Here in the UK, tango is taught as a series of moves. The music takes second place. There is also the assumption that Nuevo Tango means you can dance to pop music. This leaves me with a few things to get off my chest.
We were in a milonga the other day,DJ’ed by one of the best around here. Viv was dancing, as she does with a man she had asked. At the end of the Tanda the man said that he did not want to leave the floor, as he would decide when to stop, he did not like the DJ dictating to him.
At another milonga, DJ’ed by yours truly, I asked a lady to dance. “This is one of my favourite tracks” I said. To which she replied “how do you know? they all sound the same to me”.
So, I may be preaching to the converted, but I will say it just the same. The cortina is there to divide up tandas of music of the same style and by the same orchestra. So that when we hear an orchestra we like we can choose to dance it, or if we do not particularly like dancing to this tanda we can have a rest.
Each orchestra has a unique style, although sometimes (because they had such long careers) it changed over time. The cortina is not a dictate, it is what it says, a curtain between tandas that should be quite different.
When we take the time to get to know the music, it brings its own rewards. We know when it will change, we know the tempo and we can feel the difference between the melody and the rhythm. Best of all we can hit that last beat, trust me it impresses far more than throwing wild ganchos.
I am not the best Tango Dj in the world, I have to put in many hours to arrange a good set. It is all worth it when people compliment my music, but I do wonder at times, how many really know what is going on?
There is hope on the horizon. There is a new teacher in the area, and searching, as I do, I commented on Desde de Alma, thinking it was Color Tango. “No this version is Pugliese” she said. I stood corrected and impressed.
Tag Archives: Argentine
Here in the UK, tango is taught as a series of moves. The music takes second place. There is also the assumption that Nuevo Tango means you can dance to pop music. This leaves me with a few things to get off my chest.
The road in front of us has been closed off. Then a guy with a chain saw is climbing a tree. He climbs way up high before he starts cutting. He seems to cut off all the branches around him before scrambling down to the next layer and starting again. All of this is done without a harness or safety net. Meanwhile guys are at the bottom clearing the roots.
At least they stopped the traffic, but people still wandered around underneath. The thing about this cavalier attitude is though, within two hours the two trees were gone and the road was open again. At home it would have taken three days just to barrier the area, three days for a crane to be set up, then another two days for the tree surgeons to arrive, then we would have to wait for the barriers to be removed again. “Cut your trees down? you’re talking a fortnight’s work there you are”.
We were wandering around the barrio this morning looking for an occasional table. The blind guy on Salguero who made some of our stuff is no longer there. So we tried Medrano. The big problem is that Viv and I have different ideas on what we want. Further up Medrano is the place we bought the headboard and there is nothing there either. It looks lower quality somehow, although how you manage that with basic pine furniture I am not sure.
We stopped off in a couple of second-hand places, their prices are more or less the same as the handmade shops. It makes me wonder why anyone would buy from here. Still there are enough of them, so I suppose there must be a market.
Anyway despite all the places we looked it was a fruitless search, I must try to be a bit more Argentine and wait for things to come to me.
In one of the second-hand shops we went upstairs. The top of the stairs just sort of ended, there was no safety rail to stop you falling back down again. Funny though, my mind sort of told me “this is dangerous don’t step back” and we never fell down.
So this is Elf and Safety Argentine style; make it dangerous enough and you will take care of yourself.
Off to El Arranque again today and when we arrived it was almost deserted. We have learned not to be early but this was an hour after the start. We had elected to sit separate and this was just fine for Viv, there were only three women in the room and one of those was in a couple. Actually I did not do too bad, I got every other dance, but Viv never sat down. This was the case for the next hour and then it started filling up.
We both did rather well, but I am convinced that Viv did better than me today. Still after three hours both our dances started drying up, so it was time for a coffee and wend our way home.
Viv is rustling up something exotic then we may just watch a film for a change.
Time for some shoe therapy. We had a lot planned for today, but first we have to go to Arenales and the Comm Il Faut shop.
