An expat Californian building a new life via the tango in Buenos Aires since 2003, including information on learning the tango and where to dance it in Buenos Aires.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Today is Our Lady of Sorrows' Special Day

























La Virgin de los Dolores is very dear to me. I really feel the pain of mothers who watch their children suffer.

On the Friday before Holy Week, in Mexico where I used to live in San Miguel de Allende, her day is celebrated with special, elaborate, and creative altars in homes and businesses. During the evening people solemnly visit as many as possible, always being offered a "fruit water" to drink that symbolizes the Virgin's tears. And the next day the altars are all taken down and preparations begin for Palm Sunday.

Four years ago I offered to build an altar in my friend Nelly's mail service office. I researched the symbols and spent the night before putting little flags into bitter oranges. Early in the morning I bought a bucket of fragrant fresh mint and chamomile to spread over the altar and on the floor. I used my purple satin Victoria Secret nightgown as a backdrop, because purple is her color of sadness.

Here are Nelly and me with the altar:

It was a fabulous experience for me, a time of much contemplation, meditation, and tranquility. How I miss the over-the-top spiritual life of Mexico! But you know, one Sunday three years ago after I first moved to Buenos Aires from Mexico, I was longing for the processions that used to move pass my window in San Miguel, and I looked out of my window in Congreso and saw a procession on its way to the nearby church. It was sort of raggedy and small, very simple: a priest and two altar boys, a small image of the virgin being carried by four men, and parishioners following with a few bouquets of flowers. But it was faith in the streets all the same, and an answer to my prayer. God usually provides.

To read more about processions under my balcony, as well as two years of other Mexican experiences, both spiritual and carnal, click the link to MEXICO DIARIES.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Pink Ribbon Tanguera



NEW PINK RIBBON TANGUERA

Unfortunately there's a new tanguera in the Pink Ribbon Club, my friend Johanna from Los Angeles. She has a tango blog, but also a blog (Health Matters) reflecting her day-to-day trials as a breast cancer patient. It's good therapy for her to share her concerns and problems, and it's good therapy for others to read them. (Click on Link below.)

So she has a lot going for her, previous excellent health, no risk factors, caught early, shares and receives by the written word, and dances tango!

She's a writer by nature, and has written a popular book, The Tao of Tango.

Those of you who read my post, Cancer Dancer, http://tangocherie.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html
know that I'm a two-time survivor myself. I danced tango during the whole treatment the second time around four years ago.

It wasn't the first time that tango saved my life, and probably won't be the last!

Since my first diagnosis in 1993, many friends have joined the Pink Ribbon Club, among them lots of tango dancers. We deal with it, and then we just keep dancing as beautifully as we can.

Argentina's Travel Guide


ARGENTINA'S TRAVEL GUIDE: Advice and Travel Stories on Argentina,
a really neat blog that is working overtime to make itself useful,
asked me to write a guest post on tango. Check out THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO TANGO IN BUENOS AIRES by yours truly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Critique My Blog Review




The nice folks (well nice guy, really) over at Critique My Blog do a real service by checking out various blogs and posting a review on their site. Browsing the critiques on a rainy afternoon
is interesting and a fun way to find totally off the wall blogs we didn't know about.

Billymac reviews so many blogs every day that obviously it has to be a once over lightly, but I like his effort to provide a real service for us in Blogger Land. (That's my review of his site!)

Here's what he wrote about tangocherie:

When I think of Tango, I think of the scene from Scent of A Woman, when a blind Al
Pacino danced the Tango with a girl he had just met in the restaurant. It was terrific and it was there that I became very interested in Tango...now I still haven't started lessons yet but a good place to start to read up on the tango is right here at this blog. Lot's of interesting info and an exotic location to boot. Great job!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's Not Easy Eating Green!




OK, a segue from tango, but what's more important than food? Not even tango.

So why, WHY, is it that the chefs, or cooks, in Buenos Aires' restaurants hate the color green?
Here a garnish is a side of french fries!

I just got back from lunch at a popular corner restaurant in Boedo, near my apartment. We had no electricity or water for 24 hours yesterday, and I wanted to treat myself today.

The waiter recommended a plato del dia, and when he said, chicken with corn sauce, I jumped.
But when he served it with a flourish from a large platter, as usual here in Argentina, everything was beige: breaded boneless chicken breast, matchstick fries, a sauce of creamed corn, and to top it off (I can't imagine why), 2 slices of rolled ham. There was also a basket of beige bread and a pink sauce to put on it. I can only guess at the number of calories. Would it have killed the kitchen to put a sprig of parsley on the plate? I always eat parsley garnishes, but just the eye appeal is worth the trouble. In Argentine restaurants, the menu often lists butter under Vegetables. Generally in Argentina, "vegetables" are potatoes and carrots and swiss chard, year round.

