Tuesday, May 31, 2011


We have a sweet darling kitty called Mr. W.  One day we noticed that he liked to paw at the ground a couple of times around his kibble bowl after eating.  It was soooooooo cute.  So we decided to give him a compliment.

"OOOOOOOHHHH MYYYYY GAWWWWWWWD!!!!!!  SUUUUUUCH AAAAAA GOOOOOOOOOOOOD KIIIIIIIIITTY!" we said (and repeated) in unison, in the most saccharine, crazy-cat-people-way possible.

Mr. W stared at us and licked his nose anxiously - completely puzzled.  He was only doing something that was natural to him - cats like to cover up their poop and remnants of their meals to avoid alerting either predator or prey.  What was all the fuss?

But that didn't stop him from falling for our nefarious plot.  Every time he did the same thing, we would make a big, fake, evil-nice commotion and praise him to the skies.  Yes, this is what Irene and Man Yung does when they are not dancing tango - they punk their own cats.  But I digress.

Now Mr. W spends at least a WHOLE MINUTE after every meal, laboriously pawing at the floor around his bowl, while we crow and croon disgustingly over his efforts.  Don't worry, Mr. W is not in a least bit upset - he thinks he is the bee's knees.  But really.

Tango dancers aren't cats - but watch them fall for it too.  Tell a young tanguera that she has beautiful adornments.  The next time you see her, she will be flipping her feet left and right and tripping over her own ankles.  Whisper to another that you admire her groundedness.  Tomorrow, dancing with her will be like driving a truck with square wheels.  Don't think that tangueros are immune.  Clap when you see a wildly spinning helicopteresque tanguero - and watch him spin even faster!  Or conversely, adore a tanguero for knowing how to pause - and for evermore, his dancing will have the allure of watching paint dry.

Now, we may prank our cats with the power of positive reinforcement - but trust us, we do not compliment people wily-nily just for the purpose of turning them into complete caricatures of themselves.  We are like other people when we give compliments - what we say we admire is really and honestly what we admire. Or, in the very least, we are trying our best to say something encouraging and positive...instead of something perceptive, snarky and insanely hilarious (well, to us anyway).

Man Yung's mom always had words of wisdom for him - and one thing she liked to say was that "You have to live your life with your feet planted firmly on the ground."  Kind of hard to do, if a little compliment sends your head up to clouds.  Lucky for us, we haven't received ANY compliments so we are still wallowing around sea level (or perhaps even underground, say, in Tango Hell?) Never fear, there's lots of company in the stratosphere.  Nuevo Tango Innovators, so applauded for their innovation - have finally innovated themselves out of tango and into gymnastics.  Theatrical tango is always receptive to a few laughs - but haven't we all seen dancers take it overboard and into a full blown grotesque tango freak show?  Don't get us started on some of the official competitions of Tango Salon out there - we're fully convinced that more and more prizes are being awarded each year for SALONESQUE EXAGGERATION.

What is Tango?  Just a bit of walking (and not floating, or flying) to a little bit of music.  Lose sight of the ground when you walk, and you won't just risk falling flat on your face - you'll lose sight of Tango.

Ricardo Vidort and Myriam Pincen - step by step and feet always firmly on the floor!

Friday, May 27, 2011


I'm a big fan of Lululemon - for Tango.  Ever since our second ever Camicando festival, I have been wearing their wonderful, breathable, moisture-wicking tanks for classes, practicas, and just plain dancing.  I am especially grateful now that summer is coming - because nothing is quite as gross as 35 degree weather, a packed dance hall with no air conditioning... and having to dance milonga with a hot (literally) Man Yung drenched in his sweat and the sweat of every other body he has danced with (ewwww).

But being a fan does not mean I am not critical of some of the things Lulu comes up with.  Man Yung and I were cooking dinner last night when I started complaining.

"Lululemon has come up with a new biking line - biking shorts, biking jerseys, stuff like that.  They put strategic reflective strips all over the clothes - so that, you know, the wearers will be more visible on the road."  I paused dramatically, pepper grinder in hand.  "What I don't get is - and this really bugs me - why would Lululemon design and sell a sports bra with the same strategic reflective strips?  Not only do the strips make the bra bulky, but what would be the point?  I don't think drivers are going to see anything if you put a half-decent shirt on over the bra.  Or is it a new, global-warming trend - people going out biking in just their bras?"