Roger is in town so in between the shoe shopping we are also trying to make arrangements to meet up. It has become something of a tradition now that after Comm Il Faut we go to La Tekla on Talcahuano and Paraguay. So we asked if Roger would like to meet us there. Unfortunately I said Uruguay and that got confused with Talcahuano as they are parallel. In the end I sent the directions by SMS as it was easier that way.
When Roger and Mirta arrived there was much kissing all round (even two men from Wales can learn to kiss here) and we had a lunch that lasted for nearly three hours.
We have so much in common, both engineers, both from Wales and we have both wrestled with the Argentine system with varying amounts of success and failure in equal measure. We could talk all day about our Argentine experiences, and then of course there are all the interesting artifacts hanging up In La Tekla. What? For instance was that crank shaft out of? Five bearing and big enough for a three litre engine and there, in the casting it said BMW. The severed head on a singer sewing machine? Could it be Christina? Nice cam chain! And all those phones! I had an Underwood typewriter like that once.
Two litres of beer, and two lots of Coffee, time to head off for some afternoon kip ready for the night ahead. We had to postpone the meal with Philippe, there will be time enough tomorrow.
We rejoined them at Gricel later and danced with them, took photos of them dancing, they took photos of us dancing and just enjoyed each others company. The night just flew by.
When Viv had had enough dancing I tried my hand with the locals, but did not have a lot of success here. One lady I danced with had her own ideas of what she was dancing, kept moving and it had nothing to do with me. Because I had taken her from the table I never saw her shoes, she had loose clumpy sandals that were totally unsuitable. The next lady I danced with was huge (in every way) I tried to lead, but I think I was on a loser. She kept apologizing, but I just said “no problemo” and carried on to the end of the tanda. She had (I think)two daughters with her and they decided to video as we reached her table. Well there comes a time when you should break the rules, this was it. For the sake of her daughters I opened my hold and led her, as best I could into some crowd pleasing moves. Leave them happy, that is the main thing.
I managed one good dance before we left, but the hour was late and we needed to catch our collectivo.
Now last week we had arrived at the stop just after quarter to the hour and waited nearly an hour and a quarter. By this calculation I guessed that the bus must come normally at or about quarter to. So we arrived just before half past. (No point in taking chances).
The bus arrived just as we did, good job we did not wait until quarter to.
Well the bad weather never arrived, although today it is a little colder. Sometimes I could even walk down the street without my sunglasses on. I suppose the fact that everywhere is designed to dissipate heat makes some of the buildings feel cool, but hey, for Wales this would be a heatwave.
We have not done much of a tourist nature yet, so this being Saturday we went to Palermo for the street markets. Our first stop was Tealosophy on Gorriti we needed to stock up for our practica. Then we thought it was time for coffee. There is only one place we know where you can actually sit in the sun and last time we were here they had no coffee. Viv said they would think I was mad but I was not going through all the rigmarole we had last time we were here (it’s all in last year’s blog somewhere) so as we walked in I said “hay café?” of course they said “si”.
We could have nothing else with it though, when we asked they said “solo pizza”. So we sat in the sun reading our kindles and occupying a table for an hour with just a coffee like true Argentines.
We walked down Gorriti and turned into Honduras, half way down the block Viv saw a Feria Americana (second hand shop). Now most of them here are just piled high with stuff and are generally more expensive than those at home, but this one looked different. I think it was because of the neighborhood but the stuff in here was real quality. In fact they had a whole rail of Italian coats that were all new. I saw a couple of suits, but they were far too small and likewise the jackets that Viv tried on. She did however find two very nice skirts. All the time we were there the woman who ran it left us alone unless we asked anything and Viv could take as much as she wanted into the changing room. It was a refreshing change; we took a card for next time, in the words of Arnie “I’ll be back”.
We found our way eventually to the street market and found one or two things for prizes, but held back from buying too much yet (makes it feel like we are getting ready to go home otherwise).
We were getting hungry as they could not feed us in the last place so we called into our favorite book shop on Costa Rica, Crack Up. They did not have their famous tarta manzana today but we were happy with an avena cookie with chocolate chips.
I learned something today Jamais vu is the exact opposite to Déjà vu and I owe Jantango an apology.
