Sunday, December 9, 2018

Advice I followed (and advice I didn't follow)

We recently received a comment on one of our old posts from way way way back in 2010.  I had mentioned in the post that our great friend and teacher Alberto Dassieu had told me three little things that took my following to an entirely new level - but I didn't actually say what they were.

So Mikhail very kindly made a comment (And thank you for reading our old posts, by the way!) and asked me whether I could share Alberto's advice.   

Sure!  What Alberto told me was (Drum roll please):

1.  Do not go faster than the leader
2.  Do not stick out your hips/butt when you are doing a giro
3.  Do not do any adornments unless the leader gives you opportunity to

I will also throw in the advice that the legendary Osvaldo Cartery gave me:

1.  Pick up your feet!  (Meaning don't drag your feet on the floor making feet draggy sounds when you are walking.  Yeah, I know that's four words and I had said "three words" - and it was three, in Spanish, and I forget exactly what they were but that's what they meant.)

A lot of you out there may be going "Pffffft!  I ALREADY KNEW THAT!" and "But that's what everybody says!" but hey, those little things were EXACTLY what was wrong with the way I was dancing. They are still my golden rules and I follow them to this day.

People seek and receive a lot of advice about Tango.  I know some dancers who take every single group class and private class available from local and visiting instructors regardless of the style or ability of the said instructor (That's right, I look at some of these instructors and think "WTF?  Should they really be teaching?") and continue to pester the instructors for more tips at milongas outside of the classes.  

With so much time, energy and money thrown into Tango you would think these people would be really really fantastic dancers and teaching their own classes by now!

Reality is they don't improve.  They keep on dancing the same ol' way OR WORSE, they get so confused by the landslide of good, bad, conflicting and/or irrelevant advice they completely ruin their dancing.

I think what it boils down to is judgment - or luck.  You either have to "know" when someone is telling you something that won't work (or is a total crock of bull****) - or you have to be really lucky and meet the right teacher at the right time who tells you just the right thing and nothing more or less.

We were lucky and we had really great teachers who didn't bull**** us and knew what they were talking about.  Some other Tango Professionals/Long-time veteran dancers gave us advice too, and I'd say we exercised some really good judgment about most of it.

So off the top of my head, here's a random sample of some advice that we had received over the years which we followed or did not follow:

1.  "It doesn't matter what shoes you wear to Tango!"

That was stupid and dangerous advice.  Man Yung followed this advice being a newbie (and because he likes a challenge) and wore street shoes with non-slip ridged soles.

This story ends with him wrecking his feet and bleeding all over our carpet.

2.  "You have to do MORE adornments and show off to people your beautiful footwork!"

Maybe this is good if you are an instructor selling "Happy Spectacular Tango Fancy Feet Whizzing Flicking Tapping Drill" workshops.  

Otherwise, this level of adornistatic enthusiasm truly ruins your following.  See above Alberto's advice to me.

3.    "To look more grounded and "Milonguera", your feet have to stick to the floor with every step."

Tried it, filmed it during studio practice, and it didn't work.  Trying to make your feet stick to the floor doesn't make your feet look like they stick to the floor.  

However, relaxing your feet and ankles and NOT dragging them on the floor (as per Osvaldo's advice above) makes your feet look more grounded and "Milonguera".  Go figure.

4.   "A leader has to keep his left arm back while dancing - you have to be able to put an umbrella in that space between left hand/shoulder.  All good Tango leaders practiced with the umbrella!"

This is great advice.  I have observed that most women leaders actually get this (WITHOUT practicing with an umbrella!) and have their left arm in the correct position.  Do you know why women leaders get this?  Because they have all been on the receiving end of a man leader who DOESN'T do this.  If the leader has his left arm pushing forward the follower ends up with a really really (and sometimes permanently!) sore right shoulder.

I have been told I am one of the most comfortable leaders to dance with.  That's because I have had the most permanently aching sore wrecked right shoulder from leader left arm pushing and I don't want to inflict that on anyone I dance with (yes Man Yung hint hint).

5.  "Remember to Pause while dancing."

Absolutely mandatory advice.

You think Tango happens when you are doing a triple gancho boleo volcada enganche piña colada with a banana split and a cherry on top?  

It's all happening the Pause, baby!  Yes it is!

6.  "Dance no more than ten (10) steps during the whole milonga."

Our Maestro and friend El Gallego Manolo told us this and he knows a gazillion steps.  

There really isn't any need to do all gazillion at once.  If you are doing a gazillion it means that for at least a trillion billion of them, you aren't that familiar with them and you are practicing steps at a milonga which is a no-no.

In any case, from a follower's perspective a walk and a giro feels exactly the same whether the leader is doing them regular with two legs one after the other, with a hop, skip and a jump, or with a costume change in a telephone booth in between.  

7.  "Be natural."

Osvaldo told us this.  You shouldn't be dancing Tango like "I AM DANCING TANGO NOW!"

Tango walking is just like any other walking (Osvaldo would mime taking Coca by the hand and walking down the street to the market).

Man Yung explains: "If you eat an apple, you just eat an apple.  You are not trying to impress people with your apple eating skills, you are not showing to people how elegantly you are eating an apple.  You are just eating an apple."

8.  "I have no more advice for you.  You are fine as you are!"

Alberto said this to me.  And he was right - at some point you don't need any more.  

However, Alberto, Osvaldo and Manolo always had more advice for Man Yung.  Lucky Man Yung!

And some of it was even repetitive advice :-(

Sunday, November 18, 2018


The last of our original four cats died at the end of September.  It was a very difficult and sad time, but he had a long and happy life.  Two of our cats were strays we found on the street; the two others we adopted from the local shelter.  We had them before we started Tango, so they accompanied us on our Tango journey and witnessed all the ups and downs of our Tango adventure - and were really mad at us whenever we disappeared for two weeks to travel to Buenos Aires!

It was devastating to come home after a milonga late at night and have no kitties waiting for us at the door.  Sometimes we would forget that we had no more cats and we would open the door thinking he was still waiting patiently in his usual spot for us.

Man Yung didn't want to adopt any more cats.  He complained it was too much work to clean and care for cats, and he was getting older and too tired to deal with another cat. And we can't travel guilt-free if we have pets at home.

Actually I think he was most afraid of having to go through the grief of losing another cat.

I knew we had to adopt another cat.  There are so many cats in shelters waiting for their forever homes.  Having a cat is beneficial to mental and physical health and we would be doing a good deed.

And a home doesn't feel like a home unless we have a cat.

After much debate, we went to the shelter and adopted a feisty tiny two year old Tortie.  She had been found abandoned with her litter of kittens.  We don't know what happened to the kittens (the shelter wouldn't tell us) but when we got back to our condo, Mrs. B jumped out of the carrier and made herself home right away like it was destiny.

It's been only four weeks but it feels like we have had Mrs. B forever already!

