Milongas and Milongueros: True FAQs! An Interview with a Buenos Aires Milonguera

Carlos Di Sarli with Troilo

Carlos Di Sarli with Aníbal Troilo

A Guest Blog by Diana Howell, in her own words 

(edited and illustrated by Willow Running Hawk, including an Interview on 12.16.12)

Milonguero Defined

el Indio

el Indio

The strict definition of milonguero (females are milongueras), here in Buenos Aires, is someone who frequents milongas more than four times a week, and usually means someone who is at milongas every night, or just about every night.  I fall into this category, pretty much.

Julio Duplá, organizer of Sin Rumbo

Julio Duplá of Sin Rumbo

Milongueros are usually good dancers, sometimes fabulous dancers — which makes sense, if they’re dancing every night — sophisticated in the ways of the milonga, and streetwise, i.e., savvy about all aspects of the milonga. They often have a set table that is reserved for this “frequent flyer” dancer. Milongueros come in all ages, but the really weatherbeaten ones have put in a lot of years on the milonga road, dancing till 6:00 am every day. They have the sleeping habits of a vampire, and live on a poor diet of champagne-based fluids and salty snacks.

guapoSome still smoke, though nowadays they have to go outside the dance halls to light up. Heavens, what a drag that must have been in the “good old days” when everyone lit up inside! They say you couldn’t see across the dance floor for all the smoke! Many milongueros are divorced and live alone; some are married, but have cut back on their frequency of milonga attendance — making it possible to stay married? Younger milongueros who are in a steady relationship are usually with another tanguera (a woman who dances tango).

Clarissa Sanchez & John Erban

Clarissa Sanchez & John Erban

La Conquista: Beware the Tango Gigolo!

Some milongueros live off of foreign tango dancers, temporarily or semi-permanently; the sleazier variety keeps a sharp eye out for new victims. They are invariably good-looking, charming, well-dressed and capable dancers who can speak a few key words in a variety of languages.

Gato & Andrea

Gato & Andrea

These tango gigolos are quick to complement your dancing, your charms, your sex appeal. Their strategy is: spot, slay, suck! In other words, he spots a victim (let’s just say this could be you!), slays you with charm until he gets access to, and eventually moves into, your apartment; then starts draining your bank account until you either get wise and cut him off, or run out of funds!

mil mirando-1

This has happened to a lot of foreign tangueras here, so beware the silver-tongued devils! It’s been interesting watching the one or two month couplings of milongueros with foreign girls; every month or two, another new foreign face.

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The slightly less sleazy variety just wants a sexual conquest, and he will push, push, and keep pushing you, until either he doesn’t get anywhere, in which case you, once his “queen of the hop,” no longer gets so much as a glance from him; or until he beds you. His game is ALL about conquest. Then he moves on, looking for fresh blood, no doubt sharing all the details of the conquest with his compadres.

a regular at La Baldosa

regulars at La Baldosa

His attention level (unless there is good money involved) is very short, and I think it has to do with the training pattern of the dance: one or two tandas with more than a dozen different females on a nightly basis trains them to think of relationships as equally loose and temporary. Keeping a milonguero interested enough to dance a few tandas with you, without falling into his sex trap, requires skillful and delicate balancing of interests.

Buenos Aires boys

Buenos Aires boys

NEVER accept an invitation to go out for a “coffee” after the milonga, because the translation of that code is: coffee & sex. Accepting a ride home is pretty iffy too, unless you REALLY know him, and even then… ¡con cuidado!

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Of course, if you do not have any money, but are 20 years old, drop dead gorgeous, and a great dancer, he will hang around forever, because you are a feather in his cap. “Look at me guys, she LIKES me! She’s MINE.” Some of the nicer milongueros are so dog-gone honest, they’ll admit they’re married, but still invite you to be their girlfriend.

just kidding, Javier!

just kidding, Javier!

Most of the other dilly-dalliers use the old “we live in the same house for economic reasons, but are not a couple anymore” routine. Some of the married milongueros (especially the older ones), are simply there to dance tango (their wives do not prevent them from attending, and have learned to preserve the marriage by letting them dance). These guys are the most fun, because they don’t have a “conquest agenda,” and are happy and eager to dance with you.

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For married milongueros, dancing tango is a form of safe sex, because when you complete a fabulous tanda, it is almost as good as great sex! It allows married tangueros (and tangueras) to get a feeling of closeness with a member of the opposite sex (who is not their mate) without stepping outside the relationship. Of course, some do step outside those bounds. Like, we ARE discussing men, right?

Confitería Ideal

Confitería Ideal

Milongueros are, by and large, muy ensimismados: very self-centered. 

Call it machismo if you like. It’s ALL about them: you are just there to make it happen. Just think “EGO-MAXIMO” and you get a fair picture of the typical milonguero.

Tango Gigolo

Tango Gigolo

So, why are we so fascinated? What makes us long to dance with them? Isn’t the idea of dancing Tango a romantic fantasy held by many women? Also, good leaders dance wonderfully well, making us dance our best; and of course, there is the magic of their embrace — strong, resolute, and close enough to melt any woman’s heart!

pareja blk&wt

The strength of a typical Argentine lead can be felt in the confidence of his embrace. Women come from all over the world for this embrace! It’s close, strong and decisive, and it makes you feel absolutely WONDERFUL.

Raúl Bravo, the quintessential milonguero, el maestro de maestros!

Raúl Bravo, the quintessential Milonguero, el maestro de maestros!

A less confident embrace makes it very difficult for a women to know what her partner wants her to do. Even a mediocre Argentine leader usually has a good embrace. My favorite leaders (besides Porteños!) are from England, Italy, Holland, and Germany; they have excellent basic technique, smooth, with a solid embrace and a refreshing lack of the complicated figures that no one has room to execute on the dance floor anyway.

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All that aside, it is a great time here, and I love meeting up with people from diverse cultures, not only to share the dance, but to chat about our various cultures. What a GREAT way to go international! I have met dancers from Sweden, Scotland, even Cameroon…  yes, there is tango in many African cities! HOW GREAT IS OUR WORLD OF TANGO!  Speaking Tango is like having another language, another passport, a passport of a universal cultural identity, that of devotion to and love of Tango.

BAs boys 3

FAQs about Milongas:

The earliest and latest hours of the most popular milongas are always the best time to dance; the floor is less crowded and it’s easier to see someone else to cabeceo. All milongas follow the same pattern: less crowded at the beginning and, as people begin to arrive, more crowded, more energy, more noise, and lots of conversation during the cortinas.

Salon Canning

Salon Canning

There seems to be a “peak time” every evening, when the energy is at its height, the floor packed. Then, as people begin to leave (perhaps because of work the next day, or to go to another milonga), the late night portion of the milonga begins. During these late hours many of the milongueros — people who attend milongas nearly every day, usually for years, even lifetimes — who did not dance much (but watched, and conversed with other milongueros at their table) will begin to dance, with very select choices.

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Having waited for the crowd to leave, the people who remain are usually more serious dancers, to whom having more floor space to dance is more important than dancing in a high-energy crowd. Interestingly, the music gets juicier at this point.  Many times I have heard Argentine women complain: “As usual, now the music gets good!”  (…nothing quite like those conversations in the ladies’ room!) They complain because they must leave early, for work or family obligations.

Colection UPTango designed by Ute Prause. Photos: Joan S‡nchez

Milongueros usually stay almost to closing time, and others will show up late as well, knowing that the crowd will have thinned out. At the early milongas (“matinee milongas”) you don’t need a watch to tell what time it’s getting to be, because many men disappear around 8:00 or 8:30, as precise as clockwork, going home to la señora, so as not to miss dinner or cause a riff at home.  Some women do likewise, and they will often change back to street clothes in the bathroom. (Note: this is a good idea if you use public transit, to avoid attracting attention from thieves.)

Buenos Aires Street Style

Buenos Aires Street Style

A Milonga is all about the Music!

For me, the most important element of a milonga (besides the dancing) in Buenos Aires is the music; the volume is turned up! This explains why dancers from BAires complain about the low volume of music at milongas in California, and I also find it really difficult to deal with. The music must enter you, body and soul, so you can dance to it! If you are not enveloped in sound, this is just not going to happen.

La Gricel

Just about every milonga in California plays the music way too low. This would never be acceptable in Buenos Aires, and the milonga would not survive. Also noteworthy is that mostly songs with lyrics are played here. Can you imagine why?

el Catedral

el Catedral

Because the lyrics are divine! The spectacular poetry of tango gets everyone into the mood of the dance. Granted, not understanding the words makes it difficult to appreciate the lyrics, but you are missing out on a much more profound experience of the music.

Pasion_milonguera

A third distinguishing factor is that you are simply not going to hear non-tango music played at a BAires milonga. There are alternative milongas where nuevo music is played (sometimes called neotango), but it’s still tango. You will, however, hear rock, swing, and latin or tropical (a mix of salsa, cumbia & other latin rhythms) during the break, usually played mid-evening, depending on the DJ.

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The floor fills up exponentially more for the salsa or tropical than for swing. And some milongas, like Niño Bien, Sueño Porteño and La Nacional, always play a Chacarera followed by a Zamba. These Argentine folk dances are increasingly popular in Buenos Aires. There are also dance halls called boliches that play mostly rock and latin rhythms. Taxi drivers know where to find them.

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a boliche

The Pulse of a Milonga

A milonga is a living thing; it has a beginning, an end, a pulse, a mood, an energy. People choose milongas because they like the music, the dancers — people they want to dance with, good level of dancers — and the opportunity to socialize — they meet up with their friends.

BAs boys 5

Milongas come and go in popularity. Perhaps this is due to the fickleness of human nature. Sometimes we crave a change, or something about the milonga changes: the DJ, the promoter, the clientele. The energy of milongas is determined by the music and the dancers.

el Catedral

el Catedral… cool atmosphere, funky floor

Of course, sometimes at well-known and popular milongas the energy will just not be there, and if that happens many times, the milonga will no longer be popular or well-attended. The dance floor is also very important.  Most people prefer wood, it’s perfect to pivot on, and easier on the feet. Tile is also nice for pivots and suave moves, but it’s harder on your feet. One of the largest milonga spaces in the capital is El Pial (venue of milonga La Baldosa) which has a tile floor (a baldosa is a tile).

salon1

And ladies, please note, if there is liquid spilled on the floor, KEEP AWAY, because once the bottoms of your leather shoes get wet, you will not be able to pivot easily, and your evening may be over! It takes at least an hour of dancing to dry them out. Word to the Wise: Always carry a second pair of shoes!

