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, July 30, 2009

"Tango In the Aisles"

Not as clever perhaps as the oft-cited Perdizione,
here's another supermarket tango video,
this one from the UK--
a group entry in the Sadler's Wells Global Dance Contest.

(sent to tangocherie by Lina Kaplan)

Unlike the Italian film, the English shoppers never get beyond solo practice.
But what is it about tango and shopping carts? Maybe a trolley is the perfect partner?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weapon of Instruction!

Check it out! This Arma de Instruccion has been seen roaming the streets of Palermo. As a librarian and book believer and lover, this is my kind of weapon! I often lament the dearth of public libraries in Argentina as we have them in the U.S. But this "weapon" against ignorance gives me hope!

From their website:

The objective of the ADIM is to cover the greatest number of places to document what people think on social, cultural, political, environmental problems (etc.) and to spread it in our uncertain way...

To have an exchange of knowledge and history with the native peoples of the land.

To help with our tools and work to improve lives in pleasing solidarity.

To stimulate the population of artists, institutions, individuals, and to construct a ADIM in the society in which they reside.

Using recycled material collected in our shutdowns, the creation of sculptures in opportune places is our goal.

To share the experience with plastic artists, writers, information retrieval officer, activists, and environmentalists.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Romantic Argentina"

Here is a delightful MGM travel short on Buenos Aires in 1932.
Shown are some wonderful details that have disappeared forever, as well as some things so much the same.

I tried to embed the video, but it won't let me; please click on the link:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Timing is Everything!

More on The Circle of Tango:

Arlene asks on her blog, instead of why do we quit, why do we love tango? What are the reasons we hang in there when the going gets rough?

I'd just like to say that how one navigates their own personal Circle of Tango has a heck of a lot to do with timing. Checking the stats of Clay's survey, it appears that of those who responded, the majority who quit dancing tango were "older" women, over 45. And finding someone to dance with was their major problem.

It's true that the timing of partner dancing (including finding a dancing partner) must be right. For example, no matter how well someone does a "step," if it's not with the music, it's bad. My idea of hell is to dance with someone who hasn't a clue that he is way outside of the music and is off the beat. Torture for me: do I follow his bad rhythm or do I do what comes naturally and dance on the beat? Good rhythm and timing is #1 for me.

Like many of us in tango, I've been a dancer all of my life: beginning ballet at age 3, continuing on to be a Dance Major at UCLA, directing my own cabaret dance company The Perfumes of Araby, soloist in a large professional international folk dance company--Anthony Shay's AVAZ, teacher of line dancing, student and performer of flamenco in Mexico and Argentina, dance critic in Los Angeles for the Times, the Dance Librarian for Los Angeles Public Library, student and dancer of Argentine tango since 1996, teaching tango in Cuba, and dancing tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires since 1997. So indeed, when I started dancing tango, I too was an "older woman over 45."

In 2005 I met Ruben Aybar and we began teaching together the milonguero style of social tango that is danced in the milongas here.

I think if Ruben and I had met before then--before I was getting bored with all of my various partners in the milongas and how they tended to dance the same way every time with me (Jorge for the Tanturi tanda, Juan for the vals, Juan Carlos for the milonga, Hector for Pugliese, etc.). Although I continued to attend the several milongas where I was a regular, I began to feel that it was all so predictable.

Before this moment, I used to think--and say--that I didn't want to dance with only one person, even if it was Gavito. I wanted a variety of partners to keep me interested and on my toes.

Well, after all of those tango years, it was an epiphany when I first saw Ruben dance at Club Espanol. I could see that he danced like I felt; that he expressed the music in a way that I wanted to. So after two months of staring at him in an attempt at cabeceo, finally we danced for the first time together at Los Consagrados, in March 2005.

Ruben is always inventive, always has a surprise for me, is never boring--and is ALWAYS with the music and on time. Sometimes he dances to the bandoneon, other times to the violin, other times to the piano or the singer. Ruben has a lot of wonderful qualities, but first is his natural sense of rhythm and love of the music. He never dances the same tango/vals/milonga twice. When we do an exhibition, we never practice, because he wants to be spontaneous and dance as he feels to the music at that time.

So because we met when I had almost completed my own personal Circle of Tango, I surprised myself by only wanting to dance with him. For quite a long time I kept my independence by going to the milongas I faithfully attended every week (and he never did)--Canning, Gricel, I don't remember where all. But then I started going later and leaving earlier, with my mind's eye on the entrance, hoping against hope Ruben would walk through the door, even though I knew better. (He used to tease me that he would disguise himself with a fake mustache and sit in the back to keep an eye on me.)

We would meet at Lo de Celia, Club Espanol, and Los Consagrados, where, in order again to keep my independence, we sat separately, across the dance floor.
When we did share a table for special occasions, it was so much fun, so much laughter, that when I was back on my own on the women's side, I was missing him and the great comaraderie.