Man Yung with Mrs. B, wearing his brand new 
Alice Starmore Kinsale fishermen's sweater that I knitted for him.  
It is a huge bonus that Mrs. B lets him carry her around like she was a baby :-)

Mrs. B doesn't Tango she doesn't know what the fuss is all about.  No partner is good enough for her! Joking aside, she can only be the sole cat in a house because she is very territorial and she attacks other cats.  She is great with people though.  A complete cuddle bug who purrs up a storm.

Mrs. B may not want to Tango (with other cats), but loving and caring for her and all of our original kitties IMHO made us better dancers.  And better people (hopefully).  There's nothing more wonderful than to infuse our dancing with all the (kitty cat) love in our hearts.

Just look at that sweet face!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Death of the Embrace

A couple of years ago a very respected veteran Toronto Milonguera told me that a Milonguero Encuentro could not be organized in Toronto.

I was surprised she would say that.  There seemed plenty of "Milonguero Style" Toronto dancers in Toronto.  It's not like everyone is flocking to Nuevo Tango.  Why wouldn't an Encuentro work?

She was right, of course.  There are maybe TEN really good Milonguero Style dancers in Toronto now.... and most of them don't even come out to dance anymore.

Another Toronto Milonguera told me recently that she goes through phases of not wanting to come out to dance.  It was just too disheartening, arriving at some of the more popular milongas in town, anticipating a having a good time dancing - but leaving disappointed because:

1.  The FIVE really good Milonguero Style leaders have all decided to stay home (and not get kicked in the shins at the crowded and crazy popular milonga);

2.  Being asked to dance and having to dance with Flingy leaders who just want to do ten million giros, enganches and ganchos - all in the same tanda.  And not leading them very well either.

3.  Not being asked to danced by any of Competition Tango Laddies, because they like to stick with the Competition Tango Ladies who have all gone to the same classes as them and have been trained by the same Competition Tango instructors and therefore have a chance to understand WTF they are leading.

4.  Being asked to dance by any of the Competition Tango Laddies, and then not knowing WTF they are leading because hey, she never learned the same "Choreography".

5.  Not being asked to dance, or refusing to dance, because it's a raging seething sea of Flinging and Tango Competition Choreography out there.

#1-5 above means no fun AND it also means the Embrace is dead.  Or dying.  Or people think the Embrace is something that it is isn't what it really should be.

Even Flingers and Tango Competition Choreographers can write f'g beautiful, literate, convincing, bring tears to your eyes essays about the Embrace.  They truly may believe they are good/excellent/Tango Gods of Embrace because they have lots of dance partners/placed well in a Tango Competition/Teach and Perform Tango.

But come on, are they even Embracing?

Flingers only need the "embrace" like a Judoka wants you to put your hands on any part of his or her body in a fight.  Someone's gotta be touching you in order for you to execute a (Judo) move on them.

Please hold me tight... so I can throw the s*** out of you.*

Tango Competition Choregraphers look like they have perfect embraces - of course, they score points for them in Competitions!  The better the "look", the higher the score.  Some of these types of dancers will "rearrange" their partners embrace (basically by pushing them out of it) so it would look better and they will have some space to do some nifty Tango Competition Standard movements and adornos.

No, no, no!

I am in the minority I guess in the Brave New Tango World of flinging and competition but that's not the Embrace for me.

I won't Embrace someone just so I have a grip on them and can make them "do stuff".

I am not Embracing someone in a certain way so that I would "Look Good" and "Score Points".

Embracing someone and thinking "Moves!" or "Looking Good!" is a failure to Embrace.

To Embrace, you have to be completely present in it, not elsewhere with your thoughts.

You have to give your whole Embrace to your partner, and in return they have to give their whole Embrace to you.

All those Tango pauses you are supposed to do with the music?  They aren't to show off your Tango posture or to show off your ability to pause strategically to win points and admiration.  They are moments to feel the Embrace more deeply and intensely.

And to connect with your partner completely.

Dancing Tango without the Embrace is like stuffing your mouth with shovels of food, but Tasting absolutely nothing.

*By Mhultstrom - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Monday, August 6, 2018

Sorry - No Points for that

A couple of Toronto's more notorious high kickers and reckless Tasmanian devil whirligig flingers just participated in the Canada Tango Championship last week.  I shuddered and eye rolled until my eyes disappeared into the back of my head when I received word that they were competing.

There was big collective sigh of relief all around when neither of them placed in the top three.  Thank God!

Do we really need these freakin' dangerous dancers to believe that they are entitled, via "good results" in the competition, to kick and knock the bejesus out of everyone around them?  Hell no!  Now don't laugh, but I truly believe that since their heads are so inflated with their own imaginary greatness already, placing in the top three will make their heads so big they will start hitting people with their faces when they dance.

However, the fact they didn't "win" this time only gives me temporary comfort.  I'm sure they are going to try try try again.   And one of these days they are going to make it into the top three, or maybe even WIN, because you can actually win these things (especially in Canada with it's small pool of dancers) by being persistent and signing up year after year after year.  Once the "best" tango couple wins, there's going to be a vacuum and the "next" best will win the next time.  And so on, and so on. One of these days, your local obnoxious kicker/flinger is going to make it and unfortunately, not because they've miraculously become better, or more caring dancers.

As you know we are NOT fans of the "Tango Competition".  It has set a rather superficial and skewed standard of what is considered "good" in Tango in order to make what is not quantifiable quantifiable for ease of judging and now, as we have rightly predicted back in 2008(!), the Tango Borg has taken over the Tango Universe. 

Coming to a Tango Community near you!  Or maybe they are there already :-(

These days, thanks to "Tango Competition", a lot of dancers believe that the only indicator of "good Tango" is how much one can conform to Tango Borg standard, a great deal of which is about looking attractive while dancing and not breaking rules.  Unfortunately, few or NO points are going to be given for any of the following:

1.  Creative, original, idiosyncratic steps.

2.  An embrace that makes you melt.

3.  Musicality that makes you smile.

4.  Ability to adapt to any partner - regardless of size, height, experience - and make them feel wonderful and not inadequate or awkward when they dance with you.

5.  Ability to dance on very crowded dance floors without hurting yourself, your partner or other people.  That means being agile, considerate AND also means being able to edit the stuff you do and still make your dancing lovely and fun, and being able to restrain yourself from showing off the whole goddamn space-hogging figure you were taught/invented.

6.  Being completely bad-ass skillful with the cabeceo.

7.  Being a top notch Chamuyo bull-shitting flirty charmer with your partners.  And making them laugh!

8.  Willingness to dance with ladies who have been sitting all night and haven't been invited to dance because they are not young/attractive/skinny/or don't conform to Tango Borg standard of beauty and skill.

9.  Being "yourself" and no-body else in Tango.  Unless you were born Tango Borg, in which "yourself" means same same same as everyone else who is competing and you will probably WIN.

10.  Just being a great person and a joy to meet and talk to at the milongas.  We have some wonderful people like this in Toronto Tango.  They make everyone feel welcome and at ease and everyone loves seeing them at the milongas.  They may even organize Tango events for charity.  Beautiful souls.