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Milongas Come and Go

Milongas can disappear forever, sometimes from lack of popularity, or perhaps the venue is sold or torn down (like Maipu 444), or the promoters did not have the proper licensing or fire exits. Sometimes milongas are suspended for a while until the proper licenses are procured. New milongas are always appearing, and their promoters will make the rounds of all the larger, more established milongas, handing out flyers and talking to dancers to promote their incipient venues.

Sueño Porteño

Sueño Porteño

Sometimes the newbie milongas survive; sometimes they don’t. The largest and most established milongas have been around the longest, and these include: Sin Rumbo (“El Catedral del Tango”… the oldest continuously running milonga in BAires: 80+ years), La Gricel, Salon Canning, Niño Bien, La Nacional, Sunderland Club, El Beso, El Trovador, El Pial. This is not a complete list, not even close: there are hundreds! Some of the best times can be had at small neighborhood milongas; very few are listed; many are known by word of mouth alone.  Keep in mind that milongas are not on every street corner, and less than 2% of porteños (BAires residents) dance tango.

Porteño y Bailarín

Porteño y Bailarín

has living in BAs changed you?

In regards to the dance, yes. One thing I’ve assimilated is the style of dancing at milongas. In the US you are taught all these complex moves which you’re never going to use. In Argentina they only do about 5 moves on the floor, but they do them so beautifully it makes you cry. Argentines are so into the music. They value finesse. It’s not how MANY moves you can do, but how well do you do them? Are you connected to your partner? Transitions here are seamless, the music envelops you completely. That is the standard here, and it has become MY standard!

nice dancing

Many people in the US just don’t get this. Are you dreaming of dancing a corrida, a molinete, a boleo in Buenos Aires…? Forget it! There’s no room! Also, two big differences between leaders here and in the states, are: (1) everybody dances really close in Argentina, and (2) people here actually dance to the music. Of course they grew up with the music, they know the songs. We’re missing out on so much!

La Viruta

La Viruta

why is Tango so addicting?

My personal theory is that both males and females get a hormonal charge (endorphins) from the dance itself and the physicality of the dance; and another hormonal charge (oxytocin—the same one that gets released during sex) from the physical closeness and intimacy. All humans like being in close contact with other humans; it makes us feel good. It’s not just in your mind, it’s in your DNA! All tribal peoples do this, it just feels good. And, though we may be unaware of our cultural roots, WE ARE ALL TRIBAL PEOPLES! Tango also has the poetry of its lyrics, the romance of the culture, the beauty of the music and the dance, and the tremendous social aspect of the milongas. All milongueros admit that tango is addicting. We joke about it!

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Compared to other addictions, Tango isn’t so bad. I mean, I have been compelled to dance tango seven nights a week! And talk about temptation! In Buenos Aires you can start dancing at 3 in the afternoon, and continue to 6 the next morning.  Do you think my time in rehab (i.e., the states) will be good for this problem?

Tango Addiction

at what point did you realize you were addicted?

I’ve talked to many people about tango addiction, including my porteño friends. Everyone knows it’s addictive… and obsessive! During my last three months in Buenos Aires I told myself I was going to stop dancing on Fridays. I was concerned that I’d become addicted. That only lasted 2 weeks… two Fridays!

THE RULES OF TANGO ADDICTION  

1:  you keep doing it
2:  every time you do it you feel happy
3:  it turns your life upside down but you don’t care.

when did you start dancing tango?

I’ve been a dancer all my life. My parents met on the dance floor. I was a belly dance instructor and performer for over 25 years. I lived in Morocco for 2 years. I listened to Middle Eastern music for so many years, I thought I could never live without it! But then I found Tango about 6 years ago. I was dabbling in a little ballroom, and a friend suggested I go to a milonga. Tango captured my body, my mind, my heart… it pierced my soul! The rest is history!

Diana belly dancing

Diana belly dancing

does tango take you somewhere?

Absolutely, yes. You’re focused on your partner and the music, both of you totally connected, grounded to the floor, to the earth. My eyes are closed. You don’t want external stimuli interfering with your dance; it’s an out-of-body experience. In the entire universe nothing else is happening!

baldosas sin rumbo

For those few minutes you fall in love with that partner, deeply enjoying the music and the dance together. When you’re in that perfect state, like the perfect storm, your partner doesn’t have a name, you don’t have a name… your egos are absent, it’s just exquisite. After one of those tandas, you can almost go home…

What is your favorite Tango music? 

I love the Golden Age of Tango… Canaro of course, I love PoemaPaciencia is one of my favorite songs. I love Donato, depending on my mood…. D’Arienzo, Malerba, and, oh my, Pugliese! I only want to dance Pugliese with certain people.

San Pugliese

When they put on a Pugliese tanda, it changes everything! You need more space and more athletic ability, more focus, and a leader who is really with you. Why do they play Pugliese so late? Because you need a lot of energy to dance to Pugliese. I love di Sarli too, and the Golden Age vocalists you don’t find any more, like Fiorentino… he was a tenor of Italian heritage, from the operatic tradition.

Francisco Fiorentino

Francisco Fiorentino

The voice training that they had back then… wow! Modern singers aren’t nearly as dramatic, and most are not as well-trained. And Troilo, of course… I was really fortunate this last year, Buenos Aires has so many free concerts, both tango and classical. In terms of culture BAires really has it over California.

who have you studied with…

My “Número Uno” teacher in the states is Marcelo Solis [California: Bay Area]. I was fortunate to have started with him. If you train with Marcelo, you can dance with anyone.

marcelo solis

In a private, Marcelo dances with me for a whole hour. Lisette Perelle is also a fabulous teacher, especially for technique…

Lisette

and Glenn Corteza for musicality and ease of movement.

Glenn Corteza

Eduardo Saucedo teaches at La Ideal in BAires, and in the States: fabulous!

eduardo saucedo

And ALL the milongueros of Buenos Aires that I dance with are my teachers! When you are starting out, “sample the market” (of teachers), then stick with one, or maybe two, at the most. Don’t confuse yourself with too many “takes” on the subject, it will show in your dance. Same goes for visits to Buenos Aires.

mil guapos

Is the Tango scene in Buenos Aires changing?

A big change in milongas since I’ve lived in BAires is the door prizes. During half-time at the milongas (usually about 1:00 or 2:00 am) there are door prizes, based on your ticket number. A few years ago, a pair or two of shoes was given away each evening, plus lesser prizes, like a bottle of champagne, wine, tickets to the next milonga, a tango CD, or tango apparel. These days, it may be partial credit towards a pair of shoes, or a drawing for shoes only once or twice monthly, partial credit for Tango clothing, fewer bottles of champagne (always shared with others at your table… Porteños LOVE champagne!) and even pizza vouchers — reflections of a much weaker economy. Another indication of the economic downturn is that some milongueros will only attend one milonga per evening, whereas in the past, they may have attended two or three. An entrada now averages 35 pesos (about US$7.00) and a non-alcoholic beverage 15 pesos (US$3.00). The price of a drink depends on the venue, and can be very expensive, especially if you want American whiskey.

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But a glass of local wine is still only about $3. Then there are the taxi fares, which jumped considerably in mid-2012, after having already doubled on New Year’s Day 2012. Any food you get at a milonga in BAires is paid for just like in a restaurant, unlike in the states, where a table (or several tables) of nibbles like fruits and veggies, chips and dips, cheese and crackers, sodas, water and wine are usually free, and are often provided potluck style. If you eat and drink well at a California milonga, the $10-$12 door price is a bargain!

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The Argentine economic downturn is a reflection of the world economic crisis. Many Argentines believe that another big “restructuring” is on its way. Now, in December, [2012] it’s high season for Tango tourism, with lots of visitors from the States, Asia, Australia, and Europe. It’s the warmest time of year in the Southern Cone. December 1st is International Tango Day, where thousands dance to live Tango orchestras in the streets of Buenos Aires. It’s a great place to meet people from all over the world.

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Can you describe a perfect lead?

First and foremost somebody who KNOWS what he’s trying to do. There’s nothing worse than a weak lead… and you cannot change a lead-idea in midstream. A good leader has confidence, he just LEADS!… Even if YOU think a step is difficult, it won’t be, if he leads it properly! A good leader makes it almost impossible for you to take a wrong step.

pareja joven 2

Argentine men, even if they’re not great dancers, have a confident embrace, a decisive lead. They say women come from all over the world to feel this embrace… it’s true!  One thing that has surprised me is that not all men can dance milonga well, even Argentine men! So, it isn’t genetic after all? To dance milonga well you must listen to the music… if you don’t catch the beat, you won’t get the flavor of the dance.

great milonga dancers Jorge & Milena Nel

great milonga dancers Jorge & Milena Nel

What about followers… what are our worst sins…?

Even if my leader is not the greatest, or not at my level, I try to give him my total attention. I give him the best dance I can. I don’t look around the room. If you focus on that moment, that leader, that bubble of time you have with him, your dance with him will be so much better… you can make him look better than he ever has! I must say that in BAires, lots of Porteñas cultivate the Little Orphan Annie look, occasionally frowning, or raising an eyebrow while dancing with a bad lead.

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But you can better your dance by always maintaining your structure, executing your movements elegantly, maintaining your dance integrity no matter what. I’ve only ever had to walk off the floor if I thought someone was dangerous to me or to others…. or if someone was man-handling me in a sexual way.

baby don't go!

do you dance differently on a crowded floor?

Well, obviously, on a crowded floor, where you may advance only 20 feet per song, your steps should be well underneath your body, no overextended leg; shrink your bubble! Try to not get upset if you are grazed by someone else’s heel. You can dance the same steps, but as baby steps… or steps in place… covering very little ground. You can make it look good!

Diana with Juliet, a BAires expat from Canada

Diana with Juliette, a BAires expat from Canada

what advice would you give to beginners?

