Thursday, April 24, 2008

Scouting tour from Buenos Aires continues...(+ shoes, housing, booze)

Thursday, 17 de Abril
DNI (Corrientes 2140, 15 pesos). It was a good class. I don't remember anything specific about it. Floor was hardwood.

Men's Technique @ Mariposita. Another great class! They began with walking with intention, forward and back, and increasing the speed. They also worked on forward ochos, again doing it very quickly. Maestro emphasized that the steps in the feet needed to follow the music. They also worked on lapices and boleos, taps, very rapid twisting ochitos, and very fast twisting ochos.

Milonga @ Mariposita. Also a great class, with a few pretty easy sequences taught. One tip maestra threw out -- in milonga, the follower should almost always be on the balls of her feet, with the heels rarely or never touching the ground so that she can be as responsive in her steps as possible.

Friday, 18 de Abril
Axis, Equilibrium, and Balance with Hugo Daniel @ EAT Galerias. We did the same/similar exercises as in the last classes. Surprisingly and happily, Giovanni was in the class. He told me I was naughty for not calling him recently. I made up for it by arranging to meet him later that evening. He offered to teach my roommate for free, so we took him up on it. He was going to a men's technique class after this one, and I asked him if we could tag along since my roommate wanted to work on improving in that area. Giovanni told us no, that he wanted to see my roommate dance first.

Technique with Gachi Fernandez @ EAT Galerias. This class was OK, with many exercises. We started with stretching (deep ones, quite yoga-like) and loosening up our bodies. Then we went on to do the exercises to help us understand the physical properties of body movement related to tango. One exercise was walking backwards with our heels to the ground as much as possible. This caused our steps to be on the small side, and our knees to bend. We also did disassocation walking exercises to maximize the range of motion/torquing in our chests. We practiced doing two ochos with enrosque on the third step. We also practiced the boleo movements -- front contra boleos, back boleos, and show tango move where there is a hop after the end of the rounded back boleo. The last exercise was a partnered one where both did back sacadas to each other. Good class.

Private lesson with Giovanni Garcia (Chile @ Piedras). Some of you may remember Giovanni from our Dinzel lessons at Dandi, or from the night at Tasso. It was a great lesson, targeted mostly at my roommate, but I was there as the follower prop. We did very simple things -- walking, getting to the cross, for Followers the spiral cross (he recommended I do more of a snug tracing around my other foot with my toe in the spiral cross). He gave a lot of good technical tips for dancing (mostly aimed at my roommate for leading purposes), and practical ones for the milonga. He recommended my roommate, who has thus far has not had a good experience at the local milongas, go to El Arranque on Monday afternoons and just WATCH. Giovanni says that he used to dance 100% for himself and was quite a show-off. Now he dances 75% for the follower and 25% for himself, and illustrated both concepts where he danced 100% for himself and did all sorts of fancy show tango moves, and then he danced 75% for the follower, first starting out doing simple things to gauge her skill level, and then leading moves that she could follow easily within her skill level, but were still interesting and pretty, and would make her feel good, like she is a dancer and capable of more than she realized. I thought that was an incredibly beautiful sentiment and way of dancing.

Sunday, 20 de Abril
Quintaesencia show at Centro Cultural Borges (where the EAT Galerias is, 30 pesos). I went to a very nice tango & fusion dance show. There were four different segments: a show tango, a spring ballet-style, one with a lot of modern dance elements, and a traditional/nuevo. It ran about 90 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. The theatre was small and intimate; every seat in the house was good. The show runs Sundays in April and May @ 5:00 p.m. This is a much better show and value than the tango dinner shows around town. You'd just have to fend for yourself for dinner, which is easy since you are on Florida and near Lavalle. (Linda -- you should see this!)

Monday, 21 de Abril
Pablo Nievas y Valeria Zunino lesson @ Confiteria Ideal (2.5 hour lesson with 0.5 hour practica, 20 pesos). Maestros taught a very nice sequence (from the Follower's perspective): Right foot side step; left foot back; Leader catches/stops Follower's foot. Follower pasadas, then back ganchos with her left foot Leader's right leg, then does slow high boleo into caracia. She then steps forward and does counterlcockwise molinete. On the forward then side step,. leader "sacadas" her so that the Follower's right leg enganches Leader's left leg. He then steps side left to force her to do a high back boleo, to forward contra boleo, then she steps forward with her right foot to resolution. For the leader, he does a series of lapices, sacadas, etc., during all this. :o) It was a great class, and we actually started with some basic fundamentals -- an entire tango just walking together to work on lead/follow. Then we did one tango each just doing forward ochos, then back ochos. Maestra taught a cute embellishment during the ocho, basically just the front and back rounded tucks. It was really nice having so much time to drill the steps. I wish I had gone to these 3-hour lessons at Ideal sooner (I prefer them over EAT, whose lessons are all 1.5 hours). Interesting, Maestro Pablo was a student assistant at many of our CITA classes.

El Arranque Milonga (Bme. Mitre 1759, 8 pesos for ladies, 10 pesos for men). I had a great time at this afternoon porteno milonga, as usual. The floor is a stone composite, but they have really nice ventilation, so it's a very comfortable place to dance.

Body Training class @ Tango Brujo (Esmeralda 754, 20 pesos). Tango Brujo is a retail tango shop on the ground floor, with dance classes held upstairs in a loft-like facility with hardwood floor. The focus of our lesson was to continue working on follower freeness of the leg so we did many exercises such as working on front and back linear boleos, and also straight to the side counterbalance/contra energy/movement. Then we worked on side ganchos (such as Follower right leg ganchos Leader's right leg, and also Follower left leg ganchos Leader's right leg, with Follower perpendicular on Leader's right side both times). It was a very nuevo lesson, which apparently is the style Tango Brujo is known for. Happily, I ran into Giovanni in class, and we had dinner at one of my favorite parrilla restaurants (and home of the 4 peso choripan), Galauno (parrilla al carbon) 663 Lavalle.

