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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Household Origami

It's amazing the amount of things to keep you entertained on cruise days at sea. Evidently towel & napkin origami is de rigueur on cruises. Who knew? Being a neophyte, I laughed with surprise at the first towel animal on our bed at night, and kept laughing as they got more and more elaborate. Our final night on board we had a gorilla hanging from our ceiling, wearing Ruben's dark glasses.

So classes were held in how to fold towels and napkins into fancy shapes. We didn't do the classes, but enjoyed the results. It's a strange life that has time to make elephant towels.

Here's a video for your folding pleasure. It's ok to try this at home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From Sole to Soul

As tangueros, or as denizens of Sex and the City, we are all rather over involved with our footwear. How can we express the music and our connection with our partner and our alignment with the cosmos if our feet hurt? Or appear ugly? Or are unmanageable? Shoes have power.

Look what Sandra Shea writes in her novel,
The Realm of Secondhand Souls:

Annaluna didn't trust shoes. In fact, she thought they had the capacity for making their own decisions to conspire against us, and believed they were rendered powerless only if they were on feet or corralled in closets. Her rules were simple:

"Never leave them in hallways; there they can congregate and plot amongst themselves. Never leave them outside, unaccompanied, for they can wander where you don't want them to be. If you see two shoes lying together, imagine the worst."

If she found a shoe in the middle of the sidewalk...she would bring it home and bury it...Occasionally, though she would come home muttering darkly, holding a man's smashed oxford or a woman's bruised high heel...these she would not only bury, but light candles for three days.

Jamie asks in her blog, Lost Soles of the Highway-- Pondering the Mystery of the Single Shoe Along America's Roadways,

Have you ever seen a single shoe on the side of the road and wondered.......?

We've all seen abandoned solo shoes as well as lost and forlorn human beings along life's highways. And don't we always wonder?

I wonder where I lost one of my favorite Comme Il Fauts, the pair that I wore from day one with comfort and elegance, the shoes that helped me dance with flying feet.

Maybe if I light candles and/or turn San Antonio on his head, my beautiful left shoe will find its way home. If not, shall I bury its mate?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Around the Radiance of the Seas

Please indulge me as I post photos about this beautiful cruise ship. We had no idea it would be so luxurious, lavish, a 5 star floating hotel that carries you to amazing place to astonishing port.

Muster drill

The lobby

After a motown concert

The ship's appointments were spectacular. Here is a porthole featuring Jenny Lind.

Dancing rumba to the Mambo Trio.

Enjoying a hurricane from a place of comfort.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Our Salute to Tango Greats: Tanturi, Castillo, Campos

Confiteria La Ideal was packed on Friday afternoon at the El Abrazo Tango Club milonga. No matter what anyone says (tourist trap, decrepit, bad pastry, etc), La Ideal remains a stunning place to dance. What memories inhabit its pink marbled halls!

Surely the ghosts of Ricardo Tanturi, Alberto Castillo, and Enrique Campos hang around to watch the dancers still enjoying their timeless tangos.

Four couples performed to Tanturi tangos this day, and here we are afterwards, posing for Guillermo Thorp's (Diostango) camera with Rafaela Canaro, Francisco Canaro's daughter in the center:

Tanturi is one of our very favorite orchestras. When we were asked to perform in this homage, we were delighted, and didn't care which tango we were going to dance--we love them all. As it turned out, we danced a milonga.

The videos of the three other couples who performed can be found on YouTube on the Chingolito2008 channel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My oh My, Ushuaia--Heaven On Earth Day!

How we need to treasure our Earth! In all its majesty, its diverse and impossible beauty.

I am so thankful that I could journey to the End of the World to see how beauty reigns at the farthest reaches of the planet--unless we humans screw it up.

An ancient glacier, and a chip off the ole' block.

Viewing this natural wonder of thousands of years brought tears to my eyes, an almost spiritual experience.

Let's take care of our amazing Earth, on Earth Day and every day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homenaje a Tanturi en La Ideal: Ruben y Cherie Bailan

El Abrazo Tango Club in La Confiteria Ideal was the second milonga I ever attended in Buenos Aires (the first was Gricel).

Both are still going strong twelve years later. And this Friday, April 24, Ruben and I will have the pleasure of dancing a demonstration in an homage to Ricardo Tanturi at La Ideal. Tanturi, (1905-1973) and his Orquestra Tipica Los Indios along with the fabulous singers, Castillo and Campos, created a body of tango work that gets better with time. I have never heard a Tanturi tango I do not like.

Zoraida y Diego's milonga goes on, as it has for so long, from 3:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. every Friday

Alberto Castillo's and Enrique Campos' children will be attending.

And Ruben and I will be dancing a brief demonstration to the fabulous music of Ricardo Tanturi.

Please come if you can. If you are in Buenos Aires, if you like Tanturi, if you wish to support Ruben y Cherie. We will be there before five and I think will probably dance around six.
La Ideal, Suipacha 384 (near Corrientes.)

La Ideal is the tango show place of Buenos Aires, and has had a role in all of the tango movies. It is just too bad that it is falling down bit by bit, chandelier by chandelier. Come to see it while it is still standing, and before it goes the way of El Molino.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Looking at the Bright Side: an Easter Gift

Followers of tangocherie know that Ruben's car was stolen from in front of the house in February.

So last week when we returned from the cruise, he took the train to spend Easter with his grandchildren. A guy reached through the window and yanked Ruben's gold chain from around his neck and the train pulled away from the station.

He was heartbroken but at least the Armenian gold cross, a gift from my son Jason, fell off and the thief didn't get that too. Probably because it was Easter.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Will You Know My Name...?

Yesterday I went in to get the results of my regular cancer checkups.

I really never think of my two-time win with breast cancer until I have to go for routine tests. And then I'm nervous until I know they came out clear.

And yesterday they did, as they have for six years.

No big deal, I am used to "living with cancer" as they like to call it. They never use the word "cure" for cancer patients, although when the time comes, you have to go with something, right? And more often than not, it's the Big C or heart.

I just hope to go suddenly on the dance floor, dancing to Miguel Calo, which is heaven on earth.

It's Time to Come Back to the Mataderos!

Great news! The Sunday Feria de Mataderos, Feria de las Artesanías y Tradiciones Populares Argentinas, is open again after the traditional four month summer break!

It's a fantastic way to spend a beautiful afternoon--free music and entertainment, good Argentine food, handmade crafts that actually are artful, booths selling Argentine delicacies from all around the country.

Plus, gauchos and horses!

You can dance folklore and maybe some tangos at the fair, but you can always saunter over to the nearby Club Chicago, Lisandro de la Torre 2319, (named for the slaughter houses of that city, because Mataderos used to have that in common with the U.S. Chicago) and attend the crowded "baile" of tango, folklore, and tropical rhythms. (Not a place to go on your own hoping to get dances. Everyone pretty much knows everyone else, and there's no cabeceo or codigos.) You can dance in Chicago from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.!!

Click on the photo to go to the Mataderos official website.

Just remember that it's canceled in case of rain.

This is the best of all tourist attractions in Buenos Aires, and even better, it's really not that touristy--lots of locals and out of town Argentines enjoying a day at the fair.

If you'd prefer not to go alone or want to experience the fair through the eyes of a porteño, a Day at the Gaucho Fair is an excursion that Ruben and I provide. Email for details. Or check my previous post on Mataderos here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tango Show on the Waves

Every night on the Radiance of the Seas there were shows in the ship's Aurora Theatre, a magnificient venue anywhere on land or sea, complete with all the latest bells and whistles.

As we cruised closer to Buenos Aires there was a tango show, called Tango Buenos Aires, "direct from Argentina" (which slayed me because we were in Argentina), starring dancers Luciano y Rocio, and musicians Marcelo Steffanoli (piano) and Daniel Espinosa (bandoneon), along with the ship's cast of singers and dancers.

The show was standard "tango show" stuff, very American, but the folks on the cruise loved it enough to give it a standing ovation. The only complaints I heard (apart from Ruben's) were that some lyrics were sung in English, and two songs were from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita. Authentic Argentine tango was rather lost at sea (except for Ruben's and my classes and demonstrations.)