The most important thing in tango is your basics. Glenn Corteza puts it very well: “your dance is only as good as your basic.” Skip the advanced classes, take the basics classes over and over. Everybody’s in such a hurry to learn fancy moves. What becomes most enjoyable is executing a step seamlessly, effortlessly, with the music… that’s the beauty of Tango. Be totally in the moment.

pareja joven

I think beginners should stay beginners for a long time. Even if you never advance beyond the basics, if you move exquisitely, gracefully, you don’t need anything else. Don’t tell yourself, “oh, that was bad.” There is no such thing as bad tango. There is no such thing as good tango. Tango just IS.

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Milonga Resources and Cabeceos:

The milonga listings are a great resource in BAires, and can be picked up for free at most milongas, tango shoe stores, and other tango venues. They list milongas day-by-day, with milonga names, the venue name and location, starting and ending times, and names and telephone numbers of milonga organizers. You will also find listings of Tango schools, teachers, and prácticas.

Jorge Firpo y Diana Mestre

maestros Jorge Firpo y Diana Mestre

There are quite a few really good milonga websites as well, some with videos, so you can get a sense of the atmosphere of each particular milonga. I still favor the little milonga listings booklet, which fits right into your shoe bag. It’s always a good idea to call and reserve a table for the milonga, to avoid being seated in the back or behind a pillar, where it will be more difficult to catch a cabeceo. Check out <hoy-milonga.com>.

Can you explain cabeceos?

Ah yes, cabeceos! The system here to ask, or be asked to dance, is called cabeceo. It’s based on eye contact. Men are usually seated on one side of the dance floor, women on the other, and couples at the ends; sometimes a slight variation on this theme. To get asked to dance, you scan the room, trying to catch the eye of someone you would like to dance with, or looking across to see if someone is trying to catch your eye.

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Eye contact is followed by a nod of acknowledgement, or raising of the eyebrows. The better you are at this, the more you will dance.

cabeceo-2

Be aware that in touristy milongas such as Confiteria Ideal or Salon Canning, you may be approached at your table, instead of cabeceo’d. In traditional tango culture this is considered extremely rude! So you can Just Say NO. The guys do this because so many foreign women do not understand the cabeceo code. If I am approached this way, I usually smile my best smile and say “porque no cabeceo?”  No reason to be bitchy about it.

What is a typical day for you?

I sleep late! In the afternoons I take classes, get groceries, meet friends for coffee, do ART….. I’m a Plein Air painter, an Impressionist. I do landscapes in oil, and watercolors when I’m traveling. I like to eat a big meal about 3 pm, then take a nap and think about the milongas I’m going to that evening. These days, with all the matinee milongas, you don’t have to be a vampire anymore. Of course it’s a different crowd at the early milongas.

La Nacional

La Nacional

and the food?

Beef is king here, and it is wonderful! However, vegetarian restaurants are sprouting up here and there, excellent Italian pastas and pizza are everywhere, and chicken is on most restaurant menus. The food is bland, spices are not prevalent, everything is too salty, and high fat abounds. I prefer the Peruvian food, it is very tasty, with complex flavors: more of a “cuisine” than Argentine food.  There are lots of McDonald’s and Burger Kings here, and why anyone would want one of their offerings instead of a nice Argentine steak is beyond me! The medialunas (small croissants) are to die for, as well as dulce de leche anything!

café & medialunas

what about Argentine fashion?

Argentine women like to dress!! As Amy Lincoln says, they’re “well put together.”They wear lots of creative (but not expensive) jewelry, big earrings, scarves, lots of bling! In the US, black is practically the uniform at milongas, but not here. Argentine women do wear a lot of black, but they also wear pretty, lighter colors.

Diana and Amy

Diana and Amy

In California, people tend to dress down. Here in Buenos Aires mostly younger women dress down, but you can always spot someone in a sequined dress. “Dress-up” was my favorite game when I was little, so you know where I’m going with this theme! In my opinion, Argentine women dress and look sexier than American women. Not all men wear suits anymore, but usually nice trousers and shirts; only foreigners wear cargo pants or  jeans — and a few stray Porteños!

milongueras en negro

did you fall in love with the dance, or the music…?

Because I’m a dancer I can’t separate the two. It’s like a combo plate, you can’t buy one without the other!

beauti dancers

how long have you been in Buenos Aires?

I moved here in the fall of 2011… I’m not sure when I’ll leave… if ever?

obelisco

Ciao from Diana Howell in Buenos Aires!

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¡Felíz Año Nuevo! 2012 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Barcelona III: Milongas and Prime Directives

Are you ready to tune into a new channel? You could call it the Universal Channel (no, not Universal Pictures; not the Disney Channel, either). Let’s call it the CLC: Cosmic Light Channel. Ready to tune in and have your DNA synced? Ready to get rebooted by the galactic synchronizer? I keep hearing from every twinkle twinkle little star, saying that our bodies are gonna be receiving electromagnetic pulses from the CLC which will greatly accelerate our own personal evolutionary journeys! Not a roller-coaster ride, please! Just a gentle ZAP! from the cosmic mother board, like the little slap on the bottom babies get after leaving the tranquil maternal seas.

Spock

Spock

A lot of that grey matter which most of us have never used to capacity (Hey! speak for yourself!) may finally be put to work! And not just for ourselves, but for the benefit of all humankind. They say we should NOT go online, not watch TV, not travel, not use electronic devices (you gotta be kidding! ya mean, wean ourselves from the mother boobie?) during our “stimulus package” makeovers to avoid a quantum leap out of the cosmic jamba juicer into the proverbial (uh-oh!) frying pan! Not good! Steer clear of the Dark Side! No burnt side with my jumbo meal today, thanks! Definitely gotta cut back to fruits and veggies, nuts and spuds, during your cosmic tune-up and chakra alignment! I mean, you wouldn’t pour Karo syrup into your gas tank before a major road trip, would you?

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So, what should you do during your universal involuntary Solstice Synchronizing weekend? Well, food, sex and tango is always recommended… um, what else is there? More endorphins, please! Some serious prayer and meditation is always good idea, of course, with a little cosmic-chip wafer and wine. A scoop of Cherry Garcia in your smoothie will give you a better chance of chatting with you-know-who on the other side. Dark glasses to avoid being blinded by the Light. And don’t leave out the Xocolate!

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Well kids, If we’re going to be the heros and heroines of a universal paradigm shift, let’s do it with style and class: Enzo Ferrari all the way! Max out your carbon-cylinder footprint!  Be the protagonist of your own story, not the silent witness! If you decide to hibernate (highly recommended by non-tango dancer friends), stay at home, read, fix a fruit salad, bake your own bread, play with your kids, be creative! Make your own post-apocalypso holiday greeting cards, write a story and read it to your cat or dog (your cat will just fall asleep; your dog may provide helpful critical feedback).

So, just to be on the safe side, keep in mind these universal mandates:

  1. Resistance is futile (the Borg)
  2. Mutate now, avoid the rush! (Katie & Renie)
  3. Resist much, obey little (Edward Abbey)
  4. If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own! (Cosmic Muffin)

and these other guiding principles of La Vida Tanguera:

1)  keep doing it
2)  every time you do it you feel happy
3)  it turns your life upside down but you don’t care.

Graciela y Osvaldo La Yumba Tango y Milonga en Barcelona 0

La Yumba… our favorite Barcelona milonga!!

la Yumba

before the crowds

All the flavor of a real authentic Buenos Aires milonga!

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delicious dance floor!

We also like the Acuarilonga: an open air milonga a few steps from the aquarium, in the harbor right next to the Mare Magnum, surrounded by water with a bridge that connects to terraferma.

Acuarlionga

Sorry, I forget the name of this next milonga! Only a few blocks from our Eixample neighborhood, near Carrer d’Árago x Calabria. PR for milongas, prácticas, tango classes and workshops is spread out on the pool table. Nice bar, nice floor, nice vibe! Now, if we can just find it again… that would be nice!

unknown milonga!

possibly, La Milonga del Café

Catalans really like to play with words. There are 9 million Catalan speakers in Spain — no wonder they want their own borders — I don’t know how that would affect their economy; the way things are now, it could hardly be worse. But I’m no economist, so don’t string me up! I mean, I still use my fingers to count, ok? (All those years teaching kindergarten…) But the wonderful Catalan way with words leads to all these delightful milonga names, such as la Acuarilonga, la Milongallega (a gallego is someone of Spanish descent); la Gratalonga (a beautiful time); a milonga on the fringes of town: la Arrabalera; a milonga with a well-polished dance floor: la Bien Pulenta. How fun is that? Another night we stumbled onto a really cool milonga with live music in a tiny club. The sound was pretty decent, dance floor not bad, nice lighting, good dancers… check it out!

Milonga Bellos Aires

Milonga Bellos Aires

We went to an evening concert at Teatro Grec, an outdoor amphitheater up on the hill called Montjuic (monte de los Judíos), site of a Jewish cemetery dating to the Middle Ages, now a park and home to the Barcelona Olympic Stadium and numerous museums and event centers. Are you ready to recite the Barcy museum litany? :  there’s the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Arte de Catalunya), the MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona), the CCCB (Centro de Cultura Contemporánia de Barcelona), el Museu Picasso, la Fundación Joan Miróla Fundación Antoni Tapíes, el Museu de la Historia de la Ciudad de Barcelona, el Museu Maritimo, and of course, la Pedrera, one of Gaudí’s many masterpieces. There’s lots more museums and galleries, but ¡ya basta!

the original iconic Art hipster

Dalí: the original iconic Art hipster

If you’re serious about Art, besides learning all the acronyms, reciting the litany, and looking the part (see above), you’ve got to get a museum pass, the Articket Barcelona.

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It costs €30, saves you a ton of plata and no more waiting in lines. Pre-concert to-do list: kick back, have a drink, and watch the Barcy sky fade to indigo blue.

Teatro Grec

Teatro Grec

Tango en vivo!   Juan José Mosalini, in center with white hair and sensational bandoneon, in the midst of his superb orchestra.

Orquesta Juan José Mosalini

Orquesta Juan José Mosalini

Nothing like the earthy atmosphere of ancient rock-quarry walls ceilinged with stars for awesome sound; mix in a few spotlights slowly morphing from blue to purple to red, highlighting the orchestra and the dancers. I was swept away by a sense of timelessness: what a fabulous evening!

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dancers in white

Mosalini had different couples wearing different colors to complement the different Nuevo Tango pieces, including several Piazzola heartbreakers.

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dancers in red

Tango dancers in...

dancers in… um… flowers

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Recognize this couple?

