Friday, December 30, 2011

How much space does a close embrace dancer need?

...Lots, apparently.

We were dancing merrily along one night at one of Toronto's popular milongas when I realized that instead of flowing with the music, Man Yung was screeching to a halt every 30 seconds. At first I thought it was some fancy new jerky Tango Nuevo movement he had stolen from Youtube (Ha! As if!)  However, after about two tandas filled with unpleasant stops and starts, I realized it wasn't a was traffic.

"Is someone getting into your way?" I asked Man Yung.

"Yes, it's the same guy - look out, he is stepping back this-a-way again!"  We swerved to evade.

When we finally got off the dance floor, we got a chance to take a good look.  The guy was dancing close embrace.  In fact, he and his partner were clamped together for dear life. He wasn't even slinging his partner around dangerously in the slightest. And yet, everyone on the dance floor was mysteriously giving the guy a wide berth...

"Wow, the other dancers are giving this guy a good seven meter radius clearance! There's thirty of them all huddled up in one corner trying to complete the ronda while trying to avoid getting close to him.  He must have some magical power or something, because I can't see him do any voleos, ganchos - not even half a giro. I'm also positive that it's nothing to do with strange smells - I can't smell anything and my nose isn't stuffed up.  Could he have bribed the the other people to give him a circle of safety?" I offered helpfully.

Man Yung rolled his eyes because once again, Irene has failed to understand. "You don't have to stick out an appendage to be a threat on the dance floor.  It is evident that he dances close embrace in the most boring way possible - but instead of getting in the way with a leg, a foot, an elbow or a knee, he uses his whole body to disrupt the dance floor.  Look at him switch from inside to outside, outside to inside, left to right, right to left, forward to backwards, backwards to forwards - north, south, east, west and all points in between!  It is well nigh impossible to predict which way he will be going, even with a sophisticated computer algorithm.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that he doesn't know which way he will be bouncing into he is clearly dancing with his eyes closed."*

* Oh, so that's how he does it!  And I thought he was just being inconsiderate.

 It's not only close embrace Tangueros with their eyes closed - 
low-density housing in suburbia also takes up lots of space.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Adela Galeazzi and Ricardo Suarez - Milonga Vieja Milonga at Centro Region Leonesa

A lovely video of Adela performing a milonga traspie with Ricardo Suarez at Centro Region Leonesa - on the occasion of Ricardo's birthday!

We are mesmerized by Ricardo's musicality, Adela's soft, relaxed footwork...and Adela's flowing white skirt!

"Flowing skirts and dresses look the best on dancing ladies," said Man Yung.  "The fabric twirls around and enhances the movement of the dance.  This skirt looks gorgeous on Adela when she is dancing milonga!  The skirt is very classic, makes the figure look great, and moves so well."

Then Man Yung started to reminisce excitedly about skirts and kept on talking about "bubbles" patterns ("Not checkered, not stripes!") and even drew me a picture!

A quick Google search and I finally found out what he meant was the vintage 50's polka dot circle skirts:

"Imagine walking into Sin Rumbo, with its black and white tile floors, wearing one of  these beautiful polka dot skirts - all eyes will be on you!  And you must dance to Di Sarli, not Pugliese!  All milongueros will be asking you to dance because you remind them of the good old days.  However, one thing you have to be careful about - your tanguero partner can't wear a hat.  If the tanguero is wearing a hat, it would look like he is trying too hard.  Can you imagine Portalea in Sin Rumbo dancing with a hat on?  No way!"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mean Girls

Make no mistake...some truly mean girls in Tango make this clique of croquet club-wielding, back-stabbing popular girls named "Heather" look like a bunch of wimps

Recently, we welcomed back to town a dear Tango friend whom we haven't seen in about six years.  We are so happy to see her in the milongas!  We have been reminiscing about the past, when we were young and carefree, taking our first baby steps in Tango.  Those were the days - we went adventurously to all the milongas, stayed up until 4 a.m. in some of them (and got parking tickets when we parked our cars where we shouldn't park), and danced with all sorts of Tangueros - good, bad and ugly. Oh, the fun we had!

Our beautiful Tanguera friend learned how to tango when she lived in Buenos Aires. She was an amazing dancer back then, and still an amazing dancer now - just a little rusty from not dancing at all for six years.  It only took a few dances to bring her back up to speed (she's a natural at Tango) - and of course, my Toronto milonguera friend and I made sure to inform her about the Creeps, the Monkeys, the Road Ragers, the Tangueros that you shouldn't ever, for the sake of your own sanity and bodily integrity, be "Nice" to...

"Oh my God!" our Tanguera friend said suddenly at midnight at the milonga last night. 

Was it her curfew?  Was she going to do a Cinderella and turn into a pumpkin?

"I really don't want to dance with that guy and I'm afraid he's going to ask me to dance!  Should I just get going?"  She was ready to leap out of her shoes and dash to the door, and the night was still young!
She had been away from Tango too long and has forgotten about "The Power of NO".  We, as her friends, gently reminded her. 

What's that I'm hearing?  Little tiny voices of dissent?  "Oh Irene, you're so mean!  It's one thing to say "No" yourself... but to encourage this barbaric behaviour in others as well!  You are meaner than the mean girls in "Mean Girls" and "Heathers" combined!"

In Tango, "No" is nothing to do with being "Mean".  We all have the right to say "No" when we dance the Tango - if anyone tells you otherwise, they are either wrong or they are not dancing Argentine Tango.  When we dance the Tango, we give it our All.  It's never a matter of "It's only twelve minutes, how bad could it be?", because when we give our All, even a step together encompasses eternity - and imagine spending eternity with someone you want to kick out the window.  When we dance with someone we don't want to spend even a second with, we as dancers cannot give our "All", and that is a betrayal of both ourselves and the dance.   Some people may argue that "It's not right" to "humiliate" potential dance partners by refusing them - well, the Argentines invented the "Cabeceo" for a reason.  Don't want to be humiliated when you are rejected in public?  Then stop coming right up to the table to ask for dances and learn how to "cabecear" instead!

I'll tell you what's truly mean in Tango - and it's not "The ladies who say No".  It's "The ladies who hoard their men and won't let them dance with anyone else"!

One reason why our friend did not dance the Tango during all these years away from Toronto was precisely because of this problem.  She moved to a city with a large and vibrant Tango community - milongas and events every night of the week.  She even attended some of these milongas - but sat uninvited all night everywhere she went.

It wasn't that people were attending the milongas were all in couples and there were no available men to dance.  There were lots of men.  Unfortunately, they happen to be in little cliques with very possessive and jealous women - if their men dared ask anyone outside their circle to dance, they'd get the "evil eye"!  And these weren't men who were old and tired and only had one or two more dances left in them - they were ones that could dance all night.  Their "clique friends" would rather have them sit than let them dance with the other women in the milonga.

We used to get a bit of that in Toronto too.  No so much cliques (although we have them too), but women who would scratch the eyes out of their partners if they even dared look in another direction.    One woman became so famous for her jealous rages - other women would turn her husband down when he went to ask them for a dance just to avoid triggering her nuclear meltdown.

A friend of mine used to dance quite happily with one particular Toronto Tanguero - one of those "dance all night" types - that is, until he hooked up with a dance partner who decided otherwise.  He abruptly stopped dancing with my friend.  One night we found out why. 

Toronto Tanguero, pleading with his partner: "Could I dance with _________ tonight?  I haven't danced with her for ages!"

Dramatic response from his dance partner (and not even wife, or girlfriend!), Ms. Hoard: "Excuse me?  I want to dance."  She stood up and blocked his way.  My friend and I looked at each other incredulously - we were sitting next to Ms. Hoard and her partner and of course we overheard everything!*

* Ms. Hoard and her dance partner has long since split up, but Ms. Hoard has not ceased her exhibitions of meanness - she's the one still kicking up her pointy four inch stiletto heels in high kicks and boleos in crowded milongas, jeopardizing of the safety of the Tangueros and Tangueras around her.  Has she hurt anyone?  Of course she has!  Does this stop her?  Of course not!

