Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pope Francis celebrates his birthday... and gets Tango for a birthday present!

Wonderful...thousands of people dancing Tango outside the Vatican to celebrate Pope Francis's birthday yesterday:

The message people have for the Pope?  "Life is Beautiful!" 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

New and Improved

Our Honda has gone 300,000 km and it's twelve years old. 

"Our mechanic says that the transmission or the engine may fail in the car because they have limited life span, maybe we should get a new car before they do?" said Man Yung.

"But our mechanic also said that there's no evidence that the transmission or the engine has any signs of failing right now.  So long we don't take the car on long road trips and stay in town, there's no downside on keeping the car and driving it until 400,000 or even 500,000 km!"

Our car is old but is is reliable.  It worries us that all the newer models of the same car have not been as trustworthy - a friend who also bought a later model of the same car experienced steering problems, and a relative who bought an even later model had paint bubble and peel from the hood for no reason, and the brakes keep on wearing out really quickly.  There's been tons of recalls of the newer cars.  The newer models are shinier, sleeker, faster, more spacious - New and Improved, as they say - but the cars aren't as good as the car we bought.  At this point we think that our old run-down car is probably better and more reliable than any new one!

We are very suspicious of any claims of "New and Improved".  We have been loyal devotees of a certain supermarket cheesecake for years - when they came out with a "New and Improved" formula, we bought one as a treat and was not only disappointed - we had stomachaches from eating it and couldn't finish the box.

Ice cream too - all these boxes of "New and Improved" formula came out, we looked at the ingredient label, and we discovered there was no cream in the ice cream!  We checked online and confirmed that instead of having real dairy in ice cream, the big food corporations have found it cheaper to make a creamier feeling ice cream product by whipping air into OIL and marketing it as a better ice cream.

"New and Improved" seems to us to be just another way for corporations to cut corners, cut costs, and increase profits while tricking customers into thinking that they are getting something better.

Happens in politics too - look at the "New and Improved" kind of democracy that the Chinese Communists are pushing onto Hong Kong citizens.  It is a fake democracy!  People want real democracy and not the "New and Improved" formula.

We are glad that Tangueros everywhere woke up and realized that the "New and Improved" Tango i.e. Nuevo Tango is just like ice cream with no cream.  We don't see anyone dancing it in Toronto except dancers with whom no other dancer wants to dance with. Since Nuevo Tango is already dead, it is not worth our time talking more about it - just trust us on this, ok?

We don't want "New and Improved" in our lives!  We want the classics - Martha and Manolo, Osvaldo and Coca, Alberto Dassieu, the old milongueros....and we want to dance like them and not follow any new-fashioned Tango fads.  We don't feel like being recalled anytime soon, thank you very much.

Here's a video of Martha and Manolo performing milonga in 2002.  Enjoy!:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Zamba - Maria Jose Palermo y El Puchu "La Siete de Abril" Estancia El Tropezón (08-11-14)

Man Yung was very moved by this beautiful impromptu Zamba between El Puchu and a lady by the name of Maria Jose Palermo:

We don't know the story behind this improvised Zamba but it looks like that El Puchu was invited to perform at this venue with his regular partner, the talented and fiery Gladys Rivero - there are videos of him dancing Tango, Vals, Zamba and Chacarera with Gladys on Youtube in front of the same crowd on the same Youtube channel as well.  But this Zamba by El Puchu and Maria Jose Palermo was particularly touching for Man Yung.

"I'm guessing that Maria Jose Palermo just happened to be there and El Puchu took the opportunity to dance with Maria due to popular demand of the crowd. That's why she isn't wearing any shoes - she kicked them off so she could dance better, and she borrowed the handkerchief from El Puchu and Gladys to use in the Zamba," said Man Yung.  "When you watch El Puchu and Maria dance, it is clear that they haven't rehearsed beforehand, but since they are both experts at folklore, they are well versed in the language of the Zamba.  You get a strong sense that they are communicating and reacting to each other's movements, but their dancing is natural and fresh and doesn't feel choreographed. There is give and take, lead and follow - there is dialogue between them creating this beautiful dance."

I watched the video and I agreed with Man Yung.  "They both look thrilled to be able to improvise with a partner who understands the Zamba at the same level.  The audience looks spellbound."  I did a quick search of Maria Jose Palermo on Youtube - turns out she is an "Profesora Nacional de Danzas".  No wonder why this Zamba between her and El Puchu is just magic.

Quick random thoughts about the Zamba:

1.  We think the Zamba is even more "Romantic" in a way than Tango.  The Zamba we've seen has been about the initial stages of courtship - boy meets girl, love at first sight, everything that makes romance novels and romance movies so popular.  If you look at the audience for this Zamba, the ladies are particularly enthusiastic with their applause.  If only we could be perpetually in the honeymoon stage of love!

2.  Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way.  Red hearts and red roses give way to dirty dishes, kids, mortgages, expanding mid-sections, and general crankiness.  That's when you can start to really appreciate the Tango. 

3.  (In Tango, you can imagine that your partner is Alain Delon* instead of the cranky dude you are stuck with.  Or better, you can dance with another person who is not your partner, and it's not considered cheating. Shhhh - Don't tell Man Yung!)

* Man Yung suggested helpfully, "You can also imagine that you are dancing with George Clooney... Jack Palance or even Charles Bronson, or Mr. Bean!"

I looked at Man Yung like he was crazy.  How did he know that I had the biggest crush on Rowan Atkinson in my teens and to this day I always imagine that I am dancing with him instead of Man Yung?

4. You can't dance the Zamba for hours on end every week - you'd get bored.  "I think it would be exhausting trying to look starry-eyed at your dance partner for more than 15 minutes!" says Man Yung.

5.  However, it is perfectly normal for people to dance the Tango for hours on end every week without getting bored or tired.

6.  During the our last trip to Buenos Aires this May, we actually danced the Zamba at La Nacional.  Osvaldo and Coca thought we danced it really well!  Actually, we didn't dance it well, we forgot most of our steps but since Osvaldo and Coca didn't dance Zamba, they may have thought we were doing a very interesting Hong Kong style interpretation.

7.  A milonga organizer in Toronto once asked whether we would like to perform in his milonga.  We said okay, but on the condition that we will only perform Zamba.  He looked puzzled and maybe even frightened and did not persist in asking us to perform. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Speaking out

The real estate and business tycoons in Hong Kong were in for a shock.  They had mostly kept quiet with respect to the student protest going on in Hong Kong right now, trying not to offend either the supporters of the protest or the Chinese government.  But to remain silent was not enough. 

The Chinese government recently berated the silent tycoons for keeping quiet and not speaking out or using more effort to denounce the protestors or stop the protests.  It may not sound like much - when the Canadian government grumbles about certain sectors of Canadian society, nobody quakes in terror.  However, it's totally different when it happens in China. When the Communists tell you off, it's really bad news.

Where corrupt absolute power reigns supreme, you do not even have the right to remain silent. 

A lot of Hong Kong people we know don't like to discuss politics or to express their opinions on social issues.  They don't want to offend anybody with what they think.  My parents (and many other Hong Kong people we know, both friends and family) do this all the time, and we find it really annoying because we are both straight-shooters.  We like to get everything out in the open so if there is a difference in opinion, we can try to work it out or at least we are not in the dark as to where the people around us stand. 

The Hong Kong Democracy protests have divided Hong Kong society.  It's affected everyone in Hong Kong, and people cannot hide their opinions anymore.  Lots of people have been unfriending each other on Facebook and deleting people from their contacts because of their differences in opinion regarding the protests.  In fact, Man Yung is currently engaging in a mini-war with one of his Facebook friends because she is anti-protest and he is pro-protest - wonder when they will unfriend each other?

"The supporters of the government and the anti-protest groups are generally people with property, with money, who don't want to rock the boat because they are doing ok in Hong Kong," said Man Yung.  "They see the protests as an unnecessary disruption in their lives.  They will themselves to believe in the propaganda of the state-controlled mainstream media, and in the self-serving, official statements of the government leaders because they would rather not change the status quo.  When Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung recently said he is against having real democracy in Hong Kong 'because there are lots of poor people in Hong Kong and you don't want the poor people having the right to vote in elections and influencing the governing of Hong Kong' - what an extremely stupid thing to say, by the way, if someone said it here in Canada it would be political suicide - he is actually voicing the secret opinion of lots of the well-off supporters of the government."

