Archive for May, 2010

Diary entry

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
It’s been quite a varied week or so on the tango front with 7 milongas in 8 nights. I’ve been to the gym just about every other day, still not doing enough on the Spanish/castellano, and generally lazing around.
Last Friday I started the night at Salón Canning. It was about ¾ full and I danced a lot, with tourists (a group of girls from Texas and another group from Brisbane) and porteñas. When the last of the tall followers left just before closing time (4am) I gave up and walked the 3 blocks or so to La Viruta where there is free admission after about 3:30am. I don’t seem to do well on getting dances at La Viruta so only danced a couple of tandas and munched my way through a plate of medialunas which they serve from about 4:30am. After 30 minutes of not dancing I called it a night and left just after 5:30am. It was tempting to stay until the end because there is a panaderia on the corner of Armenia and Honduras – which I pass on the way home – which opens at 6am and which serves all sorts of deliciousness. Being a bit of a PC addict there was the obligatory email, facebook and blog checking when I got home so it was 7am before I finally got to bed.
I must be getting old, late nights like this wipe me out for the “next” day. By the time I got up it was nearly time to head out to Saturday’s milonga of choice – Los Consagrados. I danced quite a lot and if it hadn’t been such a late one the night before would have liked to go on to Boedo Tango or Salón Canning in search of more dancing.
On Monday I was back at an only ½ full Salón Canning and apparently wearing Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. Not a single dance in nearly 3 hours despite a front row seat.
On Wednesday orchestra Los Reyes del Tango played at La Garufa. I had heard they were good so went along to hear for myself. There are a few new photos in the milongas set at Flickr. Unlike a month earlier when ColorTango played at the same place there was a much smaller turnout – only about 50 people. I kept thinking more would arrive, and maybe the orchestra did too because they didn’t play until about 2am. They sounded OK to me but I preferred ColorTango. With such a small crowd height-ism wasn’t really working in my favour and I didn’t dance much but the tandas I did were good. Sonya was there again and we spent quite a lot of time chatting about the multitude of group classes on offer every week.
I’ve been here for 6 weeks without a visit to El Beso, so on Thursday night I corrected that. The place was not quite full when I arrived at about 10pm; there were 3 empty tables in 2 of the corners. A corner seat isn’t ideal for the cabeceo, especially when only targeting the taller followers, and I danced less than I wanted but had some nice dances.
Last night I went back to Entre tango y tango. Numbers were down on a month ago and once again there were more leaders than followers. Combined with my height-ism policy on followers the result was again fewer dances than I wanted.
My private lesson with Maya on Thursday went well again. As planned we spent most of the time concentrating on milonga. During a lesson like this I can switch between patterns and dance something not too boring for my partner. But as soon as I’m at an actual milonga my brain does a goldfish impression and everything goes out of my head. Maya is going to Europe for a few weeks soon and I’ll be switching to lessons from Ruben y Cherie. No prizes for guessing what we’ll be concentrating on.
One of the other things I mentioned in that post was the free drink at Niño Bien. I made some enquiries whether the same policy applies anywhere else. Apparently it doesn’t and it only happens at Niño Bien. Shame!
By presidential decree it’s a long (4-day) holiday weekend here in Argentina, to celebrate the bicentenary of the revolution in 1810 that lead to independence from Spain. There are all sorts of cultural events planned in various locations around Buenos Aires (and presumably elsewhere). Rather like a holiday weekend in the UK the weather forecast isn’t brilliant but hopefully if the promised rain arrives it won’t disrupt things too much. When I was here in December there was a big outdoor tango event planned for one Saturday evening which was cancelled because of rain…
Since I’ve mentioned the weather now I might as well add that the days of me sitting out on the balcony after breakfast (ie: somewhere between about 11am and 2pm) grabbing a few rays appear to be over. There are fewer sunny days now and the temperature is falling. Not really surprising since the trees are losing their leaves and we are well into autumn now.

Why so many?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Since coming to Buenos Aires I’ve had a lot of free time. OK, not just a lot, actually all my time is free time. I don’t have to do anything at all and I do only what I choose to and when. It’s an incredibly fortunate position to be in. One of the things I’ve been doing with some of that time is reading blogs, especially tango blogs.

Tango bloggers write on every imaginable topic. The tango-related posts generally fall into 2 main categories, which I think of as technical and observational. For some reason there are a lot of blogging tango dancers. By which I mean there are a large number, and (I believe) also a higher proportion of blogging tango dancers than blogging dancers of (many) other dance styles. I don’t have statistics to support my assertion, and if I did then a sensible reader would take them with a pinch of salt anyway. Do your own research if you feel so inclined but to save you a few seconds here are some completely non-scientific search results from you-know-whoogle –

Obviously the number of hits on a search phrase including a dance style and the word blog is not the number of actual blogs about that dance style. However I think we can infer something from the relative numbers of hits and the relative numbers of dancers of each dance style.
I’ve been wondering what it is about tango dancers that seems to predispose them to blogging. Maybe they’re we’re (after all, I am one too) creative people. Well hang on, so are dancers of other styles. Maybe we’re passionate. What, and other dancers aren’t? Maybe we’re egotistical? What, and other dancers aren’t? Maybe we’re more of those things? Could it be that we’re just a caring, sharing bunch of people? Perhaps there aren’t really (proportionally or absolutely) more tango dancers’ blogs, it just seems like it because those are the ones I like to read.