We met in La Continental for Pizza and a couple of beers. We had missed the chance to go together to La Nacional last week so we thought we would make up for it this time. Janis kept insisting we went there together last year, but both Viv and I had no recollection, even after we had arrived.
I was not in the best place to practice my cabeceo and sitting with two women, I think did not help. I danced with my two ladies and did manage one cabeceo. The trouble is the strain of all the recent activities had got the better of Viv. Shortly after midnight she had had enough. So we left Janis there and I took Viv home.
Once back I simply had to check last year’s blog. There it was in front of me, The visit to La Nacional and even the return Journey on the 151 colectivo (which I had also forgotten) on our first Saturday. The day was so much like today we had even called into Tealosophy in the afternoon.
So there you are Jamais Vu “a feeling of seeing a situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing you have been there before”
We woke up late again. I seem to spend most of my holidays sleeping, still if that is what my body needs, so be it.
We caught the 168 again and got off at Alsina to walk through to Jantango’s. The food she had promised us she kept and so we arranged to arrive early (one in the afternoon is very early by Buenos Aires standards).
We pressed her buzzer, no answer. One of her neighbours’ wanted to let us into the building, but then we would have been trapped, so we declined. We were inside the iron gate though and another neighbor asked how we got in. She seemed happy enough with my answer. Yet another came through, it must have been rush hour at Janis’s.
At about ten past Janis arrived, seems I had forgotten about ish time again. She had been to the supermarket and Ice-cream store.
So we got in and sat down and just talked, while she put the food on. She asked if we wanted coffee, this time however she let me make it. Janis is that rare thing, an American who does not drink coffee.
We ate her hake and mash drank more coffee and just talked. Her cat meanwhile was getting very agitated; the smell of fish is something guaranteed to get cats going.
Had we been here four hours? Well it was time to catch our favourite 168 again. As we approached Moreno y Alberti the bus was at the stop. We ran but no amount of hand waving was going to stop him, the driver had his cuppa waiting at the end of his journey. Fortunately this time we did not have too long a wait for the next one.
Now this 168 follows a different route (two busses with the same number? This is Argentina) so we are not used to the stops. I am afraid I jumped too soon, still they stop every four blocks so it was not too far and I quite enjoy approaching from different directions.
Fulgor again tonight, as it is Sunday. There is not a lot I can say, great music, and wonderful people just a great time. We were getting hungry again though, so we tried the pizza again “buen cocido” I tried but still it was not cooked well enough for Viv, I guess they just do not understand how we like our pizza .
We danced Pugliese again, normally I prefer to listen, but they started with La Yumba, it just had to be done. I don’t know whether it is special for Los Galeses, but they played an awful lot of milonga and vals last night. We were truly exhausted by the end.
One thing that I think is definitely for us was the new signs on the doors “El Bano” now had “Bathroom” “Caballero” now had “Gentlemen” and “Damas” now had “Ladie” (sic).
At the end of the night we left with our usual kisses and a promise to return Jueves.
You wonder sometimes where they all start. No? Well I do, probably because I am paranoid. Who was it said “Just because I am paranoid, it does not mean they are not out to get me”. At least I can laugh at it all.
The latest rumour is that my blog is discontinued. I guess that is probably my own fault; when I started this blog there was so much to say, and say it I did. Trouble is, it is like a long relationship, eventually you run out of things to say. We are still together we just talk less. I think I have only posted twice since Christmas and I probably would not have posted this had a lady not written to me for dance details. I need someone to set me off again with talk of Nuevo music or salon verses milonguero to get me back on my fundamentalist course. Watch out for the postings in April though, I write my best when in Buenos Aires. What can seem quite normal to the porteños appears sometimes quite bizarre to the extranjero.
The second rumour, and this is quite worrying, is that my Mondays have ceased. I received a mail from milongas-in.com asking me to confirm that we were no longer operating. Fortunately they will not remove someone without notifying them first. We have not had any real traffic from them, but it is nice to be there just in case. I live in the forlorn hope that someday someone like me will be in the area and trawling the net to find dance venues. It is after all the people who just want to dance that we want to come. OK and drink wine and eat cheese and generally gossip, but like all the good old milongas, we are as much about socializing as dancing. I will continue my Monday practicas as long as people want to come, unfortunately I cannot run them when I have to work nights and they will cease while we are in Buenos Aires but we will be back in May with a bang.