Luckily in Toronto the above is the exception and not the rule - our Tangueras are warm-hearted and generous and are quite happy to let their partners (husbands, boyfriends, dance partners) dance with others if they so wish. This generosity is one of things that builds the community - and not the misguided notion that one should never say "No" when asked to dance. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Mountain

I chose to use this famous painting of "The Mountain" by Balthus as an illustration for this post because I like it and not for any particular or other reason.  Or maybe... ok, imagine what it would look like if the whole Balthus mountain landscape was bathed in fog.  Pretty scary, huh?  Or perhaps it was scarier without the fog?  You decide!

Back when Man Yung was young and energetic, many many many many (did I say many?) years ago, he liked to go on hiking trips with his friends on the mountain trails of Hong Kong.*

* For such a small place, Hong Kong is surprisingly hilly/mountainous.

Once, during one of their hiking excursions, a thick, dense (creepy? alienesque?) fog descended all over the mountain.  The hikers could hardly see more than two steps ahead of them.

No-one panicked.  They continued slowly and cautiously on their way, stepping carefully on the visible tracks of the trail.  They were making their way off the mountain when they encountered a group of Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts were decked out in their shiny, neat uniforms and were extremely organized and regimental.  No doubt they were prepared for puny little contingencies like a tiny dab of fog!  They were adamant about being quite helpful too.  They sent their leader to talk to Man Yung to see if he and his hikers needed their "assistance".

"Looks like you are in a spot of trouble here," said Scout Leader to Man Yung.  Scout Leader may or may not have stood with his hands on his hips and legs wide apart, superhero-style [I wasn't there, I'm just guessing].  "We can help you poor lost folk make it back to civilization - as you can see (he pointed proudly at his uniform) we are experts at survival skills and wilderness navigation."

Man Yung replied, "Thank you very much - we'll be perfectly all right.  We have a compass and we know the way."

Scout Leader cocked his eyebrow and looked at Man Yung.  "You may have a compass - but do you have a [TA-DAAAA! he presented with a flourish] MAP?  Because WE have a map."

Man Yung cocked his eyebrow and looked at Scout Leader.  "You may have a MAP - but do you have a compass?"

"What would we need a compass for?  Our map is very detailed and precise and it's all that we need," sniffed Scout Leader.

"OK, you can try using your map when you can't even see your hand in front of your face for the fog.  At least with a compass we know which direction we are going in.  Hong Kong isn't so big - so long we are going in the right direction, we will end up in Chuen Wan in half an hour!"**

** Yes, Hong Kong is that small.

Whilst Man Yung and his group of hikers were able to make it off the mountain safe and sound in time for dinner with the use of their compass - the Scouts persisted stubbornly with their map.  Alas, the map was rendered useless as the Scouts could not see any of the landmarks around them and furthermore didn't know which direction they were facing due to the fog.  They eventually got lost and were were devoured mercilessly by a flock of ravenous, Scout-eating squirrels.


1.  Where is the compas?  Would you be able to find it if I draw you a map?

2.  Ha ha - I doubt you will be able to find it with a map - or even a GPS (and remember, you have to keep on paying for map updates with GPS).  Maybe you will get it eventually...but you will have to be going in the right direction.  Unfortunately, the ten-tiered, densely structured, meticulously planned, academically accredited, dance-school affiliated, 100 hour Tango course you are taking will only teach you how to dance around and around yourself in circles with a lot of skill.  Whether you will finally reach your destination - Tango - is doubtful.  I wish you the best of luck - and watch out for the carnivorous squirrels.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Alberto Dassieu and La Flaca Lucia perform to "Sin Rumbo Fijo" at Flor de Milonga

Just found this gem on Youtube - Alberto performing a vals with La Flaca Lucia at the milonga run by La Flaca Lucia and Gerry in San Telmo, "Flor de Milonga":

Good stuff!  It's always a pleasure to watch the Maestro dance vals - with the lovely and talented La Flaca Lucia, no less. By the caption on the video, looks like Alberto is teaching a series of vals seminars there.

You can read more about our experiences at the very bohemian Flor de Milonga here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pains and Gains

The Karate school I went to had Jiu-Jitsu classes offered by a guest instructor every Wednesday.  They had an independent grading system, so no matter what your rank was in Karate, you had to earn your belt separately for Jiu-Jitsu.  Nevertheless, skills in self-defense were seen as desirable for advancement in Karate, so my Karate friend and I decided to try the class out.

The class was notorious for being tough - they really beat themselves up in there.  Luckily, although we were both newbies (yellow belts!) we were not wimps.  We could take a couple of bumps and knocks and over-zealous joint locks.  In fact, we were proud to be able to endure some pretty rough treatment - a badge of honour, if you will.

After a few weeks of this class, we noticed something strange.  All of the Jiu-Jitsu sensei's most dedicated students would have red duct tape stuck all over their uniforms.  We asked a senpai why.

"That tape is to show where you have been injured.  Your practice opponent will know to take it easy on your shoulder, for example, if you have taped yourself there."

Hmmmmm....something's not quite right here.

In Jiu-Jitsu class this means: Really, Really injured

Alarm bells should have gone off but we were young and stupid.  It didn't take long before I was put out of commission - a badly twisted elbow from a careless and violent takedown.  My friend, being quite stubborn, lasted a few months more - but she too, ended up with a nasty injury.  Better stick to Karate, we both concluded.*

* Not that Karate is necessarily better - in martial arts, it all depends on whether the Sensei does his or her utmost in ensuring that safety of the student is prioritized over the desire to be or look "tough".

Looking back to that time in my life twenty years ago, there were some pretty dumb things we did for the sake of being "good" in the martial arts.  My friends and I were not training to be bouncers or prize-fighters, we were studying in our real lives to be teachers or doctors or lawyers or engineers - why should we subject ourselves to that kind of treatment that could give us permanent injury?  One black belt was a real firecracker at the age of 20 in the Philippines - but by 50, he could hardly walk and needed extensive surgery on both knees.  Another venerable old black belt moved so slowly they nicknamed him "The Mountain" - you'd think it was because he was calm and all, but in fact, he was just hurting all over.

Luckily we had good Sensei who knew that some of the macho, "I am man enough to take it" stuff out there in the martial arts world was bullshit.  He always told us this: "No matter what your interests are, or what you want to learn, make sure you don't injure yourself while doing it!"

So why are we hurting ourselves dancing Tango?

When we first started Tango, one of my first questions to my potential "Tango Sensei" on the phone was - what kind of shoes should I wear?

The answer:  "Oh, whatever." 

Even I knew then that the answer should not be "Whatever" - it should be "Shoes that have smooth soles, to ensure there is no traction when you pivot."  However, that "Whatever" was much in vogue in Toronto at that time - thus quite a number of trendy-uns wearing running shoes to dance.  Luckily, it's not that common anymore.

Alas, Man Yung didn't catch on too quickly - he wore loafers which had horizontal grids running across the bottom for the first eight months.  "Wow, my knees are sore!" he'd say after every class.  He thought it was because of the exertion.  In fact, it was the damn shoes.

He finally bought real, Buenos Aires, custom-fit Tango shoes from our Tango Sensei.  They arrived...way too tight.  Should they be this uncomfortable? we asked our Tango Guru.  "You want them to be tight - they'll stretch out," was the response.

One night after the milonga (and crazy non-stop dancing by Man Yung), we arrived home tired but happy.  Man Yung took off his shoes and walked across the carpet.  I casually looked over his direction - and saw ominous red stains following in his direction.

"What's that?  Hey, Man Yung, wait a's BLOOD!  Stop moving!  You are ruining the carpet!"  I attacked the stains frantically with a wet paper towel - thank God for Stainguard.

It was the chafing from the too-tight shoes.

"Ha ha!  That's just ridiculous!" you say - but self-abuse in the name of Tango could happen to you too.

