Sunday, November 25, 2012

Irene and Man Yung perform to D'Arienzo's "Este es El Rey" at Rivadavia Club, sometime in.... October 2011!

I wanted to post some great new videos of Osvaldo and Coca today - some that we took of them during our trip this year, and some of their recent performances in Uruguay, and with Sexteto Milonguero in Salon Canning....

"But you haven't even posted the video of us performing at Rivadavia Club last year!" said Man Yung.  "It has been over a year and still you have not gotten around to putting the video up on Youtube!"

Yes, I have been taking my sweet time posting this video... could it be, because it wasn't that interesting?  Why don't we ask Osvaldo and Coca for their opinion?

Late last year after we returned back to Toronto, we sent them a DVD with the video of our exhibition at Rivadavia Club.  A few weeks later, we called them from Toronto.  "Did you receive our DVD? What do you think of the video?" we asked Osvaldo.

"Wait a moment - I'm going to let you speak to Mami (he meant Coca)!"

And then I promptly forgot about the video, because we started talking about the best hand-made pasta noodles with tomato sauce in the world (which would be Coca's).

Coca's hand-made noodles with tomato sauce...Makes you forget about tango 
(because all you can think of is devouring at least three plates - or more!)

Next time we saw Osvaldo and Coca in Buenos Aires, we suddenly remembered that we didn't get their opinion on the video when we called them on the phone.  So we asked them again.

"Hey, do you remember the video of us performing at Rivadavia Club last year?  You know, when we danced "Show Tango" to a "Show Tango" Tango (actually, one of the most clichéd "Show Tango" Tango) "Este es El Rey"?  Did you see the video?  What do you think?"

"Yes, my dear, we saw the video," said Coca.  "Hey, this weekend when you come over to our place do you want to eat noodles with tomato sauce, or do you want to try my gnocchi?"

"I want noodles with tomato sauce!  At least three plates!" I replied, jumping up and down with greedy gluttony glee. 

Hey, is it just me, or do we NOT have a promising career in Show Tango?  Especially with all the plates of pasta I've been packing away (Oooooooph!  Can't fit in my skintight red and black fringy sequiny see-thru Show Tango costume anymore!)

We're just kidding about Osvaldo and Coca's reaction to the video!  They actually didn't try to avoid the topic - but they didn't really have any opinion because they don't really like people performing "Show Tango" that much, it's not their cup of tea.  In fact, they always discouraging us from performing to Pugliese because they feel that Pugliese's music is a little too "Show Tango" for their tastes (and conversely just to annoy them we are always threatening to perform to Pugliese!)

As for the background story for this video (like, why on earth are we performing to D'Arienzo's "Este es El Rey"?) - It was the last night of our visit to Buenos Aires in October, 2011.  We had bumped into Clely Rugnone, the organizer of the Monday milonga at Rivadavia Club, like, three or four times during our trip - and she wanted us to come to visit her at her milonga.  We didn't think we were going to have time to make the trip, because we had to go to the airport at 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning - but then, last minute, we decided to go for a little while because we had finished packing early.

Clely was delighted that we had come (especially since we had a flight to catch in a couple of hours).  A couple of tandas into the milonga, she came over to talk to us.  "How about a performance?  What would you like to perform to?"

"Eeeeeerrrr....What would you like us to perform to?" we asked Clely.

"Whatever you like!"  she replied.

So we go back and forth with this question for about two minutes.

"No, we'll dance to whatever you like!" we said, finally.  "We'll dance for you!  What is your favourite tango?"

And that's why we ended up dancing to "Este es El Rey".  In fact, Man Yung had no idea what it was going to be.  Clely introduced us and we scrambled out there onto the dance floor - and when the music started playing (DA-DA-DE-DA-DA-DE-DUM!), I think Man Yung was so shocked his hair stood on end.

As for the "guerilla-style" camera work - Osvaldo and Coca weren't there to film us so we just set up our camera on top of a tissue box.  However, the very kind lady from "Los Mejores" tango magazine sitting just two tables away decided to give us a hand and she grabbed our camera and dashed closer to film us, so that we wouldn't be the size of ants on the video. (See our post about our performance at La Nacional for more ant-like action from yours truly)

Although we would have liked to jump higher, spin faster, and yes, it would have been more exciting if we were shot out of a cannon while dancing to "Este es El Rey" - it is a "Show Tango", after all - I think it worked out, we didn't deviate too much from our usual style and none of our limbs came off with all that "Show Tango" exertion.  Our friend Roberto Segarra was at the milonga and came over to congratulate us after we performed.  "Goodness, I haven't seen you dance like that before!" he said, winking.

Thank you Clely for giving us this chance to perform at your milonga!  Un beso muy grande!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Big Rush

Osvaldo had that exasperated look on his face again - the fifth time since class began.  The object of his exasperation was a slender brunette in tight leggings and four-inch high Comme Il Fauts.  Instead of following the lead of her partner on a relatively simple step, she was going at her own furious pace - which was a great deal faster than the compas with a lot of knee lifting and foot flexing, tapping, twirling and flapping.