I have also heard recent talk that “Bob is not a proper teacher” Who ever said I was? Not me. I am just a spark who brings what I have learned in Buenos Aires back for those who want to experience real Argentine Tango. I give private lessons so that those same people can learn in their own way, at their own speed. I have no worries about my students visiting other teachers or learning other techniques, if your teacher does, then perhaps You should be worried. The broader your experience the better dancer you will be. My students owe me nothing, they have paid for my time and if at the end of my class they choose to take another class elsewhere, then that is their choice. However if you are happy learning tango that has little or nothing to do with Argentina, that is not my problem, but I’m afraid you will have little influence on those who demand the real thing.
Argentine tango comes from Argentina: The clue is in the name.
How do we measure success? I have many talks with my neighbour about this. Success in life is not necessarily about how much you earn or the fame you achieve. It is more about how happy you are with your lot and how you make others feel.
So, how successful is our little practica? Well we certainly do not achieve great numbers, I make no money on it, and as far as I know its fame only spreads as far as my members and this blog.
The numbers thing is, I suppose subjective, but bear in mind that should we ever get higher numbers, indeed if everyone on our books turned up, we would become a victim of our own success. That is, my home would no longer be able to host the event, we would need to find a new venue and the price would inevitably go up.
Money or fame was never the objective, all funds are spent on refreshments and I could not cope with the tax implications of any profit. So why do we run it and more to the point why do people come?
For me just to have somewhere to dance and not to have to travel for once, meaning that on a night where I have to get up the following morning at five I can fall straight into bed.
But for others there reasons are many: For some it is the mere fact that it is small and intimate means that they can come and dance without ever becoming the floor show. For others it is that they can dance and practice without first having a class, and for yet others it is just a social event where the food, drink and conversation are more than just lubrication for the dance. For the true enthusiast of course it is that I am making an event as close as I possibly can to a true Buenos Aires experience. This alone justifies the time and effort that Viv and I put in.
The range of dancing experience in our visitors is huge, from decades to just a few lessons, yet we all just enjoy the dance. We have a rule that we stick to just two orquestas and that we all now who is playing, but nothing is set in stone. We have thrown in a bit of salsa, kizomba, meringue and have even been known to have a chacarera interval; you see the object of the exercise is for people to enjoy themselves. Not forgetting of course our cinema night.
The only fly in the ointment of all this is that I have to work nights. There are two weeks coming up where we will not be there. This has always been the reason we do not run classes, students do not respond well to long breaks. Still after this we will have an almost unbroken run to Christmas (only 14th November when I am on nights).
So what do you think? Success or not? I know what I think.
It seems that there is no end to the tricks people will use to generate more money from tango. Just how many Spanish verbs can we turn into moves, just to generate something to make a new class? The very latest seems to be tamado, just a barrida by another name as far as I can see. Never the less it is making money from people who have never heard of this move and think that it is something new.
I am trying hard now to think of some myself, I could make a fortune. How about the estado, or just being on the dance floor. What about sientado or copping a feel (I swear I have seen this done by some so called famous milongueros) so I can justifiably teach it as a move.
I thought of arrestrar but somebody has already done that one, what about empuje I’m sure no one has done that yet. So that is it then, I will be teaching the empuje, just as soon as I work out what it is and I can always join it with Tire for good measure.
Talking of new moves, what is all this talk of Colgadas? Women ask me to do them, men ask Viv to do them and students are asking me to teach them. I wish to make one thing clear; any move that requires the dancers to adopt a stance that you would take if your partner had halitosis belongs in International Ballroom dancing, not in Tango. We dance and teach milonguero or salon style; that is close hold dancing. Nothing should break that embrace. Colgadas are definitely for the Nuevo crowd not for us.
We thought we would do some last-minute shopping and took the subte down to Callao. I wanted to head straight for El Ateneo but Viv saw Zivals and wanted to go there instead. Well Zivals was closer and I never argue with a woman about shopping.
