After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Better Times in Buenos Aires

Every foreign woman who makes a habit of vacationing in the milongas of Buenos Aires has a book to write. (Me, too--THE CHURCH OF TANGO is the name of my memoir, currently being turned into a screenplay in Hollywood.)

Robyn Ash-Rose from Australia has written and published hers this month here in Argentina. And, what a surprise, she decided to use Ruben's and my photo on the cover. It shows, she says, the spirit of her book. "Most tango pictures are so solemn and serious; I want to show the joy that can be found in tango and in Buenos Aires."

The title is a take-off from the British journalist Miranda France's, Bad Times in Buenos Aires, the 1998 report on how tough it was to live here, even for the two years of her assignment. The book starts off with a quote from Jorge Luis Borges: I come from a sad country.

For more information on the book and how to get a copy, contact Robyn:

Friday, October 27, 2006

Blogger-wise, there's a great listing here below, BLOGGERSINARGENTINA,
of Blogs from Argentina, Blogs on Argentina, Blogs by Argentinians, Blogs by People Who Left Argentina, Blogs by People Who Wish They Were in Argentina, and TangoCherie, my Blog on dancing and living in Argentina is included. Take a look at the variety:

Teaching Milonguero Style Tango

Ruben and I love to teach! There are so many people we watch dancing in the milongas, and we say, oh if only we could just correct her knees or his head or whatever, their dancing would vastly improve! But of course, we don't say anything, and we wait for people to approach us.

We don't do the common thing of dancing with beginners in order to convince them they need our classes. We don't paper the milonga with our cards. We don't search out foreign people to talk them into learning our milonguero style technique from us. We dance, and we wait for people to approach us because they like how we dance.

Many times we are pointed out across the salon by locals when people inquire about teachers. And so it's a real understated way of enlarging our student base--mostly word of mouth and by recommendations. We figure if they like the way we dance, then what they want to learn is the music, rhythm, the walk, connection, and the embrace. And of course, here in Buenos Aires, it's so important for the man to learn to navigate a crowded floor.

If someone wants to learn the Dreaded 8-Count Basic with Boleos and Ganchos, we are not the teachers for them. Here are a few photos from a semi-private lesson with a couple from Canada.

IV Campeonato Metropolitano de Tango de Buenos Aires 2006



Here's a photo of the big winners, and if you look carefully to the right below, you will see a picture of the "little winners"--Ruben and me!!!


The first qualifying rounds for the Campeonato Metropolitano de Tango began early in May, 2006, at most of the milongas in Buenos Aires. Over a period of three weeks, more than 500 couples entered the contest in the qualifying rounds. At least one of the couple had to prove he lived in the city of Buenos Aires, because the winning couple in August would represent the city.

The Qualifying rounds were fun, with friends cheering the dancers on in a rather relaxed atmosphere. At this level there were three judges. There were some irregularities as you might expect--for example, one judge danced with the sexy young foreigner he had selected. One young girl was obviously wearing no underwear. One couple were students of one the judges, etc.

So Ruben and I progressed to the Semifinales in July in Salon Argentina. This time there were five judges, Maria Nieves among them. It was less fun, because we came on time and had to wait several hours in the freezing green room before we got to dance in the two rounds of five or six couples each. It was long and arduous. Several couples were fighting over how to do a step and why they weren't selected and because they were cold and hungry. But eventually the eliminations were made and we could go home after being there for over 5 hours. At least Ruben and I went home as Finalistas. Even in the Semifinals, I was the only foreigner in the Tango Salon division, a fact of which I was very proud.

Ruben and I didn't practice for the Finals in August, because our dance is completely improvised. We don't do choreography. But several couples worked hard to prepare: taking classes, practicing, going to milongas every night.


Even though I was there backstage last night at the Finals, I had no idea the fabulous music we heard while waiting to dance was played by Balcarce's orchestra. We had seen and
loved the film of his Escuela de Tango Orchestra. The event at the large venue of La Rural in Palermo was well organized, but they told us, the dancers, nothing at all about what was happening during the program; just when and where to line up. I would love to see a video of the whole show someday.

