Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Gimme......

I do not understand the need to "make" someone dance with you. It just goes against what a social dance should be to my mind. Two recent events have spurred this thought and title of this post, which reminds me of a two year old demanding something they can't have....

A little while ago the final Tango de los Muertos happened in Boston, and it was a glorious time! One of the themes of the night milongas was "Disguised" and a friend of mine was so looking forward to this theme because they were planning on completely disguising themselves so that they could get dances with those whom they do not normally dance. The plan was that my friend was going to "make dancers who never dance with me to dance with me". I am not sure how exactly they thought this would work out. I asked why on earth would one actively seek out a dance with someone who does not wish to dance with them, why not look to new people whom one might be more compatible with. The response was "I've been dancing xx years, they should dance with me!"

We discussed the differences in style, preferences, etc. But my friend would not budge - this was the opportunity to "make" someone dance with them. How did that work? Not so well, despite completely disguising their appearance, the intended prey eluded being cornered into a dance. And instead of focusing on the dances that were available and interested, all the focus was on what they could not have. Which made for a miserable night I was told. My comment of "I told you so" was not very well received....

Then I had an experience of being on the quarry end of this odd behaviour. There is a leader who regularly chides me for not dancing with him. Now, if he opened a dialogue at a practica (which he rarely attends), that would be different. But instead he tries to guilt trip me at milongas for turning him down, he even went to the point of saying to me "I will stop asking you to dance if you don't accept me soon!" The thing is, he never asks me why I don't accept his invitation, it is always a rather pointed accusation that I refuse him. If he asked, I would tell him that his embrace is very uncomfortable and restrictive for me, so I don't dance with him. But he has never asked, just throws barbs. Which I could care less about and is not exactly enticing me to accept next time.

Then I had a birthday dance, and he cut in. After the birthday dance, he came over to me and said "See, you should dance with me! I don't want to only get to dance with you when you have a birthday dance! You should give me another shot!"

I don't want to. The ten seconds I danced with him were restrictive and unpleasant. And I should not have to become a bitch in order for him to accept that just as it is his prerogative to ask for a dance, it is a followers prerogative to decline. I don't understand this obsessive behavior with some people towards dancing with people with whom it is not a mutually enjoyable experience. I am not saying that you must dance only on your "level" - that is not a helpful choice in growing the community. But focusing only on the unattainable seems like masochism to me. In all of the cities that I dance in, there are leaders whom I am friendly with but either they do not ask me, or I do not accept dances from them. And in most cases, this is ok, we can be friendly off the dance floor even though we do not meet on the dance floor.

Choosing a dance partner for a tanda is very personal for me, and if I know or believe that a pairing will not be enjoyable on any level, then why go through that? And the same for someone who chooses or does not choose to dance with me. I want to feel tango joy from my partner, not frustration or reluctance.

Friday, October 16, 2009

little mini breakups

"You don't want to break up yet. Right?

Possibly the best question I have ever been asked during a cortina.

Ending the dance with someone really can be like a little mini break up. In all the different aspects of a breakup. Sometimes you know that even though you are breaking up, you will get back together later that night. Sometimes you know that this relationship was a complete and utter mistake, and it is better that you both part ways. Other times it is bittersweet, you know that neither of you can take any more, but the time you had was so sweet and perfect. And sometimes it is better if you are just friends.

The tandas that we have are relationships. They are connections that either happen or don't. And when they do happen, they can be anything from playful to sweet to melancholy to intense. No connection is the same, and no connection can be recreated, even if you go back for more at another time, or if you have a "regular" thing.

Maybe that is why it all seems so personal. Who we like to dance with, who asks us to dance, who we want to dance with. Perhaps that is also why jealousy is such an issue in the tango world. We can't bear the thought that someone else is feeling either something different, or something stronger, than we do.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Restless

Has it really been 2 months since I wrote anything?? I guess it has....
How bizarre...

It is not as though nothing has happened. Stuff has happened. I am back at work. Back at school. Organizing tango. Dancing tango. Life and love. And yet every time I think I should write a post, words fail me.

I feel restless. I have been in the same place for quite awhile now, and I am not used to that. The amount of travel that we are doing helps, but it does not change the fact that I feel restless. As is Sorin. Which makes things even more interesting. I want to travel to Europe. I want to go back to BA.

I am home alone this weekend, Sorin is off to Princeton Festival while I have something special happening tomorrow night (I'll write about it Sunday, please hold your thumbs for me that I won't make a fool of myself). And if you are in Boston, please come to Saturday's Tango Paradiso and give me a hug of encouragement around 11:45-ish...

There are some interesting projects in the making, which I will talk about once they are up and going, I don't want to jinx them. But I am hoping that the new projects, which are in addition to all the other projects I have going on (hell, we sleep when we are dead, right???) will help to calm the gypsy in me who is poking at my sides rather insistently.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Re-Integration

Things I no longer have to do:

- Flag down the colectivo. Here, the buses stop if you are at the bus stop! How delightful!
I flagged down the bus as I went into the center today, and the driver explained to me that I did not have to do that, he would stop at all bus stops if someone was there. I felt like an idiot. But it became second nature to step to the curb and raise my hand when I saw a bus coming towards me.

- Speak Spanish. Went into the grocery story and asked the lady at the service counter "Donde esta el bano?" She spoke Spanish, so it was not too embarrassing. But after she told me where (in Spanish), she asked me where I was from "Estados Uni.......dos....... doh!" I answered.....I then explained I had spent the last two months in Argentina and was not used to speaking English to people at service counters. And come to think of it, I was not used to service counters! She laughed, thought it was funny, and complimented my accent.

- Hoard coins. I was trying to figure out how to not give the bus my quarters, since I did not have a dollar bill, and then I remembered - it's ok. The US government makes lots of the little shiny discs. I did not need to hoard them to myself. I could feel free to spend them.

- Line dry clothes - my drier and I have become bosom buddies again... I love my drier. And I am not ashamed to admit it! And I have a feeling I will enjoy ironing again now that I do not have t spread a towel on the table to iron Sorin's shirts. But it is 80 degrees today and humid, so no ironing today. That will be another day's joy.

Re-Insertion

So, re-insertion into Boston. Not the pain and suffering I had been warned about. I wonder if it is worse for leaders than followers....

I think that the key is to not expect your home community to be Buenos Aires, or to compare it to Buenos Aires. That is not fair, there is no possible way your home tango could stand up to Buenos Aires. Mecca is Mecca and no place else can come close. So to constantly compare the two can only lead to disappointment and depression. In my mind anyway. Maybe that is a bit Pollyanna of me, but it is how I am approaching this re-acclimation.

Regardless, I ended up dancing the entire night of my first milonga back in Boston, and with only one exception (which was my fault for not watching the leader dance before I accepted, considering I did not know him) - each dance was really enjoyable. I discovered that there was a whole new layer to each leader that I did not hear before. And I was able to be more interactive, also it seemed like I had oodles of time as I stepped. Remember when you were a beginner and it seemed that there was no time to do anything other than step? And even that seemed rushed? Well, now I feel almost languorous at times, as though there was all the time in the world in between beats. It really was a lovely night. I did not get to dance with everyone that I wanted to, but that is ok - I will get to dance with them soon I am sure. :o)

I also really enjoyed being the Shoe fairy - it was like handing out bundles of happiness in satin bags. :o) I have two more shoes to give out, and I am so looking forward to their expressions as well!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Transitioning back

Back in Boston.

It is so strange to realize that our adventures in Buenos Aires are at an end. We are back home, back in the summer humid heat, and answering the same questions from everyone. Which I do not mind at all, but it is a little surreal.

I have started several posts about being back, and all fell flat. I think I will do segments of reflection as opposed to one long talk back about our time there.

The transition back has not been as abrupt for me as it has been for Sorin, but I think our expectations both for Buenos Aires and for our return are different.

Tonight I pass out the shoes to all the women whom I bought for. It should be a fun, squeeling-ful night. :-) There is nothing like the balm of new shoes to soothe whistful thoughts of another time and place.
:-)

More soon....

Monday, July 27, 2009

One of these days, I'll understand the humour.... I hope...

It is Monday, my last Monday in Buenos Aires. 4 more night here, precious little time to waste.
Which is precisely, I feel, why I am not in Canning right now. Where I should be.
It is because the universe has a sense of irony that is well past my puny level of understanding.

I realized that we were out of toilet paper. So I figured I would run to the pharmacia before going to Canning and buy a roll. On my way back from the pharmacia, as I closely watched a group of three kids who looked vaguely up to nothing, which in my book always means something, I stepped on what looked like a solid piece of sidewalk. Instead, it was far from a solid piece of anything, and it was resting one edge on a bare centimeter of earth. Beneath the precariously perched sidewalk section was about a 4 inch drop. Perfect for a really good ankle twisting. Which is exactly what I did. And as I fell the three youths rushed to my side. To offer aid. As I swore in English, Italian and German (because one language is never enough in these situations), the kids helped me up, picked up my toilet paper for me, and one pointed to a huge pile of dog poop that I miraculously did not fall into. I thanked them, they asked if I was ok, I said "Mas o menos" which they thought was hilarious. With every step home my left ankle screamed at me and I muttered the F bomb in response. So here I sit - ice on ankle and glass of wine in hand. And Sorin is out of credits, so he is unreachable by cell. Of course.....

