Friday, May 13, 2011

Seven tips for women who want to dance more in the milonga.

Translated by Olga Matveeva on Sunday, May 8, 2011
Article written by Marcelo Castelo and published in ArgenTango magazine #2.

Throughout the years milonga organizers hear continuous complaints from women: "Tonight I danced very little", "There are no men", or "I am not asked to dance".

The reality is, in general, in many milongas the quantity of women is larger than men. Adding that the men also take breaks between tandas to get a drink or perhaps smoke a cigarette, it lowers the women's possibility of getting a dance. However, women also wonder: what they contribute from their part to the fact that they dance less or more?

To help all those women here are some suggestions that, albeit obvious, are worth repeating, and, perhaps, would increase their possibility of dancing in the milonga.

1) Learn to look. It is known that in the traditional milonga the invitation is made by the man by means of cabeceo. So it is essential for the woman to learn to observe and notice these looks and gestures. Sometimes we see women in the beginning of the tanda getting distracted, not paying attention to the man's signals, so the latter changes his mind and chooses to invite someone else. In other cases, for shyness or intimidation, women refuse to look directly at men, and end up sitting. Hence, stay alert under the men's glances, especially at the beginning of each tanda.

2) Put on your best face. The milonga is a place where people want to relax, forget their everyday problems. For that reason, men will keep away from a woman with a sour facial expression. Your most attractive feature is your smile. Be in a happy mood, others will perceive it. A good moment to show your cheerful disposition would be a salsa break. In my personal opinion, this is the most important advice.

3) Care where you sit in the room. Often women keep asking to be seated in places that are far from being the best in order to get more dances. Being in the first row, closest to the dance floor is not always the best. When there are no men on the sides or in front within reasonable distance, women will have to wait till someone walks closer to their table. Once you got a seat, study the best angle to direct the glances at prospective partners.

4) Do not always expect the best. That one illustrates very well the paradox of the dancer: the better one learns to dance, the less possibilities occur to apply it, for the lack of suitable partners. It is inevitable one wishes to dance with somebody better than him/her, but if it were always the case, nobody would ever dance with anyone! Try to go to the milonga with no expectations beyond having some good time, and do not get super selective with the occasional partners. Also, dancing is not everything, lets not reject the opportunity to meet interesting people just because they do not fulfill our expectations as dancers.

5) Improve your dance level, take lessons. A recurrent saying among milongueros is that everyone believes to be a better dancer than he or she really is. It does not matter what you think about your dance level, it matters what your partners think. When one dances better, she gets invited more. Therefore, take lessons!

6) To be and to appear. Any woman who frequents the milongas cannot help but notice: when enters a well dressed man, wearing an elegant dark suit, impeccable shoes, he always attracts women's attention. Same goes for women. Hence, if you go to a milonga where people don't know you, the more you look the part, the better. Dressing with elegance, carrying yourself with poise, behaving like a milonguera will secure you a number of invitations to the dance floor. Of course, all that has to come with a decent level of dance.

7) Become a regular. If you jump a lot from one milonga to another, know that you always have to pay "the floor due" before people start recognizing you. Men tend to invite partners they know, otherwise they wait for someone else to ask a woman, so they can observe her dance level. Upon entering the milonga, give greetings to the men you had danced with in other places. Becoming a regular in a place is the most convenient way of securing dance invitations ( providing you paid attention to all the above mentioned advice).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Milonga etiquette from Ricardo Bellozo.

1. If you don't know how to dance, don't go on the dance floor.

2. First observe the quality of dancing of potential partners, to avoid bad experience or inconveniencing a beginner who is doing his or her first steps, and needs a partner of a higher level than yours.

3. Women do not ask men to dance.

4. A male dancer cannot ask a woman who is accompanied by and sitting at the table with a man, unless that man is gone dancing with other women first. Otherwise the woman is considered "private property".

5. A man should not approach a woman at the table to invite her. From where he is sitting or standing, he should make a head gesture that is called "cabeceo", and if she accepts, only then he can go meet her.

6. The woman never should go toward the man. That custom will avoid her standing alone on the dance floor, and him an embarrassment of rejection.

7. The woman should let the man to embrace her first and decide when to start moving.

8.On the dance floor everybody walks counterclockwise, and the man walks forward without crashing into other couples.

9. That is the man who conducts the dance. Turns and boleos should not be led by the man if there is not enough space, unless his partner is very precise and can dance "small" ( "on a tile", a space of approx. 15X15").

10.The couple that moves backward should take care of the appropriate distance and dancing space. One should not go backward without looking first.

11. There are lines on the dance floor. The perimeter is for the most experienced dancers. The beginners who are blocking the circulation should dance in the middle of the floor.

12. One who enters the dance floor after the line of dance on the perimeter was already formed, should not try to join it. He should go in the middle.

13. The man should stop the movement if there is a danger of collision.

14. Do not squeeze the woman, embrace her firmly but gently.

15. A single woman always leaves the milonga alone or with her female friends, never accompanied by a man.

16. Men and women leave the dance place separately. If they wish, they can meet each other on the corner or in a bar.

17. Except for the couples milonga, even though there is a romantic relationship, there is no demonstration of affection.