Sebastian Jimenez y María Inés Bogado……winners of El Mundial, salon style, 2010. We saw them at the Sitges Tango Festival in July.

And how about that Pipa Club? I think we should spend another month in Barcelona just dancing at La Pipa, Plaza Real (ok, Plaça Reial in Catalan)…

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we spotted our friend Gato Valdéz here

Who’s the guy next to Aníbal Troilo? Somebody please tell me!

LaPipa-Troilo

Cuarteto Irreal

We didn’t see Quarteto Irreal, but you gotta love the poster!

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Yet another sizzling hot tango poster, exemplifying this absolutely electrifying Mediterranean port!  But that’s not all… what about Barcy’s amazing soccer team?

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Yes, I’m a Barcy fan. Can you tell?

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Of course, you already know about the Gothic Quarter, el Ravel (next time you listen to Otros Aires’ tune, Rotos en el Ravel, listen to the words… they speak of the multiculturality of this famous and fabulous city, an “encyclopedia of humanity”). And you may recall the sunset Jazz Chill-Out cruise… but there’s more! I have yet to write about world-famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (does the name la Sagrada Familia ring a bell?) and the Costa Brava: the meandering coastline heading north to France, not just vaguely, but very reminiscent of our own Big Sur.

la Costa Brava

la Costa Brava

Barcy just can’t be summed up in a few words, but let me try: so many hip young people, so much music, art, creativity: such a phenomenal scene! The delicious (and cheap!) tapas, delectable wine, sangria, cava… affordable public transportation (buses, subways, trains), free drinking water and recycling bins on just about every block; protests for Catalan independence every other day; corner cafés, pubs and bistros everywhere, plus the amazing nightlife: the bar scene, the nightclubs, the parties spilling into the streets at all hours…  and a waterfront! Barcy reminds me so much of Buenos Aires. How do you spell culture, nightlife, fun times, outgoing, passionate and compassionate people? ¡ESPANYOLES BARCELONA CATALUNYA! 

Hold everything!

the Maritime Museum

But wait… hold everything! No, you’re not going to the Magic Fountains before looking at some of the world’s most stunning artifacts from early Catalunya. An old Spanish friend of mine, Miguel de Cervantes, always reminds us to educate as we entertain! Besides, where else are you gonna get ideas for next year’s Halloween costume?

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La Pelirroja: biblical heroine

winged saints...

winged saints…

meditating monks...

meditating monks…

All these lovely artifacts can be found in a beautiful former palace, the MNAC: Museo Nacional d’Arte Catalunya. My favorite Barcy museum, and former palace. (Please note: la Pelirroja is not her real name. Just foolin’ around.)

el Palacio Real

el Palacio Real on a very pretty day

gorgeous black steed

gorgeous black steed – rider’s head in the clouds?

So if you want to see the Magic Fountains of Montjuic, you must begin at the stunning Plaza España, just down the hill, in the middle of a very busy intersection.

Plaza d'España by day

Plaza España by day

view of the palace from below

looking up towards the MNAC from Plaza España

You climb up the hill, sonambulate around the museum for a few hours until it gets dark, turn yourself around and, wow!! quite the view of Barcelona! In the next photo you can see the Plaza España lit up in the background, between the giant obelisks. The big round building, once a bullring, is now a huge shopping mall.

looking down from up top

looking down from up top

Yeah, they get quite a crowd around dusk!

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the sound of the water, the lights, the music…

Merry Christmas everybody!!

Happy Holidays from Barcelona!!

And don’t for get to have a superlative transformative Solstice!

Over and out from Barcelona!

Over and out from Barcelona!

Barcelona: Palau de la Música Catalana

Barcelona is home to one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world: el Palau de la Música Catalana. The Palau is one of the most brilliant examples of Modernist architecture anywhere. Absolutely stunning! I count myself very fortunate to have seen it, and extra lucky ’cause I got to see a fabulous Flamenco performance there as well.

The first modernist “curtain wall” is about 5 stories tall: a compelling contrast of modern and traditional. Catalan modernismo was a very local, very Barcelonesque architectural movement which had its roots in the industrial revolution of late 19th century Spain. In Catalonia the modernist movement went even further and developed a local style and personality, sprung from the Renaixença, the Catalan language and cultural renaissance. Modernismo was a natural response to the unprecedented urban industrial development occurring at that time, and not just in Spain, but all over the developing world. Like the recycling of Barcelona’s waterfront for the 1992 Olympic Games, the Barcelona Expo of 1888 created a big push to update and urbanize the city. This artistic movement became known as Art Nouveau in Europe. Smart people argue about when and where Modernismo (or Art Nouveau) originated, but by the Paris Expo of 1902 it was everywhere.

Designed in the Catalan modernist style by architect Lluís Domenech i Montaner, the Palau was built between 1905 and 1908 by a local choral society, the Orfeó Catalá. I find it amazing that a humble choral group became a catalyst  in the Catalan Renaixença.

Aren’t we in Middle Earth? Isn’t this Olde Elvish design?

                                                 la botiga — the gift shop

Oooh, if this isn’t the place to go for silk scarves and handpainted silk fans… gorgeous and very pricey! And loads of exquisite glass and ceramic items, jewelry… plus a whole room of art books. Truly just a light veil separates heaven from earth!

Midnight blue silk rosette fan… stunning!

It’s anybody’s guess what the ceiling motif is all about… silk fans? giant moths? flowers? Well, guess again… the book I brought home from the gift shop says they’re open tulips. An unbelievable fantasyland of the decorative arts! Everywhere you look are forms and shapes taken from Nature with a capital N. Catalan artists created their own language of symbols inspired by organic shapes and patterns from the natural world: birds, butterflies, leaves, flowers, not to mention fantastical animals and people. Like when you cut an apple in half crosswise, what do you find…? a star! Of course these photos are only a hint, a glimpse… you’ll just have to go see for yourself!

the dark blue windows are just what they seem… evening sky

The Palau has been called a “box of light.” Can you imagine the hours of work that went into creating the colored glass, the mosaic and crystal ceilings? In Catalonia, the middle class saw in the new architecture a way of placating their unconscious anxieties about modernization. All those noisy, dirty, annoying machines, motorcars, trains, foundries spewing smoke, steam engines… the transition from old world to modern world was kind of stressful back then, and these days, with exponential change by the nanosecond, I guess we’re still running on that same treadmill, trying to catch up to a world that keeps on moving just out of reach.

a wildly fabulous facade

Yet the Modernist movement was also a way for people to express their Catalan identity and spiritual roots, while displaying their newly-acquired bourgeois sensitivity to culture and the arts.

are you wowed yet?

not quite a full house, but a most appreciative audience

The Orfeó Catalá, from its humble beginnings as an amateur choral group, went on to produce concerts, symphonies, and operas, like Richard Strauss directing the Berlin Philharmonic, Camille Saint-Saëns, Herbert von Karajan, Igor Stravinsky, Pau Casals… and, in more recent times, Leonard Bernstein, Mstislav Rostropovich, Zubin Mehta, Manuel de Falla, Ella Fitzgerald, Norah Jones… and the list goes on! The Palau was recognized in 1997 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Ella Fitzgerald

Ain’t she wonderful!

The rich decoration of the façade of the Palau, using elements of Spanish and Arabic architecture, blends harmoniously with the building’s structure. The exposed red brick and iron, the mosaics, the stained glass, and the glazed ceramic tiles give a feeling of openness and transparency. An enigmatic group of sculptures symbolizing Catalan music on the corner of the building keep watch over a busy corner, just a few blocks away from the Plaça Catalunya.

sculptor: Miguel Blay

Prancing horseback Valkyries at the tops of columns frame the stage, while goddesses in bas-relief emerge from mosaic walls, each playing a different musical instrument. It’s wild!

musical muses decorate the stage interior

How can I transition to Flamenco after the Palau? A herculean task, and after all I’m just a girl! But I can testify that Catalans love their flamenco!  I’ll just post a couple of photos so you can get the drift… an evening of Flamenco at the Palau:

passionate, fiery!

The raw emotion of Flamenco, the dancer giving her all, the singer spilling out his guts, the complex rhythms which take you over completely; you are imprisoned, enthralled!

the power of Flamenco, like the surging ocean

When a dancer locks in your gaze, you can’t escape… even your breathing syncs with the dance; the compás of cajón, tacos, palmas and your heart; the singer pouring out her soul, the melodic complexity of the guitar that takes you far away…. the clicking of the castañuelos carved from ancient rosewood… Flamenco is insurmountable! It’s a mountain and you’re walking up the narrow path… it’s the ocean and you’re a tiny shell tossed around on the waves. Flamenco is only rivaled by Tango in my universe of music addiction. This is a perfect segue way to Tango, but not tonight. It’s 3 am and this girl’s gotta get some sleep! Adíos, que les vayan bien! Hasta luego! Vale?

Ciao from Barcelona!

P.S.  I almost forgot to mention that I changed the name of my blog to Tango Awaits You. Why? Because El Tango Nos Lleva was all about us and our Tango travels, but now it’s about YOU, dear reader, about the possibility of Tango in Your Life! Yes, YOU! Tango is out there, waiting, it will never go away, it will always be there, ready to plug you into the endorphine-producing ecstasy of dancing Tango. You might as well get started now… why wait? And I decided to put the title in English, since lots, though not all, of my readers are English-speakers. Personally, I prefer Spanish, in fact they tell me I’m much friendlier in Spanish (like, not a bitch?), that I’m downright warm and fuzzy in Spanish, but this blog’s for YOU! My friends and family! So there you have it, Tango Awaits You!! And thank you all so very much for all your comments and emails. It helps when I feel homesick for California!

GO OBAMA!

Spooky Milonga

One evening in late June we jumped on a bus and rode it all the way down Rue Tolbiac, almost to the end, a block from the François Mitterand library. Looking for a milonga, we walked past the funkiest trashiest old building I’d ever seen. It had a medieval tower whose top was wrapped in netting… some kind of restoration? Keep the hunckback from flinging rotten fruit on passersby?

tower tour, anybody? Eiffel Tower it ain’t!

A set of windows on the 2nd or 3rd floor was painted into a giant gaping mouth with sharp monster teeth, waiting to devour anyone who dared enter. Silly us, we hadn’t yet realized that scary building was our destination!

Who’s hungry? I am!