So what else am I going to do but finish one of the posts that I had started. Along with the glass of wine of course.....

*****

It is now the time when I am saying "This is the last _____". Which is sad. I am also starting to say goodbyes. Which is even sadder.
Sunday night was my last Glorieta - and I so love that place. The air had a definite nip to it, there was a humidity to the cold that was not really present until the middle of last week. But there were people there regardless. I had a wonderful time. Enjoyed myself thoroughly. I even enjoyed a dance that was a mistake. I was asked to dance by a very young man, and I accepted. And as soon as we started, I realized that he had no idea what he was doing. And very soon into it, he realized he had no idea what he was doing and started to panic a little. After the song ended I asked him if he danced tango, and apparently he was so moved by watching the class before the milonga, he joined in, so he has had half a class. oh boy. But I don't want to rain on someone's enthusiastic parade. So I talked as much as I could through the second song, and then said "Uno mas?" And we walked out the next couple of minutes to Callo.

After Glorieta, where I had to say two goodbyes to leaders whom I enjoy dancing with thoroughly, I was going to go home. That hard stone gazebo floor is murder on my knees. But, our friend E was disappointed that she did not get to lead me in a milonga, that she asked me to go with the group on to Loca. Now Loca is not my favorite, mostly because the floor is like solid polished ice. And the music is usually less than great. But, E asked, and so I went. And I am actually glad I did. I had some really wonderful dances up until the performance, including a super fun tanda of milonga with E! Whew! The performance was actually phenomenal. This couple, Bruno Tombari and Maria Angeles Caamano, were elegant, engaging and a joy to watch. Let me put it this way - Sorin enjoyed the performance! And they performed 4 songs!
After the performance I did not dance much at all, actually, I did not dance at all for over an hour until the final tanda came on. But this was ok, the level of dancers in the room was amazing. I was at the bottom of the barrel. So I had no problem sitting and watching people who were so much better than I.
And to be honest, the dances that I did have were all superb. So there is that. :o)

Friday, July 24, 2009

T-7 and counting.... yikes!

Only one more week left! I can't believe it....

I had my last Spanish class today. And starting today I can say "It's my last Friday night in BA."

The last two days were horrifically cold and wet. If I was in Boston during winter, it would not seem so bad, 35 degrees is not horrific. However, when the house you are in has no insulation, the windows are not meant to keep cold out, and the air is wet with the cold - it is miserable. I stayed in last night because I figured who in their right mind is going to go out?? I cooked in the kitchen for hours to keep warm. I am rather happy Sorin was not around to take a picture, I was wearing leg warmers over my jeans, multiple socks with my muppet slipper-socks over them, long sleeve shirt, 2 sweaters and my scarf. Once I got cooking though, the scarf came off. ;o) But I was a funny sight for sure!

I have a few posts started, and promise to finish them up over the next few days.

I was asked by the fine folks over at KnowTango to write a guest post for their blog about Traditional Milongas and what is needed to make them good. If you are interested, take a gander over to HERE. Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert, this is simply my opinion based on my short time here in BA and my slightly longer, but still short time in tango in the US Northeast. That said, I am interested in what others think and have to say on the topic. So please feel free to open a discussion there.

More soon!
Chau Chau!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Down then Up

I lost a week.
I am now down to two weeks left in my adventures.
This week I was ill, again. Stomach virus. Blech.
So almost this entire week was lost to me as I was in bed, again.
Rather aggravating.

But yesterday I was well, I felt good, although weak. And decided I was healthy enough and no longer contagious to go dancing. I decided to go to Villa Malcolm with Sorin so that I would be close enough to home if I needed to leave. I felt sure that I would be exhausted by midnight.

So not the case.

I had possibly one of the best nights I have had here. All of my dances were good, most were great. My "worst" dance of the night was still good. And I was so happy to move, so happy to be out of the apartment, that I was moving freely. I was afraid I would have been stiff and slow, but on the the contrary, I felt so alive. So connected to everyone I danced with. I was happy.

And I danced my first Chararera. With a blind man. How awesome is that?!? There is a gentleman from San Francisco here whom I met about a month ago who dances tango. He is an incredible inspiration and watching him dance is awe-filling. I am convinced that he has Spidey-Sense. We danced last night and he asked me if I knew how to dance the Chararera, I said sort of, I had been taught it awhile ago, but I did not really know it. He asked me to find him at the end and dance it with him, so I did. It was a blast, although more exhausting than tango!

So I walked home on shaky weak legs and with a happy heart.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Its time to talk shop.... shoe shopping that is!

So, I have been a good girl and not gone hog wild on the shoe shopping.
I could have.
There is much trouble to be gotten here.
But I was good.

I have been asked by numerous people about where to shop for shoes while here, so it seems worth a post even though I know that many people write about shoes. So, here is my opinion. I am only going to write about what I LIKE and LOVE. I am not going to write about the places I did not like, if you have a question about a place I don't write about, send me an e-mail or post a comment with your e-mail address (I won't publish it) and I'll send you my honest thoughts on that place if I have visited them.


First, and foremost, naturally
Comme il Faut - number bought - me - 2, friends - 5

Love, Love, LOVE this place! First of all the women there are so lovely and helpful. And they rather give you a feeling of being super, high class special because they discuss with you what you like, what you want, and then they bring the shoes to you to try. It might seem difficult, but actually it is not. The more specific you are with them, the better they can help you. I ended up buying shoes for multiple friends here as well as two pairs for myself.

Located on the second floor of a shop located in the Rue de Artisans, they set the tone of being exclusive with simply the location. Walk off of the busy street onto the Rue de Artisans, in a beautiful courtyard, up a flight of stairs and ring the buzzer. You are usher in with a warm "Hola, Como Esta?", sit on one of the benches and one of the sales ladies talks with you about your needs and wants. Boxes and boxes appear, you try on, you admire in the full length mirror, and all the women in the shop at the time will chime in with their comments. One of my visits there there were two women from France, one from Japan and one from London. We all gave opinions on each others, as well as swapped out shoes when we saw that one had a pair that another really liked.

My favorite place to shoe shop is here.

Take note - if you pay in cash, the price is about 20 pesos cheaper. As with most places in Buenos Aires, if you pay with a credit card, you pay the fee that the vendor is charged by the credit company. So go with enough cash to save yourself some money if you are buying more than one pair of shoes.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT!
Did you know that CiF makes a shoe with a 1.5 inch heel?!?! They do! On my last visit to buy for friends, there were two adorable older women there, who were trying on shoes that looked like CiF, but had a 1.5" wedge heel. My friend Sally was with me and we both exclaimed over the shoe. We asked the salesgirl if these were new, she said no, but they do not have many and it only comes in one style (peep toe with closed heel) and two color options, royal purple with silver accents or black and red. Regardless, if you are interested in a super low heel from a very well made shoe, go to CiF and ask for them.

2x4 -number of shoes bought me - 1, Sorin - 1

Find of the century. These shoes are AMAZINGLY comfortable. Possibly the most comfortable tango shoes I have ever worn. They also have interchangeable soles, so that you can change how your shoes respond to the floor, you receive three options with your shoes - hard leather, suede and rubber. I was unsure how secure these soles would be, but they are perfect. The sole never slips (held in by super industrial velcro) and, as I did at one milonga, you can change the soles if the surface of the floor changes through the night from humidity, heat, etc. If you are there when the owner is there, ask him how he came up with the design, the story in itself is worth the trip, and he is so passionate about creating the Perfect Tango Shoe.

One drawback for women - there is only one style of shoe - many many colors - but only one style - a strappy sandal with a closed heel. They are a little "older" looking in style. Compared to my CiF's, they look very "sensible". However - I took a 90 minute milonga class in these and never had a problem.
For men - there are multiple styles and colors to choose from.

You must try these on. I found out that in these shoes I am a 36.5 - where I normally take a 37.

Located on Scalabrini Ortiz in Palermo, you will most likely do what I did and walk past the address not realizing it is a store. It is a normal, residence building, and 2x4 is located in the back on the first (ground) floor. There is a white buzzer above the residence buzzers that has in small print "2x4". Look for the address number, not a sign for the company, and make sure you check them out!

Word of warning - these are the most expensive shoes I bought. 470 pesos. Well worth it, but they are a cash only business. So make sure you have enough money with you!

Taconeando - number of shoes bought - 1

A new, young, hip store located on Arenales, this store is wonderful. Created by a young tango dancer, her designs are simple and clean and her colors vibrant and eye catching. If you want the most vibrant of metallic leathers - come here! The most saturated satins - come here! She also has some outrageous shoes as well - think maribou detailing..... hhummm!
The prices are also very reasonable, between 250 and 300 pesos for most designs.

The heel heights are high or not as high, so if you are looking for a low heel, they most likely won't have it. However, the balance of the shoes is fantastic. I brought my friend Sophia there, who was adamant about a low heel height. She tried on the shoes and and was amazed that she did not feel as though she was in a high heel. She ended up buying a gorgeous black velvet Mary Jane style shoe with gold embossed flowers. Really chic. While we were there, a woman from Miami was picking up her shoes. She told us she was 75 years old!!! And her high heels were in what was most definitely Miami colors (aquamarine blue, hot pink, and celedon green). She was so enthusiastic about the shoes, that all I could think was if a woman in her mid-seventies was dancing all night in these shoes, everyone should.

