Sunday, April 29, 2012

No to Mr. Collins

Those pesky undesirable Jane Austen-esque suitors!  The more horrible they are, they more persistent they get.  Who could forget the famous scene in Pride and Prejudice, where Mr. Collins, the pompous, slimy cousin of the Bennetts, tries to propose to the heroine Elizabeth Bennett in the most condescending manner possible?

Don't you get it, man?  The answer is NO!

You may laugh, but indecent proposals may happen to you in Tango too!  Just to show you, here's a modernized version of the famous Pride and Prejudice scene, happening at a milonga near you:

Mr. Tango Collins (after having cornered Ms. Tango Lizzie even though she has been avoiding his cabeceo gaze all night):  Wanna dance?

Ms. Tango Lizzie: No thanks.

Mr. Tango Collins: You are just being shy.  I like shy girls - they're hot!  Almost as soon as I entered into the milonga, I singled you out as a desirable tango partner. You make me feel Tango Passion - I bet you can feel it too, baby. Dance with me - it'll be fun!

Ms. Tango Lizzie (looking elsewhere): I said no.

Mr. Tango Collins: Let me explain why you should say yes.  First off, I have the reputation of being a great dancer. Second, I am convinced that if you say yes, I will be very happy.  And third - my Tango teacher says that Tangueras should never refuse an invitation - it's not nice!  Why I'm asking you instead of so many hot young ladies at this milonga who are no doubt cat-fighting for a chance to go for a spin with me on the dance floor - well I know your Tango teachers aren't that great and you will be doing yourself a favour by dancing with me, because I am a great dancer.  I promise you that I won't yell at you if you trip on on my astounding triple enganche, triple colgada combo, even though I won't be pleased.  I'm fully aware that nobody can be quite as perfect as me.

Ms. Tango Lizzie: Offended - gives him the Evil Eye.

Mr. Tango Collins: I am not discouraged - it is trendy for Tangueras to say no the first, second, or even third time to a Tanguero they actually really want to say yes to.

Ms. Tango Lizzie: How about this - sod off!

Mr. Tango Collins (taken aback, but not completely deterred): I'll ask you again in a bit - and I expect you to say yes, because you are just playing hard to get to make me want to dance with you even more.

Ms. Tango Lizzie: You are completely delusional - I'm calling the police now.

Mr. Tango Collins: Come on!  How can you possibly refuse me?  I am a highly desirable partner.  I dance better than you, I've danced for longer than you, I have more Tango connections - heck, I have a resumé of having taken classes with - actually you can even say I've 'worked with' over 50 world-famous Tango professionals! I can even speak Spanish! You are not young, tall, skinny or athletic and your looks are only average.  It is highly unlikely that any other Tanguero will ask you dance tonight.  Don't miss your chance!

Ms. Tango Lizzie: Dials 911.  The big burly nurses from the insane asylum from which Mr. Tango Collins had escaped a mere 24 hours ago arrive.  They chase down Mr. Tango Collins, put him in a straitjacket, and drag him away.

Mr. Tango Collins (kicking and screaming): I know your mom and dad and I know they want you to dance with me - I'm going to tell on you and then you won't be able to refuse next time I ask!

OK, OK - I was exaggerating just a little bit when I wrote out the dialogue above - but really, some big headed Tangueros out there are thinking some or all of the above when a Tanguera refuses them!  I think most people (well, most people except the big-headed Tangueros) would agree, you've got to put these "Can't take no for an answer" buggers in their place.  However, we've received word from Chris of the UK that some teachers and organizers in his local community have mandated that no-one who goes to their classes or attends their milongas can say "No" to anyone else!

When we read Chris's comment, we thought: Fragile Egos? Low Self-Esteem? Can't Handle Rejection much? Do they want to turn back time on women's (and men's) lib to 3500 B.C. so that the little teeny weeny baby-men won't cry at the milonga?

What the "No Banners" don't get is this:  Everyone should have the personal freedom and right to say "No" to Mr. Wrong AND sometimes, it is entirely appropriate to say "No" to Mr. Right!  Just ask Jane Austen again:

Mr. Darcy may be "Mr. Right", but sometimes to you have to "No" him too!

Not only is Mr. Darcy "Man Enough" to handle rejection - he becomes a better person for it.  Why else would 88% of the women in the world want to live happily ever after with someone exactly like Mr. Darcy?

The final tally is this:

1.  No to Mr. Collins:  Lizzie doesn't have to endure Mr. Collins triple enganche triple colgada combo, and doesn't even have to sit at the side of the milonga danceless the whole night.  Indeed, Lizzie finds a much better match and happiness forever after with Mr. Darcy.