There are only two choices if you want to eat green: go to fancy gourmet restaurants, or search out the stray brussel sprout from your local vegetable vendor to cook at home.

It sure ain't easy eating green in Buenos Aires!

Yum yum!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tango: The Dance




Tango is known as the dancer's dance because it is difficult, profound, complicated, and needs years of practice. It’s not a matter of learning a basic step and rhythm with variations, but of connection and expression. One’s tango is rarely technically flawless, even if perfect emotionally. As we become aware of our feelings coming out in the embrace and with the music, we long for more ways to articulate them—and so are always in search of different steps, greater technique, deeper understanding—a lifelong pursuit.

It can also be a way we can learn to be physically close to other people for a limited time without expecting more. We can be in the moment, that Tango Heaven point in time when everything comes together, when all is right with the universe and our part in it. When such harmony reigns, I am grateful to the God who gives it to me -— the music, the space, the connection, the ability to trust the lead or follow of another human being who I may not even know.

With whomever you dance and however you dance, dance is a gift.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A mere kiss...



The Milagro Milonguero Bus




Apropos of taxi dancers, I have a crazy idea to make American tangueras happy, Argentine milongueros some spare change and a free vacation, and me rich.

I round up fifty of the best male dancers from the milongas in Buenos Aires, arrange for visas and buy them round-trip tickets to the United States, and make sure they have two sets of beautiful clothes and sufficient Italian cologne.

From Los Angeles we begin a cross-country bus tour to all the cities with tango communities, selling tickets in advance with lots of promotion and PR on the Internet. Our bus load of milongueros will play from Seattle to Atlanta to New York to Florida at special Milagro Milongas for which a maximum of 50 women must pay $50 each. Local men may attend free. Private lessons may be arranged separately.

Cheaper than a trip to Buenos Aires, yet American women can experience the thrill of the real thing, and perhaps American men might learn a thing or two. If the first tour is successful, we can go back for 50 different milongueros, and even go international. The best of both worlds.



Taxi Anyone?







Which taxi would you hire?



Maybe it all depends on where you want to go!

My first trip to Buenos Aires was in 1998 (read about it by clicking the link below.) I went with an organized tour of about 40 people from all over the U.S., none of whom I knew until our first get-together at La Ideal after we arrived.

Very astutely, the organizer hired local dancers, called teaching assistants, to dance with us during the classes and at the milongas. Not only were they paid a salary, they were also able to make separate deals with us, the tourists, for private lessons. So everyone was happy, and one assistant even went back to the States to marry one of the tourists.

The term "taxi dancer" wasn't used in tango until recently, coming from the cabarets of the 20's and 30's where young women danced with strangers for tickets and encouraged the purchase of champagne. The popular torch song, "Ten Cents a Dance" was about this custom.

When big tango festivals began several years ago, people traveled all over the world to dance. But, as usual in social dancing, there were more women in attendance than men. These women were often very unhappy about not having someone to dance with in the classes that they paid large sums of money for.

So the organizers started bringing in young male dancers from the local community, and the women paid for them. Then at the festival milongas, when there were so many more women as well, it was a short jump to figure out taxi dancers were needed at night too. Soon the practice became highly organized, with the taxi dancers wearing special tee shirts and the women buying tickets and choosing who they wanted to dance with. Sometimes there were also a few young women taxis as well.

When all of these tango dancing foreign women then descended on the milongas of Buenos Aires, where they were already more women than men, it wasn't hard to see that paying a taxi dancer to dance with you might be preferable to sitting planted in your chair all night, especially for the tourists who don't know the codigos or how to carry off the cabeceo. So the profession of "milonga accompaniment" was born. (This is something that Ruben (cel # 15-57-99-20-38) does a lot, and me too, on occasion.) There are now several websites devoted to the taxi dancer business in Buenos Aires.

The problem is that, because they are cheaper, organizers hire
(usually for 20 pesos). young twenty-something boys who are beginning dancers themselves. And most of the foreign women who request this service are over fifty. You can spot these couples a kilometer away at the milongas: older bejeweled foreign lady/boy in a suit looking uncomfortable. The taxi is used to dancing open and nuevo, the client close-embrace milonguero. Everyone can see what the arrangement is, nobody else will ask the lady to dance, and it's all a bit awkward.