The important things that makes Tango truly Tango for us unfortunately does not score points in Tango Competitions and it really seems like to us that this whole competition thing is rapidly making Tango go to Ballroom competition Hell in a hand basket.

Yes, we have been talking about this topic FOREVER (more blog whining can be found here) but do people ever listen?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

"Just the Way You Are" (sometimes isn't enough)

I've been thinking about writing about this topic for a long time but have hesitated/procrastinated because honestly, I didn't want Man Yung to read this and get mad.

OK, honey, remember you promised that you won't get mad?

I used to admire dancers most for their skill.  For their musicality.  For their elegance, their walk, their moves, or even, ha ha, their "authenticity", whatever that may be.

Yes, all of the above is still admirable, but there's something that trumps all of that.

It's so rare that in fourteen years of dancing and watching other people dance, I have only seen it in three (ok, maybe four) couples.

Those three couples (or four) were so into each other AND into each other's Tango that they didn't give a rat's ass about ANYTHING else.

Now, when you are a couple in Tango, things are not necessarily going to be "Happily Ever After".

You may have met before Tango.  Or you may have met while dancing Tango.

You may have the most wonderful relationship outside of Tango.   Or not.

You may think you are better at Tango than your partner.  Or worse.

You may wish that your partner could dance better.  Or you wish that you could dance better because you feel your partner isn't exactly happy about the way you are dancing.

You may have an ideal image of what you and your partner should look like or dance like in Tango and let's face it, your partner's skill, height, looks and dress does not fit into those parameters.

You may prefer to dance with other people not your partner.  Or you want to dance with your partner very much, but he/she seems to prefer dancing with other people rather than you.

Or neither of you want to dance with each other really.  Or you only want to dance together sometimes for appearance's sake because after all you guys are a couple but let's sit apart in the milonga so that other people won't be afraid to cabeceo us (separately).

Why not one person stay home and play mahjong/watch Netflix/do some online shopping while the other goes obsessively every night to milonga?  Or, in order to avoid any kind of confusion for other tangueros/tangueras that you may be together, why not go to different milongas on different nights...on different continents?

Now, the following describes US (and I just had to google "Irene and Man Yung Tango Kill Argue" to get to the link without having to sort through all our past posts):

You argue a lot over Tango and want to kill each other constantly.

And people still go up to us and say to us, "Wow, you guys dance so beautifully together!  You guys look like you are so in love!!!!"

Thanks for the compliment, but we are NOTHING compared to the three (or four) couples I've seen.

Man Yung keeps on saying to random ladies he dances with, "Love means never having to say you are sorry".

Well, there's absolutely no place for apology in the Tango of those truly blessed couples.

No need to say sorry to each other - when the leader isn't really leading right and the follower isn't really following right.  Nothing is a "mistake", you know each other's Tango so well you just carry right on over any glitch.

No need to say sorry to anyone around them -  when the intensity of their uninterrupted eye to eye staring vertical tango love making is making other people think "For God's sake go Get a Room!"

No need to say sorry to Tango itself - because it doesn't matter how cheesy or "wrong" their Tango is, their all-consuming "Love" makes it right.*

* You look at them and objectively, they are dancing all wrong and ridiculous but it looks fantastic because they are so much in sync and have so much chemistry.  So there.

Do you know what I'm talking about?  In fact, the turdier they dance, the more it shows how much they truly love each other because they just DON'T CARE.  They can be dancing like s*** or maybe not like s*** but it doesn't matter because they are thinking all the time their partner is TANGO PERSONIFIED and OMG TANGO WITH HIM/HER IS THE BEST TANGO IN THE HISTORY OF ALL TANGO.

Yes I envy that and wish that Man Yung and I can be like that instead of "Irene and Man Yung Tango Kill Argue" but oh well.**

** Man Yung says: "No, I cannot be like that, Irene!  My goal is continuous self-improvement, and that includes Tango.  I am constantly improving MYSELF in Tango by watching Youtube vids on continuous loop for more steps.  You must too!  No rest in turdy Tango for the wicked Mwahahahaha!  Crack the whip!  Back to work!  Roll that watermelon!" ***

*** This post is totally serious and we have discussed this topic together and we really do admire those couples for the way they love each other and love each other's Tango.  A love like that is even better than winning any Mundial!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pedro Vujovich and Graciela Cano

The first time we went to Buenos Aires, we were eager to see a number of dancers live.

One couple we would have loved to see dancing in the milongas was Pedro Vujovich and Graciela Cano.  They had won the Metropolitano (Buenos Aires city-wide) competition in 2005 and we saw snippets of them dancing in Oscar Hector's Milonguisimo show in a youtube video.

The few seconds we saw of them dancing in the video of the show were totally awesome - their musicality was impeccable and their style completely unique.  However, when were in Buenos Aires we didn't have an opportunity to catch them and shortly after our visit we heard that Pedro had passed away.

We have been searching for videos of them dancing every since.  We discovered recently their son Gustavo had posted some videos on Youtube of Pedro and Graciela dancing as a tribute to them.  Here's one of them dancing an exhibition of Tango, Vals and Milonga:

There are quite a few more videos of them dancing in Gustavo's youtube channel, including videos of them while competing.  It's fantastic that we are still able to see these examples of their dancing, it's such a treat.

Confession:  Man Yung has been trying to steal Pedro's steps!   But he has not been successful.  I think it's because Pedro and Graciela's style of dancing formed organically from decades of dancing together and you have to look at it as a whole.  It is impossible (as Man Yung has learned) to take out and dissect/steal any one part of it!

We had the pleasure of meeting Graciela once when we went to Club Oeste and Man Yung even had the opportunity of dancing with her.  She's a beautiful dancer and we were happy to know that she still went to dance in the milongas.

A short and charming biography of Pedro Vujovich can be found on the Todotango website here.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Non-Tango things that have made my Tango better

We know people who are avid class takers and who dance tango literally, EVERY NIGHT.  Good for you!  Keep it up!

I've commented this before to some of my friends while watching particularly horrible awkward dancing: "Give them 20/30/40 years in Tango....eventually anyone can turn into a Milonguero."  

I may have said that ironically but also in total earnestness.  A tried and true way to dance Tango better is to just do more of it.  Either lots in a short time span or less but consistently over more time.  

Good Tango is sometimes just mileage.

But BETTER Tango is more than that.

Without doing any Tango Drills, going to any Tango Festivals, taking any Tango private classes or watching any Tango videos on Youtube, I can just wake up on a random morning and find myself a better Tango dancer.  

I don't know why it happens. 

I'm kidding.  Of course I know.  But if I tell you, you're going to say, "Gosh, Irene is weird."

And then you will go secretly try those same weird things yourself to see if they work.  

Heck, I'll give you a list anyway since I've promised myself to write at least two posts a month this year and I'm kind of behind:

Various Non-Tango things that have mysteriously enlightened Irene's Tango:

1.  Watching a Meteor Shower.

2.  Reading D. H. Lawrence's "The Rainbow" and "Women in Love".  

3.  Going to see a Philippe Jaroussky concert.  OMG listening to him sing live was the most intensely beautiful 2 hours of my life.

