Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 16-22 + special report on Oxygen Milonga in L.A.

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Verdi Club Milonga.
I skipped the lesson, taught by Judy and Jon, who did a two-song performance later on. The milonga itself was OK. It was a humid day in San Francisco, and the floor was sticky. The organizers were a little late and a little overzealous with the powder, which eventually spanked down the stickiness. Carlos Rivarola was there visiting. It was nicely but not overly crowded, and everyone seemed to want to dance a lot. Floorcraft was OK with only light bumps. There was one gal though who got severely stepped on, to the point of having pierced skin and a shocking very blue, huge bruise on her foot. She was a very good sport about it, not knowing who had done that to her, and after icing her foot, getting up to dance a few more tandas. I had a nice time, but bonked around midnight since I had danced every single tanda while I was there.

Friday, September 17, 2010
MUSE Milonga at City Dance Annex.
Since I was manning the door, I couldn't participate in the lesson, which was fine with me. The lesson focused on Follower and Leader disassociation. The milonga itself was fun. It was even more humid than yesterday, so the floor was really sticky. This was remedied somewhat by the modest sprinkling of powder in the corner, which the dancers targeted stepping in between songs. It was a nice crowd, with many skilled Leaders, so when I did dance, I had a good time. Mix Mistress Z was there again to spin the tunes, and did a fine job. The empanadas (beef and mushroom) from El Porteno were exceptionally delicious on this night, being delivered still warm and of course mighty tasty. Lots of folks were content just to socialize around the food area, in between their dances. It was a very pleasant evening, and it's nice to see the momentum building for this new milonga.

Saturday, September 18, 2010
Milonga Garufa at Askenaz in Berkeley.
This is the milonga organized and music provided by Trio Garufa. I skipped the lesson taught by Andrea Fuchilieri since I was at my supper club dinner instead, and couldn't possibly tear myself away earlier. For some reason, I had the mental image of this place as more of a ballroomy type dance studio. Boy was I ever wrong. It's more like a cafe/club. The weathered floor has a lovely patina to it, much like Jelly's in San Francisco, only without the mojito and beer residue. It was very crowded, and quite warm. Lots of people just came to watch and hear Trio Garufa play. A treat later on was when Maria Volonte came by after her gig to sing with the band, which I unfortunately missed. Dance quality was reasonably good, and it was nice to see people come from all around. The refreshments were strictly cash only, and included a wide selection of bottled and on-tap beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, and mostly organic vegetarian light fare (bagels, sandwiches, tamales and such), cookies and cake. Lots of people, including me, brought in their own water bottles, and we were not discouraged from drinking our Hetch Hetchy 2010 (or EBMud 2010 as the case may be for those living on that side of the Bay).

Sunday, September 19, 2010
Studio Gracia Milonga.
I skipped the lesson. The milonga started out a bit slow, but with good quality dancers. It filled up during the night, with dancers who seemed to be ravenous since we vacuumed up the food in no time flat, and not because it wasn't ample (it was). Earlier on in the night we got to dance quite freely with so much extra space, so we could do more real-estate intensive dancing that would normally annoy our fellow dancers under more crowded conditions. It was a very pleasant evening, though I did find myself getting very tired somewhat early.


I visited the Oxygen Milonga hosted by Mitra Martin and Stefan Fabry in LA recently. Thumbs up! I wondered how inclusive the atmosphere would be to new people, and I’m happy to report it was a friendly experience.

Here’s a link to Oxygen’s tango etiquette, it’s very well done:

The floor was reasonably sized for the group there, although it has potential for being too small with a larger crowd. The floor was nicely smooth, with one asymmetric corner that kept the leaders on their navigation toes. The hosts completely transformed the space with wall hangings, lights, a slide show (tango) /clips (The Matrix) playing continuously on one 1/4 wall, still photos of tangeros/tangeras on walls, an abundance of high quality food (cheeses, crackers, salami, grapes, strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, another veggie I forget, dip, bags of really good cookies, various fruit juices, mixed nuts), walking and sitting space around the dance floor. Ample water and cups and sharpie pens. Signs and receptacles encouraging recycling. Aromatherapy with tea candles in the (one) bathroom, tea candles and decorations in the sitting room where the food was.

The hosts were very welcoming to me, and the entrance fee was discounted for out of towners. I got there a bit early, but kept busy meeting the few people there before it started and helping set out the food and candles. To my pleasant surprise, Stefan burned sage and went around the space and the few people in it as a cleansing moment before many people started arriving. The milonga was not too packed, but just about to be. Sometimes it was better just to sit out a bit and watch or mingle. It went on until 3:15am, with Shorey Myers' excellent as usual music choices as DJ. The dance quality was high, and the etiquette was good. Yes, there were some floorcraft issues, about the same as SF. There was a competing milonga across town that night, maybe that's why it didn't get too crowded.

The best non-dancing part for me was during Mitra's brief announcements. She thanked everyone for coming and supporting the Oxygen milonga for two years. They donate a portion of the $$$ to The Nature Conservancy for planting trees, and 6,732 trees have been planted so far with the donations from this milonga. Mitra encouraged people to be inclusive and offer a welcoming smile and greeting to someone you don't know (in a very sweet and genuine way that I am not doing justice to) not just at the milonga but anytime. Next, she announced that Shorey would play 3 Vals and asked dancers to dance with someone they hadn’t danced with or met yet, and to switch partners every song. Most people danced this tanda; we all had fun switching and meeting new people. It was a great way to keep the atmosphere friendly, open, and balanced. I stayed until the end and was amazed at the deconstruction of the milonga set up, and how much was involved. Volunteers filled a minivan with all of it.

The quality of the hosting of this milonga was so high; I couldn't help compare it to SF. I ended up feeling like we could do better. I haven't heard of any charitable donations linked to milongas, I hope there are some I don't know about. If not, why not? Yes, we are all trying to make a living, but can we find a way to do more? When I think of all the long announcements we sit through that consist of nothing other than "here are the next classes/milongas/workshops we'd like you to come and pay for" compared to Mitra's announcement themes of "here's what we all have given to the environment together" "here's what we can give each other" "let's all meet and dance with three new people tonight" “let’s try to be kind to others” "let's make new friends"- I ended up feeling inspired by Oxygen, and a little, I don't know the right word slightly peeved? used? shortchanged? at announcements that are not like Oxygen's. . .

Plus, no salsa tanda thank goodness. (Anne's note: HEY!! I LOVE the salsa tandas!!! I was a salsera way before I was a tanguera, and I have to keep myself from getting too rusty!!!! Now, back to JSE's excellent report...) Brief high quality announcements, then back to dancing tango - a really nice experience.

End of special report from the field.


Some of you asked about the Pampa Cortes folklore series. See the flyer here:



No comments: