Saturday, August 31, 2013

Signs that you are dancing the Best Tango in the Universe

1.  You swirl your feet for an obligatory 20 seconds at the beginning of any music in a creative, inventive, artistic - heck, even 'original' and 'individualistic' - manner.   Sure, every couple doing your style of dancing is doing the same thing, but the way you do it is somehow a million times more special!

2.  You then "walk" in "close embrace" for another obligatory 20 seconds.  This shows that you are passionate about the two cornerstones of Tango, being "The Embrace" and "The Walk".   Doesn't matter that you quickly abandon both of them because a) you can't do exciting figures if you don't separate and b) you don't want to bore the audience and the judges doing nothin' but walkin'!

3.  Not only do you totally separate, you are hanging on to your partners by the tips of your fingernails for the rest of the Tango - you are so carried away with the thrill of the music (and by the thrill of executing big fast spins and enormous movements with all those jutting elbows and knees and kicking heels that would probably kill all the little old milongueros within five feet of you on a crowded Buenos Aires dance floor).

4.  In fact, you are so thrilled by all those eye-popping movements you will do them irregardless of compas or music or both.  Haven't you heard?  It is sooooooooooo 2004 to fit your Tango to the music, and heck, isn't it more interesting when you don't?

5.  You've got them all fooled into thinking you are improvising, and thousands will flock to take lessons from you on HOW TO DANCE TANGO SOCIALLY.  Come on, do you really believe that all those intricate step sequences and giros can be spontaneously generated by lead and follow, and all those fancy beat-skipping logic-defying adornments can be done just because the leader is giving the follower enough time to do them?  Here's the secret: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE... YER CHOREOGRAPHY.

6.   You dance in a style with a long and ancient pedigree - nope, not "Fino" and not "Portalea", and not even "Villa Urquiza", because if you look closely and compare, none of the old style milongueros danced remotely like you.  However, what you are dancing is something right out of a Miguel Zotto stage show, and that's several...years old already, right?

Actually, we think that this "Tango de Salon" by Miguel Zotto and Milena Plebs is a very good piece of dancing - but we are not going to forget that this was choreographed for the STAGE and this dancing is an adaptation of some of what Miguel Zotto had seen in the milongas for STAGE PERFORMANCE purposes.  They call it "Tango de Salon" but really it is a FANTASY of "Tango de Salon" and not completely suitable for social dancing.  Take note: Most of the competitors in the contemporary Tango de Salon or Tango de Pista competitions are dancing in a style almost identical to this these days (except the competitors unabashedly dance even more 'open' than Zotto and Plebs!), but just because they have named it something that sounds like you can do it in milonga, doesn't mean you can really execute this kind of dancing in a milonga and not make yourself into a total dance floor a-hole.

7.  Hey look!  Even what you wear is exactly something right out of a Miguel Zotto stage show -  in that part where the dancers pretend they are in a real milonga.  Of course, not really a real milonga, because you can't fit more than six couples dancing like that in a real milonga before everyone will start getting into everyone else's way.

8.  Didn't you hear?  They now call what you are dancing "Tango de Pista" so that all those tango skeptics out there would stop questioning whether the stuff you are dancing is truly suitable for a real-life dance floor situation (it is not).

9. This is true - you will encounter people who admire your straight-backed, bloodless, emotionless, cool as a cucumber, technical, by-the-rule-book dancing so much they will be moved to tears and couldn't stop gushing about your "embrace" and your "elegance" and your "musicality" and your "passion" etc.  This makes us roll our eyes and contemplate that you can slap a label onto anything and there's always someone out there who will believe it.

10.  Look, they hand out trophies for the way you dance!  A sure-fire sign that you are dancing the Best Tango in the Universe!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Then and Now

 The DeLorean Time Machine can take you into the past...but it can also bring something you don't want to see again back to the future!

I recently had a chat with an acquaintance in which the topic of Tango came up.  My acquaintance didn't dance Tango, but she knew that I did.  Luckily, I didn't have sprain anything in order to explain what Tango is to her - she was convinced that she knew all about it already from a friend of hers who moved to Buenos Aires ten years ago just to dance.

"Unfortunately, she had to move back to Toronto not long ago.  The economic situation is not looking good in Argentina and she was lucky to be able to get a buyer for her condo and get out," she said.

"What is her name?" we asked, wondering whether we have met this ex-ex-pat dancer in one of the local milongas.  "Is she dancing in Toronto now?"

"Oh no!  She told me that it's just not the same here as it is down there.  In Argentina she said they walk, talk and breathe Tango, it's a whole way of life and nothing in Toronto can even compare.  She has declared that SHE WILL NEVER DANCE TANGO IN TORONTO."

OK, so we compare Toronto Tango to Buenos Aires Tango all the time but we would never snub Toronto Tango quite like that!  We are curious: Lady, are you such a great dancer that absolutely no Toronto Tanguero could ever give you even the slightest little Tango thrill?  We've seen plenty of Porteña Tangueras and Milongueras (professional and non-professional dancers) pass through town and many were willing, even eager to dance with Toronto Tangueros.  And how about the Toronto Tangueras who have been to Buenos Aires and have danced with the best?  When they are back in town, we've seen them having a blast dancing with their favourite local leaders with smiles on their faces and no complaints! *

* Wow, we'd like to meet the xxpat Toronto Tanguera one day - she must be one extraordinary dancer, bigger and mightier and finer than any Milonguera we have encountered!

The only explanation we can come up with is that the xxpat Tanguera has been away from Toronto Tango so long, she doesn't realize that Toronto Tango has come a long long way.

Ten years ago, most of us danced quite funny in Toronto.  Collisions every three steps.  Uncontrolled spinning, jumping and kicking.   People admiring themselves in the mirror as they alternately posed and whirled, fantasizing themselves as the stars of Forever Tango.  Line of dance - what line of dance?  Close embrace was the minority - Open embrace was funner!  Every milonga night was CIRCUS NIGHT.

If you were a Toronto Tango dancer then, you'd be in shock if you time traveled into our favourite Toronto milongas right now.  You'd walk into a space where people are actually using the cabeceo instead of coming over and asking you right in your face. The dancers follow the line of dance.  The leaders lead clearly, the followers follow well, and both followers and leaders keep their feet to the floor and step cleanly and mostly to the music.  Any figures done are simple and elegant and barring one or two mishaps a night, couples do not bump into other couples.  Even in a crowded setting on a long weekend dance floor!

"This is TERRIBLE, Man Yung!  Every weekend all I see are calm, ecstatic dancers enjoying the passionate embrace of Tango without disturbing other people!  If they continue on this path we will have absolutely nothing to write about on our blog!"

To the (snobby) xxpat Toronto Tanguera: Maybe it's time to give Toronto Tango another try? *

* EXCEPT: Ha ha!  Last week a Tanguero from ten years ago must have hopped into a time machine to travel to a present-day Toronto milonga.  While everyone was dancing calmly around him, he was in a state of nervous agitation attempting to stuff every step he knew into every second of music.  So intent was he in exhibiting everything he knew, he lurched whichever direction his figures took him, kept looking down at feet and shoved his partners outwards whenever they tried to embrace him closer.  The tangueras who intrepidly attempted to dance with him had grim expressions of disapproval on their faces - but he didn't care!  If you want to do all those foot sweeps, spins and ganchos, you can't have your lady partner crowding up on your space! **

** "Is he from out of town?" I asked Man Yung.

"No idea, I haven't seen him before."

"I sure hope he is from out of town, because the way he dances is embarrassing!"

"Well, you can never rule out the possibility that he is from Toronto.  He might be one of those dancers who have been going to the milongas that we haven't been to, and taking all those New Tango workshops and classes that we have been hearing rumors about!"

If that is true, there may be plenty more of them, lurking out there just waiting to invade our high quality traditional milongas.   I'm rubbing my hands in glee at all the posts that I can write about this!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fast Cars (and Faster Milongueros)

 Your dream car... turned into your worst nightmare

We have a mechanic who is excellent at his job - and honest too.  We are so lucky.  Our beat up old Honda just had a tune up and now it runs like it is brand new!

While we were waiting for the shop to wrap up the work, we had a nice chat with our mechanic.  His life's dream is to drive as many of his "dream cars" as possible.  A few of his cars were parked outside the garage and he showed them off to us.

"My cars are the ones with the similar license plates.  They have my lucky numbers!  That is my Mercedes Benz ___________.*  It's sporty and handles beautifully - you should feel it when it accelerates into a curve.  Usually though, I like to drive my Acura ________* crossover.  It's roomy and cruises so smoothly, it's like driving a big ship."

* We aren't car people - when our mechanic told us the model of car, we promptly forgot.

"Have you ever driven a Lincoln - or a Cadillac?" asked Man Yung.  He likes large luxury sedans.

"Never a Lincoln - but I've driven a Cadillac.  Didn't like it very much, even though it was big and comfortable.  I don't like American cars, they have too many maintenance issues and they guzzle gas like nobody's business.  Talking about this type of car - did you know I once owned a Rolls-Royce?"

"Holy!  Did you like driving your Rolls?" we asked.

"Nah, it was so chunky and clumsy to drive, it felt like I was riding in a big square box.  I prefer cars that are sleek, agile - and fast."

"You obviously prefer sportscars - do you have a Lamborghini, or a Porsche?"

