Tag Archives: milonguero

Bob’s Daily

I am often asked for advice from people who want to visit Buenos Aires. I may not be the number one expert, but I have been a few times and I am close at hand. So as such I am a handy source of information.

In fact I have been asked so often that I wrote a daily guide that I am happy to pass on. Recently I was approached again for information and I suddenly realized how many milongas have closed, so I am reluctant to pass it on at the moment.

Our next visit is now just a week away and it will seem like a totally new adventure as we explore what venues are still open. Many of our old haunts are closed, there are some new ones open and there are doubts about many others.

So for anyone who now wants information I would ask that you are patient. I will update my daily guide when I return. In the meantime keep your eyes on my blog. As always I will endeavor to publish daily while I am in Buenos Aires and you can see immediately what success we have and the places we go.

We arrive on 3rd of May, so expect the first blog soon after.

Meanwhile we have our last practica on 29th April when we will say goodbye to everyone and celebrate Viv’s birthday as well. Come along if you can, we will have a whale of a time and promise no tears as we wish you all goodbye for five weeks.

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Touchaphobia

A word that should be in the lexicon of English. Touchaphobia is a condition that blights the majority of the peoples of these isles. I have no idea why this should be but it is an indisputable fact.

When I attend dances there is a real reluctance to just get close. I see old married couples dancing as if they are frightened of catching some disease. Most of them have grandchildren, how they ever conceived is a mystery.

When I try to teach tango, I often find the women struggling to escape. To have someone so much in their space is an athema to them. They do this with their partners so to be this close to others is just too much.

To give an idea of what is expected I will often dance with the men. This gets a whole new reaction. A man being this close to another man, urgh!

As a child I barely touched my parents, we never kissed, we never embraced.

But you know it can be overcome, there is a cure. Tango eventually brings us all around.

Now I can hold a woman in my arms without any self consciousness. I can kiss strangers; I have even been known to kiss men when in Argentina.

The passion that comes with Tango, the love that comes from the Argentine people, will get to even the most touchaphobic in the end.

But to reach this nirvana we must dance close, pure milonguero style tango. It is no use pacing around the room with enough room to drive a bus between you. No good saying “I do Nuevo” and leading with your arms, and it will not do to step away to give your lady space to do an ocho. Once we dance in close hold, this is where we stay. You will get comfortable with it, we did, and if I can overcome touchaphobia anyone can.

 

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Happiness

What makes us happy? A hard thing to define. We set out today just to wander around the shops and do very little. Most people, on holiday sit around, by a pool or on a beach and do nothing. We however rush around a big, noisy, dirty city, just to keep a place going that allows us to tango every night. So today we got some keys cut, then wandered off down Lavalle.

Towards the very end, nearest to us, Lavalle is a bit run down, broken pavements, derelict buildings and rubbish in the streets. It is three or four blocks before you get to any shops, yet here I was walking arm in arm with Viv with a giant smile on my face. I have often said “I do not know what makes me love this place” yet I do. It would be a foolish man who denied it’s faults, there are many and for those who live and work here they are magnified. Yet from the many who escape and earn good money outside, there are few who will not return. I could spend all my life wondering, but instead I will just enjoy. If I do not know why I am happy it does not make my happiness less.

We passed the ferrias americanos (second-hand shops) Viv giving them barely a second look, quite unlike her, but she was ecstatic about all the shops selling manaquins. I am not quite sure what she enjoyed about them, perhaps it was the naked men with no equipment, or the children with pony tails, but she was happy. We walked then along Pueyrredon passed all the street sellers and hawkers. It can at times be quite intimidating, but often just the inability to communicate is enough to put them off. Viv found a shoe shop and managed to replace her old trainers, now this one I understand, woman plus shoes equals happiness. When I can get this for a hundred pesos (less than twenty pounds) then I also am happy.

I am not a great fan of Salon Canning, but getting lazy, we can walk there. On the way we pass Tomato, a cafe bar we used to frequent often in the early days. Now though it is somewhat off our route, so on our last visit we only went once and that was over a year ago now. As we walked past the great expanse of glass that forms the front our favourite waiter waved to us from inside. I was totally gobsmacked from right inside the ber he had seen two strangers from long ago, recognised them and took a moment out to wave. It was too much for me we turned back and went in for coffee, I just could not ignore him and pass.

We were still early for Canning it was only quarter past eleven, and they do not open untill eleven. The music was good, but as usual the dancing was a mix of good milonguero, nuevo posuers, total beginners and still the odd tourista. Viv said I am turning into Victor Meldrew as I complained about people crossing lanes or taking half the floor for one move. Having spent much time now in these milongas I have got the knack of ensuring that charging bulls get a heel from Viv rather that one of us getting a heel or just knocked off the floor. These people have not yet learned the first priority in a miloga is to protect your woman, or how to dance in a limited space.

All this said, we thoroughly enjoyed our night, even the demo which owed more to the circus than tango, it afterall gave us time for rest and another coffee. When Viv asked the time and I said quarter past two, she could hardly believe we had been here three hours, time flies when you are enjoying yourselves. We danced a last milonga and headed home to bed.

Time then to reflect on why I am suddenly so happy, I see Viv come out of the shower and think how lucky I am to be with a woman so awesomely beautiful, still after thirty eight years together. I have come to Buenos Aires, learned Tango, learned to hug people I have only just met and even kiss men. And more importantly I think I finally understand “Lo pasa nada” Not to forget of course; all the friends that I have now in this great city, who email me all the time when I am in The UK to beg me to return.

I nearly forgot to add I would not have these feelings had I just stuck with the European Tango Festivals, even though  many of my friends here are French or German, the tango feeling that permeates everything here breaks down stereo types, so that,in the end, we all become Portenos by adoption.

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Arguments 2

Well I asked for it and I got it. I want to thank John for his very comprehensive answers; obviously he has thought deeply about the subject and is not just answering at an emotional level. So I think that it deserves a good answer.

Tango, it is true is a dance that evolves with time and as I have also said, no two milongueros do the same dance.

Exploration has its value, without it the dance will just become fixed and in the end we will just have a boring set of steps. There must however be rules, ok we can stretch the limits; rules after all were made to be broken.

Where we seem to be disagreeing is on the definition of Nuevo Tango. Let me be quite clear, Nuevo has time and again been defined by teachers and aficionados as a style designed to be cinematic, it must by its very nature be danced open and large, because to be seen, is its raison de etre.

Talk of Fantasia as a different style I think is pointless, Fantasia is show tango, Nuevo is designed for the cinema, I think differences are largely academic.

Modern tango does not need to be either large or choreographed. If you talk of dancing the music, following the line of dance and connecting with your partner, then you are not talking of Nuevo tango as I mean it. This I think is where we differ in opinion, a good tango teacher will incorporate all these things in the dance, whatever he/ she calls himself, but if you learn to dance socially you are not learning Nuevo.

John spoke of teaching in Chester; I did not quite follow his meaning, so if I do not answer him fully perhaps he could comment again. (Please do any way). 

At one time (to my knowledge anyway) there were four teachers offering Argentine tango in Chester, and the range of their teaching shows the confusion that there is; We had one teaching from a ballroom syllabus, one teaching pure choreographed fantasia one teaching salon and one who did not know which side of the fence he sat on. There may well have been others who I was not aware of and I am sure there will be others to come.

Of the London scene I know little, except what I have read. I was last in that scene in 1997 so I suspect it, like everywhere has changed somewhat, hopefully for the better.

Tango in the UK is starting to come of age, of that I have no doubt. The quality of the teachers has improved a thousand fold since we first started in the ninety’s, there are still poor teachers out there and there are good ones, just how anyone new to this will know the difference I cannot tell you , I just hope it does not take them too long.

The problem of course is that for many in Buenos Aires, tango teaching is seen as a way out of poverty. There is no qualification or other way of telling if any of these “teachers” actually can teach or even dance tango at all. I have seen some very poor teachers who come from Argentina, and just because they are from Buenos Aires does not mean the know tango. In saying this, I truly believe that the reverse is not true; you cannot know tango without knowing Buenos Aires.

That is where I draw my knowledge from, I don’t claim to be the best tango dancer in the world, but the time I have spent there has at least equipped me to be able to tell when things are not right.

So while it is, I think, necessary to have at least been to milongas in Buenos Aires this alone should not be taken as a sign of good teaching. Likewise whatever the teacher, do not accept a whole sequence of moves as true tango. Tango is an improvised dance; it is basically a folk dance, a dance of the people, a social event. When it becomes performance orientated it is no longer tango.

You cannot say that Nuevo is bad dancing; anything that gets people out and away from their televisions has to be good, but Fantasia should not come into the milongas. There are places where this can be danced and places where they social dance, mixing them up only causes bad feelings.

So in summary, while I agree with everything John said about teaching, I cannot agree on the definition of Nuevo. What you consider Nuevo is tango with a modern twist, not what is defined as Nuevo by all the experts (or by me though I do not claim to be one of the experts). Of course we could get into a very similar argument about who are tango experts, on this I note the wikipedea definition of Nuevo Tango, which states it is anything from the eighties onward and not a style at all….. (A North.American article by the way not Argentine)

If you accept this definition then I suppose I must agree with John, this I of course is the dichotomy, as there is no written definition we will always argue about it. Perhaps I should replace the word Nuevo with fantasia in future.

Finally I have to say I like and enjoy the company of both John and Anna whenever we meet, I hope that no one thinks our on line arguments mean we are not friends.

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Life moves on

My life in the tango world moves on, getting ever better. The Monday class at Chester is growing into a strong community, and Viv and I now have a definite job to do. Maybe this is not why we started but it gives us a sense of belonging and it is always nice to feel needed.

We now arrive quite early at Stanley Palace, despite it being a working day, the joy of being involved somehow overcomes any need for a sleep. Anyway it is not a late night so for these few days I can survive on five hours. While Sharon gives some private tuition I set up my music in the second room and Viv sets her stall for collecting the money.

When the beginner’s class starts again we have too few women, I have said this before, but I still find it strange that Chester is the only place where the men outnumber the women. First Viv is called to help out, then so am I, Roberta rides again, but not for long. Soon we have some more women arrive and we have even numbers, then another and it is goodbye to Roberta. 

I return to the other room as more dancers arrive, I can play some music for them, and make tea. (Charperson now is it). I also now collect the money as well. Actually the music has to stop as the class spills out into the other room. The class has got too big now for any move to be practiced, so the better leaders move out to create more space. At least this gives me a chance to see what is happening, until they move back that is.

In the intermediates I am again banished, but like last week I have a number of the beginners to coach. I enjoy this part of the evening, everyone wants to soak up as much as they can, and I get to be the big man. (This is Great for my ego).

Our French lady is back, I enjoy it when she says “so you do not move yourrr ips” I enjoy it so much I tell her to say it again, but she tries to sound more English. I have to tell her not to loose the accent, it sounds so sexy.

Again we have a number of new comers, and again the standard is amazing, if we keep this up we will need bigger premises. A lot are staying for the practica as well which is a really great sign.

A few start to congregate in the kitchen, tea and coffee are on offer. While they danced I made sure that there was hot water, but now I have my chance and I am not about to waste it. I dance like crazy with as many women as I can until Viv drags me off, telling me I must get up in the morning. Still it was nice while it lasted.

I cannot make Shrewsbury this week and there is no tango the weekend, hopefully though we are in for a couple of weeks of quite intense tango. If I cannot go to Buenos Aires then I fully intend to make the most of my time off.

On another point some of you may remember my post https://tangogales.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/new-friends/#comments where I first met Janis Kenyon in Maipu 444; it was to have been a birthday celebration of an old milonguero called Alito. Well I had news today from Janis that Alito was thrown out of his place that night and has lived on the streets since then. This is no life for an 80 year old and my heart goes out to him. Unfortunately that is all I can do, offer my sympathy. We are not out there and I have no place to offer. Hopefully Janis will keep me informed, even though I don’t know him personally, he is a kindred spirit, and we don’t wish to loose another old milonguero. Perhaps now that Tango has been declared part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations, grants will be available for descasamiento milongueros. We live in hope.

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Roberta Rides Again

We are off to Cardiff at the end of the week; we expect to do some tango while we are there, as well of lots of other stuff. I am not sure if I will be able to post while I am there but watch out for the story, life is never dull with the Finches, throw in a thirty year old campervan (OGG1) and the fun should never end.

 

Meanwhile the local scene goes on. We attended The Groves on Monday for another class with Sharon. We had two visitors from Cheshire, Millie and John. I never got the full details, but they have been going to classes with Chris. We attended classes with Chris at Zumbars Oxford Road Manchester with Frank Smith all those years ago. We saw Chris at a milonga in Wilmslow a couple of years back, but otherwise have not seen him for ten years. Anyway I hope that they pass on our greetings.

 

Chester is the only place I have known this to happen, and happen again it did: we had more men than women. Roberta had to return yet again, but even so there was a changing corner for the men. That means there were at least three more men than women, almost unprecedented in a small class. The guys are getting used to me now, which is just as well tonight’s class involved a lot of close embrace.

I think they feel safe with me, as one look at Viv and they are certain where my sexuality lies. Still it is fun to act a bit gay now and again, keep them on their toes. It also reminds me how safe it feels when you have a strong embrace; I can close my eyes without fear. On the other hand when the embrace is loose or sloppy, I feel it necessary to keep looking where I am. If this is the case for me then I am sure it must be the same for you ladies.

 

I have never followed for the ocho cortardo so this was interesting for me as well. There was a lot for me to learn, because despite all the years we have been dancing, following is still a fairly new experience for me. My biggest problem is still hanging on, trouble is when I return to axis I start to take over. Closing my eyes helps, as of course does having the embrace the other way round. Patience is the only thing I need; I have to remember that the amount of classes where I have followed are still very few. I still joke that I am the best woman here, that may not yet be true (OK probably never) but at least I can sometimes help the man with his lead.

We did a lot on musicality; this is now coming up more and more in Sharon’s classes, and shows how the emphasis is changing. Once all we ever got was steps, nothing about the music, now we are getting real tango, not pseudo stage tango, this is good. Only trouble is if the men did not get it Roberta tended to go off on her own, ignoring the man and enjoying the rhythm, not good. I must give her a good talking to..

After the class people were disappearing Viv had to go and grab some to tell them they must practice all that they had done, else all would be lost. Trouble was she was retrieving the men, I was left sitting out. I had to go begging; “please I want to be a man again”.

I spent some time with Viv, just going over what we did the weekend, and I managed to dance with a few other ladies, but all was lost by ten. So we went home for an early night.

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Gresford two, The birthday dance

My second tango of the week was all our own work, we held the Second Gresford Milonga on Friday.

The preparations have been going on for some time: I have finally wired in our mirror ball motor along with some colour changing spots, on-going repairs have been done to the floor (domestic flooring is simply not up to this level of abuse) doors have been removed and generally the place has been tidied. I have been working on my playlist and have included some of the new material I brought back from Buenos Aires, but  I failed to make a printed list, there must be some way to export a playlist to Microsoft word, but if there is, they have not made it simple. This list of preparations of course does not include the work that Viv has been doing, all a mystery to me I’m afraid, although she works very hard, I am after all just a man and could not possibly understand. She does her bit and I do mine, without ever understanding each other, so it has been for nearly thirty five years now, we may not understand, but something must be right.

The day of the great event and I first have to take OGG1 to the garage, and then we are off to the wholesalers. We go about once a month to restock, so we thought it would be nice to have some fresh stuff in for the party. They have some nice cakes and meats that will give the milongueros something to stave off the hunger.

Everyone was told that La Cumparsita would be at seven thirty, and on the dot Dave and Alison arrived. People then started arriving in ones and twos, some were in confusion, because it seems on my instructions I had said “look for the Campervan” of course OGG1 was in dock so there was no van on the drive. I had thought that as most people had been before they would have known where I was. We had another problem as well, I had moved the van and put my car in the garage to leave space for people to park, but I could get no one to park on the drive, they were all worried about being blocked in. This was ironic as later when they went to leave, the cars were parked so close they could not be extricated from the queue.

When Sharon arrived she looked beautiful, all in pink and fluffy with four inch heels, a special effort for her birthday.

The dancing was going well; they were all getting used to the tandas, although it was impossible to stop some dancing the cortina. Then at nine the music stopped, I was mid dance and rushed over to the music system to find what was wrong. All looked ok so I went to the computer, Viv had decided to close the program down, because she had prepared the food, I was not pleased, as this left me with the problem of finding where I had been in the play list.

After the food we had cake to celebrate Sharon’s birthday with the traditional singing of happy birthday to Sharon,

Then we had a special treat: Peter played a tanda on the bandoneon accompanied by Patricia on the guitar. How special, to have live music for my house party, my deep thanks go out to the pair of them. Our cortina was Nat King Cole singing Perfidia en español, Peter, not to be outdone, sang the next cortina for us, also Perfidia en español.

We also fitted in a Birthday dance for Sharon, I still have some educating to do though, as I waited for the cortina to finish, someone was already tapping me on the shoulder, before the dance had actually started. I had to politely ask him to wait, at least until the tango started (or words to that effect)

I never used my camera so have no photos, for this I must apologise, maybe next time I will not be so busy and will have time to record the event. I only took one photo and that was Sharon blowing out the candles.Sharon blows out the candles my apologies for the poor quality, I should have used flash.

For some reason everyone started drifting off early, and by half eleven the party was almost over, just no stamina, we were ready to party the night away, but by one o’clock we had no party goers to celebrate with us, and so we drifted off to bed. We can always clear up tomorrow. At least the weather held out for us, the rain which seems to be almost constant in summer, never appeared. The garden was a wonderful refuge from the dancing and somewhere to sit and enjoy some food and drink.

Now when can we have another?

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Another good Class

I am finding the strain of long shifts harder all the time. I have worked shifts for more than thirty years, and far from getting use to it, I just feel like hell at the end of a block.

So it was yesterday, my zest for life all gone, snapping at Viv, and just not wanting to do anything. I cannot even work out my shifts anymore, I said I would miss this Monday, but I was wrong. All the same when it came to head off to Chester, I did not feel up to it, but I went anyway.

Numbers were well balanced for the beginners, and for once Viv had to stand out. We progressed further on the ocho cortardo, or as it was called when I first learned it , ocho milonguero. Within seconds of staring the class all my cares were forgotten, a room full of beautiful women all wanting to dance with me I was in heaven.

Sharon wanted to get people into the milonga state of mind, and so she reduced the room size and enforced lane discipline. She gave a good speech at the beginning about not trying to lead some thing new in the milonga and never teaching on the dance floor. I don’t know if I embarrassed her, but I broke into applause, this is my pet hate.

While the room was reduced, it gave me a chance to take one lady aside who was having difficulty. I thought we were doing quite well but occasionally she would cross behind, Leandra pointed out that she was leaning back (thanks Leandra) then it all became clear, because she was so small and she wanted to see if I approved she was looking up. (I am not exactly Mr Big myself but she was tiny). Once that was out of the way things went very well.

In the improvers class we did more on the cortardo, now it was more like the way I was first taught by Roberto Canelo all those years ago. I was having fun ringing the changes, but soon the class was over. By the way if anyone wants Roberto’s contact details in Buenos Aires, I will happily provide them.

We danced on until ten thirty, by which time I had enjoyed myself no end and forgotten completely about work.

I beg forgivness, I almost forgot: Many congratulations to Anna on the birth of Leo. My best wishes go out to John and Anna, see you in five years after you get your next good nights sleep.

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Last Tango in Shrewsbury (for this year)

Back again at The Lantern, for the Christmas milonga. As next Thursday is Christmas day this was the last one of the year.

In keeping with the new traditional thing, I turned up in a suit (very milonguero) unfortunately it was not long before I was too hot and had to remove my jacket. For my Argentine readership I should point out that it had been below freezing point the last few days, and for me this was a welcome change.

Again everyone had made an effort and the night went very well. A couple who teach in Warwick had turned up to see what the scene was like here, Ricardo and Sue I think their names were. They had started their Tango in Edinburgh with Ricardo and Jenny so imediately we had some common ground. I think that they enjoyed the night, although the level is still mainly beginners. Hopefully they will turn up again some time. They were on some kind of national tour as Ricardo had told Viv about the other places that they were to visit, I am still curious as to why they selected Shrewsbury, as it is on the same night as Wilmslow.

We had badgered some friends to come as well, and although they arrived late they also seemed to enjoy the night. I think the fact that the women are all followers and the music is important helps make this night.

I again though met up with the same problems; many of the women with whome I danced had been learning figures and could not walk properly never mind follow a basic giro. Hopefully I straightened a few problems out, with me ending up just walking around the room with them.

After all the beginners it was nice to dance with Sue. We started of just walking as always, but we soon got the feel and it gave me a chance to try out a few things which I could never expect the beginners to follow. I tried to lead the cadena and it just did not work, again there is no point blaming the woman, obviously my lead is not yet right although on the plus side she did understand what I was trying to do.

This is the ever present problem, the only more advanced dancer that I regularly dance with is Viv, and by now she knows what I am going to do almost before I do, and so my lead does not improve.

Still it was nice to try some volcadas and other things with someone new, Viv also had a chance to dance with Ricardo and as she knows all my repertoire it is nice for her to be doing something new as well.

It is always a good crowd here I look forward to seeing some of them again New Years Day.

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Roberta

I looks like I am to forever follow in the Chester class.

Sharon wanted to do close embrace, usung the techniques from Sven’s Class, but there was a problem, nine men and only three women. Fortunately as the class continued a few more women arrived (unfortunately also some men). So when the men walked in a circle around the outside of the room, I joined the women in the centre. I have now been renamed Roberta for the sake of the class.

Fortunately I am very hetrosexual, so that when it came to close embrace, it was well understood that there was nothing “gay” about this. It has to be thought of as a hug, like when you score a goal or it is somebody’s  birthday.

Perhaps because I was never, what they call a popular boy when in school, many years ago. I enjoy the fact that I now have some sort of popularity.

At the end of the class one lady complained that she had danced with every man in the room except me. Now those who know me will tell you I am a shy retiring type, so that my first reaction was to  say “Sharon music” I was over in a flash.

I know I will never be one of the great milongueros, but I seem to have achieved a status amongst the beginners, and I have to say I love it.

To the ladies who rush to dance with me I can only say thanks, this world gives me a joy and confidence that I have never had.

There are men out there, I know who think that dancing is a bit gay, you look a bit of a puff, also many belive that it is just too dificult “I have two left feet”. Most of this is just excuses or lack of self conficence, The confidence will come, and after the first time you will wonder why you waited so long, I know I did.

It took many years for me to gain any confidence, perhaps because of my early years, or maybe as some have said, a complete lack of coordination.

If I can do it then anyone can, So what are you waiting for, come on join the dance.

Next week is a Christmas affair, I am not sure what Sharon has in mind, but, if you are not there you won’t be able to join the fun.

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