One lovely Toronto Tanguera we know used to take classes with a toppity-top traveling Tango Professional some decades ago.  He was REALLY STRONG and his trademark was making his partner do REALLY FAST OCHOS.  "Faster!  Faster!" he would urge.  The poor Toronto Tanguera cracked a bone in her wrist from being "led" (shoved? hurtled?) by this genius.  Yet another ancient Toronto Tanguera was just too nice, she didn't say no to the nascent "Nuevo" instructor when he asked her to dance. We all jumped in our skins when we heard the loud "thud" - he really defied death when she didn't break her neck from being tripped and dropped.  And last but not least, one Toronto Instructor plotted his triumphant return to Tango for months - but when he appeared at his first milonga in many moons, his over-enthusiastic back sacadas*  landed another unsuspecting Toronto Tanguera flat on her back on the floor.

* Funny how many professionals think that big, dangerous movements in a crowded spaces means - "I'm a really great dancer! Look at me!  Look at me!"

We've mentioned some of the wild Tangueros and their hapless Tanguera victims - however, the Tangueras sometimes have to share in the responsibility too.  Some are taught to dance "heavy" (which is not a synonym for "grounded", despite what most think) so their partners can really notice that they exist (and also so they could "slow the man down", if necessary).  Watch out for dislocated necks and shoulders wherever they go.  Others have decided to embrace the "frantic embellishment" movement - slashing their glittering stiletto heels rapidly to-and-fro in the Tango version of the Knife Game.  It's one problem when they gore the people around them, and another problem... when they stab themselves in the toes.**  Good luck to the poor gentlemen risking injury for a dance with these talented Tangueras.

** I, too, was a rabid adornista: "Been there, done that," said Irene.

And heck, just ask your local Tango Professional.  How many of them have injured themselves jumping, lifting and spinning, or dancing with heavy ladies and crazed gentleman?  Is it eight out of ten, or ten out of ten?  Ouch, ouch, ouch!

"I had no idea that Tango could be so dangerous!" said Man Yung.  "In Buenos Aires you can see all manner of old folk dancing Tango and they all look intact!"

It should be common sense - don't injure yourself dancing the Tango!  I don't think that "No Pain, No Gain" should be the rule here.  But still many subject themselves to injury - and for what?  OK, so you really dying to go pro - but how about the rest of us who consider Tango just a pastime? Don't tell me that people are sacrificing life and limb for a shot of Tango Glory!*** At this rate and in this fashion, looks like lots of us will be dancing Tango in our old age with red duct tape all over our bodies....hmmmm, I guess it's a more, ahem, interesting fashion statement than fringes, sequins and fishnet stockings.

*** What Glory is that, exactly?  Tango Championship?  Worldwide Tango Fame and Fortune?  Better stick to your day job!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Adela Galeazzi and Rino Biondi - Homenaje al Roberto Firpo at El Pial, 11/13/11

We only got to see Adela and Elba once at Leonesa during our recent trip to Buenos Aires in October (poor Man Yung starts to cry) but never fear!  Through the magic of internet, we get to experience more of Adela's exquisite dancing even though we are thousands of miles away in cold, dreary Toronto.

Adela just emailed us some videos of her performances with Rino Biondi at El Pial on November 13, 2011.  They danced a milonga and a canyengue in honour of the orchestra of Roberto Firpo - in these videos we can admire again Rino's musical, very milonguero style of dancing and Adela's effortless, cat-like grace and rapid footwork.  We have bumped into Rino at La Baldosa and La Nacional countless times over the past couple of years - a gentleman and a great guy.  We've seen photos of him at his classes in the magazines and he is surrounded by a big crowd of happy students. 

One thing that Rino and Adela have in common is the fact that they dance EVERY TANDA.  From the moment they step into the milonga to the moment they leave, they are dancing with all their milonguero and milonguera friends.  We've heard of dancers of certain currently trendy styles deliberately "Not Dancing" at milongas in order to conform some imaginary standard of authenticity or exclusivity.  I guess that's ok if you really don't want to dance, and the music doesn't move you (Come on!  Are you really that jaded that 99% of Tango music doesn't make you want to move your feet? Why are you dancing Tango then?), or you are totally tired, but don't refrain from dancing just because you think it will make you look cool and superior! Watching Rino and Adela in action at the milongas is forever a delight.  No putting on airs or sitting in the sidelines for them - if they can dance, THEY WILL DANCE.

I think this could be said of so many of the dancers we have met during our travels - Myriam Pincen, Susy Tilbe, Roberto Segarra, Osvaldo and Coca (yes, they would dance everything if Osvaldo's health was better), Elba Biscay, Marta Fama, Graciela Cano, Clely, Tete....and so many dancers we don't know the names of.  They love Tango, they belong to Tango, they would dance Tango all the time if they could. Watching the milongueros and milongueras dance you can feel how the compas moves them, what a beautiful and passionate thing it is for them (and anyone) to dance the Tango.


Adela and Rino dance to Firpo's "El Esquinazo"

Adela and Rino dance to Firpo's "La Eterna Milonga"

Friday, November 18, 2011


 Marc Chagall - "Double Portrait with Wine Glass" 1917

"Hey Man Yung, we better not stay too late at the milonga tonight - let's go to the Marc Chagall exhibition at the AGO tomorrow morning!" I said over lunch.

I think Man Yung heard "not too late" and "milonga" and that may have turned him right off. He grunted. "Where are we going tomorrow?"

Don't be misled by Man Yung's response. For those out there who think that Man Yung is only a Chinese-speaking, Tango-Dancing, Soup-making, Kung-Fu practicing old person - let me explain.  Man Yung appreciates art more than I do - and I'm no slouch either!  One of his first loves was Rembrandt - and then, focusing on more realism, he starting studying the works of Jacques-Louis David.  Degas opened another vista for him - viewing his paintings gives Man Yung a feeling of "moving tranquility" - and he started to appreciate the post-impressionists as well, such as Gauguin, Cezanne and Van Gogh ("Except that looking at Van Gogh's brushstrokes drives me crazy!" says Man Yung).  The first time Man Yung saw a painting by Modigliani, it was like being struck by lightning.  It's too bad that Modigliani died so young though - his style never really evolved very much, but his art will always hold a very special place in Man Yung's heart.

But Man Yung's absolute favourite artist is Picasso.  He is known for breaking down in tears in front of certain paintings by Picasso - which I find quite amusing.  Man Yung didn't want to like Picasso - it seemed to him that every boor out there with no real feeling or interest  towards art would say they liked Picasso or Van Gogh just because their artworks are renowned for being the most expensive at auctions. But there's a reason why Picasso's works fetch the prices that they fetch - it's because his work is really and truly "genius".

Unfortunately, Man Yung hasn't paid that much attention to Chagall. But I know how to get his attention.  "Did you know that Picasso thought very highly of Chagall's works?  In fact, he said  - 'When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.'"

Man Yung's ears perk up.  "Whose opinion was that again?"

"It was Picasso's opinion.  That's PABLO PICASSO." 

I think we are going to the AGO tomorrow after all!


Which brings me to the following:

1.  Alberto Dassieu was teaching a group class in __________________ (somewhere not in Buenos Aires - are you surprised?  But luckily, not in Toronto either).  The class was filled with gringos who were either very beginner, or very beginner AND trying to show off their "show/nuevo moves" so that the visiting maestro would be impressed at their intrinsic "tango-athleticism".

Now, Alberto is a very gentle teacher. When it came time for Alberto to instruct one of the worst offenders - ahem, most enthusiastic practitioners of "show/nuevo tango athleticism", Alberto had just a few, kind words of advice.

Mr. Show Tango snarled sarcastically.  "Oh, is that your opinion?" he said. And he continued whirling and high kicking around in class like the Tasmanian Devil.

Now, why did Mr. Show Tango take Alberto's class when he was not prepared to listen to Alberto's opinion? 

2.  We were taking group classes with Osvaldo and Coca at El Tacuari last year.  A tall, skinny, young, attractive blond gringo couple dressed entirely in blinding bright white was taking the class with us.

Osvaldo and Coca were teaching us how to move in the context of a milonga.  "This is something you can do when there's too many people around you and you can't go forward."  Osvaldo grabbed a couple of us and made us stand around pretending to be a crowd so that he could demonstrate how the step worked.