2.  No to Mr. Darcy:  Mr. Darcy realizes what an ass he has been despite all his beautiful walk and giros - works harder on his musicality and embrace and becomes the perfect Tanguero.

3.  Yes to Mr. Collins:  Charlotte hastily accepts Mr. Collins after Lizzie rejects him.  Sure, she's got a dance partner for life - but she doesn't really want to dance with him, and spends all her time avoiding being even at the same milongas as him.  When she has to dance with Mr. Collins, he keeps on teaching her on the dance floor because he doesn't know how to lead and now, he will never have the incentive to ever learn.  AND, none of the good Tangueros in the milonga would never dance with Charlotte knowing that she is the partner of Mr. Collins - as he is just a little teeny weeny baby-man, he really might start to cry!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fountain of Youth

Recently, I had a chance to chat with one of my ex-colleagues. 

Objectively speaking, her life is pretty good.  She has been retired for over a decade - she had quite a bit of money to begin with, and only worked for fun anyway.  She has a close-knit family, a nice house, stylish clothes, no debt.  She goes on cruises several times a year.  She has good health and still looks great.  Most women would love to be in her shoes!

But hearing her talk, I was shocked.  She already thinks she is old. There's nothing more for her now for the long long years that lie ahead, other than being frugal with her nest egg and occasionally going on more [of the same] cruises with old friends and family.  In fact, she's fixated by the notion that pretty soon, she'd be too old to drive and so she's planning on moving back to Hong Kong where the public transit is better so she could still get around even with no car. 

"It will be a little bit lonelier if I move back, since all my family is here in Toronto - but it's cheaper to hire domestic help in Hong Kong and with a servant I will be able to live independently for longer," she said. 

"My goodness, Mrs. Y!" I said.  "You are not old at all, and you are already talking like your life is already over.  What about experiencing new things, meeting new people, finding love, laughter, adventure? You should living your life, and not planning for something that may happen three decades later.  You are only in your mid-fifties!"

I told Man Yung about my meeting with Mrs. Y and the chat we had.  He couldn't understand either why Mrs. Y was giving up so soon.  "Take a look at this!" he said, showing me his Facebook page.  A famous milonguera friend had just posted some new photos.  "She's the same age as your friend - but instead of preparing to die....she's preparing to be her daughter's bridesmaid!"

I took a look at the photos - and yes indeed, there was the lovely milonguera with her gorgeous smile (she is always smiling whenever we see her) wearing a sexy gown, looking just as radiant and youthful (if not more so) than the young girls of the bridal party standing next to her.

And it wasn't plastic surgery.  It was just the right attitude.

Does Tango make time stop?  From what we have observed in Buenos Aires, milongueros in their eighties and nineties are still sweet talking and hitting on ladies in their twenties and thirties.  Milongueras of a certain age are still wearing sky high stilettos and very unconservative attire (think decolletage and animal prints) all nights of the week.  And milonguero couples - well, many are still sweetly holding hands and giggling like love-sick teenagers. 

You may think that it's only the Porteños who act this way because of their culture - but no, we have plenty of "not at all old, in fact quite young" Tango dancers in Toronto too.  Tango works its magic no matter where you are. 

My plan for "old age" doesn't involve cruises or servants.  I intend to smile more, laugh more... and dance as much as possible.  Because when I am ninety-five, I would like to be sixteen - just like Carmencita Calderon:

Carmencita Calderon and Juan Averna at CITA 2000.  Look at her smile!  And those killer legs!

Carmencita Calderon and Juan Averna again - this time a milonga!  "Hey Irene, she moved faster and jumped higher than you, and you are less than half her age in this video!" said Man Yung unhelpfully.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Osvaldo and Coca - Homanaje a Mercedes Simone, April 14, 2012

The lovely Myriam Pincen just posted this video on Facebook - a riveting performance by Osvaldo and Coca at an event honouring the singer Mercedes Simone at Gricel on April 14, 2012:

Exhibición de los Campeones Mundiales de Tango Salón 2004, OSVALDO Y COCA, durante el Homenaje a la gran cancionista MERCEDES SIMONE. Evento realizando el sábado 14 de abril de 2012, en CLUB GRICEL (Buenos Aires). La pareja se luce bailando un hermoso tango cantado por Mercedes Simone. Con la presencia de Dorita R. Mariño, hija de la homenajeada cancionista y compositora.
(Rough translation: Exhibition of the World Champions of Tango Salon 2004, Osvaldo and Coca, during the homage of the great singer Mercedes Simone.  This event was held on April 14, 2012 in Club Gricel (Buenos Aires).  The shining couple are dancing a beautiful tango sung by Mercedes Simone, in the presence of Dorita R. Mariño, daughter of the homaged singer and composer.)

Osvaldo and Coca are always fabulous but this is even more wonderful than usual - because the tango is very hard to express in dance!  When the audience is clapping, they are applauding Osvaldo and Coca's musicality and interpretation of the music. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Old Things

We have an old TV that we have had since we first moved into our place... in 1999.

Every few years, improvements in technology produces a TV that gets more and more superior than our trusty, boxy old JVC - which was already several generations out of style when we got it.  First there were the "Projection" style TVs.  Then there were the Plasmas...then the LCDs , the OLEDs, the HDs, the UHDTVs, the 3Ds, the ABCDEFGs.... 

Every few years, we told ourselves, "We should get a new TV this year!"

But then the thought of throwing away our perfectly working set would stop us.  Are we not contributing to unnecessary waste?  Not to mention, you can't really even GIVE AWAY any of these babies nowadays because no one wants them.

We had to console ourselves: "OK, then... we'll wait until this TV dies - and then we'll get a spanking new one!"

We have been looking forward for years to our TV dying, until we stumbled upon this article yesterday:

"Can you believe it?  A lightbulb that has been working for 111 years?  A vacuum cleaner that has been working for 108?  A fridge still keeping food cold and fresh after 77 years?  And..." Man Yung looks at me in despair - "A TV that is still working after 75 years!!?!!!"
 HA, HA, HA, HA..... I will never DIE!  You'll die before I die! Don't even think of replacing me!

That ancient TV may be broadcasting only one channel - because that's all they had in Britain when the set was made - but it still works!

At this rate, it looks like we are going to have to watch our old TV FOREVER.  We won't ever be able to enjoy the newest 3D, HDTV, UHDTV, ABCDEFG experience - just because our TV was built to last.*  Boo hoo!

Maybe "New Tango" was onto something.  Sometimes we have to ruthlessly throw away the Old so that we can replace it with... Swanky New TVs!  What we really want isn't old-timey reliable good-times Tango - we want ever more NEWER and NEWER kinds Tango with lots of innovative acrobatic movements in all the fruity exploding neon with polka dots and zebra striped never-heard of before flavours.  Sometimes we may even want the excitement of mixing it up a little into monstrous hybrid creatures like Bungeeango, Ping-Pango, Craparango or Tachango just to keep our interest up - who wants the old "feeling, embrace and musicality" when they can get more bang for their buck?  Throw it away and bring on the new - bad for the environment, great for the economy!

"Do you think they would ever out-innovate themselves?" asked Man Yung with a sigh one night as we watched the young Nuevo couple do their Rockette kicks all over the dance floor of the popular weekend milonga.

I glanced at their intrusive, space-hogging, robotic dancing and their ugly pants (she looked like a Lululemon harem girl - he looked like he just took a crap in his flappy jeans) with disinterest. "Ah, but they are not even that innovative.  I swear that we've seen all these moves before - in Cosmotango 2004!  So passé.  Even Chicho has moved to something better when he realized that New Tango is Dead, or better off Dead.  It's so sad when young people persist in wasting their time like this!"

* Wait a moment - what the heck do we watch on our TV anyway?  It's either the news or inane little Hong Kong sit-coms.  Maybe we don't need a New TV with ABCDEFG technology after all!

** This is a secret!: Man Yung wanted to get a New TV all these years to watch better and better Adult Videos in 3D/HD-ABCDEFG technology!  But alas, we waited so long and Man Yung got so old, he just lost interest.  The moral of this story is: get your New TV when you are young, you should not dress with your shirt untucked with palazzo pants doing colgadas and volcadas when you are old and decrepid.  For sure!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Best Chocolate is the most Honest Chocolate

The Toronto Star recently hired a panel of expert chocolate tasters (in fact, a bunch of kids aged 3 to 14!) to rate several different brands of chocolate easter eggs.  Among the chocolate eggs tasted were ones by Laura Secord (a well-known Canadian brand with specialty stores in every shopping mall), Cadbury, Godiva and a "no-name" kind from a chain drug store.

The results of the tasting are here:

The winner was not the most gourmet egg (Godiva), nor were they eggs from the biggest manufacturer (Cadbury - which came in second).  Laura Secord's eggs came in dead last (one kid said the chocolate egg looked "scary").  The winner was the "no-name" brand!

Lots of people eat chocolate for reasons that have nothing to do with actually enjoying the experience of eating chocolate.  Some eat chocolate because they want a sugar rush. Some, to temporarily relax.  Some, because they are depressed and want to binge on something mindlessly sweet.  Some, as an aphrodisiac.  Others, because eating prestigious brands with "complex" tastes and aromas will give them instant "caché".

Is it surprising that the cheapest chocolate egg ends up being the kid's favourite?  Perhaps not.  The tasting panel of kids aren't eating chocolate to fulfill inner psychological voids or to look cool.  They want something sweet that tastes like chocolate.  Naturally, they went for the most chocolate-y chocolate egg - the solid chocolate, no frills "no-name" brand fits the bill. In fact, one of the girls explained that she liked to eat chocolate by itself and not with something else - because that "takes the flavour of chocolate away". 

Maybe it's because we are kind of naive like the kids, but we like our chocolate to be chocolate (and our Tango to be Tango) too!

Don't try to pull the wool over our eyes by giving us chocolate that is not chocolate (or Tango that is not Tango).  A short while back, we heard that Hershey's and other chocolate manufacturers in the U.S. are lobbying the FDA to allow non-chocolate ("chocolate" like food that contain additives that replace actual ingredients made from cocoa) be labeled as "chocolate".  And don't get us started on some of the "chocolate" ice cream you can buy at the grocery store by the 5-litre tubful.  No chocolate taste at all - just sugar and strange aftertaste (oh my gosh, like some Tango shows!).  No thanks!*

*Man Yung used to say he loves all things chocolate but NOT chocolate ice cream - that's because he had never had real chocolate ice cream before.  That's until we went to Berthillon in Paris!  We were able to duplicate the taste using real chocolate ingredients in our own ice cream maker (but making ice cream and eating it made us gain 20 pounds!)

We also don't want chocolate that has a nasty surprise inside.  Forest Gump might have liked his box of chocolates with all the different flavours, but we would like to avoid "gooey red fruit imitation substance (perhaps made up of ground up bugs)", "coconut explosion" or "unidentifiable crunchy shrapnel" as much as possible.  Which kind of sums up our recent experience at a Toronto milonga - good ambience, good music, nice dancing - but then they made us sit through a pathetic, cringe-worthy performance by a rank amateur that we would have rather not have sat through.  With no advance warning!  That's five minutes of my life that you have just KILLED.  The bloody buggers!

And a big "No!" to chocolate deception!  One of my biggest childhood traumas - my parents gave me a big chocolate easter egg one year - to be eaten only at Easter.  I was looking forward to that treat for two whole weeks...and when it came time to eat it, I was confronted with the horror of the fact that the egg was only a thin veneer of chocolate and not at all solid - AND I had to share that hollow shell with all my siblings (and my mom and dad wanted some too)!  It's kind of like looking forward for ages to dancing with a Tanguero who looks really sharp on the outside - and then discovering that his dance and embrace were completely devoid of any feeling or musicality, AND he makes you hop along to endless leaping spinning figures like you were auditioning for "Forever Tango".

Once, when Alberto and Paulina were visiting Toronto for the first time, they brought us some small gifts from Buenos Aires.  One of them was a pair of large "Hershey's kisses" from a specialty shop at the Gallerias Pacifico, tied up with a nice red ribbon.

Paulina might have said something when she was giving us and our Toronto milonguera friend the gifts - perhaps my Spanish wasn't good enough to understand 100% what she was saying.  In any case, we put the "chocolate" in the fridge and forgot about it for about six months...

One night we were in the mood for chocolate, and we took the "chocolate" out of the fridge.  Man Yung took a big bite - and started foaming and choking!  "This chocolate tastes rather strange," he said, chewing suspiciously.

I took a smaller bite and realized it had really no chocolate taste...because it was soap!  "Spit it out!  It's soap!" I told Man Yung immediately.

When we were in Buenos Aires the next time, we told Alberto and Paulina all about it and they had a big laugh (even though they were sorry about the confusion!).  Alberto gave us some real chocolate to make up for the misunderstanding - a bar of Lindt's that he got the last time he was at duty-free at the airport.  What a difference there is in taste between soap shaped like a chocolate, and actual chocolate!

It's pretty funny, huh?  Hey, we spat out the soap pretty quickly because we could tell it wasn't chocolate...but there are some dancers out there still chewing faithfully "soap" after dancing Tango for ten years, twenty years...

