Private thoughts

2009, August 16

Or better said, thoughts about privates.

Only here for a few more days now, and realizing that, with my muy debil hand, leading the average porteña was still impossible, I signed up for a few private classes.  A pro is easier to lead, and also it takes less time to explain the situation (the tendinite, the splint) to one person only.

Now a private class can be a curse too. You may think that it will be a hand-made lesson but way too often the teacher only pretends to be listening to your needs, and actually delivers you the very same  stuff  that he/she delivered the day before to another pupil.

Yesterday’s teacher started by asking me what I wanted to work on. One point. Then she told me that we would dance a little, to allow her  to know me a bit. One more point. That we would dance two tangos. Minus one point. She is gaining time. After the little tanda she announced that to reach my goal (I had asked to work on the art of listening to the music) I needed first to correct my terrible posture. Minus one point. There are as many correct postures as there are teachers. And so we worked on my terrible posture until I reached her correct one (butt sticked out backwards, heels up, knees bent). Needless to say I will be back to my usual posture very soon,  after all these years it’s too late to modify anything. Oh and one more minus point, because she knows that it is too late, she asked me how many years of tango I had. The second step to my goal, was my terrible walk. Minus one point because it is totailly irrelevant with what I wanted to work on. Like postures, walks are very numerous, often one teacher has two, the one that he teaches and the one he uses himself when he dances socially. The walk can be on one line, on two lines, you can land with the toe or with the heel, you can project the leg or go with all the weight, you can do some counter-body with your shoulders or not. You can place the beat on the impulse or and the landing. Asking something about the walk on Tango-L is like opening a can of worms and usually brings you an instant ban by the mods. Minus one point. But well, another fifteen minutes of hard work and I was walking the way she liked, heels first, two lines, no weight transfer, and going up and down, reverse counter-body. Here too and for the same reasons I will remain faithful to my own walk (one line, toe first, weight transfer, no ups and downs, regular counter-body).

“Oh there is no time left to give you deep, valuable explanations about your musicality question, but I think that posture and walk are the most important things for you. Let’s dance two more to finish the class.”

How do you think I danced, using an unfamiliar posture to walk in an unfamiliar way? To me it felt like a monkey walking on eggs during a moonless night. 

 “Much, much better Pablo, congratulations!”



2009, July 23

Practica Me rio de la plata, Monday 22:30, end of the first session of Raul’s seminario.  Untypically it was balanced (Typically it can be 7 guys for 1 girl  – Tango Brujo –  or 15 guys for 4 girls -DNI), the followers were girls  – not ladies -, they  were dancing in estilo salón, with two exceptions they were familiar with nuevo steps, and as we were changing partners very regularly (except for the last three songs where my then partner asked to stay with me),  I could see that all of them were good dancers.  Young? Good? Open style? Dedicated? Of course there is a trick: with two exceptions they were all foreigners.

The fee of the afterwards practica was included in the amount paid for the class, my last partner asked me whether I was staying, walking back home very late ( even with the North Pole and rainy climate we’re enjoying here)  was not a concern because we were very near from my place, and talking about my place I knew that it would be very noisy until 2:00 because the local students who live here were just starting  a party when I was preparing to go to the class.

I left. My routine with unknown tango places is as follows: first time is for a brief look, if I like it then the second time I  sit and watch, the third time I’m more or less familiar with the place and I may invite someone (or not, because I also have a routine for this). Now in this particular case there won’t be a third time because there are only two sessions in this seminario.

Which, incidentally, is about improvisation.

A bigger fish

2009, July 8

In the July magazine “La Milonga Argentina” I noticed a big  (half-page) ad about classes given by famous teachers at the  Zarasa escuela., managed by the also very famous Julio & Corina.

It’s not too far, I thought, less than 20 cuadras, let’s go to the 19:30 class (beginners).  Independencia 2845, here I am. Let’s enter.

“Hey, where do you think you’re going?”

“To the tango class.” (How ignorant these locals are, I thought, how can they ignore that the great Julio & Corina have a school just here?)

“There is nobody. Nobody. Julio and Corina are abroad. There is nobody here.”

“There are classes by invited masters.”

“No, no, nobody is here. You saw the ad in the tango review but this is just that – an ad. Corina might be back next week.”

“So, this ad is a lie?”

“Yes.” With a big smile, though I don’t see what is funny here.

So the list of virtual, on-paper-only classes grows by one unit.  And the guilty teachers belong to the big fish category, this time.

Thirty minutes later I was back home. I calculated that I could afford a ten-minute rest before walking now to Canning, where there was a class at 21:00. No risk of being deceived again, the Parakultural website had a special mention telling that there would be classes on Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th.  My calculations were right, I arrived there exactly at 21 :00. Ah, Canning, this big cube with its famous floor. Soft music. Tables ready for the milonga at23:00 .

