I screw up

2009, March 21

After attending various classes of various levels in various schools I was beginning to think that maybe after all my tango was nearly acceptable.

That was until the Variaciones coreograficas para escenario class . And I certainly can’t put the blame on my partner, she’s been lurking in there for years and this school is like a second house for her. All went well at the beginning, the girls doing pole-dance moves with their leg and we leaders doing nothing special, just standing there like (slightly improved) poles.  But then came the guy’s part.  In three beats we were supposed to complete a sacada, an enrosque, a gancho, a jump, a boleo, another boleo, and another sacada. All this while leading three giro steps to the lady.  Nothing special here really, hundreds of argentines do this every night in tango shows in front of thousands of tourists like me.  But, needless to say, I screw up.

From then on things worsened with every added element, the lift looked at best like a saltito and the colgada al reves remained a theoretical concept.

Well, a big thump on the ego, that’s what you need from time to time.



2009, March 15

Yesterday I noticed a sign on an old building near my guesthouse.

Saturday milonga at 23.00.

I checked in El tangauta and BA-tango and found nothing about it. There was no class on my agenda at 23.00 and  I could walk home in five minutes if I disliked the place. Why not then.

No door at the entrance. A corridor, stairs (wooden, narrow, creaky, dark…) and at the last floor a desk and a lady. Yes, she says, there is a milonga here, I can have a look and come back to pay if I want.

Several rooms to traverse before getting there. Large, empty, unmaintained. White wall hangings flapping in the draught. It reminded me of the castle´s closed down rooms in the Leopard movie by Visconti.

And then the milonga. No tourists here, but not many locals either. Twenty tables, most of them unoccupied. Lots of pictures at the walls, many  tango-related but the biggest one shows a blond woman. Who is this singer, I wonder, before recognizing Eva Peron. Oops. But who knows, maybe in her younger days she used to sing.

Everything is old, or broken, or missing. I like it here. Much, much space to dance but the regulars need a lot of rest after each dance and there are at best three couples at a time on the floor. Maybe there has been a time when they were good. Maybe thirty years earlier this kneel’s touch on the leader’s ankle would have been a gancho. Now I can see a gentleman at the next table stand up and come to me, five minutes later he’s here, granting me the permission to invite all the girls who are at his table. I thank him, he turns back, another five minutes  and  he reaches his table and his friends.

Todas las chicas. He does not see them the way I do. Any of them may have known Eva Peron.

Forgotten something

2009, March 15

I knew that I had forgotten something.  But only when walking to DNI and passing in front of the tango shop at Lavalle 3101 did I remember. My half pair of shoes!

That’s what happens when you lack the time for preparing your travel. One week before being here I had no such plan whatsoever. But the boss called me in his office.

-) The crisis is here. No work at the moment. Go to Buenos-Aires. And anyway Mouniah has the same profile and skills than you, we can always send her if some client ever wakes up.

-) But I’m afraid I’ve used all my holidays this year already.

-) You have. I know. I give you the days you need. Now go.

Catch as catch can is possibly not  a good motto in BsAs. Sure it’s cheap and three group classes and two privates in one day yesterday did almost no damage to my wallet. But despite a good night of sleep (a.k.a no milonga) my stamina level is not too high this morning. On the agenda today,  another two privates, two group, and who knows, maybe one milonga.

And now a scoop: classes here are not always a fake for tourists. I did find one where everybody is a local and where, unlike at  EAT (not a well-thought acronym for a tango school if you ask me) or DNI, the teachers did not even ask whether anyone was needing a translation.

Separate ways

2008, August 5

“Hola Queridos Amigos :
Para los que no lo saben aun , queria avisarles que a pesar del carinio y respeto mutuo que sentimos con Osvaldo hemos decidido separarnos.

Hey! How will I do next time? With whom will I book privates?

It had quickly become a very recurrent process: I went to their studio, they were both there waiting for me, plus the assistant and the little dog. Osvaldo worked out something and danced it with Lorena, then with the assistant while Lorena explained me the concept. Then I failed two or three times, Osvaldo danced once again with the assistant to be sure it wasn’t her fault (it was mine all the time) while Lorena tried with me, hoping to understand how I could get wrong with such basic stuff. Then the three of them discussed the matter, the dog growled at me and finally Osvaldo found something even simpler.

As pedantic people say, death is the beginning of a journey to immortality. Well then, as a couple they were famous, now they will become legendary.

The story of one shoe

2008, May 25

The plane landed at Ezeiza on the morning, and on the afternoon I went for shoes. Tango8, Lavalle 3101 was the first shop on my list, being the nearest from my place. I was after the elusive *pair of shoes* , both comfortable and good-looking. Up to then I had two pairs of comfortable shoes -but ugly – and maybe four pairs of elegant shoes – but painful to wear – and even a few ones that were ugly *and* uncomfortable, namely the CIF and the Sansha ones.