We are so lucky to be able to see and experience Tango from the masters.  Watching Alberto and Paulina, Martha and Manolo, Osvaldo and Coca and other milongueros dance firsthand, and not filtered or altered or doctored like they do on videos and touring shows to make it more marketable for the masses - "It's like tasting real chocolate for the first time, and letting it melt in your mouth with all the gorgeous delicious sweetness and flavour.  That's how wonderful it is," says Man Yung. 

Just let us have chocolate that is chocolate, and Tango that is Tango.  Is that so much to ask?

Happy Easter everyone!  And Happy Tango!

Juan Esquivel and his lovely partner Thomasina dancing to Osvaldo Pugliese's "Farol".  Look how they interpret the music - so simple and slow but with so much feeling.  That's not toffee, or cotton candy, or fruit gushers - that's REAL chocolate.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Regrets of the Milongueros

Came across this thought-provoking article today: Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse who had worked for over a decade with terminally ill patients, compiled a list of the top five regrets of the dying for her blog and book.

Here's the list from the article in the UK Guardian newpaper online (the full article is here):

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

Now, Bonnie's patients were just ordinary people.  What if they were Milongueros?  What would the Milongueros regret?

 Rivadavia Club

Would they regret dancing too much?  Would they regret all the time they spent trasnochando-ing at the milongas, night after night?

We haven't had the opportunity to interview any Milongueros on this topic, but the Milongueros who we know seem pretty happy with their lot.  Certainly, we can't imagine them with the regrets listed above. Dancing makes them happy, and so long they went to the milonga they always got to see their friends.  In fact, many Milongueros kept on going to the milongas even when they were dying and too ill to dance - they couldn't bear to be away a single minute, despite the pain they were in, and being at the milonga made them feel better.  As for expressing their feelings - they definitely did a lot of it through their dancing, and in any case, the Porteños are an explosively expressive lot as a whole even in their "normal" lives.

As for working too hard - Milongueros, by definition, don't!  Many of the dancers of the older generation didn't like to be called "Milongueros" because Milongueros were the ones without proper jobs, who hung out at the milongas day and night in defiance of any societal expectation.  Those who had to have jobs in order to eat and to support their families (and this is true of some of our tango teachers and friends) just gave up on sleep - they worked during the day, and then slept for two or three hours, and then snuck out to the milongas to dance until dawn...and then went straight back to work again.  We don't know how they did it, but talk about living life true to themselves!  They are Tango!

What would the Milongueros regret then?  Possibly the following:

1.  Wish that I could have danced MORE.
2.  Wish that I could have danced more by starting to dance EARLIER (Man Yung says this is one of his main regrets in Tango!)
3.  Wish that the political situation in Argentina was more conducive to dancing in the 50's, 60's and 70' I could have danced more.
4.  Wish that I could have spent more time and effort building a career and making money....nah, who am I kidding, I love to dance and I don't regret giving that up for dancing.
5.  Wish that I could have spent more time with family to develop a better relationship with my spouse and children...just joking, I would have died if I had to stay home night after night.
6.  Wish that I could live longer... so I could continue to dance.

The fact is, if 50% of the world's population turned into Milongueros overnight, society would come to screeching halt - the wheels of commerce would stop turning, families would be shattered to bits and there would be broken lives and broken hearts everywhere you turn.  Luckily for us "non-Milonguero" tango dabblers, we could strike a balance somewhere between "Enjoying Tango" and "Reckless lack of responsibility for the sake of Tango".

If anyone wants to learn how to Tango and wants to understand the Tango - the Milongueros, with all their faults, are the true experts.  What you don't want to do is to learn from are other Tango dilettantes who are using Tango to make a living with no real passion for the Tango.  A successful non-Porteño teacher once confided in us -

"I don't want to do this forever, you know.  If I could make enough money out of this (or if I could win the lottery) - I'll quit immediately and move to remote grassland plain in the prairies to raise cattle and horses*.  I wouldn't care if I never dance another step, or hear another Tango ever again!"

How could you expect to learn how to Tango from someone for whom Tango is an overwhelming regret?

* Man Yung would like to remind everyone that that Vasily Borodin (played by the actor Sam Neill), Ramius's first officer in the film "The Hunt for Red October", also wanted to move to the grasslands and raise cattle and sheep instead of being a submarine officer!  That was the reason he defected with Captain Ramius (played by Sean Connery) - unfortunately, he got shot by a Soviet agent and died before they could successfully defect.  Talk about regrets!

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