Neo-Tango - number of shoes bought - me - 1 sneaker, Sorin - 1 (at Tango Brujo)
You can go to the NeoTango store, located downtown at Sarmiento, or you can buy their shoes at Tango Brujo .

The actual NeoTango show room is beautiful, bright and right in the middle of everything. The displays are drool worthy. Their shoes are really well made and are a wonderful combination of colors and materials. Again, you have to try them on. I ended up buying a pair of sneaker for classes because I really needed a pair, I've been using ballet flats for years now, and I wanted a pair of sneakers that did not have a huge, thick sole that stopped me from feeling the floor and felt like 10 pounds on each foot. The sneakers I got are great, brown with some gold accents, they are super comforable, have a split sole and are thin enough that I can feel the floor. They had much flashier colors available in the sneakers, as well as more sedate. The pair I really wanted were a cool pattern of browns, but they no longer had my size.
The heels I really liked, but they unfortunately do not fit my feet. The 37 was too big and the 36 too small.

Monday, July 06, 2009

All I want is a muffin

The Universe is having some fun with me.

Yesterday I went to a gorgeous little cafe in Palermo SoHo called Baraka with Sally and her amor, Carlos, and his daughter. If you are in Palermo, you really should go, Corner of Gurruchaga and Goritti. Fantastic coffee and ginger infused beverages, along with organic foods and sweets. Plus the whole environment is cozy and comfy without any pretension. And the prices are great.

So, I ordered a cafe doble and I saw a display of beautiful muffins when we walked in. On the menu it listed "Muffin" along with the available flavors. One of which was arandano, or blueberry, which is my favorite. So I ordered a muffin de arandano.

When the plate arrived, my eyes grew to saucers, it was a huge blueberry crumble tart. It was gorgeous (and insanely tasty), but it was not a muffin. I laughed and explained to my friends what I was expecting, I pointed to the display and asked Carlos "Como se dice?" It was explained to me that it was a Budin. We laughed over the word mix up, I inhaled my "muffin" and all was well.

I now knew what a muffin was in castellano. I was prepared for future ordering.

Fast Forward to this afternoon. I went to a different cafe, saw another lovely display of what I know as muffins and knew was budin in Buenos Aires. Read the menu and saw "budin" listed with a variety of muffin-like flavors. I ordered a cafe doble y un budin de limon. Confident I had cracked the code.

I got my coffee along with a gorgeous slice of lemon bundt cake. Not a muffin at all. I started laughing, which really confused the waitress. I think that she was concerned that I was either unstable, or she had missed something. I tried to explain the sitation (she spoke no English). I went to the muffin display, pointed, and asked "Como se dice?" She said "Panecillo". I told her about my ordering in the other cafe and that the work in Ingles was "Muffin". She started laughing. She pointed to a small fruit tart and said "Es un muffin!" We spent a few seconds pointing at different things and telling each other in our languages what the name was.

She then apologized and said that since she had already cut the cake, she could not take it back. I said it was ok, I would be happy to eat the lemon cake. I knew it was not in my cards to have an Inglese muffin (as she called it) any time soon.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Bracing for Culture Shock

I have the feeling when I get back to Boston I am going to have a huge adjustment to make.
Not tango wise.
But life wise.

I have becoming very comfortable with sleeping until noon, eating dinner at 9, 10 or 11 at night and then staying out until 4 or 5 am.

Back home I am almost never hungry at 5 or 6pm, when most people serve dinner. This late night eating suits my system. And the whole relaxing at the table, lingering over coffee, needing to send up a flare for the waiter to bring you the check.
I love it.

I have the feeling when I get back to Boston the whole rush rush rush of life is going to be a bucket of cold water.

But, I'll enjoy this culture while I have it still.
:o)

Sticking it out to the end

The same advice I give beginners who go to festivals seems to apply here at the regular milongas. Stick it out to the end. Seems I need to take my own advice.

Last night a group of us went to Canning, which is a beautiful room and has a really lovely energy. The floor is a fantastic, although slick, chevron parquet, and seems to be the perfect size. I really liked it there. We all sat at a table, ordered beverages, and started to scope the floor for potential partners. It became apparent that although there were quite a number of good dancers there, and a few name brands, it was going to be a tough night to get dances. Cabeceo was difficult for me. I had to laugh at times because I would focus on a leader I wanted to dance with, and watched him be focused on the follower he wanted. He’d seal that deal. So I would move my eyes to another leader. Same sequence. And so forth and so on. Luckily one of our group was a leader and he was lovely enough to dance with me several times which allowed me to both be seen and have some lovely fun tandas while waiting.

Finally, around 2:40am I started getting really good dances. The room had cleared quite a bit, and the leaders I had been looking at were finally looking around. The last hour and a half I had one great dance after another. When the milonga was ending around 4am, I went home happy.

It is really hard to stick it out. I know. Keeping that up energy and smile is at times torturous. Luckily my tablemates were all lovely friends and conversation was rarely lacking when some of us were sitting. So make sure you go with friends to the tougher milongas so that you will not have to amuse yourself while waiting. But waiting to the end, until a good dancer is willing to take a chance at the end of the night can pay off big time for you. The other dancers are better able to see because there are fewer people and they watch the expression and interaction between you (the unknown) and your partner (a known quality).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hidden Gem

An absolute MUST visit when you come to Buenos Aires is Palacio Barolo in the heart of the city, not too far from the Obelisco on Ave de Mayo 1370. It is a gorgeous old building, built as a tribute to Dante and his Divine Comedies. The lower floors are put forth as, although not evocative of ;o), of "hell", you then travel up through "Purgatory" to the top most floors - "heaven" and there is a light house at the top that is representative of "God". The tour is about an hour and is well worth the 20$ pesos to walk through this amazing building, built, by the way, by Masons, so there are Masonic symbols in various areas. The architecture and the details in the building are breathtaking and awe inspiring. The elevators alone are worth the trip!

When you reach the end of "purgatory" and enter "heaven" there are tiny little balconies, barely big enough for two slender people, to look out over Buenos Aires in 360 degrees. We were luck and went on a fairly clear day and could see for miles.

I, being me, naturally did not bring a camera with me.... true Sagittarian that I am, and so the web site's pictures will have to suffice to entice you there. Believe it, it is well worth the visit.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

News Flash!!! Food Find!!!

Sorin and I just had the most delicious meal in Buenos Aires to date!!!

It is at the gorgeous Moroccan restaurant in Palermo, Bereber, on Armenia 1880 and Costa Rica. It is the first time we have both thoroughly enjoyed our meals at the same place. The menu was truly Moroccan, and it had vegetarian options, which made me very happy. I am not vegetarian, however I have such restrictions on food, that to go to a restuarant and have options makes me a happy camper in all aspects.

I had this amazing dish of goat cheese and nut stuffed grape leaves, steamed with couscous, tomato sauce, raisins and whole spices in a earthernware pot.




















Sorin had possibly the most beautiful plate of food I have seen in awhile. Lamb medallions cooked with fresh herbs, and in the center home made pita chips glazed with honey sauce and a mixture of fresh veggies and goat cheese. Here's a clue how good it was, the meat was rare, and I mean blood red cool in the middle, and Sorin likes his meat well done, but he did not send it back, he ate almost all of it.





















And the bread..... that bowl in the center of the table which was served with your meal, I did not even discover until I had all this sauce and stray couscous and needed some way to get it in my mouth.... it was fantastic. Soft, savory, with poppyseeds baked in for a slight crunch.

So if you are in Buenos Aires right now, or in the forseeable future, make a note of this place and GO! You will not be sorry you did!

Continued adventures

So, after a couple of days struggling with a massive allergy and asthma attack, I prescribed prednisone and antibiotics for myself and am feeling much better. So today I went exploring Barrio Chino with the lovely Ms. Jolie and her charming daughter, who immediately won my heart as she reminded me so very much of my goddaughter at that age, whom I miss incredibly.

Although the Barrio is really just one street, it was like heaven to me food wise. Here was everything I had been missing! Soy milk! Soy products! Goat Cheese! Fresh fish with clear bright eyes nestled on ice! Peanut butter! Piles and piles of fresh herbs! I really should know by now that no matter where I travel to, I need to find the ChinaTown and do my food shopping there. The days to go to Barrio Chino, according to one of my local fonts of wisdom, Ms Jolie, is Tuesday. Mondays they are closed and Tuesday everything is fresh. It was lovely. We nosed through rows and rows of spices, pickled veggies, and packages of unknown contents because our Mandarin is rather lacking. But every eisle I would exclaim and happily pluck something from a shelf. From this day forth, every Tuesday afternoon I can be found in Barrio Chino purchasing the food for the week. As we speak I am enjoying a cafe con soja leche, and it is wonderful. The Soja Leche was 3,50$ pesos for a liter.