18. If an orchestra is playing, the first tango is not danced.

19. While dancing, one should not talk or chew gum or even less have a working cellphone in the pocket. To talk, wait for the break between tango and tango.

20. Avoid very strong, concentrated fragrances, bad breath or body odor.

21. When one is sweating a lot, he or she should not continue dancing, to avoid making his or her partner uncomfortable.

22. One should try as much as possible to dance the whole the tanda with the same partner.

23. It is not appropriate to give advice to a random partner, or give him or her dance instructor's business cards.

The original:
Translation Olga Matveeva

Diana Howell in Buenos Aires 4

Hola Mis Tangueros y Tangueras,
Yo soy muy triste a salir de BA, pero muy felicidad a ver mi novio!

Last night, before going to the second milonga, a folklore teacher who my French Canadian friend, Luce, and I are hanging out with, took us to the Universidad del Tango, of which he is a top teacher. This is located in a school, much like any inner city school, murals, walls that have been well worn, and two stories plus court yard. During the day, it functions as a school for kiddies, but at night, it is transformed into one of the major tango and folkloric dance schools, and is free to all Argentinians. When we arrived, the courtyard had about 100 couples practicing on top of the hop scotch and other marked areas, with music playing in the open air. There were more classes inside, on both floors. There were many Argentenian couples struggling with movements, just like beginners in classes in the states do.
Our friend opened one door to an interior classroom, and we saw many couples doing caminata, (just walking in embrace). The teacher explained that they were SECOND year students, and this is what they do. Now, mis amigos y amigas, what can we learn from this? That if second year students in Argentina are still drilling on the walk for more than 30 minutes, then Why oh WHY do Americanos think that after two classes they are ready for more advanced movements, and think that trying to learn volcadas, boleos, gaunchos, and the like, are going to make them great dancers? The answer is, as Glen Cortese says, ¨Your dance is only as good as your basics are good,¨ and this is what Argentenians know,and that many of us do not. So, there is no such thing, as too much time on the basics. Most good dancers know this, and continue to drill in the beginning level classes. If you have been dancing for less than 2 years and think that you are ¨over¨beginnig classes, you might want to reconsider your thoughts.
In another class, there were students sitting down and being lectured on the musics of tango, the poetry of tango, etc. And upstairs, people were learning the folkoric dances, (like Chacarrera). What a experience for me to be able to see all of this, Yo tengo tanto suerte!

One thing that I love about milongas in Argentina is the ladies bathroom, you never know what you are going to learn there, and what you can find.
My favorites are the ladies who are the attendants/make-up fixers. They have a complete line of make-up layed out, blushers, eye-brow and eye makeup, lip-stick, matching nail polish, mouthwash, and ¨puta¨ perfume. Because when you dance in Argentina mis amigas, it IS cheek to cheek, and it doesn´t take long for the right side of your made-up face to wear off--the eyebrows are the first to go! And then of course, the blusher on the right side, not to mention the helter-skelter upward motion of the hair (yes, more hair spray is also available). She will also do your make-up for a small fee. Many times there will be a vendor of cholla clothing and accessories, earrings, etc., and I bought the cutest see-through jacket last week at one in the Sueño Porteño milonga. Of course, this is where you ask other ladies where they are going next, what is good tomorrow, etc.

Today, my new friend Chi Chi wants me to meet her at a matinee milonga; and her other friend, and my friend Luce are going to rendevouz also. It is great to have other ladies to talk to at tables, because you dont have to look around the room all of time, and, become less acessible (in Argentina, that means more desireable--more challenging to dance with); and it is also a way to catch a breather from dancing, and avoid persistent cabazeos from people who dont want to dance with. The real plus is the relationships with the ladies, they are so nice and SO funny in their comments, like ¨I thought he was trying to make me into a yoga machine, he was bending me so much, dont dance with him!,¨ or ¨that was like trying to avoid the grip of an anaconda,¨ or ¨que lindo se baile, muy suavecito" (how beautifully he dances, so smooth.) Many of the milongas are held in ¨social clubs,¨ or halls, like the social halls in Catholic churches, and most seem to be up a flight of well worn marble or granite stairs. The matinee milonga that I was at yesterday, Nueva Chique was such a hall, with a really great wooden floor and the most fantastic large (like 4 x 4 foot) oil paintings on the wall depicting different areas in ARgentina. Most of them were in need of a good cleaning, but they were clearly historical and probably quite valuable, and made a nice contrast to fringed plastic curtain that seperated the entrance area from the dance area. The place draws an older crowd, so yummy desserts could be seen everywhere. But, there was also a small party of Brits, and several Spanish guys who I danced with. The Spanish guys are pretty good dancers as a rule, but most lack that easy, relaxed feeling that Argentinian men have while dancing, they are really good at the vals.

