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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Embassy Waltz

Thursday was a record cold day for the month of May in Buenos Aires, with the high at 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 Fahrenheit) and a low of 3 degrees Celsius (37.4 Fahrenheit). (Reported in Argentina's Travel Guide.) Cold, freezing cold, but still a beautiful day with bright sun and blue skies.

Ruben and I went to the U.S. Embassy to try once again to get a needed paper for Argentine Immigration so that I can get a long-term visa. (I've been working on getting enough papers to satisfy them for four years now, and still have to leave the country every three months!)

We took the bus to Palermo, and instead of walking the next three blocks to the Embassy, we took a horse-drawn carriage! I arrived at the ugly bunker of a building as if I were Cinderella attending the Embassy Ball. (Such a shame the Embassy resembles a prison and not a Belle Epoque palace like the other embassies in Buenos Aires.)

Only citizens can enter; Ruben waited for me in the park across the street.

There were no places to sit in the Consular Section, and so I took a number and stood against the wall. I waited, until I was the very last person there. The blinds went down behind the bullet-proof glass windows, and the staff went to lunch.

I went out to find Ruben half-frozen, and we warmed up with noquis (it was the 29th of the month) in the first restaurant we found, Nucha, which turned out to be excellent. Back we went, he to the cold park and me inside to take another number. At last I was told that the papers I had been required to get last year were not necessary. The papers were to prove that the person who has a birth certificate and a passport with two completely different names are both me. The papers that I had gone back to the States to get and which cost me a bundle in fees were not necessary.

On Thursday the Consulate simply contacted Social Security, and hours later I walked out of the Embassy with the required letter. I was happy that when I signed the document, I had to raise my right hand and swear in front of the Consul that it was true, that all those different names are mine. I like that. Somehow it felt honest and American; I just don't understand why I couldn't have done that in the first place: Yes, your honor, I am one and the same person! It makes so much sense that in Latin countries the women keep their maiden names and just add "de Rodriguez" or whatever. In the U.S. you can call yourself anything you want, and some of us do.

When next I go to Imigracion in Retiro with my box of papers in hand, maybe this time I will have enough of them, and the search for the Glass Slipper will be over at last.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY




It's not yet winter, but today it sure looks and feels like it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien




Books and blogs by women about their tango experiences/epiphanies in Buenos Aires proliferate yearly. (OK, so I'm one of those women.)

It's refreshing to read a story about a foreigner in Buenos Aires written by a man. Sure, we've had the cheap and disgusting Kiss and Tango by Marina Palmer, and the interesting pre-crisis Bad Times in Buenos Aires by Miranda France, among many others, but now we have something entirely different: Brian Winter's Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien; a Yanqui's Missteps in Argentina.

Not a memoir, but rather a well-written attempt to make 21st century readers understand the why-and-wherefores of the Buenos Aires of today. It’s not an excuse for the author to delve into his emotional past, or to write about sexual encounters, nor does he do any reflection—the main aspect of a memoir. It’s an impressionistic travelogue with fantasy characters—think Wizard of Oz or Star Wars set in South America with lots of illuminating and witty historical citations.

Young Mr. Winter (a recent college grad who floats to Argentina hoping to find a job) also writes about his experience as a tango dancer wannabe. He relates preposterous scenes with fictitious milongueros, but I believe these scenes, while accurately conveying feelings and emotions if not truths, are not from his experience but from research and imagination. He is a fantastic researcher, as well as a hell of a writer. And he's funny, too!

He wanted to write an essay about Buenos Aires, and how then could he leave out tango, even if he knew nothing and cared less about it? His Mafia round table of wise old milongueros allow for exposition and stories about Argentina's history, the influence of the gauchos, the corruption of the politicians, the legacy of Peron and Evita. Miller quotes tangos and the gaucho poem, Martin Fierro. He quotes and relates and integrates, all with humor and a great turn of phrase, and it makes for enjoyable reading, and a history lesson too.

But I do know about the milongas, the milongueros, and certainly, about Nino Bien, the “decaying bar” of the title. His stories of cartoon characters like El Nene, El Dandi, El Chino 1 & 2, and El Tigre entertain and maybe enlighten. Certainly it's not the habit of real milongueros, or anyone else in a milonga, to drink frozen strawberry daiquiris at La Ideal or Nino Bien, let alone wear white terrycloth suits with orange shirts and pink scarves and lead ganchos and barridas. While he has the tango facts and details mostly all wrong, he nevertheless zeros in on the mood, effect and the result. The milonga is an easy target for satire.

Yes, there are countless factual errors in the tango telling, and lots of mistakes in Castellano and Buenos Aires geography, but from my fact checking on the internet, Miller's tales of political corruption, battles, presidents, and gauchos all seem to ring true. I especially enjoyed the story of the depressed tango lyricist Discepolo and his mis-alignment with the government, and his artistic crashes with the tango god himself, Carlos Gardel.

So let's not read this book as a personal memoir, or as history, but rather as a fable of life and times in Buenos Aires from 2000-2004 from a foreigner's perspective. Despite its flaws in accuracy, there's much to be learned here, as well as several laughs and a couple of hours of entertaining reading.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More Holds and Embraces

















These two followers' left arms as well as their bodies are remarkably the same in both photos below. I would call the woman's position, Woman Who Wants to Lead, but I can't do that with the gorgeous Turks. Or maybe it's Freudian and he wished he were leading at that moment.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Not Just Any Two-Guy Tango!


This is Ozhan y Serkan, two Turkish men, performing in Italy. Aren't they gorgeous? You can read more and see a video of them dancing at Pensalo Bien. What I like about them especially (aside from the obvious), is that they dance and teach social improvisation, not choreography (like the wonderfully entertaining Macana brothers, for example). Whole other empanada!

Talk about an Intense embrace! Whew!

The Nuts and Bolts of Tango--The Embrace




My recent posts about the left arms of the men and the left arms of the women were far from complete; mostly I wanted to have fun with the topic while showing the many, many different ways to embrace your partner in tango. For an in-depth discussion with more photos, check out Rick McGarrey's comprehensive site,Tango and Chaos.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY


After a short stay in America...




As my readers know, I just returned.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hold Me, Hug Me

Now that the man's left hand has been put on display and is being voted on (!), let's show a few various ways for the woman to use her left arm to embrace her partner.

The Hug:








The "El Beso" Strong Woman:












The "I'm not really that into you":












The "Salida Americana" in reverse:











The "Ooh, I'm just so happy to be dancing tango but I really don't know how yet":








The "You're a Good Boy, Che":
















The "Tell Me More":










The Mushy Girlfriend "Hug That Will Make a Fortune as a Poster":





The Casual Nuevo:




















The Happy Campers!



















Saturday, May 17, 2008

Leave the Gun, Take the Love



Just started reading Brian Winter's new book, Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien. Here's the quote that begins his memoir of dancing tango in Buenos Aires:


Fall in love, fall in love. That's my only advice.
It can be with a girl, or with the music, or with the dance.
It doesn't matter. But, whatever you do, fall in love.
And, if you do this, then the tango, with all the bullshit
that you'll go through along the way, will have been worth it for you.

-- The Godfather (a tanguero Brian meets at Nino Bien)

And this in turn reminded me of Tina's recent post on loving your partner for the three minutes you are embracing.

It's true isn't it? Love is the key -- to everything good.

About Winter's book, a review will soon be forthcoming. It's refreshing to read a tango in Buenos Aires story by a guy. There are many little errors that are bothersome, but so far I'm loving it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

FAVORITE HAND HOLD POLL

Here's your chance to make your preferences known! Please take the poll to the left below (check the earlier post for photos.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY






It was such a beautiful fall day yesterday in Buenos Aires!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

French Appeal



(Charles Aznavour made a stop in Buenos Aires on his farewell tour the weekend before I returned from L.A. If I had been in town last week nothing would have stopped me from going to the Teatro Gran Rex on May 3 or 4, and possibly both. I've been an Aznavour fan since the 60's when he first played in Los Angeles, and I saw every personal appearance he made there since, until I moved away. And now he was here and I was there! The following is an excerpt from my unpublished book, The Church of Tango. Please be so kind as to indulge me.)


Sex appeal is fifty percent what you've got and fifty percent what people think you've got.
--Sophia Loren

In UCLA’s weekly Conversational French, Professeur Raymond assigned oral exposés on any topic. Students talked about French politics, their past global travels, their own hometowns, the French Resistance in World War II. One woman made a large chart to present tous les hommes de ma vie, all the men in her life.

For my presentation I brought a cassette player and photocopies of Jacques Brel’s song, Mon Enfance. After explaining a little about Brel’s life and art, I talked about the meaning of the poetry of his work and then read aloud his lyric/poem about growing up in Belgium, feeling alien in a world that did not understand him, waiting to get on the train that never comes. When I played the tape of Brel singing his autobiographical song, the class sat silent, stunned after the final arpeggio.

“Do you know about Charles Aznavour? Have you heard his recordings? If you’re familiar with Brel and Montand, now you must also know Aznavour. He wrote songs for Piaf and Juliette Greco, and is the most famous chansonnier of France,” Raymond told the class.

“Is he as good as Brel? No one can possibly be.” When I liked someone, I really liked them. And Brel was my current music crush.

“Yes, he’s good, but different. Neither is ethnically French—Brel was Belgian, Aznavour is Armenian—but they became quintessential French popular singers and songwriters. Tiens, I think he’ll be in town next week on tour. You should go. In fact, the whole class should go!”

And go we did to Charles Aznavour’s concert at the Doolittle Theater on Vine Street in Hollywood. Raymond got the class a block of seats in the sixth row and we had a field trip. When the orchestra began a jazzy tune with lots of brass, the curtain went up on the empty stage, and a very small dark man in a brown suit and narrow tie strode out from the wings.

