Sunday, January 29, 2012

How would you know that you have kicked too high during a milonga?

...When your kick has walloped into one of the tables on the side of the dance floor and overturned all the drinks thereon causing torrents of beverage to cascade all over the tablecloth and onto the floor...yes siree, you have indeed kicked too high and probably too hard during a milonga.*

* And you should stop.  Kicking.  IMMEDIATELY. **

** And perhaps even quit.  Dancing.  New Tango.***

*** Or maybe you should keep a running tally:  How many inanimate objects or PEOPLE have you kicked while dancing this year?  Have you broken the record for the previous year?  If you have - Congratulations!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Two Choices: Spread your wings and fly, OR, Crash and burn

Late one night at a recent milonga, I was quietly minding my own business when out of the corner of my eye, I spot somebody making a beeline for my table.

Uh-oh.  Beelines are always trouble.  Anyone who wants to seek you out from their table twenty feet away even though you are trying to stay off the radar is determined and has a purpose.  It could be an intrepid tanguero who wants to ask me to dance without the cabeceo [not again!] - or worse. 

It's worse.

"HI THERE!  My name is __________________!"  A cheery hand is offered.  I take it and shake it.  "What's YOUR name?"

"My name is Irene, nice to meet you," I reply.

"Wow!  I haven't seen you before, is it YOUR first time here?"

Au contraire - I think it's YOUR first time here.  "We come here all the time - we're regulars."

I don't think she cares  - she is aching to tell me a little bit more about herself.  "I usually go to _________________ [The place with the worst level of Tango in Toronto].   I have been dancing Tango at __________________ for a few months already. I haven't seen you there before!"

As if everyone who dances Tango in Toronto should go there.  I try not to frown.  "We don't go to ________________________."

"Why not?"

"We used to go there but we don't anymore."  I make a gesture of my fists bumping into each other.  "Too many collisions."

"What do you mean?"

Do I really have to explain?  "The dancers there have no control."

Her eyebrows twitch upwards.  What, dancing at _________________ is not the best thing since sliced bread?  The newbie is surprised at my candidness but is still undeterred - as I said, she wants something.  "I see that your husband dances non-stop and he asks all the ladies to dance [Oh, I get it - you want to dance with Man Yung then.  No beating about the bush for you!].  You know, the other men - they sit and sit and they don't ask anyone to dance!"

"Maybe those men have low energy levels.  I have low energy levels myself - that's why I'm sitting off in a corner and not dancing [hint, hint, leave me alone]."  I change the topic.  "So, who are you taking classes with?"

"I used to take classes with __________________.  Do you know them?"

I nod but I don't express any opinion.  I consider it rude to volunteer any opinion about another person's tango instructor no matter how bad they are unless that person sincerely and explicitly requests it.   It's none of my business and I'm sure she wouldn't want to hear about it. 

"Now I'm taking classes with ____________________!"  She certainly looks happy about it. 
It's my turn to have my eyebrows twitch upward. "Do you know him as well?"

"Oh dear - I mean, oh, really."  Don't share, Irene, don't share.   The person she was referring to was at that very moment terrorizing the dance floor by tailgating other couples, charging around bow-leggedly and flinging his unfortunate dance partner left and right with huge dips and boleos thrown in to spice up the mix.  Man Yung and I are not the only dancers to grimace whenever this guy shows up at a milonga - we are all thinking "There goes our last chance for a tranquil, orderly dance floor tonight!"

Nevertheless, I'm not about to criticize her instructor to her face.  And I'm definitely not about to offer my husband up as a sacrificial tanguero - I'm sure her instructor would be upset and think that we are trying to make him look bad to his student by showing her the difference!  Man Yung has unknowingly danced with students of substandard instructors before (he can't stand the ladies sitting for a long time without dancing) - and the said substandard instructors end up feeling so threatened, they immediately take their student for a mad, frenzied spin right afterwards to demonstrate to their student with their triple enganche/colgada/boleo combination that they are indeed better dancers than Man Yung.  As if.

I want to be helpful but I've been in Tango long enough to know that no-one - not even a newbie - really wants good advice, they just want you to nod and smile and validate (or even envy!) their pitiable choices.  I keep my rigid smiley expression.  I did have one last thing to say though.

"I hope you enjoy Tango and stick with it.  Toronto Tango has a lot to offer.  You could go to different milongas and try different classes [I genuinely hope that you do - otherwise you are wasting your time]. Have fun! [What else can I say?]"

When Man Yung came back to the table after the tanda, I tell him about the whole disturbing conversation. You'd think that, in this day and age with Youtube and examples of good dancing everywhere, that Tango dancers - especially someone so obviously intelligent, articulate and forward (I'd say even aggressive) as that poor lady - would do their research beforehand and pick an instructor who at least looks competent.  For god's sake, even if you know zilch about Tango - and Lady, you have been dancing for almost HALF A YEAR! - why on earth would you pick an instructor who looks and dances like a circus clown act, instead of an instructor who looks and dances like a human being?  It sure boggles MY mind.