3.  Losing 15 lbs of weight gradually using the "Madam Chic French Moderation" method.  Yeah, laugh all you want.  Don't be mistaken, I didn't dance better because I lost weight - I danced better because I LIVED better.

4.  Playing piano again after a break of almost 10 years.  

5.  Persisting in playing my old piano that I got in Hong Kong when I was eleven even though it is crappy and cannot hold a tune or be tuned anymore.  Even my cat cringes when I play.  Hey, I don't care - me and my piano have a history together.

6.  Marie Kondo-ing my house.  Kind of like the experience of losing weight as in #3, but instead weight reduction I was decluttering.

7.  Having better relations with my parents and brother and sister.  However, I am still going to laugh at their Tango ignorance (Oh-no - maybe my Tango will become even better when I stop laughing at them?)

8.  Writing a Tango Blog (OK, this is a Tango thing.  But writing about Tango and analyzing it front to back and top to bottom and actually solidifying thoughts into words helps me immensely).

9.  NOT RECOMMENDED:  Suffering horrible, awful loss, and gradually coming to terms with it.  

I don't wish this kind of sadness on anyone.  Not to make light of this kind of heart breaking and spirit destroying experience, but my Tango did get a lot better.

10.  Falling in love with and being proud of my home town Scarborough.  Growing up I thought my neighbourhood sucked and it was just the sleepy boring old suburbs.  After learning that it was in fact "The Food Capital of the World" and actually trying out the different awesome cuisines available locally and meeting lovely people from different cultures living here, I realized that the place where I grew up in ROCKS.

11.  Letting go of anger.

12.  Forgiving people who were once my enemies - even loving them a little.

13.  Becoming older and wiser.

14.  Understanding myself more.

15.  Understanding Man Yung more.

16.  Accepting both myself and Man Yung more.

17.  Having Man Yung understand me and accept me more.   Yes Man Yung!  This is important!  Partnership is not a Chairman Mao Communist Totalitarian Regime!

In summary, I danced better whenever I was touched by beauty, when I found out something about myself, and whenever I strived to be a better person.

Man Yung said after reading what I wrote, "Yes, life is like that!  Like the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter."

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Tango Staycation

I would have written this post over the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada, but I was too busy on a glamourous Tango "Staycation".

Now, of course we would rather be on a glamourous Tango "Vacation" and we miss visiting our wonderful friends in Buenos Aires, but we have to be home every four to six hours to feed and massage an ancient constipated pet cat.  This one (on the left - I don't know who the guy in the chicken hat is HA!):

And when we told Manolo the reason behind us not flying to Buenos Aires to visit him, he said "Does he taste good with a side of rice?"

HE WAS JOKING!  About getting rid of the cat and about what Chinese people eat!  Cat Lovers and Chinese people, it's JUST A JOKE, OK?

Well, in any event, Vacation/Staycation is just a state a mind and we will use all our powers of Imagination/Zen/Self-Delusion to bring you the following:


1.  Wear same set of wrinkle free "travel clothes" for days on end.  Wash them in the sink and hang them all over the place to drip dry OR screw that, wear them for days on end and do not wash them. Did you know merino wool clothing supposedly never smells bad and self-cleans? 

Irene demonstrating how to look conspicuously like a tourist.  You don't even need to be in Buenos Aires - we guarantee that this outfit will make anyone stick out like a sore thumb anywhere in the world!

2.  Eat pasta and pizza and red meat with abandon and wash it down with gallons of beer/wine.  Gain 5 lbs in 7 days!

Yes, we can get pretty great pizza here in Toronto.  But would it really be as good and excessively cheesy as the ones at El Cuartito?

3.  Buy random stuff because that's what people do on vacation.

Or better yet - DO NOT buy random stuff and be good to the planet.

"Man Yung, I can't believe we took a photo of this incredible HANDBAG STORE in Buenos Aires and didn't go in or buy anything from it?????  WTF!!!?"

4.  Since cannot buy new tango shoes easily when not in Buenos Aires, do next best thing - resole tango shoes, or wear existing tango shoes in one's possession that don't fit well for that brand new tango shoe feeling. Hobble awkwardly in ill fitting tango shoes at local milongas, it makes it feel like you are dancing on unfamiliar floors!

5.  Dance all night. Or at least until 1 a.m. midnight.  Because we need beauty rest + have to go home and massage the cat.  By the way this past week (in Toronto!) we danced Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Monday and Thursday we massaged the cat MORE.

6.  Forget to put on sunscreen because so busy/exhausted.

Unfortunately, this happened all the time when we were in Buenos Aires.  It is not a good idea!  The secret to looking and staying young: Sunscreen, sleep and Tango.  OK, when we were in Buenos Aires didn't get much of the first two but the surplus of the third made up for it.

7.  Go and see the sights and eat the eats in Scarborough, food capital of the world.  Or don't, and nap all the time when not eating and dancing because old and exhausted from dancing + massaging the cat.

If Scarborough is the food capital of the world and we live right in it and have a million choices of what to eat, why do we end up eating the same fifty chicken wings and plate of fried noodles at the same Chinese restaurant?

8.  Watch soccer matches broadcast in a non familiar language.  There are lots on Youtube.   Brings back memories of watching soccer in Spanish in Buenos Aires hotel room (when not passed out from exhaustion or doing laundry in the sink).

9.  Argue.  

Why, don't other people argue while on vacation?

10. Answer work emails. 

Why, don't other people answer work emails while on vacation?  How else can I make sure my inbox is clear and I'm up to date?

There must be more stuff we can do to add to the list to make our "Staycation" sound more exciting but I'm tired from dancing/writing/massaging the cat and need a nap now.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

I replied to Felicity's comment and realized we had been dancing at the same milonga... on different continents

Yep.  What a coincidence!  Felicity's original comment (to the previous post "Why the Cabeceo is important) is in black, and my responses are in blue:

Hi Irene,

"It is always BETTER to dance with someone who is willing to dance with me than someone who isn't."
Agreed: why would anyone want to dance with someone unless they also want to?

Comparing notes, my reasons for not dancing with (any) guys this weekend:

1. Couldn't see good dancers

Agreed.  Getting rare in Toronto too.  Toronto full of hot headed flingers.  However have still a handful of leaders I still enjoy dancing with.  I am often tempted to pray (with incense and crispy BBQ pork offerings - actually, doing complete opposite of the evil eye ritual) that they do show up at milonga but realize that praying is completely useless due to my low dance popularity quotient

2. I like dancing with the guy but he just danced with someone I can't bear and so is contaminated (at least for that day). This is a fairly new one on me. It surprised me too!

Actually this happens to me after Man Yung danced with someone who forgot deodorant or has a problem that deodorant cannot fix.  I have to get him to change before I can dance with him.  Otherwise the urge to vomit will override ability to follow.  Man Yung either has nasal blockage or likes B.O. of strangers does not understand about the fuss I am making.

