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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What Happens in Buenos Aires Doesn't Stay in Buenos Aires!

I so love blogging! Unbeknownst to me, I was waiting for it all my life.
I try to be discreet in what I write. I know the tango world is small, not only in cyberspace, but also in milongas everywhere.

It's part of the fun of going to a milonga in a strange part of the world and seeing people you know and recognize.

Here in Buenos Aires one feels every tango dancer we've ever known will one day walk into a milonga where we are waiting for them.

And you know how people talk in the milongas; well we have to do something while we're waiting to dance, right? So we chat--about the people in the milonga! What they're wearing, how they're dancing, who is hooked up with who, who went home with whom. It's only natural. The men like to brag about the ladies, and the women try to keep "that" part quiet. But still.

Tango bloggers around the world seem to think that nobody knows who they are, or who they're writing about. But I can't tell you how many times I've read on blogs from Asia to Europe about people I know from the descriptions, and often I've read about myself!

Then sometimes when the authors realize that people know what's what, they sneak back in later and change the archives.

Just remember that what happens here on vacation just might make somebody's blog.

Because Buenos Aires is finishing up its jacaranda season, here's a photo of jacaranda time (May) in Los Angeles.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Just to keep you all informed about what's going on with tangocherie:

Today, in broad daylight two blocks from my apartment in quiet, blue collar Boedo, I was walking to church on Estados Unidos, and a kid--a kid of 12 or 13--ran up behind me and grabbed my purse. I wasn't letting go, and he kicked me in the stomach to the ground and we struggled some more until the cheap plastic strap broke and he ran off down the street.

I was yelling and screaming, but only too late did neighbors come out of their houses.

Thank God I'm not more hurt, and my passport wasn't in the bag. But my camera that I had waited five years for, with undownloaded videos of Ruben's performance last Friday, was.

I was lucky, don't we always tell ourselves, that I wasn't badly hurt, that more wasn't lost. But I feel violated and so very frustrated and angry. And so helpless, and even more a stranger in a strange land.

My Perfect Day in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore Buenos Aires? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of the city:


6 p.m. - Kick off your stay by tasting the city's famous ice cream at sleek heladeria (Spanish for ice cream parlor) Un'Altra Volta ( Be sure at least one scoop has dulce de leche, the gooey, caramel-like ice cream flavour that is a favorite in Argentina.

8:00 p.m. - Dig in at one of countless "parrilla" steakhouses. Steak, pork, chicken, and cow parts you'd probably rather not identify are grilled right in front of you, sometimes even at the table. Upscale favorites include Palermo's La Cabrera (Cabrera 5099, 4831-7002) and Puerto Madero's Cabana Las Lilas (, which takes its beef so seriously it gets it all from its own farm. La Brigada in San Telmo also gets high marks, with more modest charm (

10:30 p.m. - Take advantage of a tango scene in the midst of a renaissance. Young aficionados add electronic beats at hip clubs, while old venues like Club Gricel in Boedo (La Rioja 1180, 4957-7157) conjure tango's famously sultry nostalgia. Those with two left feet can also catch a dinner show at Bar Sur ( or El Viejo Almacen (, or listen to a tango orchestra at bars throughout San Telmo.


9 a.m. - Have a cup of coffee at Cafe Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 825, 4342-4328,, where the movers and shakers of Argentine intellectual history have gathered since 1858, or opt for a submarino, a cup of hot milk swirled with a rich melted chocolate bar.

10 a.m. - Catch the charmingly antique Subte Line A down to the Casa Rosada, the bright pink government palace where political figures have addressed adoring -- and sometimes angry -- crowds gathered below in the Plaza de Mayo.

10:30 a.m. - See the ornate tombs of Argentina's rich and famous at Recoleta Cemetery, where Argentine icon Evita Peron is buried. Just outside in Plaza Francia you can catch the weekly crafts fair and street performers and then shop in ritzy Barrio Norte's boutiques.

12:30 p.m. - Grab lunch downtown at Dada, a jazzy bistro with scrumptious food and a well-tended bar (San Martin 941, 4314-4787). A more cost-effective option would be to sample some of the city's best empanadas at El Sanjuanino (Posadas 1515, 4804-2909,

1:30 p.m. - Take a peek at the country's Latin American art collection at MALBA, which includes the work of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Fernando Botero and Argentina's own Jorge de la Vega (Figuero Alcorta 3415, 4808-6500,

3:00 p.m. - Take a mid-afternoon stroll or siesta. Walk a few blocks up to the Palermo gardens, a sprawling parks complex complete with a planetarium, zoo and Japanese gardens. There's also plenty of space to have a picnic.

6:00 p.m. - Catch some grooves at record store, bar, and jazz club Notorious, also in Palermo (Callao 966, 4813-6888, Sets often start at 6 and last into the wee hours, featuring tango, classical, samba, and swing, in addition to traditional jazz.

9:30 p.m. - Enjoy fine dining at one of Palermo's restaurants. Favorites for international cuisine with touches of Argentine flair include Bereber, Olsen, Bangalore, Xalapa, and Green Bamboo (

1:30 a.m. - Nightlife gets going in the early morning hours and the most fashionable of club goers won't arrive until 3 a.m. Club Niceto in Palermo is a good bet with a lively mix of musical styles, frequent live performances and trendy patrons (Niceto Vega 5510, 4779-9396,

SUNDAY 11:00 a.m. - Stroll along the Caminito in La Boca, a dockside neighborhood where poor immigrants once used ships' bright leftover paint to dress up their tenements. Street dancers pay homage to tango, first born in La Boca's seedy brothels. Visit renowned parrilla El Obrero to enjoy two other great Argentine loves: steak and soccer (Caffarena 64, 4362-9912).

2:00 p.m. - Experience a Boca Juniors soccer game ( Fireworks soar and drums sound as thousands of painted fans proclaim their devotion. If riotous soccer isn't your thing, pass a more refined afternoon at the outdoor antiques market in nearby San Telmo, also home to art galleries, boutiques and restaurants.

6:00 p.m. - Wind down by watching yachts cruise past over a relaxing dinner in recently restored dockside area Puerto Madero.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Harvest Festival


Each autumn when the harvest is brought in, the people of the world throw a party. Here in Argentina the grape harvest is celebrated in March in Mendoza. But at any time during the year, somewhere in the world people are giving thanks for their blessings.

The biggest holiday in the U.S. is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, and is also a harvest festival. Bigger than Christmas or the 4th of July, it is Thanksgiving Day. No matter the culture, race, or religion, on this day the salad bowl of American people are united by one tradition: a family feast of traditional foods (with ethnic specialities often added), and then football on TV.

Did you know that eight nations of the world have official Thanksgiving Days? -- Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Switzerland and the United States. (But try as I might, I could find no information on Thanksgiving in Argentina.)

The ancient tradition of declaring a special day or period for giving thanks goes back to the time when our ancestors hoped that an ostentatious display of gratitude would placate their capricious gods - thus ensuring continued bounty. But these days of thanksgiving were also occasions for celebrating the year's plenty with feasts and joyful gatherings.

Proclaiming days of Thanksgiving for various reasons - success in war, a bounteous harvest, the recovery of a king from illness - was part of European tradition for centuries.

Modern North American Thanksgiving lore is associated with the Pilgrims. In 1621, a year after arriving in the new world on the Mayflower, and following a severe winter in which many of their numbers had succumbed to disease, the colonists celebrated their first successful harvest by organizing a thanksgiving feast to which they invited the neighboring Native Indians. On the menu for that first American Thanksgiving were almost certainly some foods that are staples of the holiday today - turkey and pumpkin - along with other wild fowl, venison, oysters, clams, fish, corn cakes, and wild fruit and nuts.

But enough about history! What's for dinner?

On most North American tables, a turkey still holds pride of place for the annual Thanksgiving feast. In the US alone, over 40 million turkeys are consumed on this holiday weekend each year!

In November 1997 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the year 2000 as the official International Year of Thanksgiving.