Laisse--moi guider tes pas dans l’existence, Laisse-moi la chance de me faire aimer… Le Temps, le temps, le temps et rien d’autre..

I was mesmerized. This man was short, old—more than twenty years my senior—balding and homely, yet he was so sexy. He sang with purpose and energy about all aspects of romantic love: young love, old love, married love, suffering love, the beginning of love, the ending of love. He sang like he really understood what love was all about. What could a woman find more appealing than that?

His small body was graceful and his large hands expressive. The vibrato in his voice caused me to imagine all kinds of things. I was certain he was a magnificent lover. Suddenly I was so hot, I was sweating hard and took off my blazer in the air conditioned hall.

La Boheme was a crowd favorite I could tell, as the applause started with the first notes of the waltz from the piano. He sang of nostalgia in looking back on Bohemian artist days in Paris when the singer and his beauteous nude model were poor, in love, and foolish but happy, because they were young. At the end of the song, the orchestra played faster and Aznavour pantomimed an artist painting at his easel, wiping his pretend brush with his real white handkerchief. The violins tore on with a passion, then the music stopped, the handkerchief was thrown to the floor—and then the lights went out. Not a heart-beat later three women climbed on stage and fought over the scrap of white fabric.

“That always happens,” Raymond whispered to me. “They wait for it at each performance.”

I had never wanted Elvis’ silk scarf, but now I wanted Aznavour’s handkerchief. I wondered if it smelled of cologne, if he deliberately scented it in his dressing room before tucking it into his jacket pocket, thinking of the woman who would later take it home to put under her pillow.

As I drove home down Hollywood Boulevard, I reflected on the show, marveling how someone not very physically attractive could be so appealing. After all, Brel, too, was almost ugly, physically. What perfect examples of how beauty and sex appeal come from within. Or maybe being French didn’t hurt.

I didn't know then that all of this was oh so tango! I hope he'll make another farewell appearance soon in Buenos Aires.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

The tango embrace varies from person to person, and sometimes from moment to moment, depending on the dancers, space available, personal choice, comfort, and occasionally, luck.

I love to sit and watch the variety dance by. Isn't tango great that there isn't just ONE way to do it?

As they might say on MySpace, which hand hold are you?
Check it out as you dance pass the mirrors in La Ideal.

Are you the low elbow Vertical?:


The youthful hand-on-a-plate?:


The Thumbster?:


The Pianist?:


The Suave?:


The low-rider?:


The Angular Horizontal?:



The Intense?:


The Hooray!


The Casual?:

The Swoopy Show Grip?:



The insecure hands-in-motion?:



The mid-range?:

The deer-in-the-headlights?:


The Prom Cuddle?:



The Elegant Gavito?:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY




I know, I know, today is Saturday, but here's a picture of what I was doing on Wednesday at my son Jason's house. (My dear friend Connie was helping me pack.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Buenos Aires Glow




A recent discussion on the Tango List was about why people, especially women, return from a tango trip to Buenos Aires with a special "glow."
Someone (a man) suggested that it's perhaps because the women who go there are in "vacation mode" and are more relaxed, unlike how they are in their tango home towns.

My friend Nancy Ingle from Miami has this take on why dancing in Buenos Aires can be absolutely special and at times a life-changing experience for many women.

What we 'get' in BsAs is confidence... The men, the milongas, the ambiance in BsAs are different!

It begins when I walk in the door of the milonga and am greeted with a kiss by the organizer who says, "Such a long time, I have been thinking it was time to see you again."

Then the waiter, remembering my preference from a year ago, escorts me to my favorite table.

The DJ nods to me from his booth and makes a mental note that the blonde woman loves tango valzes and he will play an extra one or two in a tanda if he sees me on the floor.

And the women nearby rise to greet me with a kiss when I sit down.

Then the dancing with the lovely custom of the cabeceo so that I never am put in the awkward position of having to decline a dance with someone or dance when I am too tired or hot.

Once a partner is selected, he greets me with a kiss and some lovely complimentary words which immediately make me feel adored and beautiful. He remembers me, my name, where I am from, asks how long I will stay. (And on my last day he will make an effort to come to the milonga "for our last dance" because he remembers my departure day.

Then we dance. We do not discuss weight changes or heel leads or style or what is best an open or close embrace. I cannot imagine ever talking about dancing with any of these men except to comment on the music or the floor or the weather (between tandas). And they never criticize - they are always encouraging and complimentary and express gratitude and amazement when I am able to follow something tricky and they show off for their friends and tell them how well I dance, too. When I say "thank you" at the end of a tanda, they are likely to reply "It is I who should thank you for the honor of letting me dance with such a divine, elegant, yadda yadda woman."


And perhaps I am a different woman in Buenos Aires, but who has the magic wand?


Nancy



Painting by Diego Manuel