 Lululemon's Illuminate Bra - visible under headlights in the dark. 
Am I missing something here?

Man Yung was supposed to be stir-frying chinese broccoli but you could tell he was already enraptured.  "Reflective strips on bras - what a great idea!" he said.  "Not only would I be able to protect my chest from being dented by well-endowed ladies wanting to dance in extreme close embrace - people will stop bumping into me on the dance floor under low light conditions!  Finally, safety gear for tangueros - win, win!"* **

*   Sorry, Man Yung - some of Toronto's pathological navigational disasters will not be deterred even if you were dressed head-to-toe in reflective, ballistic nylon, with a great big flashing neon sign over your head saying "Bump into me again and I will whoop your a**"

**  That being said - I predict that Toronto's crazy tango leaders will stop bumping into you if you wear one of these Illuminate babies over your polo shirts.  But not for the reasons that you would think. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Exhibition by Susy Tilbe of Milonguisimo and Man Yung at Glorias Argentinas, April 9, 2011

We've been talking about it ever since our last visit to Buenos Aires last year in October.  The marvelous Susy Tilbe of Milonguisimo enjoyed dancing with Man Yung a lot at Lo de Celia - and suggested that the next time we were in town, Man Yung should do an exhibition with her!

Dancing with Susy was an incredible experience for Man Yung.  Susy is a wonderful dancer and transmits the feeling of tango in every step she takes - a milonguera milonguisima through and through.  Man Yung was ready to run off and elope with Susy after Lo de Celia (except that she said no) and now, an opportunity to perform with her too?  

Susy has a very busy schedule traveling, working during the day and at night in theatrical productions and of course, Milonguisimo - so she was not in town the first couple of days when we arrived in Buenos Aires.  We got in touch and met up with her and also our friends Roberto Segarra and Olga at Lo de Celia shortly after she returned - no, she had not forgotten about the exhibition.

Unfortunately, Susy was not feeling very well - all week she had been fighting an eye infection and taking medication for her eye, which was really bothering her.    She wasn't able to go to dinner with us after Lo de Celia because her eye was feeling so uncomfortable, but she still wanted to go ahead with the exhibition on Saturday - just for us. Susy arranged everything - a phone call to Oscar Hector, the impresario organizer of Milonguisimo and the milongas at Glorias Argentinas and Salon Sur ("Of course, that would be a great idea!" he said - he remembered the little chinese people from Toronto who are always making videos at Glorias Argentinas and selling them for profit to the Japanese) and everything was settled.  Susy will dance with Man Yung at Glorias Argentinas!

We told Osvaldo and Coca about the exhibition - and even though they had been planning to go to Sunderland, they decided to go to Glorias Argentinas to see Man Yung perform.  They wouldn't miss it for the world.  Osvaldo even dressed up in one of his best suits and a TIE - although it was pretty hot and he got rid of it pretty soon.

We all arrived early - and here we all are:

With Susy Tilbe and Osvaldo and Coca at Glorias Argentinas.  Oscar Hector said - "Stop taking all these photos of the milonga so early, before everyone has arrived!  It looks like no one has shown up for the milonga!"

"Do I look strange with sunglasses?" asked Susy.  "I look like a giant ant, I think!"  Susy's eye was still not feeling well and her eye was very sensitive to light so she needed to wear sunglasses, but she has sense of humour about it. Of course she did not look like an ant.  With her beautiful shimmering dress, matching silver stilettos and sparkling scarlet sequined wrap, the sunglasses made her look like a glamourous Hollywood Star! 

The eye infection certainly didn't slow Susy down.  She danced with Man Yung, Oscar Denico, and many friends and familiar faces in Glorias Argentinas.  She laughed and ate and told jokes.  We had a lot of beer (hee!)  She even danced Chacarera - with Man Yung:

Susy Tilbe dances Chacarera!  With Man Yung.