I have also been put off by the smell of green peppers that attached itself to a leader I like to dance with from a follower I dislike.  Go figure.

3. I really like dancing with the (visiting) guy I've known for years but he has been sending confusing messages during the last year at the two milongas where we last met. I don't know where I stand so I won't look or say anything about dancing even though we're sitting next to one another and (finally) talking again...

I’m a straightforward person, I don’t understand leaders who send out confusing messages either.  

I prefer to dance with someone who is as consistently eager to dance with me as I am with him.  Not BS "Oh I LOVE dancing with you!" and then when there are other "more preferred" followers in the room he forgets to cabeceo or even say hello.

If he is "hot and cold" he better be some hot stuff in Tango.  No wait - EVEN IF he is some hot stuff he can go stuff it.  I'm too old for this game playing s***.

Reasons for not dancing much with women this weekend:

- At two of the milongas: no space / chaos. Space alone wouldn't necessarily be an issue if it weren't for the snails-pace ronda and dangerous floorcraft. Couples were dancing for themselves, not aware of the couples around them. Or were but didn't care, or couldn't dance well enough to manage. I was prevented from moving, was bashed many times, squeezed, tailgated and cut up by guys. I was kicked and scraped by the slim, well-dressed woman several people tried to tell me was a good dancer.

Luckily have not had too much bad luck or accidents while leading on crowded and crazy floors.  I have feeling guys in Toronto are more considerate to women leaders, well, at least to me.  They don’t generally bash into me and my partner unless by pure accident, I have a feeling they have their eye out for not bashing.  Actually, apart from one or two really rotten apples, leaders on a whole in Toronto have become more considerate on the dance floor in the past year.   

However, that being said, I think we have the twin of the slim well dressed woman "so called good dancer" here in town.  Or perhaps it is the same woman?  She has the longest legs and most honking huge feet with stilettos the size of machetes on said feet.  She also flails and kicks highest with the most abandon.  Frenetic displays of reckless high kicking signal "I'm a good dancer", like how red and blue bottoms on Mandrill monkeys means "YEAH BABY! Sizzling white HOT!"?   What is this (tango) world coming to. Milonga organizer had to announce “Keep heels on the floor” but the rockette apparently is deaf because she was still slashing her heels up and down for hours after that announcement.  

Other cavorting, spinning and leaping Mandrill monkeys on the dance floor were noticeably excited by her tango courtship display.

 Hot Stuff

- Couldn't see dancers I like

Sad.  See above re: lack of good dancers.  Sometimes good dancers were (deliberately?) hiding behind not so good dancers I was trying not to cabeceo.  Sad x 2.  See above re: confusing hot and cold.  Not so good dancers I was trying not to cabeceo may be going "wtf?" too re: my cabeceo/not cabeceo (sorry, it was for the person BEHIND you)

- Poor music. B or C sides of famous orchestras. Orquesta tipica Maglio.

OMG this CONFIRMS we were at the same milongas.  A DJ played Maglio (and equivalent) all friggin’ night too.

- I'm not convinced enough she wants to dance with me to want to risk a clear look (from my seat).

Yep, I’ve had ladies say they want to dance and then not even try to cabeceo.  Talk about ambivalence. This has been ongoing for a few weeks now.

- That quiet, good-dancing girl I like isn't looking my way. She refused / avoided me once. I won't invite her again unless she makes it really clear that she wants to dance.

You and I, we must be trying to dance with the same girl.  Sometimes I think she just wants to dance with her favourite guy leaders, or doesn’t want to dance with a girl in front of certain guy leaders who would scoff at women dancing with women.  That’s ok.   

I'm the same: My best lady friends in tango know that I'm not available for leading if my favourite guy leaders are available.

- She could be looking but I don't want to dance milonga / vals / this particular tango tanda.

Actually, I’m pretty much up for anything at this point.  Have heard so much Maglio had to make decision: either dance to the friggin' Maglio, or not dance at all and waste $15 entrada.

I danced 6 tandas over three milongas this weekend. All with women. Good music is always a pre-requisite but curiously, the reasons one does dance are not necessarily the converse of why one doesn't dance:

1. We smiled as she came in and she sat next to me. She was a nice person and turned out to be a good dancer.

That's lovely :-) 

2 & 3 An experienced lady told a woman or women I didn't know near me in my hearing that I was a good dancer and she should dance with me. So I risked inviting one and later the other.

Solid dance reputation being built this way.  It's great!  I hope that I'm getting positive reviews too.  Rather than people whispering "OMG avoid her she sucks" :-(

4 A woman who looked familiar reminded me as she arrived that we'd danced in Cambridge

5. A good dancer I didn't know sought me out with her eyes

You are better at the cabeceo than I am.  I still have to engage in conversation with ladies at beginning of the evening about willingness to dance later and THEN cabeceo to seal the deal later.

6. A woman I've seen dancing well for years I thought had looked my way some time last year but I hadn't liked the music at the time. I invited her this time.

Thanks for taking the time to comment Felicity!  I hope we will really meet one day at the same milonga and we can cabeceo each other for sure :-)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Why the Cabeceo is important

A very nice newbie gentleman asked me recently:

"Is it ok for me to ask you to dance?"

"I prefer to use the cabeceo.  You have to ask with your eyes," I replied.

"So I just need to look at you and you will dance with me?" he asked.

"No, I have to return the look.  If I don't that means no.  Thank you for your understanding, the cabeceo is important to me."

Now, since the gentleman in question was a real gentleman, this was totally ok with him and he didn't ask "why" or "why not" or try to sit and chat with me until I relented.

Now that I follow and lead, I understand even more why the cabeceo is so important in tango.  Maybe there's a lot of people who feel differently, but for me, there's a sacred space in the embrace.  I have to trust and accept the person I allow into that space in order to create a tango that is 100%.

I hate dancing half-assed tango. There's no point to it. Are any of you out there just "going through the motions" because you have been forced to dance with someone you don't want to dance with, just to be nice?  Well, you have got to stop.  You are hurting your Tango duende*.

* Tango duende - a protective tango muse spirit that has to be carefully nurtured in order to develop into full potential to grant the protectee special tango powers.  Too much abuse of the Tango duende will make the Tango muse flee in horror and turn your tango into a kind of partnership line dancing.

Let me break it down on both sides:

Follower's perspective on a non-cabeceo invitation to dance:

You know what? I am purposely not looking in your direction because I don't want to dance with you.    I see you fine.  I am not blind or ignorant.

Yes I am busy looking at my phone but that doesn't mean you get to stand three feet from me and wave in my face to get my attention.  Has it crossed your mind that I think whatever is on my phone would be a better use of my time than a tanda with you?  Well, it's true.

Do you really want to know the reasons why I don't want to dance with you?

It may be nothing personal.  I am tired.  I don't like this tanda.  I don't know you and I don't know how you dance. Maybe my knee hurts.  No, I don't want you to sit and share with me your traditional folk remedy involving cabbage and frozen peas for fixing knee joint pain for the next twenty minutes.

