Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Scouting tour from Buenos Aires continues... (+taxi scams)

Thursday, April 3
Cecilia Gonzalez@ Carlos Copello School (575 Anchorena). I decided to go to this lesson because I had a free pass, which I got from the Tango 8 shoe store across the street. I thought this would be Cecilia Gonzalez of CITA fame, but it was a different one, much younger. She was a good teacher, as was her partner. The class was small and nearly all beginner tourists. Still, she taught a nice little sequence with some fun follower embellishments (forward rulo on the front ocho, with little kick at the end). I probably won't go back though. I think the price for the lesson is normally 15 pesos.

Mariposita (Carlos Calvo 948/950) The dance studio is a modern loft-like facility located in a boutique hotel owned by Carolina Bonaventura. I got there early enough to watch the men's technique class, taught by Francisco Forquera. I thought it was fantastic. They worked on walking, pivots and enrosques, back and front boleos, weight transfers, and lapices, with maestro constantly reiterating the importance of force, energy, dynamics, and impulse to make the leads/dance come alive and add flavor. One interesting thing maestro did was to have the students practice walking, and then he would call out all the different elements/moves (boleo, point, tap, enrosque, etc.)
randomly and the students would do them as they were called out. The men's technique class ended with work to improve balance and strength, and animating/speeding up the feet. The milonga class, which is what I went there for, was good. There were only two other couples, so there was a lot of individual attention from the instructors (Carolina y Francisco). They are excellent teachers and fluent in English. Cost for lessons is 15 pesos per lesson, though a discount card can knock that down to 12.5 pesos.

Saturday and Sunday, April 5&6.
Volcada and Colgada workshop taught by Gustavo Rosas and Gisela Natoli @ EAT Rodriguez Pena facility (Rodriguez Pena 1074). Cost was pricey at 110 pesos each person in a couple for workshops on both days, or 70 pesos per person per day if you came as a single dancer, though it was 7 hours total instruction (3.5 hours each day). Saturday started off with Colgadas, and this was the first time I had ever seen a maestro (Gustavo) actually put up paper notes/diagrams to illustrated the physical dynamics/concepts of the move (me being a fan of notes, he got brownie points for this). My colgadas still suck, but less so (on account of my volcada work, surprisingly). Los maestros taught several fun interesting sequences, which I sucked at, but not horrendously so. Sunday continued with review of the sequences we learned Saturday, and the addition of a couple of new ones. It was very helpful to just keep drilling over and over the colgada movement, to get used to being off axis, but still having control in the abdominals and trying to keep the hips level. Our volcada work was fun, but if I had never taken any other volcada workshops in the past, I would have found it frustrating since they went quickly (I felt that if you were a follower and volcadas were completely new to you, you would not have done well in this class) and los maestros didn't emphasize the extreme importance of the follower posture. The wood floor at this facility sucks. If you are the first class, the floor is super sticky and it is downright dangerous to dance on. So for that class, boatloads of talc is spread on the floor, and it takes a while for it to work its magic to make the floor reasonably tolerable to dance on (and even then you end up getting lots of talc on your pants/legs).

Monday, 7 de Abril.
Milonga with Gabriela Elias @ EAT Gallerias. She taught an interesting sequence and is a good teacher.
Tango with Carlos & Maria Rivarolas @ EAT Galleries. They taught another fun sequence, and are good teachers with lots of individual attention. They remembered me from last week, which is nice. The cool thing about the lesson was that at the end, they made the leaders and followers split up into lines, and had a random leader matched with a random follower, and just to dance down the room in a walk, to get us all used to dancing with different qualities of dancers and different body sizes and to improve our abilities as leaders and followers and connection.

Tuesday, 8 de Abril
Milonga & practica @ El Beso (Riobamba 416, 20 pesos). There was a substitute teacher since Oscar Casas is travelling. His name was Jesus something or other (Velasquez, maybe?). Surprisingly, he taught the lesson wearing heavy construction boots. He is fluent in English and had good technical tips, and really emphasized musicality. Unfortunately, the class was tiny (3 couples total) with beginner dancers. During our break (it was supposed to be a 1 hour lesson and free 1 hour practica, but it turned out to be a 2 hour lesson), maestro discussed milonga etiquette and the art of the cabaceo.

Raul Bravo class @ EAT Gallerias. Maestro taught another fun sequence. He is good teacher, and has an excellent following of experienced dancers (maybe a bit too many wannabe show tango stars), who often act as assistants to help out the struggling students in class.

Rivarolas class @ EAT Gallerias. My body was floppy and my brain was fried from overtraining, so I had a difficult timing getting the relatively easy sequence down. I ended up leaving early because it was unproductive to stay.

Wednesday, 9 de Abril. I decided to take a complete respite from dancing tango today since clearly I have been overtraining. Being the addict that I am, I decided to write down my notes from the past week instead. ;o)

Side notes on taxi scams I have experienced here (for those planning to visit):
Scam 1: The bill switcheroo: Fare is 12 pesos, you had over a 20-peso bill. Driver switches it and says you gave him a 2-peso bill.
Solution: Whenever you hand over money to the driver, state the amount you are handing over: "Vente pesos." That way he can't say you gave him "Dos pesos".

Scam 2: Counterfeit claims: Driver says the money you gave him is fake. He is trying to emotionally prey on you, as you will be flustered by this information. Don't believe his claims that your money is counterfeit. He is trying to get his hands on your money in a guise to see which bills are fake and which ones are real. DO NOT let him put his hands on your money. If you do, you can be sure your 100 pesos bills will disappear or magically turn into 10 pesos bills. If he is insistant, call for the policia.

Scam 3; The roundabout route: Driver takes you on an unsolicited tour of Buenos Aires before dropping you off at your requested destination.
Solution: Try to know the route/general direction to where you are going (many streets are one way). Have a map with you at all times (the free Tango map is actually quite good as it covers a wide area of Buenos Aires and has the street numbers). If it's a place where you go to and from all the time, you will know how much the fare should be. If your castellano is good enough, say so.

Scam 4: The fast meter: Some cabs have meters that are rigged to run fast. There seems to be some type of on-off switch that they can control out of sight of the passenger. Pay attention to how fast the meter is running. If it took you 8 pesos to get to your destination, and then the return destination using the same route costs 30 pesos, you've been scammed. If you notice the meter running fast, you can just tap on it angrily with your finger saying something to the effect of "no es corrrecto" -- magically, it just might start working correctly from that point on. It's your call whether you want to pay the entire (inflated) fare, or say in castellano that the fare should have been 10 pesos and pay only that. (Then again the difference between 10 pesos and 30 pesos is US$3 v US$9, and is it really worth your time/emotional and physical health to make a stink over US$6 in an emerging country whose economy can benefit from your extra $6?).

They say to try to take the taxis marked "Radio taxi" if you can, and call for one to pick you up if you can. That way there is a record of which taxi was dispatched. I've gone in non-Radio taxis with uneventful rides, and have been scammed in taxis marked "Radio taxi" that I've flagged from the street. Be sure to tip the driver if he's given you an OK ride with no scams.

And for all you wannabe movie stars, a posting from

We are looking for non-professional dancers to feature in an upcoming documentary film -- Seduced by Tango. The film will star Pablo Veron, hosted by Robert Duvall, and will air on PBS.

We will represent dancers from five tango communities around the world, and will fly you to Buenos Ares, all expenses paid, for next year's Tango festival. To be selected you must submit a video. See details at:

Many thanks for your interest!
Global Village Media


Besos y abrazos,

Ana de Buenos Aires

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