And then, the big performance.  "Let's dance to Di Sarli," Susy proposed.  "Which one would you like to dance to?"  Osvaldo and Coca had quick answer for that - "Why don't you dance to Ensuenos?"

Susy Tilbe and Man Yung - "Ensuenos"

We all stayed at Glorias right to the end.  After the milonga, we took Susy home in a taxi from the taxi service that she always calls because Glorias is so far from her house - "More security," she said - and whizzing through the quiet streets of the Buenos Aires night, and then through the leafy suburbs of her beloved barrio, Susy talked about her family, the fond places that she had called home, her work, her dancing...

Holding Susy's hand and listening to her talk about all the things close to her heart, I felt the embrace of the city, the emotion of this wondrous thing called Tango.  Susy's dance comes from her memories, her past that she holds so dear - and her present, in her love for her family and friends, her life and her work. It is the joy she feels and the joy she brings to all the people around her. It is love; it is passion.  It is a beautiful dream - a dream that we make real every time we step on to the dance floor, bringing all that we are into the expression of that lovely music. 

* "I hope I haven't given my eye infection to everyone I've danced with!" said Susy, after the milonga.  "Thank god I'm going to be out of town because by the time they realize they got it from me, I won't be around!"  (She was just joking.  We love you Susy - don't kill us the next time you see us! And don't worry, your eye infection was not contagious - Man Yung was absolutely fine even after dancing so much with you!  Even if he did catch it, the chance to dance with you would have made it absolutely worth it!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flor de Milonga

We've been looking and looking... but all those trips to Buenos Aires and we have never had an opportunity to find a place which embodies the bohemia of Tango - something that was captured in the National Geographic's short documentary.  We wrote about it here, one of the very first posts that we posted on this blog - entitled, "Where it all Began":


Early hours of the morning...a smoky common-place cafe...people from all sorts of life, young, old, happy, sad - listening intently to music of the guitar and a passionate voice...a tango...a vals..the magic of the moment in the memories and emotions that we are sharing through the music...

...Well, we've been so busy every night we have been in Buenos Aires that we have never had the opportunity to find and experience such a place.  That is, until we went to Flor de Milonga!

Flor de Milonga is a little Tuesday night milonga in San Telmo, run by the enchanting and beautiful La Flaca Lucia and her companion in life and dance, Gerry.  The milonga is held in a loft-like space in a historic building in the barrio.  Climb up the narrow stairs to the second floor, go through the shaded tiled verandah, and you've stepped into another world - quite unlike any of the other milongas you may visit in Buenos Aires.

From the impromptu and surprising works of art on the walls, the intimate lighting, the cafe seating, and the luminous yet friendly bar at the end of the room - you will feel like you have stepped into a bohemian caberet.  Expect to mix not only with dancers, but also poets, writers, artists and musicians.  It's Paris of Picasso and Hemingway of the 1920's again - except in Buenos Aires.

We were very fortunate to attend the milonga on the first Tuesday of the month, where there's always the extra treat of music by the live Orquesta Tipica Personajes, with Juan Serafini and Alfredo Molina on bandoneon, Guillermo Ayos on guitar, Guillermo Ferrer on bass, and Julio Rodolfo singing.  All the musicians have had long careers in tango, in many of the famous tango orquestras of the past - and what wonderful music they play!  In keeping with the playful and relaxed atmosphere, people are welcome to dance to the many sets of live music - with the members of the orquesta interacting with the dancers, encouraging them as they pass by, applauding when dancers "get into the groove" and manage to express the music with their dancing as intended by the musicians.

I don't think words could really do the experience of Flor de Milonga justice - so here we will attempt to show you what we saw with our photos!

Orquesta Tipica Personajes
Alfredo Molina on bandoneon and Guillermo Ferrer on bass - a virtuoso duel of the instruments!
Alfredo Molina and Juan Serafini on bandoneon

Guillermo Ferrer on bass

Guillermo Ferrer on bass, Alfredo Molina and Juan Serafini on bandoneon

Julio Rodolfo

Julio Rodolfo

A view of the dance floor from the vantage point of the Orquesta Tipica Personajes

Past midnight, there was an open mic at Flor de Milonga.  The audience had a chance to sing and perform too with the live band.  This gentleman who sang looked like he stepped out from the past - a tough-guy compadrito from the barrio!