Mr. and Ms. Beautiful turned up their noses.  Instead of doing the "boring, stupid, simple, old-timey step" - they proceeded to execute high velocity whirligigs.

Didn't they know they were taking a class that had nothing to do with twirling at high speeds and knocking onlookers over using centrifugal force?

3.  "Ah, Irene - I see that you are perplexed," said Man Yung.  "There is a very simple explanation why you will find, all over the world, scenarios like the ones you described above."

You bet that I am puzzled.  "You'd think that these people paid good money for the classes in order to learn something from real Maestros.  But why are they persistently doing their own thing instead of listening to expert opinion?"

"Don't be naive - they aren't taking the class to learn.  They are taking the class with the hope that the Maestro - whom they have no real interest in learning from - will see them (and who can avoid it - especially when they are kicking and spinning like that and wearing radiant, eye-piercing white!), admire them, and give them copious compliments to validate their Tango existence.  Anytime you get within a twenty meter radius of a visiting Tango Maestro, there is good chance you will encounter this kind of behavior - no matter whether you are in a class, at a milonga, or even in the middle of the street!"

I sighed. "No wonder milongas here become like nuthouses when Maestros visit.  Remind me to avoid going to the milonga when any of them come to town."*

* When I said "Avoid" and "Milonga" - Man Yung immediately said, "NOOOOOOO!!!! Not 'Avoid'! We go anyway but 'Just be careful not to get kicked.'"

Monday, November 14, 2011

More of the magnificent Myriam Pincen - El Maipu at La Nacional, 10/10/11

People partied until late at Dorita's milonga at Club Oeste on Sunday because Monday was a public holiday.  As for Monday, it was quiet all day - everything was closed except for restaurants... and milongas!

While at Club Oeste, we made plans to meet with Osvaldo and Coca and Myriam to meet at El Maipu at La Nacional.  Lucy and Dany used to host their very milonguero milonguero milonga at Plaza Bohemia, Maipu 444 until that venue closed down. But no worries! Now they repeat their success on Monday nights at La Nacional.

With Osvaldo and Coca and Myriam Pincen at El Maipu (La Nacional)

Myriam is such a great, kind person and a good sport, she didn't mind at all that Man Yung is a crazy dancer (see post on Club Oeste for examples of said craziness) and even danced with Man Yung again at El Maipu!

Here they are dancing a tanda of Laurenz:

A Toronto Tanguero who is enjoying all these videos of the milongueras asked us, "What is it like dancing with Myriam Pincen?"

I want to dance like Myriam one day! She is a wonderful dancer, her footwork and adornments are perfect and subtle, she is musical, she follows EVERYTHING. She is a real, living Goddess of Tango - but she is more than that. Would you be able to find anyone with even half her talent who is so warm, welcoming and humble? I think it would be very difficult.

And what's more, Myriam finishes each tango with a beautiful, bright smile!

Here's more of Myriam - in a delicious pink flowing dress (where does she get all her fabulous, colourful, striking dresses? I seem to be stuck with my Lululemon and Tilleys) AND smiling throughout, performing at Cachirulo with Juan Carlos Pontorielo:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Customer Service

We went out for chinese food with our “Scarborough” (meaning “non-Tango”) friends tonight.  We go out with these friends at least once a week - just to hang out, to catch up, to eat (of course), and catch the current Hong Kong mini-series on the flat panel tv hanging on the wall of the restaurant.  It’s a very casual and relaxed get-together.

As usual, we ordered lots of food - roasted squab with pepper salt, double lobster in garlic and Maggi sauce, dried mandarin peel flavoured steamed eel slices, soy sauce fried beef noodles, jellyfish strips with wine-marinated duck tongue, crispy fried chicken, and, as an afterthought, stir-fried clams in black bean sauce.

Everything was delicious...except the clams were off.

The head chef came over to chat and find out what we thought of the food.  “It was very tasty,” said Man Yung.  “I especially loved the crispy fried chicken.  It’s such a simple dish - but it’s hard to find a place which serves it the way it’s supposed to be, with the skin crispy and juicy, and the meat tender and flavourful.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had chicken that was dry on the outside, and even more dry on the inside!” 

 “The only secret is to make it fresh everyday,” said the chef.  “Many restaurants don’t - they make all the chickens for the week in one go.  It can’t taste too good by day three!”

“Just one thing was not good,” said Man Yung - “Your clams were off.”

“Oh, is that right?” said the chef. 

He immediately rushed into the kitchen, grabbed a meat cleaver, and chased us out of the restaurant.

Savoury cooking...immaculate presentation - but alas, the clams were "off"

Nah, I’m kidding.  The chef thanked us for letting him know.  “Please inform me if there is anything wrong with the food.  You’ve got to let me know, because otherwise, if something is wrong, we will continue serving the problem dish and we wouldn’t have a clue that our customers are upset at the food.  We’d rather fix the problem than lose our customers!”

We weren't charged for the clams and we got a 10% discount. That is one good, responsible chef - we’ll be going back to eat at his restaurant for sure!


While the above is a very nice story, it is about customer service in restaurants.  It does not apply to Tango.

It is inappropriate to tell your dance partner before, during, or after dancing with them at a milonga that their dancing is “off” - in any way, shape or form.  Such words should not come out of your mouth; nor should you hint same with subtle (or non-subtle) body language.

No rolling of the eyes.  No sighs or snorts of contempt.  No pushing or shoving into place.  No slapping of limbs.  No body shimmies or arm jitters to loosen less than ideal grips.  No hanging onto your partner’s neck - and no pretending to be a metal anvil or a war elephant to slow your partner down.  No advice (except when expressly solicited by your partner - and only when you are off the pista and out of everyone’s way).  And, NO TEACHING ON THE DANCE FLOOR.

When you dance with someone, they are not a restaurant where the customer is always right.  In fact, you can throw the whole concept of customer service out of the window. 

I’m sorry, you should have known better than dance with the whirling dervish nutcase in the first place - weren’t you paying attention to all the dancers while you were waiting for the cabeceoDon’t forget, it is your right - in fact, your DUTY for the good of all tango-kind - to say no. It not your place, whether you are an amateur, an advanced, or a pro, to “correct” anyone’s problems - unless that person has paid to take your class and both of you are in the classroom. 

Your only recourse is the following:  Never eat at the same restaurant again.  Or, if encountering particularly repugnant, urgent horribleness (e.g. you found cockroaches practicing synchronized swimming in your soup, or strange hairs sprouting from your entree) - you can say “Thank you very much” and stop it right there before the dinner (I mean, the tanda) is over.  It is, in fact, totally appropriate to leave before the next gag-inducing course is served.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Skill 2

Man Yung snorted in disgust. "Is it me, or have all the videos of tango on the 2xTango channel gone downhill lately?"

I looked up from my Anthropologie/Lululemon websurfing to look at what Man Yung was looking at on his iPad. It was my turn to snort. "I don't think it's 2xTango's fault - this is the only stuff they could videotape in Buenos Aires these days."

"What was that all about? I don't think they did anything for three minutes...except poses!"

"In fact, I lost count of the number of times he dipped her. She better wash her hair when she gets home - you don't know what's been tracked onto the dance floor with the explosion of doggie-doo on the streets this spring."

Don't try this at home, kiddies - this kind of tango takes a lot of skill,
And yes, apparently you are not a real tango dancer unless you do a lot of leg-lifting, Rockettes style!

I had better things to do than to watch this kind of "Tango-Voguing", but I had one more thing to add. "Man Yung, do you know who the guy is? He's the guy that you really admired for a while, the one who danced with Natacha Poberaj in Zotto's show!* You know, that guy!"

Man Yung thought a little bit, and it dawned on him. "What, that guy???!?"

Yes, it was that guy.

"What happened???!?"

This is a question that we have to ask quite often when it comes to Tango.