Finally we decided to sit together, let the codigos go hang. Of course, he as a milonguero, can dance with anyone he cares to. I am perceived as "his property," and out of respect for Ruben, the other milongueros don't invite me to dance.

But you know, that's ok. I occasionally dance with foreign men, and enjoy myself. But I have the most fun dancing with Ruben.

The question remains: if Ruben and I hadn't found each other at just the right moment, when the timing was perfect, when the planets and stars were aligned and my Circle of Tango was just about completed, would I have quit too? Thank goodness this is a rhetorical question.

Unless we have students or clients for milonga accompaniment, Ruben and I go to dance just once a week, at Los Consagrados. We love the salon, the lovely wood floor, the folks who go there without attitude, and always our table of wonderful friends.

I'm where I want to be--in reality, dancing a lot less in milongas than I used to. No more dancing every night, all night. But wherever I am on that big tango roulette wheel, it's a good place to be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Circle of Tango

The tango blogging "theme of the week" has been Why people quit dancing tango, a notion noodling in my head for quite some time.

It was all started by Clay's Survey.
Elizabeth wrapped it up perfectly for me.
Check out Modern Tanguera's post and the interesting comments.
And cranky Tango Pilgrim says, Who cares?

The thing is, if you've quit tango, you're probably not keeping up with tango blogs and taking surveys--you've moved on to other things. So how accurate can such a survey be?

These posts and the survey seem to prove that folks quit out of feelings of inadequacy, rejection, hopelessness, frustration.

But there are other reasons apart from personality and popularity issues why someone quits tango. There is, just like in Life, a Circle of Tango. We start on the bottom and move around the wheel.

Most tango bloggers start blogging to chronicle their first baby steps on their tango journeys; it's such a new and fascinating experience, all of it--the trying to learn, the emotions, the man-woman thing, and we struggle to express it. Tango as we all know is unlike any other social dance. Tango opens up our hearts, which means we can travel the whole spectrum of feelings, from exhilaration to depression. Tango means taking risks.

So we write about it, and read the experiences of others, and try to understand the whole phenomenon, this new world. Then bloggers often get bored with trying to explain tango, or feel too exposed with their raw emotions out there in cyberspace, and the blogs languish. Sometimes blogs are made private, and sometimes they morph into photography, writing, belly dancing, art, family, or travel.

The Circle of Tango begins with dabbling in dance lessons; maybe we saw a movie or a stage show, maybe we're going to Buenos Aires on business, a friend invites us to a milonga. If we only dabble, we eventually move on. Once we realize that tango is not "vertical sex," that just because it's sensuous doesn't mean people fall into bed with us, that it's no more a pick-up activity than any other place where men and women meet, tango can seem like too much work.

If we stick around long enough to have a Tango Epiphany, then we can become addicted: chasing around for our next Tangasm.

Then those of us who can manage it try to be Tango Bums--traveling to dance, whether it's to a local festival, milongas a couple of hours away, to Europe, or to Buenos Aires. We'll do anything to satisfy our cravings for a tango fix.

Meanwhile we're taking classes and practicing and studying and figuring out how to dance who we are.

If we hang in there long enough, and bring enough to it, after several years we're finally pretty good. Other people like to dance with us (it's no longer based on our age, looks, or height but on how well we dance and who are friends are) and we manage very well dancing with others. We enjoy this point on the wheel for quite a while, proud of the skills that we've worked so hard to attain.

And then what?
What happens when we're as good as we're going to get, and danced with everybody we want to--over and over again?

If we're young, talented, limber and skinny, we take ballet classes and try for a stage career. This is especially true for Argentinians, as it's a way to get out.

And if it's too late for that, and our own personal Circle of Tango is complete, then we move on to DJing and/or teaching.

If none of these options is appealing, that's when we quit. Tango has a natural life span like most other things. For me, tango is a life-long pursuit; but even if I gave it up, I still would have the benefits, pleasure, experiences, self-knowledge that tango brought me. And traveling the circle would have been worth it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Swine Flu or The Buenos Aires Crud?

Many readers of tangocherie have written me lately wondering about the dangers of flu here in Buenos Aires, and if they should cancel their planned trips. Up to now, I've sort of ignored this theme in my blog, knowing it will soon pass and that the media has blown it all out of proportion across the globe. But the panic outsiders feel is real.

This article,
Argentines told to stop kissing to curb spread of H1N1 flu, published last Saturday in the Borneo News, is a perfect example of bad journalism. It promotes the swine flu panic and is downright incorrect in stating that the "tango halls" are closed.

Here's the advice I write to inquirers:
From my point of view, except for theaters and the
schools,life here is normal. The milongas are
perfectly normal. I could throttle whoever it
is who's spreading gossip about "closed milongas,"
rabble rousers all. During winter here there are
always fewer tourists and folks who stay at
home with colds and flu of whatever variety,
however we've been extremely busy with lots
and lots of dancers from Australia.

No one is wearing masks in the street,
restaurants aren't closed, etc.
So just do what you're comfortable with.
There are never guarantees that
something will not
go wrong on vacation.

