Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scouting Tour from Buenos Aires (October 9-15)

Jueves, 9 de Octubre
Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango lesson by Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Centro.
This was another great class, as usual. We worked at the barres and on the floor, trying to move with elegance, better posture, balance and upward intention in our core, and looking strong and relaxed (especially in the shoulders) the whole time.

I made my way over to Artesanal (Anchorena 537) lured by their big sale sign. I was not disappointed. They had some shoes on sale for the shockingly low price of 80 pesos, and others for 150-180 pesos, all cash only. Their regular non-sale shoes (which you can buy with Visa) are 220-350 pesos. I tried on many sale and nonsale shoes, and selected two pairs of sensible practice shoes for 80 and 150 pesos.

Viernes, 10 de Octubre
Sin Rumbo Milonga
(Tamborini 6157, 15 pesos). This is another milonga that is way the heck out there in Villa Urquiza. To save on the ~40 peso one-way trip, I took the Red Subte to Inca (90 centavos) and then a cab from there (12 pesos). This is a very traditional, porteno neighborhood milonga, but I felt very warmly welcomed. In my opinion, it has the ideal proportion of dance floor to tables, but you really need a reservation for decent seating. Otherwise they will seat you in an area that is not ideal for cabaceoing. That being said, most of the dancers came as couples, and dress was "elegante sport" -- sport coat and ties for men. The floor is black and white baldosa, amply sprinkled with powder. It was easy to get a cab home afterward by walking to the busy street corner.

Sabado, 11 de Octubre
Canyengue with Martha Anton & "El Gallego" Manolo.
This was a great class, filled with mostly beginners, including me. In practice hold, (1) We began with the basic step of crossed forward steps on both sides for Follower, and alternating front and back crossed steps for Leader. Then we did this series of steps in a turning figure. (2) Next we did a rock step back on the Follower's right (Leader's left) foot, collecting to center with a shift in weight, and then (3) a rock step back on the Follower's left (Leader's right) foot. To all of this, we added the close embrace, which was tricky. Since we were doing well at this, we added ochos -- mirrored ones, and then going from the back ocho immediately into the forward ocho.

Men's Technique with Francisco Forquera @ Mariposita
(950 Carlos Calvo, 18 pesos per class or 8-class card for 100 pesos). This was an excellent class, as usual, and began with the usual control/speed/intention/balance/opening of the chest exercises, such as: while everyone was in a line, arm in arm, doing boleos and then a step forward; ochitos - regular, in tea kettle posture with both arms behind back, and with arms lifted high in the air; walking with control and intention; walking with a turned rounded boleo ocho; walking with a lapice of right foot, and immediate back tuck of left foot behind right foot; a back cross into lapice, into back cross, turned into crossed feet; stepping, then back tap into planeo spin; doing a back boleo, then front boleo, then back boleo, then two back cross steps (ochitos); walking walking two steps, then doing three ochitos with intention; walking in alternating diagonals; doing two kicks, then one back diagonal tap; the baldosa. The most interesting exercise was a man-to-man pairing exercise with one doing the molinete mostly on the side and then changing direction to do molinete to the other side, while the other man did a rulo, boleo, boleo, gancho, parada (back sacada) of back foot, and then gancho, and another gancho. This exercise was reminiscent of the scene from The Tango Lesson of Fabian Salas and Gustavon Naveira dancing together in a small studio in Buenos Aires. The last thing the class did was, while the "Follower" does molinete, the Leader does a planeo to a parada barrida. This was a really great class. It seems like the Mariposita has really found its niche with these technique classes: 2 men's technique classes are offered, and three women's technique (total levels, intermediate, and advanced levels) during the week, and they all seem quite well attended.

Domingo, 12 de Octubre
Cementerio de la Chacarita. Pablo and I wanted to visit the cemetery to lay flowers (red gladiolas) at Omar Vega's grave site. So off on the Red Subte line we went (free today because it ran out of small bills and coin change), to the Frederico Lacroze stop, which is right outside the cemetery. The cemetery is laid out as logically as BsAs streets, so even though the office was closed, and we had no idea where the exact grave site was, we found it anyway since we knew the date of death (the cemetery is mostly laid out by date of death). Currently, since it is so new, Omar's is a simple plot with a wooden cross and flowers. There are numerous famous tango legends buried at Chacarita (like Carlos Gardel), but the place is massive, and we only had enough energy to visit Omar's grave site. I am surprised there isn't some type of tango tour map of Chacarita.

Club Gricel Lesson with Nito y Elba and Milonga
(Rioja 1180, 15 pesos). The lesson was great. Nito y Elba are gifted maestros, and warm and inviting people. Elba recognized Pablo and invited him to their show, Tango Porteno, gratis. Unfortunately, I did not have a good time at the milonga. The table service was lacking, and the floorcraft was aggressive (which I also remembered from August 2007). Maybe they are a victim of their own popularity, with the locals and the internationals. Seating was random, with Leaders and Followers all dispersed throughout the entire space, some strangers seated next to each other, so it was difficult to tell who came as a couple and who was open to cabaceoing from another solo dancer. The table to dance floor space ratio practically guarantees crowded dance conditions. I knew it was time to go after I felt a stiletto heel graze the back of my knee (I could understand near the foot or ankle, but knee??!!), followed shortly thereafter by a different stiletto heel piercing my foot (and breaking skin). :o(

Lunes, 13 de Octubre
Advanced Lesson and Practica with Luciana Valle at Villa Malcolm
(5064 Cordoba, 25 pesos). This was an advanced nuevo lesson focused on Follower back sacadas. It was difficult. The floor is made of the usual stone composite baldosa. The dancers at the practica were very good nuevo dancers.

Martes, 14 de Octubre

Practica X with lesson by El Pajaro y Belen on Milonga Turns (Medrano 476, 20 pesos). We began with Belen leading us in feet exercises to get more expression, articulation, sassiness and life in our feet. Then El Pajaro led us in stepping/walking/musicality exercises, stepping in milonga, then adding rhythms of traspie and lise. He had us dance with just traspie steps on the forward, then with the back and side steps, too. The turn itself was where Follower does back-side-forward-rock step back-side-repeat. Maestros emphasized that when doing turns, it is important to use the centrifugal force of the dancers, so weight is slightly back (not forward). We did our turns first in practice embrace and then in close embrace. First counterclockwise, then clockwise. Our class next week will cover turns in tango including Leader enrosques and lapices. The practica was OK. It would be better if you attend with a partner.

Parakultural Milonga at Salon Canning (Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, 18 pesos). This was a great milonga. Canning has a nice hardwood floor, laid out in herringbone. Julio y Corina and Rodrigo y Agustina did several dance performances, and Color Tango played a 90-minute set that was fantastic. It didn't get overly crowded, partly because there seems to be fewer tango tourists in town, and also because they didn't set out as many tables to accommodate room for the band to play. The fewer tables made it more difficult to get a reservation, but Julio came to the rescue and helped out in that regard.

Miercoles, 15 de Octubre
Group Tango Lesson with Julio Balmeceda
(Independencia 2845, 20 pesos). We continued our work in improving our quality of movement/lead/follow in the context of stepping and turning. For the Leaders, maestro emphasized the foot/leg extension from the hip, like a cat.

I came across an excellent take-out parilla (grilled meat) place that is just a black and a half away from Julio's: Bandera Verde (Independencia 2702 @ Jujuy). My eyes and nose were tempted by it several times but it was closed, though they still were grilling meat. Tonight it was open. It was packed with portenos, waiting to order, pay for and bring home meat for their family dinners. Their asado (beef ribs) and chorizo were both excellent, particularly the chorizo. Next on the list to try: vacio.

Mi Milonga at Confiteria Ideal (Suipacha 385, a whopping 25 pesos!) I decided to give this milonga a go since it is walking distance from the apartment. The floor is the usual stone composite baldosa. Interestingly, the milonga is now held on the ground floor, not upstairs, I am guessing because the milongas have been more lightly attended. That was OK though. The dance floor never got super crowded, and the ground floor is a little less worn and tired looking than upstairs. Fewer tables were set out and the stage is larger for the band. The Good: They did not lose the reservation and the table was rockstar worthy. Cecilia Gonzalez (la otra, no la famosa) did a fun dance performance. The live band, Los Reyes Del Tango, were excellent. A folk dance couple performed zamba, chacarera, and zapeteo footwork. The Bad: only a few portenos (I could have counted them on one hand), mostly international folks, many of whom were just spectators, not dancers. The Ugly: the unruly floorcraft, the very beginner dancers who probably had their first group tango lesson that afternoon, the undisciplined, wannabe show tango couple who missed the train by a few decades. The admission price was sky high. Overall: I hope the milongas on other nights here, organized by other folks, are much better than this one was. Naively, I was hoping for an authentic tango experience along the lines of Sally Potter's in The Tango Lesson. Maybe I am a decade too late or should have gone on the weekend.

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