* By the way, THAT was choreography as well - but choreography that actually had something to do with the Tango that is danced rather than someone's fantasy about Tango.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Susy Tilbe dances Vals with Man Yung at Boedo Tango, October 13, 2011

We hang out with Roberto and Olga and Susy Tilbe at Lo de Celia

We had already made plans to meet with the fabulous Susy Tilbe of Milonguisimo before we had even landed in Buenos Aires.

"You are arriving on Wednesday?  Let's meet up at Lo de Celia - I'll reserve a table and see you there!"

Luckily we did not miss our connection in Lima so we were able to make it to meet Susy, Roberto and Olga, the very first night we arrived.

Hanging out with Susy is so much fun.  She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and, of course, a divine dancer. She still performs on stage with Milonguisimo, which is where we met her first, the very first milonga (Glorias Argentinas) on the very first night of our very first trip to Buenos Aires.  And Susy is the very first milonguera that Man Yung ever danced with - which makes her Man Yung's first... Tango Love!

"Olé!!!!" exclaims Susy, imitating the motion of a matador swishing away a cape and narrowly missing a charging bull just in the nick of time - no, she will not marry Man Yung, despite repeated marriage proposals (Sorry, dear, better luck next time!)

Susy's life is filled with dancing, work, family, performing in Milonguisimo and in the theatre - it's hard to keep up with her energy!  With Susy's busy schedule and our own busy schedule, we thought it would be impossible to arrange another time at the milonga with Susy.  We talked on the phone several times, resigned to the fact that perhaps we will be able to meet only the next time we are in Buenos Aires.  But fate has a way of intervening...

"Oh my god, there's Susy!!!"  We had arrived during the last hour of Boedo Tango, and Susy spots us at the same time that we see her.  We didn't think we'd see her there - we had gone there to say hello to Haydee Ester Malagrino, Oscar Hector's sister, who had telephoned us to let us know that she'd be there.  Imagine our surprise and joy at seeing Susy!  She didn't expect to be at Boedo Tango either, but Oscar Hector had called her there at the last minute that night for a rehearsal for Milonguisimo.  Susy was dancing when we arrived, but once the tango was finished we rushed on the dance floor and hugged and kissed like crazy people.

Only a few minutes left and the night will be over - Susy danced a tanda of vals with Man Yung.  If you can distill joy and put it in dance, this will be it:

Oh my god, Man Yung, stop it already with those enganches on unsuspecting milongueras! (said Irene)

We are happy to see Susy, happy to be dancing with Susy, happy to be dancing, happy that we are in Buenos Aires and once again together with dearest friends.

We are also happy Oscar Hector is unstoppable - despite the sad closure of Glorias Argentinas, here he is again, as determined and as dynamic as ever in his new milongas(!) - Boedo on Thursday and Friday nights, and Salon Rodriguez on Sunday nights.  We understand that he will be opening yet another milonga with Clely on another night - my goodness! 

Susy Tilbe, Oscar Hector and the two of us at Boedo Tango.  How come when we get people to take photos of us, they always manage to cut off someone's feet or toes?  And look, they cut off the top of the Boedo Tango sign too!

All the best to Oscar Hector, the mighty force in the promotion of Tango! We wish you every success in your milongas and in your wonderful show Milonguisimo. And we know you'll be reading this, Susy - Susy, we love you! (And Man Yung proposes marriage, "Te Quiero Mucho!", even if the answer is still no!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Irene and Man Yung perform to "Secreto" and "La Tapera" at La Yumba de Dorita Milonga - Club Oeste 10/09/11

It's not the first time that Osvaldo has asked us this.  Osvaldo is kind of proud of us. "Hey, in Toronto - aren't all the people there looking at your dancing?" 

We turn and look at him oddly, and then blink in disbelief.  "Look at us?  Of course not!"

"Why not?" Osvaldo slaps the table and gestures to the dance floor.  "Look how everyone here is watching you dance!"

Coca nods and adds, "Everyone everywhere we go are asking about you!"

Every milonga we go to in Buenos Aires, people are staring at us and giving us nods and thumbs up of approval. Osvaldo and Coca must think we are joking when we say we don't stir up any interest in our home town.  How do we explain to them, "In Toronto, they aren't looking for the same things as what the Porteños are looking for when they watch someone dance Tango"?  And what are the words in Spanish for "Trendy Labels" and "Resumé?"  It seems to us publicity and self-promotion (and extravagant, attention grabbing movements and tricks) is what it takes to attract attention on dance floors outside of Buenos Aires - irrespective of the quality of dancing.  

When we dance, we dance what we are - we don't try to be bigger, or more interesting, or more perfect.  We have our love for each other.  We have our love for our teachers and our friends.  We have have our love for Tango. We want to dance the Tango that the Porteños feel with their heart and soul - not a "tango" that is engineered for entertainment of people who couldn't tell the difference. 

After dancing at Milonga J. L. at La Nacional on Saturday, we called Osvaldo and Coca at midday on Sunday to find out where they wanted to go.  Coca picked up the phone.  "Myriam called us back - let's go together to La Yumba de Dorita tonight!"

It was the Sunday night before the holiday Monday, so the venerable Club Oeste was packed to the rafters with locals - not a single tourist (except us) to be seen.  We have wanted to visit this ancient club for a long time, but have not yet had the opportunity.  This is where Nina Balbuena teaches her popular class on Friday nights, and where our friend Ruben Dario Lopez went to dance at the age of 18.

Osvaldo and Coca and Myriam Pincen (Yay Myriam! What a phenomenal milonguera!) had already arrived when we showed up:

Myriam Pincen, Osvaldo and Coca and the two of us at La Yumba de Dorita (Club Oeste)

There were so many people that we had to clamber over chairs and tables to get to the dance floor.  Despite the crowd, the dancing on the floor was orderly and calm and everyone who wanted to dance could get out there and enjoy themselves:

The dance floor at La Yumba de Dorita (Club Oeste).  Can you spot Man Yung?  He is dancing with Graciela Cano, who won the third Metropolitan Championship in Buenos Aires with her husband Pedro Vujovich. 

"What was it you wanted to dance to yesterday?" Osvaldo asked me.  We had wanted to dance to "Secreto" (for Jessie and Dorian out there in Vancouver! Hola!) but Osvaldo chose "El Adios" instead.  Might as well face the music - Osvaldo and Coca and the organizer Dorita wanted us to perform - and not just a tango, but a vals as well.  So we did:

Irene and Man Yung perform to Orquesta Tipica Victor's "Secreto" at La Yumba de Dorita (Club Oeste).  This is the second time that we have danced to "Secreto" - the first was when we filmed the video of ourselves at our weekly practice for Jessie and Dorian, who generously emailed us the music.

Irene and Man Yung perform to Edgardo Donato's vals "La Tapera" at La Yumba de Dorita (Club Oeste)

Osvaldo and Coca were as proud of us as they are always - and wonderful Myriam had words of praise and encouragement for us.  "Many couples I have seen dancing dance like two people," Myriam said, using her hand gestures to emphasize what she was describing.  She closed her hands together and intertwined her fingers.  "When I look at you dancing - I see one person." 

Why do we dance Tango?  We want to become one - with our partners, with the music, with the universe.  Osvaldo and Coca showed us the way to the infinite.  They also performed that night, to their favourite - "El Adios":

Osvaldo and Coca perform to Edgardo Donato's "El Adios" at La Yumba de Dorita (Club Oeste)

Man Yung had been looking forward to another opportunity dance with Myriam Pincen ever since our previous trip in April.  No-one in the world can dance like Myriam Pincen - no-one!  And how beautiful she is!  Here is the video of Myriam dancing Pugliese* with Man Yung:

* "Oh my God!" said Man Yung.  I think he is embarrassed.  "I can't believe that I started doing back sacadas and enganches with Myriam Pincen when I was dancing Pugliese! What the hell was I thinking??!?"

"Don't worry, I don't think Myriam minded that you were temporarily possessed.  So long you danced honestly what you felt the music was telling you to dance, it's ok."  I patted his back reassuringly.  Heh heh....I'm not going to tell him that yes, he was CRAZY to start doing all those moves with a top milonguera and ha ha!  She isn't going to dance with him ever again! (Just joking)

And here's another video of Myriam dancing with Man Yung - Fresedo this time (the Tango happens to be "Tigre Viejo"):

Myriam Pincen dancing Fresedo's "Tigre Viejo" with Man Yung at La Yumba de Dorita (Club Oeste).  Osvaldo and Coca take to the floor too!