It may be absolutely personal.  Here's a list:

-  I don't like the way you dance.  You fling.

-  I don't like the way you dance.  You have no musicality.

-  I don't like the way you dance.  WTF are you leading? I don't get it.

-  I don't like the way you dance.  There's a 1 in 5 chance you are going to fall over and/or step on my toes.

-  Your embrace sucks.  I enjoy hugging trees more than hugging you.

-  I am trying to cabeceo the gentleman behind you because I enjoy dancing with him more than you. Stop being in the way.

-  Our height difference gives me a crick in my neck and a twinge in my back.

-  I don't like your choice of cologne.

-  You have put on too much cologne and it's more like a toxic gas than a pleasant citrus/floral breeze.  Besides, I want to smell like the perfume I put on before I came to the milonga today and not like what you put on.

-  I don't like smelling your natural body odour/oh gawd, you friggin' STINK.

This reason is a biggie for me.  I can't dance properly if I am gagging at a horrible stench!

-  I don't like your bad breath.

-  I don't like your personality.

-  I don't like talking to you.  Or listening to what you have to say.

-  I get an allergic reaction from one or all of the above.  Hives. Runny nose. Urge to vomit.

-  I would dance with you if you use the cabeceo.  But since you didn't I don't want to.

If I had to say any or all of the above to a non-cabeceoing leader, that's quite bad enough.

But not quite as bad as me having to say "No" straight to your face and have you slink all the way back to your side of the room in humiliating defeat while everyone in the room is watching.  Right?

Leader's perspective on why it is better to get a dance from a follower with the cabeceo:

It is always BETTER to dance with someone who is willing to dance with me than someone who isn't.

I don't see the point of forcing or pressuring a follower to dance.  I don't care how "good" she is (I know some leaders out there are like "She's such a good dancer I've got to try her out!"  Like she was a new car and they want to go for a test drive).

I've danced with ladies who didn't really want to dance with me.  Maybe they were curious about following a woman leader or their friend who had danced with me and enjoyed it pushed them to ask me to dance.

I don't know if other leaders can feel the difference, but I do.

Followers who aren't willing just don't connect.*

* No entrega.  As to what this means and what this feels like, this is a subject of another post.

If someone is willing to return my cabeceo, that's actually the beginning of our connection.  We can dance a real tango if we connect.

If someone isn't accepting my cabeceo, I tell you, it's for a really good reason (see above).

I'm man/woman enough to accept AND respect that.

In fact, even though Man Yung and I are partners, a tanda that begins with a cabeceo between the two of us is more Tango than one that does not!

More of our posts on the are Cabeceo here.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Did you know that dancing with the Milongueros is like Heaven?

I know that some red hot* Toronto tango newbie girls recently went down to Buenos Aires.

* Red hot = young, skinny, pretty, popular and wearing something tight and/or revealing.  As opposed to old and/or fat and/or ugly and sitting on the side all night and never asked to dance.  No, I'm not jealous but just stating the sad realistic facts.

I hope that when they were there, they didn't just dance with flingers.  They go to flinger classes here and dance almost exclusively with other young Toronto flingers and boy do they worship and gush over them.  They think the youthful flinger lads are the best thing since sliced bread.  A million gazillion Facebook likes!

I look at the said flinger lads flinging and 1) hope they don't fling into me and 2) roll my eyes and want to barf at the red hot newbie adoration they are getting.  Are you all mad?

Unfortunately, I really do think they went down to Buenos Aires and just went to flinger classes and flinger milongas and just danced with other young gleeful flinging people. The girls think flinging is the real authentic Tango and anything else is just bizarre.

They do not know that dancing with the Milongueros is like Heaven.  They mistakenly believe that the near-death experience of being flung in Tango at high speed is like Heaven.  As one tanguera has described to me quite aptly, "When he flung me and I clung on for dear life, my life flashed before my eyes!"

It is so sad that in a space of a few years, Tango newbies can't access how milonguero tango feels like even if they want to.  Most of the old milongueros have passed on.  People who have learned to dance with the milongueros or who have danced with the milongueros and who can transmit that wonderful tango feeling are few and far between (probably quit tango after being flung into).  Everyone is flocking either to the competition tango or the flinger tango bandwagons.

I've danced with the Milongueros, girls, and flinger Tango pales in comparison.

With the Milongueros you feel and hear the music.

With the flingers, they aren't listening.  They just want to fling and they are thinking of the next flingy step they can throw at you.

With the Milongueros, you are dancing with gentlemen.  They will protect the women they dance with and respect the people around them.

With the flingers, you are dancing with jerks and they don't care who they hit with a careless fling because they are so busy flinging.

With the Milongueros, you feel their warm, steady and confident embrace.

With the flingers - well, they've flung you out in a wide orbit and you are gripping on with your fingernails or else you are going to be flung to Mars.

It's too late now, but next trip, I hope that instead of doing the Flingtastic Tango Tour, they will go and take lessons with the few milongueros and milongueras who are left.  There are a few still teaching.  Like Myriam Pincen and Blas Catrenau.  Absolutely a match made in Tango Heaven for sure.

They recently performed at Salon Canning.  I hope you enjoy this video of their performance!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Villa Urquiza

There was a time around 2006 when the label "Villa Urquiza" became the latest trendy thing in Tango.  Tango videos had recently started to become widely available on Youtube and a few clever Tango entrepreneurs used the label on themselves and on a certain "look" and style of dancing in those videos as an indication of the highest quality of authentic Tango.

Tangueros and Tangueras all over the world just lapped it up and soon everybody and their mother said they were dancing "Villa Urquiza" style.

I am not an expert on Villa Urquiza tango and I am not going to go into great detailed analysis of it.  I am also not going to tell you what it is or what it isn't.  How tiresome that would be and anyway, I'm sure someone must have done it already in a much more eloquent and poetic and even novelistic manner than I could possibly do because I write these posts on the fly and don't give a damn.  

However I think it was a great marketing tactic and made people who thought they were dancing Villa Urquiza tango feel great about themselves and more superior to a lot of people who were dancing whatever it was that was not "Villa Urquiza".

Unfortunately it also led to people starting to want to dance "the same" and now pretty much all the people who are dancing "the same" and who enter into competitions and win them these days for following strict rules that have put Tango into a neat little ballroom box would probably say "Yeah, I think I'm dancing Villa Urquiza", although I believe all those people dancing the "same" may have moved on to the next trendy "authenticating" label which appears to be "Tango Salon" or "Tango de la Pista".  

That being said, on our first trip to Buenos Aires, we had just met Alberto Dassieu and his lovely wife Paulina (on the first night of our trip and at the first milonga we went to in Buenos Aires) and they were gracious enough to accept our invitation to dinner the following week.

During our conversation over asado and limoncello, I asked Alberto, what is "Villa Urquiza"?

"That is MY tango," he said.  

Which shocked us because we had been watching Youtube and what we had seen with the label had (in our inexperienced and ignorant eyes) little to do with what Alberto was dancing.