For a concise, clear statement as to why the Hong Kong protests are necessary, Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong recently wrote an article for the New York Times which we reproduce here:

HONG KONG — Tuesday night marked one month since the day Hong Kong’s police attacked peaceful pro-democracy protesters with tear gas and pepper spray, inadvertently inspiring thousands more people to occupy the streets for the right to freely elect Hong Kong’s leaders.

I was being detained by the police on that day, Sept. 28, for having participated in a student-led act of civil disobedience in front of the government’s headquarters. I was held for 46 hours, cut off from the outside world. When I was released, I was deeply touched to see thousands of people in the streets, rallying for democracy. I knew then that the city had changed forever.

Since the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, less than a year after I was born, the people of this city have muddled through with a political system that leaves power in the hands of the wealthy and the well-connected. Many of us, especially people of my generation, had hoped democratic change was finally coming after years of promises from Beijing that we would eventually have free elections. Instead, in late August, Beijing ruled that Hong Kong’s oligarchy will remain in charge. Universal suffrage became a shattered dream.

But not for long. The thousands of protesters, most of them young, who continue to occupy main areas of the city are showing every day how political change will eventually come: through perseverance. Our peaceful democracy demonstration has demolished the myth that this is a city of people who care only about money. Hong Kongers want political reform. Hong Kongers want change.

My generation, the so-called post-90s generation that came of age after the territory was returned to China, would have the most to lose if Hong Kong were to become like just another mainland Chinese city, where information is not freely shared and the rule of law is ignored. We are angry and disappointed that Beijing and the local administration of Leung Chun-ying are trying to steal our future.
The post-90s generation is growing up in a vastly changed city from that of our parents and grandparents. Earlier generations, many of whom came here from mainland China, wanted one thing: a stable life. A secure job was always more important than politics. They worked hard and didn’t ask for much more than some comfort and stability.

The people of my generation want more. In a world where ideas and ideals flow freely, we want what everybody else in an advanced society seems to have: a say in our future.

Our bleak economic situation contributes to our frustrations. Job prospects are depressing; rents and real estate are beyond most young people’s means. The city’s wealth gap is cavernous. My generation could be the first in Hong Kong to be worse off than our parents.

My parents are not political activists. But over the past few months, because of my prominent role in the protest movement, my family’s home address has been disclosed online, and my parents have been harassed. Despite the aggravation, my parents respect my choice to participate in the demonstrations. They give me freedom to do what I believe is important.

Other young people are not so lucky. Many teenagers attend our protests without their parents’ blessing. They return home to criticism for fighting for democracy, and many end up having to lie to their parents about how they are spending their evenings. I’ve heard stories of parents deleting contacts and social media exchanges from their teenage children’s mobile phones to prevent them from joining activist groups.

My generation’s political awakening has been simmering for years. Nearly five years ago, young people led protests against the wasteful construction of a new rail line connecting Hong Kong to mainland China. In 2011, many young people, myself included, organized to oppose a national education program of Chinese propaganda that Beijing tried to force on us. I was 14 at the time, and all I could think was that the leaders in Beijing have no right to brainwash us with their warped view of the world.

If there is anything positive about the central government’s recent decision on universal suffrage, it’s that we now know where we stand. Beijing claims to be giving us one person, one vote, but a plan in which only government-approved candidates can run for election does not equal universal suffrage. In choosing this route, Beijing has showed how it views the “one country, two systems” formula that has governed the city since 1997. To Beijing, “one country” comes first.

I believe the August decision and the Hong Kong police’s strong reaction to the protesters — firing more than 80 canisters of tear gas into the crowds and using pepper spray and batons — was a turning point. The result is a whole generation has been turned from bystanders into activists. People have been forced to stand up and fight.

Today, there are many middle school students active in the pro-democracy movement: Students as young as 13 have boycotted classes, while teenagers of all ages have been staying overnight at the protest sites. They protest gracefully, despite being attacked by police and hired thugs.

Some people say that given the government’s firm stance against genuine universal suffrage, our demands are impossible to achieve. But I believe activism is about making the impossible possible. Hong Kong’s ruling class will eventually lose the hearts and minds of the people, and even the ability to govern, because they have lost a generation of youth.

In the future I may be arrested again and even sent to jail for my role in this movement. But I am prepared to pay that price if it will make Hong Kong a better and fairer place.

The protest movement may not ultimately bear fruit. But, if nothing else, it has delivered hope.
I would like to remind every member of the ruling class in Hong Kong: Today you are depriving us of our future, but the day will come when we decide your future. No matter what happens to the protest movement, we will reclaim the democracy that belongs to us, because time is on our side.

Joshua Wong Chi-fung is a co-founder of the student activist group Scholarism. This article was translated from the Chinese for The New York Times.

What Joshua Wong and many of the student leaders and supporters of the protests have said as to the goals and reasons for the protest has always been clear and direct.  Even if they have not said a word, one has to ask - why have these protestors been so persistent, spending over five weeks outside under hot sun, pouring rain, chilled by the wind occupying the streets in protest?  Why have they endured pepper spray, tear gas, and violent attacks by thugs hired by the government and by the police? 

They want universal suffrage, real democracy, and freedom - that's why they protest.

The government leaders are always muttering about "Sinister Western Influences" and their supporters parrot this phrase like it was the best explanation for why people are protesting but there's no proof, and there is no outside influence that would be able to motivate these young people to stay in the streets, day after day, night after night. The government is actually paying money to triad members and unemployed folk who have no idea what is going on to pose as anti-protest supporters - even with wages the anti-protest supporters only do a half-assed job of anti-protesting, leaving as soon as 'it is time to leave work' and abandoning their anti-protest placards everywhere on the street. It is idealism that drives the young protestors sacrifice, there's no money in the world that could make them so unwavering in their commitment to their ideals.

We have yet to hear a convincing argument from the anti-protest supporters in support of their position.  Their rationale for being against the protest is muddy, confused, irrational.

"The protestors are creating chaos!"

"The protestors are blocking traffic!"

"With the protestors occupying the street people can't get to work!"

"The protesters are breaking the law by occupying the street!  Breaking the law is wrong!"

"I don't care about universal suffrage, I just want stability!"

"I don't care about democracy, I just want to do business!"

"I don't care about freedom, I just want to make a living!"

"Don't disturb me, just leave me in peace!"

What the anti-protest supporters don't realize is that letting the corrupt, authoritarian communist Chinese government have its way will only lead to more repression.  Just because the anti-protest supporters are not poor, or disenfranchised, they choose to support the corrupt government regime and not to speak out against injustice.

There is a duty for everyone to speak out and stand up against this evil regime.  Today they take away your right to universal suffrage, the next thing they will do is curtail your freedom of expression.  They will squash Hong Kong step by step until the Hong Kong people have nothing left - not even their lives.  Since the Hong Kong handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong people have been like the proverbial frog in the pot - being slowly boiled alive without knowing it.

A song composed in support of the protests - "I promise you an umbrella".  
The umbrella has become one of the symbols of the protests.  
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. - 
Martin Niemöller


Tuesday, October 28, 2014


The banner on Hong Kong's famous Lion Rock placed by the pro-democracy protestors read: "I want Genuine Universal Suffrage".  The Hong Kong Government and the Chinese Government had been asserting all along that they are giving the Hong Kong people "Genuine Universal Suffrage".... that is, if you consider "You can only vote for candidates who have been hand-picked to be supporters of the corrupt Chinese Communist Party!" to be crucial for "Genuine Universal Suffrage".  No wonder the Hong Kong Government quickly dispatched police and firemen to tear the banner down the next day.

Man Yung has a friend in Hong Kong who has been a fervent supporter of the Chinese Communists all his life.  Back in the 60's and 70's when Man Yung was a young Communist fanatic himself, he and his friend would participate in lots of fun activities arranged by the Hong Kong Communist associations, like acupuncture classes, ping pong, Communist Choir practice - and the always exciting: "Participating in demonstrations against the British Colonial Hong Kong Government and throwing rocks at police." 

"What?" said Man Yung when I rolled my eyes at this.  "I think young people should always experience a stage in their life when they have ideals."

