Wily

2009, June 12

Mora Godoy escuela. The lesson was about linear boleos.  The girl who was my partner at this point of the class suggested that after the boleo, instead of a back step I take a side step. It made no sense to me, linear boleos being, well, linear, continuing with a side step would only disturb the linearity introduced by the boleo.  But I’ve been knowing for long that there is no need to argue with your follower.

– Ok, sure.

– Wait a minute, I’m calling the teacher. Teacher! Look what he is leading to me. See? He’s completely wrong, isn’t he?

And the teacher corrected me, explaining that at this point I was supposed to lead a back step, which he then demonstrated several times to me.

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Trust

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.

 

“Please close the door”, my boss asked.

I won’t pretend that I was feeling comfortable here. Was he going to lower his salary expenses by one unit ?

“Have a seat. As you know we’re having a hard time at the moment, there is simply no work and we can’t keep people here doing nothing…”

Uh oh.

“… and that’s why I wanted to see you. Why not taking a three-month or four-month holiday? Until September, when the situation improves. Hopefully.”

But we have an annual amount of vacation days and when it’s over, it’s over. I spent everything already, I replied, I was in Buenos-Aires on March.

“I know. Tango, isn’t it?”. He remained silent, considering the pictures of his boy and girl on his desk. Then he woke up. “How about unpaid vacations? No limits here.”

But all my savings are gone in my March trip. My salary being what it is, I never have much savings anyway…

“I know what your salary is. How about paid unpaid vacations then? Go. See you in September”.

And I spent the rest of the day googling for airplanes, accomodations, and tango classes. During my previous trip I did not bother sending him one postcard from BsAs. I think I will, this time.

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.

Dating a partner

2009, April 24


Bad idea, usually. But here she is the partner and I am the date. Up to now it never lasted long between her and a guy, and it’s the same for me with partners, I can’t keep them, each year I bar three names on my list and I add as many new ones. As a follower she’s more or less ok, certainly not advanced but light, thin, ten years younger than myself (then, who isn’t) and working on her technique. She even made her first trip to BsAs this year.

Tonight she wants to dance, and has e-mailed me the milonga’s name. I know this place. It’s not a large square room with mall-like ceiling lights like in many milongas here. It used to be a movie theater. One half of the red velvet armchairs have not been removed. And apart from the emergency exit signs there isn’t much light.

Damn.

You find yourself with

6 musicians

1 singer

4 (stage) dancers

1 guy for the sound and lights

and… 14 customers only. Such a big effort for such a small reward.

One hour later when the orchestra left, some customers did as well and the milonga switched from quite empty to very very empty. There remained an old couple, a younger one (tourists) and a local tanguero who duly stole the female tourist. With only two couples on the floor it was easy to notice the style differences. The older couple was doing short, rythmic steps, sometimes moving backwards, doing funny things when the music was funny, pauses etc. With a powerful comp it would have been possible to recalculate the partitura from their dancing. On the other side, and to remain in the world of comps, it was more like

While {there is music} do

walk

walk

walk

walk

move the woman around you

repeat loop

No pauses, no changes whatsoever, same length of the steps, same speed. Nice posture admittedly, walking perfectly on the beat, always staying on the outer edge of the floor. A teacher wouldn’t find anything to criticize. As on onlooker though I couldn’t help thinking that there was not much life here. Maybe a tango robot. Insert coin. Or maybe he was preparing for some Dance-on-DiSarli contest.

After one last dance, in cayengue style, the old couple left too. Sometimes your lead is confusing, she told him, with this new hip prosthesis that you have.

By the way this was my last milonga in BsAs, with a perfectly round and clean grand total of zero dances. The closest I ever came remains  Villa Malcolm, last year.

Jupiter

2009, March 24

The Dandi milonga’s hostess added a chair for me around a table where a gentleman was already seated. He was from New-York, and the second thing he told me was:

“It will be very hard for you to get invites here.”

Because we are so badly placed cabeceo-wise, I thought. Against the wall again. But no. It was going to be difficult for me because of him. As Jupiter intercepts the asteroids that otherwise may hit the Earth, he intercepted all the women´s glances coming from the other tables. When sitting he kept making some wind with a large fan, hiding me in the process. When no glance was coming then he stood up (right in front of me, just in case) and when it was not enough then he walked to some lady and nodded.  During the tandas he  lectured me about the ancient art of the cabeceo.

Stupid me, I used to think that the idea of the cabeceo was to make the invites unnoticeable to anyone around. How wrong I was. When this gentleman stands up, his point is precisely to get noticed. And when he puts himself right in front of a lady and nods, he does not give her  much choice, she has to nod back and dance, period.

Dancing queen

2009, March 22

Los Consagrados, a.k.a la mejor milonga de Buenos Aires. It’s what they said in their ad and surely you should not always believe ads but on the other end there is no other milonga in my El Tangauta magazine which also claimed to be the best, so maybe it was true, maybe Los Consagrados had the best floor, the best music, the best followers, the quickest waiters and the tastiest licuados.

But if I was here it was mainly to say “Hi” to Cherie and Ruben. That`s why I came only two hours before the end, at first sight this seemed technically more than enough for a “Hi, I am a bad leader, obscure blogger and sometimes you post a comment”.

Not so. Finding their table was easy, telling their name was like casting a magic spell on the girl at the entrance, it brought a broad smile on her face and soon a waiter guided me to a table behind theirs. They were dancing. I identified Ruben first.

Hey whazzup? What’s this abrazo? Is Cherie  leading him? Ten seconds later I can see them again and the abrazo is back to normal. I must have hallucinated.  They keep dancing. They dance the chacarera. They dance on New York, New York. Well if NY is the city that never sleeps, Cherie is the lady who never rests. Will there finally be one whole minute when she’s not dancing, chatting, getting invited, welcoming a friend?

There won’t. Now the speaker is calling her to receive a bouquet, she’s applauded by the whole milonga and after that they all line up to reach  Ruben & Cherie’s table for congratulations,  pictures etc.  Even one cameraman is there and seems to be filming only them. Probably Time Magazine and CNN are waiting in the stairs for an interview. Not my day then. No problem, maybe next year.

The “Hi” being postponed, my focus switched on the milonga itself. They don’t have licuados, so IMHO they cannot claim the title of “best milonga”  but maybe something like “Nino Bien, minus the crowd” or “best milonga except for licuados” would be appropriate. Men and women were on opposite sides, which made the cabeceo efficient (very few people were sitting during the tandas) and easy. That is, unless you’re just against the wall as I was, with two series of tables between you and the ladies. But I guess we can’t be all at the front row, someone has to be at the distant tables, out of cabeceo´s reach.

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.


Genuine

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.