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.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Garufa" -- Milonga del Barrio

Friday was old home night for Ruben! We were invited to the new milonga en provincia, Garufa, by Ruben's friend Marcelo, the organizer.

It the first time in many years that Ruben and his old tango buddies, who he learned with and from more than 25 years ago, were together dancing. And evidently it was like all those years had never passed by; Ruben said it felt like yesterday hanging out and joking around. I could tell they were all so happy to be together again.

Several couples gave demonstrations, all of them dressed so elegantly, the milongueros in light suits and shoes, the ladies in summer dresses, as you can see from my photos below. (At the end of the program, Ruben and I were asked to do a milonga, and we danced to Canaro, but we weren't so elegantly turned out.)

is every Friday night from 11:00 p.m. or so, in Valentine Alsina--Armenia 740. Just cross the Puente Uriburu and there you are! This town is close to the recently departed Sandro's house, the famous pop star, and Osvaldo and Coca live nearby and were in attendance last Friday.

Dancing in a milonga like Garufa is a completely different experience than the popular tourist milongas, and well worth the little trip to get there. Not to mention crossing that spectacular bridge!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Your Life As a Tango?

Most of us do have lives that would make great tangos! You know, themes of lost love, youth, our mothers, etc.

To this end, there is a contest at Heartbreak Tango for Valentine's Day:

Maria Finn has written a book, Hold me Tight and Tango Me Home (which she promises to send me for review), but meanwhile she has a contest which may be entered by essay (100-200 wds) or by a short video. About--without giving any names--a heartbreak in your life.

Well ok, we all have had them, but the winner will have a tango written and recorded, about his/her own personal heartbreak, by Marlan Barry. And then we can dance to our "own tango."

You can be sure I will be entering with a "tango" story of my own. Deadline is February 28, 2010.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Milonga Con Traspié

The phenomenon of traspié ("tripping" in Castellano, also meaning an "error"-- but not in tango dancing) is relatively new in the history of milonga music, which even predates the tango. I don't know how traspié evolved, but I'm thankful it did because otherwise the 2 x 4 beat of milonga, with the basic left-right-left-right steps can be boring after a while.

Milonga is not danced as much as the tango--here in Buenos Aires or in other countries. I'm not sure why--in the U.S. lots of men are afraid of it, perhaps finding it fast and complicated. Here, many old milongueros don't have or want to expend the energy for a tanda (even though customarily the milonga tandas are only 3 songs instead of the 4 of tango and vals). Or perhaps some dancers just don't like the happy, basic march rhythm. Yes, in milonga you can let go with your hips, face, smile--it's fun!

I personally love it, and so does Ruben. But if it weren't for the traspié rhythm, I don't know how many tandas of milonga lisa (smooth) I would enjoy. Traspié saves the day.

It's not difficult to learn--traspié means two steps for every one beat of the music, or double-time. Yet dancers often are doing a kind of samba or cumbia with the double-time steps, or quick-quicks, way too fast. Just remember that two steps in traspié equals one step lisa, or one count. The milonga rhythm is 1-2-3-4, so in traspié, it might be 1-2-and-3-4-and. The quick-quicks are equal! Two for one!

Be careful to keep your torsos connected and still--no sideways movement of the shoulders ala Texas two-step tango! You can dance traspié sideways or walking forward or turning or running (corrida)--just like tango. The steps are the same, it's just the rhythm and timing that's different.

What is tricky is not dancing a whole milonga song in traspié; you have to go in and out of it to make it interesting and creative. But neither can you begin it in the middle of a phrase; you have to listen to the music and go in and out of it when the music tells you to. This is challenging to the leader. The best milongas for traspié are not too slow, believe it or not.

Put on some Canaro or Tanturi's Mozo Guapo and have some fun with milonga con traspié; next time a milonga tanda begins you won't want to sit it out.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What NOT to Wear to a Milonga Part II

Quite some time has passed since I last posted on this topic. Since then I've seen a few reminders of What NOT to Wear to a Milonga so I'll just post them for your viewing edification.

On a young and skinny performing dancer, this very short skirt, fishnets, and lots of "tango" accessories might work. But on this lady, it definitely didn't, since she had none of those qualities.

The lady in white certainly had her own style, sort of a Snow Queen vibe going on. The outfit might have been alright if the dress hadn't been transparent, if she'd lost the hat, and worn white shoes to match the tights. And if her posture were better, she might get away with the whole look.

This fishnet photo below just serves as a warning: if your legs are less than gorgeous, don't call attention to them. But the secret to fishnets is--wear nude tights underneath.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tete and Osvaldo: Now Dancing in the Stars

It's always a shock when someone you know suddenly passes away. But two greats within a day--the tango world is reeling.

I love these videos because they show Tete and Osvaldo dancing alone, being the exceptional dancers they were. And now it is so very poignant.

Dance more, folks. Life is short.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Veneno de Tango

Ramiro Gigliotti's Veneno de tango, or Tango venom in English, is the first book published by El Tangauta magazine.

A collection of short stories and vignettes of the milonga selected from Gigliotti's regular columns in the magazine (written under the name of René). Sad, funny and often hilarious, poetic, and from various points of view, it is simply a delight to read. Available in English as well as Castellano.

Captivating black and white photos by Carlos Furman.

Gigliotti is a tango dancer who has performed in European and American festivals. I believe he was a student of Pupi Castello. There are several videos on YouTube of his dancing with Elina Roldan and Graciela Gonzalez. While his dancing is ok, if dry and hesitant, his writing is passionate, witty, brilliant and true.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a dose of tango poison soon! You'll be glad you did. Here's where you can buy it.

(Oops, I forgot to say that I purchased my copy at full price, and am gaining no swag, nada, by this endorsement, but the pleasure of recommending a good book.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

In Retrospect...

It's that time of year...and not only is it a New Year, it's the end of a decade. Tossing a calendar just tends to make one ponder.

The 21st century has seen huge changes for me personally: two international moves with Phoebe the Expat Cat (who unfortunately passed away in 2008)--I lived in Mexico and then moved to Buenos Aires. I had cancer for the second time. I made six trips to Cuba. My Argentine partner and I started teaching tango together. And I fell in love.

Those are the dramatic points. The decade was full of lots of other ups and downs that had to do with living and adjusting to other cultures and language. I'm still trying to adjust, and I don't think I ever will. Living in Buenos Aires is not easy for me; it's a daily challenge and sometimes I rise to it and sometimes I don't. The truth is, without Ruben's help, I don't think I could.

So here I am working on a new decade, the 'teens of the 21st century. Would I do it all again? Yes, for all the difficulties and tears of the past 10 years, I'm thankful for the opportunity of growth and the grace of the love of a good man, which might not have happened in Los Angeles.

But there is a price to pay. So far it's worth it.