An alternative way of handling the taxi situation is to hire someone close to your own age, and not to have him sit with you. He sits with the men across the room, and you sit with the women. He will cabeceo you at pre-arranged times (not every tanda!), and you will have the chance to dance with others as well. Your taxi should be an excellent dancer/teacher, and then the milonga becomes a dance learning experience, just dancing several tandas with a great dancer. Normally this arrangement is for 3 hours and the client also pays expenses (transportation, entrada, a drink). Once again, as when I wrote about tango teachers, you get what you pay for (unless a middleman is taking advantage.)

This week in Buenos Aires begins the big CITA conference, where taxi dancers are used extensively. People even sign up for them in advance. I think it's a great idea, but would prefer to go back to the more dignified term, "teaching assistants." There's something just, um, a little smarmy about "taxi dancer," but then smarminess is also part of the allure of tango.

But you sure don't want to travel all the way to Buenos Aires to be taken for a ride!




Tuesday, March 13, 2007



FELIZ DIA DE SAN PATRICIO!

On St Patrick's Day they say everyone is Irish!
My mother was a texas-born redheaded Irish girl, the daughter of Orin and Dora Mae Dooley.
So that makes me half Irish on every other day, but 150% on March 17th!
I always try to visit a pub on this day wherever I am in the world, even though I don't drink beer, even the green kind. (Maybe I should ask for a green Cosmo.) I just love being in the middle of so much laughter. And then I come home and watch my "Riverdance" video.

Every city has it's Irish Pubs, and Buenos Aires is no exception. Here's a couple:

Dubliners - Irish Pub
Humboldt 2000

Sullivan's Irish Pub & Restaurant
El Salvador 4919


May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields and,
until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His Hand.


The luck of the Irish to ye!
And may you find your own personal pot 'o gold in a Buenos Aires milonga or wherever you celebrate this Saturday. Don't forget to wear green!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

No Te Lo Pongas! or What NOT to Wear to a Milonga

(especially in Buenos Aires)

Suiting up properly is one of the delights of a new hobby. Part of the fun is shopping for a whole new you, accessories included. But you gotta take it easy; go slow and hold back on any big investments in sequins. Just as plaid pants don't make a golfer, a fedora or fishnets don't a tango dancer make.

Tango's traditional colors are black, black and black--sometimes with red. Classic black is good because we think we look thinner and blend into the background more. Plus it goes with whatever else we have in our closet that is black. But nowadays in the milongas of Buenos Aires, any color goes. Especially now that the tango shoe companies have glomed on to the fact that women, especially foreigners, love colorful and sexy sandals. Passé is the standard black T-strap tango shoe. And men, those two-toned shoes you bought in Buenos Aires? Sorry but they just scream Tourist. (But shoes require a whole other post.)


If you are dancing in a tango show on stage, then these costumes below are perfect. But if you wear them to a milonga, everyone will know you are a beginner. Professional dancers don't come to a milonga dressed like this; they save it for the stage.








Without seeing you dance, experienced tangueros can tell by looking at you what level your dancing is at. The First Stage is the eager and naïve beginner, who wears what he happens to find in his closet. Then comes the Second Stage, the full-blown, Look at me, I am a tango dancer! who buys lots of special shoes and clothes--men black shirts, women beads, sequins and fringe, short skirts with high slits--attempting to dance every dance at every milonga. The Third Stage experienced dancer dresses conservatively with elegance and dances only when he or she chooses to, letting the dancing speak and not the clothing.




By their clothes they are known.























The second-stager sometimes goes for the Tango Drag look, or Tango Disguise, or what they've seen on stage in tango shows. Most of the clothes sold in Buenos Aires tango shops are of the Tango Disfraz type, that you really can only wear to Halloween parties back home. Before we leave the house for the milonga, it's a good idea to check in a full-length mirror. And practice those fancy steps in front of one, too, so that you don't end up looking like the above poor ladies who also forgot to keep their feet on the floor. (Actually the red-gartered lady looks like she's dancing well in the photo, but her outfit says otherwise.)

The young generation of tangueros doesn't want any part of fringe or beads, and go the opposite way: baggy pants and special tango tennis shoes. These super casual tango outfits indicate that they dance a different style as well. The cargo pants and the exposed midrifts show the world that they are dancers of Tango Nuevo. No siree, they don't dance their father's tango and don't dress like him either. But dancers over 30 look a little silly dressed like this at a milonga, no matter how Neuvo they are.






















For the tangueras, something like this is What to Wear! Remember that simple elegance is the goal here; what better dress to show off the perfection of your dancing?



And for the tangueros? A jacket and tie is real milonguero, but basic black pants, black long sleeved shirt, and of course black shoes put the emphasis on the dance instead of clothes.