But Alberto was indeed "Villa Urquiza", and more authentic than all those people dancing "the same", because his style came from a time and a place and from people he knew and the way he thought and felt the tango and therefore was his and his alone.  Unique.

When Alberto was young, he hung out with El Chino Perico and they would go together to dance in the milongas.  He said that the very very best follower he had danced with ever was actually El Chino's sister.  

They'd go to the renowned milongas of Villa Urquiza.  Gerardo Portalea was king.  Alberto told us there was a competition once at one of the milongas.  When he knew that Portalea was in the competition, he knew that there was no way that anyone could beat him.  And as he had said - Portalea won the tango competition.  And Alberto - I think he said he won the one for Rock n' Roll?

Anyway, Alberto would go to those milongas with his buddies to watch Portalea dance and try and steal Portalea's steps.  Alberto said that after watching and watching and watching, he managed to get it.

We thought he meant he got Portalea's steps the way Man Yung would "get" them which would be like, regurgitating 75% of all the sequences he was dancing which was garnered from replaying Youtube vids again and again in slow motion.

Alberto demonstrated Portalea's salida to us.  A simple step to the side, followed by a step forward.

And he beamed with satisfaction and pride, because in that salida was the entire Villa Urquiza universe.  

If you understand what I just said, you just do - but if you need to ask, you aren't there yet.

It was almost impossible for me to follow Alberto at first.  Even after dancing for three years and becoming quite a good follower by Toronto standards, the first time I danced with Alberto at Glorias Argentinas (on the first night we were in Buenos Aires) I had no idea how to follow him because his style was so different from what I had experienced so far in Tango.

However, it only took a couple of private classes with Alberto and a few tips from him and my following was changed forever.  Yes, it did not take very long, and no, I didn't have to do hours of technical drills or listen to hours of philosophical musings.  I've heard that a lot of teachers these days would milk the hell out of nothing and charge you $150 an hour for it for years and at the end of it, you will suck at Tango more than when you began.

Alberto's precise and concise teaching was like the salida showed us - so deceptively simple, but in it contained all.  And it worked.

We enthusiastically recommended Alberto to everybody who asked us about teachers in Buenos Aires.  He was especially fantastic with followers.  I wish that Man Yung could have learned to follow from Alberto, but back then he was concentrating only on learning to lead.

With Alberto, you do not break the embrace.  It is always close.  The follower could not look down to see what her feet or doing, have her mind elsewhere or practice fancy but meaningless adornments because it would mean she would miss what came next.  

Giros have to be tight around the leader's axis and to the music.  No leaning your weight on the leader despite the unbreakable embrace.  And the follower MUST be slower than the leader.  MUST NOT ANTICIPATE, EVER.  There are Alberto's elegant paradas to contend with.  Any iota of anticipation, any movement even just a little ahead, will result in a trip, a fall - in all, disaster.  

Man Yung's style is different.  When he leads he says it doesn't matter what the follower does.  Rabid adornistas, total beginners, gals who auto-gancho and auto-enganche - he can and will adapt to them all.  Totally laissez-faire, completely "whatever".  Leader has to deal with it, he says.

In Alberto's Tango, if the follower does not follow and become absolutely one with the the lead and the leader, there is no Tango.  Following Alberto was difficult, but correct.  Because everything that Alberto demanded of the follower was correct, and because the way Alberto danced was correct. 

I remember watching a documentary in which a milonguera discussed about how it was dancing with Portalea.  She was a veteran, a skilled and desired follower.

But dancing with Portalea -  the first time she danced with him, she was shaking, she said.  

She had to hold herself, comport herself in a different way.  Even when she was dancing with someone who is a good dancer, it was crucial for her to mould herself to her partner, to adapt to his style. 

And when they interviewed Portalea in the same documentary, he said that for a leader, the main thing was to be able to have a partner who can dance.

Alberto said a similar thing.  We asked him when he goes to a milonga alone, how does he decide with who he would like to dance?

His answer was, "With the best dancer."


"Because I know she is going to know how to interpret everything that I feel."

Simple enough as an answer - but it meant everything.

Once again, if you need to ask what that meant - you aren't there yet.

Alberto would go to the milongas with he best floors, the best DJs, the best dancers.  He would sit and wait patiently for the perfect music, so he could cabeceo the perfect partner, and create the perfect Tango moment.

This was Alberto's Villa Urquiza.  It took decades of dancing and experience to create.  And it was difficult because he demanded so much.  Who said perfection was easy?

Alberto said that he had one wish, that there'd be someone dancing his style.

Are there any leaders who are?  I'm not sure.  In any case, maybe Alberto's style is not something that can - or should - be duplicated, in all its perfection and difficulty and uniqueness.  A copy would not do Alberto justice.

I wonder about the followers who learned from Alberto.  How would it be like to dance with her?  Will she still retain the perfection he imparted to her?  Will she interpret everything that I feel when I lead her?  Will dancing with her reveal to me the sentiment of Tango from the quiet leafy suburban streets of Villa Urquiza from times gone by?

More posts about our great friend and teacher Alberto could be found here.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

An Email

My cat told me I have too many freakin' shoes and none of them are right

From: Irene
Sent: March 18, 2018 10:47 AM
To: Irene
Subject: Shoes!

Dear Irene of 2005,

Hi! I'm Irene - that means you - in 2018. No, this is not spam and you are not high. I'm really you. I have to tell you something and luckily (bizarrely) I discovered I had your email address.

Don't worry, it's not something serious. Everything is well here in 2018. You're (I'm - We're) still dancing Tango. I just have a little bit of Tango shoe situation. Like, too many Tango shoes and I'm not using like 95% of them. I keep on wearing the same four pairs and they are wearing out! I wanted to give you a little bit of advice before you buy so many goddamn pairs and fill up all the available closet space in the house - especially since Man Yung won't let me throw any or them out or sell them. I'm sure as hell not going to wear them if I'm going to dance like a turd in them and have Man Yung complain and whine about my dancing. It's the same husband by the way. Unfortunately, George Clooney married somebody else (no, really!) and she really does have the nicest shoes ever (darn!)

The best Tango shoes for us are Comme Il Faut. You don't need to consider any other brand.

Get size 37 only, that's our size. You will be tempted to get 38s because your feet are going to swell like crazy from tight ahem, "custom made" ill fitting foot destroying Tango shoes (forget about getting multiple pairs of those - Comme Il Faut will eventually come to Canada and you can wait) but 37 is our true size.

Our best heel height is 3 inches - stick to that. Higher heels do not make our feet look more elegant, rather, elegance comes from having a relaxed foot. I'm not going to tell you what a relaxed foot is, trust me, you will get it from practice and experience. Just give it some time.