Here is a YouTube video of Luciano y Rocio from 2006; they performed almost the same routine on the ship with even more acrobatics. My opinion was that he could have phoned it in, since Rocio was obviously leading him powerfully all over the stage. But it was fine and after all, we were out in the Atlantic somewhere between Urshuaia and Puerto Madryn.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dengue in Argentina? Look what the Cubans do...

Here in Buenos Aires we get daily reports of the Dengue fever that is affecting people in the north of Argentina. Read here on The Argentine Post about Dengue in Buenos Aires. I wrote the following article a few years ago on a trip in February to Havana, Cuba. I guess we have to literally choose our poison.

Asphyxiation in Havana

Girl with doll

Girl with doll in Havana

Like revolutionaries, a hurricane, the secret police, death when you least expect it, arbitrary and whimsical, La Fumigacion stalks Havana. Pouring out of upper floor windows, filling the streets and lungs of residents, the malodorous gray smoke from insecticide bombs is the tell-tale sign of the Cuban war against mosquitoes.

Several children died last December from Dengue Fever, a disease carried by mosquitoes. The government is staging an all-out attack against the insects. Kept under wraps to avoid loss of tourism, Cuba's number one industry before sugar and tobacco, there are more billboards proclaiming Lucha Contra Los Mosquitos than Viva la Revolucion!

Statistics abound on the dangers of Dengue, but there are none on the dangers of the insecticide or which precise chemicals are being used. How many people are hospitalized, sick, dead from respiratory reactions? Nobody knows, or tells.

Habaneros accept the intrusion and bombardment of poisons and chemicals because they believe it will save their children. But none are content with the method of the mosquito campaign. No one seems to know where or when the fumigators will strike next and pump homes and workplaces full of toxic gas, although it seems to occur weekly. Teams of brave, macho or naive unmasked men on motorbikes come during meal preparation, even at dawn, when children are asleep in their beds.

Havana skyline

View of Havana

Sometimes they even cry, Oye, aténcion! Everyone out! right before unleashing the contents of their gas canisters. To the visitor and Habanero alike, there seems to be no plan, no schedule, no organization. One day it's your neighbor. The next it's across the street and down the block, and then it's your home under siege. (Fumigators might be bribed with an American dollar, if one is to be had, to please pass by this time.)

When walking down a residential street, you can tell which buildings have recently been gassed by the surreal gray smoke floating from doors and windows of ancient, crumbling edifices. Folks wait calmly across the street until they surmise it's safe to go back inside. It looks like the French film, The City of Lost Children - post-nuclear.

People might be subjected to fumigation at work, and then again when they get home the same day. One woman told me her office building was gassed from the bottom up. Employees had to descend the stairs through the evil fumes on their way out.

Crumbling buildings

Crumbling buildings

The official position is that the insecticide is harmless to everything but mosquitoes. Thus, people are calm about their own exposure, possible danger to their pets and houseplants, and potential contamination to food and water.

Told that by clearing out all of the debris and garbage from their property, the fight against Dengue will be helped, people complied, only to have the streets full of trash for days. Perhaps a lack of fuel for the trash trucks due to the embargo had something to do with that, or maybe it's just more government disorganization.

It was unseasonably cold and wet in Havana this winter. Many people are coughing and are feeling ill. Is it perhaps the air they are breathing?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tango in El Culo del Mundo!

Ahoy, mates!

Here it is, folks, the ends of the earth, or, as I thought of it at the time, el culo del mundo! No, I didn't fall off, but maybe you thought I did. I missed you, even though I was having an incredible experience.

We returned yesterday from a two-week cruise on the Radiance of the Seas, which left from Valpariso, Chile, and returned us to Buenos Aires yesterday, a beautiful Easter Sunday. It was the maiden cruise for both Ruben and myself, and here is a brief photo preview.

Me with the handsome and charming Norwegian captain at his reception.

Kate Winslet--Leonardo DiCaprio, eat your hearts out!

Our tango classes.

I've always wanted to see penguins in their natural habitat.

I'll be writing more later, but for now, I just want to post some photos about our experience of teaching tango on the ship, and of visiting fascinating ports of call way down south at the end of the world.

Enjoying a beautiful day in Punta del Este, Uruguay.