Open mic at Flor de Milonga with the tough-guy compadrito again.  His songs were filled with lunfardo, the underworld slang of Buenos Aires

Open mic at Flor de Milonga

At Flor de Milonga, there's a chance that you will find the famed Malena of song and story again - here are some videos we took of the incomparable Mariana Alpert.  What incredibly passionate, courageous and heartfelt singing!

Mariana Alpert - Romance de Barrio

Mariana Alpert - Muñeca Brava

Mariana Alpert.  Man Yung filmed this from the other side of the room - you get a really good view of the bar and the atmosphere of some of the audience in the room.  I think we have finally stepped into National Geographic's documentary.

A second singer also left an indelible impression - Marcela Marina.  She is beautiful, but shy - she wanted to sing from the dark corner at first, away from the spotlight!  Eventually everyone convinced her to come out into the light.  What a soulful voice she has - in the tradition of singers like Nelly Omar and Adriana Varela:

Marcela Marina - singing "Sur".  Who is that dancing in the background?

We bumped into the lovely young couple Walter Champín and Adriana Reta at Flor de Milonga.  They are taking classes with Osvaldo and Coca too at El Tacuarí - imagine our surprise at seeing them at the milonga!  They are wonderful, elegant and musical dancers - and also artists.  Adriana's work has been exhibited all over the world, including even Canada.  The link to Adriana's website is here.

Walter Champín and Adriana Reta dancing to live music at Flor de Milonga

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Flor de Milonga.  Many thanks to La Flaca Lucia and Gerry for organizing this magical evening and being such welcoming and friendly hosts - and for all of you who haven't yet had the opportunity to check their milonga out, don't miss it!

What an evening!  La Flaca Lucia, Gerry, and members of Orquesta Tipica Personajes
For more information, here's the link to the website for Flor de Milonga.

Flor de Milonga's very pretty, very cute waitress Andrea.  Her eyes are really big - just look at how tiny our eyes are compared to hers!  And she dances tango too!

Monday, May 9, 2011


We celebrate Manolo's 79th birthday at La Baldosa.  It was time for friends, tango, and of course, flaming, exploding birthday cake!

Last week, I received a lovely email from Martha and Manolo, wishing me an extremely Happy Birthday with lots of hugs and kisses - all in UPPERCASE in giant purple letters.

It was very sweet - except it wasn't my birthday! "Luckily," I replied, "My birthday isn't going to be for another five months - so I have a chance to be young for a little while longer!"

I was just joking.  But if I think about the way I was brought up, I am extremely lucky I did not become a complete mental case when it came to birthdays.

Growing up, I had a vague idea that birthdays were supposed to be positive things - but the way my mother approached it, they were a cause of dread not only for her but for our entire family.  All through her late thirties and right up until she turned fifty, my mother would sport even blacker moods than usual when her "Special Day" was near.  Just breathing in her presence would annoy her - we walked on eggshells.  My mother's unhappiness made us nervous and jumpy, just waiting...waiting until she exploded, glaring and screeching with irrational fury at the slightest little thing.

What was it that made birthdays so unbearable for my mother?  She had three wonderful kids who never gave her any trouble (even though she claims disapprovingly that we are "sunken investments" - I have no idea what that means) and all of us made it through university.  My father was - and still is a devoted, loyal, loving husband - who listens and follows to whatever she dictates. My father and mother both had amazing jobs.   The house was fully paid for even before my parents turned forty - and they never needed to finance their cars.  And lastly, my mother looked, and still looks, great - she is still skinnier, taller, better proportioned than me, with the kind of frame that makes all clothes look spectacular on her.

Family, friends and acquaintances always envied my mother's perfect life.  But I have awful memories of her birthdays - including one in which she locked herself into her bedroom and my father told us to try not to make any noise - "Your mother has a headache", he said, fearfully.