I really don’t know. There was one search I tried which produced a (considerably) larger number of hits than “tango blog” –

Ugh! Shudder!

There are links to some of those tango blogs in a panel on the right hand side of this page. Those are the ones I read often. There are many others I read occasionally. I may add a page containing links to them all (because the web really needs that redundancy!) at some point.

My reasons for blogging are given in my first post. If you’re one of my friends who suggested I start this blog then I encourage you to go on a link-hopping expedition. Don’t be surprised if you spend a big chunk of time in the process.

Back to my assertion. What do you think? Are there really “more” tango bloggers, and if so, why?

Crisis of confidence

Friday, May 14th, 2010

I’ve not had much to say on the subject of tango in the last couple of weeks. There were several nights when I didn’t go out, and some when I went out but didn’t dance much or even at all. The reason was a crisis of confidence. It wasn’t the first and may not be the last. Happily I seem to have overcome it.

I have tried a couple of new (for me) milongas this week; loca! at Chalmers Club on Sunday and La Catedral on Tuesday. 

The loca! venue at Chalmers Club is rather nice, a bit like Práctica X but not so cavernous and with a proper bar and food available. The floor is polished concrete tiles, not as slippery as Práctica X and with a few rough spots. The dancers were mostly young, in groups and very good. Not quite as intimidating for me as Práctica X but close. I went with Maria, a porteña friend, and we both enjoyed it.

La Catedral was an experience! It’s on the first (or second if you’re American etc.) floor of a converted church. It had a distinctly bohemian feel. It was very dark with a high stage at the end you enter, a medium size dance floor with settees/couches down one side and rough tables and chairs on the other, a larger seating area at the far end and a bar beyond that. There was a separate room behind the wall with the settees which had tables and chairs and comfy seating and a bar serving food and drinks. Most of the people were in groups, having a night out with friends. There wasn’t really much dancing going on and some of that was truly appalling. I saw several leaders attempting very badly to lead moves they couldn’t lead to followers who couldn’t follow them. The dance floor was wood, very uneven and not somewhere you’d really want to be wearing stilettos (although a few brave followers were). I saw one guy dancing who obviously knew the music inside out, back-to-front and upside-down. He was hitting every accent in every tango but so over-doing it that he looked completely crazy. The music from the DJ was pretty good. There were 2 live acts, the first was so bad I thought it had to be a joke (but the locals enjoyed it) and the second, an orchestra, were quite good. It was far too dark to use the cabeceo, strictly verbal invitations instead. You can probably tell it made a bit of an impression on me. Somewhere interesting to see but not somewhere I’ll hurry back to. There are a couple of pictures in my milongas set at Flickr.

On Wednesday I went to Sueño Porteño again and managed to get my confidence back. Lots of dancing and even a compliment from a porteña – so much better than a “disculpe” and having them walk off mid-tanda! I enforced my blatant height-ist policy and enjoyed all my dances.

My private lesson with Maya yesterday afternoon went well. I think next week I’ll ask if we can concentrate on milonga. I really struggle with milonga tracks, usually getting stuck in a pattern and unable to get out of it. The result is I’m likely to bore my partner to death long before the end of the track, never mind the tanda. There is one particular milonga track I hear here quite often which I really like, it’s called “la milonga que faltaba” and reminds me of watching Bonanza on TV on Saturday afternoons as a kid. There are lots of videos using it on YouTube, this was the first one on the list. I have a couple of tanguera friends from home, Jo and Sam, who are coming out here in August. It will be nice if I can dance a half decent milonga tanda with them, hopefully including this track.

I planned to go to Nuevo Chiqué at Casa de Galicia after my lesson, then get something to eat and go on to Niño Bien. In the end I was hungry after the lesson and decided to skip Nuevo Chiqué and eat in instead.

It’s obvious from the number of people in the (tourist-circuit) milongas that we’re out of tourist season. A month ago Niño Bien was full, last night it was only about three quarters full. And there were more men than women. I heard one tanguero complaining that May and June are dead months. Height-ism reigned again and it was another good night for me. And I made an interesting discovery – the entrada at Niño Bien includes a free drink. Simply exchange your entrance ticket for your first drink order. Why did no one tell me that before? I don’t know if the same thing applies elsewhere but I’ll be finding out! If you happen to know other places this applies feel free to comment…

Enjoy the weekend!