Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trendy/Not Trendy

 A sunny afternoon on Avenida del Libertador

We just returned from Buenos Aires!  We have colds and we are exhausted.  But not too exhausted to tell you what is trendy/not trendy right now in the Tango Capital of the World!:

TRENDY:  Lionel Messi.  His face is everywhere on TV, in billboards, in the news.  World Cup in just a few short weeks!  The hopes of all of Argentina are pinned on him and the rest of the team.

NOT TRENDY:  Buenos Aires.  We have never seen so few tango tourists before in the city.  In 50% of the milongas we went to, WE were the only tourists.  In the rest, there would only be a handful more.  Is it the chilly weather?  Is it because tourists are timing their trip for the Campeonato?  Or is it because of the rise in crime?  Or the slow implosion of the Argentine economy? 

TRENDY:  Porteños "Just Dancing" at local milongas.  They are just desperate to dance, and many dance tanda after tanda after tanda.  No more sitting all night and waiting for one or two tandas with the perfect music and the perfect partner.   Or perhaps, due to rising prices and anxiety about the future, any music is good music and any partner is a good partner - the more you dance, the better bang you will get for your peso.

NOT TRENDY:  Exhibitions.  If the Porteños are there to dance, dance, dance, they don't want their dance time to be interrupted by a 15 minute show by yet another aspiring Campeonato couple. 

TRENDY:  Platform shoes.  Every shoe store stocks them, in heights of two, three or even four inches.  Will being taller make you feel better?

TRENDY:  American Fast Food chains.  Every year it gets worse - McDonalds, Burger King, Subways (!?!!? We have lots of these in Canada but we don't actually know of anyone who eats at these.  The ones in Buenos Aires are doing brisk business) every half block. Who wants to have expensive, quality ice cream at Freddo's when you can get two soft cones at McDonald's for 9 pesos?

TRENDY:  Skin-tight leggings in every colour and pattern and material.  Unfortunately, they do nothing to camouflage or to smooth over lumpy, jiggly behinds or thunder thighs - which have become more and more common since all the Porteños we have seen on the street on average seem to have gained a lot of weight since our last trip.  In 2007, we wondered why Porteños were so skinny even after eating all that pizza and pasta?  Now, we wonder why they have become so fat. Can it be the invasion of American fast food and American stress-eating habits? 

NOT TRENDY:  Nuevo Tango.  We saw a total of ZERO persons dancing in this style - ok, we go to mostly traditional milongas but pre-2010 you were bound to see a few silly souls still doing colgadas and volcadas like New Tango wasn't old and dead.  We were actually amazed to see a famous formerly Nuevo Tango couple dancing - Campeonato/Show Tango style!  He still sported the dirty beard, scruffy hair and raggedy clothing and was constantly staring at the floor while he danced like he was looking for spare change - but give him a haircut and put him in a spiffy suit and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between him and all the hundreds of Campeonato hopefuls soon to be invading the city.

NEVER OUT OF STYLE:  The love of family and friends.  Honesty.  Genuine smiles, warm embraces.  The feeling of just being happy to be together, once again, after a long time apart. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why we dance on Sundays

We have a friend, new to Tango, who has absolutely refused to go to a milonga on Sunday.

"But the music is really great at the Sunday milonga!  And there's going to be classes and shows by Argentinian teachers!  And lots of great leaders to dance with!  And - ohhh, snacks and alcoholic beverages!"  we said, trying to tempt her with all the things that would usually be irresistible to dancers everywhere.

Our friend gives a look like we are crazy.  "But I have to go to work early the next morning!  Sorry guys, I will have to wait until I have Monday off to enjoy your Sunday milonga, no matter how lovely it sounds," she said, like the completely rational and sensible person she is.

By the way, she had just been working for most of Saturday - and almost didn't make it to the milonga that evening.

