Archive for May, 2010

A good week

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

On Monday I proclaimed I was on a roll. Things were going well and could only keep getting better. I walked up Av. Scalabrini Ortiz on Monday night to Salón Canning feeling cocky and pretty damn pleased with myself.

Expecting that it might be busy because of the bicentenary holiday weekend I had telephoned and made a reservation. When I arrived the host gave me a front row seat, although it was in a corner so not as good as it could have been. By about 00:30 the place was full, the first time I’ve seen it that busy since I arrived in April. There were lots of porteños and long term visitors in, very few obvious tourists. For the first 2 hours or so I had a really good time, my cabeceos were accepted and I danced reasonably well. The floor was never less than very crowded. There was the obligatory demonstration dance followed by the singing of the national anthem.

And then it was like someone had dropped Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility over me. After a couple of hours with no dancing I gave up and left.

I didn’t go out to dance on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday nights. On Wednesday I went to El Beso. It was a very quiet night, only about 50 people with a slight excess of leaders. It wasn’t a good night for me. I danced one tanda and then most of the rest of the night became an exercise in frustration. I danced just 3 tandas in total.

My private lesson on Thursday with Maya went well. Lots more milonga and a little bit of tango.

On Saturday night I went to Los Consagrados again. I arrived just after 7pm and was given a second row seat half way down the leaders side of the floor. The guy in front of me left before 8pm so I effectively had a front row seat for most of the night. In contrast to Wednesday night I danced almost every tanda. In the 4 hours from 7pm until 11pm I think I sat out about 3 tandas, in each case through choice. I even danced a reasonable milonga tanda which included my favourite “la milonga que faltaba”. A certain person will be delighted!

In other news, I had a little sight-seeing outing on Wednesday to Calle Lanin. In the Barracas barrio of Buenos Aires, Calle Lanin is a short street where the house fronts have been decorated with tile mosaics. They’re quite colourful but not really in the same league as Caminito in Boca. Or maybe they’re just in a different league. There are some pictures in my sightseeing and Calle Lanin sets at Flickr.

Most remarkable of all this week, I actually made a little bit of an effort on the castellano front. It’s somewhat overdue since I’m nearly 2 months in and only have 4 months left here, but better late than never.

So overall, a good week. 

It’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK and the start of half-term. True to form the weather there wasn’t brilliant today. The forecasters predict better for Sunday and Monday, so for my friends back in the UK I hope they’re right.

An exercise in frustration

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

The music starts. It is the first track of the new tanda. Classify it quickly and make a dance/don’t dance decision. If it’s dance then get busy with the cabeceo.

Your first choice is giving the mirada to one of the tango gods (the old milongueros who are recognised by sight, if not by name, by everyone and who can dance with pretty much whoever they want, whenever they want). Probably half the followers in the milonga are doing the same thing. Tango god is ignoring them all, happily chatting with his friend. At least this night there is only one tango god in attendance. If he decides to dance he can only dance with one of the followers at a time. If there are 3 of them in attendance then mere mortals like you have a proportionally harder time.

You switch your attention to your second choice and see her complete the cabeceo with one of your rivals.

Your third choice is obscured by a.n.other follower sat next to her and leaning forward to catch tango god’s eye.

A quick check on your first choice and she is standing up to step onto the pista, her leader waiting in front of her.

Your fourth choice is obscured by a couple already on the pista. Time is marching on, cabeceos complete, contracts made, the pool of available followers is diminishing by the second. And you’re only 5 seconds into this tanda!

Your fifth and sixth choices are already on their feet and out of the game.

Now, 10 seconds into the tanda 80% of the dancers in the room are on their feet. The dregs and those who chose not to dance are left sitting and you’re one of them. There are a couple of extreme shorties but you’re still exercising a height-ist partner selection policy, there’s a miserable looking sourpuss slouched in her seat who no-one has danced with all evening and a few in pairs or small groups chatting to each other having given up on this tanda and waiting for the next round.