Notwithstanding starry-eyed idealism of Man Yung, his friend and many other youth of their era (including a physicist uncle of mine who was so captivated by Communist Propaganda he went all the way back to China from the U.S.A. to "Help Build the Country") the Chinese Communist Party has been a complete and utter disappointment in ways that George Orwell had easily envisioned in "Animal Farm" and "1984".  Still, Man Yung admits he clung to his hope that the Chinese Communists would finally "do good" one day... until June 4, 1989 when the Chinese Communists sent in troops and tanks into Tiananmen Square to kill and run over defenceless student protestors who just wanted the corrupt Communist government to stop being so corrupt.

Despite having devoted a good deal of his life and energy to the support of the Chinese Communists and the Communist ideal, Man Yung said that once he saw what the Chinese Communist were capable of doing - i.e. ruthlessly massacre innocents to continue their iron grip on power and to maintain the corrupt status quo - he stopped believing that there would be any good at all in any Communist regime.  So long there is only one party ruling China with absolute power there will only be corruption and misrule and everything will go to hell in a handbasket.

Man Yung's friend however, couldn't admit that his ideals were wrong or that what he believed in was wrong.  He had sacrificed even more than Man Yung in support of Communism - he had been persecuted by the Hong Kong government for his political activities and had to suffer the split up of his family as a result of the persecution.  I think his heart bled when the Tiananmen Square Massacre happened, and his heart bleeds every time he hears another Communist atrocity which must be every day now (of which a very short list can be found on this blog in our Chinese Fairy Tales).

Whenever Man Yung talks to his friend on the phone, Man Yung talks to his friend about the Communists and how they have turned modern China into the most corrupt, debauched, dissolute, unscrupulous etc. etc. society ever in the whole history of China.  Man Yung's friend can't refute what Man Yung says - not matter how much the Communists try to suppress and whitewash, their nefarious deeds are in the news every day.  But at the end of the conversation, Man Yung's friend sighs and says in not many words that he continues to have faith in the Communists.  He is going to go to the grave with a broken heart.

"Irene, the lesson you have to learn from this is that if you are wrong, you admit you are wrong and you can move forward."

"Ah, easier said than done.  Everyone I know is adamant on soldiering along on the same track even when evidence proves they are entirely wrong!" 

I'm not going to give you a list here of people who couldn't change their track.  In life as well as Tango, people would rather continue to be wrong than change their thoughts and ways.  That's why it is so hard for people to improve their lives... or their dancing.  I'm thinking, there are going to be a lot of people who are going all the way to Tango Hell in saggy nuevo pants with untucked shirts over potbellies doing colgadas and volcadas, ha ha.

Has anyone ever splintered into a million pieces admitting that they were wrong when they were wrong?  No.  Man Yung tells me that it is funny, the Chinese Communists and Chinese people in general have a terror of "losing face".  "They would rather lose a fortune than lose face - they would rather lose their lives than lose face!" Man Yung said. "Does that sound rational to you?  The Communists have ruled China for over sixty years.  They just had a big meeting in which they had a resolution to start "Govern the country by Rule of Law".  Ridiculous! What the hell have they been doing up to now?"

The student protestors in Hong Kong have been protesting, sleeping in tents on the streets for a whole month now.   Tens of thousands of people peacefully protesting for over four weeks without throwing a single rock, burning a single trash can, or breaking any window.  The government however has fired tear gas, shot pepper spray, sent in triad members to beat on protestors, got police to beat protestors with batons and even throw shit at protestors from roof tops.  We are in awe of the student protestors to have kept so calm in face of such provocation.

"I have been on this planet a long time and I can admit I am not a peaceful person and I am quick...not to use peaceful tactics," said Man Yung.  "There's one thing I have learned from the student protestors, and that is that violence does not solve problems.  Peaceful civil disobedience is a powerful thing."

Knowing how the Chinese Communists are, they cannot admit they were wrong and cannot do anything that they think will make them lose face.  It would take miracle for them to back down and really give Hong Kong genuine universal suffrage.  Despite the overwhelming difficulties, we are hoping that the protestors will stay safe and that the protests will come to a peaceful and satisfactory end.  No matter what happens in the end, we are proud of the students who led the protests and everyone who came out to protest with them in support.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Recently, I have been mesmerized by yet another trashy Hong Kong TVB drama called "Triumph in the Skies II".  It's about the 'glamourous' love lives of a bunch of commercial pilots and stewardesses at a fictional Hong Kong airline based on Cathay Pacific.  It is so ridiculous that when I watch it with Man Yung, he starts rolling his eyes every three minutes in disbelief at the ludicrousness of it all and he switches the channel to baseball, ultimate fighting, informercials - anything to get away from the steaming pile of manure in a train wreck that is TVB drama.  I have to wrestle him for control of the remote.

"How can you stand it?" said Man Yung, defending the remote with one hand and fighting me off with the other.  "How many implausible love triangles are in this thing?  Twenty?  Every second person has an incurable disease!  There's always someone fake crying every fifteen minutes.  The writing is so formulaic that I can already tell you all the plot twists and turns without watching a single episode.  Don't watch it, Irene, it will turn your brain into mush.  These mind-numbing state-controlled TVB dramas are part of an evil ploy by the Hong Kong government to turn all Hong Kong people into complacent consumerist zombies without an original thought in their heads so that they will have no spirit or will-power left to defend their right to democracy!"

Man Yung is right.  Ever since watching this series I have been suffering from phases of inertia and blankness and inexplicable cravings for luxury travel, Vivienne Westwood hoodies and Vitamin Water.  Perhaps not inexplicable....did the characters travel to exotic locales, wear Vivienne Westwood hoodies and drink Vitamin Water?  The answer is yes.  The product placements are so blatant that they even had a character construct a big heart on the beach made entirely out of bottles of Vitamin Water:

If you didn't drink Vitamin Water before, you will now after this episode, evil hahahahaha!

"Man Yung, you are completely right but I can't help myself.  The main character Captain Samuel Tong is so dreamy!"

 Heroic Captain Samuel Tong as played by versatile and intense Hong Kong actor 
Francis Chun-Yu Ng

Francis Chun-Yu Ng is one of the greatest living actors in Hong Kong cinema.  He can play any character - the good guy, the bad guy, the crazed maniac, the pathetic loser, the triad member and the cop (or both in the same movie!) and last but not least, the romantic lead and sport the weirdest haircuts at the same time and he'd be utterly convincing no matter what role he plays.  Even low budget, hastily written, badly produced, poorly directed garbage turns into Shakespeare once the remarkable Francis Ng is on screen.

"Turning into a mindless consumerist zombie is worth it just to watch Francis Ng's performance.  Who else can transform the impossibly virtuous, morally upstanding, infallible and deadly boring character of Captain Tong (with a terrible unflattering Elvis pompadour haircut) into a sex symbol adored by thousands of middle-aged see-lai Hong Kong ladies?" I said.
In real life, there's no way that the free-spirited cadet pilot heroine of the series would choose Captain Tong over his romantic rival Captain Koo who is younger, much nicer, more dashing, better looking and a great deal more fun to be with.  In the series, not only does the heroine choose wrinkly old Captain Tong, she also eventually understands that the stern, severe, soul-sucking lectures about a pilot's responsibility and respectability and about the "weight of the uniform" that he has been giving her on the job and also while they were on dates WERE ALL FOR HER OWN GOOD. And that he is doing this (and risking killing his relationship with the heroine) just because he loves her.

"Man Yung, you know what, you remind me a lot of Captain Tong*.  All the advice you gave me was good, but I just didn't know it! If only Tango was like a TVB drama," I sighed.  "Then you will know immediately who is giving you the best advice.  The authority figure in the uniform played by Francis Ng is always looking out for your best interests and if you follow his advice to the letter, you and the whole world will be better for it."

* Man Yung is also good at giving me stern, severe, soul-sucking lectures about responsibility and respectability and other "important" topics while we are on dates.  Yes I want to kill him sometimes.

I was hoping that Man Yung would be able to shed some light on how a tango beginner - or even a veteran tango dancer - would be able to tell who they could rely on for good advice in Tango.  Perhaps, you can rely on someone for advice if they have impressive videos on Youtube of their performances?  Or maybe you can rely on someone for advice if they have been teaching a long time?  Is there a 'spidey-sense' for what is good or bad in Tango?  What if you have a person who thinks they can tell good from bad but in fact has insufficient experience and poor taste and is in no position to make any judgment?

