There is nobody here

2008, July 29

There were five milongas during the Sitges festival, I attended them all and danced slightly less than I did last year (3 tandas last year, 2 tandas this time), lightheartedly declining when invited.

Sometimes I feel a bit sorry when declining but not at Sitges where the festival milongas are invaded by enough full-time tangueros to keep all the ladies busy. This is another species of leaders, very different from me. They come for the festival but don’t attend any workshop. Before and after the festival milonga (from 22:00 to 2:00 this year) they find some place along the beach (in front of hotel Subur this year) and they keep dancing.

While they’re vastly superior to me on a dancefloor (who isn’t?) they also have their own limitations of course but the most experienced of them deal with it perfectly. “He leads nothing really but he stays around me and gives me all the freedom to do my stuff. If I go for out-of-axis he will hold me.”, a follower classmate explained me once about such a self-made tanguero, very popular here, who has been following this path for 25 years, “and once you get used to his way it is very enjoyable.” Leading less gives him plenty of time for adornos, piropos and so on.

When they are less experimented the limitations are more apparent of course. My friend Paul, once a classmate of mine, became attracted too, some years ago, by the Dark side of the Force. I saw him one week before Sitges, there was a workshop followed by a milonga, I came for the workshop, he came for the milonga and as he was quicker to put on his tango attire than I was to leave mine, I had a few minutes to watch him dancing. It was not really convincing yet. Side step, side step again (the other way), forward, one step around the lady, stop, one step around the lady (the other way), forward, side, stop, side, forward, around, stop and so on. The one fancy/choreographic/stage-only elementI saw was a parada during the stops.
It was not either the kind of simple steps for which the old, fat gentlemen of BsAs are praised by estilo-milonguero teachers, no, it was more more like manoeuvring your caddy when the supermarket’s alley is jammed with wooden pallets.

And he was at the festival too, I met him the second night. After the handshake he had a look at the dancefloor.
“There is nobody here.”
For me it was ok. Enough space to take one step (but not two) in any direction. But he was definitely worried.
“I hope more people will come dancing.”
He kept sitting as long as there weren’t enough dancers to justify his (lack of) vocabulary.
One hour later he was happy, inviting one lady after the other on the packed floor (packed by Sitges standard, not as Nino Bien can be; say, enough room for one step in two possible directions).

Well it’s a kind of modus tollens of the “no fancy stuff when there is no room” principle: no simple stuff where is room.

Not so clear

2008, July 24

With male teachers it’s usually all very clear. They show and explain something, I understand perfectly well and I can’t do it. It can be Nito Garcia showing a 720° enrosque, or Gabriel Angio a 1080° pivot, or Chicho leading a back lifted piernazo just by shifting his weight from his heels to his toes.

Now with female teachers. From time to time when I ask something the answer only brings more confusion.
For instance:

Question: How do I lead this part of the sequence?
“Like a volcada but without the out-of-axis”. (Corina de la R.)

Question: What is the title of this song?
“Go ask Mario [Consiglieri]. He will like it. He will feel he’s important.” (Cecilia de M.)

Question: Why do Nito and Elba always go to Gricel?
“There used to be a milonga named Almagro, where all the best dancers and teachers were going, and where no one was trying to impress the audience with fancy moves.” (Cecilia de M.)

Question: In this sequence I take a backward step, are you sure I won’t bump into another couple?
“L’uomo controlla lo spazio intorno alla coppia, ma non ha occhi dietro la testa se non quelli di lei, quindi occhi aperti entrambi e si evitano incidenti.” (Alejandra H.)
[We were in Spain, and the class was in english. Why in italian then?]

Of course, they can be very clear, when they want:

My taxi-dancer, calling the teacher:
“The guy wants you to check his lead. Kill him kill him kill him!” [The last part was in spanish.]

Another pupil who attends the same weekly class:
“Yes there are good leaders here, but you on the other hand, you have a distinctive style.”

An ex partner of mine, about a festival that we both attended.
“I guessed which classes you would choose, and signed for different ones.”

Sitges forecast

2008, July 7


No, not the weather. The forecast is about the general level. It’s the last week to register and the site of the festival displays the classes that are full: beginners course, four classes, none is full ! medium level, 14 classes and 3 are full, medium-advanced level 15 full classes out of 21, advanced level 18 classes, 8 of them are full.

