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!