Last Days in Buenos Aires… sob!

Fall in Buenos Aires arrived with a vengeance! Before that we had lovely days, and delightfully warm nights. You’d leave a milonga at 3 am, and didn’t need a jacket or sweater. Then, all of a sudden, the temperature dropped into the 60s, dipping into the 40s at night, and that cold wind!!

San Telmo, photo by BuenosAires4U.com

Trees along the streets are turning yellow; leaves are falling, their colors blending with the assorted trash and grunge of the streets.  I took one last shot of the Palacio de los Patos, the view from our apartment.

a parting shot…snif!

People walk by bundled up, with the omnipresent neck scarf and winter coat or jacket. Women have traded in their summer flats and sandals for ankle boots, riding boots, sexy lace-up booties, not to mention faux fur animal print boots! Cold weather seems to bring out the female feline.

on the prowl…

Alas, it’s time to leave our favorite city, time to head north to check in with family and friends. I’m fixin’ to hold my precious first grandbaby! Tagging along with the anticipation and delight of a wee bundle of joy, we tango every night till 3 or 4. What’s to stop us? I almost missed my 11:30 yoga class… so hard to get up in the mornings. I feel like a spoiled girl!  Hmm… I guess I am a spoiled girl! Speaking of children, here’s my sweet baby Teo. See that reddish hair! Yes, there is some Irish blood in the family. Just have a look at our wee leprechaun!

my son Ode & baby Teo

I made a list of my New Year’s resolutions; I know I’m getting them in late; is that like bouncing a check? Or forgetting to file? Seriously, though, the New Year has brought us feelings of accomplishment, that is to say, progress in tango. Ben says he’s keeping his resolutions to himself… (should I be worried?) but I don’t mind sharing what I’m working on. After all, who doesn’t go through the same stages, more or less: the same fumbling bumbling beginner’s hell? (for a silly primer on the plight of the beginning dancer, go to <centralcoasttango.org> and click on Tango Hell.) Here’s a preview of my resolutions:

Posture, balance, embrace, walking… and you thought walking was just putting one foor in front of the other? Think again! My goal right now… ONE of my goals… is to keep it simple, focus on my foot to floor connection, and dance with my partner, not with myself!!  Sublimate your expression, dance HIS interpretation of the music… and when he pauses to let you play, you can renegotiate the contract for a few moments. This brings the yin and yang energies into balance… ¿qué sí? qué no? 

Along with my resolutions, here’s some photos of the last days. We accidentally met some traveling dogsledding skiing tangoing Alaskans!

new friends Jane & Peter in San Telmo

That same day in San Telmo Ben captured this shot of our friend El Indio dancing at his Sunday milonga in Plaza Dorrego:

El Indio & friend

And we also chanced to see Orquesta Típica el Afronte, playing on the sidewalk near the Plaza Dorrego Sunday Fair. These guys rock the house on Wednesday nights at Maldita Milonga, 571 Perú, in San Telmo. We’ve seen them many times and they are fab!

Orquesta Típica El Afronte

We had a relaxing day in San Telmo, spending time with good friends and gorgeous Buenos Aires fall weather.

Ben & me

If you’re young, dance tango, plan to visit Buenos Aires, and like to mix it up with all colors and flavors of other young travelers, then we may have found the best cheap hotel for you:

Hostel San Telmo

Our last days in Buenos Aires we tango’d all over town with our best friends. We had our best-ever privates with our dear friend Marcela Hourquebie. Marcela took us light-years beyond the usual private classes, losing ourselves and then finding ourselves again, transforming our way of being, of dancing, of thinking, of processing, of leading and following. I even learned to be on my own axis 100% of the time (unless he takes me off my axis, of course). Yes, I know I’m the poster child; finally, after almost 10 years of dancing tango, I manage to stay on my axis? About time, girl!

best friends!

