Sunday, May 27, 2012


 Yeah, sure....but I still don't want to dance with you.

The milonga can be quite an unfriendly place.  We learned about this quite soon in our tango path.

Under "normal", non-tango circumstances, if you meet some strangers (for example, in a class or a workshop), and then over the course of the next few weeks, you see them again and again (in this case, at the milonga), you would expect that you would nod at each other in recognition at the very least, and say hello?

Well, that's not the case in tango.  Countless times we'd stare incredulously at the backs of many tangueros/tangueras after they passed us on the way into the milonga without saying "hi".  WTF?  Some of these people had even been introduced to us on a previous occasions (say, in a class, or by our teachers) - and now here they were, staring past us as if we were completely invisible.  Or avoiding encountering us face to face by deliberately walking on the other side of the pista to get to their table.  The longer they had been dancing, the more unfriendly they were. The only people still saying hello and smiling at each other would inevitably all be newbies.  The "veterans" would be the ones ignoring you (as a newbie).

"Boy were some of them rude!" said Man Yung.  "And there was this one guy, a long time dancer - he got his car towed because he had parked in a no-parking zone outside the milonga.  When we heard about this, we volunteered to drive him to the impound lot.  He thanked us for driving him all the way there - but the next time we saw him at the milonga, he adamantly refused to make eye contact with us!  I was so mad, I vowed that the next time I saw him, I won't f***ing say hello either!"

We sure did a lot of head scratching those days at the chilly behavior of our fellow dancers.   We are happy to report, that things are a lot different now us - well, at the very least, people are saying hello! 

As for us, we try to be friendly to newbies.  Well, we say hello if we see some faces more than once.  Everybody in Toronto knows that Man Yung even makes a point of dancing with newbies and ladies who have been sitting on the sides for a long time without an opportunity to dance - he remembers fondly the lovely veteran tangueras who encouraged him to dance and who danced with him when he was new to tango.

I, however, am a lot more reserved.

"Why aren't you more friendly?" Man Yung asks me every six months or so.  "Sometimes I see that people are trying to say hello to you, but you are not looking in their direction!  What's up with that?"

"Well, I'm not that bad!  I DO say hi! (except to people I really dislike).  I just react slowly.  Sometimes by the time I say hello and already you've moved on to greet someone else," I said.  "I don't consider myself unfriendly - certainly not in the way that we were treated by tango "vets" in our tango infancy - BUT...."

"But what?"

"There are some circumstances in which I SIMPLY CANNOT BE FRIENDLY."

I actually understand why veteran dancers can be such snobs.

Too many dancers, newbies and otherwise, think that friendliness is an open invitation to dance.  You're my friend, right?  Dance with me!

That's ok if you want to dance.  Man Yung is ok with that - he'd dance with any tanguera who wants to dance with him, and he could dance every tanda all night. 

But what if you don't want to dance? 

I had a conversation with a particularly lovely tanguera recently.  Young, beautiful, always clad in the most stunning dresses - she is absolutely irresistible to the tangueros.

Unfortunately, she hasn't learned yet the Power of No.

"Why haven't I seen you take to the dance floor more often?" I asked her.  "Sometimes you go for weeks - months without dancing!"

She sighed.  "Sometimes I just don't feel like dancing.  Coming to the milonga from work - I'm sometimes just too tired.  Today, however, I didn't have to work and I have a lot more energy!"  She smiled, but then a cloud quickly shadowed her face. She lowered her voice.  "And sometimes, I just don't want to dance because it hurts me to dance with some of the guys here!  Back pain, arm pain, hand pain - I tell them to adjust their posture and they try to comply - but it's still no good!  And I'm in pain for days afterwards!"*

* This is not only a phenomenon experienced by tangueras - tangueros can also get hurt by dancing with tangueras who are twisting around too enthusiastically, or who are simply way too heavy.  Sometimes a tanguero can cope with difficult dance partners with experience, skill, or brute strength - but what if you have none, or insufficient amounts of the above? Shouldn't a leader also have the right to say "no" to bodily injury?

"I totally understand - there are some pretty bad leaders out there."

"And there's more - some tangueros just make me feel so uncomfortable.  You know _____?"

"________?  Who's that?  Wait a moment.... Oh my god, ______!!!!" A notorious sleazebag. I make the face of total disgust.

"Yes, __________!!!!  When I dance with him, he stares at my chest the entire tanda!"

"You've got to be ruthless," I said.  "Like, sometimes Man Yung puts me in difficult situations.  When he asks a tanguera to dance and that tanguera has attended with her boyfriend or husband, sometimes that boyfriend or husband just expects that I will dance with him to return the favour.  In the beginning, just to be nice, I would go along - but now, no way.  Because it is a pain.  Well, not quite the physical pain you described - but a different kind of pain, the 'Hey you just killed 15 minutes of my life' kind of pain. We dance tango for our enjoyment, we shouldn't have to suffer.  Remember, you can always say no."

She made an unsmiley face.  "But it's impossible to say no.  They are kind of my friends.  The only way I could get out of it is not to come to the milonga."

Due to her incredible loveliness, guys were always hanging around her like flies around honey, trying to talk to her - to be her "friend", so to speak.  And she felt obligated to dance with all of them.  It was not a happy situation.

In the milonga, friendliness can sometimes be misinterpreted as a willingness to dance by the inexperienced - or worse, be manipulated by shady tangueros/tangueros for their nefarious ends.  Last year, I made eye contact with a tanguero and said hello on the way to our table upon entering into a milonga - the next thing I knew, the tanguero had made a bee-line for me all the way across the dance floor to badger me for a dance.  He was so persistent I almost had to threaten to tear him from limb to limb before he backed off (yes, I can be fiesty).  A tanguera we knew became "friends" with another tanguero - and that tanguero not only used that friendship to get dances with her, he started to harass her and ask her out - even though he was married and his wife also danced tango.  And it wasn't just this guy - another guy did exactly the same thing to her half a year later!

Despite this, it would still be nice to see the milonga become a more friendly, welcoming place for beginners - we don't want to be monstrous snobs and have all sense of politeness and social courtesy disappear just because we don't want a dance!  If you keep on running into the same people, it is considered polite to say hello to them!

...But first, there has to be more education on the cabeceo, from the ground up, from the time we step into our first tango class - and more encouragement for all tango dancers to use it.   And "No" has to be respected for what it is.

No to painful dances, painful embraces.

No to dances we don't want right now - no to dances we never want, ever.

No to dances even if you are my friend - don't take it personally please.

No to harassment and manipulation.

Then, hopefully, we will have friendly dancers who are not afraid to go to the milonga.  That's the real way to build a tango community.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hong Kong Filibusters 2: "Middle Finger" Debate

In Cantonese, the word sounds for “to stop; to conclude” – Zhong Zhi – sounds exactly like the words for “Middle Finger”.

In a nutshell: Corrupt Chinese Communist officials stopped the debate.   The filibuster referred to in our previous post has ended. 

And in return, we would like to give a “Middle Finger” to the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China, and all their loyal “dog” supporters.  


A lot has happened in the Hong Kong legislature since our last post less than a week ago

Our People’s Power hero Wong Yuk Man had just had cataract surgery within the past couple of weeks.  The stress of continuing with the filibuster had adversely affected his eye condition.  His doctor warned him he could not continue like this – he could lose his eyesight.

The Pro-Beijingist legislative councilors were rubbing their little plump hands in glee at the news. They plotted another tactic (because turning up at the legislature for the meetings to make quorum was just killing them).  We will request that the legislative meeting be held round the clock, 24 hours a day – there’s only three of them (Wong Yuk Man and Albert Chan of People’s Power, Leung Kwok Hung of the League of Social Democrats) with Wong Yuk Man driving the engine of the filibuster.  They won’t be able to continue indefinitely without rest since Wong Yuk Man is sick – we have to take advantage of that!  Let’s make our arch-enemy Wong Yuk Man go blind! 

Luckily, another independent councilor Cheng Ka-fu decided to join the filibuster.  The filibuster on Wednesday recommenced at 11 a.m. without Wong Yuk Man but kept going on strong.  After resting during the day, Wong Yuk Man joined the filibuster late at night, boosting the morale.

The spirits of the Pro-Beijingist councilors, trapped inside the legislative hall (Oh god, I’m so tired!  Oh god, I’m so bored!!!!) flagged.  They made mockery of the legislative process, openly practicing their calligraphy, sleeping, watching movies on their computers, etc. etc. – activities normally chastised by the Legislative President Tsang Yok-Sing.  Since Tsang Yok-Sing is a Pro-Beijingist and a Communist Party Member to boot, he did nothing to curtail this flagrant disregard of legislative process.

Meanwhile, outside the legislature, supporters of the filibuster gathered in a peaceful demonstration.  The Pro-Beijingist faction, wanting to cause trouble, hired busloads of “anti-filibuster” supporters to turn up at the site.  They tried to get the peaceful pro-filibuster protesters to cross the line by hurling insults and throwing water bottles at them, but got arrested for assault instead.  Oh, excuse me - what anti-filibuster supporters?  What a joke.  Many were actually triad members, paid $300.00 HKD an hour (including meals, drink and transportation!  Wow, good deal!) to cause trouble.

The filibuster continued inside.  The Pro-Beijingists were like, completely dying after midnight.  Around 3:30 a.m., Leung Kwok Hung demanded a head count – the Pro-Beijingists were ONCE AGAIN failing to meet quorum (like, not returning back after sneaking off to the washroom).  Legislative President Tsang Yok-Sing called a recess around 4 a.m.

In truth, Tsang Yok-Sing wanted to seize this opportunity.  He was up to no good.

Beijing had already pressured – no, ORDERED Tsang Yok-Sing to stop this filibuster, no matter what it took.  Beijing realized that it was a battle that the Pro-Beijingists couldn’t win, because the lazy, flaccid bums with no stamina and no endurance simply couldn’t last, even if they didn’t have to do anything except show up and twiddle their thumbs.  And in any case, the Pro-Beijingists had no spirit of righteousness to spur them on - they were just following Beijing's orders and looking out for their personal interests to the detriment of the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.  And then, there were rumors that more and more of the initially cautious/scared independent councilors were rallying in support of the filibuster.  It was bad enough dealing with three councilors – what if that number became five, or ten?  The filibuster will go on forever, and Beijing would lose face. 

Unaware that spectators in the top balcony were filming him during the recess, Tsang Yok-Sing took the command he received from Beijing and got one of the pages to take it from his secretary Pauline and deliver it to one of the Pro-Beijingist councilors in the front row – the guy in the pink sweater.  The camera's microphone picked up on what they hissed at each other “Wait until everyone comes back and we will make our move on them!” the Pro-Beijingists said. 

Anti-Legislative fairness/Anti-free speech shenanigans of the Pro-Beijingists at the Hong Kong Legislature, caught on film

Everyone came back in after the break.  Mr. Pink Sweater immediately got up, and read from the paper passed secretly to him from Tsang Yok-Sing, pretending that he was unilaterally making a motion in the council, when in fact he was acting in cohorts with Tsang Yok-Sing and the power of Beijing behind them.  “Blah, blah, blah, the filibuster group is so repetitive, they had to be stopped 75 times because they repeated or got off topic [cites a list of other statistics that no way he could have come up with just by himself], this can’t go on forever, blah blah, I move for the Legislative President to stop this at once!”

And Legislative President Tsang Yok-Sing pretended to think really hard for a second, and then said: Okey-dokey, no problem!


The filibuster was stomped on by the Legislative President Tsang Yok-Sing, who was not authorized under any rule or precedent of the Legislature and in effect had no authorized power to do what he did. He did it because Beijing made him do it – he has been tough but fair so far at his post, but as Wong Yuk Man says, Tsang Yok-Sing is like a widow who has guarded her virtue all her life, only to throw all respectability away at the last moment by being seduced by some bloke!*

* To clarify, this is a chinese traditional cultural reference.  Widows were revered in Chinese Culture for keeping their virtue - they can still remarry and be considered virtuous, but were scorned if they allowed themselves to be seduced and cheated by some Fabio who wandered into the village.  In ancient China, it was better for a woman to be a prostitute who turned away from her profession and became respectful by marrying than a widow who ran off with Fabio.

Beijing looked like they won the battle… but in fact, they lost.  They can't win fair and square, so they had to resort to dirty, underhanded tactics and brute force to win – and it was exposed to the world. 

Before the handover of the former British colony to China, Beijing promised that for fifty years, it would be “One country, two systems” – and that all of the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents will be preserved.

It’s all, of course, a big fat lie.  First they halt democratic reform – then they attack the right of peaceful assembly.  Now they are messing with the rights of councilors to free debate in the Legislative council.  Next in line of fire is all freedom of speech. 

Here on our blog, we always tell it how it is.  Very soon in Hong Kong, you won’t be able to.  The white terror begins.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hong Kong Filibusters: Wong Yuk-Man and Albert Chan of People's Power

Man Yung could dance for hours and hours non-stop if the music is good and there are still ladies willing to keep dancing with him.  In fact, he has said that it would be easy to kill him that way.  "Just put me in a dance hall with no windows, no clocks, great tandas and an endless supply of milongueras - I would dance and dance until I've lost all track of time.  I wouldn't stop dancing!  I wouldn't know that I have reached my limit - and I'll fall down dead, quite possibly the best way to die ever!"

Now, it's one thing to dance tango for hours and hours for your own pleasure at the risk of your health - it's quite another thing to make a speech for hours and hours at the risk of your health at the legislative council in order to block the passing of a tyrannical and anti-democratic bill.

That is what Wong Yuk-Man and Albert Chan of the People's Power party are doing in Hong Kong right this moment.  They have currently introduced 1306 amendments to such a bill - and started on their arduous filibuster in the Hong Kong legislature in order to prevent the passing of such a bill, and other bills lined up by the pro-Beijing legislature in the near future that would have the effect of limiting democracy, limiting freedom of speech and limiting freedom of the internet among other repressive measures. 

Two men (and one more, if you include Leung Kwok-Hung of the League of Social Democrats) against thirty-seven pro-Beijing (many hand picked by the government instead of democratically elected - those who were allegedly "democratically elected" had most of their votes bought or influenced by Beijing, part of the seeping corruption into Hong Kong that is part of the great Chinese Fairy Tale) legislative council members.  The People's Power have brought all their supporting texts - enough to fill a small mobile library - and thousands of hours of preparation to the battle.  All the pro-Beijingists have to do is show up and sit.  They don't even have to talk.  And yet several times since this filibuster started one week ago, they had to cancel the session because not enough of the pro-Beijingists showed up to meet quorum.

Oh what hardship!  Many of these farcical pro-Beijingists don't really show up more than two or three times a year to the legislative council meetings, and now Beijing has put its foot down and mandated that they must show up.  Beijing even drew up a schedule so that there would be sufficient numbers at every given time to meet quorum.  And yet the pro-Beijingists are wilting in the legislative assembly, many escape at every possible opportunity by sneaking out. Those who stay are caught reading the horse racing papers, putting on makeup, picking their nose, playing on their smartphones or even falling asleep.  Leung Kwok-Hung had to stop the meetings at one point.  "Is Mr. Wong Ting-Gong asleep, or is his life in danger?"  The pro-Beijingist was slumped motionless in his chair.  Someone get a doctor, it might be a medical emergency!  Oh, whoops, mistake - he woke up, snorting suddenly in the middle of a snore.  He was just taking a nap.

The pro-Beijingists are clowns and buffoons, but that doesn't mean the battle is any easier.  Wong Yuk-Man and Albert Chan take turns, but they are on their feet and speaking for hours - over ten hours a day (unless the session gets cancelled for lack of quorum).  They speak until their eyes are bleary, their voices hoarse.  They speak until they pass the limits of human endurance.

Two men against all the forces of darkness.  What keeps them going?  Their burning ideals, their hope for a better future for the people of Hong Kong.  They are fighting against Fear and Repression for the right to Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights.  Wong Yuk-Man and Albert Chan - you are Heroes!  We support you!

Report from Apple Newspaper about the People's Power filibuster

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The marvelous Marta Fama at "La Gorra de Rodriguez", Thursday, October 12, 2011

A Toronto Milonguero came up to me last week to complain.

"You used to have so many videos of the fabulous milongueras of Buenos Aires - how come you haven't put any more on your blog lately?  You guys are going blah blah blah on your blog non-stop every week and it takes too much time and energy to read your long-winded time-wasting posts at work.  When I want to take a break at work, I want to be entertained. I want to watch more videos of dancing!"**

** We took a little bit of artistic liberty there - he didn't really say that!  He does want to watch more videos of the milongueras though - who doesn't?

The truth is, it takes more effort to upload videos on Youtube than it does to write about Pride and Prejudice and Tango.  Yes, we are lazy!  But this week, we will show you a video from our last trip that we haven't gotten around to uploading yet:  Man Yung (the luckiest Tanguero in the world) dancing with Marta Fama at her practica "La Gorra de Rodriguez" at Salon Rodriguez last October!

Marta Fama dancing a Biagi tango at the end of the evening with Man Yung at Salon Rodriguez - Man Yung, better behave yourself because Osvaldo and Coca are watching!

Although we didn't get to know the famous Maestra Marta Fama better until our trip in October, we have seen her at the milongas (I believe she was one of the guests performing at Glorias Argentinas the first time we went there on our first night in Buenos Aires back in 2007!) and also her ads in the magazines.  Last April, we also had the opportunity to watch her perform with Carlos Tedeschi at Glorias Argentinas - and we heard that Marta and Carlos had joined the Milonguisimo performance group of milongueros as well for a while.

Having Osvaldo and Coca as our teachers is great - they introduced us to Marta Fama at Glorias Argentinas, and Man Yung got a chance to dance with her the very first time.  Of course, it was like heaven!  Last October, when we met again at J. L. Milonga at La Nacional, Man Yung got to dance with Marta again for no less than three tandas. Yippee!

Like our friend the Toronto Milonguero, we find the Milongueras of Buenos Aires mesmerizing.  Let's just mention some names of the ones we know (and with whom Man Yung had the great fortune of dancing with):  Elba, Adela, Myriam, Susy, Haydee, Paulina, Coca, Elena...they are just astounding, living, walking, breathing, incarnations of Tango.    And as one of the greats, Marta Fama shares with them the following traits:

1.  Confidence;
2.  Joyfulness;
3.  Warm, human embraces;
4.  Never goes faster than the leader;
5.  Musicality from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes;
6.  Clean footwork;
7.  Elegance;
8.  The dance of each of the Milongueras is distinctive and full of personality.  Some may do many adornments, some may be more subtle - but you would never confuse one of these great Milongueras with another, because they are all so wonderfully unique in their styles of dancing.

Marta Fama teaches a very well-attended class before her practica at Salon Rodriguez - and the practica itself is great value for money.  There's a bar with food and drink, a smooth tile floor that is great for dancing - and it cost only 10 pesos (last October) for the entrada.  On the night we went, we were surprised to see both El Chino and Blas Catrenau at the practica with their buddies.***

*** If they knew that they had to watch Irene and Man Yung perform that night maybe they would have gone somewhere else for the sake of their health.  Hee!  But that is a story we are going to leave for a little later!

Here's another video of Marta Fama dancing at her practica - this time with our friend Roberto Segarra, courtesy of the TrickMc1 Youtube channel:

Martha Fama's blissful smile is not only on her beautiful face, it is in every step that she takes.  Watching her, you know there can be nothing more lovely in this moment of now, than dancing tango with someone who shares the same passion. ****

**** "You can definitely learn something by watching Marta Fama dancing!" said Man Yung.  "The way she follows, she treats her partner like he is the best dancer on earth!  It proves that to be a great follower, you have to follow your leader like he is Chairman Mao!"

"Come on, Man Yung!  I really doubt that Marta Fama is thinking about Chairman Mao when she is dancing.  In fact, I think your 'visualization' idea is sure to backfire.  When I think about Chairman Mao, I think 1) Puke!  The guy never brushed his teeth; 2) Corrupt Chinese Officials, and 3) I think about killing someone! Can't I think about something else?  Like Alain Delon?  Or Mr. Darcy?  Or even George Clooney?  I'll follow those guys to the ends of the earth!"

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