Thursday, October 23, 2008

Scouting Tour from Buenos Aires (October 16-22)

Jueves, 16 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 can see and feel my body's improvement from last week.

Canyengue Lesson with Cristina Bruno @ Confiteria Ideal. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me since the schedule and all the signage said otherwise, the class was cancelled. I don't know if it has been that way for a while, but I assume it was because of a lack of interest, a lack of tango tourists, and Confiteria Ideal not printing new schedules/signage to reflect the change. All the milongas/classes at Ideal are now held on the smaller ground floor level, not the larger upstairs, as has been the case in the past. Maybe because of construction?

Tango Porteno
show. (Gratis, because Pablo and I were guests of Nito y Elba. Prices normally range from 170 pesos for show only to 600 pesos for super deluxe seating with dinner.) This was a very nice show. Even though we were seated in the "show only" section, the incredibly attentive waiters served us bottomless San Felipe wine, water or gaseosa (soft drinks), coffee, and absolutely delicious empanadas (could these possibly be the best in all of Buenos Aires?! Outstanding filling to pastry ratio...). It was a very retro show, highlighting tango bands that were popular in the 1940s and 1950s -- Troilo, D'Arienzo, Piazzolla, etc. The newly remodeled theatre and everything about the dinner service exuded quality and luxury, which would appeal to the tourist from a first world country.

Viernes, 17 de Octubre
P.H. Shoe Fitting (Grito de Ascencio 3602)
Pablo went in for another fitting, and I tagged along. We've been taking the Subte to Boedo Station to save on taxi expenditures, and so took a stroll down Boedo since we had time. Boedo is the neighborhood for shoe manufacturing, so you can find everything you need to make a shoe: the tanned/colored/decorated leathers, different plastic or wooden heels (which you would have to paint/cover yourself) and leather soles, as well as the hardware/infrastructure (wooden/plastic foot molds, machines, metal drill bits, etc.). At P.H., Liliana mentioned that I could buy some of those gorgeous leathers, about 1/3 of a square meter, and she could make a shoe out of them for me. It's too late to go shopping for leathers this time around, but it is a very tantalizing idea for next time... Regarding my custom shoe orders, I decided that it would be best visually to chose the main highlighted leather and use black or red as the complementary color (for heels/straps); to pick two complementary colors/textures is tricky, perhaps best left to the professional shoe designers or those who are wild at heart.

Milonga Lesson with Jorge Firpo (
EAT Centro). Maestro taught several simple traspie steps, then the same sequences in crossed traspie footwork. The best part about the lesson was at the end, when maestro did a musicality exercises with body movements not related to tango, like salsa side steps, knee bends, clapping, playing the air guitar, which would help us feel free to move the way our bodies want to, and with rhythm.

Canyengue Lesson (EAT Galerias, taught by substitutes Laura y Adriana). We went over the basic canyengue step, and the back cross step (unpivoted ocho) for Followers, and the embrace. Maestra Laura really emphasized the disassociation in the torso for both Leaders and Followers. Interestingly, even though Maestras were subbing for Martha Anton & "El Gallego" Manolo, they taught entirely differently from them. During their lesson, I found their instructions for the embrace quite difficult to perform (connection at the Follower belly/Leader hip; Follower complete lean on Leader; Follower being completely on the balls of her feet [versus no comment -- I assume whole foot dancing except on pivots for connection to the floor and groundedness for Follower]; variation in the Follower left arm drape over Leader if Leader is substantially taller than Follower [note that this is different from what Martha Anton & "El Gallego" Manolo teach]). This lesson was taught in the new dance room facility, which has no air conditioning. I was disappointed that Martha and El Gallego didn't each the class.

Sin Rumbo Milonga (Tamborini 6157, 15 pesos).

Sabado, 18 de Octubre
Canyengue Lesson with Martha Anton & "El Gallego" Manolo.
This was another great class, with many of the folks from last week. This week was more like a guided practica since we were all at different levels. Googling around revealed that Martha Anton is "THE" maestra in Canyengue, so it's a real treat to be learning from her. I worked on everything I learned last week, reviewing in open embrace, then trying it in close embrace: (1) 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) Rock steps back on the Follower's right (Leader's left) foot, collecting to center with a shift in weight, and then (3) rock steps back on the Follower's left (Leader's right) foot; (4) mirrored back ochos then immediately into the forward ochos.

Domingo, 19 de Octubre
Cementerio de la Chacarita. There isn't a whole lot to do on Sundays in Buenos Aires, except go to the Plaza Dorrego Market (which I've done twice already) and grocery shopping, so Pablo and I visited the cemetery to lay flowers at Omar Vega's grave site again (S16, M3, T10, 7), figuring the warm weather probably wilted the batch from last week. Chacarita is quite vast. Here's a YouTube of Carlos Gardel's grave site: They seem to be doing this weird exhumation thing where his grave site is (which I find bizarre since it's so new...the sign was in Spanish, and it seems to be effecting every other one; I wonder if plots are "leased" rather than "owned"), so he might be moved somewhere else the next time I get around to going.

Anoche - Un Baile De Tango (a show at Borges Cultural Center, 35 pesos). Because we completely missed the memo regarding the time change, Pablo and I were an hour late to this show and couldn't get in. Unfortunately, I had also invited Giovanni Garcia to attend it. With egg on my face, we showed up at the venue anyway; Giovanni was sitting outside as he arrived late and they wouldn't let him in either after the lights went down for this one-hour show. We had dinner back at the apartment since we stocked up at Coto earlier in the day. After snarffling our microwaved reheated Coto fare and washing it down with Latitude 33 Malbec and fizzy water, Giovanni and I had a chance to sneak in a few dances while Pablo fussed with the computer. It was a really nice time catching up. I had seen Giovanni earlier in the day, finally giving him the promotional La Milonga DVD he was in (in the segment on Salon Canning). He was thrilled to see himself dancing on the "big screen" -- (OK, small screen).

Lunes, 20 de Octubre
Improvisation Lesson with Juan Miguel Exposito y Daniela Peez Klein
(Peron 1785, 3rd Floor, 12 pesos for 1-hour lesson). Lured by their ad copy "Dare to create, explore, search, grow, communicate, express, learn, make, find, know, feel, be moved, ask, discover, improve, enjoy, have fun, connect and share on the way towards your tango," I HAD to go to this since there are few improvisation classes. From a couple of different poses, we were to figure out how to go to the side, and how to go forward, using all of the different possibilities in our tango repertoire, both linear and circular, simple and fancy. It was a good lesson; maestros are excellent teachers and fluent in English.

Brazos y Abrazos show at the Borges Cultural Center (Viamonte & San Martin, 35 pesos). This was a modern tango show, filled with 21 different dance sequences, mostly done to Piazzolla. The six dancers did a good job. There is not a bad seat in the house because it is so small.

Martes, 21 de Octubre
Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango lesson by Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Centro. This was another great class, as usual. It is my favorite class in BsAs so far this vacation. We did much the same as last week, though he did add some more challenging exercises, as he does every week. I can see my improvement.

Milonga with Alejandro Hermida y Silvana Anfossi @ EAT Centro (prices were raised last week, 4 class card = 86 pesos). These are the same excellent teachers as at La Esquina. We began with the same movement warm-ups and the same baldosa traspie footwork as they taught at La Esquina. The figure taught was forward and back diagonal steps for the Follower and Leader, into a one-step Americana to the open side of the embracet, then pivoted side steps of side front left leg for Follower, then collection with right foot, repeated, and then usual close. It was a good class, with only 2 leaders and 4 followers.

Julio Balmeceda y Corina de la Rosa lesson at Salon Canning (Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, 20 pesos). 80 enthusiastic students showed up for this lesson, which made for extremely difficult class floorcraft. I was tired of being jarred, and found the step (an accented walking step, then a molinete with sacada) impossible to perform without constantly bumping in to other dancers, so I left.

Miercoles, 22 de Octubre
Milonga Con Traspie Lesson with Gabriela Elias @ EAT Centro.
It was another great lesson. Interestingly, toward the latter part of the class, she instructed the Leaders to mix things up a bit, and not just lead the steps learned in class, to work on their leading technique and to see if the Followers were really following, not just doing the steps on autopilot.

Milonga Lesson with Alejandro Hermida and Silvana Anfossi @ Nuevo Estudio La Esquina
(722 Sarmiento, 4th floor; 18 pesos or 8-class pass for 115 pesos). This was similar to last night's lesson, but maestros added to it based on the skill level of the class. We began with the usual movement warm-ups and baldosa traspie footwork. The figure taught was forward and back diagonal steps for the Follower and Leader, into pivoted enrosque of Follower's left leg around her weighted right leg, setting up for a one-step Americana forward of left foot, into a grapevine of side-back-forward-side-into a boleo turn to other side to go left, into grapevine to the left of forward-side-back-side-into a boleo turn to right, then out to resolution. It was an excellent, very well attended class. My impression is that the class has teaching assistants present, which makes the class advance much faster than those at EAT and other schools.

Yira Yira Milonga. It was the four-year anniversary of this milonga, so it was packed with people who were treated to a full line-up of special performances -- tango, milonga, vals (by Negracha y Diego), chacarera, zamba, swing, salsa, birthday cake. Among the well wishers were Eduardo Capussi, and what a treat it was to see him social dancing with Negracha.

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