You also don't want higher heels because you're going to be leading in those heels. Yep. Don't be alarmed, we will be fine leading in heels because we won't start early (In fact, you and I never wanted to start leading, we're going to say no, no, no, no, no to Man Yung who keeps on saying it's good for you (yeah right, I don't buy it) to lead for the next decade. That is, UNTIL we find out it is handy to take over the lead in situations where Man Yung is getting pissed off at some crazy flinging leader who is tailgating and wants to head butt/kick them while he is dancing). In fact, we're not going to start leading until our following is rock solid. But it's not going to work in 4 inch heels - we aren't going to follow well at that height, of course we won't be able to lead well.

We need open toe shoes. Not peep toe, because you can't grip the floor. And the best kind of shoe for us doesn't have a heel cage, just straps. Everyone you talk to say they like their shoes super tight and encasing (afraid to get stepped on probably) but we are the exact opposite. Obviously, what works for other people may not work for us, and vice versa.

As for colour - we don't need black shoes. Screw the idea that you need black shoes like you need a classic little black dress. They don't look right on us. They make us look short and even with relaxed feet you will look stubby.

I guess all other colours are fine so long they are not too dark or boring beige. However, the best shoe colour for you is GOLD! It goes with our skin tone so well, it's just like a neutral. It elongates our legs and goes with everything in our closet (except silver dresses).

So that's my advice for you: Get more gold, size 37, 3 inch high strappy Comme Il Fauts, the more the better.

Gotta go now.

What? You want more advice?


You will never regret saying "No". But you're going to regret every reluctant "Yes".

It's a good idea to start filming your Tango practice and watching them. The earlier the better. Then you will have no illusions about your crappy dancing. Oh what a shock you will have when you first saw a video of your dancing! LOL!

Don't get embroiled in Tango politics and don't side with Tango people who come to you with a pity story hiding daggers behind their backs. They have their own agendas, they will take advantage of your good and generous nature and they are nasty!

You might not want to get so many scarves.

Oh, before I forget - cherish the moments you have with the special people you meet in Tango. You'll be surprised how little time we really have with them.

There's not much other other advice really. We don't have any ulterior motives for "Tango World Domination" or want to profit or become famous from Tango, we just want to enjoy dancing so our Tango journey will be just fine. There's nothing right or wrong, nothing really to regret. Treat everything that comes your way as another opportunity to learn. Just enjoy the ride, I guess.

See you in 2018. Take care.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Blas Catrenau and Myriam Pincen exhibition at La Nacional

Just came across a very recent video of an exhibition by two wonderful milonguero dancers we adore... Blas Catrenau and Myriam Pincen performing to D'Arienzo's "El Flete" at La Nacional:

We have loved Blas Catrenau's dancing since we saw a little clip of him dancing La Cumparsita with his previous partner Graciela Lopez on Rick McGarrey's "Tango and Chaos" website.  Blas and Graciela were the first Metropolitano competition champions in 2002 and we had the pleasure of meeting Blas and taking his class in 2009 and actually writing about it here:

It is such a treat to see Blas, who is an absolutely amazing, top milonguero dancer, paired with the awesome top milonguera Myriam Pincen!

This is what I wrote about Myriam a few years ago:

A Toronto Tanguero who is enjoying all these videos of the milongueras asked us, "What is it like dancing with Myriam Pincen?"

I want to dance like Myriam one day! She is a wonderful dancer, her footwork and adornments are perfect and subtle, she is musical, she follows EVERYTHING. She is a real, living Goddess of Tango - but she is more than that. Would you be able to find anyone with even half her talent who is so warm, welcoming and humble? I think it would be very difficult.

And what's more, Myriam finishes each tango with a beautiful, bright smile!

The combination of Blas and Myriam is the creme de la creme of social tango.  It is becoming rarer and rarer now to be able to see such wonderful dancing since so many great milongueros have passed away.

For leaders, it would be a dream to dance like Blas; for followers, it would be a dream to dance like Myriam.  And a dream come true for me to be able to watch them dance together!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tango vs. Netflix

...And the chain-smoking philandering alcoholic Mad Men won!

Instead of going out to a milonga last night, we stayed in to watch Mad Men on Netflix.  Of course it wasn't just that watching Netflix was more tempting than an evening of "tango boogie" - there was 10 cm of snow and some freezing drizzle making the prospect of driving all the way downtown daunting.   And Man Yung had some kind of running nose/sniffles.  And I am fed up and tired out with all this bad weather and brutal slushy commutes to and from work all week.  And our cat has constipation and needs some heavy duty massage to poop.

HOWEVER we have to face the fact that bad weather and germs and fatigue and cat constipation didn't used to stop us from going out to tango before.  To illustrate, this was our list of non-work non-sleep activity priority as recent as 2015:

1.  Tango!
2.  Staying home because not feeling good/tired/snow storm/tornado
3.  Spending time with family because have to/birthday party/wedding/special occasion
4.  Going to a concert
5.  Eating out

This is the revised list of priority as of beginning of 2018:

1.  Staying home because not feeling good/tired/snow storm/tornado
2.  Tango!  
     (But sometimes tied with or losing to Netflix)
3.  Spending time with family because have to etc.
4.  Eating out
5.  Watching a robovac vacuum our carpet (We are too tired and old to sit through a 3 hour opera or 2 hour concert now).   After much deep thought, we have given our robovac the very original nickname of "Robot".  

Back way back when people would flock to the milongas because there wasn't anything but re-runs of Seinfeld and Friends on tv. But now Tango has some serious competition.  People have other "better" things to do, like sitting on their asses eating ice cream and chips while online shopping or binge watching shows on Netflix.

It's time for Tango to "try harder".  And it is. But I think, it's trying harder in all the wrong ways.  Like too many freakin' festivals/marathons and visiting tango teachers.  Too much exclusive obscure and no-body has played before frackin' "special" music.  And too much friggin' competition style tango.

I wouldn't be bored at all to go to a milonga to dance to the greatest hits of tango with dancers who have great embraces and who listen and express the music with their dancing.  I wouldn't give a s*** about Netflix if that was the case.

Instead I go to some red-hot Toronto milonga and I immediately regret not staying home to watch "Paul Blart Mall Cop 2".  About 90% of the dancers think they are top of the pops because they've gone to lots of workshops by "famous" dancers. They don't want to embrace and don't want to be embraced because 1) they want space to see what their feet are doing because they learned some really nifty! "Tango de la Pista!" steps and 2) they need space for their feet to do lots and lots of adornos. And they don't want to hear the same old stuff.  Bring on the Circus Music please!

Not like they are listening anyway they are too busy showing off, or putting 100% of their concentration into duplicating their workshop steps correctly and in the right sequence.  Recently, a couple dancing behind us was so engrossed in tango salon steppage, the leader stepped right on top of Man Yung's feet.

Unfortunately, I don't see that things are going to change in the near future. The people learning to dance now may be taking workshops on "Floorcraft" or "Dancing to music from _________ orchestra" or "Steps for dancing in a Milonga" but the people they are learning from don't have good floor craft, can't dance to any music from any orchestra with any meaning and moreover their steps aren't suitable for dancing in the milonga. So sue me.

Netflix costs $10.99 per month in Canada. Enjoy!

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