Sunday, March 31, 2013


I told Man Yung not to ask the lady on the opposite side of the table to dance.  "I'm not sure whether the guy sitting next to her is her partner," I said.  "If you ask her to dance, he's going to ask me to dance and I don't want to dance with him - but I'll have to because he is Osvaldo's 'friend'."

It was really crowded at Yira Yira and Man Yung was bored because none of the porteña milongueras he usually dances with were at the milonga.  "No, I'm sure it'll be fine - he won't ask you if you don't look at him," said Man Yung with his usual great judgment about these things. 

Up he goes to ask her - and surprise, surprise, the guy I didn't want to dance with immediately stands up to ask me to dance despite the fact that I was looking everywhere else but in his direction.  I am not pleased but I get up anyway.

I should have turned him down.  Within half a second, a couple bumps into us.  Two seconds later, it's our turn to bump into someone.  Another half a second - I get kicked in the shins.


"Whoops-a-daisies! Whoops-a-daisies!"  The guy pretends to be sorry about the bumper-car ride, but I get this feeling that it happens to him and his partners all the time.  It's completely normal and he really isn't feeling too bad about it.  This goes on for three minutes, and at the grande finale we get SHOVED. Chan-Chan!

I scowl.

"Whoops, sorry about all that!  The people here are a little crazy!" he said cheerfully.  Since he is a 'funny' guy (yep, hilarious) he adds, "Should I go over there to the guy who just shoved us and tell him off?"

"Not only should you do that - you should go and kill him."

It takes a second for him to digest what I just said.  He smiled sheepishly. "Sure, alright, ok, let's go - I'm not much of a fighter though, but I'll do my best!"

"Don't worry about it. I'm a black belt.  I'll give you a hand if you have any problem kicking his ass."

He swallowed nervously.  "Ah....uh....ha ha, I'm only joking, I think he is Osvaldo's friend, we should try to be nice..."

I look at him straight in the eye.  "In that case, we definitely have to kill him - and then bury him once he is dead so that no one will find out."

Did he just turn a couple of shades whiter?  It was hard to tell in the dim lighting. But guess what - bumping during the last tango of the tanda was suddenly reduced by 85%!

Moral of the story:

1.  You have no business inviting a lady to dance on a dangerously crowded dance floor if you don't have the ability to protect her.

2.  If your lady partner gets hurt, don't offer to defend her honour if you don't mean it.  If you make such an offer, be prepared to follow through with it - that's what's expected of a gentleman.

3.  "But what if I'm not a gentleman?  I'm just a lizard/rat/single-celled microorganism" - Well, then, read the first sentence of #2 above again. And then read #1.

4.  Don't give yourself excuses that you can't avoid collisions because it's too crowded, you don't have enough skill, the people around you are crazy, etc. etc.  With a little bit of motivation and a little more care, you too can reduce your usual collision quotient by a whopping 85%!

5.  "Irene, haven't you learned your lesson?  It doesn't matter if they are Osvaldo's friend, Manolo's friend, Man Yung's friend, or even YOUR friend.  If you don't want to dance with them, you should just turn them ALL down if they don't use the cabeceo.  The world will be a happier place, with a lot less dead bodies!"

Friday, March 29, 2013


Evolutionary stages of a Tango Leader/Navigator:

1.  Too chicken to step onto a dance floor - even if it is completely empty and big enough to house a decent sized milonga

2.  On the dance floor - but going completely against the line of dance (your instructor never told you the right direction to go!)

3.  Bumping into everyone and being pitied because you are shaking and in a cold sweat and looking sheepish because you can't coordinate your arms, legs and torso AND remember all the movements you are supposed to execute

4.  Bumping into everyone and getting the evil eye because you only know a few figures and you just HAVE to complete every step sequence you have drilled in your brain even if the next step will barrel you into couples in your immediate vicinity

5.  Bumping into everyone and getting the evil eye because you think you are a rock star tango genius just because you stole a couple of steps from Youtube and you don't care about hurting other people on the dance floor - such is your urge to "exhibit" all your talents

6.  Bumping into everyone because you are a "Tango Professional" with an impressive resume and all lower tango mortals should part and give way before you like the Red Sea before Moses

7.  Bumping into everyone because you only learned how to dance "Big" and no matter how skilled and experienced you became, you still need a good two meter radius around you to avoid collisions

8.  Bumping into everyone because even though you have finally learned how to dance "Small" you bounce unpredictably in four -no eight, or maybe sixteen - different directions (a good clear two meter radius around you is still a good idea)

