Thursday, October 25, 2012

We continue to talk (ad naseum) and post videos about our "Big Night" at Salon Canning

...and why not?  It may not mean anything for people who don't dance Tango, like, all of our immediate and extended family, all our friends outside of Tango, all our work colleagues, our car mechanic or our grocer etc. - but surely an opportunity to perform in Salon Canning should be nothing to sniff at and quite possibly something to write home about?

Wait a moment - to think about it, it doesn't really mean anything for quite a few people who dance Tango either - if they are dancing in Toronto, that is!

Despite the overwhelming odds against anyone even having the remotest interest in what we were up to in Salon Canning, we will nonetheless keep on divulging more and more details here on this site, where we write for our own delight and to annoy the one, two or maybe as much as three people around the world who may have landed on our blog by searching for the "Mr. Men" or "Naked Richard Hatch" on Google:


We had made a whole long list of music that Man Yung would have enjoyed performing to, or music that we thought that may "WOW" the audience as contenders for what we would dance to on the "Night of the Salon Canning Extravaganza". 

Then we realized that Martha and Manolo AND Osvaldo and Coca had confirmed that they will be there at Salon Canning to watch us perform.  That meant we had to pick something that meant something to both sets of Maestros - if we picked music that meant something to one set of Maestros and not the other set someone will be ANGRY! 

"How about 'El Adios' as our choice for Tango?" we said to each other.  Yes, we have performed to this twice already in Buenos Aires but it is a winner because both Martha and Manolo and Osvaldo and Coca have performed to it too.

"How about 'El Cicatriz' as the milonga?"  We have seen Manolo perform to it before in the Bridge to the Tango video and we know that he must have danced to this with Martha too.  However, when Osvaldo asked us about our musical selection, he disagreed with the choice (perhaps because he hasn't performed to it).  "You should pick something slower!" he said.  Thinking about the 'El Adios' theory above, I immediately thought of an alternative - "How about 'Ella es asi?'"

Since both Martha and Manolo and Osvaldo and Coca perform to this regularly, it got ok from everyone!

As for Canyengue - I chose it all by my lonesome. 'Paja Brava' is nice and slow.  I am old and decrepid and my knees will give way if I try to dance Canyengue any faster.*

* And that's why Man Yung keeps on saying, "Irene, are you for real or are you imitating prima donna FIFA football players and diving whenever we are dancing Canyengue?  It's time for me to get a partner with sturdier knees!"


I felt woefully inadequate in the costume department as I had nothing that screamed "TANGO"! - I do not own a single item of clothing that had sequins, feathers or fishnets (or all of the above).  As a compromise, I brought along a black skirt that was 'kind-of' see-through and a fancy red top - as everyone knows, the official colours of "TANGO"! are black and red and maybe people will forgive the fact that I am not wearing a glittering skin tight dress plunging to my wrinkly middle-aged navel and slit right up to reveal my supersized granny panties.

Right before setting out for Salon Canning, I realized that I had never danced in my fancy red top before and therefore had never ascertained whether the top would be susceptible to 'wardrobe malfunction'.

"Better to be safe than sorry - it is monstrous enough having to perform in public at the most important Tango venue in Buenos Aires.  The last thing I want to do is to flash someone!"  And I threw on a black yoga top from Lululemon.

As for Man Yung - he wore a navy jacket from Tilley Endurables with pants that are a different colour.  Why?  Because the pants that match didn't fit on him after a couple of tubs of Freddo's ice cream and several nights of beer, wine, torta ricota and asado.  And want to know something else?  The pockets of his Tilley jacket are sealed with VELCRO.*  Yes folks, exciting!  In a "Nuevo Tango", "Hey, I haven't encountered that before" kind of way!

* So that I won't pickpocket him while he is lost in the throes of Canyengue Passion.

Fifteen minutes before the performance, one of the organizers of Parakultural gleefully announced to us that washrooms have been cleared of people - "You can go ahead and change into your costumes now!"

We look at him blankly for a second.  "Oh yes - thank you so much - we have already changed!"

I wonder if he was in any way disappointed at our reply?


None!  Everything was entirely improvised!

We wouldn't know how to do choreography even if you tied little strings on our arms and legs and manipulated our limbs from a giant overhead crane like we were puppets.  We were only taught to dance one way - that is, completely without any planning!* ** ***

*  Manolo's advice to us - and he said it three times on three separate occasions: "JUST DANCE WHAT YOU KNOW". 

** We said to Osvaldo and Coca a couple of days before the performance, "What should we do?  It's like we aren't even prepared!  Shouldn't we rehearse or something?"  Osvaldo's reply:  "Nene, don't be ridiculous!  We never rehearse ourselves - we just go ahead!  You'll be just fine dancing like you usually do!"

*** Manolo and Osvaldo must understand us very well - we would make right fools of ourselves if we did some choreography.

In fact, we danced just like we would in a milonga - therefore the dorky, follow the line of dance dancing and decided lack of leaping, kicking**** and spinning with enough centrifugal force to separate curds from whey.

**** Except for that high kicking thing I did during the Canyengue.  "Wow, you freaked me out when your leg shot up that high!" said Man Yung afterwards. "You never do stuff like that in the milonga!" I responded: "I had to do it - Martha taught me that especially for Canyengue and if I didn't do it, she would say I wasn't doing any adornments. Once I got it out of the way I was home free!"

"No wonder no-one in Toronto is interested!" said Man Yung.  "They have seen it all before and our kind of dancing must be completely and utterly boring to them by now.  I think they would much rather see a Tango performance that would have us jumping through flaming hoops, escaping from a locked and chained underwater chamber while in straitjackets, or even being shot from a cannon. We have let Toronto Tango down once again!"*****

***** Conversely, are we giving hope to those Tangueros and Tangueras out there who are purely interested in dancing social Tango?  You, too can perform at Salon Canning without spending months devising or rehearsing choreography!  Because, you know, sometimes people don't want to see fireworks or bizarre high concept performance art or even Cirque du Soleil tricks.  They just want to see you dance Tango.


We have written before how much our Tango Hero Daniel Lapadula's instructional DVD, "Tango Estilo del Centro" had aided us along in our Tango journey, way back when in our Tango infancy in 2005.  You can read about it here in our post "Daniel Lapadula and the Thirty-Sixth Chamber of the Shaolin Temple" (Yes, please read - it is just as exciting as it sounds!)

The strange thing is, while we have bumped into every possible person we would want to bump into during our eight trips to Buenos Aires - we have never had the opportunity to bump into Daniel.  Guess who was at the door of Salon Canning when we arrived?

It was Daniel!

"Daniel! Daniel! Look, it is Daniel!" I said to Man Yung.

He is very tall!  We didn't realize that until we met him in person.

We even took photos!

 We are excited finally to meet our Tango Hero Daniel Lapadula!  At Salon Canning!

Daniel actually remembers us and our emails to him eons ago.  Yippee! 

Now that the little chinese people had stopped jumping around him in glee, Daniel had to explain to the people at his table how come we were so excited to see him (Because of his DVD! We learned our basics from his DVD!) 

We think Daniel was originally planning to leave before our performance but he stuck around just to see us.  Before we went on, he even came around to wish us "Mucha mierda" (Lots of crap) - which is the Argentinian way of saying "Good luck, break a leg"!

Because of the filming angle of our camera, we caught Daniel's reaction to our performance throughout most of the video.  We think he was kind of anxious at the beginning... What if these little chinese people who claim to have learned from his DVD suck?  That wouldn't reflect in a positive way on the methods of 'Tango Estilo del Centro', right?

...Luckily, we did fine and even got some applause!  "Look, Daniel is smiling!" we said when we looked at the video.

As we said before - Daniel's methods work!  And here we are seven years later performing at Salon Canning! (Well, we had a lot of help from Martha and Manolo and Osvaldo and Coca and Alberto and Paulina too!)

Dear Daniel:  Thanks for your DVD - it helped us a lot when we most needed help as Tango beginners!  Thanks for sticking around and watching our performance and for caring!  Un abrazo muy muy grande!


When the gracious host and organizer of Parakultural Omar Viola introduced us, he let Martha and Manolo talk about us.

"Irene and Man Yung are our dearest friends of the soul," Martha said.  Martha and Manolo always introduce us to the people they know by talking about our history - our classes with them in Toronto 2006, where we met them for the first time... how we came to Buenos Aires for the first time, only because of them, to learn from them again and participate in their Camicando Festival... how we return every year and how we honour and respect them as our teachers and beloved friends and we have been welcomed into their Tango family. Martha continued: "When I heard that they were coming to Buenos Aires, because they dance well, we thought of arranging for the opportunity of an exhibition at Salon Canning...."

Osvaldo spoke up.  "Hey!  Don't forget, they are MY students!"

"Is there going to be a fight between the Maestros (over these little chinese people)?" said Omar Viola.

Manolo took the mike and reassured everyone that there will not be a fight - they are all friends and they are all there to support us!*  And don't worry, Osvaldo was only joking!

* We are lucky - imagine if there was a fight between the Maestros to disown us, because we dance and behave so badly they would rather not be known as our teachers?:  "Osvaldo, you simply must take them!" "Please, Manolo, no need for courtesy - you can call them all your own, I don't want anything to do with them!"


Ta da! Here we are, dancing Canyengue, Tango and Milonga.  Avert your eyes, if necessary:

Canyengue - "Paja Brava" by Orquesta Tipica Victor

Tango - "El Adios" by Edgardo Donato

Milonga - "Ella es asi" by Edgardo Donato


They didn't mind that we danced JUST WHAT WE KNEW!

They applauded at our interpretation of the music!  That means that they clapped when our movements were expressive of the music (and not just politely at the end) - instead of during places where we spun particularly fast or kicked particularly high.  Nope, you won't find any of those moments in our performance, too bad - but you will find lots of Tango performers incorporating these hijinks willy-nilly into their exhibitions regardless of the music just to get applause.  Not us!

Lots of people came to congratulate us.  One Porteño gentleman had actually seen us before at Glorias Argentinas and Pinar de Rocha - and he was very pleased again at our performance.  

"You guys did good!  Congratulations!  I even had a tear in my eye!" he said.  We have a hard time imagining him tearing up in emotion - he is a big strong guy with a big grin and looks like he could wrestle anybody and win with both hands tied behind his back.  He winked.  "Look now, I don't have a tear in my eye for just anybody!*  Good job!"

* Or maybe he was crying because we danced really horribly?   Something to ponder!

But the most important thing was this:  Our friends and teachers were proud of us.

We are with our teachers Martha and Manolo and Osvaldo and Coca, and our wonderful friends Ruben and Elena at Salon Canning.  Thank you so much for all your advice, support and love all through the years, and for driving so far through the storm and the rain to see us perform!  
Los queremos mucho!

So, after an opportunity and success such as this, you'd think we would just leverage this into a profitable Tango career by adding it to our Tango resumé and making it truly impressive!

It is too bad... we don't want to teach or become Tango professionals.  We are quite content sticking with just dancing.  In fact, we neglect to mention to everyone we met that "We have performed in Salon Canning" (Exclamation mark!)

We were sitting at La Nacional with some very nice people we just met in some of Martha and Manolo and Osvaldo and Coca's classes just the other day.  They were reading some Tango magazines they just picked up at the door.

They turned to us suddenly.  "Hey - your photos are in the magazine!  Wait a moment...what does it say?  It says that you performed in Salon Canning?!?" 

We look at them in surprise.  They show us the photo of us in Punto Tango's October edition.  We were on the list of the scheduled performances that month.

"And not just Salon Canning - it's Parakultural!" They look like they are in awe.

They were so nice, they gave us a copy of the magazine (we didn't know we were in it so we didn't grab a copy) asked us to autograph the copy of the magazine that they are keeping.

I hesitated.  "Are you sure you want me to spoil your lovely, clean magazine by writing all over it?"

So much for stardom!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How to belong in Buenos Aires

 La Milonga del Moran

Since we started writing our blog, many of our Tango friends and acquaintances have reacted in fear over some of the stuff we have written.

“Are you sure you want to say that?  Aren’t you afraid of offending Mr/Ms X?” they whisper perilously, with their hair standing on end and with eyes wide open as big as saucers.

Some have even told us that as much as they “like” us as people, they can’t comment on our blog or link to us from their own websites/blogs or even acknowledge that they read our blog for fear of “Well, you know, I’m a tango teacher/organizer/professional and you don’t want me to get into trouble for being associated with you with your rather brave remarks! Ha ha ha (fearful embarrassed laughter) etc.”  In fact, one particular lady used to sit with us and bug us incessantly with her malicious backstabbing gossip (hoping that we would write humorously about the targets of her hatred, in fact) but only at certain milongas or on the phone.  At other places where she needed to maintain a certain “image”, she would pretend not to know us and not even say hello because, “Well, you know....”

Yes, indeed, we know - you are too chicken, and heya!  You aren’t much of a friend.