For some reason we ended up looking in the DVDs at the English films and were amused by the title “Enrique V” to those not familiar, this was “Henry V”. Viv said “I don’t understand why they translate names”. Someone else was having difficulties and as he was an English speaker he tried us for help. His name was Mathew and he hailed from Cape town though by his accent we guessed not a native. We found out he was originally from Windsor and was here for the Tango, so we had a lot in common.
I did the “your from South Africa, you must know” thing I am afraid, and although it is a big country, the tango scene is still quite small. So although Brigitte is from Johannesburg and Mathew from Cape town, he did know our friends. It seems they both work in the travel industry so the links are closer than we thought.
Mathew had brought travelers cheques with him and was having trouble changing them, we made some suggestions though I am afraid we never use them so despite knowing our way around we do not know the best places to exchange travelers cheques. We told him we would be in Porteno Y Bailerin tomorrow and that it was only a block away, but I think he is being guided to places nearer to where he is staying and not well enough versed in travelling the city yet to navigate here at night.
We had hoped to find some sheet music for our friend at home but we had no luck either here or in El Ateneo so in frustration we went to a very nice cafeteria on Santa Fe and Callao (where they also do not sell sheet music). We had a glorious piece of apple crumble that we shared, it was far too expensive, but hey we are on holiday and it is getting near the end. So we sat in the window luxuriating with our expensive confection, looking out at the street life.
On the corner a young man paced up and down accosting every passer-by trying to sell them a copy of Hecho en BsAs their version of The Big Issue, nobody was taking him up on his offers, hundreds passed him by, most trying their best not to even acknowledge his existence.. I felt guilty sitting there at a table having spent nearly £10 on something we really did not need and watching him struggle to earn pence. He was after all not begging, he was selling a magazine, I have an issue with people who just stand with their hand out but this guy, at least was making some effort.
So I went out and a) Kicked his dog and told him to Fuck off.
or b) paid more than the cover price for a magazine.
Choose your own ending and which would a local have done?
I never got my sheet music although we did get some presents and we still seek some raffle prizes, but what exactly we are after will only become clear when we have it.
This post is in danger of becoming too big so I have decided to creat a new one for the night.
What a success! OK we only had just over half a dozen people, but they all came to dance and to enjoy themselves.
I worried at the start that we would have all men, but, as always, the women were late and soon we had an excess. One more woman than the men was, I think, a good balance.
I am learning as I go and the format changed from what I first envisaged. My first thoughts were to just have one artist all night, but that, I thought would get a bit samey. So I made some posters with the names of the orchestras on them and changed them as the night went on.
I kept it simple though, we started with DiSarli, then D’Arienzo and finished with a couple of Pugliese, for those who like that sort of thing.
Somewhere in the middle we did a demo of Kizomba, some though were not impressed, but as we pointed out “we have only had one lesson”.
The small amount of food that we had on was nibbled at and was quite sufficient, drinks were quaffed, but as most were driving I got little help with the Argentine Malbec and had to drink almost the whole bottle myself. Due to a mix up with Dairycrest we had a juice lake, which then stayed in the fridge as we forgot to put it out, so now we will be drinking juice until it comes out of our ears.
Funny how we all got up to dance at the same time and all stopped for a rest together, it was even more sociable than I envisaged. Instead of a changing corner we had the stairs, so than anyone sitting out could see all the action.
We are having a second practica next week, but it looks like most of this weeks attendees will not be there, hopefully a whole new crowd will come and experience the Gresford welcome. After that we are off on the OGG1 grand summer tour where we hope to be seeing more tango around the UK.
On a different subject; I paid for my magazine advert today and on entering the office I was greeted by Jill with a cheery “Hi Bob” not that unusual you may think, but Jill (Editor owner and general do everything) has seen me only once, and then I was stressed out and rushing around trying to sort out the problems with my SEAT. I am constantly amazed at how some people have this ability to remember other people from the merest of contacts a talent that I am sadly lacking. So if I pass you by without a wave nudge me and say who you are, I am not ignoring you, just stupid.