*  Man Yung adds: "We ourselves have been dancing for eight years - we can say that we are going in a direction that we are satisfied and quite happy with and we have been very lucky with our choice of Tango instructors.  But there are still many things that we can learn to improve our dancing and understanding of Tango.  We won't bill ourselves as experts by any means and we don't consider ourselves qualified to give advice this way or that.  But there's one thing - when a person new to Tango enters into Tango for the first time, they should have an idea based on their personality and level of aesthetic appreciation as to "What kind of Tango do I want to dance?  Do I want to dance the flashy tricky Tango for Stage to show myself off or do I want to dance a calm, social Tango-for-enjoyment?"  There's nothing wrong with dancing Stage Tango and I'm all for people taking classes with talented Stage Tango instructors to learn how to do this - and even to perform, in the correct context of THE STAGE.  There are some wonderful Stage Tango dancers and teachers in Toronto who look great and dance amazing - and moreover, they tell their students the difference between movements suitable for the stage and movements suitable for a social dance setting.  What irks me are those so-called instructors who are neither here nor there - they look awkward, even horrible when they dance, they make no distinction between "Stage" and "Social" Tango, and they will dance dangerously and without respect to any other dancer on the dance floor because 1) they don't know, or don't care about the difference, and 2) they WANT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO THEMSELVES ANYWAY IN WHATEVER METHOD POSSIBLE.  They don't have the talent to really make it on the Stage but they have to do something to impress potential students - everyone on the dance floor will just have to make way!  I feel sorry for their students - but yet their students have to be responsible for their own choices, especially if they have been taking classes with these reckless teachers for more than a few weeks.  You have eyes and you could see what's going on around you and even perhaps on Youtube and you know that you are learning from someone who is not up to par.  Wake up!  Irene, you are right in telling the lady to go out there and try dancing in different milongas and trying different classes - knowledge is power." **

**  Wait a moment, didn't I just write a post called "Ignorance is Bliss"?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ignorance is bliss

We have been dancing Tango for EIGHT YEARS! 

We can hardly imagine what life was like without Tango.  How did we pass the time without milongas, practicas, classes, workshops, local, national and international Tango extravaganzas, and yearly (or bi-annual) visits to Buenos Aires?  And what about 24/7 Tango music on the stereo, hours of surfing Tango websites, Tango blogs, Tango Youtube and Tango Facebook?  We haven't even started considering the dozens, no, hundreds of times we have watched "The Tango Lesson" and Cosmotango 2004 and 2005! 

We have only vague memories of what life was like way back when.  Vacations in Paris - Ice cream at Berthillon.  Long weekend road trips in the fall.  Visits to exciting art exhibitions in town and across the border.  Dinner with friends at least twice a week.  Movie nights.  Shopping!

And now - "Hurry up and finish your sandwich - we have a milonga to rush to!"

"Why, to think of it, life was kind of blissful back then..." said Man Yung, dreamily.

Yes indeed, life was blissful - and in more ways than one!  Not only did we have a lot more time on our hands, we were definitely a great deal less disillusioned.  I don't know about everybody else, but Tango has been a constant process of bubble bursting. What we wouldn't give to turn back the clock, to that time of precious innocence and ignorance...

All we can do is lament - and write sadly about


December, 2003. 

We take our first Tango class.

Man Yung was so looking forward to learning a dance in which he would have to wear a see-thru fishnet shirt unbuttoned to his crotch and skintight shiny satin pants. And all I wanted to do was to chomp down lasciviously on some rose stems while sporting a sequiny, fringe-y red and black ensemble.

We were headed for disappointment.  I think Man Yung was confusing Tango with Salsa.  I think I must have been confusing Tango...with Tango!

January, 2004.

Our first milonga.

What, we have to pay extra to get into the post-class milonga?  Our instructor never told us that!

What, you can actually go the wrong direction on the dance floor?  Our instructor never told us that!

February, 2004.

We just finished our first set of ten classes.

We ask our instructor, "How long will it be before we learn how to Tango?"

Our instructor snickers and struts off without replying.

March, 2004.

We attend our first international Tango event (in Paris!)

We have been taking lots of classes (we thought)!  We were very diligent students.  We must be ready to dance at the fancy milonga.

But we can't even complete a ronda on the dance floor.  It's crowded and bumpy.  We keep on trying to do a salida.  The other dancers snarl at us.  We try furtively for one tango... and return to our seats at the end of it shaken, disturbed, and lucky to escape with our lives.

May - June, 2004.