Can we describe how Myriam Pincen dances?  Can we describe her footwork, her musicality, her embrace, her emotion?  THERE ARE NO WORDS.  She is magnificent.  She is a GODDESS.  Check out her videos on Youtube (especially her performances with Ricardo Vidort, they are classic) and also her interview with Practimilonguero.  This is a lady who IS Tango.

I love it when Osvaldo dances something other than Tango - his musicality is so innate, he can dance to any music.  Here is Osvaldo dancing Cumbia with lovely, awesome Myriam:

So there you have it - another glittering night in Buenos Aires.  We danced that night like any other night - those who know us can see that we danced in our exhibition as we always dance in the milonga.  We do not "walk" finer or do "special" moves, or bedazzle with tricks just because we are performing and wanted to gain applause.  Anyone with two legs and two arms can do what we do. But that was enough - because we danced as ourselves for ourselves and for the people we love.  Nothing more, nothing less.  In the end, that's what the Porteños want to see when they want to see us dance - and they embraced us as warmly as we embraced them.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lai Lai

Lai Lai Chinese Restaurant (Arribeños 2168) in Belgrano - Buenos Aires Chinatown

When Jessie and Dorian from Vancouver visited Toronto a few weeks ago, they recommended that we try Lai Lai in Belgrano for some authentic chinese food during our trip - just in case we felt in any way homesick.  With a sunny warm Saturday morning free of any planned activities, we decided to make the long trek there from Santa Fe and Callao.

"Take the bus, it goes right there!" said Juan José, the friendly shoe shine guy on the corner.  Since we are adamantly not locals (you can even say blatantly touristy), we decided to take a taxi instead.

Even though it was the weekend, it was traffic all the way.  Lots of time to look at the streetscape of Santa Fe and Cabilde as we passed - and to ogle at lovers making out in bus shelters:

The trip to the heart of Chinatown at Mendoza and Arribeños cost 40 pesos.  It was just before noon, so Lai Lai and many of the other restaurants (like Todo Contento, another chinese restaurant we had tried before on previous trips) were still closed.  We took some time to walk around to re-acquaint ourselves with Buenos Aires Chinatown.  We haven't been here since 2008.

The last couple of times we were here we were on tight schedules - classes during the day or Camicando workshops with Martha and Manolo meant that visiting Chinatown had to be hit and run.  We got our instant noodles from the chinese supermarket, and then left!  When we discovered that we could get the same cup noodles at the Carréfour near our hotel (and in better, more Argentinian flavours, like Cheese and Tomato and Chicken) we didn't need to go to Chinatown anymore.  This time we could enjoy more of Chinatown.

It's pretty busy - there's lots of Chinese people but also lots of Argentinians, and every store and restaurant has some Argentinian staff.  We saw help wanted posters on the windows - asking for applicants with DNI.  When we were at Todo Contento, the boss there told us there is now a requirement for all stores to hire a certain number of locals, so you will find Argentinian (as opposed to Chinese or Chinese-Argentinian) sales clerks, waiters and chefs everywhere you go in Chinatown.  This is completely different than the situation in Toronto Chinatown, where Chinese stores and restaurants have 100% staff of chinese ethnicity.

We didn't see this the last time we were here:

Gates of Chinatown

The big election is next weekend so the supporters and campaigners are out in force everywhere we turn.  Martha told me that people over 70 don't have the vote (!!?!) and so I think that's why the people giving out flyers didn't hand any to our elderly taxi driver when we stopped at the traffic lights on the way to Chinatown.  We also didn't get any flyers because with our Tilley hats and other dorky accoutrements, we look like we are from outer space - and I don't think space invaders get to vote in Argentina either.

After a leisurely walk around the block it was time for lunch at Lai Lai.  Lai Lai means "Come Come" in Chinese - and Man Yung explains that one of the two most important hotels in Taipei, Taiwan (in his day) was called Lai Lai Fan Tien, with Fan meaning "Cooked Rice" and "Tien" meaning "Lodgings".  The most common word for "Hotel" in Chinese is "Zhou Tien" which means "Alcoholic Beverage Lodgings" which, strangely enough in the olden days of Man Yung's youth, meant much more basic lodgings several levels below "Cooked Rice Lodgings".  As for why it could be that a place where you can eat cooked rice meant a luxurious 5-star hotel while a place where you could drink alcohol meant a 2 to 3 star hotel, I don't know and I welcome any coherent explanations as to same.

Lai Lai was starting to get busy when we went in.  Apart from another table of regulars, we were the only chinese - the rest were Argentinians.  They like Lai Lai chinese food!

Ambience at Lai Lai - the wall trim has postcards of colourful scenery from all over Taiwan

We ordered  Rice Noodles (Ho Fan) with Beef, Fried Onion with Beef (we figured that Beef in Buenos Aires is a failsafe choice), and Hot and Sour soup.  The soup came first - it looked authentic and tasted great with strong peppery and vinegary flavour.

The proprietress came over to talk to Man Yung (people love to start a conversation with Man Yung wherever we go). She's been living in Argentina for 28 years!  She was part of the immigration wave out of Taiwan in the early 80's.  Man Yung explained to me that people were starting to make money in Taiwan starting late 70's and early 80's due to the manufacturing and technology boom.  Since the Taiwanese still feared invasion from mainland China, they took their money and immigrated to many different places in the world.  Many immigrated to Panama (Taiwan had close political, technology and trade connections with Panama because of the Panama Canal works) but others went to other parts of Central and South America too, including Argentina.

"There were only about 3000 Chinese in Chinatown when I arrived," said the proprietress, "Most were Taiwanese with 20% Cantonese.  Now there are more and more immigrants from Mainland China, mostly from Fujian province."  Toronto is also experiencing more immigrants from China and Fujian province in particular - enormously resourceful people.  Man Yung knows of many Chinese who made their way first to places in South America - and then bought a plane ticket to the States or Canada.  Some would destroy their identification and passports en route, arrive in Canada and declare refugee status.  Both Man Yung and the proprietress agreed that it was very daring - the Taiwanese and Hong Kongers usually went by the regular route and applied for immigration!

The rest of our food arrived:

Rice Noodles (Ho Fan) with Beef and Fried Onion with Beef at Lai Lai

Now, we ordered Rice Noodles (Ho Fan) as an experiment.  It is only in places with a large population of Chinese people that you can get the best Ho Fan - it has to be made fresh daily and delivered each day in order to have a supple but soft bite.  This is fine for places like Toronto with its own Ho Fan and Chinese noodle factories - but places a little further like Hamilton or Ottawa you may find it impossible to find good Ho Fan.  In fact, freshness is so important, Man Yung tries not to order Ho Fan at a restaurant any time after 8:30 p.m. because this means the Ho Fan has been sitting in the kitchen fridge all day and would have become stiff and hard. The Ho Fan used by Lai Lai tastes good, but it has a springy texture which usually means it was made from reconstituted dried rice noodles rather than the freshly made kind we have in Toronto.  "I've been to Toronto too," said the proprietress - "The Chinese food here can't compare to what you have in Toronto!  We simply can't get the same kind of ingredients."  The beef at Lai Lai, however, is of the finest quality - not like some of the beef you can find in Chinese restaurants in Toronto, which have been "tenderized" to death with baking soda and such.

"We tried to keep all our dishes authentic here in this restaurant," said the proprietress.  "Some of the other Chinese Restaurants cater to the people here and offer a mix of Argentinian and Chinese, but we stick to tradition." We asked the proprietress to recommend the signature dish of the restaurant - and she told us to try the "Three Cups of Wine chicken":
Three Cups of Wine Chicken at Lai Lai

Man Yung loved the tasty whole garlic cloves in this casserole!  We better not bump into any milongueras tonight.