Towards the end of our stay we experienced the deepest work. Our brains were de-fragged, our internal processors upgraded, and of course it all carries over into your relationship. When your dance partner is your life partner, you reach some deep practice. Your relationship is stripped to the core and then rebuilt, remodeled, like having your piano brought up to A440, or trying out a new bit on your horse, your hands softer now and your horse more responsive. Always working towards a deeper harmony. Your embrace is fine-tuned, adjusted. It’s fluid, mobile, re-negotiated daily. Taking a step will never again be just another step! If you were the house-mouse living on a touchscreen floor, what would the trail of your steps look like… points of pressure with only faint traces in between? Even better, visualize a blazing light-trail, revealing a minimum of pressure changes as the free foot moves across the floor? This is really too complex for me to explain! Pooh Bear may need to call on Christopher Robin to assist. Have patience with me, cause trying to explain helps me integrate the new structures into every cell, every molecule. Change means work!

Everything you thought you learned in those first few years of tango classes, workshops, milongas – all the money you spent on lessons, shoes, clothes – you find yourself rediscovering the basics, because you’re standing in a new place now, and everything looks different, feels different. You go back to the basics to relearn it all again. You refine your walk, your posture, your attitude. I still love voleos, sacadas, ganchos… but my focus has moved towards elegance, simplicity, refinement. I’ve quit trying to embellish every other step. I’m making more of an effort to really listen to my partner, to be really connected to him. It’s not easy! But I’m also letting go of judgement. There is no such thing as good tango or bad tango; Tango just IS.  

at La Coqueta de Recoleta

More pearls of wisdom from Marcela: Quit chasing the music; let the music come to you, let it come from within, let it fill you, enter you wholly and completely. (No corres detrás de la música; deja que la música te llega a ti, que entra en ti.) This is such an important piece of the puzzle! From the male point of view it has often been said, and nicely I think, “for the man, there is only the music, and the woman.”  Female point of view, anybody? For the woman, there is only the music, and the man. Absolutely fundamental, absolutely imprescindible!

be connected in blue

And who could live the true milonguero lifestyle without great friends to drag you all over town to all the best places to eat, drink, and dance?

best friends!

In yet another angle on the HOW TO WALK WITH YOUR FEET ON THE FLOOR theme, let’s focus on the arrastre, which in English means drag and can refer to steps or to the sound of the bandoneon: you slightly drag your toes on the floor… tracing invisible lines, invisible pictures, invisible perfume crossing and recrossing the dance floor, resisting, then giving into the floor, giving in to the music. Your feet should never stop, but move fluidly with equal pressure in mid-step. Your change of weight should be almost imperceptible. Let your feet talk to the floor, caress the floor…. my goal?…  to dance like her!

Gracias, Marcela!

Taking Mario Orlando‘s DJ class hasn’t hurt my appreciation for tango, either. Au contraire, mon cher! I think I can honestly say that I carry around in my head the BUENOS AIRES TANGO TOP 400  24/7!! My personal background muzak.

gracias, Mario!

And who wouldn’t gain an infinite amount of floorcraft (and I don’t mean steerage!) after months of classes with Raúl Bravo? Gracias, Raúl!!  I hope you’re enjoying your visit to Russia!

Gracias, Maestro!

Can you believe he’s in his 80s? He dances with the skill and energy of a 30 year old, and that’s NOT an exaggeration! Raúl teaches the fancy stuff, the moves, the choreographies, along with the technique that you need to stay on top of your game. Last July, his classes were so advanced, we honestly couldn’t believe he let us stay in the class! Almost everybody there was already a really good dancer or a pro; others dropped in for a refresher from the maestro de maestros, in preparation for the Tango World Cup (alias el Mundial). By the time we left, we were finally feeling worthy enough to take his class — how can I say it differently? Finally worthy… that’s BIG!

Okay, one more Thank you!!! to our Maestro of Milonga (and Milonguero style, and Vals) JORGE FIRPO!

Papito rocks!!

Jorge Firpo and his beautiful sweet wife and tango partner Diana Mestre, have been SO good to us, so patient, so comprensivos, so positive and upbeat 100% of the time!!  How do they do it? Who the heck knows? They’ve got a good thing goin’!  And as dancers they are soooooo fabulous!! He runs his classes like a drill sergeant with a smile, and she quietly and patiently passes on imprescindible tango technique, embellishments and other secrets to us ladies. They have a huge and loyal following, even on other planets! (cause their star shines that bright!!) not to mention their very own Fan Club, Los Fans de Papito! Ben made Jorge a Deputy Sheriff and even gave him his own badge!

I almost forgot to mention the night Guillermo & Dolores took us to Las Cañitas, a part of Palermo that has a few very cool blocks of pubs and restaurants. The night we went I was cameraless, so I swiped these cool pix off the web:

La Lupita, shrine to Tequila & la Virgencita

’round midnight the best time to go

the bar at La Lupita

she reigns over the bar and all of Mexico too

Get the feeling I like the place?

So the day finally arrived, we had to leave our beloved Buenos Aires. I mean, just for a moment, let  yourself feel the angst, the pathos (what is pathos, anyway?). Ben kept reminding me I didn’t need to cry all the way to the airport, as I’ve done the other times. No, I had to be a big girl and stay focused on the future: see my kids, my grandbaby, visit friends and family, then on to Paris.

New Years Resolution No. 1: Let yourself go, be who you are, give your infinite Self up to the moment. Let your interpretation of the music, your passion for the music, flow thru you. Relax, ground, dance WHO you are! Feel more colors, more sensation, more attitude…. accept nothing less than total transformation! 

New Years Resolution No. 2: Feel the lead! Listen to his body, listen to your body…  Don’t just step… flow! let your feet have a conversation with the floor.

New Years Resolution No. 3: Connectivity! Connect with yourself first. Feel that invisible string pulling you skyward, and then feel the roots that connect your feet to the floor. Through them you ground into the earth. When you feel connected internally and externally, your mind able to focus and not running off in a million different directions, connect to your partner. You should feel the exact moment when you complete the embrace, that live circuit engaged. When the circuit is complete your electro-magnetic field becomes supercharged. Then you connect to the floor, to the room, to the circle of dancers, to the music, the musicians, the DJ. I learned in high school physics that the electrical connection can only flow when all the wires are connected and you are grounded thru the floor. Trying to anticipate the lead breaks the circuit. Crossing your fingers behind your back is cheating!

Flying out of Ezeiza, we had quite a rockin’ and rollin’ ride over the Andes – brown with white patches of snow – and we bounced over more potholes in the sky flying from Lima to San Salvador. I sang quietly to myself calling on the wakinyan, the Thunder Spirits, to bring this frolicking pony back to the barn safe and sound! I sang to the wanbli, the eagles, to fly with us and bring us safe and sound to our journey’s end. My flight mantra: “May the wind under your wings guide you where the moon walks and the sun sails…” (from The Hobbit)

The wanbli brought us back to San Francisco safe and sound. We spent a delightful few days visiting family and the new baby! He’s so adorable! Here I am with Teo and my comadre, Teo’s maternal grandmother.

el nene y las comadres!

We made a quick trip to Portland to look at artisan bakeries (part of the groundwork for Ben’s projected café-bakery-dance hall), visit old friends, and tango. We stopped in San Luis Obispo for a few days to reconnect with close friends: tango base camp. They put on a big throw-down for us! There was great dancing, and the music, food & drink, starry skies & view of the ocean from Val & Mary’s stunning hillside retreat was absolutely awesome!! Many thanks to all!! California milongueros really know how to party!!

Milonga chez Val & Mary

We celebrated Mary’s birthday, and had a sorteo just like the milongas in Buenos Aires, complete with prizes: CDs and other fun items.

Vive la France!

the lucky number is…

and the winner is…

Willow’s Short Version New Year Resolutions 2012:

There is no such thing as good tango or bad tango. TANGO just IS.

Don’t run after the music….  let the music run thru YOU.

RELAX 

CONNECT

GROUND

DANCE WHO YOU ARE!

FOLLOW HIM, BUT DON’T CODDLE HIM

STAND  UP  TALL  ON YOUR AXIS

BREATHE

Your GIRO is your signature….  make it your OWN

Don’t just step….  FLOW

FEEL THE LEAD

COLLECT

YOU are a DIAMOND

YOU are an ANGEL, an EAGLE…. DANCE with your WINGS!

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

Next stop: PARIS!

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