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.


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.”

Telling me something

2008, April 23

Just received that from dancepartner #1
… and for tomorrow Tuesday 22th sorry but again I won’t attend I have an “otro compriso”…kisses.

This can happen. Same goes for her ankle injury after X-mas, and her mother visiting her, and her trip in Italy, and other things she did that happened to take place on Tuesdays, the day when we have our weekly class. Or is she trying to tell me something?

Also, Dancepartner substitute #1, the former ballet dancer, cancelled our partnership after a mere two months because of a change in her work schedule. Fine with that, except last week I saw her at the class, with another leader. Did her schedule change again, or was she trying to tell me something?

And sooner this month I got that message from dancepartner #2 after I asked her for a workshop given by a touring Maestro from BsAs:
Sorry I’m leaving on 17th to give a lecture, back on 20th. Available tonight though, in case your Tuesday partner is off. ~M
Surely it was coincidental if she was gone precisely from 17th to 20th, when the 17th was our regular Thursday class and 20th was the workshop.
Yet when I replied that my Tuesday partner was actually off, I got this second mail:
“I can’t. See you Thursday 24th”
Trying to tell me something?

Now for dancepartner #3, the Wednesday one.
Howya? Fine, hopefully. Here? Just crazy work-aholic, left the office at 21:30, home at 22:00, I fear it will be just the same today, can’t stand it. Would you mind skipping our class?. I pray it will better next week, I’ll let you know.

Well there can be overloads when you work in a bank. And sure, when she took all these Italian language classes in January-February/March, the only available day was Wednesday, I remember how sorry she was about that. Certainly not trying to tell me something. Or was she?

Possibly I got a clue last Saturday. Entering a milonga I saw a group of classmates and took a seat at their table. They all stood up when the tanda started and I remained with a blond pupil. For one minute we watched them dancing.
“They’re getting good”, I said.
“You know”, she answered, “We’re all becoming better and better. You’re really the only one whose tango remains unchanged throughout the years. Exactly the same. Classes just don’t have any effect on you.”

I may be not good…

2008, February 2

…but I’m honest.

It was delivered today. Custom-made.

I’ll bring it to Buenos-Aires next week. This is my way to let the ladies know that they can decline my invites, the assistants that they’ll need to be extra patient and the taxi dancers that they can charge an extra fee.

And by the way I’m not-so-good as a photographer either.

In milongas, we move counter-clockwise because left-handers are a minority.

Ok that was the abstract, now let’s explain a bit.

We move counter-clockwise because it’s a legacy from older dances coming from older countries, like the viennese waltz. Of course saying this is only shifting the problem one inch further.

Now, why are people walking counter-clock-wise in the viennese waltz? Because when doing all these clockwise half-turns (1-2-3 to have your back to the LOD, 4-5-6 to complete your turn; and the opposite for the lady), moving counter-clockwise will make your life much easier when you arrive in a corner. Instead of a 360° turn you’ll have to execute a mere 270° . Walking clockwise on the other hand would force you to overturn each time you meet a corner.

But then, why did the waltzers of the past choose to (half-)turn to the right? They could have walked clock-wise and turned to the left instead. But not with this slight offset that puts the lady slightly to the guy’s right. The partner on your right is on the way and makes the turn to the left quite complicated. It’s no wonder that just anybody can waltz to the right, while waltzing to the left requires some technique.

All fine, an offset helps the pivots, but why to the right? Because the princes, generals, emperors, officers attending the imperial balls had not only a snazzy pomp uniform but also a snazzy pomp sword in its snazzy pomp scabbard and this sword being at their left side, it was only natural to put the lady where there was some space left, i.e to the man’s right. Sure they may not dance with the sword but they’d keep the scabbard and belt, if only to hold the trousers.

And why was the sword here and not on the other side? Well it’s the only possibility when the swords are drawn from their scabbards with the right hand, because of the length of the blade. For colts it’s different (unless the rifle is
long) and if tango had been invented by cow-boys then we might very well be walking clock-wise nowadays.

Finally, why were all these officers from the past time taking their sword with their right hand? Because most of them were right-handers, and all the armies in the world having this tendency to want their soldiers look all the same, even the unfortunate left-handers had to follow, thus wasting precious time during battles to draw their sword and dying at a younger age than their right-hander counterparts.

Damn Miles

2007, November 17

So, all his belongings during his one-year trip in the realm of tango were a pair of dance shoes and a laptop – which by the way had to be sold at some point. Sleeping in a trunk, eating every other day, all this to save the money for yet another private, now that’s dedication. Congrats, Miles.