So what do you do? Act nonchalant, pretend that you didn’t really want to dance this tanda. Make the most of the time: listen to the music, watch the dancers, learn and absorb as much as possible. Or order another drink, munch some peanuts or Tic Tacs, visit the little boys’ room, dream about being a tango god, plan tomorrow’s photo outing, …

This exercise in frustration is exacerbated by the excess of leaders present but the situation improves a bit when tango god decides it’s time to move on to the next milonga of the night.

Obviously this is written from a leader’s perspective but a similar experience can befall followers too. Potentially it could be repeated for every tanda of the night.

On a roll

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I had a really good weekend of dancing; Saturday night at Los Consagrados, and Sunday at Sueño Portenõ and El Beso.

The bicentennial celebrations have been playing havoc with the traffic in downtown Buenos Aires. The bus ride to Los Consagrados took about twice as long as usual so I arrived later than normal. The hostess was about to park me in a corner seat at the far end of the dance floor. It wouldn’t have been a good place to sit. Fortunately Ruben saw us on the way past and invited me to join him. It’s always a pleasure to sit at Ruben y Cherie’s table – good company and good dancing. My castellano still hasn’t advanced to the point that I can have a conversation with Ruben, and Cherie was feeling a bit unwell and wasn’t there on Saturday, but they always have guests at their table and this night was no exception. Those guests are usually extranjeros, often English speakers and always friendly.

My dancing got off to a bit of a slow start but picked up nicely. About an hour before the end, as the numbers started to thin out, I moved to a table with a free seat about half way along the pista for a better cabeceo position. I’ve seen the guy sat at the table several times and assumed he was a local. It turned out he’s another Brit and has been living here for several years. He came for a holiday and “forgot” to go home.

The bus ride home was more twisty and turny than Blackadder’s most devious twisty turny thing. Lots of roads were closed and I had the impression the driver was making it up as he went along. It took even longer than the journey to get there and would almost have been quicker to walk.

On Sunday I tried Sueño Porteño at Boedo Tango. I’ve only been there on a Wednesday before, when it is always very busy. I wasn’t sure what the numbers would be like because of the bicentennial celebrations and because of the torrential rain that started at about 6pm. I don’t know all the locations in the city where there are special celebration events so decided to use el Subte (subway) instead of los colectivos (buses), figuring the journey time would be unaffected by any road closures. When I arrived a bit before 7:30pm it was only about one quarter to one third full. My friend arrived a little while later and we actually got a front row table. I guess they reached about half capacity by the time we left at midnight. By then I’d danced lots, watched an enthusiastic amateur bicentennial celebration dance by some of the regulars and sampled the Boedo Tango pizza. There are a few photos from the evening in my  milongas set at Flickr (and also a couple from the chacarera tanda at los Consagrados on Saturday).

While waiting for the bus home I got an invite by text to El Beso. The night was still young, there was still 3 hours of dancing to be had at El Beso so I went. When I arrived it was standing room only. Standing at the bar gave me much better cabeceo options than I’d had from a seat on Thursday night and I danced lots.

My first dance was with a French girl, Octavia, who arrived just a couple of days ago and is here for 6 months. I commented recently on Mari’s “Proper” tango shoes post that I don’t care what shoes a follower is wearing so long as we have a good dance. We danced a good tanda and afterwards I noticed that she was wearing an eye-catching pair of silver and black 4″ stilettos. No, I haven’t a clue whether they were CIFs or Payless. I really, really don’t care. The point is they caught my eye and I watched her dance part of the first tango of the next tanda. When I’m not dancing and not trying to cabeceo someone I spend a lot of time watching the dancers’ feet. Dancers will know what I mean. She had the most beautiful feet I have ever seen. Ever. Period. Dancers will know what I mean.

Anyway I stayed until closing time and rode home on the number 12 colectivo, buzzing after 2 really good nights of dancing. It feels like I’ve turned a bit of a corner after being here nearly 7 weeks. It feels comfortable, the crisis of confidence I had a few weeks ago a distant memory. I’m ready to learn new stuff, to improve (and maybe it will rub off on my castellano efforts too). I’m on a roll.