Some random chinese guy in the milonga introduces himself to Man Yung and starts dissing our instructor.  He claims to be an instructor at the Jolly Happy Tango Association and tells Man Yung he was invited to teach classes "somewhere in the West".  "You take classes with ____________?  Pfffft!" he says.

We take a pre-milonga class with another local instructor.  She asks us who our "regular" instructor was and upon hearing the name, rolls her eyes and makes a "tsk-tsk" noise.

We thought that these were isolated and specific incidents of disapproval.  But no.  It's universal.  No matter who you are learning with and when, everyone will not agree with your choice and would be quite convinced someone else (probably themselves) would teach you better and faster.

October, 2004.

Man Yung has finally learned 10 steps (and remembers them)!  "Now I can finally go all the way around the dance floor when I dance!" he said, hopefully.

November, 2004.

We take a workshop with yet another local instructor.  It cost $35.00 (per person).  The instructor has no clue as to what she is teaching.  She asks, "What would you like to learn today?"

As if any of us newbies had any idea.  The instructor spends 75% of the workshop talking "embrace theory" and showing us books written in Spanish that may or may not have anything to do with Tango.  The other 25% was also bullshit.

December, 2004.

Our first Tango Christmas Extravaganza.  We were so excited.  We even dressed up.

It was crowded.  It was cold (a big draft blew in whenever someone opened the front door of the restaurant).  The main course was tough, dry and tasteless.  We were seated with people we didn't know and there were lots of awkward silences.  The performances were not very good.  There were too many rambling speeches.

Only half an hour was allotted to actual dancing at the end of the evening.  The floor was sticky and it was impossible to pivot on it.

January, 2005.

We attend a "Practica".  Our instructor has decided that it is time we learned how to dance "Milonga".  He plays a milonga.  "Dance faster!  Dance faster!" he says.

I don't have to tell you that is not quite the way to learn how to dance the milonga.  

February, 2005.

Our videotape of Pepito Avellaneda's "Asi se baila la milonga" arrives.

"Oh, that's how you dance the milonga!" exclaims Man Yung.

March, 2005.

Our videotape of Daniel Lapadula's "Tango Estilo del Centro" arrives.

"Oh, so you could dance Tango musically and enjoyably without being young, extra bendy with the ability to do superhuman underwear flashing flying leaps and Can-Can kicks!"

It was a revelation of the grandest, most earth-shaking sort.  Thanks, Daniel!*

* Conversely, Osvaldo Zotto and Mora Godoy's "Asi se baila Tango" and Juan Carlos Copes' instructional tapes were not quite as helpful.  Maybe because we are not intelligent enough to make sense of the material in a social dance setting.

June, 2005.

Our first milonga at a local Tango festival.

A tanda of milonga plays.  We take to the dance floor.

A fellow Tango student couple (we had been taking classes with the same instructor - and they have been taking classes for much longer than us) spots us.  They haven't seen us in class for a while.  The man says to his wife in disbelief, "Look, they're going to dance milonga!  I've got to see this!"

We dance milonga.  I think they were disappointed that we didn't fall flat on our faces.

And we never encounter our fellow Tango student couple in class or in the milongas again.  They must have thought we bribed our instructor to get him to teach us how to dance milonga (No, we got everything from Pepito Avellaneda!)

December, 2005.

Our second Christmas Tango Extravaganza.  We were still excited - but a little wary.

It wasn't as crowded, but there wasn't enough food.  I think I managed to grab an empanada and a roll, and that was it. The organizers rationed out bottles of water like it was London during the Blitz, so there wasn't enough to drink either.  The performances were so-so.  They kept on interrupting the dancing with rambling speeches.

At least it wasn't cold.

"Remind me never to go to any of these Christmas Tango Extravaganzas ever again!" said Man Yung.*

* Ditto - Tango Extravaganzas in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.... even Extravaganzas held in Buenos Aires!  "When will we ever learn?" asks Man Yung.

February, 2006.

A local Toronto instructor appeared at the door of the popular weekend milonga and peered in.

"I say," he said loudly. "There's no-one good enough here to dance with me!"*  He turned up his nose and left.

All of us swivel our heads to look into his direction and some of us ladies were even quite angry at this affront. Unfortunately, what he said could be somewhat true and pushing insolent Tangueros down the stairs is illegal.

* I would say that now, the opposite is true.  The arrogant instructor is now not good enough - for any lady to dance with him!

April, 2006.

We take 52 hours of classes with Martha and Manolo when they stayed in Toronto for an entire month.  We learned Tango Salon, Canyengue, Milonga and Milonga Fantasia.  When Martha and Manolo hugged us, they really meant it.  When Martha and Manolo told us that they loved us, they really meant it.  Our dancing improved and our perspective and insight into the dance deepened so much we will never have to look back again.