9.  Bumping into everyone because you don't understand that you aren't supposed to tailgate - you are still hung up on the erroneous idea that "People aren't supposed to step backwards into the line of dance/step backwards at all" [I assure you, you got it wrong - you are supposed to leave enough space between you and the couple in front of you so that the couple in front of you can take a step back or execute a giro on the spot]

10.  Getting bumped into because even though you try to avoid danger by dancing small or by pausing, you are not quick enough mentally or physically to avoid the crazy dancers who have you in their collision path

11.  Not getting bumped into yourself because you are using your partner as a human shield

12.  Your partner dances with you with closed eyes in a very crowded milonga and it feels like there's no-one in the room but the two of you.  You have the ability to avoid 95% of the collisions using navigational expertise and razor honed agility - the other 5% which you can't avoid you turn at the last moment to absorb errant stilettos, elbows and bodies with your back...

CONGRATULATIONS!  Made it to the top of the Tango Evolutionary Ladder!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Adela Galeazzi (Wow, what beautiful legs!) and Jorge Kero - Milonga

The talented wonderful milonguera Adela Galeazzi just sent us the link to the video of her milonga traspie performance with Jorge Kero at a private birthday party in Buenos Aires:

We are mesmerized by Adela's footwork - and beautiful legs!

The video gave us a very nice start to the week.  Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Few Happy Things

A new Pope from Buenos Aires.... who used to dance the Tango:

From the accounts we have read, Pope Francis seems like a genuinely humble, good man with kindness and great love for all people, especially the poor and the marginalized.  We aren't Catholics but the news last week that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Buenos Aires is now the new Pope filled us with hope and joy.  The recollections of his former friends of him as a "great dancer of tangos" is just the icing on the cake.  From our experience, the people who love and understand the tango the most have a lot of empathy for the human condition...we hope that this is the case with the new Pope!

Another happy thing:  Videos of Osvaldo and Coca, performing at Osvaldo's birthday parties (yes, a few of them) all over Buenos Aires!

Here's their performance at Floreal Milonga:

And their performance at Flaca Lucia and Gerry's Flor de Milonga:

Yet another happy thing:  Martha and Manolo will be "godparents" for a tango festival in Barcelona in May!

Martha and Manolo are always happy to have more people dance their style of Canyengue and this seems to be a great event to promote more Canyengue dancing around the world.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Feliz Cumpleaños Osvaldo!

Today is Osvaldo's birthday!  We just called him to wish him all the best on his birthday.  Not only will he celebrate his birthday with his humongous family - he and Coca has so many children and grandchildren we have lost count - we're sure that the whole week long he will be celebrating with his friends at the milongas too.  We wish we were there to celebrate with him, but we are stuck in cold wintery Toronto (actually, not too bad, we have above zero temperatures and the snow is melting!) 

Here is Osvaldo participating in a birthday dance at Sin Rumbo (now run by Natacha Poberaj and Julio Medrano) - oh no, not his own "birthday dance", he is helping someone else celebrate their birthday:

"Hey guys - someone has to take over.  This is a birthday dance - not a performance!"

We're pretty sure that he will have a lot of birthday dances everywhere he goes - ladies, we know you may be excited to dance with him but don't be like a truck with square wheels or try to choke him with your embrace!  

Since we were talking about Zamba last time, and we mentioned that Osvaldo really enjoys watching the Zamba - well, here's proof!  Here is Osvaldo (in the check shirt standing at the wall - look how his whole attention is focused on the performance) watching Natacha dance a Zamba with Carlos Rivarola on the same night:

Natacha is always a lovely dancer of Zamba - she conveys the right note of innocence, vitality and seductiveness - and this performance with Carlos Rivarola is pretty riveting.

Happy Birthday Osvaldo!  Have a great time celebrating, and we wish you the best of health, happiness, and wonderful tangos (and zambas) all year!

Monday, March 4, 2013


Tango Tourists will find that in the milongas of Buenos Aires, their precious non-stop Tango dancing time will sometimes be interrupted by other dance forms enjoyed by the Porteños - such as "Rock n' Roll", "Tropical" (encompassing cumbia, merengue, salsa, etc.), "Chacarera", and, perhaps the most mysterious of all, "Zamba".

What is the Zamba?  According to Wikipedia, it's this.  Which doesn't tell you very much.  All we know from our experience in Buenos Aires milongas is that the solemn beat of the Bombo Legüero will start to play, a few couples staring passionately at each other will slowly take to the dance floor, and then the dancers will whip out their hankies and twirl them while revolving slowly around each other clockwise and counterclockwise.

"Yeech!" said Irene and Man Yung circa 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.  "This is pretty boring!  When are they going to finish this and play the next tanda?  What, this is going to last for the next fifteen minutes???!?  We're going home!"