We kept walking, not seeing any place that looked like a milonga. Around the corner the sidewalk sloped down to the level of the ground. There was a big chain link fence, a parking lot full of junky cars, graffiti everywhere, weeds, broken windows, trash… where the yada yada were we going?

colorful graffiti…

Ben spotted an opening in the chain link, with a paper taped to it that said Milonga Los Frigos and an arrow pointing to a trail leading around the side of the horrific palace.

boho chic?

We ducked under some trees and plunged into the semi-darkness of a shady overgrown courtyard slash/ abandoned side yard.

the spooky path

After a few steps we saw the twinkle of tiny lights through an opening in the brush. Three young people sitting around a card table came into view, smiling and looking completely normal. Could these be the demented gatekeepers of a horrific palace? Had we just entered the Twilight Zone?

We paid our €7 each. Apparently still having that deer-in-the-headlights look about us, the slim young Parisian (she spoke a little Spanish) led us along a dirt trail that led to the cobblestone patio and then, happily, towards what looked like a bar in a cave. Emerging from darkness into light is always a little confusing. We thought maybe the bar was the milonga, but she said it was just the bar, and so we walked past it (you could hear Billie Holiday singing softly) to yet another cave-like room on the ground level. By now we heard the music and saw open doors on a small wooden deck leading into — you guessed it — the milonga! Couples were dancing, and others sitting around small tables lit with candles. The ceiling was a series of stone arches paved with brick (we were right under the overpass) and the dance floor was, well, not great, but … what else do you expect at a monster’s ball?

trés jolie!

….and so we danced happily ever after in the remodeled troll cave. With French champagne in hand we toasted the classic sounds of Orquesta Sans Souci, Sexteto Milonguero, Canaro, Troilo, Biagi, Caló, de Caro, Pugliese, Enrique Rodríguez and other Top 100 Tango Tunes. We drank to bat caves, badger dens, rabbit warrens, hobbit holes and other warm snuggly hideaways. We danced underneath Rue Tolbiac, left bank of the Seine, 13th Arondissement, and we kept dancing until we dropped. Perfect, blissful, tango exhaustion: you try to pace yourself, but another favorite song comes on and a mysterious underground force compels you to get up and dance some more!

BOO!

Happy Halloween!

Sitges Tango Festival July 18 – 22

warm tropical nights… milonga under the stars… the crowd watches a demo by Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes

We carried the rain with us as we flew from from Paris to Barcelona one gray day last July. From the airport we drove through the midsummer drizzle 30 km south to Sitges. By sunset that evening the skies were clearing, though the wind continued through the night. In the morning the sky was still cloudy, but, intrepid beach-goers that we are, we walked half a block to the beach with our giant sunbrella and his & hers beach towels. After an hour the clouds had flown away north (to drench Paris again, no doubt, as they’d been doing all spring) and the day turned sunny and hot. Here’s my personal bodyguard testing the water…

the water is warm!!!

captured web photo… it actually wasn’t this crowded!

Known as the St. Tropez of Spain, Sitges is a small city known for its beaches, nightspots, and historical sites.  A wide boulevard winds along the Mediterranean, with cafés, restaurants (fresh fish! tapas! clams oysters mussels calamari, lobster…) beautiful old houses, historic churches, alcázars, plazas… tango on the beach, anybody?

white sands, white tie…

and Tango.

Sitges became a counterculture city back in the 1960s… and it still resonates hip and cool. One of the hottest gay beaches of Europe, too. Franco was still in power in those days, but apparently rebellious Sitges managed to skate by … or maybe I’m just desperately under-informed.

main beach and plaza

pretty tiled fountain

in the historic center

a beautiful old portal

I really go for historic buildings, and Sitges is full of them.

looks Art Deco to me

This retro wedge-shaped building was one of the landmarks I used to orient myself while walking around the old part of town. The streets are winding cobblestone paths, most not even wide enough for cars, and even though they mostly all lead down to the beach, it’s easy to get lost in the maze (unless you’re looking for the beach, of course). But since being lost is my normal state, I actually felt pretty much at home. Everywhere you look are restaurants, cafés, colorful shops and marketplace stalls selling tango-fashionable loose trousers, and loads of more pretty things.

Every day is market day in a tourist town, and the food on display was appetizing and delicious!

CJS pizzas (just say “CJ’s”)

the olive seller

CJS deli

CJS salmueria

a portal in the historic center

la Sirenita de Sitges

Our room in a small hotel a half-block from the beach overlooks a beautiful house, three floors, dazzlingly white walls with blue shutters, an intense cobalt blue (one of my favorite colors!) with a terracotta roof. Classic mediterranean. Sorry! I didn’t get a picture. But here’s a serene spot on the hotel terrazza, where breakfast is served till noon, and you can order drinks and/or snacks the rest of the day and evening.

Hotel Los Globos

If you’ve had too many mojitos you can just hang out and talk to the resident parrot.

Pieces of Eight! Pieces of Eight! Isn’t that one of the last lines in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island?  The Hotel Los Globos resident parrot-greeter talks and whistles loudly whenever anyone walks by. He seems really sweet, but then I didn’t risk sticking my finger between the bars. We humans always want to believe animals have thoughts and feelings just like us. I guess we just can’t imagine anything different, but… birds will be birds! And they have brains the size of a pea. Of course it helps if you use all the brainpower you have!

The afternoon we arrived we walked all around town. The main church is perched on a high point of the malecón, the walkway along the waterfront.

la iglesia principal

There was a wedding party outside the church, with lots of chic people standing around, waiting for the novios to exit. I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of La Reina del Sur, but fortunately there was no exchange of gunfire. I should have taken a few photos but, shy me, I didn’t want to be the intrusive tourist. Later, as we walked along the beach, we happened upon the sweet ending of yet another wedding! The couple was wrapped up in a big piece of  cloth which was then knotted around them, like a giant pretzel. Trapped forever! or so it would seem. A day of domestic mergers in sunny Spain.

Sitges evening milonga

The Sitges Tango Festival had world-class teachers: Miguel Angel Zotto, Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes, Rubén & Sabrina Véliz, Sebastián Jiménez & María Inés Bogado  (winners of the 2010 Mundial de Tango in Tango Salón), Marcelo Ramer & Selva Mastroti, and Marcela Troncoso. All Argentines, all professional tango dancers and teachers. Miguel Angel Zotto was flying solo — he had a lovely assistant who was filling in for his wife, who had just given birth to twins! Way to go, Miguel! Nice guy, by the way, totally unpretentious, the way I like my tango teachers. <www.festivaltangositges.com>

Ensemble Hyperión under cover at the Jardines de Terramar

Classes were held every afternoon (no morning classes, thank you! you gotta sleep sometime!) at three locations, organized by the customary levels of beg-int-adv. (Or is that beg-int-tango teacher? ja ja) I took one class per day… my usual limit. Ben took lots… the Energizer Bunny. I took a DJ class with Gabriel Sodini, also Argentine. More of a chamuyo, really, a question & answer session, but informative. Gabriel is buddies with our old friend Gato Valdéz, who DJ’d the all-nighters on the beach, starting at 2 am, after the official milonga ended. What a fun time we had!!

the gala Saturday night milonga & show… fabulous!

I highly recommend this tango festival. Super location, super teachers, great shopping, cheap street food, tapas, fish… sun and sand… and reasonably priced classes!

dinner on the beachfront

Life is Good.

Ciao from Sitges!

Paris II

Can you guess where old Napoleon Bonaparte is buried? Who else gets a red porphry sarcophogas and and a golden dome?

dome me baby

If you get up high enough up, you can see the dome halfway across the city;  it glitters in the sun.

RIP Napoleon

What a city! So huge and attractive and full of monuments, sculptures, beautiful old buildings, plazas, fountains …. remains of old roman walls, roads, columns. Just a big WOW!! What else can I say? The resemblance to Buenos Aires is striking. Only Buenos Aires is the younger sister who isn’t quite as good a housekeeper as her big sister. Urban transportation is excellent, by the way. The Metro is clean and crisscrosses the city both above and below ground. It runs from 5:30 am to 1:30 am for night owls like tango dancers, and to 2:30 am on Friday and Saturday nights!

This is the Hotel les Inválides. It’s not really a hotel, but part of a huge complex where soldiers were trained, including stables for the calvalry. The term “hotel” refers to its  past function as a VA hospital.

Everyone needs a nice deep wide moat to keep goths and barbarians out!

and plenty of cannons doesn’t hurt

Ben surveys the moat on a warm day:

a nice resting spot after the forced march

Speaking of perimeter defenses, we walked around the bottom of the old moat that surrounded the castle that was knocked down when they built the Louvre. The Louvre began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under the reign of Phillip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum.

the deep of the keep

Speaking of the Louvre, here’s the front door:

wash me!

Napoleon also built a stunning opera house:

La Maison du Musique

with figures in green and gold all over the roof!

Wouldn’t you love to have a spacious, high-ceilinged apartment in a building like this? It overlooks a little park near les Inválides.

pricey apartments

A typical downtown street, busy, but not too much traffic:

green cross

The neon green cross denotes a pharmacy. We had our daily coffee break at the café on the right. Here’s the famous department store, Printemps. Not much to look at on the outside, kind of a postmodern pastiche, but on the inside…. super expensive designer clothes, shoes, everything….  an entire floor devoted to lingerie! The Printemps lingerie department makes Victoria’s Secret look like a Girl Scout pop-up store. So many different labels, each with its own floor space, displays, attendants. I have to confess, I bought a few pairs of stockings that were very expensive. I have never spent so much on stockings. Am I a bad girl? I hope so!

don’t even go near this place!

I also wanted a new lipstick, but not bad enough to pay 40 bucks for it! Even Ben’s mom Bess has been to Printemps, many years ago. And my mom says she still wears a blouse she bought there way back when. She and my dad heard Edith Piaf sing one night in a little club, after the war.

You can find any kind of hat in Paris, or have one made to order:

Paris hat shop

Parisian women here seem to like red shoes:

somehow it all comes together… kinda

I don’t think the heels go with the backpack…

but they do match the purse! When we walk around we sometimes stroll up stairways that lead to streets above, or below. Streets that have stairs can have street name signs just like other streets. This was not a hard climb for us; we do 6 flights up several times a day!

this one leads to Rue des Artistes

We stumbled on this street which appears to have been built, or rebuilt, in the early 1920s. So quiet, pretty, cobblestones, flowers; even room to park your smartcar!

how sweet is that!

It feels like time stands still in this quiet lane.

A unique style: Retro Deco?

If I lived in Paris I might consider a smartcar, just for its parkability, but that wouldn’t be very green-minded of me, would it? Sustainable urban ecology is the only way to go! But if I had big bucks, I could buy this Cooper Copy Cat…. sorry I didn’t catch the make! Can somebody out there tell me?

looks a lot like a Mini

Parisians are quite friendly. Even with the language barrier. French drivers do NOT try to run you over in the street, like in Buenos Aires. They actually slow down and stop! What a concept! Not everybody speaks English either, contrary to what I’d heard before. Maybe in Germany or Scandinavia, but not in France (or Argentina). I just use my Spanish or Italian, that works pretty well, plus I’m picking up a few words in French here and there. Ben says I can make friends in any language!

I have to show off our Buttes aux Cailles neighborhood. We love the open air market.

the deli

the fish place

fresh shrimp by the bucket!

I’ve never seen so many kinds of olives in one place!

got cheese?

don’t forget the blue cheese — goes great on figs!

a little dried fruit

And if you cook a lot, like we do, you’ll need some really good knives:

yeah, I know I’ve got a sick sense of humor!

he thinks it’s funny!

how about some flowers?

so pretty! 6 euros a bunch: about $7.50

The flower guy saw me taking pictures of the olive guy, so he had to have his picture taken too!

Gallic machismo!

And how about some absolutely irresistible pastries?

Yum!

I took that picture at a very chic bakery downtown. Here’s a pretty nice café on our block…. but we mostly cook at home. Paris is so expensive!!

Ben at the café on our corner of Rue de Tolbiac

Next blog up: Paris milongas and other night life!

Ciao from Paris!

Sexteto Milonguero and Wild Women of San Francisco

The other night we had the pleasure of listening to the high lonesome sound of SEXTETO MILONGUERO! These guys and gal can really throw down some dancing music! The celebration was the 6 month anniversary of a new milonga, La Coqueta de Recoleta. Here in Buenos Aires the milongas are usually packed, unless it’s early (before midnight) or late (after 4 am). But La Coqueta is quite danceable, the floor is excellent, table service very good, and the building is really and truly a Palace! Sexteto Milonguero plays a repertoire of  tangos, milongas and valses arranged in the classic 1940s tango salon style. The group was formed in 2006 by singer Javier Di Ciriaco. Their music is high-energy, and made for dancing! Good music, good friends, good vibes!

Javier Di Ciriaco flashed his trademark white lightning smile as the band cranked out high-octane tangos, valses and milongas.

they can play fast milongas!

Sexteto Milonguero ended the show with two tandas in a row of classic milonga! If you tango you know what a rarity that is. The band was simply giving the crowd what they like best! All was astir in milonguero heaven!

view from backstage

Lucky us, we had seats backstage… the contrabajo player was on the floor fixing something with his wiring…  Javier started off with a piece new to us, and he was singing better than I have ever heard him.  I admit he used to remind me of Paul English, Willie Nelson’s drummer, who acted and dressed like the devil’s little brother. But I was pleasantly impressed! The 2 violins and 2 bandoneons screamed and wailed. We climbed down to the floor and spent the next couple hours dancing Tango… our favorite pastime and addiction!

Gervasio Ledesma, piano

La Coqueta de Recoleta is located in a beautiful 1913 home built by José González Balcarce and his wife Rosa Aguirre Anchorena, both members of the vintage upper crust of Buenos Aires society of the era.

dining room

Balcarce’s father was the godson of General San Martín, who gets major credit for driving the Spanish out of Chile, Peru and Argentina in the early 1800s. The Palacio Balcarce became the residence of the German Ambassador in the 1940s (it was a Nazi hangout), and later the headquarters of the Armed Forces Officers’ Club.  If only the walls could talk…

la sala

Currently there is a restaurant on the second floor, and space is available for special occasions, weddings, and the like. The dance floor is upstairs on the 3rd floor. Pretty sweet spot for a milonga, ¿qué no?

Palacio Balcarce, Quintana 161, Recoleta

Willow, Javier Di Ciriaco

Tango is about containing and being contained, existing and coexisting, letting go of loneliness.  Tango is improvisation is Freedom.

Did you know? There ARE other things to do in Buenos Aires besides tango. There are lots of great museums, for one, and its sidewalk cafés rank amongst the world’s finest! I’ve been studying Italian at the Dante Alighieri Association. The Italian language has been a passion for me since I first read the Divine Comedy, while I was an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz. I’m Italian on my mom’s side, and we have a ton of relatives in Italy! Here’s some photos from our dopo la sparatoria festa! (post-firing squad party!)

on Corrientes

quasi tutti!

thanks for your visit!

The good news is, we all passed our written and oral exams. And I hear there’s going to be another party this Saturday night at Bar de la Rue in Belgrano! Masks are requested but not mandatory. Ci vediamo!!

Speaking of fiestas, this lovely dancer, who had just finished a tango exhibition with her partner at La Nacional, was also celebrating her birthday! Don’t you love that sweet hopeful look on her face as she makes her wish?

Make a wish!

Yes, we were there also, with Ben’s daughter Courtney who spent a week here and took tango lessons just about every day. Way to go, girl!

she likes to tango, and...

she loves empanadas!

My excellent friend Marcela Hourquebie, superb dancer, fantastic tango teacher, judge of tango competitions (you may remember her from a previous post, Back on the Radar), celebrated HER birthday last weekend at Porteño y Bailarín:

FELIZ CUMPLE AMIGA!!

This photo of us dancing at Porteño y Bailarín is for Ben’s mom Bess, who requested a nice photo of us dancing:

for you Bess!

Oops, she probably wants a photo where she can see HER SON’S FACE!! Sorry, Bess! It’s coming up very soon…. but first, our good friends Dolores and Guillermo:

wow man

Guillermo is sporting the mandatory three top buttons undone for the classic Latin lover AKA sexy tango dancer look! The tall guy, AKA Benjamín, has made it (with my help) to two buttons undone so far!

Dolores, me, and Jane from Anchorage!

She didn’t really have a big red spot on her face!  The lighting was strange last night but we kinda liked it!  Maybe Ben’s camera fell into the vino tinto?

and a fun time was had by all!

Jane and I at Fulgor de Villa Crespo

he loves the impressionist atmosphere!

And now, FINALLY, the part YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!!

OUR FRIEND KEN NARRATES HIS FEARSOME EXPERIENCE WITH SOME  WILD SAN FRANCISCO TANGUERAS!

“Weirdly, the morning after the event, it was the alpha females who were most memorable for me.

“‘A’ kept up a running monologue of ‘okay, this is the part of the song where you do the molinete…now pause HERE, and let me play…’ sheesh!  But, she was so much fun, who could resist?

“And ‘B’ who, when we first started to dance, I asked to please not rest her head on mine because I needed to move my head for navigation…. well, that didn’t work.  We ended up head-to-head both facing straight down to the floor, and bent over in an improbable, stylized tango embrace so I could watch her feet, because at every ever-so-slight cadence or pause in the music, she would start ‘chopping cabbages.’ I laughed out loud every time she took the reins.

“There was ‘C’ who told me I must not hold her in tight embrace, that she needed to “train” me, that she wanted her right arm to be placed just so, that here she would do a dip, all the while narrating the the intimate secrets of those dancing around us.  Shocking!

“And then there was ‘D’.  She took me on a joy-ride milonga like I had never had, or… did I take her? (it was hard to tell) Absolutely like driving a Maserati up the Amalfi coast, and I’m ready to plunge off at any moment.  Suddenly she stops dead.  ‘Why is it,’ she ponders, ‘people don’t stop during the milonga?’  I thought, what the hell, so I also stopped us dead several times during the song, and each time she moaned in pleasure, ‘yes, oh yes….’ It was a milonga interruptus.

“Sometimes it’s the Wild Women who are the most fun!”

Thanks, Ken! And to MY READERS: Do you like Ken’s story?  Send in your comments!

TANGO ADDICTION GUIDELINES

1:  you keep doing it
2:  every time you do it you feel happy
3:  it turns your life upside down but you don’t care.

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

Living in Tango Paradise

Who is this guy?

I predict that Leonel Messi will be the first official consecrated and sanctified SAINT OF SOCCER!!  I don’t mean a hundred years from now, I mean, LIKE SOON! Within his and our lifetimes! Because he has a gift straight from that upstairs-place, you know, HEAVEN!!  You heard it here first! 

If you’re addicted to Tango, you’re probably interested in all things Argentine, and no doubt you already know about Leonel Messi, Argentine soccer star. Messi, currently playing for Barcelona, is golden. This kid has already made more goals than just about every soccer player in the history of the sport and, at 24, is likely to top that list before 30. Messi is not just a great player, he’s magical. He moves the ball effortlessly around, under, over and through the other team’s defenders, like Clint Eastwood shooting down 5 outlaws before they even have a chance to draw. He’s famously unpretentious, not a showoff, not a bully, just a super nice guy. Once he has the ball and is closing in on the goal, he’s not a one-man show.  He always kicks the ball to his teammates, setting them up for their own goals, but ready to take over and slide one in, and those poor goalies, they just can’t read him, and are always caught off guard. Some people have a sixth sense, others are just barely managing five, but Messi has a soccer sense! We love watching him play with his favorite toy, a soccer ball.

Uh-oh!  It’s back to that old story for a moment, yes, the ashes from volcano Puyehue, just across the border in Chile. Before we left Patagonia we took a day to drive the 7 Lakes Circuit, starting in Bariloche heading northwest. And we did drive part of it, but due to the volume of ash in the air, not to mention the bumpy dusty gravel roads, we only drove through Villa Traful, so shrouded in ash you could barely see the lake, and on to Villa Angosturas, the epicenter of volcanic fallout. Villa Angosturas is still struggling to clean up. They hauled away several feet of ash, but it’s hard to finish the job when the volcano burps and spits out another ash plume every few weeks. Tourists, the area’s main cash crop, are still visiting the lakes but their numbers are way down from previous years. In the above photo you can see for yourself. Ashy landscape en route to Villa Traful: visibility almost nil!

