Thursday, October 9, 2008

Scouting Tour from Buenos Aires (October 2-8)

Thursday, October 2
Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango lesson by Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Centro.
This class was basically a ballet class targeted at tango dancers. The focus was not on getting the exact technique of the ballet figure, but on moving as ballet dancers do, with more elegance, better posture, equilibrium and upward intention and looking strong and relaxed the whole time. It was a great class, and I can see how it would really be helpful in improving molinete technique for both Leaders and Followers.

A trip to Buenos Aires would not really begin without a trip to P.H. (Grito de Ascencio 3602, en Pompeya), my favorite shoe store. Lilliana, Rodolfo, and son are fine, and there is a new addition to their brood -- Toto, a cute black poodle pup. This time around, I ordered some custom shoes, not for size but for design and color. They were 200-250 pesos. I bought one pair of shoes off the rack for 220 pesos (on the high side for P.H. because of the stiletto heel).

Nino Bien Milonga (Humberto Primo 1462, 15 pesos admission). I got there early since I had no reservation, and thankfully didn't have a problem getting a table. Apparently, the proper etiquette is to call the day of at about 5:00 p.m. to secure a reservation. Those with reservations have reserved seating, usually at a table on the perimeter of the dance floor. It was the usual crowd of 50% porteno, 50% international. The bar and kitchen now take Visa. Romina and Marcelo's tour group was there. I had a good time.

Friday, October 3
My day plans were derailed by my roommate's elbow bursitis ailment, which necessitated a trip to the doctor. Not knowing any local orthopedic surgeons (and not really sure if a sledgehammer was necessary to kill a fly), we decided to do the local thing since the information on the 'net and the yellow pages left us frustrated. So we took the Subte Green line to the Facultad de Medicina stop, thinking there would be medical clinics nearby. We hit the jackpot with the Hospital de Clinicas - Jose de San Martin. We were seen in the emergency room, and the triage doctor who spoke English was able to determine on the spot that it wasn't an emergency. After the initial consult, they took x-rays (for a whopping 14 pesos -- ~US $4.25)-- two different angles on one slide. Then we waited an hour for the doctor, who turned out to be the same one who saw us initially. He set the elbow so that it wouldn't move, and as a precaution wrote a prescription for antibiotics in case it was infected (he didn't think it was), and recommended the usual ice and anti-inflammatories. Then he said to come back in a week for followup. Total cost excluding x-rays: $0.00. Total time from emergency room entry to exit for non-emergency: 2.5 hours. Gotta love socialized medicine.

I had a few hours before my lesson later that night, so I made my way over to Comme Il Faut (Arenales 1239). Their inventory seemed to be leaner, but I did manage to walk out with a gorgeous pair safely tucked under my arm, and 400 pesos less in my pocket. I was shocked that the shoes are now the equivalent of more than US$100 -- US$127 to be exact! Back in August 2007, the last time I bought Comme Il Faut shoes, they were 290 pesos -- less than US$100.

Julio Balmeceda y Corina de la Rosa workshop on turns. Their brand new Zarasa studio (Independencia 2845) has several gyrotonic machines. The workshop was extremely pricey at 160 pesos (US$50!), but was a 2.5 that turned into 3-hour workshop. The floor is Pergo, one of the more textured ones, likely to offset the Pergo's inherent smoothness. (1) We began with the basics of stepping -- to the side, forward (with heel), and back. (2) Then Leaders and Followers did 3 of the 4 steps of the molinete -- back, side, forward -- paying attention to having lots of contra body rotation so that the torsos of Leader and Follower always face each other. This is important to look really connected during the molinete. This exercise was done without the embrace, and was Follower stepping in a U around Leader in three steps, and then Leader stepping in a U around Follower in three steps. (3) Then we did an exercise to prepare us for adding the embrace. First we held our arms out in a circular orientation, as if we were holding a beach ball. Then we turned it from side to side, and then shifting it from side to side (the difference is very subtle, but there is a distinct difference). Here, we were really trying to focus on the circularity of the arm, chest motion. (4) Next, we did a balance exercise, using the concept of the ball when we take the forward step, and then the side step, whereby because of the rotational momentum in our chests/torsos, we can get around a lot before actually stepping to land on the side step. (5) Then we practiced putting it all together, paying attention to keeping the torsos and ourselves facing each other for connection, and the circularity of the chest/torso movement and footwork (walking aRound each other). We began this with Leader and Follower being perpendicular to each other and did the forward, back, and side steps. Then we added Leader sacada on the forward and side steps (right foot on the right turn, left foot on the left turn). The sequence was a simple one: Follower does back ocho with left leg, then goes into clockwise molinete of back, side, forward steps. It was a great class. The only other Julio y Corina classes I took were at Fandango de Tango, and they were learn-a-pretty-sequence-with-
embellishments-in-an-hour workshop, so it was a fantastic treat to really delve deeply into a fundamental/conceptual/technique class. They pointed out a lot of subtle nuances of molinete technique. Maestros are fantastic teachers, with Corina doing most of the teaching, but Julio adding a lot of important color to the instruction.