I have not danced since Saturday due to the aforementioned issues with breathing, and I think I am not going to push myself tonight, but tomorrow I will be revisiting Sueno Porteno in Bodeo. I went last week with two chicas and we had a grand time. It is a traditional milonga, but with a relaxed twist. Everyone is seated together, no separation of men and women, and it is acceptable to approach someone for a dance. Cabeceo is also used, but not as much because there are three dance floors and the seating is sort of wrapped around the center stair case, which is enclosed. Yes, three dance floors, all on the same level. Two of them are really connected by a short divider in the middle of the floor, and the third is sort of over in Timbuktu, but it seems to be a safe place to go if you (meaning a leader) want to do some more athletic moves (boleos, volcadas, etc) that one would not normally lead in a traditional dance floor. I had some fantastic dances and really enjoyed being with my two friends. So if you are interested in a relazed, traditional atmosphere, this seems to be the ideal place to go.

Friday, June 19, 2009

One view point

I have been asked since I came here by several people why I like dancing with the old men.
How to give body to the intangible. The explanations and quantification of dancing with the old portenos vs the new generation. Both have their merits, I enjoy both immensely, and yet my preferences align with the old men.

This is not to say that there are not young men who are filling in the porteno circle, they are capturing the same feeling that the older generation emits, and they are good. But the old men are great. Not because of what they do or don't do, per se, but more because of who they are. They are tango. Not only do they know every note of every layer of every song, and seamlessly move from layer to layer when dancing, but most of them (perhaps all) saw the maestros when they were young. One porteno I danced with told me that his papa brought him to see DiSarli play in the 1940's. He was 8 and he listened to the Maestro and watched his papa dance the whole night. The very next day he demanded his father teach him to dance tango. He has been dancing ever since.

This is why their tango is so amazing. You are not just dancing with a man. You are dancing with history, with culture and with decades of understanding. These men know that tango is more than learning how to wrap your partner's leg around you every which way until Tuesday, they know that it is about connections. Connections with the music, with your partner, with the other dancers with whom you share the dance floor. It is about making the absolute most of the next 10, 12, 15 minutes because that is all you have together. They may invite you to dance again later that night, or another night, but it will be a different moment then, different connections. They are instead focused on the here. The now. The present. The moment.

These men learned tango when the world was at war, and I can not help but think that this sense of "Live for today, for tomorrow may never come" is infused in their dance. It is this infusion that makes dancing with them so very sweet. The athleticism that is asked for when dancing with the younger generation is never requested from the older. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy dancing with the younger crowd, I enjoy the different tango that they offer and share. But it is just that, a different tango, a different dance to me. The tango of the portenos is what has captivated me here most of all, dancing with an era long gone by and yet still very much alive.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Random Observations

Buenos Aires is unlike any city I have ever been to. Not that I have traveled extensively, I have not, a situation I hope to remedy soon....

However, I am constantly aware that I am in another section of the world. Every day there are a myriad of things or events that enforce this. For example, I buy my eggs, fruit and vegetables from some Peruvians who do business from a hole in the wall. Literally. There is a hole in the wall of a building and they have set up shop there. The prices are three times less than the market, and the quality is a hundred times better. Although everything is straight from the farm, unwashed, so I have to wash everything very well when I get home. They speak no English, and apparently my accent is too thick for them to decipher, so we have a game of charades every couple of days. It was very funny the first few times when I would point at some vegetable and say "Como se dice?" They would rapid fire say it, I would ask them to write it down, I would repeat it, they would laugh and bag it up for me. I also always give them whatever centavos the amount comes to. If it is 5 pesos, 50 centavos, I give them the coinage. And since I have been doing that, they give me better veggies. I also bring my own egg cartons to them, and they give me bigger eggs. It is a reciprocal society here.

Some things that have struck me about this city, be they good or bad or indifferent.

Dog poop. Let's just start with my one biggest complaint about this city. About 75% of the populace seem to own a dog. Of that, I would say 90% own a BIG dog. And there are BIG piles of poop everywhere. I walk every day around the different streets of Palermo, and I have come to master the looking down while looking up technique. I want to take in the buildings and the sights of my barrio, but I have to keep one eye on the ground so that I don't put one foot in a slippy pile of poop. Despite trash recepticles on every corner, no one picks up the poop. Yuck.

Perhaps because of the above, everyone washes their sidewalk in the mornings. It is lovely. I see all these folks out when I manage to get myself out before 11am, washing down their sidewalks, chatting with each other and making the front of their house look clean and neat. I love it.

Driving. I think that when I get back to the States, Sorin's driving will not give me one moment of concern in the passenger seat ever again. Being in a car here is an experience. The only speed limit is the limitations of your car. Those lovely straight lines that they paint in the streets? Decoration apparently. Headlights and blinkers come standard with every car but are optional for the user. You're in the right lane and realize you need to take a left? Now? 5 lanes over? No problem, take it! And pedestrians? You better be aware and fast. Pedestrians do not have any rights. In fact, I think that drivers consider them as much of a nuisance as those pesky traffic lights.

Weather - It is winter right now. And I am loving every single day of it. Sunny most of the time, in almost three weeks we have had 2 days of overcast weather. Most days it has been 60-ish degrees during the day and at night the coldest it has been was around 45 degrees. This is a winter I can handle. Although I have to laugh every time someone tells me "Manana sera el frio." I have to say "Not to me, to me it is lovely."

Time is a fluid thing. Oh so very true. Nothing ever starts on time. Nothing. Every class I have gone to has started between 15 and 30 minutes late. And it is no issue, that is just the way it is. Almost 3 weeks in and I still show up on time, worried that the one time I come late, they will have started on time. This, I think, will never happen. And restaurants? Dinner service starts around 8:30 at the earliest. Three of us went to a really good Argentinean BBQ restaurant at 7:30 starving, hoping for dinner before a class. The waiter looked aggravated with us, and told us we were very early, but we could order wine and drink until the kitchen was ready to serve. True to form, one hour later we got our dinners. It is just the way it is here. In the States the expectation is that the kitchen makes it self ready for the patrons, here, the patrons wait for the kitchen to make itself ready. A few shops that I have gone into when I ask what time they open in the morning the response invariably is "Mas o menos 11 o 11:30." There is no exact time, there is Mas o Menos.

Speaking Spanish. Or, more precisely, Castellano. You really really really do need to have a basic grasp on Spanish when you come here. I brushed up before coming with a computer program, which was helpful, but since I was not using it every day, I was still rusty. After almost three weeks here, I am comfortable with basic conversation skills. I can hear the language better, and I have stopped saying "Mas despacio, por favor" to all but the really machine gun talkers. The woman at the bakery across the street complimented me this morning on the fact that I ordered and answered her questions perfectly. She said that I had been coming in for weeks now, and today I did not look confused or slightly lost when talking. Whoo hoo! I even answered a woman on the street where Calle Costa Rica was. She did not believe me. And asked someone else, who told her the same thing as me. ha!
But really, if you come here, learn Spanish. It makes things so much easier. Especially when dancing. The younger generation speak some English, but the older generations do not. And standing there in silence in between songs can be painful. Whereas if you can hold a basic conversation, with or without charades, it makes it much more enjoyable.

The tango. What can I say. It is amazing here. Not that everyone here is amazing, that is far from the case. There are the exact same characters here that you know from your local scene. It is just that there are thousands of them here instead of dozens or hundreds. The main thing is that whatever you prefer, whatever style you like, you have options every night of where to go. Very quickly I realized that I much prefer the more traditional milongas. And Sorin prefers the younger generation's milongas. So, we go where we are happy, and then we confer at 3am and hear how the other's night went. Folks are amazed at this. I have been asked multiple times when dancing "Donde es su novio?" I'll reply that he is at Villa Malcolm or La Viruta and they ask how it is that he allows me to go out without him. My answer "Well, actually, it is I that allows him to go out without me." That always gets a huge laugh.

My name is apparently difficult to hear and say here. Especially for the older generation. It is not a name most if not all of the people I meet have ever heard, and they can not pronounce it. I have given up introducing myself as Debbi, and I try Deborah. That sometimes works. But not usually. One gentleman at a milonga decided my name was too difficult, and called me RedHead. He even introduced me as The RedHead to his friends when we stopped in between songs at his table. So at this milonga, I am known as The RedHead. Which I find hilarious. And I am told by a friend who lives here that it is a compliment when the milongueros give you a nickname, and it is very common that they chose a physical feature to name you by. Be it your height, weight, nationality, or, apparently, hair color. I had one octagenarian tell me that he prefers blondes, but redheads are his second favorite. What could I do but laugh at that?! :o)

Speaking of which. Hair. I have never had such great hair days in my entire life. Seriously. This may sound shallow, but I am amazed that my hair is behaving so incredibly well. I don't know if it is the air, the water or the Argentine shampoo and conditioner I bought, but really and truly, my hair is curling perfectly and behaving gorgeously every. single. day. It is unreal. It may be a reason to move here.

Destination Unknown

My friend Sally wrote this wonderful story for a travel journal in Britian - and I have to share it with you. I know exactly what she is writing about, and I think you may too....

http://www.bradt-travelguides.com/infopage.asp?PageID=108

More from me soon.....
:o)

Well done Sally!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BA to date

So far, it has been a good trip, there are things I really like, things that amuse me, and some things that I don't like at all. All of the above is subject to change without notice however.... ;o)

I have to say that I really really love the traditional milongas. The vibe is great, whether I am at a large table of new friends or a small table with a couple of friends, I like the atmosphere. And I like cabeceo. It took me exactly two nights to get it down, it is not hard at all, I just had to get over my North American training that staring is rude. It is. Unless you are in a milonga! :o)
I have had some amzaing dances with men who have been dancing 50, 60, 65+ years. There are no volcadas, colgadas, no -adas period. But their musicality is amazing. They know every note of every layer of every song, and they will dance on whatever note they most fancy. Most will sing or hum to their partner, which I find incredibly sweet. The embrace is firm, yes, but completely unrestrictive. I can pivot very easily, although dissassociation is an absolute must when dancing with them. And I can actually feel them dancing not only with me, but with those around us. Navigation is not even an issue. I have also danced with several young "old milongueros" in-training, and it is nice to see the traditions being passed down.