From this we can estimate the average level of people attending the 2008 edition of the Sitges tango festival:

Beginners 0%

medium 11%

medium-advanced 58%

advanced 31%

Impressive, isn’t it? That’s a very promising festival, with almost 90% of somehow advanced pupils. The not-advanced ones will have a difficult time. Maybe I should launch a club or something. The Clumsies. The not-so-goods. The ten percents. The so-so leaders.




Rank Xerox

2007, October 26

When there is a performance my mind usually wanders along the lines of “I wish I could do it” or “I wish I could do it that well” or “nice underpants”.

However when I saw Pablo Villaraza and Dana Fregoli performing at Sitges, the only thought who came was “Chicho and Eugenia should get royalties”.
It’s like lab rats, there are the ones who swim to reach the food at the other side
of the glass cage and the ones who just do nothing and rob the swimmers when they come back.

Sitges snapshots

2007, August 3

“Are you regular dance partners?” Pablo Pugliese
My partner: “<sighs> yes… <sighs again>”
(Pablo Pugliese here promptly took my partner from my arms and danced the sequence with her for a few minutes, to comfort her.)

“Your lead is very good!” Alejandra Hobert
Lies. I felt how she was struggling to keep her balance while I was leading the boleos.

“Your musicality in vals is wonderful.” Elba
The polite way to say that my technique sucks.

“It’s an advanced class, you know!” Nito
My excuse is, if I had known that we would do 360° enrosques as a warm-up I would have chosen better shoes than my Sanshas.

“We’ll change of course”. My partner at he beginning of the class.
She had seen a lone leader and, even without knowing him, figured that he would in any case be better than me. She never changed back, of course.

Do you speak Sitges?

2007, July 31

Unlike the CITA festival where all the attenders are from the States and I can confidently start a conversation with any stranger, at Sitges I had to be ready for just anything but english and spanish. Few americans here, and even less spaniards. By the way the locals don’t speak castillano but catalan. Italian people, or Dutch, German, French, Russian is what I found in abundance.

After two days I wasn’t surprised any more when hearing someone using various languages to communicate with me, sometimes in the same sentence.

“- Would you have something para abrir esta bouteille?”

-Niet, entschuldigung…”

Socializing in Sitges

2007, July 24

In a tango festival, socializing during classes is a way to ensure yourself more dances during the upcoming evening milonga, I was told. And actually for one of my partners, who happened to be there too, it worked quite well, day after day she broadened her list of potential leaders, and while she had to dance with me twice the first evening, she used me only once the second night, and never again afterwards, having all the leaders she needed and even picking them according to the music.

Somehow I tried my luck too, the cambio de pareja having brought a russian girl in my arms.

“- And where did you learn the dance?

– ? (Her english was nearly as bad as my russian).

– You…where…learn…tango?

– Moscow. Errr….

– Yes? (With an encouraging smile)

– Err… You lead, not good. You nuevo. Moscow no nuevo. I want impulsion. You, no impulsion.

And that’s how I narrowed by one unit the range of my potential followers for the remaining milongas in Sitges.

Not Bs-As this time

2007, July 4

It was really decided at the last minute. Up to know only the decision has been made basically, I still have to book the plane, the hotel and pay for the classes.

Many countries and places  claim to be the second home of tango after BsAs, and Sitges is often mentioned when it’s about tango festivals, so why not giving it a try?
From what I saw when browsing the reports on previous editions, the festival audience is young, skillful and ready to dance until the end of the night. Also, Sitges is a very expensive place. As an unskilled, stamina-impoverished (I can’t even dance until the beginning of the night) and not-too-rich guy I’ll probably end up as the wrong man in the wrong place. Oh and I can’t speak the language.  I thought it would be like in Argentina but no, they have their own Catalan dialect.

Another concern is the lack of a dedicated partner, an unusual situation for me. No taxi-dancer provided by the festival either. And experience shows that during classes the occasional lone follower tends to rush to the tall, thin, cool youngster with blue sneakers who is standing just behind me.

But well, Sitges lasts only four days. I’ll live.