Anyway, as to my part in the Finals, I am proud to say that Ruben and I made the final cut down to 16 couples out of the 32 finalists. When I consider that more than 500 couples entered the contest back in May, we were very proud to be in the final 16, especially as 13 of the couples were youngsters. The other 3 couples who finished in the finals of the Finals were over 50, including Ruben and myself. I am also proud that since the Semifinals, I was the only foreigner in the Tango de Salon competition.

As in any arts competition, there is a lot of subjectivity. How can you
choose between the 5 best movies, or 5 best actors, or books, or paintings, or
dancers? It's not a science, and that is as it should be. Many people gripe about the politics of the Campeonato, saying you have to know the judges or have taken lessons from them or whatever, but we didn't "know" anybody and we still made it almost to the end. Of course there are issues like how Ruben and I followed the written contest rules --feet on floor, no pauses, no choreographed figures, total improvisation, no breaking of the embrace, etc.--and yet the youngsters' legs were flying all over the place in high boleos and the judges went for that. The rules stressed elegance and musicality, but the kids, who perhaps someday will dance more elegantly, didn't show a lot of it last night. To me they looked as if they were gearing up for a stage career, not for dancing socially in the milongas where there's no room for that stuff. This contest was supposed to be about social dancing in the milongas --Tango de Salon. There is a
category for stage tango in the Mundial, which begins today.

Anyway, it was fun, and great experience. Now back to real life and the
teaching of milonguero style tango and how to dance in the milongas of Buenos
Aires--no high boleos, for one thing!


Video of the winners--look for my green dress behind--proof we were Finalists in the Finals!

DANIEL SAINDON wrote from Montreal to inquire:

Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2006 19:00:37 -0400
From: Good evening

On the subject of the Campeonato Mundial de Baile de Tango

I would like to know how formative & informative the competition
were proven to be for the participants. Do you know anybody
who could provide us with their experience.

I suppose there are critirias on the scorecard that are filled
by the judges on each participants. What are these criterias ?
Are the participants aware of what they are supposed to deliver ?
What are these instructions ? Afterward, are they provided with an evaluation
with points that require improvements ? Is there any teachers who
could prepare these dancers for the competition ? Who are they?

In the best scenario, I undestand, this competition could be as formative
as a Master class by a well known Tango teacher.

I am aware our tango community was approached by
some representatives from the Mundial. I would like to know
more about these competition before I make up my mind
on the benefits derived from these competitions.

Daniel Saindon, Montreal

Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 09:00:21 -0400

Dear Daniel,

I don't know if you read my Tango-L posting last Saturday about my
participation in the Finals of the Campeonato Metropolitano de Tango?
Because the city competition leads into the Mundial this week, I am
supposing the way it is conducted is the same.

My Argentine partner and I qualified for the Metropolitano last May,
along with more than 500 other couples, in various milongas throughout
BsAs. There were booklets and a website with all the rules, including
the judges criteria for scoring. However during the qualifications, and
then the semifinals, and the finals in which we danced, people seemed
to dance however they wanted, heedless of the stated rules. Ruben and I
followed them--feet on floor, continuous movement, no movement out of
the embrace, etc
.--but when few of the final 16 (we were among them)
danced like that, including the winners, we said, "Hey, we could have
danced that way also!"

No, there's no way to know how we were judged. The highest and lowest
scores were thrown out, but we don't know who or by whom they were
given, or for what.

Did I learn anything from competing? Not really. But I had fun. That's
all I can tell you. I do feel there is a bias against foreigners, as
Argentines always win (I was the only foreigner in the semifinals and
the tango finals, and maybe that cost us points, I don't know.)

So if you think it'd be fun, go for it! If you think you'll learn to
dance better, forgetaboutit. It is SO subjective, as is any arts


We Were the Artistas Invitas...


This milonga is held only once a month at the University, and is very heavily attended by young and old. The Salon de Espejos is a huge space! The local TV station also interviewed us, but you couldn't hear the voices over the music. Too bad, because I was speaking such excellent Castellano!!!