That same year, an English writer and director, Gurinder Chadha, came out with the quintessential American Thanksgiving movie, called, WHAT’S COOKIN? In it, four families in Los Angeles, my hometown, celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The families are Mexican, Vietnamese, Jewish, and black, and show the dysfunctions and problems that all families have in common. On Thanksgiving Day, their commonality is also thankfulness.

We all have something to be grateful for, especially we expats, even though it's hard to be far from home and family on this most American of holidays.

On Thanksgiving Day and every day, I am thankful for you, dear readers!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Elizabeth Brinton Goes Out Tango Dancing

What a miracle is the internet, and what a blessing to those of us far from "home."
I absolutely adore getting to meet people for real after I've known them cyberly. Elizabeth is a fellow-blogger from Seattle, and we met in person a few days ago soon after she and her husband Alan arrived in Buenos Aires.

She is an artist, and she offered me a gift of one of her gorgeous silk-screened prints. And this is the one I picked! It's even more beautiful in person, as the layered colors and textures give it such life. (The photo doesn't show the bright copper color of the flowers and leaves, or otherwise do it enough justice.) I just fell in love with the man's glance! She also gave me a packet of stunning black and white tango notecards. Check out her website...Elizabeth is one talented artist (who also dances tango!)

Ruben and I had the fun of sharing our table with Alan and Elizabeth at Los Consagrados twice, and at Gricel. As we say here in Argentina, muy buena gente!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The original Sexteto Mayor: Mario Abramovich, Eduardo Walczak (violin); Jose Libertella, Luis Stazo (bandoneon); Oscar Palermo (piano); Osvaldo Aulicino (double bass) -- 2003.

With my violin idols Mario Abramovich and Eduardo Walczak


I've been a fan of these guys ever since I first heard them play in Tango Pasion in Los Angeles. For me, El Sexteto Mayor is el mejor, even though attrition has changed four of the six faces.

When I saw the poster in the window of Esquina Homero Manzi at San Juan y Boedo, only 2 blocks from my apartment, I inked in the concert of November 18. Even though this historic cafe is so close to me, I've never been to any of their performances. They have the usual tango cena-shows every night, but they also have special concerts and events at various times, including radio and TV talk programs.

My friends Else from Norway and Karla from Santa Barbara, California, joined Ruben and me at a center table. Ruben, not a huge fan of just listening and not dancing, snapped about 50 photos. The sound was great, line-of-site perfect, a thrilling concert. Of course there was lots of Piazzola, but also an enthralling Desde el Alma, and Abramovich's signature song, Celos. I had to mop my eyes several times with the abrasive paper napkins. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed live music. I was reminded of the intensity and drive of tango dancing, as well as its soulfulness. It was hard not to leap onto the stage and express myself!

Yes, there was a young couple who danced, just briefly thank God, as it was mechanical and clichéd. So the less said about their two numbers the better. There was also a young male singer with a nice voice and a very strange beige suit of clothes. But overall, it was a concert of gorgeous music in a rather intimate, historic ambiance. No big busloads of tourists here.

In comparison, Else had gone last Thursday night to La Ideal to hear the orchestra, Los Reyes del Tango. (Read here of my magical experience several years ago.) And she said nothing at all was good about the evening; according to her--too many people, bad acoustics, bad sound, bad, bad.

Sexteto Mayor was founded in 1973 at the Casa de Carlos Gardel by José “Pepe” Libertella († 8. December 2004) and Luis Stazo; its current line-up includes: Mario Abramovich and Eduardo Walczak (violins), Oscar Palermo (piano), Enrique Guerra (double bass), Matías González (bandoneón) and Horacio Romo (bandoneón and direction).

Posing with the bassist and the bandoneonistas, and like typical tourists, Else, me, and Karla outside the front door.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


dancing with Eduardo Saucedo in Mexico...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tango Buenos Aires: The Spectacle

Before I left Los Angeles back in the day, I was the
dance critic for several local newspapers, a job I adored because of all the pairs of house center seats I got, and because I always knew my thoughtful reviews would actually be read by somebody.