La Baldosa Milonga (R.L. Falcon 2750; 15 pesos). I was awfully proud of myself for calling in advance for reservations. True to its name, the floor at La Baldosa is made of floor tiles, in this case made of stone/cement composite, which makes for a very hard surface to dance on. I had remembered the first time I danced on the dance floor in August 2007, I found it profoundly difficult -- because of the floor's hardness, and the unfamiliar slickness and slightly bumpy texture. Tonight was no different, especially for that first tanda. Still, I know that floors like these are quite common in BsAs, so I better get used to it quickly (or just stick to places that I know have wood floors). I decided to have dinner there (cheese pasta with stew, salad, empanadas). The food there is just OK, not great; next time I will just stick to the empanadas (a bargain at 2 pesos each). It was easier to get a cab home afterwards by walking the two blocks to Rivadavia rather than waiting out in front.

Saturday, October 3
I made my way over to my second-favorite shoe store in BsAs, Lolo Gerard (Anchorena 607), and was not disappointed with the selection. Their shoes are really incredibly beautiful and well made. And joy of joys, it is only a half a block away from a gi-normous Coto -- my favorite supermercado, complete with Banelco ATM in the lobby. I was so excited by the prospect of going to Coto that I forgot to stop in to Artesanal (Anchorena 537), completely walking past the big sale sign.

Julio Balmeceda y Corina de la Rosa workshop on turns.
We did more turning sequences, building on what we learned yesterday. The first one began with the Follower doing a counterclockwise forward step, then pivoted into amague facing the other direction so right leg is free. During the pivoted amague step, it is important for the Leader's and Follower's hips to be close to each other. We did this on the other side as well so left leg is free. When Follower's left leg is free, she steps around the leader counterclockwise. She can do this step big and out, which would make it into a colgada. Before this step, it is important that the Leader's right foot needs to really stop and settle into the floor to block behind the Follower's amagued crossed feet. We did the same on the other side. It was a very good workshop; maestros are warm, funny, and caring teachers.

Sunderland Milonga (Lugones 3161, 18 pesos). Trying to get a cab directly from Julio y Corina's proved to be difficult (turned down by two, before Julio intervened and gave one specific driving instructions). Everything at Sunderland is 2 pesos more than when I was last here in March 2008. But the dancing is still good, and the crowd more traditional porteno. It seems like all of the milongas I've attended so far have been lighter attended than when I've been there in the past. There are fewer American tourists here right now but still lots of Europeans and Japanese. In the case of Sunderland, they didn't set out as many tables, and you could get in easily without a reservation (I called for one, but they lost it. Still, I was comfortably and immediately seated.) El Parajo y Belen did a fantastic demo. El Pajaro has amazing footwork. See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyFfxRkrdIM and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItWjAibqMGo&feature=related .

Monday, October 6
Tecnica - Naturaleza del Movimiento Lesson
by Maria Eugenia De La Latta @ EAT Galerias. We worked on posture and walking with different orchestras/music/intention.

Milonga Con Traspie lesson by Gabriela Elias
@ EAT Galerias. Maestra taught an interesting sequence with side traspie on the Follower right (Leader left), and then directly into another traspie step on the Follower right back (Leader left forward). She taught another sequence of continual Follower ochitos while Leader walks around her, and included Follower embellishments: the beat back of left leg to right side of right leg, and the rounded air step of the back ochoing right leg. She also taught a couple of embellishments for both Leader and Follower: the air tap on the back step, and a raised step on the forward step in the context of Follower being outside right of leader, but both side by side. Maestra is an excellent teacher, but the class was very crowded with lots of couples bumping into each other, which was a real bummer.

Tuesday, October 7

Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango with Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Galerias. This was a great class as usual, where we focused on ballet techniques related to posture, balance and increasing our strength.

Tecnica para la Mujer with Patricia Gomez @ EAT Galerias. We first worked on getting limbered up and moving to the music. Then we did some some forward and back adornos (walking with tucks, sequential crosses), and caracia variations (regular, with exaggerated kick out, up one side only, up the other side only). Then we did these adornos in the context of forward ochos and back ochos and included the rounded back boleo-like ocho. We ended the class with giving each other a standing massage.

Practica X Lesson with El Pajaro y Belen
(Medrano 476, 20 pesos for lesson & practica) (topic: turns in vals). It was a great lesson, taught by the couple I saw dance at Sunderland. We began with walking to the vals rhythm, first as a group in a circle, then in partnership. Then we did molinetes to one side then the other, first as a group then in partnership, in regular single time. Then we added the double time, Q-Q timing to the back and side steps. The sequence taught was a simple one: from the Follower back ocho, she is led into the molinete (we tried both clockwise and counterclockwise). Then we did a more complicated sequence, again from the back ocho, into the Follower doing two clockwise molinetes, the first of which is in the parallel system, and the second of which is in the cross system with Leader sacada on Follower's forward step, concluding in an ocho cortado. Maestros emphasized the lean forward for chest connection in walking, but in the molinete, emphasized a more vertical posture with weight back to use centrifugal force to keep leader upright and balanced so he can do lapices, enrosques, etc., as Follower does molinete around him. The floor was made of the usual stone composite, but surprisingly, I found it quite comfortable to dance on. Maybe all baldosas are not made the same.