Apparently, we have forgotten no "normal" or "sane" person goes out dancing on Sunday, or even on weekdays when there is work the next day.  These "pre-work" evenings are much more fruitfully spent on either "resting so one can work" or "mentally fortifying oneself for work", or maybe even "work, so that we can get it out of the way of more work", and other admirable "work" pursuits.

I remember what Sundays were like for me before Tango.  They were not relaxing.  We had to get all the household chores done (since we don't have enough time during the week - due to work), all the grocery shopping done, maybe we would decompress with a little "shopping therapy" at the nearby mall, but we wouldn't go anywhere far or do anything too strenuous.  I would feel nervous and guilty if I wasn't home by 7 p.m. because I wanted time to rest and prepare for the next day.

To be honest, I would feel anxious even if I was home at 7 p.m. - and I would still be anxious all evening, fretting about the rotten things I would have to contend with once I stepped into the office at 9 a.m. the next day.  AND I would toss and turn all night, having worked myself into a frenzy of worry.  It was no surprise that I usually went to work looking like a really wired and pissed-off Panda on Monday morning.

"Argggggghhhhh!  Where's my COFFEE!???!?!"

I have a colleague who has it much much worse - she is stressing about Monday the moment she leaves work on Friday.  You can already guess what kind of havoc this kind of pressure is wreaking on her life and her health.

Once we became "crazy" Tango people, this is what happens on our Sundays:

8:00 a.m. - Wake up, feed cats, go back to bed.

8:15 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. - Do nothing.  Sleep.  Do no household chores.  We're pretty tired after dancing until 1 a.m. the previous night.  The house is really dusty, but we haven't died yet.

11:00 a.m. - Cook lunch.

Noon - Eat lunch.

1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.  - More nothing.  Do no household chores.  Some of these dust balls are getting so big they are starting to talk to us.  

3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. - Nap.  

6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. - Heat leftovers and eat them for dinner.  Get dressed.  Go to Milonga.

9:00 p.m. to midnight - Dance!

1:30 a.m. - That's when our heads hit the our pillows.  We fall asleep instantly.

Believe it or not, I am totally functional and not like Angry Panda on Monday morning.  And everything is still the same at work - except I am no way as stressed.  I have totally forgotten what it was that I was supposed to do first thing on Monday, but it isn't the end of the world because with all the support staff freaking out and running into my office to tell me, I am completely up to speed within 20 seconds anyway.

With Tango to look forward to (and prepare for) at the end of a weekend, not only have I discovered that there is no space for work anxiety on Sunday - I have realized that there is NO NEED for work anxiety on Sunday, Saturday, or any other day.

Society promotes devotion to work as a virtue and expects people to work or be thinking about work even when they have left work.  It's taking over the world, with people putting in  sixty, seventy, eighty or more hours of work a week, and always checking emails and being on call twenty-four hours a day.  I always hear people BOASTING about how busy they are, how hard they are working, and how they don't have time to sleep, let alone rest. Isn't there something fundamentally wrong with this?

We are crossing our fingers and hoping that our Tango newbie friend will come around and discover that it is not the end of the world to dance on Sunday night, and that dancing will not affect her work performance on Monday. We can guarantee that Tango on Sundays will leave her happier and more refreshed - and who knows, maybe a change in perspective about Sundays will make her re-examine her whole work/life balance?

Live more, live better.  Dance - even if you have to work the next day!*

* Actually our household chores and grocery shopping aren't being neglected!  We just time manage better and accomplish these things during the week to leave our weekends open for dancing.

**  Dancing until midnight on Sunday and leaving all work worries behind the entire weekend actually makes me focus better on work on Monday morning.

*** If we don't dance on Sunday (and it could because of unexpected price increase, surprise shows we don't want to watch, etc.) we treat it as an unexpected gift of free time and we have a delightful time going out on mini-excursions during the day or going out for a nice romantic dinner at night.  We are used to not thinking about work on Sunday so we can enjoy our Sundays even if we don't dance!

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