Today I came across the following recent review of
Tango Buenos Aires by one of my favorite dance critics, Lewis Segal of the L.A. Times. I myself reviewed this show in 1999, and it was fun to compare the changes in the show after eight years.

Tango Buenos Aires
The company adds other dance forms to turn on the heat at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

By Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

...Saturday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, a new name appeared at the top of the company roster -- Rosario Bauza -- and a new agenda dominated the performance.

Like most touring tango companies, this one used to focus on isolated couples, with a few ensembles and instrumental interludes punctuating the plotless proceedings. No longer. Under Bauza's direction, the couples are often seen together in sequences depicting various Argentine hangouts -- a bar and a racetrack besides the inevitable dance hall...

Some of those opportunities range far from the traditional tango vocabulary -- especially the "El Opio" trio in which Federico Fleitas and Sebastian Huici compete for Mariella Morassut with ballet steps. That's right: pirouettes, air turns, the whole bravura arsenal.

The ballroom-style duets have also changed -- not always for the better -- with a heavy emphasis on gymnastic stunts: strenuous lifts that are often crudely unmusical and break the movement flow. Although they dance with admirable lightness and intricacy in Act 1, Cesar Peral and Soledad Buss go for broke after intermission, and their duet ends with him slinging her halfway across the floor.

The romance of tango vanishes at such moments, though a few dancers (Jorge Tagliaferro with Natalia Patyn, for instance) manage to make the lifts play like spasms of passion. Unfortunately, Rosas and Natoli frequently look more like athletes than lovers in their choreographed clinches.

The changes at Tango Buenos Aires reflect a desire by a number of world dance companies to re-evaluate, refocus or update their modes of presentation. Some return to their roots in folklore, trimming away the excesses of theatricalization. Others like this one head in the opposite direction, embracing the strategies of ballet, modern dance and show-dancing to please large audiences in big theaters.

Happily, the company's transition hasn't compromised some of its prime assets, notably the musicianship. Directed by Julian Vat, the band (piano, bass, guitar, violin and, of course, bandoneon) not only accompanies the dancing but also holds the stage on its own with alternately sharp and soulful playing, including a spectacular arrangement of "El Choclo."

Here's an excerpt from my 1999 review:

...The dancing in TANGO BUENOS AIRES is not traditional, but rather show dancing, or fantasy tango. There was an abundance of high kicks and jumps, and it all was choreographed, unlike the real thing found in tango salons in Buenos Aires.

The folk-themed finale was a very big finish by the spectacular tuxedo-clad Nestor, who spun gaucho bolo balls so fast and precise they appeared as arcs of solid color over his head as they lifted up his hair.

Afterwards, someone sniffed as he went out the door that this show was more about the music than the dance. Well, tango is the music. Without the music there would be no dance. And it was an evening of passionate, inspiring, and even creative music, thanks to Osvaldo Requena’s musical direction.

So we have even more proof here of the theatrical direction tango is going, at least stage tango. Hopefully no milonguero will be slinging his partner across the floor at Gricel anytime soon! Although now there are already tango classes in jumps and leaps; can flinging and sliding be far behind?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Amazons of San Miguel

As many of you know, I first moved from Los Angeles to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in 2001, before Phoebe the Cat and I moved here to Buenos Aires. Just last month an anthology of writings about this lovely Colonial town was published, Solamente en San Miguel (Windstrom Creative), and I am honored that an essay of mine was included. Here it is for those who are curious, or who are yet unable to purchase the book.

They are known by their shoes. There is an irrefutable elegant air to these slim women of a certain age, starting with the renowned cocktail huaraches they wear on their feet. Often with heavy silver cuff bracelets, art-gallery earrings, classy straw hats protecting perfect blond highlights, these women are as frequently known for their good works as their good looks.

The culture of San Miguel de Allende, a picturesque colonial town in the highlands of central Mexico, seems to be moved and stirred by women, whether foreign or Mexican.