"I haven't had either, but I've had a Ferrari!  It was gorgeous.  I used to take it up to Main Street Thornhill and park on the side of the road so that all tourists passing by can gawk at it."  He had a dreamy look on his face.  But then he came back to reality and looked kind of sad.  "I was in love with that car, but I had to give it up."

"What happened?  Did you crash it?"

"No, no - not that tragic.  The problem was, the engine was TOO powerful and the engineering TOO exquisite.  Just a tiny touch on the gas pedal, and that car would go straight to 170!  Or more!  You simply can't do that on ordinary roads in the city."

"How about the highways?  Couldn't you test out the car on the highway?"

"What, are you kidding, with all those helicopters overhead catching speeders?  The car was wonderful to look at and a treasure to drive, but it wasn't made for ordinary driving.  Whenever I was driving it I was too scared to even touch the gas because the car would lurch forward at light speed.  I was driving around doing 50 on a 60 limit road and other drivers would laugh at me as they passed by!"

Yep, gals - those good-for-nothing, no job, just dancing all night every night milongueros - they aren't for you!  They are just like this poor mechanic's Ferrari.  You can show him off to your Tango friends and under ideal dance conditions in the milonga, he can make you look like a million bucks when you are dancing round and round the track with him.  However, do not be deceived, your guy is in no way made for ordinary driving.

A real milonguero is even faster than a Ferrari - if there is any other attractive tanguera within ten feet of him, he will be off like a shot before you can catch him cabeceo.  If you want him stick around, you can't let him anywhere near another woman, a milonga, or even Tango music, because have anything like this near him and he will be gone!  And if that's the case, what is the use in dating someone like that?**  ***  ****

**I know from personal experience - Man Yung is also faster than a Ferrari on the dance floor.  No, I have not been able to catch him cabeceo-ing all the other ladies - I swear, I was just looking at my iPhone for a second!  You should see Man Yung in action in the milongas of Buenos Aires - always going off to dance with this, that and the other lady!  When we are sitting with Martha and Manolo or Osvaldo and Coca, they give him the evil eye and warn me about the dangers of letting him run around like that - they've seen plenty of milongueros in their time and THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE UP TO. 

Ah, but do they know that I know Man Yung won't be going anywhere really.  If he even tries any funny business, I know a good recipe involving garlic, onions, a slow cooker and his favourite cat. 

*** Our mechanic asked Man Yung, "So, what is YOUR dream car?"  

Man Yung replied, "I hate driving!  Doesn't matter what car it is, so long that it involves a chauffeur!  But not Irene, because I am scared of the way she drives."

**** "Now we know why we have found so many sports cars going so slowly on the roads here in Toronto." I said.  "It's because if they even try to go normal speed, they will go too fast!  Man Yung, you have to pity those poor sports car drivers, they must be in agony because they bought the car so that they can go fast, but they can't go fast because they would be breaking the law!"

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dead Wood

The City is felling trees in our neighbourhood.  Every day on my morning commute I see the work crews with trucks and equipment parked in front of their next targets.  By afternoon not even the stumps are left - only naked flat discs flush with the ground where the trees had been.

I feel sad that those trees had to go.  Some were large majestic trees - several stories tall, decades old.  Those trees had grown up side-by-side with the community.  The children who had played in their shade became teenagers, then adults, and eventually moved away and had families of their own.  New children took their place, and the cycle started again.  The trees had always been there.

I understand why they had to cut down the trees.  They may have been infected by beetles, or perhaps succumbed to some parasitic growth.  The trees had looked sickly lately - the leaves thinning out, the branches brittle and breaking in even the slightest wind.  If they were allowed to remain alive, they would eventually die anyway and spread their disease to other trees.

"Don't be too upset," said Man Yung when I told him what was happening.  "So long they are planting new trees to replace the old, dying ones, it would be ok." 

Sure enough, they soon planted saplings around where the old trees once stood.  Still, I miss those old trees.  It isn't easy to give up something you have become attached to.

It is hard to throw away favourite old clothes that don't fit - or that went out of fashion years ago.  Maybe you are hoping to revert back to your former size, or perhaps fashion will come back a full circle so your items will become trendy once more?  It is hard to get rid of old greeting cards, keepsakes, knickknacks - someone perhaps long gone once put thought into these gifts, or these things may be reminders of happier times.  It is hard to get rid of old habits.  As they say, they die hard.  And you may not know any other way to live.

Nevertheless, you need to get rid of the things that are no longer relevant, that are infecting and poisoning your life, that are stopping you from starting off fresh and new.  You have to give up your sentimental attachment.  Those tango figures that give you a 85% chance of colliding into the couples around you?  Forget them!  That adornment that makes you stab yourself in the toe every other week!  Stop doing that!  Those tango teachers who you used to think were good but never taught you anything useful and by now you know are just ripping you off?  Lose them!

Just give them time, sunshine, and rain... those new trees will become something beautiful, we promise. 

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