Click the "Link" below to read La Planchadora's posts on Dressing for Success:

Friday, March 02, 2007

Tango: The Passion




Rarely is there a description of Argentine tango that doesn’t include the word, passion. There have been a few commercial films which have tried to portray tango, but generally unsuccessfully. The feeling, the rush, the romance (the passion) is elusive and inexplicable. That’s why people keep trying to explain "it"—on the internet, in films, in books and articles.

I had only just begun to dance tango when I saw Sally Potter’s The Tango Lesson. Now several years later, despite all its faults, I think this film truly portrays the why of tango—the selfishness, the allure, the sexual undertones, the challenge. Tango Bar with Rual Julia, also told the true tango story, and the documentary, Tango: the Obsession explains the addiction. Otherwise we tango freaks are ever on the watch for fleeting moments in commercials, and movies like Scent of a Woman, Moulin Rouge, Chicago, and Evita. Robert Duval’s Assassination Tango just didn’t cut it, although to its credit, it could have been so much worse.

Newspaper critics understanding little about the dance, often use phrases such as, like having sex with your clothes on, or vertical sex when writing about a tango show. They haven’t a clue that it’s not about sex, but sensuality—and yes, passion.

The beautiful painting above is by Jan Rae of Australia. Click on the "Link" below to see more.)

Deer in the Headlights?

Tango in Buenos Aires


DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS?
FISH OUT OF WATER?
LOST IN TRANSLATION in the Milongas of Buenos Aires?


Spent a fortune for your plane ticket and now are not sure if you’ll dance?

Don’t want a young taxi dancer in tennis shoes looking bored at your table?

Where and when to dance, and with whom got you confused? There are more than 80 milongas every week. And several are right for YOU, but you need to know, along with the mystery of how to get asked to dance: the cabaceo.

Personal guided introduction to Tango in Buenos Aires--
Advice, explanation, translation, information on the infamous Codigo of the milongas--
in other words, I can guarantee that you will dance with local portenos/as.

I live here, I know people, I can make it happen for you.
Men: we can sit together and dance 3 or 4 tandas, and then you will dance with local women, guaranteed.
Women: we can sit together in the best spot and I guarantee that you will dance tandas with at least 3 milongueros.

No inappropriate young flash dancers in jeans, but real mature dancers of the milonguero style. I also can arrange classes for you, as well as shoe and CD shopping at all the famous stores.

Services include pre-trip advice on what to bring, what to wear, where to stay.

I will be your friend, advisor and resource during your stay in Buenos Aires.

With Sandra, la moza, and friends and students at La Milonga de los Consegrados

Rates upon request.

BsAsMilonga at aol dot com

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Way I Never Was

Warning: scary!


I've become addicted to the cute little funny graphic toys that are out there for bloggers and MySpacers. (Maybe I have too much time on my hands since I broke my ribs.) And this one, the St Andrews Face Transformer, is the best--well this and the Romance Novel one I used for Valentine's Day, both totally narcissistic. I'm posting all these interpretations of ME MYSELF today because March is my birthday month. OK, it's freaky. So indulge me.

Here I am --

AS A BABY:


AS I MIGHT HAVE BEEN SEEN BY MODIGLIANI:



AS SEEN BY BOTTACELLI (below):





AS SEEN BY MUCHA (below):


















AS A MANGA CARTOON (right)

Click on the "Link" below to upload your photo and transform your face!

Sunday in the Parque




Last Sunday was HOT! How to spend the day? Boating in the Bosque de Palermo, that’s how! We rented a rowboat (not this tangocherie, er, yacht!) and toured the whole lake, followed by a stroll in the rose gardens and a choripan lunch. After living here in Buenos Aires for three years, and visiting upteen times before that, this was my first time in the Bosque, which was built over 100 years ago, and restored in the '90's. It was lovely to see the rollerbladers and runners and families out to enjoy themselves on a Sunday afternoon in the park.

But then we went to Jumbo, which was close by, also a first for me. I was literally a kid in a candy store as I ran around dumping things in my cart that I’ve never seen in Buenos Aires markets before. Raspberries and goat cheese and Thai noodles and cans of curry sauces in three colors and ground coffee without sugar are not easy to find in Boedo where I live. I almost went into cardiac arrest though when I got to the checkstand.

Boedo is a whole different world from Palermo: we don’t even have a park, let alone a lake, and no imported foods. I can see, here as it is around the world, the neighborhood where you live determines your impression of the whole city (and sometimes of the whole country).

Don’t get me wrong, I love Boedo. But I hope to spend more time in Palermo. And next time I’ll be more careful and look at the prices in Jumbo before I have to pay.

Great blog article:
the noise of a marginal life: The supermarket as a window into the heart of a city