Yep, Irene and Man Yung are totally Tango Tourists too!

Our attitude to Zamba gradually changed when we started to go to milongas with Osvaldo and Coca.  Now, they are really hardcore tango dancers - they really like their tango tandas, and Osvaldo doesn't have much patience for things that would keep him waiting for the next tango.  We predicted that when it was late, late in the evening and time for Zamba, Osvaldo and Coca would want to leave - but no, they stayed.  And not only that, the WANTED to watch the Zamba - and they were staying that extra little bit later just to watch it.

And one evening during our last visit, a folklore/tango dancer came to visit Osvaldo and Coca in their class at El Tacuari.  Why, we asked?  It was because Osvaldo had a gaucho costume somewhere at home that he wasn't using (huh?) and he was going to give/lend it to this guy for his Zamba performances.

"From Osvaldo and Coca's reactions, the Zamba must be something we should look into!" we thought.

So we asked the folklore dancer working at our hotel (he gave us all this material on the Zamba including its history and detailed instructions and drawings with the patterns and steps danced - thanks, Juan!), did a little research on the internet and discovered that -

The Zamba can be kind of like the Tango!

If you don't know anything about the Zamba, you want to see the Zamba equivalent of daredevils being shot out of a cannon while riding a monster truck rigged with explosives through a hoop suspended over the Grand Canyon loaded with 10,000 tons of fireworks.  In a nutshell, you want to see Zamba-Ballet, or Show Zamba.  Like this:

A very stylized Zamba

We are not experts at Zamba but what we can tell is that these are very talented, expert, classically trained dancers and their choreography is exciting and beautiful and awe-inspiring - you know, "The Whole Story of Love and Loss in Three and a Half Minutes" kind of thing.

"It's too bad that they don't dance Zamba like that in the milongas! If they did, we wouldn't find it boring!" we might say - and that's because we know jack-s*** about the Zamba.  We used to be all excited about Show Tango too and would try to duplicate all the dangerous jumps, kicks and spins ON THE DANCE FLOOR.  Ah, wonderful memories!

There's also competition Zamba - each year major folklore festivals in Argentina will select a pair of champions from the thousands of similarly dressed competitors dancing almost the exactly the same routines in almost exactly the same way and name them "Winners of such-and-such town/city/county/province/the whole nation"!:

Competitors in a Zamba competition - including the "Pareja Nacional 2011" (National winners of 2011).  If we didn't tell you that there was a pair of winners in there, would you be able to tell?

Irene really enjoyed this video and watched it endlessly for about a week.  "Man Yung, you should study this!  They dance so smoothly, so spot-on in sync, so flawlessly!  Their costumes, their hair, their steps, their handkerchief waving - it's all so professional, so perfect.  And they are totally ONE HUNDRED PERCENT TRADITIONAL!"

They are all really good dancers.  It's just when you put the constraints of competition rules onto a dance form, slap a tasty label like "Traditional" to it....what does it do to the dance

The Zamba examples above are very skillful and impressive - but from our experience and knowledge of Tango after traveling to Buenos Aires and learning from Martha and Manolo, Osvaldo and Coca and Alberto and Paulina and watching the milongueros dance, we know that as perfect as the Zambas might be, they are lacking that certain something....

Conversely, the following Zamba will always put a smile to our faces:

Vitillo Ábalos and his wife Elvira dance a Zamba (and they change partners mid-way)!  Vitillo Ábalos is a musician, one of the brothers in the Argentinian folklore supergroup "Los Hermanos Ábalos"

"Where are the costumes?  Where are the leaps and spins and dramatic facial expressions?  How about, in the very least, the rigorous step patterns and choreographic sequences?  The guy doesn't do anything but shuffle in the same spot and the other guy who takes over his role mid-way is all hunched over!"

It's not perfect by any rule - but this Zamba feels so right.  We wrote this when we wrote about the Chacarera:

I think that there are parallels to be made between a good tango and a good chacarera. Both dances have a structure, but should not be danced "academia" - by some academically set rule. Both the tango and the chacarera have to be danced from a feeling that comes from inside [...] The chacarera has something to do with joy, freedom, spontaneity, personality, and passion for life - and the natural expression of this feeling.

The Zamba between Vitillo Ábalos and Elvira has this feeling - with the added bonus of this connection between them arising from their many years of being a couple and living the life of the music together.  Their Zamba is natural, joyful, passionate and full of life - and honest in its expression of these things.  They've achieved this in their Zamba - we hope that one day everyone will be able to achieve this in their Tango.

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather