They will all scream

2008, April 14

The teacher in BsAs had warned me.

I am a professional, not everybody can do that, careful when you lead this, and to whom. You can do damage.

Of course I remembered this piece of advice last week when at the practise. But hey, practises are made to… practise after all. And the girl in my arms was not one of my regular partners, and her partner was not there and I’m bigger than him anyway.

Let’s go for the lifted back piernazo, I thought. I grabbed the thigh, lifted…

She screamed.

I dropped everything. Now they were all looking at us. The girl turned to me. Did I break some muscle or tendon or ligament? Did I make it to her blacklist? She was searching her words.

“It was… most pleasing.”
Are you ok, I asked.
“Sure. Feel free to lead that anytime you like.”
Hmm, maybe not to anybody.
“Well, they will all scream, of course.”

Not sure what to do with this step.


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.

I have some friends who look like argentines, they pay only two pesos to enter a milonga and are even sometimes hired as taxi dancers. This can never happen to me, I’m too pale and fat. But even with UV sessions and a diet I would not make it, because Pichi de Buenos-Aires, the female Sherlock Holmes, is here to spot me in no time.

Here is how she recognizes people like me.

They arrive wearing a backpack. The coatcheck is a good place to leave it.
In my bag I have my 3 or 4 shirts and my towel and the people at the coatcheck would not like seeing me after each tanda, asking for my towel and a clean shirt.

They change their shoes at the table instead of stopping in the ladies’ room.
The ladies would not be too welcoming if I ventured into the ladies’s room.

They wear black t-shirts, cargo pants and sneakers.
True. So are the argentines under 70.

They arrive after a class wearing the same clothes and no deodorant.
This is what happens when classes take place in (and just before) a milonga. Argentines, build dance studios.

They don’t make eye contact in order to dance and can’t figure out why they spent so much time at the table.
We’d be happy if we even could make eye contact with a waiter to get our drinks.

They cross the floor to meet their partner instead of waiting for him to arrive.
Hmmm if I’m waiting and she’s waiting too then the sunrise will come before we ever meet.

They cross the floor during the cortina to talk to a friend on the other side of the room. It’s a shortcut and that way they can draw attention.
How clever we are.

They accept verbal invitations at their table because that’s the way it’s done at home.
If not at our table, where is the right place to accept verbal invitations? The toilets?

They ask men to dance because they haven’t learned that men do the asking in BsAs.
What if the men haven’t learned that either?

They don’t observe the dancing before they dance.
Yeah, for some reason there is this proviso that the argentines are good at tango, no need to check.

They begin dancing as soon as the music starts. They are in a hurry to dance every second of a tanda.
With huge, heavy chandeliers falling from the ceiling without notice, each second could be our last.

They expect or try to dance every tanda.
Yeah, for some some reason there is this proviso that BsAs DJs are good.

They dance consecutive tandas with the same man.
Actually it’s the argentine guy who won’t let them go.

They add embellishments to excess.
Jennifer Bratt was there.

They prefer quantity over quality of partners.

They will suffer through a tanda just to be dancing. Yes, there are horrible dancers in BsAs.
Now you tell me?

They dance with their eyes closed. Tango isn’t like foxtrot or swing where you keep your eyes open.
Hmmm there might be a typo here.

They don’t observe the line of dance.
Because it’s not easy to see it. Some white line should be painted on the floor.

They don’t carry a handkerchief to use between dances when they sweat.
In modern countries we have these things named anti-perspirant.

They share the table with their partner and wonder why locals won’t look at them.
Lies. It’s a well known game among argentine leaders to keep the lady dancing with them while the husband can just sit and watch. Providing the wife is attractive of course.

They attract the worst dancers in the place because they are new faces.
And old faces should be thankful for that.
They hire a taxi dancer without knowing if he can dance.
Yeah, for some reason there is this proviso…

They know they are beginners and believe the milonga is for practicing what they learned in class.
Oh, you mean they’ve actually been taught hip-hop in their class? Refund! Refund!

They are hustled for classes by men who can’t dance.
Maybe they can’t dance but they can speak english.

They arrive early and leave within a short time if they haven’t danced.
This is named milonga-hopping, try it you will like it.

They are the only ones doing the 8-step basic.
Someone should teach this step to the locals. But maybe there are trademark issues.

They can’t find the beat.
Here the blame is on A.T orchestras, which thought they could do without a drum.

They believe they have the right to videotape and photograph dancers in the milongas.
This is included with the extra fee that all tourists pay to enter milongas.

They think that every man in the milongas is a milonguero.
Well if it looks like a duck…

They don’t learn the codes of the milonga because Americans don’t need them.
Obviously we don’t, when you see how eager the argentines are to dance with us.