After that, I took the subway over to El Beso for Cachirullo Milonga, which is the ¨in¨ milonga de jour. I have a fondness for El Beso, since on my first trip to BA with Marcelo Solis, we went there, and the good floor, warm reddish walls, and rather dark club atmosphere, made it seem so exciting and ¨tangoesque.¨ The sound system is superb and I was thinking about how I would have to cope with the ¨mousey¨ sound systems back home--really, Argentinians would walk out of our milongas, because the sound is so low. It is so wonderful to dance in music that is vibrating through your body and connecting you with your partner and everyone else in the room, (I guess I´m doing my ¨tribal thing¨ again). I´m not that crazy about El Beso anymore, because it is way too crowded, way too many tourists (who don´t know how to keep their shoe daggers--heels--down and off of your legs), and way too many 20 something chicas (harder to dance, because even 90 year old will pass you over for the 20 something--that is a fact of life here.)

The ever-present Altoids are not to be seen here,but Halls in many more flavors than are available in the states, can be bought everywhere, not only by tango people, but by everyone, since scratchy throats, and dry, hacky light-weight coughs are part of life. They say ¨it´s the pollen,¨ I say, it´s the pollution. I wouldn´t dream of attending a milonga or entering the subway system without my Halls; and, they are also often available at the reception desk at milongas.

Great news! I made contact with part of my ¨family¨ (Croatian part) that I have living here, it took me four trips to do this, but it is finally happening! There have been many immigrations here over the years, just like in the states, and I only found out very recently about my connections, The most heavy influences on the population genetics are Spanish, and Italian, and this is relected in names, facial structures and other facial characteristics, and in the food--the pasta rivals Italy, and the pizza is out of this world (similar to Croatia), A good amount of German genes also. The immigrants (Spanish) managed to do a really good job in snuffing out the native so the original pure inhabitants are few in number. The national museum has a series of plaques created before the 1700ś showing just how efficient the Spanish were in their genocidal tactics. The art work in these is incredible, and the evidence of the deeds a a bit chilling.

There was another big protest yesterday, (this happens about every other day here), and since I stay in centro, near Congresso (the major government house), I often hear the loud clangs of the protestors. Monterey has people who stand with signs facing traffic, BA has people marching with signs and banners, beating 3 foot long base drums, kitchen pans, and chanting loudly; no way NOT to hear them or pay attention, but after a while you just get used to navigating around them and the line of police sporting plastic shields, clubs and body armor. On my first trip, my friend Mariam Sepe and I got caught up in one, and Mariam said ¨run Diana, run!¨---she is from Nicaragua, and later told me that there, you ALWAYS run, because shooting always follows the protests; not here though!

Funny ¨piropo¨ (Flirty Lines) I´ve heard from Argentinians, (sometimes, they are almost a characture of themselves):

¨Can´t you take off that little jacket? I want to fe-e-e-e-e-l your skin.¨

¨Your body is like a radio, playing music for me.¨

¨Mucho Tango, no sexo?¨

¨I have waited my life to dance with you¨

¨You have a boyfirend? But he isn´t here, right?¨

¨You have a boyfriend? Well, I will email you my credit card number, and that way you can book a ticket back here, no one will know.!

¨Oh Dios Mios, your motion, my motion-n-n-n-n-.¨

And my personal all time favorite:

¨You have a boyfriend? That´s o.k., I´m not the jealous type.¨

Well, mis tangueros y tangueras, gotta pack, and do some last minute things. Ladies, don´t forget, I am bringing about 12 pairs of shoes, that are mostly chosen for ease of dance, and will be available maybe at Thursday night class, (if I am not too tired, get in earlier that day), and at Saturday milonga, (see me in the kitchen), and at Tuesday practica. Cash saves you $10, and each comes with it´s own shoe bag!


Diana Howell in Buenos Aires 3

Hola Mis amigos y amigas,

Dios Mios, I dont know where time goes, but it does, it always seems there is not much time during the day to write, and that soon nap time comes around, and getting ready for milonga time. Incidentally, I do know the rules of punctuation,etc., but still haven t mastered they keyboard here.

Milongas here in Argentina are really a ¨Cafe Society,¨ you go not only to dance, but to meet and talk with friends. Argentinians do a great deal of socializing this way, young and older. Having clothed tables is a great plus, and makes this possible. Ladies, it is so much easier sitting alone at small table with your beverage than in the ¨high school¨ wall line-up at milongas in the states. Kudos to we Montereyans for taking care of that with our ¨semi-tabled.¨ events, we broke the mold! When someone you know arrives at the milonga, you immediately get a kiss on the cheek, same sex or not, and I´ve really confused some people with my two-kiss routine, one on each cheek, which is cemented into my brain after 28 years of going to Morocco (two kisses there). It is also a way for a leader to let you know that he is aware that you are there, and will watch out for your cabazeo.
As time moves on in the milonga, it gets so crowded that making eye-contact gets really hard, seeing through the dancers is really a task, and you see both men and women leaning this way and that way, trying to scope out the opposite sex across the room (most milongas still seat men in one section, more or less, and women in another, groups and couples together at a table). As I think I mentioned before, is that glasses go on during the cortina, and get taken off once the cabazeo is made and confirmed. Actually, I ve grown quite fond of the cabazeo, because if there are people who you dont want to dance with, you dont have to, and you learn how to look right through them, as if they were transparent, if they are cheeky enough to keep staring at you when it is apparent that you have no intention of a cabazeo response. But, you have to be brave and strong, because some of these guys do not give up, even changing tables to get nearer to you, in case you didnt see them! In the states, women ¨cruise,¨ that is, they change their position in the room, ¨trolling for mackeral,¨ you might say, over here, the leaders are the ones who troll, and if you are in a really bad spot (low visibility, behind a lot of gorgeous young women, etc.) you must be very careful about changing your location, less you come off a bit like a long-ago tanguera, rather like a ¨working girl.¨

