.  It really was - the biggest dance hall we had seen yet in Buenos Aires.  We were still gawking at the huge ballroom when Oscar Hector led us to our table - really, the best table in the house, with the best view and the best access to the dance floor.  I had to give him a kiss for letting us sit at that table!

Salon Sur has an odd T-shaped dance floor.  It goes straight from the entrance - and then balloons out in front of the stage.  On other nights they must have rock concerts - there are two long bars, mezzanines in the front and on both sides, very high ceilings, and a heavy duty sound and light system.  Here are some views:

Salon Sur is really big - from here under one of the mezzanines.....
....to here looking the opposite direction....
....to here next to the stage!
No tourists in sight!  It was an excellent milonga - the locals were welcoming and fun, and every half hour a different local gentleman would come over to ask Man Yung's permission to dance with me.  Apparently Oscar Hector had been telling everyone what a good dancer I was. Did I ever mention what a great promoter Oscar Hector is?

At Salon Sur, we bumped into our Lo de Celia friends Carlos Velino and his pretty novia Marta:

Carlos Velino and Marta
We were able to stay at Salon Sur right almost to the end after all - Manolo had caught a cold and had to stay home instead of teaching at La Salsera that night.  As Salon Sur ended relatively early, we were able to head over to Viejo Correo to visit Nina Balbuena and Luis Cordoba at Milonga del Centenario.

It was lucky that we made it to Nina and Luis's milonga - otherwise we would have missed Tito and Gilda.  We first met Tito at Sunderland in 2009.  He's quite a character - he looks like the smaller Ronnie of The Two Ronnies and has a sense of humour to match!  Tito is a regular at Sunderland and rarely goes to Viejo Correo, even though he used to be Nina's dance partner.  Nina gave him a call because she knew that we were in town and there was a chance we would show up.  A mini-reunion!  After all, we once had a photo of Man Yung posing with Gilda and Tito posing with me published in El Tangauta.

The way Tito dances reminds me of the older generation of dancers who danced in the barrio milongas - like the ones in the documentary, "Tango, Baile Nuestro".  Here he is dancing milonga with Gilda.  It's rare to see milonga danced like this anymore, everywhere you turn it's usually milonga traspie.  This is more distinctive, like the milonga of Pepito Avellaneda, or even the milonga of our teachers Martha and Manolo.

Tito and Gilda dancing milonga at Milonga del Centenario, October 21, 2010

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