Everyone jumped when Osvaldo started yelling.  "DON'T RUSH!  DON'T RUSH!....STOP RUSHING!!!!!"

The lady looked startled but the funny thing was... she couldn't stop!   She looked at Osvaldo with eyes as big as saucers but whatever was happening from the hip downwards kept on going at breakneck speed.  It was like her feet were possessed by Adornment Archfiends from "Ladies' Tango Technique" HELL.

She couldn't stop rushing.  She paid good money for the (Demonic!) workshops that trained her feet to do so much in so little time - and she couldn't wait to show what she had learned, even though the setting was totally inappropriate.  Who did she think she was going to impress in a class that emphasized slow over quick, and patient pauses over flurries of unbridled nervous jerking movements?  You might laugh, but she isn't the only one so afflicted. Countless times we've been to classes where ladies can't wait to show off their footwork (to the detriment of their following), and gentleman can't wait to show off their fanciest steps (which they had learned somewhere else, perhaps on Youtube).  "Look at me!  Look at me!" they said.  We looked....and rolled our eyes to the backs of our heads. 

What's the hurry?  But it seems to us that people in tango are always in a hurry.  Instead of waiting for the cabeceo - the impatient ones are flocking over, snapping their fingers to get someone's attention, pleading or ambushing or bullying or blackmailing others emotionally for a dance.  Are they afraid that they would be losers if they don't dance every tanda or that they have failed if their targeted partner won't dance with them right now?  Everywhere we look there are people rushing through all the step sequences that they can remember as quick as possible, without pausing, legs tripping over feet at least half a beat in advance of the beat. Are they afraid if they wait a microsecond for the compas to actually arrive, they will forget the step?  We look the other direction, and we see more people in a rush - tailgating, or charging forward right into other people when there is no space to move forward. Are they afraid that pausing makes them look like wimps?  Or perhaps if they don't push people out of the way, there's never going to be enough space to let them advance?   

Instead of learning to follow, followers learn to be "smart", because it seems to get them to where they want to go a lot faster.  All that fancy footwork - smart, because a lot of the time it conceals lack of proper technique.  There are smart shortcuts too, coming soon to a "Ladies' Tango Technique" near you: "Look at the leader's shoulder", "Look at the leader's feet", "Look at the leader's chest", "Squeeze the leader like a boa constrictor so he can't do any difficult steps", "Make yourself real heavy to slow the leader down" etc. etc.  Some ladies are so busy squeezing, dragging their feet, staring fixedly at this that and the the other it is a wonder that they can even hear the music (actually, I'm pretty sure that they can't), let alone follow - let alone dance!  

Hurry, hurry, hurry - instead of taking the time to become better dancers, people want to be performers, teachers, professionals right off the bat.  Armed with a bunch of "Tango shortcuts" - or just a couple of badly executed moves stolen off Youtube - some unleash themselves specifically onto ignorant newbies who couldn't tell good from bad.  Other, equally incompetent - or marginally more competent - dancers see the big "Tango Gold Rush", and they can't wait to be professionals themselves. 

Bad teachers teach ignorant dancers who couldn't tell the difference.  Mediocre teachers pretend to be "better" than they really are using inventive marketing, interesting "angles" and impressive resumés.  To further their impressiveness, they might even post videos of themselves performing - if they're lucky, it'll be somewhere in Buenos Aires (Maybe it's their birthday!  Or someone else's birthday!  Or did they bring ten to twenty students with them? - because if they did, some organizers would let them perform too because it has been a quiet month in the milongas).  If they are not lucky, it would a performance in some community centre or shopping mall in their home town in front of bored and unimpressed shoppers. Nevertheless, no matter what the venue, unless they have brought their own claque, they won't likely hear any applause except the polite clapping at the very end because they have failed to make their audience feel something genuine and true.  All the creative marketing in the world wouldn't make you a better dancer than you really are.

Why are we in such a hurry to get somewhere in Tango?  What would you find anyway once you get there?  The money is a pittance.  As for the fame - what's the big deal, having a "name" in a niche of a niche among niche dances?  In our hurry, we miss the whole point of Tango.

The most precious thing in Tango is now.  This moment in your arms, in the music.  A place where it doesn't matter if we dance badly or well, if our skill is high or low - or whether someone is looking at us or not - so long we are truly dancing.  When we hurry, we miss it.  When we don't hurry and we take time to experience and to enjoy what it is like to dance with one another - this moment is ours forever. 

So we return back to our poor fellow student - it's the eighth time this class that Osvaldo is exasperated (with visible steam coming out of his head).  Her eyes are still as wide as saucers as her uncontrollable feet did a merry jig underneath her. 