So there you have it!  A day in Buenos Aires without food from La Madeleine.  If you get a chance to visit Chinatown, we recommend that you try Lai Lai for some authentic Taiwanese style cuisine.

* Some other interesting things we found in Chinatown:  A huge RAT running into a store of imported Chinese knick knacks!  It was so big I thought it was a dog.  And the people shopping in the store who saw the rat running in didn't even blink or jump when the rat leaped over their feet.  And in the Taiwanese Cultural Centre, there was a notice for... Tango Lessons.  A chica called Emi, apparently the 'Only Taiwanese to receive certification from the University of Tango in Buenos Aires' is teaching Tango there 'for improvement of health', with a practica following the class.  Too bad she is teaching on Tuesdays, we missed it.  Darn.

Friday, October 14, 2011


 Window display at Gypsy at Callao and Santa Fe

One thing we love about Buenos Aires is the shopping.  Yes, prices have gone up a lot - but shopping or window shopping is such a pleasure because there is so much variety.  It's not like Toronto at all, where one usually shops at the mall where there's only the standard chain stores and very little in the way of quirky boutiques.

Perhaps it's because spring has just arrived and the weather is still variable, or perhaps the Porteñas are just fashionable, but everywhere we go, the women are wearing the most incredible scarves.  We've seen thick knitted scarves, smooth shiny pashminas, colourful silk squares, skinny abstract cotton ties, shawls with tassels or bobbles at the edges... Even the most subtle neutral outfit comes to life with a shot of whimsy or colour.  Our heads are constantly swiveling around just to catch a glimpse at the beautiful scarves that the Porteñas are wearing on the street. 

Where do they get these scarves?  Well the answer is easy - everywhere!  You have scarves at stores specializing in accessories.  You have scarves as accents for outfits on mannequins in shop windows.  You have street vendors hanging their wares on small billboards along the street.  We even found a cluster of wholesalers (who also sell retail, but in most of the stores except one or two you must make a minimum purchase of about 150 pesos to 200 pesos) on Lavalle north of Riobamba selling the same scarves for 80% to 70% less than the price in the boutiques. 

Of course, I can't help myself!  The selection is wonderful, the prices more than reasonable - every time we go out I end up with something fabulous.  Here's just a small sample:

The prices of what I have here range from 5 pesos (!) to about 120 pesos.  I don't think you could even buy two pairs of Comme Il Fauts (they cost around 590 pesos now) and certainly not a single Hermés carré with the total amount I spent on scarves this trip.

How to wear them?  In this regard, the Porteñas don't have many different ways - perhaps the scarves are so pretty all you need is to tie them in a simple way that shows off the pattern and colour.  The most common way we've seen involves folding a square scarf in a triangle, with the point of the triangle pointing down in the front - and the ends criss crossed at the back of the neck and the ends brought to the front.  This is mostly used when the scarf has bobbles or tassels on the edges, and it's a very fun, casual look.  When the scarf is oblong and long, we've seen it looped around the neck once, or tied in a knot with the ends hanging down in front.

I think the Porteñas are giving the Parisiennes a run for their money when it comes to accessorizing with scarves!  For more ways to tie your scarf,  take a look at the knotting cards on Hermés website here for an abundance of ideas.

How to make your scarf unnoticeable 101: Hide it under your jacket whilst wearing pink crocs, a Tilley Hat, and your backpack slung in front like it was a baby.  Yes, you too can look like this in Buenos Aires and not get robbed (probably because people who see you on the street will be afraid of you!) By the way I am wearing Odille's Sailboat Skirt - sort of adds to the sartorial terror, don't you think?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Irene and Man Yung perform to "El Adios" at J.L. Milonga - La Nacional 10/08/11

I know, I the rate that we are posting our videos and experiences in Buenos Aires, you shouldn't be seeing this until 2025.  But since we have been receiving complaints about our incredible non-speediness (we have to take time out to do laundry sometimes) we thought we better post this one, pronto!

The DJ very kindly filmed this for us.  We deliberately arranged for the video to be taken from his perspective so that we can look like ants and any moments in our performance that may induce nausea will be reduced to a minimum (Just kidding).

We found out we had to perform about 10 minutes before we had to and it was a very nice surprise.  Many thanks to the organizer Juan Lencino and the M.C. for giving us this opportunity at their wonderful hit Saturday night milonga at La Nacional and to the very enthusiastic crowd who was not too disappointed that we danced like dumpy middle-aged chinese people from Toronto and didn't jump, spin or otherwise dazzle in the recently popular styles of Tango Stage or Tango Salon now winning championships worldwide.  Oh well, we could only dream: 

No, we didn't choose to dance to "El Adios"!  Osvaldo is sick of us dragging our feet whenever he tells us we are performing so he said, "Goddamit, you are going to dance to El Adios!" [Sorry Jessie and Dorian, we wanted to dance to "El Secreto" but we didn't have a chance to say anything!]

Many thanks too to the lovely and reknowned milongueras Marta Fama and Clely who were at the milonga for dancing three tandas each with Man Yung.  He couldn't sleep all night because he was so happy after dancing with them and the other beautiful and wonderful milongueras at J. L. Milonga!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Glorias Argentinas is no more

I had some bad news.

Martha looked like she didn't understand what I said.  "Yes, Glorias is still on Saturday," she said.

I explained to her I had already spoken to Oscar Hector and Haydee today.  Martha's eyes widened with shock and disbelief.

Manolo sensed something was up and leaned over to ask Martha what was wrong.  Martha repeated what I told her.  Manolo, too, needed a few seconds for the information to sink in.

"Glorias is closed," Martha said again.  "Glorias Argentinas is no more."

Manolo shook his head sadly.  "Oscar Hector has run the milonga there for thirty-five, forty years.  It was only yesterday when I danced there with Oscar Hector's mother."

After Martha and Manolo's practica, we took a taxi back to the hotel, and then walked to La Madeleine. The rain had changed to light drizzle, but the wind was getting stronger. 

La Cumparsita echoed through the grand hall of Glorias Argentinas for the last time just two weeks ago.  A dispute with the landlord over rent.  "It's like everyone we knew there, everyone who we have seen and danced with...has just died," I said.

"How could they let that happen?  It's not just a milonga.  It's not just a piece of tango history. It's Glorias Argentinas!  The "Glory" of Argentina.  They cannot let it fade away like that."

I had to reassure Man Yung.  "Well, the Saturday milonga is gone but the club itself is still there.  I think there is a milonga on another night - not run by Oscar Hector, mind you."

Man Yung was silent for a while.  "It will never be the same again," he finally said.  Sighing, he picked up his wine glass.  "I guess the glass is half full.  We can say that we had the opportunity to share and experience the last, twilight years of Glorias and be part of its spirit, its history - before it closed its doors."

It was the very first milonga we had ever gone to in Buenos Aires, on the very first night we arrived.  Man Yung danced with his first milonguera there - I danced with my first milonguero.  Man Yung won his first lucky draw.  Through video, it was on the pista of Glorias Argentinas that we first saw Manolo dance.  And then there were the other memories - performing there, crashing Elba's birthday party, dancing candombe with Carlos Anzuate, giggling hysterically with Chiche, joining the lively joyous crowd in chacarera...

"I propose a toast," said Man Yung.  "To Glorias Argentinas, that is no more."

There was only a drop left in my wine glass.  I raised it to my lips.

"And another toast," said Man Yung.  "To Glorias Argentinas - to its glorious past."

I thought I had finished the wine, but there was half a drop left.  I drank it down.

"And my final toast," said Man Yung.  "To Glorias Argentinas - and the day that the tango will be finished for us too."

For surely that day will come...for all of us.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Perfect Buenos Aires spring morning - sunny, but not too hot.  We pass by the hotel reception desk.  The hotel clerks turns to say hello, and their face light up with big smiles when they see us.  In the breakfast room, we hug and kiss our friend Juan in charge of all the food, who is also very happy to see us again.

We wave hello to the sales clerks in the boutique next to the hotel.  On the corner, the ancient grizzled shoe shine guy Juan Jose gives us big hugs and his toothless grin goes from ear to ear.