The truth is that I haven't blogged about the flu scare because it hasn't affected us. I don't know anyone who's had it. The milongas aren't closed, there are just as many people dancing in them and in the streets and restaurants, and I honestly forget about it until I listen to the news. But the basic theme is beginning to bore everyone and life--and the headlines--is moving on.

Many folks however do get sick with what I call the BsAs Crud when they arrive here due to allergies, pollution, exhaustian, whatever. That's a fact.

No one can promise a totally healthy vacation, but there are more tourists here than ever, and all appear to be having a great time.

So the scare is leveling off and Buenos Aires is tranquilo--until the next panic. Such is life.

So come on down! We'll be here waiting for you!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Puerto Madero -- Sunken Galleons and Floating Frigates

Ruben has lived in Buenos Aires for 40 years; me, almost 6. We each have our own relationship with the city. Ruben is totally in love, while I'm at times a bit intolerant. But I understand when he gets a moist look in his eyes and exclaims, "Buenos Aires is always interesting!" as he did went we went to Puerto Madero on the fourth of July.

A tango student wanted us to plan a special day for him on Saturday, and he had already been to all the must-see sights: La Boca, San Telmo, Recoleta Cemetery. So we made it a nautical and historical day in Puerto Madero, the harbor that became what La Boca had hoped to be before history moved on.

Now that part of the river is host to two floating casino ships, lots of recycled and gentrified brick warehouses and factories, and fabulous new hotels and condos.

First up was the sunken Spanish galleon accidentally discovered during the construction of the new skyscrapers. It was on display just until the next day, when it was going to be reburied as a way to preserve it. Since the 17th century vessel had been buried in the mud for two centuries, archeologists feel it will disintegrate if it dries out.

So donning hard hats, we trouped around the scaffolding to get a good look. It appeared like a skeleton of a whale, being not much more than the ribs and the ship's wheel covered under protective tarps. No treasure was found, just two Spanish coins. Those coins, the type of Spanish oak used in the ship, the old cannons used as ballast, and the metal nails proves that the galleon was indeed from Spain.

From there we walked to the museum frigate, Sarmiento. The sister ship, La Libertad, is still a working tall ship used by sailors in training to navigate around the world. It's tied up a little ways from the Sarmiento.

We had the Sarmiento to ourselves as we wondered around from tip to stern, port to prow. It was super interesting to check out all the little officers' cabins, the kitchen and dining room, the engine room, the barber shop, the brig, etc. It was very easy to imagine the heat of the furnaces
and the hard job of keeping them full of coal to fuel the steam engines, the gigantic sails and the man power to hoist them, the one torpedo mounted at the prow, all of the brass which was shiny and ship-shape.

Look at the figurehead of Liberty, "wrapped" in the Argentine flag:

We're standing on the famous Puente de la Mujer to take this photo.

Check it out:
Alicia Moreau de Justo 900, Dique 3 - Puerto Madero | Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: 0114334 9336

Monday, July 06, 2009

Magical Moments in Mataderos

Sometimes we experience moments of grace, probably when we least expect them. But they always seem to happen to me at the Feria de Mataderos.

Today we were there with a tango student from Albuquerque. The weather forecast was good, and we had checked several times that the fair was open despite the flu scare.

We arrived early as usual, before the live performances began on the stage. People, ordinary folks, were folk dancing in the street to recorded music. I noticed a middle-aged woman beautifully dancing La Zamba by herself. (Zamba is the national dance of Argentina, and is even more sensuous than the tango.)

Then, while Ruben went to the ArgenChino supermarket to buy our wine for lunch, this lady taught the escondido to a young girl. After a couple of chacareras, another zamba came on. The lady began to dance alone again, and a tall thin, handsome gray-goateed man, bounded out of the crowd and became her partner. (Why didn't I have my Flip video camera with me?) It was so gorgeous and elegant, and like the tango should be danced, so natural. When the dance finished, he disappeared back into the crowd and was gone. That dance was awe-inspiring. Even more so if I fantasized that the man and woman did not know each other.

Off then to our usual parrilla, only to see armadillos on the grill! Our student Raymond was all for trying it, but the asador was just grilling them for a friend and so they weren't for sale.

Look at the dove in the niche of the tree!

Next stop, the Criollo Museum, where we saw a typical gaucho's rancho, a pulperia, and then, in the courtyard where heavy rain suddenly began to fall, a real gaucho brushing his real horse, Rodrigo. The gaucho gave me a sugar lump to make friends with Rodrigo, and I fell in love.

Outside the museum, it was hailing golf balls as musicians rushed under the arcades with their guitars and mandolins, and played and sang folklore; the crowd, waiting for finer weather, joined in, Ruben belting out the familiar sad songs with gusto. It was a very special moment.

We also ran into fellow-bloggers Sallycat (with her Carlos) and Debbi, thanks to the miracle of text messages.
Que dia hermoso!