They attend CITA and go to the milongas to show off their new moves which can’t be done on a crowded floor.
And this way the locals can learn the new moves for free. This is not fair, Fabian should not allow locals in.

Tango sieve

2007, December 27

Attended one milonga on Dec 16th and did not dance because
– There were much less lone followers (or groups of followers) than lone leaders and among the couples I did not know anybody well enough to borrow the lady.
– And I wasn’t enjoying the place because it was cold.

Attended another milonga on Dec 17th and did not dance because
– There were much less lone followers (or groups of followers) than lone leaders and among the couples I did not know anybody well enough
to borrow the follower.
– And I wasn’t enjoying the place because of the tobacco smoke-filled air.

Attended another milonga on Dec 24th (Milonga hosts here tend to remain open during the holidays, while the teachers tend to close their studios. I wish it were the other way.)
Here the lone leaders were only slightly outnumbering their female counterparts yet I did not dance because
– The followers were worse than me (well as bad as me but for a longer time; advanced bad dancers, sort of).
– And I wasn’t enjoying the place because of the tobacco smoke-filled air.

Strange phenomenon by the way, this lack of acceptable followers (read: can dissociate, has balance, lets the leader know where her weight is, can hear the beat, knows what a free leg is) and this persistance of so-so ones. It’s like a sieve pan which would keep the gravel and would let go the nuggets.

I’ll have another try tonight. I know the place, I’ve been there a few months ago. There were three of us, the DJ, one lady and me. I carefully let him invite her. She’s not a nugget but he’s a good dancer, he managed to do something.

Some like it hot

2007, December 24

A kind guy had brought a basket of roses at the Friday practica. Plus, one of my class partners was here, she knows me well and is not surprised any more by all the stupid ideas that can come to my mind. And by the way she’s not too serious either in her approach of the dance, definitely not in a Quest for Perfection. Or she would have chosen another partner.

So she made no objection when I told her that I wanted to find out whether the rose thing in Some like it hot was a special effect or not. Like, when the camera is not filming, Tony Curtis spits his rose while an assistant brings a fresh one and puts in into Jack Lemmon’s mouth.

The roses brought by the kind guy were perfect in this respect, not too heavy or fragile, red of course, and last but not least, without thorns.

I took the first turn, holding the rose just under the flower to leave the main part of the stem available. After a few steps we did a half-turn, I said “Ready?” (We discovered that it’s perfectly possible to talk with a rose in the mouth. ) and when the turn was over the flower was in her mouth. It’s not difficult at all.
After a while I asked the rose back but miscalculated somehow my jaw movement and chomped on the stem, almost breaking it and making any further exchange impossible. We stopped for a second, she threw the stem away while I adjusted the flower in her corsage.

Now, if I ever become a movie director (for a toothpaste ad maybe) I’ll know that it’s perfectly possible without any special effect.

ten-buck cold

2007, December 16

With most of my partners gone back to their distant homelands (Peru, Italy) for X-mas, I could not attend any class this week. So today I tried a milonga instead.

“Quick, close the door, it’s cold!” were the welcome words by the host. Below zero outside, and not so hot inside either as there was no significant heating and the ceiling was high.

10 bucks for entrance, ok I’ve seen worse.

Only couples, and lone leaders. I counted twelve of them. None of the followers here knew me either so there was no danger of being invited. No free hot tea here but at least I had brought my current favourite book. After two hours I had read 5 or 6 more chapters while listening to tango music. Only problem, I was almost shivering because of the cold temperature combined with the lack of motion. On the floor the leaders were showing no sign of being ready to loan their follower, and around the floor the situation had not improved, there was still a shortage of followers. Definitely no chance to warm-up.

Finally one friend entered the milonga. A guy. He saw me and came by.

How long have you been here ?

Two hours, I came when it opened.”

…like beginners do, he added mentally.

He was happy to see me, and also happy to see me leaving, I was eliberating one seat and improving the leaders/followers ratio. I hope he enjoyed his night, there were three hours left and an orchestra was announced. As for me, basically I bought a 10-buck cold.

Browsing the tango section in a otherwise Salsa forum I found this old post by someone I know, a follower who within a year or two switched from salsa to tango.

“September 2006 – 10:18 Your salsa shoes will be just fine. And wear them as soon as you arrive because the leaders look at women shoes before inviting them…

Later you’ll find real tango shoes with higher heels (8 to 12 cm) but many followers use mere 4 to 6 cm shoes.”

This words rang a bell somehow, though it was not precise yet. “Yes”, I thought, “we leaders we fall too often in this cheap trap”. And reading further on I found another post by the same lady:

“When a leader sees a woman with dance shoes he thinks she’s a dancer.
Just ask S… who has yet to learn the tango. She once came and see us at a milonga, wearing her salsa shoes as I had told her, and it worked, she got invited. When I met the guy afterwards he told me ‘Ok smart girl, your friend with the pretty shoes, she’s a salsera uh?’.

