Browsing the list (over 60 names) of our local teachers I noticed a new one and started to Google around to learn a bit more. I soon found the site. They were one teacher and two assistants. Their motto was, “Want to lose weight? Come onboard! [The class was taking place on a houseboat] We’ll use non-tango music to teach you tango nuevo. Free drinks.”

Free drinks, that was more than enough to convince me and two hours later I was walking along the river, scanning the houseboats. Once inside it looked capacious and empty because they were all at the bar. The lose weight part had attracted ten girls and the free drinks part twenty guys; not counting two milonga sharks who had come for the chicks and were now a bit worried by the shortage of them. They watched the class but did not take part.

Finally we had to leave the bar as the new teacher called us for the lesson. He was not an Argentine but at least he had a cool ponytail. He explained what the tango is:
What you can do with small steps, you can do with big steps.
What you can do to the left, you can do to the right.
The music is for your inspiration. Don’t worry about the rythm, there a plenty of instruments, there will always one that will play some note just when you’re taking a step.
Leaders forget your arms, all comes from the torso.
Leaders when taking a step, you can bring the woman with you, or send her into the opposite way.

Then he unveiled the three ways of taking a tango step (the Fluid, the Slow and the Lame), as well as the possible directions (side, forward)

And for the remaining of the hour we experimented these great rules of the tango. I barred all my previous knowledge and followed the teacher’s principles, all his principles, nothing but his principles. With true beginners I had no problems, we trotted forward like lame donkeys and slowly swam sideways like zen crabs. But with the girls who had already attended classes (with a different teacher), and with the two assistants it did not go too well. The things they knew (walking like a metronome, collecting their feet, keeping a vertical posture), prevented them from following my tahitian hip moves, or my quick stationary bouncings. Here the non-tango music did not help much the assistants. Explaining the tango compas on a Jerry Lee Lewis piece is a challenge. “Are you trying to lead a double-time? I can’t follow you! Slow down! Don’t wave your shoulders!” and so on, to which I kindly replied that I was doing what the teacher explicitly told us to do and that it was necessarily valid. And actually he came only once, to correct my abrazo. After he left and until the end of the class I kept holding my arms in the teacher-approved way, the left one bent and flabby (so flabby that the follower had to support the weight) and the right one extended and tense, with an iron grip on the follower’s left shoulder blade.

Forget about Gustavo and Fabian. This guy has worked out a completely new teaching system. He must be a genius. Hopefully he is. I’d like to see how his pupils will do after one year. Let’s hope they won’t get any other influence, won’t take any class with a more conservative teacher and will dance only between themselves.

The mailman hates me

2008, October 21

Last week I found in my mailbox an envelope containing a refund check for tango shoes that I ordered (very) long ago and waited for months until the vendor admitted that he was unable to deliver them because he never had them in the first place. I almost sued him because it took eight months before my money finally came back. I thought he was intending to keep my 200 bucks forever. But actually it’s the mailman’s fault. The letter with the check was sent on March, and needed seven months to walk 300 miles. Shortage of fresh horses in the Pony-express stations, I suppose.

And yesterday in the box there was a voucher, 15% discount on any tango class, group or private. The studio is not that far from my place, maybe three miles, but the mailman needed twenty days to walk the distance, and the voucher’s deadline was missed by two days. No discount for me.

On the other hand the non-tango-related mail, the bills, the commercials… come in unaffected.

argentineless tango

2008, October 9

I think I’ve found a class for Mondays after all. The class is gender-balanced and unlike the other classes the people here are younger than myself. That’s because the teacher, a chinese with a ponytail, is mainly working with groups of college students.
He has several groups of beginners and this group is the (comparatively) advanced one that he created this year for the pupils who had been taking his classes for two years or more.
The music he uses is of the everything-but-tango kind, I don’t think he could tell a Fresedo piece from a DiSarli one, and there is no attempt either to introduce us to the culture of the dance. He’s not bringing mate and bombilla. Fine for me, I even find it refreshing to be shown a step without hearing that it was created by Virulazo, and to arrive late at the class without getting lectured about the ancient art of catching a taxi in Corrientes.
We do individual, stationary exercises on balance, like in Karate Kid. As the music is not tango we don’t feel the Pavlovian urge to start walking. By the way the whole class always remains within the boundaries of an exercise, there is neither waiting-for-late-pupils dance at the beginning nor now-dance-like-in-a-milonga-and-insert-the-sequence-whenever-you-feel-like dance at
the end. I would not choose this lesson if it was my only one, but as I’m attending several classes this one is like a warm-up for the others.