Friday, March 28, 2008

Scouting tour from Buenos Aires extended another month...

Hola tangueros!

I´ve decided to take some of your advice and extend my stay, by another month! The outlook for financial services layoffs and mergers looks pretty gruesome from a job search perspective, and rather than hit my head against the wall pounding the pavement fruitlessly, I´ve decided to kick back for another month here in Buenos Aires, take a class or 30, and hit the local milongas.

March 22 (Saturday)
I tried to go to the Curchirulo milonga (Maipu 444) but they would not let me in. They said there was no room, no tables, but they seemed to let other portenas in after me. When I saw Roberto Riobo at a milonga later that evening, he said that the place was a bit red-necky and hostile to foreigners (though the dance level there was quite high). I was bummed out, but I just hopped in a cab and went to Sunderland (Lugones 3161) again, and had a wonderful, wonderful time. They greeted me as if I were an old friend, even though I had only been there once before (the prior weekend).

March 23 (Sunday) & March 25 (Tuesday)
Afternoon milongas at Confiteria Ideal. I had a blast. Everyone there was extremely friendly, and the crowd was a nice mix of portenos and international folks. Seating was formal with women on one side of the room, men on another side of the room, couples on another side of the room, and random stray singles on the forth side of the room. Dancers used both the cabaceo as well as the tap on the shoulder and verbal "Bailamos?" My roommate Gail, who is a newbie to cabaceoíng, did well there and danced quite a lot -- which goes to show how open to international folks and friendly the portenos there were. The afternoon milongas are a great way to get your last BsAs tango groove on while waiting for the evening flight.

March 23 (Sunday)
Dinner show at Confiteria Ideal (150 Pesos = $50). My new porteno friend Adolfo is one of the dancers in the show, so he comped me in. Good thing, because the dinner portion of the show had extremely poor, maddening slow service and just average food. The show was OK but not fantastic. There are other dinner shows on other nights; I think Thursdays would be good (Eduardo Saucedo and Marisa, maestros from CITA, are dancers that night).

Ana de Buenos Aires

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Scouting tour from Buenos Aires

Hola Tangueros!

Es muy caliente en BsAs ahora, pero soy feliz.

The most difficult thing so far about this trip is finding a locutorio with good computers with fast connections, and relearning how to type on a standard keyboard (not an ergonomic one).

The CITA classes so far have been pretty good, with Tete as my favorite maestro. The shows have been great. The CITA milongas suck though, with lots of international tango heads doing fancy, big moves on a very crowded social dance floor, with lots of long legs and flying spiked heels in the air. I´ll go to the one tonight, but only because the old milongueros (Tete, Flaco, Nito & Elba) will be performing. Other than that, I think I will pass on the other CITA milongas and just go on my own to the real deal local milongas (they say La Baldosa is pretty good, and I want to go to Sunderland again, though that means I will miss any other Saturday night milongas).

One great thing about CITA is that they have balanced all the classes by bringing in extra local student teachers, who are typically intermediate to excellent dancers themselves (with most being excellent). I even saw and had the pleasure of dancing with Miguel, the Dinzelito who helped us during our four lessons at the Dandi in August. He is the native American/Asian looking leader who sold his paintings at the end of our lessons. Someone said Pamela might be here for CITA, but I haven´t seen her. Buenos Aires is probably the only place on the planet that has enough leaders where they could do this (balance the classes both by sex and skill).

On Saturday I went to Sunderland for the first time, and by myself. I actually did well there, and danced most of the night. Some people say it´s a very closed environment for a milonga, with people going in couples/groups, and the portenos not asking the foreigners to dance. I did not find that to be the case. Then again, I am a bit bold and persistent (and I hope charming) with my cabaceoing.

The food is divine (love the beef, milanesas, and empanadas), but quite rich and in large portions. So my roommate Gail and I, who get along quite well, have been self-catering in from Disco (like Safeway), since we like the fresh veggies (I´ve eaten some combination of a cucumber or red bell pepper or tomato every day I´ve been here), rotisserie chicken, and hard cheese. So it´s been even cheaper for us to eat.

As some of you know already, the floors at the milongas here for the most part (except Canning and maybe Nino Bien), are not hard wood; most are that old 50´s style stone composite, sort of like modern silestone. The floors for our classes have thankfully been hard wood (they are held at hotel ballrooms). But even with the nice floors for our classes, our feet have been taking a beating. Thankfully too, our hotel (the Savoy) is just a block or two from our classes and Artesanal, and Disco.

The shoe shopping has been great. I´ve gone to most of the popular ones, but only bought from P.H. and Artesanal (Christy & Chelsea´s favorite).

I had lunch with Giovanni yesterday. He is as sweet as ever. His English has vastly improved. I saw his notes, and was impressed by his diligence and the neatness of his writing (looks like he was taught at a convent). He continues his studies here and also teaches dance. Right now he has a 4-month gig teaching privates to an American every day, dances including tango (traditional, nuevo, and women´s technique 3 days a week), and salsa etc. (on the other two days). He does quite well here as it´s rare to find a leader who has both strong English skills and Tango skills.

I´ll transcribe my notes from classes when I get back to SF. It´s just too difficult for me to type them on this keyboard. Some of my notes are sketchy, others more detailed, depending on how tired I was or how much I liked the teacher and what they were teaching. I´ll try to squeeze in a group lesson with Susanna Miller while I am here (she teaches 3 nights a week at the same place where the El Beso milonga is, and that´s near our hotel).

Most everything is closed for the next few days for the Easter holiday, with many businesses observing all the days of the Easter vigil. The international tango heads (including me) will still be found working it in the ballrooms and at the milongas though.

Besos y abrazos,

Ana de Buenos Aires

Friday, March 7, 2008

Scouting tour continues...(David and Lisette)...

March 7 – David Caditz & Lisette Perelle lesson @ La Pista (topic: Volcadas). We began with cleaning up the Follower molinete, with emphasis on technique: push off on the feet; really collect, then pivot, then turn and reach for the next step. The molinete should be done close; if Follower finds herself floating away, she can correct it on the side step, stepping in more toward Leader instead of straight to the side. Follower may be pulling herself/the leader off balance if her left arm is cemented into the same spot on the Leader's arm/shoulders/back, because she needs freedom to increase her range of motion as she torques on the back step, especially in the counterclockwise molinete, so she needs to change the location of where her left hand is on the Leader's right arm so that she remains on axis. We then did the hand-to-hand falling exercise with Leader catching Follower to get Follower used to being off axis; then we did the same exercise, only freeing her left leg as she falls forward. We did a big swooping volcada from a clockwise molinete (back-side-forward-volcada for Follower as her weight is on her right leg). Technical points: Follower's frame should be solid. There should be an up, out and expanded intention in Follower's chest; the goal is to connect as much as possible with the Leader through her sternum. The swimming pool lift sensation is a temporary point in the entire volcada movement, done only at the point of falling forward. When you're on your way back up on axis, there is no need to keep pressing down as much. Follower can shift her left arm up higher than where it normally is on the Leader to get more leverage on the closed side of the embrace. Follower's leg has to be extremely free. Stomach needs to be strong and engaged. <- This cannot be emphasized enough. It seemed like everyone in the class already knew how to do volcadas and was just there for more instruction, more drilling and fine tuning. David & Lisette are good teachers. They can see all our little technical mistakes, and tell us clearly how to correct them (and explain why make them in the first place, and how they cause our partner to mess up).

March 7 – Monte Cristo milonga. I had a great time (love the ventilation!). It wasn't overly crowded; slightly more leaders. Ruben Terbalca from BsAs demo'd a tango and a milonga (what he's famous for) to milonga candombera (with drums). I had never seen anything like his milonga; check him out on youtube.

March 8 – Sausalito Milonga & Lesson with Gustavo & Jesica Hornos (topic: paradas, barridas, enganches). Figure 1: a series of 4 paradas for Leader and pasadas for Follower. Figure 2: Barrida of Follower's forward right foot with Leader's right foot. Figure 3: An enganche, started with the Leader's left foot back catching Follower's forward left foot (dancers' embrace is perpendicular). Leader's right leg back sacadas through her two legs, then he turns his body counterclockwise to force her left leg to enganche his right leg. We connected these into a sequence in the reverse (Figure 3+2+1). There was much technical discussion on each figure, to really clean it up and get the feeling right. The milonga was OK (imbalanced by ~+10 followers; it wasn't hugely crowded).

March 9 – Studio Gracia Milonga & Lesson – Negracha & Diego taught the lesson on turns and contraturns, really cleaning up our technique/footwork. They especially emphasized the need for the follower to stay in front of the leader so that their shoulders are square with each other. It was really good (necessary!) to spend time refocusing on the basics and correct spots where I had become sloppy (or was always sloppy to begin with). The milonga was OK. Pampa Cortez showed up.

March 12 – CCSF classes. Midterm review. We reviewed all that we learned during the semester. In Followers' Technique, we reviewed the floor and barre exercises, and boleos. In Advanced, we focused on cadenas, Leader sacadas during Follower forward ochos, Follower overturned forward ochos, and linking these steps.

March 13-30. Ciao bon bons! Voy a Buenos Aires por CITA con mi clase a bailar tango y comer empanadas y carne y practicar castillano. Te extraño. Feliz bailan. You, too, can have a taste of BsAs by going to lessons with visiting maestros Negracha & Diego (Danceasy, Studio Gracia), Luis & Daniela (La Cumparsita @ Slovenian Hall, Elaine's milongas), Gato & Andrea (various locations), and Pampa Cortez or our local teachers Carolina Rozensztroch, Gustavo & Jesica and Marcelo & Romina. Check

March 30 – Studio Gracia milonga & lesson (Negracha & Diego teach). I might also try to go to Luis & Daniella's afternoon workshop if my flight gets in on time.