"Unfortunately, Tango is much like real life," said Man Yung.  "You're going to get advice whether you want to or not from people you dance with, with teachers you are taking lessons with, and even from random folk.  People who dress like tango dancers who look like they dance well may give you good advice, or maybe they won't, and people who don't have impressive tango resumés and who don't dress like tango dancers may give you bad advice, or maybe they won't. 

You can seek instruction and advice, but there's no way for sure of telling whether the person who gave you advice would give you good or bad advice. The fun thing about Tango is that is really like life - it's about the journey and not just the destination.  Sure, you can make mistakes here and there, you may not become a perfect dancer overnight, or even ever.  So long you are enjoying yourself, and you have lived all the tango experiences that you have wanted to live (i.e. some people may be just content to stay home, others want to roam the world) then I think it is just fine and you don't have to worry about missteps along the way!" 

What Man Yung said was really encouraging.  Carpe diem - seize the day!  "Hey Man Yung, I think I would really enjoy the experience of running away with either with Captain Tong, Francis Ng, or both.  Should I give it a go?"

"Irene, that is an excellent idea.  This will give me a perfect opportunity to look for a new partner!"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Adela Galeazzi and Robert Segarra exhibitions at Maracaibo

Adela sent us an email with links to her recent performances with our friend Roberto Segarra at Maracaibo two Fridays ago.  The occasion:  THE 94th BIRTHDAY OF ROBERTO!

Roberto may be in his 90s but we swear he has more energy than both of us combined.  He still goes to milongas several nights a week and once he is there, he dances almost every tanda.  Whenever the music starts the heads of all milongueras swivel to look in his direction for a chance at cabeceo. 

Thank you to Adela for sharing the videos of these lovely performances of Tango and Vals with us!  Adela as always looks fabulous and her footwork is mesmerizing. 

Adela and Roberto dancing a Di Sarli Tango

Adela Roberto dancing a D'Arienzo Vals

The audience can't help applauding throughout the performances when Adela and Roberto fly in perfect sync with the cadence of the music.  Adela and Roberto dancing together is pure joy, pure emotion - PURE TANGO.

As Adela said in her email:

Es un orgullo haber compartido la pista con este caballero que tiene mucho camino genuino recorrido con el tango!


It is a pride to have shared the floor with this gentleman who has traveled a long way with genuine tango!

A note on Maracaibo - it is organized by Diego and Zoraida who organized the Mondays at Confiteria Ideal that we really enjoyed on our trip in May - lots of locals, traditional music, very milonguero atmosphere and changed the way we looked at Confiteria Ideal!  Maracaibo is held not too far away from Ideal at El Marabú at Maipu 365, a historic ballroom from the 1930s.  All our milonguero friends we talked to know about this famous venue and reminisce about the numerous Tango orchestras from the past who played there.  It has a very nice dance floor, when we are next in Buenos Aires we will definitely check out Diego and Zoraida's milonga there.

A note on the Hong Kong democracy protest - we have been glued to the tv and the internet for news on the latest developments on the protest.  We have been shocked and dismayed by the tactics of the Hong Kong government and the Puk-Gai Hum Ga Chan (this is the Cantonese swear word/curse/adjective meaning "Fall down dead in the street and whole family die" -  that's how strongly disgusted we are with this man-turd) Hong Kong Chief C.Y. Leung against the protestors - riot police, tear gas, and then sending in scores of Triad members masquerading as anti-demonstrators to beat up the students in Mong Kok.  If anyone has been following the news on the protest, the protestors are peaceful and anti-violence (they apologize to passerbys for the inconvenience caused and even clean up their trash at the protest sites!), there was no need to employ violence against them but hey, what can you expect from the Hong Kong government and the Chinese Communists, who are a bunch of murderous thugs in concert with criminals.  

We wish that the protestors will be safe.  They have already achieved what was once unthought of in their brave stand for democratic rights for Hong Kong people.  We want to thank all those people who have talked to us or have reached out in Facebook supporting the protest.  Democracy for Hong Kong now!
Iconic symbol of Hong Kong's peaceful protest for democracy - umbrellas against Riot Police and tear gas.  The umbrellas are not weapons, they were used to deflect pepper spray.  This is called the "Umbrella Revolution"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

We support the student democracy protestors in Hong Kong

25 years ago student protestors in Tiananmen Square asked government leaders to come out to dialogue about with the protestors about corruption in the Chinese government.  The communist government refused to talk, and instead of even contemplating change, they brought out soldiers with guns and tanks and suppressed the protestors with violence.

In Hong Kong right now, student protestors have already been on strike all week.  When the Chinese government took back Hong Kong in 1997, it was under the promise that universal suffrage will be implemented within 10 years. 

Not only was universal suffrage not implemented within the deadline, the Chinese government has been making all sorts of paper-thin, ridiculous excuses not to let the people of Hong Kong vote for their own leaders.  It's been 17 years ago, what about the promises?  Now the communists proclaim that they are giving Hong Kong democracy - but it is a farce, because voters can only vote only for candidates specially selected by the Chinese government for their loyalty to the Communist government.  This is complete bullshit.

The Hong Kong student protestors, including high school students who have joined the protest on Friday, gathered outside government buildings to ask Hong Kong chief C.Y. Leung to talk to them about this.  Of course the coward would not dare to come out to meet with the students.   He did what the communists always do - suppress protests with violence.  Out come the police with riot gear and pepper spray and students are beaten and arrested.

Here's a short report of this matter on Reuters:

Now they are using pepper spray and handcuffs - AGAINST HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS.  There is an "Occupy Central" protest planned for October 1st which the Communist government has threatened with bloodshed.  Will there be soldiers with tanks and guns again, against the peaceful people of Hong Kong?  Will this be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square Massacre? 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Things that Man Yung did in Tango that used to drive me crazy (but now are ok)

When people compliment us on our dancing, I say "Thank you very much!" and also this: "But you haven't seen us fighting!"

Our Tango journey has been a VERY difficult one.  We're surprised we haven't killed each other by now, since we both know how to use weapons (and can improvise if weapons of choice are not handy).  Man Yung used to write big "X's" on the calendar every day we got into an argument.  It kind of looked like this (BUT MUCH ANGRIER):

We are still semi-angry to this day and can't look back and laugh about it even though in retrospect we were fighting about really stupid trivial stuff like "Steps" and "How to embrace" and "Lead and Follow".  It's only a dance, for God's sake!

OK, maybe I shouldn't have made such a big fuss over stupid Tango things (but I also say Man Yung shouldn't have overreacted!). Luckily and through much perseverance, we weathered the storm(s) and now the urge to murder has gradually been displaced by the happier urge to dance.   Here are some of the things that almost triggered Tango Armageddon  - oh how silly they are now!:

1.  Man Yung's posture didn't remotely look like the posture of the Tango dancers in Tango X 2

This was before  the Campeonato and its Tango Salon/Tango de la Pista clones in suits - I too was once mesmerized by the sight of macho Argentinos (the Zottos and the Misses) as straight as pins in sharp suits and gomina-slicked hair, executing razor sharp turns and spins to the tune of Cafe Dominguez.

Why can't Man Yung look as good in a suit?  Why are his legs and body all bendy instead of straight and twisting me in awkward direction all the time?  Why can't he dance exactly like Zotto/Missee and why can't we also look all elegant and detached doing pretend social dancing at a pretend a milonga on a stage?

Boy am I glad we didn't go that route because then we would have joined the Tango Borg!  The big machinery of Tango Championship has been churning out so many identical looking and dancing "winners" over the past few years honestly we can't tell which couple from which and judging from the increasingly "meh" reaction all over the Tango-verse dancers don't really care any more.  Standardized Championship Tango is not something we want to dance - the more we dance, the more we like just being ourselves and expressing ourselves in our own way, as imperfect as we may be.

2.  Steps, steps and more steps

I used to wish that the internet connection would break down so Man Yung won't be able to learn any more steps.  Every week he would be trying something new.  Even in the middle of the night he would sometimes wake me up and want to try yet another new combination ("But I have to go to work tomorrow!!!" I would protest).  I couldn't keep up and I thought we looked silly tripping over our feet attempting yet more new stuff in the milonga.

"Can't we just play it safe and like, keep it simple?" I would beg.  "Manolo said dance no more than ten different steps at a milonga, but you are dancing like a hundred!" 

But no, Man Yung's brain is not wired that way and more and more steps we certainly did do.  I can say now that "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" - and voila!  Dancing with Man Yung for me as  a follower is like dancing with everybody in the world at the same time.  I could dance with anyone and it would be a cakewalk!

On the flip side I am now terribly bored if I have to dance with someone who does less than a million steps.  If I get to dance with a gentleman like this I go back to the table and say exasperated to Man Yung, "He only knows three/four/five steps and he did them over and over and over again for the ENTIRE TANDA!"  I'm sorry guys, if I agreed to dance with you you must be a lovely dancer, but because of Man Yung I have a very low threshold of tolerance for repeating sequences.  I even get bored if Man Yung doesn't have something new that week.

3.  Dancing with Man Yung on an unruly dance floor filled with inconsiderate dancers = 95% chance of Man Yung wanting to kick someone's ass

When Man Yung's mom heard that we were going out to dance Tango, she disapproved.  "Those dance places are full of hoodlums!  You don't want to go to these dangerous places!"

Ha ha we thought, Man Yung's mom doesn't know anything about Tango.  It's only filled with docile middle-aged folk swaying mellowly to the music and not causing any trouble!

But of course she was right and we were wrong.  Tango is filled with many over-the-hill, selfish, show-off hoodlums.  In their quest to do their solo exhibition or super-impress their partners they jostle the people around them and fire off kicks and boleos in all directions. 

Man Yung would get pretty ruffled when such folk would tailgate us, cut us off, charge into our space or deliberately dance into a very physically threatening manner.  I would try to pacify or reason with him.  "They haven't kicked us yet!" I may say, or, if they have kicked us and have sheepishly apologized, "At least they said sorry!"

"I have a responsibility to protect you on the dance floor," said Man Yung.  "I am not going to wait until you get gouged in the shins to do something proactive.  'Sorry' does not excuse this kind of reckless dancing, I'm going to stop it before it happens!"

You know what, getting kicked or stepped on the dance floor hurts.  If you get slashed or stomped by those dirty, germy, flying stilettos or heels, the bruises may fade but the scars might stay forever on your calves and feet.

I have thought about it...Man Yung has a lot of self control considering the numbers of really crazy out of control dancers we have encountered on the dance floor over the years.  If I was a leader, there would be a lot more broken noses (in fact, I want to break some noses now, but Man Yung is restraining me).

4.  Man Yung offers too much unsolicited advice

I used to hate it when Man Yung offered "constructive criticism" of my dancing. It was super irritating to be trying to dance and having someone say to me "You're going too fast!" or "You are dancing without emotion!" or "You have to do this step like this!"

I would dig in my heels and plug my ears and of course, do exactly opposite of the said advice.

In my wiser middle-age, I am starting to understand the value of good advice.  If someone loves you, they will tell you honestly what's wrong so you can improve.  If someones doesn't give a shit about you, they will let you keep on doing the stupid things you are doing (and even encourage you) until you dig yourself into a hole that you will not be able to dig out of.  Man Yung's advice comes from a good place!  Made me a better person (and a better dancer).

5.  Man Yung is dancing with every lady in the room - except his own wife

Actually, this isn't something that bothered me - it was something that bothered Osvaldo and Coca!

"Irene!"  Osvaldo and Coca would say.  "Where is Man Yung?  What?  Why is Man Yung dancing with that lady?  Why isn't he dancing with you!!!?!" 

"But of course Man Yung must dance with the ladies.  They are more beautiful and better dancers than me!" I replied chirpily.

Osvaldo and Coca would roll their eyes and stare daggers at Man Yung when he came back to the table.

Osvaldo and Coca (and Martha and Manolo, and Alberto and Paulina) have been in Tango so long, they know about all those going-ons between men and women in Tango.  In their experience, Tango Lotharios are dancing with all the ladies because they are on the prowl for their next sexual conquest.  Men (and Women!) are not to be trusted!  You got to keep you jealous eye on your partner!

The longer they know Man Yung the more they understand Man Yung and know it is ok.  Unlike quite a few leaders in Tango, Man Yung is only interested in dancing Tango and not anything else.  He isn't dancing Tango with the pretty young ladies because dancing is the only way for an old guy to get close to them (and maybe chat them up).  He isn't dancing with the voluptuous ladies to feel them up (and maybe to flirt with them).  He is dancing with all the ladies - young and old and of all sizes and shapes - because he just wants to dance Tango.

"When I am dancing Tango and in the music, the furthest thing from my mind is sex," says Man Yung.  "I WISH I could think about sex while dancing Tango, but it is impossible.  This just shows, you can't have everything that you want!"


Monday, September 8, 2014


Life is not complicated.  The best advice is the most simple advice.

In personal finance matters, no doubt everyone has heard the advice: "Spend less than you earn".  Yet, levels of personal debt are always reaching new record highs and a third to almost half of Canadians are living paycheck to paycheck.

In terms  of personal health, everyone knows that in order to lose weight, you have to "Eat less calories, exercise more".  Three years ago, I lost fifteen pounds over a year's time and kept the weight off since then by simply not snacking, drinking water instead of sweetened drinks, eating balanced meals, and by being less sedentary.  I didn't have to attempt any fad diet, do any bootcamp exercise or try risky diet pills.  It worked for me, but when a friend of mine asked me for my secrets and I told her what I did to slim down, she stared at me in disbelief.  "What, no snacking?  Not even a little bit?  You can't NOT SNACK!"  It was like I was asking her to give up her firstborn.

In Tango, the best teachers give simple advice.   As Osvaldo and Coca always say to us, "LISTEN TO THE MUSIC!" and "BE MORE GENTLE!"

"WHAT?!???!!  I don't have to pay a million dollars, or waste time on hundreds of hours of private classes, or listen to bullshit metaphysical lectures by half-baked tango 'professionals' mixing post-modern philosophical theories with exotic eastern spiritual concepts for the secret of dancing Tango well?"

Yes, we are giving away the secret for free!  BUT IT WON'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE to 99.999% of Tango dancers anyway!  Everyone in Tango has probably heard one time or another the same kind of advice, and yet why are dance floors all over the world replete with dancers who are dancing like they are DEAF, who are also violently shoving their partners to and fro big manic grins on their faces?

The answer is simple.

It is easier to succumb to pressure of keeping up with the Joneses and buy the latest gadgets, handbags, clothes, dream cars, dream houses, and live the lifestyle you can't afford filled with expensive restaurant meals, daily gourmet lattes, and frequent luxury travel so you can fit in with your friends and acquaintances who are also doing the same thing and not saving a penny towards emergencies or retirement.

It is easier to satisfy your cravings for sweet or crunchy or convenient foods laden with empty calories and sit and watch marathon hours of tv and gain five pounds a year than to be active and eat right.

It is easier to disregard the music because you are too busy showing off all the steps (totally unsuited in a crowded milonga setting, by the way, but you were too busy showing off to notice) you have paid good money to learn at seminars or plundered off Youtube.  What is skipping a beat or two when you can draw attention to yourself and feel like a superstar?  It is easier to fling your partner around like a rag doll instead of treating her with respect and learning how to lead her properly and communicate with her.  You can push and pull her with all your might, no need to treat her like a flesh and blood person with feelings when it is easier to manipulate an object!

I tell you, the world is mad, mad, mad and people are crazy, crazy, crazy not to follow the simple advice to make things better.  Instead of doing things simple but right, people complicate things with their excuses and delusions and that's when things go wrong.

Over the weekend, we were assaulted on the dance floor by a leader who thinks he is an absolute hot-shot.  He has been terrorizing the dance floor for months with reckless tailgating, hazardous movements, weaving in and out of lines of dance and leading his partners into high boleos and kicks.  Every one we have talked to shake their heads when we bring up this guy.  Some have said, "I have been trying to get out of his way all night! I don't want a collision or to get my partner hurt!"  Others shrug their shoulders in exasperation, "What's up with him, is he nuts doing all that dangerous stuff on the dance floor?"

The guy tailgated us and led his partner into the usual dangerous high kicks and boleos.  We don't want to get sliced by his partner's stilettos so we told him to stop and control his movements, but he acted like he had every right in the world to do what he did.  Despite the warning, he tailgated us AGAIN in the next tanda and this time, he kicked me in the shins.  When we confronted him with this, his response was "What's the fuss?  YOU'RE JUST JEALOUS OF ME!"

Talk about staring in disbelief when we heard him blurt this out!  Any sane person would be embarrassed if they were dancing like this guy.  If we danced like this asshole we would want to COMMIT SUICIDE and all our teachers would disown us!  Instead of moving smoothly with cadence, he was always a furious frenzy of jerks and tics and twitchy spins.  Instead of dancing to the music, he was too busy shaking his booty and doing a tap dance to care about the beat.  Instead of embracing, he pushed his partners outwards so he could have space to execute his big flashy movements while staring with admiration at his feet!  Don't even talk to us about emotion, because for all his emoting "LOOK AT ME, I AM (SERIOUSLY) DANCING TANGO" - there was NONE.  He was too busy starring in his own internal "Tango Extravaganza Show" to be DANCING TANGO.

You would think it would be simple to respect others on the dance floor, to dance with care and not do anything that injures or may injure others...well, we have found out that the answer is NOPE!  It is IMPOSSIBLE - when you are too enthralled by your illusions of self-grandeur!

It is easier to self-inflate and believe you are dancing like the second coming of Pablo Veron...than to actually dance well.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Good or Bad?

Come on, admit it....this kind of thing in Tango used to make you cry (and not because you thought it was bad, but because you thought it was good!)

We were asked by a beginner of Tango recently - how can we tell who is a good dancer, and who is a bad dancer?

Our beginner friend pointed to a couple on the floor she felt were good dancers.  "What about them?  They look very good on the dance floor."

"They only look good because they are young, tall, athletic, good looking and skinny and they do a lot of movements, but in my opinion, they aren't really 'good' at Tango.  Look at how the girl is kicking up her heels and how the guy is occupying enough space for ten couples with his movements and how what they are doing has nothing to do with the music and there is absolutely no emotion in their dancing....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

In the middle of pointing out why this couple "looks good, but isn't really that good," I fell asleep out of sheer boredom of having to explain again what is good or bad in Tango. And as I slept, I had dreamy (nightmarish?) flashbacks of Tango we once thought was good....

The elegant local couple who moved Man Yung to tears with their rendition of "Nochero Soy".  The interpretation of "Recuerdo" by Juan Carlos Copes in the movie "Tango" that sent shivers down my spine.  The summer all the Toronto Tangueras fought tooth and nail to dance with the visiting Fabio because we thought that he and his "Tango" was the best thing since sliced bread.  The year we watched every one of our Cosmotango DVDs at least once a week because, gosh golly, what a treasure trove of REAL tango they were!

Of course, now we are all experienced and cynical and we can see all the faults of the things we once admired:

"Lacks music and emotion!"
"Completely choreographed and unsuitable for the dance floor!"
"Dressed like a bum and instead of leading, he shoved!"
"Lacks music and emotion, completely choreographed, lots of shoving instead of leading, and if anyone danced like that on the dance floor, they are looking for a thrashing (or at least, a lot of evil eye)."

Sometimes (and only sometimes), we wish were still caught in our little time warp of naivete.  We may be embarrassed now about the things in Tango we used to adore, but Tango dancers should have a time in their Tango lives when Tango is all wonderful, like a world made up totally of unicorns and rainbows.  Hardened veterans can give little snippets of crucial advice (like, "Tangueras, keep your heels on the floor so you don't kick anyone on purpose or by mistake!" and "Tangueros, don't tailgate and take up all the lanes in the line of dance!"), but on the whole, it is best to let the newcomers enjoy the process of their evolution.  Otherwise how else can you blackmail them with the sordid details of their past Tango preferences when finally, they inevitably blossom into expert international Tango Professionals/Luminaries?

I woke up from my refreshing nap.  Our beginner friend had just returned to the table grimacing and nursing a big bruise on her shin.

"What happened?" I asked.

"I got kicked on the dance floor by those guys!" She pointed to a couple on the dance floor still bouncing backwards and forwards frenetically and knocking into bystanders like they were the ping-pong ball and it was 999th level of Pong.

The perfect illustration.  "Now you know for sure what is good and what is bad in Tango.  Couples who have kicked you or may potentially kick you while you are dancing:  Definitely Bad.  Couples who have not kicked you and don't look like they are doing anything that may kick anyone: Good!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tango dancing with the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young

Recently, there has been a deluge of fresh, young(ish) followers in Toronto with long legs, sky-high stilettos and high-slit skirts.  The Bimbangueros/Tangorimbos have been piling one on top of another as they trip in haste to dance with these beauties...

"Delightful!" you say.  "Toronto Tango is definitely in need of fresh blood.  You are lucky to have such heavenly creatures in your Tango community. They look so SMASHING together!"

Ha ha, "Smashing" is the right word to describe what they are doing - the Bimbangueros charge recklessly up and down the dance floor while their wonderful partners use every opportunity to foot flick, knee lift, back kick and heel gouge in all directions.

"Once, I was sitting in the corner of the room at a milonga minding my own business (and surfing the 'net on my smartphone) when one of these dangerous seething masses torpedoed down the line of dance.  I thought, 'No way they are going to hit me, I'm huddled in the corner here with all my legs and arms tucked in' but I was wrong.  She kicked me with a back boleo - and didn't even say sorry!  Well, she didn't say sorry at first - until I kicked her back with a pissed off look on my face."

"Good job, Irene!" said Man Yung.  "If more people spoke up - or in your case, kicked back - when they are assaulted on the dance floor by people dancing dangerously, maybe these dancers will become more self-aware, less reckless and more considerate."

"Hey Man Yung, sometimes you ask ladies to dance before you see how they are dancing (you crazy man you!).  Have you ever danced with someone who looked perfectly normal and civilized when you cabeceo'd her but who turned into the 'Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young' once you embraced her in your arms?"

Where are these high-kicking gals from?  From Europe?  From Outer Space?  Mais non!  
They are the product of your local Tango School of the money-grubbing inconsiderate and reckless instructors.  Rather than curbing the rash enthusiasm of their numerous prodigy, they say nothing so these gals will continue to attend their classes and milongas.  They may even teach by example and kick quite a few people on the dance floor themselves!

"Oh, do you mean Shub-Niggurath, the perverse Cthulhu-mythos Outer God with the menacing tentacles and the explosion of countless writhing goat legs?"

"Yep, that's it.  I know you are too much of a gentleman to dump her mid-Tango or mid-tanda.  What do you do to minimize the damage she may inflict on the couples around you?  Do you just keep your distance from the other couples?"

"Keeping a good distance so her back boleos won't dig into any one's flesh is a good idea, but it may not always be possible if the floor is crowded.  What I try to do is not to lead anything that would give her the opportunity to lift her heels off the floor.  No boleos.  No ganchos.  No enganches.  Any leader who has been dancing for a while can feel when they've picked one of these ladies who can't keep their heels on the floor.  The lady would be all jittery and twitchy and just itching to launch a big high kick if you give her half a chance.   The unruly stuff you see on the dance floor isn't done just by the follower alone - their partners have encouraged them to execute dangerous movements by leading those movements."

"But Man Yung, you underestimate the power of a determined (rabid) adornista.  I have seen leaders leading perfectly innocuous back ochos and giros - but have them converted into weapons of destruction by ladies who hook their feet up behind them before stepping down.  If they are anywhere near a person that uplifted stiletto heel won't be slicing air - it would be slicing someone's shin!"

Man Yung shrugged.  "In that case, the leader could do nothing but walk.  And pause.  And pause even more.  It's funny, but the more you try to tire an zealous adornista out with more movements, the more energetic and ebullient they become.  Do exactly the opposite, don't move very much or at all, and they may even fall asleep!"*

* Man Yung says, "I still think it is the leader's fault, maybe they should observe first and not dance with a follower who is dangerous on the dance floor.  However, I understand that some ladies are irresistible to some leaders due to their looks or their sexy attire, and leaders will want to dance with them even at the risk of hurting others on the dance floor.  You know what, I STILL THINK it is the leader's fault - what can be so irresistible that you will cooperate in assault?  Haven't you guys seen a woman before? So immature!"

Thursday, August 7, 2014


We celebrated our ten year anniversary in Tango at the beginning of this year.  Actually, we didn't really "celebrate" - it was more like an observation, "My goodness, how time flies!" kind of thing.  And then we went out and danced as usual. 

Nevertheless, ten years is milestone and we have been thinking about what it means for ten years to pass in Tango.  We've certainly come a long way since our fledgling steps in the group class held in a basement studio at Mad for Dance deep downtown.  Our first salida, our first giro, our first milonga, attending our first tango event, the different instructors we took classes with, our first time in Buenos Aires, our first performance in Buenos Aires, and on and on....

There's always been a sense that we are moving forward.  We practice every week for an hour and every two or three months we have some kind of breakthrough, either internally, externally, or internally manifesting itself externally.  Conversations with our teachers, conversations with each other, snippets of video on Youtube, things that we experience, books that we have read, flashes of inspiration - all contribute to the momentum and the endless change in the way we dance.  We look at us now, we look back to where we used to be, and we can't help but think about the future - where will we be ten years from now?

We hope that our Tango will continue to become better, deeper, more expressive, more enjoyable - a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now.  Barring some surprise or catastrophic event, it is a pretty safe prediction that we would achieve this goal to some degree. 

We wouldn't say unfortunately, because it has nothing to do with good fortune or misfortune and more to do with human nature - many dancers do not have such modest aspirations.  Some want more attention - they high kick and spin recklessly to show off in crowded milongas now and hope one day to receive an invitation to perform for real.  Some want more recognition - they become "authorities" to any one who would listen and teach on the dance floor instead of following or leading properly and hope one day to become instructors.  Yet others use Tango as a way to increase their sense of superiority, but they go about it the wrong way - by becoming snobbishly what they think is more "authentic", by maintaining their "clique" and dancing only with members within it, to the extent that they hide at milongas only catering to "their people" and never come out to dance with anyone else.

We predict that these people will achieve what they have set out to do. What they won't achieve is Tango that is better, deeper, more expressive or more enjoyable.  Some dancers who had been veterans when we started dancing ten years ago are still dancing in exactly the same way or worse ten years later.  They may be instructors now, or have performed, or consider themselves some kind of Tango "Elite", but the quality of their dancing has either stayed the same or deteriorated.  And the Magic 8-ball says than ten years after, it will be pretty much the same.

We shake our heads but none of this really matters.  It doesn't matter what we want to achieve in Tango, it doesn't matter what the others want to achieve in Tango.  It doesn't matter even if Tango lives, or if Tango dies.  We go out to dance, if we are lucky we will enjoy ourselves and all our worries are suspended for a few hours.  If we are not lucky the music will suck, the floor will be a disaster zone and/or we will get kicked in the shins and/or we want to fight with the guy/gal who is dancing like an asshole in all lanes with their spiky heels up in the air.  Who cares where we will be, or where the others will be tomorrow or ten years from now?  It is only a dance.

We received bad news today that a good friend from our martial arts days has been diagnosed with leukemia. Only forty years old, and with a young child!  We saw her just a year ago, when she came with her husband and daughter to visit Toronto to see whether they wanted to move back here for the sake of her daughter's education.  She was full of dreams and hopes for the future of her family and her child.  Her illness is something no one could have predicted.  We told her to be strong, to stay optimistic and we told her that we would pray for her recovery. 

For now we will keep on dancing and keep on writing. Whatever the future may bring, we have to live one day at a time, and make the most of it.

We started Tango at Mad for Dance studios ten years ago, and we have been practicing there all these years.  The studio is closing at the end of August.  Thank you Michael and Raija for renting your beautiful space to us, our Tango would not be where it is today without the opportunity to practice in your studio.  Mad for Dance will always be a cherished part of our Tango memories. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hot Sh** (Not)

Just when we thought that Toronto Tango leaders were following the line of dance and dancing with respect for other dancers on the dance floor....

"Wow, look at that HOT guy weaving out in and out of all of the lanes of dance at once like Formula One on speed!" somebody shrieked.

All Tangueros and Tangueras swiveled their heads to look.

Yes indeed, some skinny tall guy with fashionable facial hair in an untucked shirt was plowing violently through the crowd with his high-kicking (and also skinny) partner. The bodies of pathetic, old, unattractive and weakling dancers caught in his path were being flung helplessly in all directions in the growing trail of destruction.

He spins menacingly with knees, elbows, heels all jutting out at once!  He tailgates!  He takes up  more space than twenty dainty milonguero couples! He takes big long strides right into furniture and other people!  In fact, he has more sparkly arrogant invincible confidence about his dancing...than someone who actually dances well!

"Ooooooooh!  So dreamy!" went the collective sigh across the room.

"I'm too sexy for my too sexy for my too sexy for my" - Genius lyrics!

 "Come on guys! He's not THAT hot!  In fact, I would say that a leader who is so atrociously inconsiderate to all the people around him is NOT HOT AT ALL," I said.  "Attractiveness is no carte blanche for being an asshole on the dance floor!  I think there must be a word to describe him, but how can you put Bimbo and Tanguero together?...Bimbanguero?  Tanguerimbo?"

My objections were ignored.  All eyes, male and female, stare in his direction for the next chance at cabeceo. Who cares how much injury he inflicts when he dances - so long he isn't fat and/or old?

Why be a good social dancer if you are... skinny, fast, young and good-looking?*  All the ladies (and especially the ones who are tall and who look like models and who kick so high on the dance floor you can see their knickers) are DYING to dance with you even though you don't know how to dance Tango socially.

* The unfortunate truth - you can get away with murder in Tango if:

1.  You are good looking!
2.  You are young AND average to good looking!
3.  You are so stylish people mistake you for someone good looking!
4.  You are a Tango instructor!
5.  You are a Tango instructor from Argentina!
6.  You are a young, good-looking Tango instructor from Argentina!

For all those hoping to dance like a Bimbanguero/Tanguerimbo with no repercussions, good luck with your reincarnation into the next life.  Hope you will reincarnate into a young, good-looking Tango instructor from Argentina, then no-one will mind!

Sunday, July 13, 2014


WE CAN'T BELIEVE ARGENTINA LOST!!!!! They played so well.  We are very sad.

For all you fans of Argentina who dance Tango, hope you will feel better after you dance a little Tango tonight.  Meanwhile we would like to share with you a recent performance of Milonguisimo - Oscar Hector's long running show with the dancing of authentic milongueros.  We got to know a lot of our milonguero friends through the show, including our beloved teacher Alberto Dassieu.  In this performance in June, the following dancers took to the stage for the ensemble performance:

1º Tinta Roja - Susy Tilbe y Aldo Raspanti
2º Pocas Palabras - Hayde Esther Maladrino y Luis Ludueña
3º Lo Pasado Paso - Tomasina y Juan Esquivel
4º Después del Carnaval - Adela Galeazzi y Horacio Prestamo

In this part, the dancers are joined by Oscar Hector and Teresita Brandon - and they even do a little bit of swing:

And finally, they dance lively milonga and vals.  The younger dancers are Andre Laza Moreno and his partner Luciana Arregui:

A big hug to all our friends in Milonguisimo!

Adela Galeazzi and Horacio Prestamo - Milonga and Vals!

I'm too nervous to watch the Argentina vs. Germany final starting now.  Man Yung's going to watch the match for me and I'm going to take a nap and hopefully wake up to find that Argentina has won!

Before I take the nap, however, I'm going to share with you some virtuoso milonga and vals by the lovely Adela Galeazzi and Horacio Prestamo of Milonguisimo:

Man Yung says you can see what a happy expression Horacio has to dance with such a wonderful partner like Adela!

And meanwhile.... Go Argentina!  Go Argentina!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Winners and Losers

It feels like an extra long weekend for us even though Monday was a workday.  This is due to a combination of a) Irene taking Friday off, b) Dancing Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, c) Canada Day today and d) World Cup soccer matches always make every day seem like a holiday!

The World Cup gives everyone something to talk about.  Complete strangers will strike up conversations about the merits of each team and the latest results.  Malls, lobbies in commercial buildings and even in court houses have big screen TVs set up to broadcast the latest matches so nobody has to miss a game even if they are working or shopping.

Unfortunately, Canada didn't make it to the World Cup this year... but it doesn't stop people here in Canada from having their favourite teams.  We think that just about everyone in Tango (in Toronto, at least) wants Argentina to win.  We are also cheering for Argentina - if they won all our friends in Tango and in Buenos Aires would be so thrilled!  I am also (or was also) cheering for England. "I know, I know, they have been so disappointing in both the World Cup and in the Euro Cup for the past decade, I couldn't even bear watching any of their matches because they always end up losing!"  I said.  "I can't help it, I was born in England and the England team will always be a sentimental favourite for me, even if the team can't work together and haven't had a decent goalkeeper since David Seaman retired!"