They had none of the cool pairs shown on their website but I still found something I liked, and I even wore them a few hours later at Viejo Correo. Yes, the nearest milonga from my place. There I did not dance but still I noticed that the right-foot shoe had a strange behaviour. I could either tighten the shoelaces like the left shoe, a bit loose, but then my heel was given to escaping from the shoe, or tighten more but then my foot was squeezed. Nothing much, but unpleasant.

Back home I had a closer look and discovered that there was a slight difference in the building of the shoes. There was a place (See arrow on the picture) where I could only place the little finger for the left shoe but where I had room for the thumb for the right shoe. And because of that, the same lacing wasn’t resulting into the same containment of the foot into the shoe.

Two days later I returned at Lavalle 3101.

I bought this two days ago here, the two shoes are not the same, the left one is ok, I’d like a new right one.
This was a very sensible request, I thought, and I had even brought some money, because the shoe had been worn, even if for only a few hours. And also I had not kept the bill. Yet the concept proved too difficult for the salesman. First he thought I was complaining about the sizes. Then when I showed him where the difference was he failed to see anything wrong.

And anyway you tried them when you bought them

Yes and I actually felt a difference but I thought it was coming from a different lacing. Checking that the right shoe is the exact mirror image of the left shoe is not something you have to worry about in any shop of the world. Outside Argentina.

While he was looking for my bill from two days ago in his comp, a girl came out from the store room and they had a little conversation in spanish.

“- What does he want?

– See the shoes on the desk? The fool, he says they are not the same and he wants to exchange one of them. I proved him wrong, they’re the same.

– They’re different, she said after scanning my shoes for one minute. They’re made of the same parts but the sewing is different.

She returned into to the store room and came back to me after a while.

” – Sorry, this pair that you brought is the only one that we have in this size, she told me (in english). There is no possibility for an exchange.

– I see. Well the left one is ok, I’m keeping it. You can have the other one.

– What you say? I don’t understand.

– Just keep the shoe. I have no use for it.

And I left. Who knows, maybe next year when I’ll be back they’ll have the shoe that will match mine.

a postcard from BsAs

2008, March 28

Just found it in my mailbox this morning.

Hi Pablo, what’s up, I hope that during this few weeks you duly practised all the nice sequences that I learned here.

I like to receive messages from Pablo of the past, too bad I can’t reply.

Here it goes:
Tourists should never go to Pompeya. This barrio is cursed, all the area is infested by Peruvians. If you meet them in the day they will rob you, if you meet them in the night they will kill you, suck your blood, make tango shoes with your skin and turn you into a brainless zombie.

Tourists walking in Pompeya aren’t really tourists. They are zombified baits trying to lure the taxis. If one unsuspecting driver stops then he’ll be surrounded by Peruvians and eaten alive.

Pagan beliefs. But the side effect is, when in Pompeya abandon any hope of catching a cab, walk and walk until you reach Boedo, Parque Patricios or any non-cursed barrio.

a yes is a yes is a no

2008, March 1

And here I was at Club Villa Malcolm, seated near the wall and behind a column. Then came the first notes of El Adios and my reptilian brain made me walk in the direction of the dance floor. I approached a lady who was standing there, raised my eyebrows with a interrogative look. She nodded with a smile, I walked two more steps to enter the dance floor…

… and she stayed where she was.

Maybe this is the new way to decline an invitation. If you say “no” the guy can ask again later, but if you decline with a “yes” then the guy is in a dead end.

Only two things at a time

2008, February 20

I used to think I could focus on three items while dancing:

Where is my partner?

Where to move now?

Am I on the beat/music/melody?

The Recursos del Tango Contemporáneo by Pablo Inza and Co helped me to realize that I lose either the partner or the beat or the sequence, switching from one to the other after a few seconds.

It looks more or less ok because:

When I’m on the beat and I know what I’m leading then the follower will feel that the instructions are very clear and it will seem that we’re connected.

When I’m on the music and connected then my feet will lead some outside walk or side step without any need of the brain and it will seem that I am aware of what I am leading.

When I´m connected and remember my steps then we’ll lose the beat but it will seem that I’m doing it purposefully and that I deliberately chose to leave the beat and listen to some particular instrument.

Typically, for four beats I would lead a complicated thing which would fit with the music without taking too much care of my partner then I would recover the partner on the next four beats while just letting my body lead some basical resolucion.

But… when during the Recursos del Tango Contemporáneo we were asked, while looping on a determined sequence, to add a fourth thing to focus on (a style attribute, which could be either switching from legato to stacato or switching from normal speed to double times to extra slow) then I realized that I was losing either…

…the partner and the beat, doing the sequence and the style switches on my own and off-beat.

…the sequence and the beat, leading style switches to my partner that were totally irrelevant.

…the partner and the sequence, repeating very musical side-steps with stacato/legato changes while the partner, left on her own, was wondering why I was doing this additional warm-up.

Fortunately the seminario ends today, tomorrow I’ll be back to my usual, three-dimensional tango.