And yet, when we enthusiastically recommended Martha and Manolo's classes to a local tanguero, we were dismissed quite out of hand.

"I'm not interested in learning Tango Salon of the fifties," he said.*

Our expressions of incredulity can be found here.

* Funnily enough, the said local tanguero's tango level has remained up to now...firmly the same as his level in 2006!  It must take a lot of intelligence, perseverence and skill to stay stuck in the same rut for this long!

June, 2006

We (and millions of Tango dancers all around the world) discover...Youtube!

Well, Youtube had been around since 2005 but there weren't that many good Tango videos until around mid-2006.

We got our first glimpse of Jorge Dispari and Maria Carmen.  Javier and Geraldine.

I became a monkey-see, monkey-do rabid adornista.   Fun and fabulous!  And I wasn't the only one - because everyone can copy what they see in a video!

...And for evermore, you will get people running around telling other people, "You don't have to take classes/sign up for workshops/go to Buenos Aires, you can learn everything by watching Tango videos on Youtube! I did!"

...And for evermore, high-kicking show-tango instructors masquerading as social tango instructors who were relying on the lack of information about authentic social tango in the pre-Youtube days can't go around saying, "If you want to learn how to dance Tango socially, you only need to take classes with me!"  Because one quick look on Youtube would prove otherwise.

November, 2006.

Comme Il Fauts come to Toronto!

I realize that the tango shoes I was wearing before were not only uncomfortable...they were ridiculous. 

March, 2007.

We take our first trip to Buenos Aires - to attend Martha and Manolo's Camicando festival! We learned a lot and made friends with many warm, welcoming and wonderful Argentinians.

A lot of things we were warned about Buenos Aires turned out to be fiction.

We met and took classes with Alberto Dassieu.  He improved my following TONS.

I paraphrase his advice: "Quit going faster than your partner and stop doing all those gratuitous adornments!"

My days as a rabid adornista were fun while they lasted.

I danced with Osvaldo Cartery for the first time! 

Nothing else would ever compare to that experience.  For all you out there who claim that dancing with ____________ or ______________ or _______________ is Tango Heaven on Earth, I tell you this:
Ladies, I've danced with ________________ and _________________ and _______________, and it was no way near Tango Heaven on Earth.  Dancing with Osvaldo Cartery is Tango Heaven on Earth.*  Period.

* Dear Man Yung: Don't be jealous!  You have received a lot of advice from Osvaldo. I assure you, don't waste all that good advice and dancing with you too, one day, will be Tango Heaven on Earth! (In your dreams!)

April, 2008.

Irene and Man Yung start writing their blog, aptly named "Irene and Man Yung's Tango Blog", in which they recount their day-to-day journey further and further away from oblivious innocence.  You may wish to start at the beginning here.  Or you may not.

January, 2012.

We go to the milonga.  We look around us.

New Tango is Dead.  Toronto Tangueras follow beautifully - if they adorn, it is with subtlety and musicality.  Toronto Tangueros are following the line of dance - and perhaps, they are not tailgating, or barging into other dancers with their eyes closed.  There are isolated pockets of Tango insanity, but for the most part, the Hokey-Pokey dancers and the Crazy Chicken Ladies have vapourized into thin air. Fabio is nowhere to be seen.

The World (of Tango) is a better place.

How I long for the days gone by.  Man Yung also feels nostalgic.*  The fun we had, galloping around dancing milonga like it was "Tango, but faster."  The great anticipation before every Tango Extravaganza.  Our toe-pinching, bunion-inducing tango shoes were treasured because those were the only tango shoes we had.  The pre-Youtube mystery of what "Good" Tango should look like - anybody could be fooled by an idiot with confidence and a well-written resumé.  "Bumper-car" dancing was not only normal, it was desirable! 

Now we are just jaded.  We don't dance every tanda.  We don't even go to every milonga!  Tango Extravaganzas - we skip them entirely!

We might have been a lot more naive back then...but we have to admit: "Tango used to be a lot more fun!"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Osvaldo and Coca at Salon Canning - January 6, 2012

Here's a very recent video of Osvaldo and Coca, dancing to Orquesta Tipica Victor's "Carillion de la Merced":

...Wonderful, magical as always.  Now that's a WALK!

[AND MORE!  Here's their first performance on the same night: to Di Sarli's "Anselmo Acuna":

Friday, January 6, 2012

Myriam Pincen and Walter - Exhibition at Maipu 444

Myriam just posted this lovely nostalgic video of her exhibition with a sadly departed milonguero Walter on Facebook:

Myriam is beautiful always - from her flowing white summer dress, her subtle footwork, her elegant walk, her passionate embrace...and what a musical dancer Walter is!  Thanks Myriam for this wonderful video!  (And Man Yung says, "Oh Myriam you are always my Goddess of Tango!)

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