Thankfully, my mother seems a lot better now than she was before.  Unfortunately, we are not the kind of family that talks about these things, so I will never know what was bothering her so much before.*  Was she worried about aging, losing her youth and beauty?  She had a husband who didn't care a jot and would love her anyway no matter what.  Was she disheartened that the years were passing and that she had not accomplished anything remarkable?  Raising three children in a completely new country far from home and being mortgage-free, is tremendous enough by itself.  Was she disappointed at the gifts that she got - that they weren't diamond rings or cruises or luxury leather goods?  OK, so we got her boxes of chocolate or pairs of socks with the pocket money we scraped together - it wasn't much to look at, but it was from the heart.

I giggled when I received that email from Martha and Manolo - I had to correct them, that it was actually Man Yung's birthday and not mine - but it didn't matter. We both appreciated their good wishes.  It was nice to know that they were thinking about us - we think of them and all our friends in Buenos Aires often too. We exchange emails, send messages on Facebook and call them every few weeks - just to see how they are, and they are overjoyed to hear from us too.

With great friends (and teachers) like Martha and Manolo and a wonderful husband like Man Yung, every day is a day I look forward to - living, loving, dancing, laughing.  Every day is "Happy Birthday".  I don't think you could beat that.

* I could only speculate that it was something like a mid-life crisis/depression thing going on.  Now that I am around the same age that my mother was when she was acting like that around her birthday, I am happy to say that I have no fear of turning into the same kind of monster that she became - probably thanks to Tango!  While her material life was as good as it gets, perhaps my mother needed some spiritual and emotional nourishment that she wasn't getting enough of.  My mother has taken up Tai-Chi in recent years, and it could be that this is helping her cope.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Alberto Dassieu in Portugal and Switzerland

This just in (actually, we received an inquiry) - the schedules for Alberto's workshops in Lisbon and Zurich over the next few weeks.

In Lisbon:

As for Alberto's Zurich schedule, the organizer Ms. Catherine Funk advised us that there will be workshops on May 14 and 15, 2011 at Club Silbando - from 13:00 to 15:00 vals, and 15:30 to 17:30 tango. 

For more information, please follow the link to the websites of La Morocha Lucena and Club Silbando.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Philosophical Question

We were having lunch with Alberto and Paulina at a cosy little parilla called "La Cañada" (coincidence? No, it's not the same as "Canada") one sunny afternoon.  Our conversation turned to musicality - and to one question that has been bothering us ever since we started tango.

"When you teach, you always emphasize that people should listen and dance to the music. That's straightforward, intuitive advice. However, how can we explain the droves of people in tango who don't listen to the music when they dance?  We can't believe that there are teachers out there actually teaching people to completely disregard the music.  Could it be true that there are some people who are born with an inability to hear or move to the music?"

Alberto and Paulina thought for a moment, and Paulina spoke.  "Well, I suppose that may be the case...that people's perceptions are different.  What I consider to be 'to the music' may not be the same as what someone else perceives - this is a possibility that you have to account for."  Paulina is a professor of philosophy and is a licensed psychoanalyst as well, so perhaps that's where her viewpoint is coming from.

"So, let's recap - while it appears that we (you and Alberto and the two of us) seem to be on the same wavelength as to what is "to the music" or "not to the music" when it comes to dancing, there may be some people out there who we would observe on the dance floor and conclude are completely "off." We have to realize that these individuals could actually think they are doing a perfectly fine job of listening and dancing to the music?"

Alberto and Paulina both nodded.  "Precisely."

"Is there any way to help these poor folk? And what we mean is - the most obstinate, intractable cases?"

Paulina shrugged.  "It's hard to say." 

We're just glad that we aren't one of those who Alberto and Paulina would consider beyond hope!


This April, we had the chance to present the same question to Osvaldo and Coca.  We were zipping along in the streets of Buenos Aires in their little brown car, on our way to yet another milonga.  We just had an excellent class with them at El Tacuari - in which they exhorted to their students their endless mantra, "Listen to the music!  Listen to the music!"

"In class, you asked your students to listen to the music.  But so many people don't, and not just the beginners, but world famous professionals too. We cringe when they dance.  Could it be that they are unable to?" we asked.

Osvaldo and Coca both erupted in unison. "No, don't be silly!  Everyone can!"  The car swerved. "They are just not listening!"


So, take your pick:  Are you not listening to the music when you dance because you can't...or because you won't?

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