2007, September 24

This is my i-pod, except it’s not an i-pod but a Creative Zen touch. All the tangos that I like ended up here, and as there remained Gigabytes of disk I’ve also copied one part of my pop-music, classic and ballroom CDs.

And here I was, last Friday, climbing up to 4th floor where the A.T class was due. From the moment I had left my flat I was listening to a Piazzolla selection, trying to emulate Chicho (It’s common knowledge that in his younger days he used to walk in the streets for hours, with a Piazzolla-filled walkman tm ). The mp3 machine was playing Invierno porteno in a live version, and for some reason I failed to decide whether it was the Milan or the Vienna concert. Shame on me. I realized I would have to look at the screen. My right hand began to extirpate the i-pod from its carrying case…

And like a soap in the tub the i-pod escaped from its protective shell and fell on the floor, leaving me with an empty case in the hand. Worse, the wooden stairs of this old building being slightly sloping, the i-pod kept going down, bouncing from one step to another. Then of course it fell right into the inner void in the inside of the stairs, bouncing not from step to step any more but from one floor to another.

I dropped the heavy bag (with my shoes, shirts, book, towels, all the stuff I need for tango) I had in my left hand and climbed down, not even in a hurry or worried, sure as I was to find only fragments of what used to be my i-pod. My thoughts were more on the lines of how much does it cost nowadays, maybe they sell smaller ones with more memory, how long will it take to once again listen to all my CDs and pick the pieces…

Well at ground zero I found the little fellow unharmed, still playing the Piazzolla song. It was the Milan version.


2007, August 21

It’s a common game in a community with many teachers, to try and guess, seeing someone dancing, who his instructor is.

In my case the guesses are always wrong. Sure I took classes with all the big names but only one guy was really influential and he wasn’t a big name at all, not even an A.T teacher. A mere social ballroom teacher, and it’s during my years with him that I built my style.

The lead. Not just doing my half of the dance. Always wait to be sure that the woman is on the right track for her next step before stepping myself. “I’ll never pretend I can dance”, he liked to say, “but I guarantee you that I can lead”.

The appearance, good look, hair, attire. Pffft, couldn’t care less. He wasn’t interested in elegance or having your foot here and not there, unless it was detrimental to the lead/follow process. He taught social ballroom, not comp or show.

The long steps I like to take. It all comes from the Viennese Waltz. But natural long steps, not exaggerated. He liked to caricature the ballroom competitors, he would cruise the room in only three giant steps, making faces. “In competition, this is called a smile!” he joked.

Versatility. According my mood to the music. He taught us that. Rumba is sexy, cha-cha is fun, fox-trot is… well to his great despair we did not like fox-trot too much.

Generous. He gave me a pair of his dance shoes when he saw I had none. Well I’ve never been that generous but more than once I attended newborn, predictably empty milongas to support somehow the hosts.

Navigation. In ballroom it’s easier as everybody moves the same way. On the other side the general movement is much faster and when a collision does happen it’s at high speed. Plus, his classes were well attended and leaders had to grow a third eye to avoid collisions.

Efficiency. I still remember my first group class with him, paso-doble and cha-cha. Couldn’t get anything, wasn’t a born dancer at all, two left feet and a blank brain. A couple of years later in another studio the pupils would think I was the new teacher. Obviously, judging from my current (and low-level) skills in the milongas, none of the big A.T names was even half as efficient.

After switching to A.T I saw him less and less frequently, the last time was after my first trip to Bs-As. But I was still on his e-mail list, and every year in August when receiving his flyers I would consider going back to social ballroom. Alas I guess I won’t. Included in the envelope with the last-week flyer was a little piece of paper with just a few words, signed by his assistants.

“Jean-Jacques is gone, very far and high, with his dance shoes. He asked us to continue his task here below. The classes will be taught by…”

When someone dies he still lives in the memories, when a teacher dies he still lives in the dance of his pupils.

Trying a new blog

2007, April 26

Because with Blogger I would have had to “upgrade”, I tried WordPress instead. I thought I could import posts from my previous blog, but it looks like the process needs me to…upgrade.

Oh well…

Import Blogger

Howdy! This importer allows you to import posts and comments from your Blogger account into your WordPress blog.

To use this importer, you must have a Google account, an upgraded (New, was Beta) blog, and it must be on blogspot or a custom domain (not FTP).