I could not stop laughing.”

And only here did I realize why it sounded so familiar. Here

is my own side of the story. Damn salseras and their high heels, trapping the naive, unsuspecting leaders…


2007, October 19

With the group having a free afternoon before our scheduled trip to Colonia (Uruguay), the Confiteria La Ideal was the default option, being (first) open and (second) near to our hotel. We all sat around three tables near the edge of the dance floor and after a while all the guys were having their fun at me because they had all cabeceoed successfully and not me. The truth is they all had cheated, inviting the one and same argentine, a lady who was mainly interested (as my fellows reported) by honing her mastery of foreign languages and therefore was accepting any invite by any tourist.
After two hours or so we had exhausted all the possibilities we had within our group, almost each woman dancing with almost each leader, and all the cabeceo-able portenas being cabeceoed.

What now, we thought, nothing more will happen here, the afternoon is ending, maybe we go back and prepare for the evening. We more or less began to search our street shoes in our bags. This is when the mate at the other side of the table, who was facing the milonga entrance, froze. His hand, head and all body stopped moving except the lips. And still, no actual sound even came out of his mouth but I was able to read.


What he had seen was a most uncommon species in Milongas. A lone woman, more elegantly dressed than any other lady here (ok, not too difficult for a tourist in Bs-As), and younger too (ok, not too difficult at La Ideal). A pretty, thin creature with a job good enough to buy nice clothes and with a body good enough to wear them. Red hair, green dress.

My fellow’s city shoes went immediately back in their bag of course and he started to arrange his shirt and hair and tie and everything.

I had a quick glance and knew that my revenge for the cabeceo episode was there. The creature approached our group, came in my back, put her hands on my eyes. “Guess who?“. I gently took her wrists, we kissed and she promised she would come back to dance with me once she’ll have her tanda with a local teacher she had recognized while coming to us. This gave me the time to explain to the baffled group that she was one of my regular partners, from another class given by another teacher, not the one who was in charge of our group. I have a regular partner for this teacher too but she wasn’t with us in Buenos-Aires. This one is not rich. But young yes, and thin too, and definitely playful too. “You sure know to choose’em“, a lady added, as if reading my thoughts.

When the group finally left I went to my partner for a goodbye. She was staying a little more at La Ideal as she had been invited by each and every porteno and had hardly completed half of the task.

“- By the way“, I asked her, “why did you come at this Milonga?

“- It’s a place for older people, I knew I would find you here!

Tango ├╝ber alles

2007, October 8

This Friday practise is not a well-known one. It’s organized by our Thursday teachers and nobody outside their pupils
ever comes here. Maybe because it starts and ends early. Maybe because there are other places in town with better dancers.

I had come with the hope to maybe find my partner but she wasn’t there, so I just sat on the first chair I saw, waiting for the predictable assault of undesirable followers, the ones who know that if you’re not inviting them then you’re probably not wanting to dance with them but who still come to you because it’s either that or not dancing at all. Three of them came so I had my three bad tandas.
It’s not only the lack of balance or dissociation, it’s also the unability to process the data flow. Like connecting the comp to a printer without enough buffer. You want to lead something but they’re not receptive because they’re still trying to figure out what was the #n-1 thing you led.

The practise was a two-hour one, I had come late, all in all after dancing with the three ladies and having a few drinks at the bar the end was already near. I had a look at the people. There is a discovery class just before, so unsurprisingly one half of the attendance are beginners, the other half being people like me – and like the three ladies who had invited me – from the Thursday intermediate class.

And I saw two unknown girls. Assuming that they were from the beginner
class I decided to bring my evening of bad tandas to completion by inviting one of them. Her embrace was cautious but not tense. I began with a square box. Fine. A pause. Ok. Let’s try a cross then. Can do. Barrida, amague, nice. Linear back boleo? Sure. The heel did not venture too high, not trying to hit the moon but she acknowledged the lead. Ok, this one is not a beginner, the perspicacious me thought. Obviously she wasn’t summoning all her skills to follow. Keeping her energy for one milonga or two after this practise.

The tanda ended, the practise too and the mystery as well when I heard the girl chatting with her friend. Two german Frauleins.

This is one big difference with our town and Buenos-aires. when a foreigner comes here we can safely assume that his/her tango is better than ours.


2007, September 29

I can think of only one situation where I will invite someone 100% of the time during a milonga:

– The current tanda played by the DJ suits me.

– The girl with whom I’m wanting to dance is chatting with another girl.

– Another leader invites this other girl.

The first condition is easily met, almost anything but Di Sarli will do. The second condition is already much less frequently fulfilled; the lady tends to be in a larger group, or with a male. Same for the last condition, I have standard tastes so if a follower pleases me she will please the other leaders too.