Boedo tango is organized by a really interesting lady, who is also the ¨moderator,¨ and can rarely be seen in the same outfit twice. She is of a certain age, and favors strapless longer fish-tailed, form-fitting numbers, matching tights, and armlets nearly up to her armpits. The other night she was all in pink lace, (dress, tights, armlets), the night before, in white polyester with just a trace of her black & white polka dot underwear showing through (it looked really cool!) She comes up with great Cortina games, like the ¨tanda de las rosas,¨ (she has bouquets of single red roses), and at the beginning of the tanda, each leader goes a grabs one and presents it to the lady that he wants to dance with; you then dance with it draped over his back. Her other standard is the ¨tanda de los bon-bons,¨ a bowl of candy is set out on a chair in the middle of the floor, and a lady gets a piece of candy and presents it to the leader that she wants to dance with. And then, of course, there are the drawings; you get a number at the door, and there are one or two drawings a night during a cortina, for a bottle of champagne, shoes (that come with an advertisement for the store); kinda spices things up! At Boedo, she also does ¨theme¨ night, like ¨ladies, wear a tie,¨--so ladies come with all manor of decorated and jeweled ties, worn backwards, in their hair, on their waist. Fun stuff! Tonight, it is scarf night.

The popularity of milongas is very changeable. what was hot in November is not necessarily hot now, it is amazing how fast they change. Once the crowd decides they are hanging elsewhere, then the new spot becomes ¨the place.¨ I particulary favor some of the older, and long-standing ones like ¨Baldosa,¨ milonga, functioning almost 50 years, and popular with locals. Of course , with 15 or more milongas to choose from, and BA being as large as it is, almost all milongas have lots of people, but some are definitely more crowded. You do not seat yourself at milongas, you wait at the entrance to the dance room, and someone seats you, always asking you if you are ¨sola?¨ (alone), because, then you get seated in a different way, and once you get savy, can direct them to where you want to seat, for the best looky-look at the leaders, (easiest to see and catch their eye). There are milongas that the very young frequent, that nuevo people frequent, that gays frequent, that middle-aged plus frequent, that tourists frequent, that only neighborhood people frequent, and of course, mixed. The milonga listing magazine tells you which are milongas, which are practicas, and which are gay, it is up to you to ask and find out about everying else. I always ask people that I am with, good dancers that I am dancing with, where they go. You can choose your cake!

When I first came here, I always used Radio taxi to get to and from the milongas, but as I learned my way around via the subway, Ive become a real subway ¨ratona!¨ I check out the route and subway changes before I leave, and then start my journey. It is so much cheaper, taxi will cost about 15-25 pesos, but the subway is only 2 pesos, and definitely more fun!
They stop running at 10:00 pm, so do not always work for getting to one milonga from another, then it is bus (runs all night for 1 peso) or taxi. The other night, in my smugness about a complicated three train route change, going from one milonga (made sure I was on the train at 9:30pm) to another, I hopped the wrong train, but the young guy next to me spotted my ¨oh-no,¨ look, and got off at the next stop with me, and directed me to a safe taxi area (the area was questionable). People here are so nice in this regard, so willing to help you; last night a ¨chica¨ and I left El Cachirullo because there were not enough good dancers, and I asked her if she wanted to share a cab to go to the National, but she wanted to go home, and said ¨dont take a cab, it cost too much, I´ll take you to the bus stop, take the bus for 1 peso. So, she not only took me to the bus stop, explained the route, and THEN told the bus driver where I wanted to go, and to make sure and let me off close to the milonga. She then kissed me on the cheek with much ¨muchos gracias¨ from me and departed with friendly wave. That is how it has been here for me, very helpful people! So, now, I am learning the bus system, which cost next to nothing and is really interesting to ride, you can go even to the outskirts of the city on the buses. Generally, the further out you go, the poorer the neighborhoods, so ¨cuidado!¨ Most of the teachers and taxi dancers take buses too, to conserve on the cash that they make, even in-between the milongas.

The other night however, I was way too tired to do the buses, it was late, and the neighborhood a a bit ¨feo,¨ so I hopped a Radio Taxi (the most reliable company to use). My driver looked like Gabby Hayes, drove like %&"• (really fast), all the time, turning around to engage me in conversation about tango (he doesn´t like it,¨ it is too sad¨), politics here and in the USA, blah blah blah; expertly avoiding the numerous pot-holes and cross traffic, (like, not even looking at it!!), and with the aroma of alcohol on his breath! Dios Mios! What can I say, I was so tired, so just went with the flow, and it was o.k.