And no class.  45 more minutes (yes Canning is further than Zarasa) and I was at home again, trying to read a book about tango in the 80’s (the 1880’s) but I fell asleep before page #3. Too much energy gone walking the dirty pavement.

All these announced and non-existent classes. Let’s hope that this portena 2009 fashion remains in BsAs and does not spread worldwide.

G and G

2009, July 2


Escuela Argentina de Tango, afternoon class (certainly not a 11:00 one!), several couples of students are here already and I take the last available seat. And we start waiting. And waiting. And… until  the  lady at the desk comes in.

– The teachers are not coming, I do not know why, they’re not calling either. There will be no class.

Some students try to switch to the class taking place in the other room, most just leave.

And Gustavo Rosas & Gisela Natoli join the list (los Barrientos, Alejandro Suaya, Georjelina & Cristian, LunaPalacios) of  the teachers who announce classes in the E.A.T schedule and then don’t bother coming.

Running gag

2009, June 18

Little me is trying to attend a class at 11:00 at Talcahuano 1052 where the Escuela Argentina de Tango has a dance studio.

Monday: the building is closed. June 15th is a special day here, granted, but the E.A.T schedule precisely states that a class was starting from this very day on.

Tuesday: “Oh, this class? Today it won’t take place but there is a probability that it actually opens one Tuesday, can’t tell you when though”, the girl at the desk explained to me.

Thursday: “This is a misprint in the schedule, there is no class at 11:00 with this teacher. But you can go to the other room, there a class will take place at 11:00 with Jorgelina & Cristian, they’ll be here in one minute, just enter and make yourself comfortable until they come.”, the same girl said. And twenty minutes later she added that the teachers would not come after all.

No problem, time is on my side. It’s like the story with the monkey hitting random keys on a typewriter, given some time it will write sensible sentences and even whole books.  Same here, given some time a tango class will necessarily happen at 11.00, Talcahuano 1052.


Escuela Argentina de Tango. Intermediate-advanced level. The teachers show a sequence, sacada, rebote, rulo, gancho, and walking steps in between. My follower  seems to be disturbed by something and after repeating the sequence several times she finally asks me if I don’t think that there is something wrong with the legs.

It’s fine as far as legs are concerned, I reply. Everything else is bad, I think in petto,  no balance whatsoever, not responding to the lead and her right arm  curved in a weird way that make her look like a teapot. 

Not being convinced she calls one of the teacher. “Look, at the third step, each time I feel his leg against mine. What is wrong?” 

This is what we call a sacada, the teacher replied.


2009, June 7


The DNI teacher explained the movement to  the class. Then he rushed to me.

– Hey I’ve not even embraced my partner yet, why are you coming here when I have not done anything wrong? 

–  You will. I trust you.


explicit lyrics

2009, April 28

A former tango place has re-opened tonight. We all thought it was lost forever after the owners raised the rent. After all this time it’s not exactly the same. Different paintings on the walls, not South-America-related as before, a different host. And a different teacher for the pre-milonga class, one whom I did not know. That’s why I came by the way. Not much to say about the class, usual sequence with pauses here and double times there, usual shortage of followers.

Being there I attended the beginning of the milonga too, watching a group of old (aren’t they all) argentine guys. One of them had brought his Geraldine-alike grand-daughter or niece and they were taking turns to dance with her. Then they made a pause and the girl came back to the table where she had left her drink. My table.

“You don’t dance?”

Now that’s a silly question. What are my options? No, I don’t. or alternatively, yes, you’re right, I don’t dance. It’s a dead end already. We won’t share a tanda.

“I am watching.”
“But practice is necessary too”, she insisted, “Watching is not enough, don’t you want and try the sequence that you learned in the class?”

And here again, what can I answer? Oh yes I want, accepting a verbal invitation, trying an unfamiliar sequence with an unknown partner during a milonga, and with half of the small audience being argentines… Not likely. Yet instead of something like “Are you asking me to break all the rules of the milonga in one shot?” I came up with a more diplomatical

“Precisely I am not doing too well with this sequence. But why not waiting until next week, maybe I will have mastered it.”

Here a reasonable, no-harm-done conclusion would have been, ok, see you, good luck with the sequence. Instead:

“But next week there will be much more dancers here, everybody will know it is open again. Come on, let’s dance.”

Well, time for explicit lyrics then.

“No. Thank you.”

Strange, really, this you-don’t-dance approach. Perhaps it works well with argentine males though. Kindda making them feel that their abilities are being challenged.

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.

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.