Of course, secretly, these folks are overjoyed when we deride the latest arrogant Tango Fabio who has descended into town, or the inconsiderate jerk who keeps flinging his partner into everybody’s shins.  And to tell the truth, do we regret writing what we have written? 

We don’t regret it at all!

We have never set out to be Tango teachers/organizers/professionals etc.  We aren’t even that interested in dancing with any body other than each other.  We don’t really NEED anyone to approve of what we say, or what we are, since we aren’t pining for people to ask us to dance, or to come to our classes or our milonga or to like the music we play.  Or even to read our blog, which must be by now the LEAST read blog in the Tangoblogaverse.  Our moms have raised us to “Tell it like it is,” and we do.  If you don’t like it, too bad, because we don’t care!

And you know what?  Tango needs more people to tell the truth.  The idiot with no sense of personal space who is completely oblivious to the people he is bumping into on the dance floor?  The road rager who tailgates the couple in front even though there are only two couples dancing?  The guy who stages his own Calle Florida high kicking spectacular in the middle of a crowded milonga?  Well, we are happy to report that they are all dancing a lot more considerately now.  Not only are they dancing better and getting more dances, there is less of a chance that other, perhaps new dancers are emulating their bad behavior thinking that that is acceptable in a milonga.  The level of dancing and the pleasure that milonga attendees have in attending the milonga can only increase.  Think about the reverse situation - no one saying anything, inconsiderate behavior being the rule rather than the exception, the milonga pista descending into a free-for-all, everyone-for-himself/herself mess....that’s one sure way to Tango Hell.

This is the eighth time that we have traveled to Buenos Aires, and we are happy that we have made wonderful, enduring friendships with Porteño milongueros and milongueras, and have become closer every year to our beloved Porteño teachers and mentors.   Some people back in Toronto have commented on how lucky we are to be close to so many people in Buenos Aires - and yes, having the chance to meet Martha and Manolo, Osvaldo and Coca, Alberto and Paulina and all the other lovely, magnificent people of tango was sometimes about luck and timing.  However, to become part of their Tango family - to see the sheer joy in their eyes whenever you return to the city, to be embraced by them in crushing embraces which lets you know they never want to let you go, to be missed and talked about fondly when you leave ... That is nothing to do with luck.  We can tell also you that it has nothing to do with strict compliance with certain expert advice you may find on the internet about “codigos” - you know, all that nagging about where you should change your shoes, etc.  - either.  As Elba Biscay once said to us, "Go ahead and change your shoes under the table - remember, just your shoes, and not your underwear!"

Now, we have to talk about something “fea” (ugly) - as an example of what not to do.  There is one lady (not going to say who, you will have to guess) who thinks she is getting it right, but in fact, is getting it all wrong when it comes to endearing herself to the dancers here in Buenos Aires.  Famous for causing disturbances back in Toronto milongas (she has since toned down - yes, we wrote something about it), she was kind of famous for this in Buenos Aires as well, to the point where our Porteño friends would ask us nervously whether we knew her, since she was from Toronto - and they’d be completely relieved when we said no. 

We heard with our own ears back in Toronto all her boasting.  “I know _________ and _____________ really well and I treated them to dinner at MY fabulous apartment and I'm going to invite ______________ and _______________ to dinner as well and they will come because I'm like real chums with them and I am so generous and you know what, I spent $__________ on classes with ________________ and _______________ and I bought _________________ CDs and DVDs from them as well and spent $________________!!!!”  It was like she was the second coming of The Messiah with her money and how she was lavishly treating the poor third world Porteño teachers/milongueros with her first world money and largesse.  Her attitude was abhorrent - we couldn’t even believe our ears when we heard her boasting and she even pronounced some of the names of the teachers she was mentioning wrong.  Some of the names she mentioned were people we knew.  She was lucky that she isn’t a man with the insulting and condescending things she said - because if she was, for the sake of honour, we’d have to invite her outside and give her a drubbing. 

The funny thing was, when we asked some of the persons she had mentioned whether she had indeed, had paid for or bought whatever it was that she so proudly boasted about - the answer was that sure, she took a few classes, but the rest of it was completely untrue!

How could she expect to be loved when she had no respect?  No respect for the milonga - causing a ruckus and hoopla wherever she went, disrupting dancers who are trying to enjoy the music.  No respect for herself - touching and forcing herself onto people whose forced, embarrassed smiles and tense body language clearly said “No”.  No respect for the teachers and professionals she should honour and revere for their wisdom in teaching her - instead treating them as objects whose affection can be bought with money for her own aggrandizement.  She didn't care about the feelings of the people she said she was "generous" to (what, are they beggars or leeches who need her to feed them?) - it was all about herself, and how to make herself look and feel important when she boasted. Instead of treating people honestly, with respect, she connives and calculates to draw attention to herself.  Yes, her behavior gets her noticed in the milongas - but only as an object of pity or horror, or perhaps as a target for those men looking to take advantage of foreign women with money.

To belong here - and to belong in Tango, and by that, we mean the rich, emotional Tango culture of the milongueros, not the washed-out copy you may find somewhere else - you have to be honest and respectful. You have to come with humility - with an open heart and a sense of wonder and appreciation for the things you can experience and learn from the masters who have lived Tango all their lives.  You have to treat the dance floor and other dancers with respect.  You have to dance with tranquility and sincerity, for yourself, for your partner, for the music - and for Tango.  The milongueros and milongueras will welcome you into their world - and your teachers will be proud of you.  This is how you make Tango your family, your home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We perform at Salon Canning (yes, that's right - we can't believe it ourselves!)

We are in Buenos Aires!  It's only a short visit (as always) but already so much has happened....We've met up with friends, we have stayed out all night at milongas, we have eaten a ton at our favourite restaurant La Madeleine - now that I have started learning about calories I realize that each delicious dish there must be like, thousands and thousands of calories - but I don't care!

With respect to performances, we performed last Saturday at J.L. milonga at La Nacional.  They remembered us from last year and asked us to perform again - we asked Osvaldo and Coca, "Hey, won't they be like, bored to see us again?" and they replied, "Don't be silly!"  We'll be uploading some videos of our performance soon, once we find a better internet connection than the one we have at the hotel.  We also performed on Monday at Salon Canning.  Yep, you heard us right - THE Salon Canning, pretty much the most well known dance hall in Buenos Aires.

With respect to our performance at Salon Canning, this is how it happened.

We emailed Martha and Manolo when we knew when we would be in Buenos Aires this year, and they emailed us back with a cryptic message.

"It has been arranged," they said.

Huh?  What has been arranged?

"Your exhibition at Salon Canning on October 15. You will send your photo to the organizer Omar Viola."

After hyperventilating for about 24 hours, we searched high and low for a "suitable" photo of us to send to Omar Viola.  Unfortunately, we didn't have any photos of us in dazzling Tango "Gear".  Or in delectable Tango "Poses". Actually, we didn't have many photos of just the two of us to choose from.  The best we could do was a pretty dorky pic that we took at El Tacuari after Osvaldo and Coca's class - which ended up on the Salon Canning website on the list of upcoming performers!

"Oh my God," we said when we saw the list of performers on the website.  "There's Javier Rodriguez and his new partner, there's Fabian Peralta, there's the newest Tango Salon champions, there's Julio and Corinna - and there's us!  We look really, really out of place!"

Here's the photo that we sent so you could imagine for yourself how surreal (and absurd) it was seeing our photo there among the photos of all the other famous tango professionals:

"Who are these Chinos?" they said after seeing our photo on the website. "For sure I want to go to Salon Canning on October 15 to see them dance! (Not!)"

They even put our names on the Salon Canning flyers and on the Salon Canning placemats (you bet we took some of those home as souvenirs - most of the people in Toronto won't believe us if we said we performed in Salon Canning and ha ha! we have proof!) and we're like, what have we got ourselves into now? 

Anyway, so October 15 actually arrived and we performed and it was ok!  Actually, it was more than ok.  We'll write all about it a little later.  Right now we are just tearing out our hair trying to upload the videos onto Youtube with the very unreliable internet connection that we have.

We did manage to upload one video after THREE days of trying.  Canyengue!  Here's the video of us dancing Canyengue at Salon Canning - we'll try to get the tango and milonga videos up soon:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Martha and Manolo AND Osvaldo and Coca (Again) at Viva La Pepa Milonga and La Milonga de Moran

Just wanted to post the individual exhibitions by Martha and Manolo and Osvaldo and Coca when they were at Viva La Pepa Milonga - first, a magnificent Canyengue by Martha and Manolo:

and secondly, a Tango by Osvaldo and Coca:

.... and then, when we were looking around Youtube, there they were again - Martha and Manolo AND Osvaldo and Coca together (with a whole bunch of other milonguero dancers) at La Milonga de Moran:

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather