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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Friends Forever or Acquaintances for Now?

In the States, "everyone" is our "friend," even if we just met them. It's our culture and our language. We want to be friendly. We smile a lot and try to act friendly.

We talk about Man's Best Friend, we belong to the Friends of the Library, we are Best Friends Forever with someone for a week.

I'm a person who has few friends, but the ones I have are "cherce!" My current friends in Buenos Aires are not at all the ones I thought I had when I moved here permanently. I had met some local people on several vacation dancing trips since 1997, other foreign dancers like me, and of course, the milongueros. I enjoyed the company of these folks; I didn't feel so alone thinking I had friends here.

When I became a "local" myself in 2003 and people saw me every day, I lost glamour. I was no longer the exotic foreigner who came and went, bearing gifts. The milongueros became noticeably uncomfortable that I was always here, watching and comparing notes with others. They saw me like the local I now was. Many milongueros enjoy the fact that tourists hit and run, leaving them free to start a fresh seduction with someone new and innocent. The game can be more important to them than the conquest.

While I continued to enjoy "friendship" with local ladies, I realized that I felt used. People I hardly knew asked me to bring them all sorts of things with no offers of reimbursement. I had parties and invited these "old friends" as well as new ones I was making. But they didn't participate or reciprocate. One local did invite me to a party but then charged me for the food Ruben and I ate, despite our bringing wine and a gift. Others tried to profit off of my foreign friends, trying to sell them shoes, tango clothes, jewelry, tours, places to stay.

When I couldn't afford anymore to invite locals out to restaurant dinners as I used to, our relations changed. There is a common attitude of "foreigner = money" and there are certain expectations.

Many tango tourists do as I used to do and enjoy treating local dancers. Ruben and I love treating folks to an empanada lunch or an asado at our apartment. The error is to consider everyone our "friends." We throw that word around a lot in English, rarely using "acquaintance" as Ruben does to describe our relationships, but in Spanish, people don't often talk about "amigos." After all, real strong and enduring friendships are infrequent and not that easy to make. What do they say, a friend is someone we can call at 3 a.m. to take us to the emergency room? We shouldn't fool ourselves that everyone we know would do that for us.

Do we believe that all those friendly folks at the milongas are our friends? Do we even know much about them? We know how they dance and if they smell good and perhaps in what part of town they live in, but usually that is about all. Because we are not there to make life-long friends; we are there to have dance and fun. Sometimes knowing too much about a dance partner ruins the experience. It's wonderful to have acquaintances, "conocidos," too.

In searching for an illustration for this post, the "friends" images on Google were either of animals, children, or the "Friends" TV series. "Acquaintance" images were mostly cartoons, and posters for the Bette Davis movie, "Old Acquaintance."

In Spanish, the primary images for "amigo" are cars and electric wheel chairs (??!) For "conocido" it's pictures of men alone, including Jesus and Che Guevara. For "conocida," the female acquaintance, it's the Virgin, flowers, and fairies. Go figure.

My favorite theme of "Sex and the City" was the bond between the four women. The writing portrayed the quality of friendship as more important and enduring than a date with a man, as real life female relationships have tended to do the opposite: I'll spend the evening with you as long as a man doesn't call me for a date. Some of the moments with the TV women expressing love and caring for each other in difficult circumstances often brought me to tears. I didn't envy their Jimmy Choos, their apartments, jobs, or boyfriends--I wanted a circle of friends like that. But it wasn't reality. And there are certainly few real friendships in Tinsel Town. But the ones I have are "cherce!"

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Intimo Maximiliano Guerra

With the retirement of Julio Bocca, Maxi Guerra has become the #1 male superstar of Argentine dance. He's getting a little older now (over 44) and is broadening his horizons by being a judge on the TV show, Talento Argentino, and moving out of the strictly classical dance he is famous for.

Last week I attended a gala benefit for the hospital volunteer society, Damas Rosadas, in the gorgeous old Teatro Avenida on Avenida de Mayo, starring Maxi and the Ballet del Mercosur. He has donated much time and energy over the years to various charities and this program was no exception.

