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 29, 2010

So I Thought I Could Dance

If you love dance, the American (I haven't seen other versions) TV reality competition So You Think You Can Dance is an amazing display of virtuosity and talent. I'm completely addicted, not only because of the phenomenal young dancers, but to the choreographers who are given full credit and exposure on this show. I'm also impressed with the hostess, Cat Deeley, who not only is beautiful--that's a given--but it is apparent that she cares very much for all of the contestants, and never is at a loss for the right things to say. Even the judging panel, although everyone seems to love to hate them, tries to give constructive criticism and appears to want all the dancers to be all they can be. Unlike other shows, the music selected is played in the original versions, not rewritten for the studio band as in Dancing With the Stars, and it makes a huge difference.

Thank goodness for torrents, because I'm able to download the show and watch it immediately here in Buenos Aires. While Ruben is watching futbol, I can keep up to date with what's happening in my home country in dance.

Since the age of three and my first ballet class, I wanted to be a professional dancer. I thought if I worked hard enough, my body would do all of those things it had to do. God knows, I had the spirit, the heart and the soul and the emotion. And I had the training. How I wish someone would have told me that I didn't have the body!

Even in those days, a Balanchine body was everything. The truth is, if I had been been born earlier perhaps I could have made it, judging by the films and photos I've seen of ballerinas in the 30s and 40s.

Tamara Karsavina - Taking class c1920

VideoLife Uzerinden Izle

How standards have changed in a few decades. What does the future bring? To my mind, how can any dancer do more with their bodies than the kids on TV?

But watching these teenagers on SYTYCD has brought home to me that never in a million years could I have done the tumbling, the stunts, the crazy lifts and tricks that all of them can do with such apparent ease. The athleticism is beyond amazing. I was never an acrobat or a candidate for Cirque du Soleil.

As for me, I did have a career in dance--but not as a classical ballerina. Thank goodness I had what it takes for belly dancing, and for tango. I also danced various forms all my life--jazz, flamenco, salsa, tap--and worked as a newspaper dance critic and the dance librarian for Los Angeles Public Library.

But honestly, if someone, anyone of consequence, had told me early on that all of the hard work in the world wouldn't make me a ballet dancer, that anatomy can determine destiny, I would have been grateful. Probably nobody wants to discourage a youngster from their dreams, but sometimes it can be a blessing to know to put one's efforts elsewhere. I majored in dance at UCLA and kept persevering, but way down deep I had accepted that I could be a better choreographer than dancer, but I didn't know how to go about making a living at it without a stage career first.

Like Edith Piaf, however, I regret nothing. And how lucky was I that late in life the tango found me and changed me and my future forever.

Mia Michaels, fabulous choreography and judge this season on SYTYCD, advised Robert last night, who had danced an emotional contemporary piece, to let the movement flow from the emotion--otherwise it's just dancing steps. Judge Adam Shankman said the Jose needs to dance the "intention" of the piece, and someone else said, that you need to "become the music". The same exact things can all be said of tango!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Una Tanda Mas

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift.
That's why we call it the present.

--Babatunde Olatunji, founder of Drums of Passion

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.

--Albert Einstein

I hate to leave a milonga. I say to my friend, or to myself, Una tanda mas. Let’s not go yet--let’s see what will happen next.

I don’t want to leave the place where I feel most at home. I don’t want to leave the place where I know the rules, where I feel in control, where my skills are recognized and appreciated. In my heart I am always waiting to dance La Cumparsita, the traditional final tango, but I’m not in any hurry.

The tables of men who look like a casting call for The Godfather, the rows of sultry women smoking cigarettes with their legs crossed, the man who rhapsodize on the reasons you are so exquisite when you dance, the endless discussions of the music and orchestras, the men who “love” you and press their phone numbers into your hand, the teacher who tries every trick in his repertoire in order to make his partner want lessons with him, the elegant Maitre’ds who remember where you like to sit, the men who show off their fanciest steps in front of the tables of their friends and the other man who “loves” you, the waiters and waitresses who tirelessly kiss you hello and goodbye while serving you until dawn in the smoky salons, the women in the bathrooms who sell sexy tango clothes, the taxi drivers who sing tangos on the way to the milonga, the collective intake of breath with the first notes of Pavadita or the Pugliese tanda—this is my world now. And I love it.

I hope there will always be Una tanda mas for you and for me.

--from my unpublished memoir, The Church of Tango

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Milonguero Nuevo

What is Milonguero Nuevo, you may ask? Great question!

But this couple here, Gustavo y Gisela, is promoting their new DVD as just that!

Marketing is everything. (As we talked about in an earlier post.) But you just can't be all things to all people, and if you try, for sure someone is going to be disappointed. Not to mention the possible damage to an art form and the students' ideas of it.

I've said it a hundred times: traditional social tango has nothing to do with what is shown in this photo. What the heck are they thinking? That tango milonguero is hot and popular right now so they just may as well cash in, no matter what they are teaching on the video? Or that they don't know how to dance milonguero but they want to sell DVDs? Or they have nothing new to add to the DNI stuff so they went for a new name? I just don't get it. Call a spade a spade, for Pete's sake. If you want to teach tango nuevo, say so. At least then you get points for honesty.

I can just imagine how that high kick to the side would go over in a crowded milonga full of milongueros!

Let the buyer beware!

Maybe I should have majored in Marketing at UCLA instead of Dance.

Here's a peak at their latest DVD on how to dance Milonguero Nuevo::