Tango in Argentina: Probably less than 5% of the people in BA do it, and it does not come with the genetics, (of the ones who do dance, not all are good,) the people who don´t do it, generally seem to complain about the ¨triste¨ aspect of the music, or are just to caught up with other things in their lives. The ones who DO do it, are devoted, I mean they tell you their favorite orchestras, singers, places to go; and it almost has a tribal aspect to it, shared music, shared movement, shared sentiment, shared devotion. No one EVER talks about steps. There is no ¨spontaneous¨ tango in the streets, only professionals trying to drum up money from tourists in tourist-populated areas, (very few--like Boca, which is like Fishermanś Wharf, completely touristic), no men wearing hats at milongas.
The greased hair, long side-burned, ¨piggy tail,¨ are sported by performers, teachers, and some Taxi dancers. Slit up the leg dresses are for the stage, other performers, and street entertainers. At milongasÑ 2-3 tanda rule: if you dance more than this with a leader, it means you have some kind of a relationship going or brewing, and as ladies here say (like my older friend Chi-Chi says, who never comes to a milonga without a bag of gum drops and lemon cookies, ¨two or at the most three is enough, they can have any more than that in one evening.¨) If you dance more than 3, you get hardly anyone ¨cabazeoing¨ you, they figure, somehow, you are ¨taken¨.

I have three lessons with the sweetest and really good teacher, Pablo Ugolini, who was recommended by my Danish friend. Think, very young, longer, leaner Antonio Banderas, who sings while he dances; yes ladies, poor me! Liquid brown eyes, gold earring in one ear, pig tail, side-burns, pin striped pants, AND an excellent teacher, (all in Spanish). One private, including floor fee in mirrored room is about $47, and he is booked out of Tango Escuela in Galleria Pacifico. I decided against taking classes (many offered) there for $16 pesos ($4 US), because of the quality of the leaders and not enough personal attention, and what a great choice! Iḿ not learning any ¨new steps¨, but he is tweaking my bad habits.
Tango is not about fancy steps, unless you are on the stage, and if you watch the dancing at the milongas, you quickly learn this; you are not seeing leg lifts, wraps, taps, whatever; but the beauty of well-, and passionately executed steps; this IS tango.

Which brings up Spanish, or as here, it is called ¨Castellano.¨ Thank goodness, my Spanish is good, it would be difficult to function here with English only, not impossible, but difficult; so if you are thinking of coming, better get some conversational Spanish (not the book kind--worthless). I was at the very contemporary, wonderful and large museum, MALBA, the other day, waiting outside for it to open at 11:00, with others, and there was an American couple waiting also, impatiently taping their feet, and looking disgusted, because it was 6 minutes after, and still no open doors (think ¨Ugly American.¨) When they got in, they decided to get as far as they could with out paying (I understood what they were saying in English), all of the time complaining about no translated signs in English. The tango people (non-Argentinians) are great, almost all speak some Spanish, and many speak really good Spanish, a real credit to our ¨tribe.¨

Besos from Tangolandia,

Friday, April 8, 2011

Diana Howell in Buenos Aires 2

Hola mis amigos y amigas,

Time for some quiz questions:

What is the 3rd most important thing to the Argentinian man (we already established that his ego was numero uno, y his madre was number two)?
His favorite soccer team! Yes ladies, sad, but true, it is not you. I met a guy last year, who after establishing conversation, quickly whipped out his wallet photos for me to view, and he showed me a picture of his favorite soccer team, BEFORE his family pictures.

How do you know when an Argentinian man is lying? Answer: His mouth has opened! Yes, another sad fact, most are mentirosos (liars) when it comes to the opposite sex (madre excluded, but no need to lie to her, since he is her prince anyways). Truly though, Argentinian guys are not that bad, once you accept their m.o. They are extremely charming, very flirty, and never stop trying if they are interested in romanza. Sometimes it is like they think you are a bird that they can hypnotize with those magnetic dark eyes, ¨Yo tengo novio¨ (I have a boyfriend), gets you a pause of about 10 seconds, but you can be clever enough to keep them at bay just enough to maintain interest in dancing with you, and then, the best thing is when leave alone in a taxi, after impassioned pleas to ¨drive you home.¨

Time is flying in Tangolandia, and I really donẗ do much but look for the best cafe for a cappuchino, visit museums, galleries, etc., and then it is time to get ready to tango. So many great cafes, to just hang in, and a lot of great art. I generally only get a little news in the morning at the hotel, and I love the casualness of the people towards their government,lots of time on the news, they talk about ¨Christina¨ who is actually the president of the country-Christina Kirschner. Christina this, Christina that, so I don remember news media in the US talking about ¨Barack says,¨ ¨George made an appearance,¨ or ¨Bill¨ was seen at the---.
Much healthier attitude I think, afterall, who are these guys anyways, but our supposed servants? Also, every other day, there is a large protest somewhere in the downtown area about something. Great!

People dress mostly casually for the milongas here, unless it is really a special one, guys in sport pants, serious dancers wear short sleeved shirts or pullovers a lot, longer for winter, and the pros can often be seen in a fashionable suit. Middle aged plus guys seem to favor the wad of keys hanging off the right back belt loop, good to keep out of the close-embrace side, I guess, but they look pretty decorative to me.
As Amy Lincoln (Santiago and Amy) put it, ¨women are put together nicely¨), not that they are wearing expensive jewelry, because they aren¨t, but they pay a lot of attention to the items being worn, how they are put together, accessories (important), and of course full make-up and hair in place.
Ive only seen fishnets once, they are pretty passe, except for stage work, and most ladies favor the uncovered leg. Yes, and last night I had a real fright, I was dancing with this wonderful dancer in a very elegant and expensive dark suit, really, he was the picture of elegance, and fabulous dancer. During our milonguero style tanda, he did several leg rubs on my inner leg, (I think long ago, they must have picked this up from mating civets or hedgehogs, or something), and then my brain hit the red alert button! The tanda finished, and I tried to look as discreetly as possible at his lower leg, oh Dios Mios!! I decided to use leg make-up (spray on) that night, but my Tango santa was looking after me, not a smudge on his rubby-dubby leg, what a testimonial to the product!

My Danish friend and I hooked up with Cesar, a folkloric/tango teacher, and he was kind enough to take us, plus pick up his other Columbian friend, Anna, to go to Gricel, after we left El Arranque. Of course, it was great for his image, two foreign ladies, and a georgeous Columbian in his car, he got a ¨special¨ private space right in front of the club, and strutted us in. Gricel is great place, full of atmosphere, tango oil paintings (old) on the walls, a neon (pink) sign ¨Gricel¨ over the bar at the far end of the room. We often hear the song ¨Gricel¨ at our Monterey Bay milongas, and I have the lyrics (in Spanish) if anyone is interested. It is about 10 times House of Four Winds, and Monday night is THE night to be there. Lots of the great teachers were there, non-engaged Taxi dancers, Argentinians, and a fair amount of non-Argentians, great loud music, and some really good dancers.

So the conversations at the ladieś table is the same as at home, mostly, ¨oh look, Luis is here,¨ ¨that pig Enrique just arrived,¨ ¨I want to dance with that guy in the green shirt, why wont he look this way!¨, ¨Whatś wrong with all of these guys, I want to dance, why are they sitting?¨

What I learned about arriving is this: you arrive, change shoes, order your beverage, and watch people dance, pick out the ones you would dance with, and carefully memorize the shirts of the ones that you absolutely dont like the way they dance. Try to dance your first tanda with a good dancer, so he can ¨show people that you can dance,¨ this is very important for foreigners, since you are an unknown quantity, and men shy away from this, except at the really touristy places, where they are intrigued by the foreign ladies, and some are also hoping for more than a tanda. Dont be too flattered if a guy gives you his card, he is probably a Taxi dancer hoping for some business. Argentinian women use taxi dancers too, and of course, there are female taxi dancers.

I was wondering why so many guys drink champagne at the table, in the bucket and all, until I found out that it is actually beer, and that they like it kept cold on the table and this is how they do it. You rarely see women drinking anything other than soda or mineral water, probably because falling off of 3" heels doesnt qualify as a fun experience.

Ideal was a great place in November to ¨warm-up¨ at an early milonga and then jet over to a later one, but it was really dreary yesterday, no good dancers at all, so I left and went over to Al Arranque, another early one, and then off to Gricel with the friends.

Sunday, we were at Boedo, a funny but elegantly tango place. Funny, because of the L-shaped dance floor with a 1 foot cemement barrier separating the floor, which could be a real problem if you wern familiar with the floor. The walls were all painted dark red, and there were black & white photos of the Tango greats in music, (my Fioretntino, Troillo, etc.) on the walls. It felt like a hollywood style place for that reason.
I think next week there is a live band there, so I will definitely go there. The dancers were good, and there was a French-Canadian guy from Paris, who was a very good dancer, and did a fantastico accordian performance during the cortina of some Parisian waltz music, which we all danced to. A few Argentinian guys managed to play cards in a side room.

Iḿ coming closer to finding my family here, the Columbian woman is helping me, so that is exciting for me. This week, I will go to the museum of immigration.

Hasta Luego tangueros y tangueras, time to think about getting ready to dance.

Diana Howell in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is still buzzing from the free outside concert by the Obelisque by Placido Domingo. It was to commemorate the 24th March, the beginning of the ¨dark years¨ with the Peronś. Placido sang Volver, El Dia Que Me Querias, Buenos Aires Querido, Besame Mucho, and many more, con tanto carino (with much heart), that emotions of millions of people flooded the atmosphere, y hay lagrimas por los ojos(tears in everyone´s eyes).

I caught the dance ¨super boat¨ the day I arrived, dancing 4 hours straight at a very cool milonga, El Arranque, very close to my hotel. Only one ¨pulpo¨(octopus) that I had to ignore his further cabazeos, everyone else great. Every night in BA, you look at the milonga dance publication, and choose which of the about 20 offerings that you want to go to. It lists the name of the milonga (like El Arranque), the promoter, the address, the hours of operation. People choose their milongas for the promoters (they like the music of that particular D.J.), and know the types of dancers who will be there. So, you attend a milonga for the music and the types of dancers you want to dance with. I usually ask a leader with whom I´ve enoyed dancing with, which are his favorite milongas. I also ask Argentinian women, with whom I am seated, and I see that they dance well.

