Monday, February 24, 2014

Martha and Manolo at Salon Canning - February 14, 2014

Once upon a time we didn't know how to dance milonga.  Every time milonga music played in a milonga we sat down.   When we asked our local instructor to teach us how to dance milonga, he played milonga music during his practica and pushed us to dance "Faster!  Faster!"  Needless to say, it didn't work, dancing tango steps to milonga music made us trip over our feet.

Man Yung had to resort to stealing the milonga steps of local tangueros.  One such gentleman flew across the dance floor whenever he danced milonga, so Man Yung arduously copied his step....his ONE milonga box step.  Even though it was repetitive, at least it worked.  Poor us!

We don't admit defeat easily so we ordered some instructional videos from Amazon and Bridge to the Tango and waited impatiently for weeks for our DVDs and videos to arrive.  A Juan Carlos Copes DVD arrived - it was awful, we couldn't get anything from it.  Luckily, we received the Pepito Avellaneda video shortly afterwards - and it was really clear and easy to learn from.  We received the Manolo's video a few weeks later - and with the material from these two amazing milonga masters, we were set.

Of course, even though we were able to learn some steps from videos, we lacked refinement and we were missing lots of detail.  When Martha and Manolo came to Toronto in 2006, we took 50+ hours of classes from them while they were in town.  No way would we miss out on the opportunity to build a solid foundation for our dancing!   We have been taking their classes at Camicando, Escuela Argentina de Tango and La Salsera every year since then.  We no longer risk falling flat on our faces dancing Milonga (and Tango, and Canyengue).  We also have wonderful memories of our times together with Martha and Manolo in Toronto and Buenos Aires.  We are so blessed to have Martha and Manolo as our maestros and friends.

Here are some beautiful recent performances of Canyengue, Tango and Milonga from Martha and Manolo at Salon Canning - enjoy!

(Embedding has been disabled for the milonga video, but you can see it direct on YouTube via this link:)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Smoke gets in your eyes

Do you remember how romantic it was, dancing Tango on an empty dance floor to The Platters?*
*This was back in 2011, before Irene lost 15 pounds and before Man Yung gained 15 pounds!

We usually dance Tango to Tango music in Milongas...but sometimes, in small doses, we have had a wonderful time dancing Tango at unexpected times in unexpected places to unexpected music.

"Remember when we first started dancing Tango?  There was no milonga one night so we went to the local Chinese restaurant which was hosting a ballroom social.  It was quite interesting watching all the Chinese ballroom dancers fudge their steps and running back into the same corner of the dance floor to start their step sequences all over again!  And yes, don't forget the Face Dancing!"

"I remember that, they were very funny!  But wasn't it great when they played Rod Stewart's 'Have I Told You Lately' at the end of night?  We danced just the few steps of Tango we knew to the song.  Even though we couldn't dance well at that time, it was magic. The whole world slipped away and it felt like it was only us on the dance floor."

"How about that time in Montreal at the brunch buffet at the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth?  There was a singer with a guitar, singing Spanish songs to a crowd too busy eating to care. We asked him in Spanish to play a Tango, and he smiled and played 'Sur' for us.  We danced on the carpet in our street shoes."

"There was that time at the cinema...we were there before the movie started.  I think we were watching "Before Sunset".  There was no-one in the cinema yet, and there was music playing.  I don't remember what song they were playing, but we liked it, and we got up to dance on the empty space just in front of the screen."

"That was a lovely moment.  I also liked sneaking into the big hall with the wooden floor at Trinity College just before your "Marx" class.  You'd play some music on your phone and we would practice steps trying not to make any noise so that we wouldn't get kicked out!"

We have danced in deserted gazebos in parks all around town.  We have danced on a flurry covered porch, and in the snow right next to a bus stop.  We have danced in the airport next to the gate, waiting for our flight.  We have danced to Mayumi Itsuwa, Eva Cassidy, Carole King, even the Beatles.  We have danced before breakfast, during lunch break, and we have even stopped to dance while eating dinner.  Even when we are asleep, we sometimes dream we are embracing each other to the music, moving with our eyes closed.

All it takes is a knowing look into each other's eyes, a shared smile, and a loving embrace - we can take our romance with us wherever we go, just because of Tango.

It happens to be Chinese Valentine's Day as well as Western Valentine's Day today.  There are at least three Valentine's milongas going on tonight in Toronto, but we didn't go to any of them, we stayed home and cooked a delicious home-made seafood dinner.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Lost Causes - 不可與言而與之言,失言

We once heard a fellow tango blogger complain about trying to get her friend to understand her viewpoint.

"I tried approaching the topic from different angles.  I tried breaking it down for her.  I patiently listened to what she had to say and refuted her points one by one.  I gave her examples.  It took me a week of writing back to her on Facebook but after all that she still didn't get what I was saying!" 

Didn't understand?  We think she just didn't agree!

Confucius once said:


In English, this means: "To fail to speak to a man who is capable of benefiting is to let a man go to waste. To speak to a man who is incapable of benefiting is to let one's words go to waste. A wise man lets neither men nor words go to waste."

Confucius teaching his disciples at the Apricot Tree Forum.  If they were discussing Tango instead of philosophy, all his disciples would desert him and go off and form their own branches of New Tango.

Is it just Tango or is it human nature?  We find that if a Tango dancer holds a different view from ours, it is IMPOSSIBLE to convince them to think otherwise.  Even if they come around eventually to what we say, a few weeks, months or years later, they won't admit that their change in perspective has anything to do with what we said!

Another funny thing:  when a Tango dancer comes up to us to ask for "advice", they don't really want OUR advice, they want us to validate what they are doing - or even better, they want us to listen to their advice!

Tango dancers have so much invested in their Tango that if they have been dancing for a while, say six months to three years, they are almost incapable of change and are stuck in a time warp of the same steps and same attitude no matter how many more classes they take or how many Youtube videos they watch.  You find relics from three, five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago (and you can tell which era they started Tango by the way they dance) on the dance floor any given night.

It takes a Herculean effort or a miracle from the Tango Heavens for any Tango dancer to change.   Most just give up rather than admit that what they are doing is ugly or awful or dangerous or just doesn't work socially.

We almost got embroiled in a futile comment "discussion" with a dancer who was just stuck and confused.   We felt sorry for him but nothing we were going to write back would change his mind and we knew it.  Thank God that Man Yung had his Analects of Confucius ready to make us realize that this was just a "Lost Cause" and we should walk away.

Please, poor stubborn ones, don't change the way you think about Tango and dance Tango! If we can't convince you of anything different, we might as well cut our losses and not waste our breath!

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