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, June 24, 2012

The Laws of Tango, Part II: The Music

Here is the second installment of Fernando and Daniel's informative bilingual Tango series on BACast podcasts, which you can download and subscribe to on iTunes.

It's bilingual but not translated, so if you have some Spanish listen hard to the experts speaking rapid Castellano. Less wacky and funny than Part I, there is a lot of information to be had here from pros who know what they're talking about, and they illustrate their charla with music samples. One point that hit home with me is that you can play perfectly a tango from a score, but it still isn't "tango" without a certain feeling, rhythmic emphasis that isn't written down on the sheet music.

Ruben and I enjoyed contributing to The Laws of Tango, Part I: The Dance.
Part III promises to be extremely interesting as it's about tango lyrics and philosophy. Can't wait.

(Don't give up listening because of the rather long commercial at the beginning for the Chili Cook-off on July 1st.) Just endure; it's worth it to get to the good stuff.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gaucho Fair in Mataderos

Every fair has its virgin.

Over the years I've often written about my favorite thing to do in Buenos Aires--after the tango: visit the Feria de Mataderos. 

One of the services we provide our students is an excursion to the Fair. But yesterday Ruben and I just decided to go there alone for lunch at our favorite parrilla. A beautiful day, the fair was bustling with more visitors, more booths of arts and crafts and regional foods, more music and dancing than ever.

If you'd like to visit, check out the Fair's website for all the particulars. Just remember it's closed during the summer, and don't go if it's raining. And of course you can also take a tour there with us as your guides. Ruben is a fount of information on the gaucho history and tradition and how it relates to the tango. Just email for information: tangocherie at gmail dot com.

Meanwhile, here are some snaps of yesterday's trip. Because in previous blogs about Mataderos I concentrated more on the gauchos and their horses and the music and the dancing, this time it's about shopping for food and gifts.

A coffee wagon

Who wouldn't buy country cheese from this guy? We did.

You can outfit your self completely from head to toe as a gaucho or his girlfriend, "china."

Old books for sale--did gauchos have much time for reading?

Horsey stuff one might need along with a leather mate kit

Troupe of folkdancers

Never come because a gaucho and his china!
The artist standing behind his wares will happily make you a custom plaque in the distinctive porteño style of afileado.

Lots of country cheeses from all over Argentina

Like leather? Here's the place to get inexpensive hand made craft work

Leaving the fair after a fun afternoon

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Milonguero Way Redux

This topic has come up again recently and so I thought I'd repost this from April 2010:

I am a "professional" dancer because I teach tango and get paid for exhibitions. But I wouldn't be a pro here in Buenos Aires if it weren't for my partner, Ruben Aybar. He is the draw. He is the Argentine who spent most of his life in the milongas, who lives and breathes and sings the tango. He is the teacher that students admire, adore and try to emulate.

Foreign dancers especially love getting to know a milonguero like Ruben and hearing his stories and dance secrets that otherwise they wouldn't be able to do, particularly if they don't speak Castellano.

Ruben wasn't always a professional dancer; he used to work in television until the crisis of 2001. He was passionate about his job, traveled all over Argentina working, and danced tango every night for the love of it.

Now tango is his job. He earns his livelihood from tango. It's now more than pleasure; it's work--which he enjoys. He teaches, does taxi dancing, and gives historical Tango Tours of Buenos Aires.

Sometimes this puts him in a difficult situation with friends at the milongas we go to for enjoyment and socializing. (We also go to milongas for work when we do milonga accompaniment.)

Foreign women friends expect that Ruben will dance with them. Sometimes he does. But if not, sometimes they outright ask him to dance, which puts him in a bad place as it does with all milongueros. For one thing, milongueros don't like to be invited, nor do they want to refuse a lady, and for another, if he danced with all the women who wanted him to, what about me? What about our social evening together? We are at Los Consagrados or Chiqué to enjoy ourselves.

The macho milongueros of Argentina do not like to be put in an awkward position they didn't choose. I've seen men refusing a woman forever because she once asked him to dance. Don't do it, ladies. If you want to invite men to dance, stay in your own countries/milongas; don't try it in the traditional Buenos Aires milongas where the cabeceo rules. The men want to decide when and with whom to dance, as well as how to embrace and lead their partner. (If a woman wants to invite, she should lead as well and there are several alternative milongas in Buenos Aires where she can.)

Ruben will always dance one tanda with current students. It's part of their education and he likes to check their progress. And he will bend over backward to make sure the friends sitting at our table get their drink orders, are comfortable, and have a great time at the milonga.

But there are friends who expect dances with Ruben at the same time they are telling me they are taking classes at DNI, or Canning, or expensive privates with Maximiliano Superstar. They ask me to "tell" Ruben to dance with them! Ruben owns his own dance. (I do not give him orders.) Read more here.

They expect him to give it away for free. They forget that the tango is what he has to sell.

Do these same people ask for free consultations from doctors and lawyers at social gatherings back home?

Ruben is a low-profile real milonguero, not a stage dancer who tours the world giving classes and making a big name for himself and who no one's ever seen at a milonga. Ruben is in Buenos Aires every week of the year dancing in the milongas, as he's done for the past 30 years. All the women want to dance with him and all of the men want to dance like him. But he is a professional. Friendly, affable, funny, and fun as well. And available for classes and milonga accompaniment.

I wish the women would remember that at the milongas.