Last night I went to one of my favorite milongas, Entre Tango y Tango, but it was not being so fun, because there were 40 or more extra women there. So this really nice Danish woman next to me and I started talking, and we decided to ¨jet¨ that place and go to another place that she knew that would surely have more leaders. Monterey ladies, wouldn´t that be great, if we could jet over to another milonga when there were way too many women to dance a lot at ours? That is the beauty of B.A., if your feet hold out, you can make it to 3-4 milongas.

We took a taxi over to Correo Viejo Milonga (¨Old post-office¨), and the taxi stoppped in front of what looked like a very old and abandoned building. When we got out, the small door into the building opened, and a doorman came out and greeted us, just like a speak-easy from American prohibition days. The foyer, where you pay, was seperated from the dance area by a heavy velvet drape (very common in BA), so we paid, and were escorted to a table on the ladies side of the room. It looked just like a bat cave, someone had decorated with spray painted textured greyish-green globular paint, and truly, I expected Dracula to come out and take our order! However, the raised DJ box, great speaker system (Argentinians like their music loud, so you can hear it), and somewhat annoying spot lights, lent a great atmosphere to the place, and the old tile floor (black & white) was really smooth, like pivoting on ice! The really great thing about most milongas in BA is that for ladies, there are usually seats in the foyer or bathroom, so that you can put on your shoes. Portenas (BA ladies) think it is unflattering to bend over and struggle with straps in front of potential partners. Makes sense, no?

So now, we are here, and my other new girlfriend fron the previous night´s milonga, at El Arranque (wow!, only 2 blocks from my hotel), showed up, with hugs and holas, and now it is time to dance, so begin the cabazeos.

If you don´t cabazeo (catch eye, make eye contact, validate eye contact, search eye contact, etc.), you don´t dance in BA, unless you are at a totally tourist place, and this place was only locals. Once you make eye contact, and you are sure that it is for you, I like to sit until the leader gets up to walk across the room to be in front of me, if the situation doesn´t allow for that, then you repeat the cabazeo and do several eye contacts while you are both approaching the dance floor. Believe me, there is nothing more embarassing that going to the dance floor only to find out that it was the lady behind you who got asked to dance, and in that case, the best thing to do is to keep walking like you know where you are going, (like to the bathroom or such), to deflect the awkward moment.

One Argentinian leader told me that the most important thing in the dance for the guy is to ¨marke¨ el tiempo (mark the timing), somehow, otherwise, you cannot be in the music, and if you are not in the music, you are not dancing tango. A follower follows, of course, but can mark when she does embellishments (which are few). Dancers in B.A. only really do about 5 steps, none of the other things, like gaunchos, leg wraps, volcadas, etc. Those are done on the stage.

For the guy, enrosques are very important, as well as walk, crossadas, pivots, sacadas, paradas. For the ladies, what is admired is the how smooth you are, how you are able to follow, and your eyes better be closed! Really, last year one guy kept asking me if I was SURE that my eyes were closed, I felt like I was being grilled by the FBI! They absolutely don´t want you scamming the room while you are dancing with them, it makes them ¨loose face,¨ like they are not pleasing you with their expertise of dance, etc., and nothing is more important to the Argentian male, than his ego (except for maybe, his mother). The time to scam is when you are sitting down to cabazeo. Everyone here understands that Tango is about being in the moment: that music, that time , that dancer. And everybody (mostly) understands that it goes on for the dance only, nada mas (nothing more),so when the tanda ends, so does that chapter in tango time. Also, no one has conversation during the dance, that is for in between the songs, and really, it makes sense, right, how can you be in the moment with the dance and blah, blah, blah? No es possible! The conversation in between songs is of the ¨light¨variety, usually. Cortinas are to ¨re-assemble¨, and I like to be re-escorted at least half-way to my table, if not the whole way.
I think the big thing you notice here, is that everyone is enjoying the music, and it binds us all together; the music is the first level, the dancing is the second, and the personalities of the dancers is the least important. So, after my Danish friend and I danced with everyone we wanted to dance with, we left, our dancing feet satisfied.

Oh, news flash! I saw Oscar and a very pregnant Georgina weaving their magic at Entre Tango y Tango last night. They looked very happy!

More later, I am off to partake in more of my Atkin´s Diet---nice Argentinian steak lunch.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Flyer that Monica and Chan give to the participants at their practica in Buenos Aires

Welcome to “PractiMilonguero,” a place where you obtain the information and experience necessary to prepare to go to the traditional milongas in Buenos Aires.

Here we exclusively dance milonguero style tango. We learn to respect the codes of milongas, such as:

- We dance with a warm, respectful and close embrace.

- We follow the line of dance in a counter-clockwise direction.

- We try not to step backwards.

- We do not lift our feet too high from the floor so that we avoid hitting other dancers.