In this "Intimo" program of four short pieces, Guerra wanted to show the various influences on his life and career over time, an homage to his roots and culture.

The show began with "Ritual," a ballet to folklore music like the Zamba and Chacarera and also African folklore by way of Cuba. Reminded me somewhat of the Rite of Spring. Then Maxi and his fantastic ballerina, Julieta Saravia, danced an impressive pas de deux, "Requiem Urbano" choreographed by him to French music of the 60s. The third piece, "Cuando Bailamos," also choreographed by Guerra, was set to Emerson Lake & Palmer, and had ballerinas on point dancing disco moves. I thoroughly enjoyed this first half of the show despite the over-reliance on the smoke machine, which made it difficult to see everything clearly despite our excellent seats. I can only imagine what the dancers felt breathing it in.

After intermission, a tango piece by Mora Godoy closed the show. Unfortunately the choreography was uninspired, repetitive, gancho-heavy, and boring. And a waste of Maxi's talents, proving once again that a great classical dancer is not necessarily able to dance tango as it should be danced.

I applaud this generous artist of spectacular charisma and talent for tirelessly giving back from his kind heart. I enjoyed my night out with a good friend for a good cause, and we finished the warm spring evening on the sidewalk in front of Los 36 Billiards with huge drinks of vodka while a couple performed tango inside to live flamenco music (!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Champagne, Blanco, Rosado, Tinto--en esta orden!

Happy Camper!

Ruben and I were invited to share in the Anuva Wine Tastings at the Rendez-Vous Hotel in where else but the expat gringolandia of Palermo last week. I've had the affiliate link at the top right of my blog for quite a while, but didn't have first hand experience. Now I can wholeheartedly recommend a couple of hours in the company of Dan Karlin, the founder, and Sarah of Anuva Wines who teach and share their knowledge of hard-to-find Argentine wines, as well as sharing generous pourings of the wines in question.

We tasted five excellent wines from the lower priced portion of their wine list which all sell for around $20-25 usd a bottle. You can purchase the wines on the spot or have them shipped. There was little pressure to buy.

The favorite of the evening was the Mairena Bonarda 2006, a delicious red at $20. The others were Hom sparkling, Carinae Torrontes, San Gimignano Syrah, Caluna Blend.

The experience is definitely for tourists, especially those from the U.S., and recommended at the beginning of their Argentina visit so they can know a little more before imbibing throughout their journey. The tastings are primarily given in English, but a Spanish option is available by request. We were lucky that ours was bilingual because of Ruben and a Brazilian couple. The other guests didn't speak English, so Dan stepped up to the plate and did double duty.

I had read on the website that tapas would be served that go with each of the wines, but as you can see from my photo the food is not Spanish tapas of hot and cold dishes, but just small tasty bites.

The tastings are held in the small lobby of the hotel, and it was a cozy and comfortable ambiance. I think it would be great fun to organize a tasting for your own group, or even as a birthday party.
Hotel Rendez-Vous

The two-hour tasting costs $46 usd/person, which is too high for the locals, but as part of a vacation "splurge" for those who want to understand the Argentine wine culture, which is little known outside the country, it's probably worth it. These are not wines you can pick up in Coto or your local Chinese supermarket, but boutique wines from small wineries with limited distribution.

If you decide to make a reservation to attend a tasting, I would so appreciate it if you use the link here Anuva Wine Tastings or the graphic link up top. Thanks--tangocherie gets credit that way.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

"Dark Tangos" Novel as a Free Download

The starred review from BOOKLIST said, "Delivers its grim story line with artistic mastery....Short and precise, the novel uses the elegance of tango to radiate sensuality throughout. This is an absorbing and surprisingly action-packed tale based in the ugly truths of Argentina's history.'"

I'm reading the novel now and think it's excellent, especially the description of the tango and the milonga scenes.

You can download the free PDF file from the BoingBoing website--just click the book cover.

It's kind of discouraging because I'm getting my memoir, The Church of Tango, ready to publish. And Mr. Shiner is giving his ebook away for free. You can still purchase a hardback copy on Amazon for $23.10.