Across the street and to La Madeleine.  We shake everyone's hand and hug the manager.  "Tango again?" he asks as he shows us to our table. On the way back to the hotel, we chat with Nicolas the street florist about his shipment of jasmines.

The mood must be infectious.  On the street, we pass by a concierge of a fancy apartment building - Man Yung has only danced at one milonga, but already his waistline is shrinking and he has to adjust his belt or his pants will fall down.    The concierge smiles at us when we catch him looking - "It's ok, I don't mind!"

We are waiting to cross the street.  In front of us are two beautiful portenas loaded with shopping bags, talking excitedly.  "Muchas compras," I say as they smile and look at us with our silly Tilley hats on.  "Si," says one.  She adds, "You like Buenos Aires?"

"Yes - muy lindo!" we replied, nodding, happy.

You could talk about traveling to Paris, Barcelona, New York, Tokyo, or Hong Kong... but I think that for us, there's no other place we'd rather than be than our beloved Buenos Aires.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Secreto"?...or not a "Secreto"

We've arrived in Buenos Aires!  How excited we are!  If we were four years younger and had more energy we'd be rushing around town already.  Since we are no longer young or energetic, once we arrived we just went to sleep.*

* Man Yung wanted to say "bed" instead just to be ambiguous, but who are we kidding?

We're going to be too busy to post anything interesting [what, have we ever posted anything interesting?  Again, we must be pulling someone's leg] so we are just going to post videos of US, like how the tv channels in the U.K. used to post a video of a girl sitting smiling for hours and hours (and they made her actually sit still all that time, instead of using a loop or a freeze frame - the sadists!) just because they didn't have any programming to fill in the dead space (at least that's what I remember happening when I was four - or was I hallucinating?).

So with a big hug to Jessie and Dorian in Vancouver (the nicest people ever - we had a lovely time with them when they came to Toronto), here's a video of us during our last practice at Mad for Dance studios - dancing to a track that Jessie emailed to me right away after she returned to Vancouver, just because I mentioned we didn't have it!

Irene and Man Yung dancing to Orquesta Tipica Victor's "Secreto" - Avert your eyes!

Dear Jessie and Dorian, we know that posting this video on our blog as a way to thank you for sending us the music is probably not a good idea. You may have been expecting instead a meal at a fancy restaurant, or perhaps a nice gift, but alas, we must confess we are cheapskates!  The only consolation you may have is this: at least this is not REGIFT (because we are kind of famous for that too).

** The big white tension bandage around my knee is not a fashion statement.  It is because I twisted my knee.  Man Yung would like to say "while romping athletically at home, wink wink" but I will not mislead you, it is a month long TANGO INJURY.  Just a little "New Tango" (Man Yung, stop it already with the volcadas and colgadas!) will do that to an old person - time will make little hunched over milonguero-style dancers out of everyone, I guarantee it!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some videos of us dancing from our last visit to Buenos Aires (April 10, 2011)

Man Yung was reading our blog yesterday when he realized - we're taking forever to write what happened in 2009!  "You have been so distracted and there has been so many diversions [Come on, could anyone resist writing about such enthralling topics such as Donkey Kong, Aural Indigestion and Weiners? - Irene], I'm predicting that people won't get to read about what happened in 2011 until... 2025!"

Uh oh....that means that the one or two faithful readers of this blog (okay, four or five) will never get to watch the amazing video footage we took on our most recent trip.  In fact, by 2025, I'd think most Tangueros and Tangueras will have actually abandoned Tango out of sheer frustration for other more exciting pastimes such as pole dancing, camel racing, backgammon - or even the polka.  There's already not much reason now  for anyone to watch any of our videos - by then there will be absolutely no reason!

So, for no good reason whatsoever except to pollute El Mundo de Tango en el Internet with more tango videos that nobody wants to watch (remember the times not that long ago when every new Tango video on Youtube would get 100,000+ views?  Now it's jackpot time if anybody gets 10+ views), we present to you:

Irene and Man Yung's vacation videos from the the second time they went to Pinar de Rocha, April 10, 2011 (yawn)

We never dreamed that we would go to Pinar de Rocha again.  It was FAR.  It was a little too close to Fuerte Apache.  And could we withstand Alberto and Paulina laughing at us again for traveling to and hanging out at all these out of the way milongas de barrio with no car ride back?  Unfortunately (or fortunately) we were presented with the opportunity to go there again - when we bumped into the Pinar de Rocha's organizer at Salon Canning when we were there with Osvaldo and Coca.  The organizer asked Osvaldo and Coca to go the following Sunday... and so we went again with them.  At least we were guaranteed a ride there and back!

When we got there, we met Julio Cesar Cordi again.  He is the DJ at the milonga at Pinar de Rocha.  We had been worried about him - he had major heart surgery since the last time we saw him.  We were glad to see him, looking well and rested.  He invited me to dance just as the milonga began - here we are dancing to Donato's La Tablada:

We had a special treat that night - Jorge Garcia and Susana Soar, Osvaldo and Coca's friends, came to join us!  Apart from being great maestros and dancers, they are also great fun.  They would be sedately eating their salad - and then some music that they liked would start playing.  Then they would abruptly stop eating, look up at each other - and rush off to the dance floor!  It was like a scene from a movie - too bad we didn't film these moments (and the moment when Osvaldo danced rock n' roll with Susana!  Although that was only half a song because Osvaldo gets out of breath easily, it was CLASSIC, wish you were all there to see it).

We'll cut to the chase - of course Osvaldo and Coca ambushed us again by making us perform.  We had all sorts of ideas as to what we would like to dance to, and Osvaldo kept on going to Julio to ask him whether he had the track... but he didn't have anything we or Osvaldo asked for!  Osvaldo finally gave up.  "Play whatever, " he said, and we didn't know which "whatever" until we were herded onto the dance floor and music started to play.  We ended up dancing to D'Arienzo's "Lilian":

What's interesting about the video is not our dancing.  We always dance like that no matter where we are, "performance" notwithstanding (we are only social dancers, not jumping spinning sequin-bedecked stage artistes) - and besides, you have been warned about the health hazards of watching us dance!  No, what's interesting is the gentleman sitting with his girlfriend on the other side of the room.  His body language says: "No way, I'm not going to clap for these strange little chinese people.  I'M NOT GOING TO CLAP!  GODDAMMIT I WILL NOT CLAP (even though other people are clapping)!... Darn, I started clapping, but it's in the wrong place and I had to stop half-way because I feel silly... Oh heck, who am I kidding - I'll clap, these little chinese people are doing ok."*

*Man Yung would like to point out that this gentleman knows Osvaldo and Coca - he was in the car that had just parked when we arrived, and he and his girlfriend were kind of excited to see them.  I would like to point out that everyone knows Osvaldo and Coca, it's not that unusual!

Then the organizer asked everyone whether they'd like to see us dance milonga - so we did:

I don't know whether we did well or not as it was totally unexpected and improvised (I hardly ever dance milonga at the milonga because I am usually too tired to move that fast), but everybody was smiling at us and seemed very happy. In fact, after we performed, at least TWO ladies came over, without cabeceo, to ask Man Yung to dance!

Man Yung also got to dance with Coca again:

And I (and this is the exciting part) - got to dance with Jorge Garcia!  Yippee!

The second milonga in this video is exactly the same one I just performed to with Man Yung!  Of course Jorge Garcia is much better (sorry Man Yung!)

I wish I was wearing higher heels - I have a sneaking suspicion the 3 inch heels make me look kind of stumpy.  If only I had feet like a ballerina and the posture of a marsh-wading Great White Stork!

"I think it is time you faced the truth, Irene," said Man Yung.  "No matter what shoes you wear, you will still dance like a little old lady."

Oh well, I won't mind - so long the little old lady is Carmencita Calderon!

* Man Yung says: I hope that our readers will not have to wash out their eyes after watching all these videos of us dancing.

** I say: No need to hope - I BET that our readers will have to wash out their eyes after watching all these videos of us dancing.

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