Hotel Llao Llao with volcanic plume

In this photo Hotel Llao Llao is to the far left on a hill. Looking across Lake Nahuel Huapi you can see a giant plume of ash. It looks like fog, but it’s not! We watched this particular plume move in our direction for about 24 hours before it enveloped us. The following day it moved on, the sky cleared, and just a trace of ash remained.

Patagonian ducks at Lago Moreno

Wild ducks were still playing house on the lakeshore, and we  took a nice walk through the Arrayanes forest to the lake pictured above. The sky was clear!

Ben in the Bosque Arrayanes

The tall guy was playing around with growing a beard, and he tried several versions which were unusual, distinctive, and even playful. Wondering how he looks now?

happy and beardless: it was collecting too much ash!

Finally back to the mecca of Tango,  we went dancing at Sunderland with good friends from San Luis Obispo!

me, Ben, Val & Mary

Do we miss our friends from the Central Coast? YES! Did we miss Buenos Aires when we were in the mountains? Yes, but we liked the quiet. Did we miss our apartment? No, not really. Did we miss a lot of tango classes? Yes. Did we miss dancing? YES!!! It’s tough to be a tango addict out in nature. Did we miss the lovely summer weather in Buenos Aires? Definitely! 80°F and humid, with frequent thunderstorms, is close to perfection. 85 – 105°F and dry with no rain for months (back home) is also very nice, but not as thirst-quenching. 65°F and windy (Bariloche) I can do without! But the cabin we stayed in was super nice: Balcón al Lago, Llao Llao.

Back in the city we have some great friends, and boy do they put on some great parties!

Dolores & Guilermo singing on a wabi-sabi guitar!

the girls are ready to go dancing!

Back in Tango paradise, we plugged into the city scene like a set of jumper cables suckin’ down juice from the Infinite Source of all Power: Tango. If you’re tired, stressed, lonely, got a headache, restless legs, whatever your issue, chances are Tango will set you straight. You know how sometimes you need to be around a crowd, even if you don’t know anybody, just to feel human again? Well I feel that way too! I prefer dancing at milongas that are not well lit. I don’t like to feel watched. There are some milongas in Buenos Aires where people dance to be seen: Salon Canning, Niño Bien, Confitería Ideal, Sunderland, Porteño y Bailarín. But I prefer the ones where you can be anonymous, like la Viruta, Sueño Porteño, Maldita Milonga, Café Vinilo, Círculo Trovador, Sin Rumbo, La Baldosa, El Tacuarí, Lo de Celia.  To name just a few. I prefer to dance with my partner, connect to my partner, connect to the music, the musicians, the floor, the community of dancers going ’round and ’round.  Then you can experience the bliss of joining the harmonious whole, the fantastic exotic universe that is Tango. You are just another pair of bodies moving around the dance floor, moving to the same beat and compás, that syncopated beat, the heart of Tango. It’s a healing, harmonious space where the music and your partner hold you close. You close your eyes and just dance.

••• Hey everybody! I hope you like my new web design, it will be even better when I figure out how to customize it. I plan to have 3 columns instead of 2. For now, baby steps!

••• Pretty soon I will no longer send out a notice to my readers. Just click the follow button to continue to receive an automatic notice when I post a new story.

••• And now you can post comments, they are visible on the home page, and I will reply! Va bene?

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

Tales of Tango Addiction

Are you hooked on Tango?  I know just how you feel.  In fact, many others have felt the same way!  After extensive research I have found that, although Tango is not incurable (like crack or heroin) most Tango dancers just don’t want to be cured! And most of us are likewise not willing to toss out all those gorgeous shoes!

Tango dancers get strung out on the endorphins produced by dancing. But I’m not talking about just any kind of dancing. Jumping up and down by yourself in a crowded room full of people jumping up and down may be a great cardio workout, and it closely resembles all those Grateful Dead shows I went to in another lifetime,  but it’s not going to make your body produce endorphins. No, for that you need the close physical touch and embrace of Tango. Listen to the words of Graciela López, and you’ll see what I mean.

“Dance, surrender, recreate the leader’s moves, send him silent messages, take advantage of this tango to say the impossible, to speak words that no man will ever understand, a message that no woman can say with words.  Pass secrets to him, … allow him to feel the mysteries of your body wrapped in diligent giros, in tiny steps… Do what comes naturally, don’t think about what others will say.  Play tranquilly, surrender to each other, that’s what tango’s all about, this celebration that puts your heart in your legs and your head in heaven.”  – Secrets of a Milonguera (my rough translation)

“Bailen, acepten, recreen el baile de su compañero, mandale mensajes en silencio, 
aprovechen ese tango para decir lo imposible, lo que jamás ningún hombre entendería,
lo que ninguna mujer podría decir con letras. Pasale secretos…
últimos misterios envueltos en giros diligentes, en pasos minuciosos.
…Hagan lo que se les ocurra, sin temor al que dirán. Jueguen tranquilas,
entregadas, que para eso es el tango, ese festejo que pone 
el corazón en las piernas y la cabeza en el limbo.” Fragmento del libro Secretos de una milonguera, por Graciela López

Now do you see why Tango has an Extreme Addictive Potential? Maybe you’re not sure you’re hooked on Tango.  I totally understand!  After all, I’ve been trying to decide for 9 years.  Since I’m not sure if I’m really addicted, I have to keep dancing so I can continue my investigations. Here are some signs that may help you to evaluate your condition:

TOP 10 SIGNS OF TANGO ADDICTION

1.  YOU CONSCIOUSLY COLLECT YOUR KNEES AND FEET WHEN YOU WALK.

2.  YOU NEVER LEAVE FOR A TRIP WITHOUT CHECKING TO SEE IF THERE ARE ANY MILONGAS WHERE YOU ARE GOING..

3.  YOU HAVE A NEED TO TURN EVERY CONVERSATION INTO TANGO.

4.  YOUR SOCIAL ACTIVITIES (IF YOU STILL HAVE ANY) REVOLVE AROUND YOUR TANGO CALENDAR.

5.  YOU HAVE REARRANGED YOUR FURNITURE TO MAKE MORE ROOM FOR PRACTICE.

6.  YOU WOULD CHOOSE TANGO OVER A HOT DATE.

7.  YOU BOLEO WHEN YOU THINK NO ONE IS LOOKING.

8. YOU DON’T MIND MEN/WOMEN SWEATING ALL OVER YOU IF THEY CAN DANCE.

9.  YOU KEEP A PAIR OF TANGO SHOES AT WORK AND IN YOUR CAR.

10.  YOU HAVE YOUR OWN TANGO BLOG AND SPEND ALL DAY READING OTHER TANGO BLOGS.

hey, what about food and tango?

Now that you have some guidelines to focus on, perhaps you’d like to hear what others have to say about their Tango Addiction:

“Regarding your request about my tango addiction…….I think I am more of a folk dance addict, really, but married to a tango addict.  I love doing the tango but I do not think about it 24 hours a day like he does.  Truth be told, he supplies the clothes and shoes.  Most of the time I just approve the offerings.  Call me lucky and spoiled for sure, but I find myself wanting a respite from all the intense concentration that consumes my partner’s time.  However, I am sure you have noticed that I go, and go and GO to almost all the events.  It is my partner who does all the work of learning and teaching…. he makes it fun and they [the students] all seemed to drink in the first week’s lessons.  It’s a good class and they are catching on quickly. There is a difference in the speed at which young people learn things and it is ever so obvious when dancing with the students.  They already have a good sense of the basic walk and rhythms of tango, vals and milonga.”

Café Tortoni

“But oh, the embrace, the music, the gliding steps. Though I am very budget-conscious (especially right now), there’s something about Argentine tango that makes me want to throw my budget to the wind and just dance to my heart’s content!”

a Tango-related Addiction?

Yeah, she’s addicted!  She wears mostly black and red, she’s enrolled in a Spanish class, hosted a milonga at her house, her vacations are all tango-related, the amount she spends on tango clothes has hijacked her budget, and she knows a sandwich is not just something you eat.

ooh-la-la!

“I am fairly new to Tango and I am indeed addicted. However, at this stage, it is neither the dance moves or the music that has captured me. I do hope to become a better dancer and develop an appreciation for Tango music. But for me, these things are secondary to the fact that I am sometimes having profound transcendental experiences while dancing Tango. This does not happen every time or with every partner. It depends on my frame of mind, who I am dancing with, if we have good resonance, and whether or not both parties are energetically open to the possibility of an extraordinary experience. I believe the reason it happens has to do with true energetic connection (not solely dance or musical connection alone). In this sense, I regard Tango as its own form of beautiful and elegant Tantra, the height of which is to give and receive pleasure.  This all started for me very early in my Tango journey.  At first it happened during class. Then it happened at Practicas and Milongas. Once I had a taste of the prolonged ecstatic bliss that is possible through a deep Tango connection, I knew I was in trouble. When it happens, it is like a drug, capable of stimulating all kinds of natural endorphins and also opening the door to expansions of consciousness. One dance a night like this is better than five or ten dances in the same night without it. While I do understand the need for good technique, I find myself more interested in authentic heart level connection and genuine, intimate rapport which is a people-skill independent of Tango itself. But Tango is a powerful doorway for this. And I am hooked on the fulfillment those experiences provide, when I am fortunate enough to have them.”

“I was at a the US Open Swing Dance Championship weekend in about 1995, bouncing and kicking and lindy-hoppin’ my brains out, when a startling couple came out on the floor for a tango exhibition. They were sleek, elegant, dramatic, vibrant, and oh so tactile and connected. My skin flushed, my heart rushed.  I couldn’t believe this dance, where two pairs of eyes and the heat of two bodies swam into each other and every one surrounding them on the floor. I had only seen the rose in the teeth version where there was the glare away from the partner, looking as if they hated each other…. and I certainly had no desire to do that! This style of Tango, which I later learned was Argentine, made an emotional impact on me that was very conflicting. Immediately I knew that, as a dancer, I wanted the experience of “knowing” this dance in my body (and soul…if you will), and on the flip side, I just wanted to absorb it from afar, because I couldn’t imagine coming close to grasping its powerful essence. Fast forward to a performance in Santa Barbara of Tango X Two…. so exquisite, so complex, with intricacies that seemed beyond human capabilities. That was really fascinating. How do they do that, without ripping each others’ legs apart?  And this music that I didn’t want to stop….ever. It was still several years before I began the baby steps: ‘Just walk,’ he said.”

helping her learn to walk?

“We started out with Ballroom and then concentrated mostly on West Coast Swing and Salsa.  Some time later I saw the end of a National Geographic commercial that had the most intriguing dance that I THOUGHT was maybe Argentine Tango. What were all those fantastic quick leg kicks that intertwined into each other?? That was the beginning of my quest. I even tried to look for that same commercial again. I think I went to their website but no luck…

Several years must’ve passed by… and then the movie TANGO LESSON came out!  That scene where Sally sits mesmerized watching Pablo Veron dancing portrayed me for the next few years. We had asked our local teacher to teach us some, but we needed more. Nothing else was available to us in our small town! Finally I ended up having to drive a good distance on a work night to take lessons. Later I also travelled with other teachers around the world and of course, to Buenos Aires…

My hubbie liked Tango also because every step is led and you didn’t have to memorize steps, routines, etc!  It took me about 2 years to feel comfortable dancing in public. I used to be the one dragging him onto the dance floor…. but it became the opposite scenario: he’d be the one getting me on the floor!  Now it’s like 2nd nature!  Glad to say after many years I’ve been complimented many times as a one of the best followers ever danced with!

My favorite instruments are the strings: VIOLIN especially. Tango music drew me in.  Tango also gives the lady a lot of fun ways to play around and embellish to the music which is a definite attraction…

My most exciting dance was in another foreign country….where the lead was ever so LIGHT but it made my legs swing into POWERFUL boleos and ganchos!!  It literally at first SCARED me to death!! BUT IT WAS THE RIDE OF MY LIFE!!! Since then I have been searching to find how to be taught this!!…

We are not HOPELESSLY addicted to Tango, though we are close! There are some things in life that keep us from dancing as much as we might like.  However we do look forward to when we can TANGO into oblivion!”

“Here is the story of how I became addicted to Argentine Tango. For many years, A— and I attended a Folk Dance Camp in the Woodlands at Mendocino, CA, an idyllic setting in the redwoods. One year, Richard Powers, a master of vintage dance, offered a “special”  afternoon class on the Argentine Tango. The class lasted for two hours. When it was over, A— & I headed back to our cabin to shower and dress (ball gown & tails) for a Ragtime Ball that was scheduled for that evening. A— suddenly stopped on the trail and said: “N—, for the rest the night don’t talk to me, touch me, or ask me to dance. For two hours you have pushed, kicked, and man handled me! This was the start of my Tango addiction.”

do you think she's pissed?

“My personal Tango Addiction was first noticed when I completed 365 Consecutive Days of Argentine Tango on June 18, 2011.  I continued driving an hour or more every night in search of more satisfying Tango! The icing on the cake of confirmation was when I flew to Buenos Aires and got seriously hooked dancing milonga with my friend, Ramiro – our connection bonded great energy while exploring momentum, suspension, musicality, and timing….

As my experience grows, I do not see Argentine Tango as just a dance – it is a lifestyle, and I have grown to be passionate about medialunas, Malbec, milongueros, Gardel, ganchos, Troilo, tangueras, Biagi, bandoneons, blood sausage, boleos . . . and I see dawn much more often than I see noon!”

she's lost her head over tango

“To be a great lead, do not love the woman you dance with; rather, listen to the music and love it!  Beautiful tango is a process of transference – your love for the music will be transferred to the follower, and she will be enchanted.”  – John Vaina, blogger

have to have it every day!

“I started going to Soho Dance Club about a year ago. I go three times a week. It is a windowless basement in Soho, next door to Dunkin’ Donuts. I don’t go there for social reasons any more than you would go to an opium den for the conversation; I go for the addictive, incomparable high of the dancing….

From the first lesson with Santos, I was not so much hooked as harpooned. The novelty of the symcopated timing, my clumsy attempts to embellish, and the soaring, gliding joy  I felt when he shifted up a few gears to demonstrate close embrace, could only be called spectacular.  He clamped me to his chest, thrust a thigh between my legs and drove me across the dance floor with incomparable power. My pulse raced and my feet scarcely touched the ground. I had never felt anything like it: my Tango experience was about to reach the level of Addiction….

Santos and I have developed a warm rapport over time. He is like a friendly drug dealer. My eyes light up when he holds out his arms in the dance position. I spend more time with Santos than with my best friends. You notice intimate little things, such as when he has the sniffles or a hangover, or wears a new shirt. Physically, Santos reminds me a bit of John Travolta, with his immaculate slicked-back hair, luxuriant chest-hair and snug slacks. His booming, strutting manner betrays his Porteño background….

During the past year our tango community has collectively endured three major hair-cuts, one very ill poodle, two work promotions, three romantic break-ups, one father-son rapprochement, one love-match and four deaths. Yet when we are at the Club, these events concern us less. For an hour we concentrate on the finer points of the ocho cortado or the volcada…. Non-dancing friends do not understand the addiction. When not laughing at the mere idea of it, they smile pityingly, thinking it eccentric to go alone to lessons and to give up weekends to dancing. Although I agree with them up to a point, it is now beyond me. I simply can’t help it….

We have a milonga every Friday night and I pretty much have to go. It is not that other Tango dancers expect me to, but I feel withdrawal pains if I don’t. It affects my romantic life too. My last boyfriend wanted to come to milongas with me, but I wouldn’t let him until he had completed a beginner’s course.  So long, Charlie.” – anonymous blogger

obviously & fabulously addicted!

Here’s the tale of a close friend: “I was attending an annual Christmas party with my service club.  It was a very nice event with some very fine friends, dinner and then dancing.  I knew there was a small local milonga going on that evening.  I can remember watching the dancing and trying to get into the evening, deciding if I wanted to dance at the party.  I finally gave up the battle and left for the milonga.”  Yeah, he’s addicted!

dancers in the subte

Uh-oh, can’t pay your bills on account of all those tango shoes you bought?  Here are a few possible solutions to a Tango budget crisis:

•   Sell all your earthly possessions (except tango shoes) and move to Buenos Aires (you can buy more when you get there, they’re much cheaper!)(rents are cheaper here, too)

•   Open up your own Tango Club (you need a tax write-off)

•   Take Mario Orlando’s DJ classes and become a professional DJ (hope you have a trust account)

•   Import Tango clothes and CD’s (a good excuse for all those trips to BAs)

•   Set up shop as a Tango Teacher in the states (they have a joke here about levels of Tango dancers:  1) beginner 2) intermediate 3) Tango Teacher!

must-have Tango items

Still not sure if you’re addicted?  Maybe you aren’t the addictive personality type?  Would that be a Left Brain dominant person, or a Right Brainer? Hmmm, how would I know? If I thought I knew the answer without even checking online, would that make me a Right-brainer?  You know, those annoying people who create their own realities;  they’re so creative, they live in a complete fantasy world! They have no conception of logic, they think facts are a conspiracy created by wacky scientists, and their relationship with the concept of linear reality is like that of a dog running circles investigating every bunny trail while it’s owner takes it for a walk from Point A to Point B. Would this type of personality fall for Tango right away? Would you?

Maybe you’re a Left Brain dominant type. You’re logical, detail oriented, and you believe in facts. You like math and science, you know about rules and can follow them (unlike the right brainer who makes their own); you can comprehend, altho you don’t always get the big picture.  But thank the gods of Tango for you left brainers, because you are so practical and focused. I mean, you’re the ones who list your milongas on-line, so that the rest of us can find them! You think ahead, plan ahead: guest instructors, workshops, Tango festivals… You are so reality-based! You brought us Barbie & Ken, Big Wheels, iTunes, the internet and high heels, not to mention indoor plumbing, electricity and hot showers!  How could the rest of us continue our collective hapless existence without you?

I am the left brain.  I am a scientist, a mathematician.  I love the familiar.  I categorize.  I am accurate, linear, analytical.  Strategic, practical, I am always in control.  A master of words and language.  Realistic, I calculate equations and play with numbers.  Order, logic.  I know exactly who I am.

left brainers make great Tango leaders!

Whoa, not so fast!  What about the artists, the filmmakers, the dancers… those who live in a world of symbols and images, where creativity is the highest holiness, where Writers and Artists are the fallen gods of a supreme Creator? Sure they may be impulsive and impetuous, but haven’t their achievements provoked the rest of us to higher consciousness for the last thousand years, kicking and dragging our heels?

say hi to Salvador Dalí

I am the right brain.  I am creativity, a free spirit.  I am passion. Yearning, sensuality.  I am the sound of roaring laughter.  I am taste, the feeling of sand beneath bare feet.  I am movement. I am vivid colour, the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art, poetry.  I sense.  I feel.  I am everything I wanted to be.

right brainers have more fun!

It occurrs to me that this Right/Left brain concept just might embody the very essential nature of our universe.  I don’t think I want to mess with that!  That would be like cracking the cosmic yin/yang. Seas would part, we might all be walking on water with no water wings. Maybe these contradictions are what Dark Matter is made of, you know, the invisible ruling force of our universe. The Chinese figured this out a long time ago. The I Ching describes this delicate balance of opposites.  I’m beginning to think that it may also explain the addictive power of Tango, despite (or because of?) its stunning, mind-wrenching contradictions!  Without our very own Tanguero duality there would be no Pugliese, no Piazzolla, no bandoneón, no tango shoes! What a sad dark silent universe it would be!

Geez, do I sound like a Right-brainer?  No kidding!  Glad you finally figured it out!

Alright, end of discussion.  You’re addicted and you know it.  You’re secretly quite pleased with yourself. In fact, you wouldn’t trade places with anyone!  Like Shakespeare said, “Tango is the illness and the cure.”  (my neighbor’s cat Shakespeare)  This next quote you can print out and pin on the fridge, dangle it recklessly on top of your work computer, wear it in a locket close to your heart:

THE RULES OF ADDICTION  (from Astrid, SF Tanguera/blogger)

1:  you keep doing it
2:  every time you do it you feel happy
3:  it turns your life upside down but you don’t care.

worn out shoes

And not to worry, friends, yet another solution to your little problem is available here in BsAs:

Tango Therapy classes

FELIZ AÑO NUEVO!!    

Thanks for reading my blog!  I hope each of you has a wonderful 2012, full of LIGHT & LOVE!  Let your light shine!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Over and out from Buenos Aires!