I went shoe shopping at NeoTango (Sarmiento 1938) earlier in the day to get a San Francisco tanguero buddy a pair of shoes. As I was waiting for the shoes to emerge from the storage room, I chatted with another shopper in the store. I noticed the self-confidence with which he choose his shoes, and his overall intention in behavior. So I couldn't resist asking if he was someone famous. He thought about it for a nonosecond, and said, "yes." Then he proceeded to dig out an advertising postcard from his bag, which he handed to me. It said, "Tango Oblivion -- Angeles Chanah/Michael Nadtochi" -- my eyes grew wide (and nearly fell out of my head). He was indeed famous. I think he was surprised I had actually heard of him since I don't hail from his parts. Supernice guy. He was there with a tour group he and Angeles organized from the NYC/NJ area. As for the NeoTango shoes, they are beautiful, and still comparably priced to March 2008 and August 2007, and like many vendors who take visa, will give you a discount (discuenta) if you pay in cash (en efectivo) or buy multiple pairs of shoes.

Wednesday, October 8
Milonga Con Traspie lesson by Gabriela Elias @ EAT Galerias. Amazingly, it was the opposite of yesterday in terms of numbers: 4 Leaders and me. So it was almost like having a group private/men's technique lesson. I didn't mind since I got to dance with Maestra and all except one leader were very skilled. So there were no floorcraft issues. It was a good lesson.

Milonga Lesson with Alejandro Hermida & Silvana Anfossi @ Nuevo Studio La Esquina (Sarmiento 722, 4th Floor, 18 pesos). This is a new school, and an excellent one. We began with a warm up of just doing a pivoted forward diagonal cross step in front of our bodies, and then a pivoted back diagonal cross step behind our bodies, first one side and then the other, to milonga music, and with some embellishments (floor taps, air taps, high and low beats back, shoe shoe off). Then we did the basic baldosa. Then we did traspie footwork on each step of the baldosa, trying to match to the milonga music. Then we did traspie, pauses, and stops on different steps of the baldosa depending on the music. The sequence taught was a good one that strung all these elements together: baldosa, then a change in direction with Leader going forward (Follower back) traspie and then back (Follower forward) traspie, then two Follower right side (Leader left side) steps into an exaggerated circular outside front cross of Follower's left leg in front of her right and Leader doing exaggerated circular outside back cross with his right heel embellishment at the same time, which pops his left knee/leg forward. This lesson was excellent and heavy on technique and musicality. They sell discounted multiclass cards.

I visited Alanis Tango Shoes (Diagonal Norte 936, right by the Obelisk) because I was intrigued by their ads, which state: "Original and Comfortable" "You can Dance or Fly" . Most of the shoes were 320 pesos, and some on sale for 270. Alanis was there herself, and I found her warm and welcoming. So, how do her shoes feel? Really good. They had a lot of padding to them, more so than P.H.'s, and the shoes felt squishier and more cushioned all around (not just under the metatarsal); they are available in normal and wide widths. Stylewise they were more fashion forward than P.H., but not as much as the no-padded shoes of Comme Il Faut or NeoTango. Would I buy her shoes? Sure. I am a HUGE fan of padded tango shoes (I love my P.H.'s), and wonder why more vendors don't include padding. Did I buy her shoes? No. Why? I've already exceeded my shoe budget, and it's only week 2 of a 4-week vacation. The store only carries women's shoes. There was another customer/friend in the shop while I was there; Alanis said she was the new partner of Fabian Salas (she looked awfully similar to Carolina del Rivero).

Julio Balmeceda lesson @ Zarasa studio (Independencia 2845, 20 pesos). Julio taught the lesson on his own, without Corina, and it was an unstructured, unplanned lesson. A student said he wanted to do more work on the male disassociation, so Julio came up with continuing our work on molinetes, with the leader doing lots of disassociation in his chest and lots of embellishments with his feet (enrosques, lapices) while the Follower steps around him. It was a good, somewhat advanced lesson (more like a guided practica), and the students were strong dancers. The sequence was a simple one: Follower does two back ochos into clockwise molinete with Leader sacadas and embellishments during her molinete.

Yira Yira Milonga (Venezuela 2939, 10 pesos). This was only a few blocks away from Julio's studio, and started conveniently after the lesson. I didn't call for reservations, but that wasn't necessary since it didn't get too crowded. The floor was stone composite; the dancers ranged from soup to nuts with old and young people, skilled and unskilled dancers. It seemed like a local neighborhood milonga. They serve food (pizza, empanadas) and beer there. It was easy to get a cab to there and back home.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Thank you for the info.
When we were in Argentina, we hired a tango teacher thaat came every week to ours Buenos Aires apartments. We change the location each time cause we were 3 couples. It was really funny and the Tango is great.