- We invite women to dance through the classic "Cabeceo del caballero” (man’s eye contact).

- We respect the rest of dancers present to enjoy the social dance.

Please note that if you don’t respect these codes you may not be able to dance in PractiMilonguero.
Thank you very much and enjoy the dance!
Mónica y Chan
Endorsed by Norma and Héctor of “Cachirulo”)

See more at:

PractiMilonguero presents Omar "Chiche" Ruberto

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Enterview to Ricardo "Tito" Franquelo by Practimilonguero

A must see:

Best regards,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Embellishments. An Approach to its Comprehension.

Article written by Olga Besio for the Asociación de Maestros, Bailarines y Coreógrafos de Tango Argentino. Translated by Jocelyn Guizar.

In order to talk about embellishment – and how to support everything that may come about in effect – we should, in the first place, consider the origins of the essence and existence of the tango and the tango danza.

It is necessary to clarify that the word danza has a meaning that connotes far more than technique. Far to the contrary, the most ample and general sense of the word refers to all forms of danza (in a particular sense) and dance, and alludes to the most natural, the most primitive, the most remote, most visceral, and even most animal aspect of being human. This allusion is anterior to, in a historic as well as chronological sense, all conception of technique.

If we understand danza as a profoundly natural happening, that is, born with the human being – and we speak this way about popular dance, in which tango is perhaps our most intrinsic example – then all which is superfluous is immediately rejected.

Then, what is tango? What we all already know: a dance for two, a profound communication with the other and with the music, and…, and… and we “discover” in this way the idea of a dialogue. The dialogue of a dance couple, the dialogue with the music, the dialogue between the feet and the feet with the floor, drawing the famous ochos and thousands of things more – and, if it is called for, the dialogue between the feet and the legs with the air, drawing, with precision, boleos with clearly defined forms, created and recreated every time.

But, what does “adornment” consist of, also referred to as – hereafter – “embellishment”, “expressivity”…? The embellishment consists upon, precisely, expressing the essence of tango. It serves nothing to perform embellishments by means of technical procedure, if it is not truly understood “what it’s all about”. The legs of the (Female) dancer (and ATTENTION: also the ones of the (Male) dancer) are equivalent to one tango couple. They embrace, they come together, they dialogue, they cares… technically, this is fulfilled by means of a game of rotation of the articulations. This game of rotations must not be taken as something coldly technical, but instead as something absolutely natural and logical, as natural and as logical as language. The legs “express”, “are expressive”, when they have a language; not solely when they move.

In this way, we finish dispelling various myths:

- One, is that which says embellishments are “movements that one should learn to do” or “copy”. In no way is this true. Learning technique is of the upmost importance, but it alone is not enough. There are marvelous dancers that perform embellishments with true emotion, but we also see, unfortunately, the mere repetition of movements or copies of such or such dancer, without having truly understood their essence; in these cases, the “original” dancer is generally excellent, and the copies result as inconsequential, and sometimes unpleasing or even grotesque.

- Another, says that embellishment is merely “a woman’s doing”. In no way is this true. Embellishment is all that the man and/or the woman does without interfering with demarcation, or the step, figure, sequence, etc., including, with exactitude, the music and without producing any sort of vibration or yanking. For this, it is absolutely necessary for one to know how to uptake and follow, and to have a very good musical ear. (I always tell my students that a partner needs only find out that their partner does embellishments when they are watched on video. This happened to a famous dancer, who one day saw himself dancing with his partner and discovered that she embellished, and the reason why she received so many compliments.)

- Another: the one that says that “in order for the woman to adorn, the man must give her time”. This is only valid when choreography is concerned. But in improvised tango, it is in the intelligence, in the ability, in the tangueridad of the woman, to know if it corresponds, and in the affirmative case when, how, and what embellishment or type of embellishment is most adequate in each given circumstance. Of course, if the (Female) dancer has little experience it is not advised that she attempts it at a milonga; for that there are classes and practicas.

- One more: speaking of musical ear and musicality, some dancers (or apprentices) consider it enough to “listen to the rhythm”. Others, more advanced or exquisite, speak of “dancing the phrase”. We must clarify that this is not enough; it is necessary to understand the melody and particular expressivity of each musical piece, of every arrangement, of every version… And in this sense, the musicality that the dancers need goes much further than that of recognizing the “rhythm”, the “measure”, the “strong beat”, the “weak beat”, the “counter-time” and all those things which we habitually hear about (sometimes mixed around or confused). The musicality that is required is a very language that can be translated, that can invent and create over and over and a thousand times more the emotion, the compositional structure, the essence of this work in particular, and that this man and this woman have the good fortune of getting to dance this here and now.

- Lastly, it is necessary to mention that the embellishment isn’t limited to movement, and also is not limited to the feet and/or legs – these are perhaps simply the most visible - it is open to the entire body, it is an attitude, a quietude, the closing of the eyes, a pause, a succession of velocity changes and many other things that may and often times do need to be worked out technically, methodologically, but most definitively express the love and passion of dancing tango as each and every dancer and couple is capable of feeling.

Monday, January 10, 2011