I thought that perhaps in dancing with the milongueros, I would have to become "passive" again, give up being active. And that is not the case at all. As with all leaders, active following may or may not be welcome. But I did find that those leaders who have a sense of playfulness in their dance welcome an active follower, and in fact, will up the ante on you! It is great, and challenging, because one has to become active without a large "vocabulary"- it is mostly in embelishments and musical phrasing.

The Young Generation milongas. These are extremely tough, at least for me they have been. The younger generation milongas, Villa Malcolm, La Viruta, Praktika8 - are more of a social outing for friends. People arrive in a group, or quickly attach themselves to a group dance with each other and sit together as a "pod" for the whole night. Most of my experience is that they really do close ranks around each other and rarely look around the room for anyone else to dance with. This is not to say that there are not individuals sitting with an open body language for dancing, there are. Unfortunately, the good individual dancers are all trying to get the attention of the really good dancers in the pods. I have had some good dances at the younger milongas, but they are usually about an hour or more apart. And I find it extremely taxing to sit for hours, look interested, look interesting, and not turn into what Sorin calls "The Mona Lisa" - where I get a slightly bemused, tiny smile, cross hands in my lap, and look vaguely distant. Mostly this happens when I have been sitting for a long time and I am trying hard not to yawn or glaze over.

It is tougher for me at the younger milongas, plus, everyone tell me to wait it out, eventually they will dance with me after they have seen me for a few weeks. But you know, my reaction to that is why bother? Why would I sit and sit and sit for weeks, dancing two or three tandas a night, hoping that I will soon be seen as interesting enough to break away from a pod and dance with when I can go to a traditional milonga and have great dances all night? Granted, no one at the traditional milonga will ever compliment my boleos as none of them would ever lead one, but that is ok with me. I am led in many boleos in class.

Classes. I am taking classes at DNI. And you know, I really like them. Even though they are a nuevo school. Why? Why would I like nuevo style classes when I prefer to dance milonguero? Because they trick you at DNI into learning technique. I love it. They teach a sequence part by part, they talk about body posture, foot placement, foot technique, weight transfer. They go around to everyone and help you with the technique of the sequence. And if you are paying attention, you learn technique that will help you in your entire dance. Sneaky sneaky. I have had two conversations now with leaders in the classes who were complaining that the sequencec they have learned they will never use on the dance floor, and I have asked if they would use this section of the sequence, or did they find that using this posture for the orcho cortada was helpful, and they agreed and then went back to their original assertion that the sequence was unusable. I had to laugh. But as long as they keep coming back and keep learning the technique that is hidden in the steps, they will do fine.

So that is it for now with tango. I will write another post soon about non-tango reflections (food, shopping, pollution, the city, etc).

Oh, and for those who are interested, I have already exceeded my shoe quota of 3 by one. But in my defense the 4th pair were actually very inexpensive and comfortable ($200 pesos - about $55 USD) so in my mind, they don't really count..... ;o)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I SO get it now!

I got it a little at Los Consagrados this past weekend. But I REALLY got it tonight at El Beso!
By "it" I mean that elusive "Argentinean" thing that everyone talks about and swoons over. I had tanda after tanda of it tonight.

Every dance was different, as was every embrace, and yet most of the embraces shared a common quality of Care. Regard. Connection. Each man I danced with made me feel as though I was the only woman they were going to dance with that night so they wanted to make it count. I got this from the 80 year old as well as the 28 year old.

I danced for hours tonight, and everyone I danced with was a porteno. I was not expecting that for some reason, but there you have it. Every one was musical in their own way. Some had a vocabulary I could count on one hand. Others wove together intricacies in a way that meshed with the music that made me smile. Yet every single one I could follow with out hesitation and enjoyed dancing to what they were hearing and enjoying.

I can not really articulate better than that. I may be too close to the dances. Maybe in the light of morning I will have better words. But right now, all I have is...
Happy Feet
Happy Heart
Happy Head

Monday, June 08, 2009

coming round the bend...

I did not come to Buenos Aires to be sick and in our apt constantly. But that has basically been this past week. My system was overthrown by allergies when I stepped off the plane (literally), and then I contracted some hideous sore throat/laryngitis/chest ailment. When I realized I was taking 4 or 5 hot showers a day in order to breathe, I e-mailed a friend of mind who is a prescribing RN and asked her what to get at the pharmacy, she told me, I got it, and after one dose I already feel loads better. It is funny, though, my morning line up with my tea is Vitamin C, Allergy pill, decongestant, antibiotic, and now a multi-vitamin with Iron because apparently it is difficult to get plain Iron supplements (according to the local pharmacist, and I was too tired to walk to another pharmacy to see if I could find it there).

So, tomorrow, I am determined to get back in the swing of things. It is depressing watching Sorin go out and then waking up to eagerly listen to his retelling of his night when he gets back just before dawn. I want to be going out too!! So, on the agenda for tomorrow, post-pills, is class at 2, shoe shopping with a new friend - we are going to go back and try to hit the stores that were closed when Sally and I went - and hopefully, hopefully, dancing at night. We'll see how I do after the class and shopping. I am hoping that I can get out to at least one milonga tomorrow night. I seem to do well at the trasitional milongas, at the younger/hipper milongas, I am not of much interest to the leaders there. So any suggestions of traditional milongas to hit in the beginning of the week are very welcome!

Cross your fingers for me that I am out of the weeds!

On the plus side, I have been taking short excursions when I am feeling on an upswing around our neighborhood, and there is so much here that is interesting! The buildings, the shops, the people, the artisans, then there is the bakery diagonally across from our building.... oh.... the smells in there! Thank fully I can only eat their bread, their pastry displays are so gorgeous you just want to gobble them up, and when I bring Sorin media-lunas from them, they get devoured within seconds. It is funny, this is one of the few places I do not have to play the centavos dance with. Most places ask you for exact change because of the shortage here. But at the bakery, they don't even ask you, they just give you the coins. It is amazing. I plan to start using the Subte and Collectivo, so I have started hoarding my coins. I even bought a cute little coin purse from one of the weekend plaza fair artisans.

Although so far, my favorite has been the cat. We have this golden and orange eyed cat that lives in the apartment beneath and across from us, and every morning she is on the porch roof meowing in Castellano. You think I joke. I am not. She meows in a way that is very un-cat like. I will video her one morning and post it because she cracks us up, especially when she is particularly intent of telling us about her day.

So far, what little I have seen of Buenos Aires, I like very much. And I am looking forward to seeing more and more in the coming weeks.

:o)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

U-turn. We are back on the road folks!

Today was more like it!

I went shoe shopping with the ever lovely Sally. I had such a blast tooling around Recoleta with her. First stop was, naturally, Comme il Faut. Where I first bought shoes for friends, and then got down to business. Me. hee hee. I told the girl who was helping me size 37, peep toe and color. Green. Blue. Red. Purple. She brought out a stack of boxes, and Sally and I immediately both gravitated to this gorgeous lime green suede pair of retro style sling backs. I think I might have drooled a little. I turned them around in my hands, admiring the details and the supple feel of suede. Then I eagerly put it on one foot. Curses! My heel was hanging over the edge. The girl immediately popped in back and brought out a 38. Again, eagerly slide my foot into one. This one was too big. Was I to be Goldilocks this afternoon?!?!? The girl cocked her head to the side, looked me over, and said "Uno momento" and came back with the absolutely perfect pair for me. Black satin with a high heel cage and just a touch of sparkle down the center of the heel cage. This time, I actually drooled. I wasted no time admiring, I slipped those puppies on. Stood up. Perfection. I asked Sally her thoughts, she approved, and I turned to the girl and said "Esta bien! Finito!" She laughed, scooped up my treasures, and went off to the register with three boxes and one credit card. Sally turned around and was surprised to see I was finished and ready to go. Apparently, most people try on 5,000 pairs and can't make up their mind. But I knew it when I wore them, so why try on more?

We walked around Recoleta, looking into the closed shops. Apparently everyone closed down for the futbol game today. It was a little disappointing, only getting to go to one of the shops I wanted to, but that just means I will spend my money a different day, it was not meant to be. And instead Sally and I walked and talked and had a grand time.

And tonight. Tonight was wonderful. I met another blog queen whom I felt I already knew, the effervescent Cherie. We joined Sally, My friend Caro, and Cherie and Ruben and their other guests at Consagrados. Ruben was ebullient, Cherie was grace incarnate, and everyone was so welcoming. And I danced. Can I say this again? I danced. It was wonderful. I danced with locals, I danced with visitors, I danced with Sorin, and the highlight of my night, I danced with Ruben. The cabeceo is still tricky for me, I did alright sometimes, and other times Ruben or Sally would bring my attention to someone who was trying hard to get my attention. I'll get used to it soon I think.

There were no rock stars there, and almost every dance I had was lovely. Some were challenging, some were comfortable, some were playful. It was exactly what I needed after last night. And I can't wait to go back.

My health continues to give me the finger however. I developed a raging sore throat, and by the end of the milonga, my voice was well past sexy film noir star and into 55 packs a day. So instead of continuing on, I am home, resting, with a mug of tea. I am hoping that with enough advil and tea, I'll be fine in a day.

My other highlight - I had an entire conversation with my taxi driver back to the apartment. Granted, there were some miming, I did say "mas despacio por favor" multiple times, as well as "commo se dice...." but a basic conversation we did have about tango, Buenos Aires, futbol (there was apparently a huge game today) and Carlos Gardel.

My detour is over. I'm back on the road folks!

Down, but not beaten!

It is very humbling to sit for hours on end and leave before the end of a milonga because you are too pissy to dance with anyone.

I still remember vividly as a beginner, sitting and sitting and sitting, and being told to smile and smile and smile until I thought that my face would crack into a million fissures. I am back there. I had better luck at the traditional milongas. Spent hours sitting at Villa Malcolm, danced only with Sorin, and could not get a cabeceo returned to save my life. I thought about trying to cabeceo cross eyed for the last hour. Maybe that would make a difference. I was sitting with a new friend, and she managed to cabeceo a guy whom I could not get to hold my glance if I had sent up a flare and stripped to my panties. Don't get me wrong, I truly was thrilled for her, it was her first cabeceo, and it made her night. But that was the last straw for me. My fissures were showing.

Since it was on the way home, I stopped at La Viruta. It was packed, the music was not really to my liking, and after what seemed like 5 years, I realized it was not going to happen. Everyone there already knew everyone else, and the "kids table" did not look promising in the least. Plus I know myself, I do not do well in rooms where I do not know a soul. And walking in without a good mood does not help matters. So I left. Without dancing.

Despite all this though, I am determined. I know it takes time, and I have lots of that. I will keep taking classes where I am being challenged. I will keep going to milongas and doing my best to keep the fissures from showing. And eventually, I will crack the cabeceo code. Hell, I figured out the DaVinci Code in abut 8 chapters, so the cabeceo code can not be that much harder! ;o)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

first post from BA

Well, we arrived in Buenos Aires safe and sound after an exruciating 14 hour flight. I got maybe 2 hours sleep and Sorin got none. So you can image our relief to get off that plane! The ride to the apartment was fun, apparently things like speed limits, lane markings, signs, and just about everything that goes along with driving is more of a suggestion, and a weak one at that.... But no one seems to have problems. Everyone drives like they are a bat out of hell, so everyone knows that the other drivers are as crazy as they are. It works. But I won't be getting behind a wheel any time soon!

So, we get off the plane, and my allergies go haywire. I was miserable. I thought for sure they would refuse me entrance through customs because I looked a wreck, I figured they would point and yell "Swine Flu!!!" but it was fine. They had this high tech infa-red device that shows any hot spots on your body. I went through no issues. Well, no swine issues, I was still a mess. And it just got worse and worse - I was popping Benadryl like it was candy and it barely helped. I was so upset and nervous that this would be my two months in BA - incapacitated by alergies. Well, yesterday I went to the Farmacia, and manage to try to communicate my problems. They gave me some wonder pills that work beautifully. It is also good to know that if I develop a sinus infection, I can purchase antibiotics without a prescription.

Tuesday night I was planning on going to Praktika 8 with Sorin, but I was such a mess, I just stayed in bed. So yesterday was my first dance in BA. In the afternoon we went to Confiteria Ideal, it was so sweet. It was full old old couples dancing. I enjoyed watching them, it was lovely. Sorin and I danced a few tandas, so my first dance in BA were at a historic milonga setting with the man I love. Could it be better? :o)

Last night we went to El Beso, and I think it was not so bad for a first time out. Once all the regulars danced with all their regulars, they branched out and I had some nice dances, and one really great dance. It was tough to sit and sit and sit and smile and smile until interest turned my way. But I was lucky to be sitting with friends, one new and one old, who I could chat with while I waited and waited. I danced more than I expected to.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Changing it up

The last few practicas I have been practicing with an elusive leader whom I thoroughly enjoy dancing with. He is one of those challenging and thoroughly enjoyable leads, where each time we dance together, I get a little bit better and have a huge grin plastered over my face.

He gave me a compliment on my boleos last week, that just made my day. Then last night he offered a bit of feedback where I might want to try a slightly different style of back boleo to add to my arsenal. Actually, to create an arsenal, my back boleo was really only done in one way, I would just vary the speed and timing of it, but I had always done it one way. He thought I had good control and presence in what I already do, but he has a new favorite style of back boleo, which is basically a linear boleo with contra body movement, the knees are not nestled into each other, and it creates a really nice stretch along the sides that feels really good as a follower. It is kind of sexy and elegant, I had seen professionals do it, but was not exactly sure how to do that myself. We practiced it and once I got it, I actually was really nice to have something different to add in depending on the music and the lead.
We talked about alternative ways of moving. To add in as a little spice. Change up the side step, the back hook, etc.

It's a new world again.

Lots to do
Lots to do

Friday, May 01, 2009

Are you there Leader? It's me. Follower.

There is a phenomenon that I have witnessed in milongas where ever I go, and that is those people who dance for the watchers, not their partner. I have seen this on both sides of the embrace. I often wonder what it is that they find enjoyable about dancing for those who are not in the embrace with them. When you can visibly see the lack of connection, it makes me sad.

And recently I accepted a dance with one of these dancers. I had observed beforehand several telling signs that this leader was dancing for everyone but the follower. There were several flourished arm drops and embrace adjustments, there was a constant look about after completing several "advanced" patterns, and when close to those of us sitting, those complex patterns came out in full force, regardless of the music or follower's abilities.

Why did I accept a dance with this person?
Curiosity really.
I mean, curiosity did kill the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.
Only this was satisfaction in knowledge, not experience.

It was so bizarre, I could feel my leader's attention on everything but me. There was a void there between us, regardless of being in open or close embrace. There was a certain amount of "Look Ma! No Hands!" to the feel of the lead. And I have to admit, when I felt those complex patterns coming, I became rather active and tried to alter/slow down/offer something different. However nothing I did was heard. I felt bulldozed. So all I could do was a tip I read years ago in someone's tango blog (I feel bad not remembering who it was, if anyone knows, please give credit for me!), where instead of slowing down and becoming heavy, which makes a leader push you more at times, I decided to try to be highly responsive. I stepped a little further, a little faster, a little over pivoted, a little more than every lead.
That got my leader's attention, however not really in a good way. This I think was seen as a challenge, and suddenly I felt like Tango Dummy. I might have thrown down the gauntlet, but my leader was throwing down everything including the kitchen sink!

It was an incredibly unsatisfying dance. But it proved my thought that if it looks unpleasant from the outside, it most likely is unpleasant from the inside.

Monday, April 20, 2009

When it sounds too good to be true, that's because it is....

We leave for Buenos Aires in a little over a month. I am nervous, excited, and until this morning, I thought I was completely prepared.
This morning I get an e-mail from the man whom I thought we had settled a rental agreement for his apartment with. Way back in February we met in Boston as he was visiting here, talked, agreed on dates and a price (which was a great price! He said he was only going to charge us just above what he pays, so he asked for $450USD a month. Let me emphasize that he set the price, but I did not argue it.), I gave him one month's rent as a deposit and I thought we were all set. Around March I get an e-mail from him saying that he had to stay in the apartment through the first week of June due to legal issues with his ex-wife, so we would have to find other accommodations for that time, and no, he would not pro-rate the rent for us. Aggravating, but deal-able. So I find a nice little loft in Belgrano for the first 8 days, sent him an e-mail telling him we found a place and we would see him at his place on June 8th. No response, but I was not exactly expecting one.

Flash forward to today. I wake up, and before I even have some coffee I open my e-mail. I see an e-mail from this guy titled "Re:apartment, maybe.... let's see....."
The basic gist of this month's e-mail was that he did not know when he would be able to rent the apartment to us, as he might have to stay longer, so don't get too excited about it, he would let us know if things changed and if the apartment became available. There was some berating of the price he rented to us, and how it was below the market value, etc. and that if we wanted to find someplace else he would recommend us to someone that he knows who rents rooms....

WTF?!?!?!?

I rented a whole apartment from you! You jerk!! I don't want you to recommend a room to us when you already have our money for your apartment!

Quick discussion with Sorin, who gets as aggravated as I am, and we decide to cancel renting from this guy. I decide to stop payment on the check. And I send an e-mail to this guy explaining how upset and disappointed we were, as we had an agreement to rent with him, and he was obviously trying to get out of it, so consider the deal off.
I have to admit, my Irish was up, so I also mentioned that I would have no problems telling people in the tango communities that I dance in about my dealings with him and that I would discourage anyone from renting from him. Which is what I would say to anyone who yanks my chain in any business dealings. Word of mouth is a strong force.

Well, the e-mail I got back from this guy changed me from aggravated to amused in 3.5 nanoseconds. He attacked my character, my dancing abilities, my looks, just about everything he could think of (and all mis-spelled, both Spanish and English. There is something about piss poor spelling and grammar that takes all the bite out of any retort. Turns a pit bull into a toothless daisy in my mind). He even threatened to attack us at the milongas in Buenos Aires, told Sorin that he would "teach him how the portenos really dance in the street". hum....

The e-mail is really long, but there is such meat there, that I have to share a small amount. I know this is out of context of the whole e-mail, but it will give you a taste of my amusement. This comes right after calling me a "Voluda" which I am guessing (and others supported) he probably meant Boluda... see how mis-spelling makes you a daisy instead of a meanie....

"Hey , shit happens ....as you will find out here soon NO DOUBT !! and it was never my intention to not rent the place for June and July but I need to stay longer for reasons that you would not understand or care about...like ever hear of family . Your response was rather extreme and you obviously are a self centered little bruha that thinks the world revolves around you..instead of being understanding and flexible , you reacted in a typical bitch Boston fashion !"

It was never his intention not to rent it to us... only for him to stay longer.... uhm..... well.... it sounds to me like he did not intend to rent it to us. He intended to stay in his apartment longer and let us figure out what we should do for a place to stay...
And I don't see what I should be understanding and flexible on an agreement to rent his property. I was already flexible once and paid for another place for the first 8 days, why should I be more accommodating to the point of not knowing when or if he could rent to us? And he wants to keep my money? If the place is not available - DON'T RENT IT!

And bruha? Maybe Bruja? Not sure though, my Spanish is not very good.... and being a typical Boston bitch, I would not want to correct it for him.....

He then goes on and on and on about how I can't dance, how portenoes will chew me up and spit me out, blah blah blah....

I'm just glad all this happened now and not when we got to BsAs and were in his "temple" as he called it.
Blargh....

I have to say though, this has not colored my view towards Buenos Aires or Argentineans at all. Because he is not Argentinean. He is Dutch. And when we were talking about the apartment in February, all he could do was warn me about how sly and backhanded Argentineans are, and how they would cheat me at every turn. Which is funny, because I know several Argentineans, and they are lovely people whom I enjoy a great deal. And one of whom e-mailed me about his apartment in BsAs and how we could rent it from him. And they are not the ones who dealt a crooked hand to me.....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Temptation vs Comfort Food

This past weekend I was at the Yale Tango Festival. And I have to say, it was the most fun I have had to date at a festival. This very well may be because with every festival that I go to, I have gotten a teeny bit better and gotten to know more people, but even so, taking all aspects of the festival into account, I had an absolute blast.

And I came to a realization that I am rather at peace with. I've known for awhile that in a festival atmosphere, I am not a temptation. I am not the follower who is constantly in demand and leaders are saying "I want to dance with HER!". Which has been something I wanted to become. I think I might still want to become that, but I realized this time that I am instead Comfort Food. You know what you are going to get, its familiar, its enjoyable (I hope!!) and it is not a gamble.

I think I am good with this. At least for now anyways. I had multiple leaders come find me after they had an amazing tanda or set of tandas with Tempations and make mention that they asked me to dance because they just had a phenomenal set and they wanted something cozy and nice to come down from on high with. I kind of liked that. If I can't induce the high, then I certainly am good with being the gentle transition back to earth.

All things considered, this was the first time that I enjoyed every single dance that I had. And that has never happened before. I danced with some new people, two of whom were amazing. I danced with some people I have known for awhile and we had just never danced, and that was wonderful too. There were several people that I did not get to dance with, which was the one sad point, but they are all people that I see monthly or bi-monthly, so I know we will dance soon.

I feel sated. I feel good.
And it's been one day since the festival, one day without dancing, and I feel the need to dance.....
;o)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ruminations

There have been multiple excellent tango discussions that have happened recently, in milongas, at practicas, in our kitchen, that have had me ruminating for awhile. And I still don't have answers, I only have my opinions on the subjects, and I have to say, those opinions may change eventually, soon, or never. But I am coming to believe strongly that it is those diverse opinions that makes tango (as with all art forms) so interesting. I have stated before that if the only art hanging on the walls of the Boston Museum of Fine Art was Degas, I would go one, maybe twice, and never again. It is the diversity of expression that keeps me going back regularly. Same with tango.

One discussion - adaptation. I strongly believe that everyone should have a style, or feel about them. It is what makes them THEM in the dance. However, I also strongly believe that there has to be an adaptation between the two in those first few moments of the embrace. You need to find each other, adjust to each other, and find the connection. I do not agree with those who say that the follower must adapt to the leader, I feel that there should be a mutual adaptation. I am not saying that if the leader has a milonguero style that he should suddenly switch to nuevo, just that he (or she) should find their partner. I wish I had better terminology. I love words, I devour books, my vocabulary is not exactly shabby, but this is the best I can do to convey what I mean. As an example of not doing this, I absolutely hate, hate HATE it when a leader wraps his arms around me and is stepping before his right arm has settled on my back. I have to admit, there have been times when I have refused to step until the embrace is settled. This has caused confusion, irritation, and surprise from my partner. I appreciate that they love the music so much that they want to move, but they should appreciate finding me as their partner before they take that first step. Because I want to find them as well. And we should be enjoying the music together.

Another situation that came up were some requests for me to teach. Teach. Big word with few letters. In my professional life I teach, and it is hard work, challenging, and often amazingly rewarding. But I am teaching subjects that I have worked in professionally for over 10 years. I started tango a little over 2 years ago, and I think it is safe to say that I started actually dancing about a year ago. Can I teach tango? Not in my mind. Do I want to? No. Not now, and I have no idea if ever. The responsibility is too big. I can work with people at practica and offer feedback as to what I think may be the problem, but teaching means more than offering feedback on what you think might be the issue. In my mind, you should be able to see how someone is moving, or not moving, and communicate the solution in a manner that the pupil will understand. Which might mean several different ways of explanation. You should be able to lead and follow. You do not need to be a fantastic dancer (although it helps), but you need to show what you are teaching clearly and easily.
There have been several instances where practicing with someone who was very influential in my formation as a dancer where the conversation went something like this:
"Why are you doing this-thing?"
"Because you told me to."
"When?"
"I don't know, about a year ago? You told me to always do this."
"Oh. Well, don't anymore. I no longer think that is the way to move/dance/embrace/etc."
Me silently (sometimes not so silently)
"AAAAAAAaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!"
And then I have some rewiring to do. And I don't want to do that to someone. Tell them an absolute that will alter because I learned what should really be done later, and they now have it in muscle memory. I know tango theory and fashion change, but I think basics do not.
I have discovered that several people whom have danced for a short amount of time have decided to become teachers. And I have such mixed feelings about this that when they ask me what I think about their aspirations, eyes shining, confident I am going to gush affirmations, it is difficult for me to not shrug my shoulders as I say "Well, good luck, teaching is difficult."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cool Tango Info Site

A friend of mine has created this amazing new web site that gives you a world wide view of tango events!
www.KnowTango.com

Check it out! It is really amazing.... you can click on any place in the world and find out what miilongas, practicas, festivals, classes.... you name it... is near by. Along with all the pertinent information (times, dates, costs,etc.)

This is a brilliant idea whose time has finally come I think.

:o)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

*GULP*

Ticket purchased - to BsAs - Leave the US June 1st, arrive in BsAs June 2nd. Stay until July 31st. It's real. It's happening.... and my stomach is flip flopping!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yes, you, Ms TB, on the west coast, you have a question?

Tangobaby is interviewing people, and I adore how thoughtful she is about the interviews she has conducted so far - so I am threw my hat in her ring - and here are the results.

Here's "The Rules."

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions and link to me.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.



1. I know that you and Red Shoes met through the Tango blogosphere, but you are both impassioned theatre professionals and seem like soul sisters, if I may add an observation. If you could collaborate on a dream theatre project with her, which one would it be? Give us juicy details of what it might look like and how your aesthetics would compliment each others. (Who knows, maybe it will come true?!)

You make me blush! But in racking my brains to come up with a project we could have fun with, I went to the classics (a trend with me), and I think one of the best challenge plays that we could work on together is Waiting for Godot. How do you make characters who never change clothes, never leave the stage, and nothing changes interesting for 2 hours?
I am a HUGE fan of lighting designers, they make what I do look good. They can also make things look bad, so I always work closely with them and we use our palettes together in a way that is harmonious (even when your end results is supposed to be unharmonious) – and enhances the environ of the characters. And from what little I have had the pleasure of glimpsing into her work, and knowing about her work (one of her Glasgow-ian fellow adventures is a student in my department where I teach!), I bet we would have a great collaboration! :o)

2. Looking back on your tango past, what has been the greatest unexpected gift from tango? What has been the biggest disappointment?

Wow, I have had to sit on this question for awhile…. And my past is not that deep! Only two years…. But I would have to say though, that the greatest unexpected gift has been the connections with people, some of which have translated off the dance floor. A whole new world of people has entered my realm, and I am grateful for them. Some of whom I have yet to meet!

The biggest disappointment??? I have yet to find it. And I think I am grateful for that as well, I tend to not brook deep disappointments well….


3. As a costume designer, what have been some of your favorite designs? What inspires you when you sit down to design? How many different disciplines do you draw from and who or what are some of your muses?

I take from everything and anything when I design. I post research images from the era if it is period, from folks that I find from that era that resonate with me, paintings that resonate with the feeling I want to give the character, pictures of my actors, swatches of fabric that have the feel, drape, look, etc., of what I want to use. If you just walked into my office, you would think that a library and fabric store had a whirlwind romance near my desk and draped bits and pieces of their affair around my work space.
I had an image from a Zulu warrior above me when I was designing Henry V, then there was the day I realized Eleanor Roosevelt was speaking to my Lady Augusta from The Importance of Being Ernest. If it speaks to me, I use it, sometime I never know what it has said, but I know it was important. Such as the image of Monet’s Geisha while designing Pinter’s “Betrayal” – to this day I don’t know what her impact was, but I know that she was impactful at the time.

Some of my favorite work has been that which has surprised me the most. Or productions I loved the most. There has yet to be a Shakespeare project I have not loved working on, but it is usually the supporting characters I have the most fun with, not the leads. The leads have to be “pretty” in what ever way that show calls for pretty. But for example, Emilia from Othello, how do you dress a woman who is married to a man whom she desperately wants to please, to the point of unthinking betrayal, even though he outwardly despises her? These are the challenges I love.


4. Besides dance and design, what other creative pursuits do you enjoy? Are there other artistic adventures you'd like to embark on but just don't have the time right now? What would be the next creative endeavour you'd like to undertake, if you could?

Most of my other pursuits are those of a more passive creative bent. I am a voracious reader, I am always reading multiple books. I have partially written one book based on my experiences working in intimate apparel that I have already titled “My Life as a Bra Queen”, I have written an unpublished children’s book about a beloved pet pug who has cancer and goes in for treatment (an effort to help children understand illness, no publishers were interested though). I used to write a lot more than I do now.
I also knit, nothing intricate or super difficult, but I find it very relaxing and kind of zen. I had to learn how to knit on a movie shoot where we needed garter ties and had none, so I stayed up one night making 8 pairs.

What I would absolutely love to do though, is learn how to paint. There is something so enticing about a prepped canvas and a drawer full of gorgeous pigments in oil…. I would love to be a painter and translate how I see. And now that I am typing this, perhaps this will be the next endeavor.

5. When you are feeling creative, what kinds of music do you listen to and why? Do you listen to tango music when you are designing?

Ha! No, I do not listen to tango music when working, I do listen to tango music often, Sorin has it on in the car, and I have a tango playlist on my ipod. But it depends on what I am working on as to what I listen to when I design, certain music inspires certain moods with me, and that can help with my process. I am a huge Annie Lenox fan, especially when I need a moody environment. Dar Williams for light hearted. I need a certain vibe around me, so the music helps along with posting inspiration around me. Inspiration could be art work, images, research images, and even words or phrases from the play itself or from me…. I had a question once posted above my desk when working on “The Bog of Cats” that was “If I was going to burn my house and kill my child on my jilted wedding day in order to punish the man I love, what sort of gown would I wear? Here is the answer:



















Sting, David Bowie (old school Bowie), 30’s big band music, modern swing music, ABBA, David Gray, Ella Fitzgerald, Garbage, Elvis Costello, Sarah McLachlan…. These are all on my “working” play list on iTunes.
I have to say though, often the music does not seem to go with the design work. I remember listening to David Bowie a lot when working on Hamlet one summer…..

Basically, whatever gets the noggin boppin, is how I go.
:o)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tales from the Other Side

So, I have been attempting to lead for a couple of months now. I can say with confidence that I can almost walk. There is not much else I can do, but I am working on it, and I don't try anything in a milonga setting if I am not confident with it. Those lovely lovely followers who agree to let me lead them know this, and usually it turns out fine. I use dynamic changes and try to hit musical phrases so that it is not nap time for them.
And then one night recently I danced with the Willful Follower.

A song came on that I liked, the floor was basically open, so I grabbed her and off we went. Or should I say, off she went. This was the first time in my life where I encountered the following:
Leader - leads the follower to step back with her right foot.
Follower - executes a poorly supported back boleo followed by an even more poorly supported front boleo and steps forward into an ocho.
Leader - stunned silence, mute horror

It did not matter what I led, she did what she wanted, often in the opposite direction of where I was leading. Thank god no one was on the floor, or there might have been a blood trail. I had no idea what the hell to do. At one point I just stopped moving, she did all sorts of things around me, and I was thinking "Ok, maybe she's tired herself out now and we can walk" - nope. She was not like a toddler whom you can allow to stimulate themselves into exhaustion and nap time. Oh no, there were more surprises for the remainder of our dance time. I have to admit that I really wanted to say "Let me know when you are done and we can move forward." But instead I decided to stop moving at all and allowed her to whip herself into a froth around me.

I still don't know what I could have done to contain that energy, if anything.
But I do know that until I am a better leader, I will not be subjecting myself or any dance floor to that spectacle again.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Growing Pains

As part of my quest for getting off this plateau, I asked for a private lesson with a visiting teacher whose in class advice really got me thinking. It was impromptu, I had not planned for one, but it seemed like a really good idea. And I think it was, or it will be, but unfortunately everything we worked on in the private seems to have completely screwed up my dancing. I can't dance right now. At all.

It was a good private. We talked about having "melting" embrace, no tension what so ever in the shoulders or back or arms. I apparently have a small amount which was so difficult to actively get rid of. As I thought about having no tension, I would get tense - round and round we go! sheesh..... We discussed posture and connection. Where to connect, how to connect, what to do if the connection from my leader is hard to find. He is against chest and belly connection, he wanted chest only, so we worked on my lifting my rib cage to find the connection. It worked well with him. Problem is, a good half of the leaders in my community like the belly connection - that will be interesting! Then he made a slight adjustment to my hip placement, turning them more under, I was slightly forward which made pivoting quickly a bit shaky at best. That was an amazing alteration, instantly everything was easier! Then we worked on stepping with power - this was the hardest of all. I was trying to do all of the above at once and felt like a new born foal. on roller skates. on a sheet of glass. I think it was too much. However it was all good feedback and helpful and all issues that I know I can work on.

Then the next day we go to my favorite milonga. And I was still a new born foal. only without the roller skates, but still on the sheet of glass. It was insanely frustrating. And I had such a hard time until the last hour when I said "F* it" and dropped everything I was trying to do and tried to just dance. I was able to enjoy the last couple of tandas I danced, although I was still aggravated with myself. In the car ride home, Sorin suggested i break down the work into segments, and work on them one at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. Doh! That would have been smart!

It's such a catch-22 sometimes. Medicine makes you better, however you have to deal with the bitter taste and funny face for awhile until it assimilates into your system.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year


I have not written in awhile. It seemed like I was always going to regurgitate my dances, and that did not seem interesting at all. So I waited, and then stuff happened - life kept moving, and now it is the new year. And I feel inspired to write about a few things.

Tango Doldrums
I was in the tango doldrums, not depression really, because I still enjoyed very much going out and dancing regularly. But I felt like I hit a plateau. Kind of like a thin layer of Saran Wrap was keeping me inside my sphere and I could see that there was all this great stuff on the other side, but I could not figure out how to get through the saran wrap. I knew it was not a glass ceiling, I knew I could move forward, I just did not know how. I think one of the issues was I had not taken classes in awhile. A long while. I needed a challenge, and that challenged needed to be external, I was internalizing too much already. I still need a challenge. So my plan for the winter and spring is to take classes and privates (when I can afford them) and find some way to get over the hump. I am sure I will get there, as I am reassured that we all go through this. :-)

The best dance of my life - EVER
AND
Don't discount the old people.

New Years Eve in Providence was amazing. The picture above is from New Year's Eve. I had just the best time. Lots of friends, old and new, lots of food, lots of great music - and the best dance of my life bar none. Up until now I had a top 5 - I could not really rate them against each other, they were just all together in the top. Well, New Years Day, I had a tanda with a gentleman that blew them all out of the water. I had noticed a tiny older little couple on New Years Eve (I swear she was under 5' and he was maybe 5') dancing pretty much with each other only. I enjoyed watching them, and it was obvious that they had been dancing a long time together. They enjoyed each other and they just fit together. It was a pleasure to watch them.

New Years Day, late afternoon, he approached me and asked me to dance. I accepted gladly, I knew from watching him he was good, I was only concerned about the fact that in heels I was about 9 inches taller - in fact, he had a face full of cleavage, so we adjusted to a slight V and off we went. I would say in about 30 seconds he figured me out and then he amped it up. It was amazing. He had what I have been told is the Argentinean embrace - firm and solid yet unrestrictive. It was unpolished and yet elegant at the same time. It was incredibly musical and subtle. And although he was definitely in charge, he listened. A friend told me that I was grinning from ear to ear while we danced. I loved every second. When the tanda was over, I discovered he was Argentinean and had been dancing for over 30 years. He was an absolute gentleman and walked me back to my seat, where I sat for an entire tanda, just glowing.

Later that night, I confided to several women friends that I had just had the best dance of my life that night. One response I received was "Oh, he asked me, but I turned him down, I don't pay attention to the old people." You could have seen my tonsils my mouth was so far open. I responded with "Well, you can't dance for over 30 years and not be old...." She had a light bulb moment and realized that you can't discount old people.