English-speaking Amazons from the United States and Canada have bought property, own businesses, and run the public library and festivals of art. In any tourist restaurant at any time are norteamericanas sitting alone with a book or a notebook, studying, learning, journaling, or in groups of like-minded free souls planning the next charity event or a stylish personal project. Sometimes superficial, always creative. (Overheard in a popular restaurant: “I just can’t decide between cinnabar, saffron, or eggplant for the sala.”) Their children come here from the States to marry, and often the lavish weddings include donkey processions, piñatas, exploding brides and grooms, mariachis, puppets, fireworks, and of course, the rental of one of the hundreds of gorgeous mansions and haciendas in San Miguel.

The much fewer expatriate men in evidence are sitting in the sun in the Jardin (the main plaza, sometimes called “Gringolandia” by the locals). Usually retirees dressed in shorts or jogging suits, they read the English language newspaper and watch the women, as the colors slowly change on the spires of the Parroquia. The full-time expat population stays at about 5,000 in a town of 50,000, but during the high seasons, the gringos seem to be everywhere.

Legend has it that there are thirteen women to every man in San Miguel. This includes Mexican women also, many of their men having gone north for work. The narrow cobblestone streets with steep, uneven sidewalks are filled with striking Mexican teenagers in tight jeans, young mothers carrying shawl-wrapped babies, women washing the sidewalks in front of their stores, tiny crones curled in doorways with knarled open hands, colorfully dressed Indian women marketing the pounds of beads over their arms, hawkers of dolls and baskets of dried flowers, women on the Jardin hacking coconuts open with a machete and selling the contents for ten pesos.

Whether Mexican, gringa or indigenous, there is no question that the women of San Miguel are a major, visible and vital presence in the town. Whether they were born in Mexico or have been adopted by it, the women are the ones who get things done.

Besides the Coldwater Creek-catalog gringas in graceful loose linen, there are the aging hippies, who are still trying to get by on art, blue denim and ethnic jewelry in lieu of hard currency. Wanting to change the world in the 60’s hasn’t dissuaded them from continuing to try in 21st Century Mexico, and they also volunteer, teach English, organize pet clinics, copy the artesanias of the Indians and make beaded jewelry, write letters to the editor of Atencion, the gringo newspaper, about ecology and social justice.

The New-age and holistic norteamericanas have a large clientele in the gringas who are exploring their spiritual sides, and they have made businesses out of teaching yoga, soul healing, dream interpretation, astrology, selling herbal medicine and feng shui advice. There for a while a decade or two ago Croning Ceremonies were a weekly event at the various hot springs outside of town. Solstice/Equinox celebrations at the Botanical Gardens continue to mark the seasons.

Foreign women move to San Miguel to forget a man, to find one, but above all to find themselves. Expatriates, and even tourists, can reinvent themselves, and every lady one meets professes to being an artist, writer, or psychotherapist. And why not? For most, it’s a chance to create a new life, and it’s now or never. Sometimes a gringa marries a young Mexican man and they go into a new business together, operating an inn, a restaurant, a gallery, a hair salon.

It is the women unconcerned with making a living or raising families who are now working to make a difference in Mexico, a country with so few social services. Middle age has found them to be comfortable financially, for the most part, or at least comfortable with doing without. Now they have a chance in their third age to contribute time, experience, knowledge, skill—and frequently, money.

Often without husbands or partners due to attrition or death, these capable women now have the independence to work for the underprivileged and handicapped, to express themselves finally in art, to learn Spanish, to access their spiritual sides, to raise money for hospitals and schools, to begin businesses, to build houses, to remodel convents into B & B’s. (Ironically they flock to a country where the women typically are not free from male domination to do whatever they like.)

Retired or independently wealthy and now denizens of Mexico, the freedom is liberating, and the feeling of “last chance” is everywhere. When asked why San Miguel, the answer always includes the fact that they feel safe there. (San Miguel was rated the third safest place to retire in the world by AARP).

The American women in San Miguel have seen enough--and suffered enough by the sheer strength of years--to actually have changed their value systems, the old ones were left up north with the BMWs and quite frequently, the husbands. Bitterness often lurks near the top of any conversation with a new transplant from the United States. Besides the popular conversational topics of real estate and library politics, newbies inevitably get around to past husbands.