Man Yung has a more merit-based approach.  "I am cheering for the teams that played the best with the best sportsmanship and best spirit.  This year has been especially exciting for me to watch all these not traditionally soccer powerhouse teams win against famous established sides - look at the great results from teams like Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, Algeria, Nigeria, U.S.A., who made it to the round of 16."

What we don't admire - teams whose players plan to win at all costs.  They may play good soccer, but some of their competitive edge comes from things like obnoxious fouls, ridiculous dives, all defense and no offense ("Sorry, pulling up a bus in front of the goal to stop the opposite side from scoring isn't real soccer," says Man Yung.  "I agree, how unromantic and I wrote about this before," I replied) - or even BITING. 

 Everyone knows about this by now.  Some even knew about it before it happened - and won tons of money because they placed bets on this happening during the World Cup

We must be losers because we think that winning isn't the most important thing in life.  We didn't pick our favourite teams because we thought they were going to win, but because we have emotional or personal connection to their countries, or because the way they played made us feel proud to be human beings and give us hope in humanity. 

July the 1st is not only Canada Day - it is also the day on which Hong Kong people take to the streets every year to protest against the tyranny and injustice of the Hong Kong and Chinese government.  This year it is reported that over 700,000 people joined the protest.  The Hong Kong legislature is unfairly skewed in favour of pro-government forces due to an election process that does not represent the people of Hong Kong.  The Chinese government has recently published a white paper that blatantly refutes the autonomy of Hong Kong from interference from the Mainland as previously promised in the Hong Kong basic law.

For those who don't follow Hong Kong history and Hong Kong politics, this is confusing. Just know this: the Chinese government is trying to win at all costs - first by guile, then by lies, and now by force.  It is ugly.

We were watching the Canada Day fireworks from our condo unit window.  At 10 p.m., fireworks from several locations along the skyline explode over the night sky.  The fireworks are even more beautiful this year.

"In China during national celebrations, they would have even more extravagant firework displays - and the government would recruit dancers, soldiers and performers to put on a big fancy show with everyone smiling so hard that it looks painful to watch.  They would use this as evidence that their country is mighty and powerful and how much the people love the Communist Party.  What winners they are."  Man Yung paused, thinking about the horrors in China right now. "Here in Canada, I feel Canadians really genuinely love their country.  Canada doesn't have to put on a big show to make people proud to be Canadian.  All Canada had to do was to give Canadians a wonderful place to live and grow and be free - that's how Canada won all our hearts and souls."

Happy Canada Day to everyone!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The miracles of modern technology

Man Yung is always optimistic.  Or perhaps masochistic.  Anyway, he still scours Youtube for the newest, shiniest videos of exhibitions from the newest, shiniest, international tango "superstars" for something good.  "If there is something watchable, or even one thing I could learn, it would be worth it!" he says enthusiastically.

What?  Watch hours of aggressive adornation, frantic flailing or spastic spinning from couples who either "Dance Exactly Like Each Other" or who "Promote pushing the boundaries of new tango movement...Right into your shins"?   I've given up long ago.

Recently, Man Yung sat down with a cup of coffee and tried to watch a whole slew of exhibitions - red hot off the festival circuit. 

It was one of those "I told you so" moments.

"I couldn't finish watching even ONE!" Man Yung complained.  "A few seconds into every single one of these videos and I would have to turn the video off immediately from being uttering appalled at the lack of music, lack of grace, lack of emotion, or pure and simple ugliness of the stuff they were doing on the dance floor!  I couldn't watch any of the performances past the half-way mark!"

"Aha!" I said.  "I've been telling you all along, you are wasting your time!  You are lucky, though," I added.

"What do you mean?"

"Watching on the computer, you can STOP ANYTIME.  If you can't resist browsing through the mountain of garbage on Youtube, at least you can stop and go to the next video before it gave you brain damage.  Imagine, a few years ago, if you were watching on a VCR or DVD player, you will have to take eons to FAST FORWARD or skip through the crap to get to the good bits.  And before the invention of all these modern gadgets, the only way you could watch tango would be to be there in person.  Then, you wouldn't be able to escape if you encounter something horrific - you would have to watch the whole thing and have it burned into your brain!  Believe me, with the miracle advances of modern technology you have it good!"*

* In fact modern technology is so miraculous and good, it even knows when to turn the video off before Man Yung does.  Man Yung has a 1st generation iPad and it is starting to have a mind of its own.  Sometimes, when Man Yung is watching, the iPad would flash, shut the video down and take him right back to the home screen.  Man Yung gives up after the iPad kicks him out of Youtube a few more times, and Man Yung's day would become 500% more productive with life enriching activities like playing with the cats or watching World Cup soccer.  Go Argentina!

Friday, June 6, 2014


Friday afternoon milonga at Confiteria Ideal

Man Yung looked happy.  I asked him what put him in such a good mood.

"I was just thinking about the time we went to Confiteria Ideal on our trip.  I had a great time."

"I totally agree. I was always thinking about going back before we returned to Toronto, but we ended up being too busy to make it there again," I said.

Turned out that we both considered our visit to Ideal to be the best part of our trip!

We had been to milongas at the famous Confiteria Ideal in 2007 and 2009 but hated it both times.  The milongas were packed with people.  Tables and chairs were squeezed into every possible inch of space - you had to clamber over them to get to the floor, which was too sticky to dance on. That, however, didn't stop the crowd of tourists having a jolly old time...dancing extremely badly to blaring music.

After those two negative experiences, we vowed never to go back to Ideal again. 

We found ourselves really full after eating an enormous Fugazzetta pizza at El Cuartito on Friday afternoon.  If you have never had a Fugazzetta before, this is what it is like: it is a doughy pizza crust filled with an inch of mozzarella and covered by another inch of mozzarella, some caramelized onions and olives, and I suspect they doused it in olive oil as well.  We ordered ours with ham and extra anchovies on top, because we were afraid it wouldn't be filling enough.*

* Which shows that we know nothing about pizza.  We will let you know all about El Cuartito (with photos!) in another post.

"I really want to take a nap!" I said after we ate the whole greasy, scary, calorie-laden thing.  "But I might die (or gain 10 pounds!) if I take a nap after eating this.  I think we have to go out to dance!"

Man Yung was delighted.  We consulted the milonga schedule for the afternoon.  El Arranque wasn't open until much later, which left us with Ideal as our only choice.

After a short taxi trip (in which our taxi driver told us "all about" the exciting tango shows we could catch at the Confiteria Ideal - we let him talk on, he was just being helpful and friendly) we ended up at Ideal. 

Surprises were in store:  Firstly, the entrada was only 40 pesos, which was the same as El Arranque.  We expected it to be like, at least 70 pesos because we had the impression that Ideal was a tourist trap, but we were wrong. Secondly - the milonga was filled with locals!  It was the El Arranque crowd with some other additional locals.  They were dancing close embrace with good floorcraft. 

We ordered beer and water and before they came we were off dancing.  Third surprise: the floor was smooth and not at all sticky.  

We danced every tanda for one and a half hours, and we only danced with our favourite dancers - that is, with each other!  We didn't have to say hello or socialize with anyone except our friend Roberto Segarra - who was having a grand old, very busy time dancing with all the ladies.  It was wonderful to see him healthy and happy and still dancing several times a week at the age it 93, 94 or 95?  We have lost count.  We told Roberto, "Buenos Aires isn't the same unless we see you somewhere, dancing!"  Bumping into him and seeing him dancing makes us feel that things are still ok.

Man Yung and I looked at each other after every tanda with big smiles on our faces.  We didn't stay long, because we had another event to rush to afterwards, but it was good to spend time just with each other.

We didn't talk about our time at Ideal until we got back to Toronto - and it is the fourth surprise, that we both agree that it was the best time we had on our trip.  It is terrific for us to spend time with our teachers and friends Martha and Manolo, Osvaldo and Coca, Paulina, Susy Tilbe etc., and spending time with the people we love and whom haven't seen for a long time is the main goal of our trip - but with our friends there and the obligations we have when they are with us distracts us from enjoying our dancing!

Man Yung says that we can end this post with the Chinese saying, "If the Heart is pure, the Land is pure." Confiteria Ideal happened to be "ideal" for us because we had no burdens and felt so free. 

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