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Happy Tango update

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Happy Tango second edition

My friend, Sally, has updated her essential guidebook to dancing tango in Buenos Aires – Happy Tango. Two and a half years ago I reported that the first edition had been seen in the wild. Now the second edition is available in paper and (even better from my perspective) ebook formats.

If you already know about the book and can’t wait to buy it the following links will take you directly to the relevant page on Amazon

If you don’t know what all the fuss is about you can find out more at the book’s website.

And if you haven’t got a Kindle and fancy one, try this link.

End of an addiction?

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

I’ve been back in Buenos Aires since 9 January. The city is hot and sticky, the milongas crowded and I’m hardly dancing at all. Somewhere in Patagonia my already shaky tango mojo decided to disappear altogether. Perhaps it jumped ship down in Antarctica. I don’t know where or when, I didn’t actually see it sneak off. I came back to Pax hostel again, collected my tango gear from the friend I’d left it with and went to a milonga. And didn’t dance. I listened to the music, watched the dancers, and didn’t dance.

I felt distinctly rusty in November, even more so in January. Could classes help? I scoured the tango blogs and any other sources I could find for recommendations for group classes. Checked out a few teachers through videos of them on Youtube (not ideal but gives an idea of what their classes might be like) and went to a couple of classes to chcck them out in person. My opinion of group classes here in Buenos Aires has always been that they’re too random. You never know if you’ll get the advertised teacher, what level they’ll pitch the class at, how many people will be there or what the balance of leaders and followers will be. Private lessons are just too expensive. The group classes I enjoyed most and found most useful were the Carlos Perez ones at Club Sunderland on Monday and Wednesday evenings. They’re just walking. That’s it, just walking. The level of interest and involvement from the teacher was minimal however. The classes last about 30 minutes and are followed by a practica. By practica time there seems to always be a few more leaders than followers and people have their favourites to practise with.  I just didn’t feel like practising.

A dear tanguera friend joined me here for a couple of weeks at the end of January. My mojo improved with her encouragement but my enthusiasm failed to return. In the past when my confidence has been lacking I have still been enthusiastic. Since she went home I’ve been to only a handful of milongas and averaged about one tanda at each. The passion I felt for tango before leaving the UK a year ago has disappeared. Dancing it is not bringing me joy. So there’s not much to keep me in Buenos Aires at the moment.

My plans for 2012 were predicated on a couple of factors, one of  them being tango. Time for another re-think.

El Boliche de Roberto

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

I stayed at Pax hostel for my three weeks in Buenos Aires. Knowing of my interest in tango one of the staff recommended a night out at El Boliche de Roberto. So on my last night in tango Mecca for a few weeks I invited a couple of friends to join me there. Unfortunately they’d already made plans to go to an Estaban Morgado concert. Undeterred I gave Roberto’s a try anyway.

 

El Boliche de Roberto is a tiny bar in Almagro with live tango music most nights of the week. There’s no dancing. Rather in the style of Gardel, this is music for listening to. All I “knew” before going was it draws a mostly young crowd, almost exclusively locals, and to get there early if I wanted a seat. The address is Bulnes 331, across the street from Plaza Almagro. When I arrived I thought I recognised the murals on the wall outside and that I’d walked past it once or twice last year. Possibly I did, but when I checked my photos I couldn’t find one of Roberto’s. The trouble is there are a few Gardel/Troilo murals around.

 

The bar is about 4m x 8m with half a dozen tables and a tiny raised stage area for the performers. Two of the walls are lined with ancient photos in dusty frames, two with wooden shelves packed with cobweb covered bottles of unknown contents. The bar has existed since 1894, the dust and cobwebs look about a century old. I got there stupidly early by Buenos Aires standards – about 9:30pm – and grabbed a seat. Over the next hour the middle aged and older portenos propping up the bar were replaced by much younger versions and all the seats were occupied. Inside the bar were maybe 30 people, about two thirds seated, the rest standing at the bar. Perhaps twice as many spilled onto the pavement outside. So far as I could tell they were all locals and mostly in their twenties. Inside I recognised a couple of the younger tangueros that frequent the tourist and nuevo milongas.

 

It wasn’t until midnight that there was any indication that there would indeed be some live music. One of the tangueros I recognised, all face fuzz and scruffy tied up hair, wielding an acoustic guitar stepped onto the “stage”. A girl I didn’t recognise accompanied him. It would be nice to say an expectant hush descended on the crowd but it didn’t. They carried on loud conversations until the guitarist started playing and the singer launched into a painfully sad, melancholic sounding tango. The noise level went down a bit, but not much. After the first tango the singer asked for silence, explained that there was no amplification and with the doors and windows open for summer, more traffic noise. The crowd, especially those leaning on the bar didn’t hear or had been taking lessons in rudeness from the Chinese; conversations continued and the noise level hardly diminished at all. The performers soldiered on regardless. The singer had a lovely voice but needed a bigger set of lungs or an amplifier to be better heard or simply a more polite audience. There were many corazons and bandoneons and some tears but not much else I could pick out of the lyrics. There was no mistaking the feeling in them though. The first set lasted half an hour and I decided not to hang around to see if there would be more and if the audience might be better behaved.