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!)

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