If a number of these women have a great deal of money, they by and large don’t mind parting with some of it to benefit others. No gringo organization is without a favorite charity, and few foreign residents are too busy to volunteer because the obvious need is so great. Fundraisers are ongoing, from talent shows, cookbooks, lectures, raffles, rummage sales, home and city tours, any pleasant activity that can raise a few dollars for the needy, which are many.

Amazons in their strength, tall mature beauty, and determination to win—whether it’s new bathrooms for a country school, pre-natal care, or a last opportunity to be the artist or writer they had always planned on being and where did the time go?

They do all of this and still find the time to get pedicures and take cruises with their grandchildren.

Do the Mexicanas resent their northern sisters for taking over their town? For attempting to change things, for having the time and money to try? Most likely the Mexican women are too busy themselves to pass judgment—or to even notice. Mexican women of San Miguel are the doctors and dentists, pharmacists, lawyers, hotel and business owners, and the holders of the most real estate in the municipality. The dictionary defines Amazon as “a notably tall, physically strong, strong-willed woman.” Though generally smaller in stature than their northern counterparts and less flamboyant, nevertheless the Mexican women of San Miguel de Allende are amazing Amazons in their own daily hardworking, quiet right.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Scent of a Man

It's almost summer in Buenos Aires, and I'm reminded of an old diary entry:

To dance Argentine tango properly is difficult for many Americans because there must be a deep embrace. And a woman pressing her breasts against the chest of a perfect stranger, and combining her breath with his as their faces melt together in the perspiration of the dance, is just not too Puritan, our American tradition. Americans want their space, godammit.

So while a couple is in this deep, intimate embrace on the public dance floor, all sensuous antennae are working overtime; in tango you must really listen to the music, you feel your partner, and you inhale each other. the only sense a woman doesn't use is that of sight. Most of the time, if the tango experience is a good one, the woman's eyes are closed. She's in a trance.

After several dances with the same partners, you begin to recognize their scent. Take Alberto from Argentina for example. Young, tall, bronze, perfect white teeth, broad shoulders, the only man I ever met who can successfully carry off gold chains under his shirt. He wears so much Tuscany cologne that the next morning I can still smell it on my skin, and I get a rush.

Sasha was born in the Ukraine, lived in Italy for a while until he could arrange his immigration papers to the United States. Like most European men, he doesn't use deodorant. It's been very hot here in L.A. this summer, and when I dance with Sasha, so very close, I can smell his underarm odor. And I like it.

Then there are some Americans I dance with, held far enough away that it's possible to see their faces and talk--but talking is forbidden in tango. All of your attention needs to be on the senses, and listening is to hear the music, not a conversation. Most of the time with these partners, I don't smell anything, and I don't feel anything.

So there it is, my own personal gross generalizations: I have found that Latino men invariable smell delicious, European men have BO in hot weather, and Americans are sense-free.

And the truth is, if the man is sexy and appealing to me, and a wonderful dancer, I don't give a darn. But perhaps it is true for me, that emanating from an otherwise attractive man, some scent is more sensuous than none.

(Images by Maggie Taylor.)

Friday, November 09, 2007

El Negro y La Novia

That's what we're often called in the milongas, and everybody knows who we are.

In Argentina people are called by what they look like: el chino, la vikinga, el flaco, el gordo, la rubia, el pibe, la turca...and it's affectionate, not derogatory.

Ruben is also sometimes el tuco, because he was born in Tucuman, a northern province of Argentina. In Tucuman, there are many people of "Arabic" descent; whether their ancestors were from Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, or Turkey, nobody seems to know, and it's all the same in Argentina--Turco.

Ruben has the coloring of many people from Tucuman, and also a last name, Aybar, that is Arabic. Many of his amigos call him negro, as he also, smiling warmly, calls his dark-skinned friends.

I told him that wouldn't fly in the States where it's rude to notice someone's appearance. But here I am very happy to be la novia del negro.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More On Taxi Dancers

This topic continues to be HOT!
Here's a video interview (in Spanish):

(If you're having trouble viewing the embed, go directly to YouTube: )

Check out previous posts on this topic here.