Tuesday, 22 de Abril
Diego & Zoriada Alvaro @ Confiteria Ideal (20 pesos, 3-hour "lesson"). This was more of a guided practica rather than a group lesson. It was nice to have Diego give technical pointers on some issues I was working on.

Eduardo Saucedo @ Confiteria Ideal (20 pesos, 3-hour lesson). His guest follower teacher was Cecilia Gonzalez (of Carlos Copello school, a different younger "Cecilia Gonzalez" than the famous one from CITA). The first hour of class was a practica for the intermediates+, while maestros taught beginners. The second and third hours maestros taught a couple of sequences: (1) Little mini volcada with 2-3 small back steps for Leader, putting follower off axis so she could do front & back cross embellishement around her right supporting foot while she is a little bit off axis. Then leader steps forward outside, and she back, into the cross and resolution. (2) Follower does right side step, leader turns her perpendicular to him, as if to make her step forward with her left foot, but leads down with his left hand so she just extends her left foot/leg, then walks around her while she does calesita (with optional lapice embellishment) to back (high or low) boleo to front boleo or spiral cross depending on the amount of energy. We ended our group lesson with a Chacarera lesson. Eduardo is a guy with abundant good vibes; great fun to learn from; a real gem.

Wednesday, 23 de Abril
Gachi Fernandez @ EAT Galerias. Another great class focusing on the dynamics of body movement with many exercises. This day focused on starting movement in our chest, and having our legs torque around as a consequence of our chest movement.

Tango Salon @ Mariposita. The regular teachers did not show up, and I and my roommate were the only students. So Carolina Bonaventura and Francisco Forquera ended up giving us essentially a 45-minute private lesson. They taught us a fun sequence, and worked on us to clean up the technique of getting it done.

Impulses & Dynamics @ Mariposita. Bruno Tombari and Mariangels worked with the leaders and followers as a group, first doing different types of footwork to accentuate milonga music. We then danced together to put it all together. They were OK teachers.

Shoe Shopping
Some of you have asked about shoes. Yes, I already have a dozen, and will probably add a few more to that before I return home, with an additional piece of luggage that I will have to buy to schlep them home. I got most of my practice shoes on the clearance racks @ Artesanal (two stores, one on Riobamba 448 and Anchorena 537) for 140-180 pesos each. Artesanal is highly recommended by Chelsea and Christy.

I also went to P.H. (Grito de Ascencio 3602), my personal favorite. It's a factory. Their shoes are more traditional, so not as fashion-oriented as Comme Il Faut, NeoTango, Victorio, Tango Leike (i.e., no spikey stillettos) and wider in width. Prices I paid for shoes off the rack (I do fine with off the rack, as my feet aren't "unique" enough to require custom) were 170-200 pesos. If I wanted custom shoes, they would have run 220-230 pesos, and would take about a month if they did not have the skins already made.

My rooommate had some men's shoes custom made at P.H., and I was suprised by the care that the process required. First they make a tracing of the feet. Then they make a wooden model of the feet, and add little strips of leather to it depending on where you need more space (like for bunions or wide feet). There was even an intermediate fitting to tweak the sizing (add more leather strips to build out the model), and we returned voluntarily twice more to get the fit absolutely right (he has very "unique" feet and shoes have always been a problem for him). The shoes for which the skins were already made took about 2 weeks to make. For the shoes that had to made from scratch (including new skins that had to be cut and sewn), it took about a month. Lilliana, the sales gal, is super nice, and they adore Jeff Schneider, whose holiday cards from several years past decorate their shelves. I've also gone to various other shoe places (Darcos@ Suipacha 259, and the 4-5 other shoe stores next to or across the street), but didn't buy anything there since they were more expensive than I wanted to spend, and their widths were narrower than I was comfortable with, though Victorio did have a pair that I was happy with (300 pesos). I also liked a pair at Tango8 (Lavalle 3101 cross street Anchorena near Artesanal) and will probably buy it before I leave. I haven't gone to Fattomano yet but will try to, as they come highly recommended.

Some of you have asked if I've bought a place here. The answer is no, but the idea is looking more tantalizing as the housing/banking situation in the U.S. becomes bleaker. A quick surf on the 'net revealed that a small studio condo in a sketchy 'hood can be had for around $35K. From looking at the windows in various real estate places, it seems the decent places here are all around $85K-135K for 1-2 bedroom places in nice barrio, like where my apartment is (Palermo). The place through which I rented my apartment is, who are friends of Jeff Schneider ($1K per month, with $700 damage deposit that will be refunded when I leave). Advance planning is key, as the deposit/payment must be made in cash (credit cards not accepted).

Malbec & Fernet Branca
As I normally do when I travel, I try to drink what is locally produced and what the region is famous for. So that means Malbecs have been my libation of choice. The wine here is decent and very inexpensive, even more so if you buy from the grocery stores or gourmet food stores (from 3 pesos for plonk to 20 pesos for a nice bottle). I had a divine bottle of wine (Finca Gabriel 2005 Malbec) from a small batch artisanal producer for a whopping 16 pesos (US$6). Wine in restaurants is also quite reasonable, with most bottles 20-40 pesos. In terms off other libations, Fernet Branca (and knockoffs) are quite popular here, perhaps a reflection of the strong Italian influence (and thus it feels like being at home in SF). I've tried some of the Fernet knockoffs here and they all suck; so my recommendations to any Fernet lovers is to stick with Fernet Branca or Fernet Menta if you like mint.

Besos y abrazos,

Ana de Buenos Aires

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