"Never mind!" we wanted to say to Osvaldo.  "Have a maté!  No need to be impatient or in a hurry yourself with students who can't stop rushing. They are all kind of like that.  If they get it eventually, they will - but if they don't, not even an exorcist will help!"  But we knew better - Osvaldo takes his teaching very seriously, he wouldn't think that our joke was funny at all.  Poor lady - and poor Osvaldo!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Martha and Manolo exhibition at Porteño y Bailarin, Sunday October 14, 2012

...Enough about us!  It's time for a real show by our Maestros, Martha and Manolo!  Here are the videos we took at Porteño y Bailarin of their exhibitions of Canyengue, Tango and Milonga.  They were so electrifying, the crowd couldn't stop clapping and there was a standing ovation at the end:

Osvaldo and Coca arrived just in time to catch the last part of the exhibition!  Here is the photo of us all together after the show!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Unusual sights of Buenos Aires

Since we are talking about unusual sights, how about this: two middle-aged, not terribly attractive or skinny Chinese people from Toronto performing at Salon Canning!  and NOT dancing in a "Robotic Championship-style Salon Tango Style"!  Without costumes!  Without choreography!  Without anyone being shot out of a cannon!  AND THEY AREN'T EVEN TANGO TEACHERS/TANGO PROFESSIONALS.  And there was applause (a great deal of it, not just polite clapping at the end)?  Unbelievable!

Toronto Tango is still shocked and perplexed and scratching their heads - and yet, the Porteños thought it was quite normal (and maybe even liked it)!

Here are some other sights that may be considered normal in Buenos Aires - but bizarre anywhere else:

1. Unique transportation arrangements:

We stopped in awe an admiration and exclaimed to the Taxi driver: "What a work of art!"  He smiled quite proudly and agreed. (We asked his permission before taking the photo!  Didn't want to get him into trouble!)

Some cars that you can find on Buenos Aires roads are really vintage.  You won't be able to find this model of car in this kind of shape - and still running! in Toronto.  In fact, some modes of transportation are so vintage they run on hay and grass....

Up to two years ago, you could still hear the horse's hooves clopping away as the horse carts passed by Osvaldo and Coca's house in Gerlí at least once every hour.  Lately, however, we haven't encountered any. 

2.  Protests and Rallies:

Noisy political rallies and protests are everywhere.  If you see a whole bunch of schoolbuses drive up to an intersection - before you know it the whole street will be blocked and traffic diverted for miles.  This was in October 2011 just before the presidential election.  Here's a video of the event so you can see and hear how noisy it was:

Man Yung joined in this student protest last year:

There's another protest blocking the highway to the airport!  Yet another blocking the 9 de Julio!  And another outside of Congreso! It has become so common it is no longer news.  Whenever we jump into a cab we ask the driver two questions: "Are there any road blocks today?" and "How's traffic?"  The inevitable answers are "Yes" and "Loca!" (Crazy!)*

* This year we encountered more examples than ever of protests in the street - but this time Man Yung didn't want to get close or take photos because he sensed that the mood of these protests were more angry and volatile than they were previously - and it would be foolish to get caught in the middle of a dangerous and angry crowd.

3. Strange fruit:

We saw lots of these "Papayas" hanging from the trees.  We asked the Taxi driver: "Can we eat them?  At least can we make soup?"  The Taxi Driver laughed at us and replied:  "If they were edible, there would be none left!"  In fact they aren't papayas or some melons, they are some kind of cotton seed pods (not at all tasty).

On a related note, this delectable-looking fruit salad was in fact, EXTREMELY SOUR.  It is quite normal for Porteños to add like, ten packets of sugar or a gallon of orange juice to their fruit salads to make them more palatable.

4.  Good doggies:

A very common sight you are not likely to find anywhere else: dog walkers all over the block.  And not "just" dog walkers - they're dog walkers with supernatural powers leading like, massive herds of at least ten to twenty dogs (or that's what it looked like to us).  And all the doggies are always so good and well-behaved!

The dog-walkers would like, just leave their ten to twenty dogs outside apartment buildings while they delivered/collected more dogs, and they wouldn't need to be worried about the dogs running into the street or biting passersby or anything like that.  The dogs were well-behaved even in the park, they weren't noisy and never gave any trouble and they'd just stand or sit there.

On a sad note, many dog owners gave up their dogs when the economy went bad - this year more than ever we saw rail-thin dogs without owners wandering the streets at all times of the day and night.  We couldn't even look at these poor little darlings directly because they would come up to you and ask with the pleading look in their eyes for you to take them home.

5.  More remnants of the past:

A street vendor of Maté and other drinks.  Why so many different flasks?  Different flavours?  There were also street vendors for roasted peanuts and...cupcakes!  Of course you won't see this kind of thing in Toronto nowadays - but Man Yung remembers that in Hong Kong, street vendors and open-air markets used to be quite common on every street corner even up to the end of the nineties.

Here's another Buenos Aires street vendor selling some kind of contraption for making decorative flowers out of putty.

Talk about unusual! These kinds of "British-style" mailboxes were also common in Hong Kong in the past - imagine our surprise finding them in use in Buenos Aires!

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