Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 19-25

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Free Talk at Stanford: "History and Insight into the World of Argentine Tango" by dancer, choreographer, tango historian and author Anton Gazenbeek.
I had heard of Anton Gazenbeek for years, but never got to see him live in person except maybe once years ago, as he left the area long before I ever was active in the San Francisco Tango Community. So I've admired his work from afar, like his instructional video with Cecilia Gonzalez (la otra, no la famosa), and read about his school in NYC. For the lecture, I was expecting more of a general talk about Argentine Tango, but it was a history of the show "Tango Argentino", with many video clips. The show "Tango Argentino" was THE precursor show to Forever Tango, and which toured the world from 1983 to 1992, featuring such legends as Los Dinzel, Los Rivarola, Juan Carlos Copes & Maria Nieves, etc. I had read about this show, and all the drama that went on behind the scenes, but had never actually seen the show or any clips (at least not that I know of). The lecture and video presentation consisted of various clips of the dancers throughout the show's history, private film clips, news footage, rehearsals, snippets from the Merv Griffin show, and illegally filmed snippets from the audience. The clips were from productions all over the world-- Broadway and the US, Osaka, Paris, Italy, and France, to name a few, and covered the entire run of the show. There were examples of the early goal of showing elegant tango dancing, with the goal of being stylized and yet with natural movement, as well as dancing for applause (which happened later during the Show's run). There were clips of milonga, men dancing with each other or women dancing with each other with lead-follow exchange, Monica and Luciano dancing to El Choclo with the Spanish woman doing a more Flamenco style dance to the Campadrito's (native Argentine male) gaucho style dance, Los Rivarola in their 30's dancing to La Cumparsita choreographed by Juan Carlos Copes, a crazy fast milonga, and the Clase Elvira, one of the first tango classes ever taught in the U.S. It was a very interesting video presentation and talk, and the audience, largely made up of Stanford music students (though there were about a dozen tangueros in the mix, along with the tango band Quin Tango), asked Anton and his partner to do a little demo at the end, which he obliged. He is an amazing dancer, truly wonderful to watch, and someone speculated that he must be entirely physically double jointed since he had so much flexibility and range of motion in his core, legs and hips. I don't know about that, but it sure made me smile to watch him dance. Much of what he presented (sans the video clips), is in his book, "Inside Tango Argentino":

Friday, May 20, 2011
MUSE Milonga.
I missed the lesson beforehand, taught by Amy Lincoln and Santiago Croce. I listened to part of it as I set up the noshables. The milonga was a little less attended than the two weeks prior, but it was still a nice, friendly crowd. The lovely Rochelle made some amazing desserts of white and dark chocolate covered cheesecakes on a stick, which were truly a striking sight to behold, and some mini bundt cakes (chocolate and vanilla), which resembled mini frosted doughnuts, appropriately presented on a tiered platter. Those luscious treats definitely rounded out the rest of the menu, which included the usual fresh fruit and veggies, chips, and my phyllo thingies (chicken and cheese flavored on this particular night). Neeraj was the DJ, and his selection of music seemed particularly inspired and yet crowd-pleasing at the same time. As far as I could tell, those who were there had a good time (though of course my opinion is biased since I adore this milonga).

Saturday, May 21, 2011
La Gran Milonga de Los Mendoza with Trio Garufa at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club.
I couldn't resist going to this milonga, despite its higher price tag ($20), since it was in my old 'hood. The fact that they had accommodated for 50 cars to park at the St. Peter's and Paul's church Salesian lot was great, and I thought I could snag a spot by getting there at the reasonably early hour of 9:15 p.m. Boy was I wrong. Apparently, all of those spots were snapped up by 8:05 p.m., which left most of us taking an impromptu car tour of the 'hood. No worries for me though, since I know it like the back of my hand. So I drove by North Beach Playground, down Columbus, and by my parents home off of Lombard. I was tempted to ask if I could park in their 4-car garage (a gold mine in North Beach), but decided against it as I had flashbacks of my teen years and my parents' hide getting chapped as I rolled in sometimes obscenely after midnight from dancing at the clubs. I did NOT want to relive that again, especially in my 5th decade! So I just drove on by, back up Columbus, and lo and behold, the Parking Gods must have been smiling on me because I got a primo spot, just around the corner from the club. Ah! It was meant to be! The parking situation was not going to kick my butt, though I knew I could always park at the police station (or what is now the lot across the street from the police station) if I got truly desperate, but I really didn't want to shell out any more dollars than I had to.

Apparently, everyone and their cousin knew that this was the milonga to be at on this night. There were also lots of folks from the local Italian-American community, new or non-tango dancers, who attended to check things out. The space is beautiful and spacious, but it was very crowded and warm, with lots of spectators and newbies. Trio Garufa played well. The food was excellent with foccacia from Liguria Bakery, of course, the onion of which was a childhood staple and still tasted as divine and exactly the same as I remembered, even the tomato and the raisin ones. (Liguria Bakery has been on the corner of Filbert and Stockton since forever, and it really does have the BEST foccacia in all of San Francisco.) A cheese platter with a very nice selection of semi-hard and soft cow and goat cheeses, an extremely UK-influenced cracker selection that included digestive biscuits and cream crackers a la Jacobs (but not specifically Jacobs branded), and a lovely fruit platter with assorted sliced melon, grapes, and strawberries, along with a strawberry yogurt sauce. There was a full bar and ample pitchers of water and stemmed glasses.

Los Mendoza honored Amy and Jenkin, one of the Bay Area's golden couples of tango, since they were one of Los Mendoza's first students and they have been supportive of most or all of Los Mendoza's events over the last 10 years. Amy and Jenkin were totally surprised, of course, which just made the moment all the more touching.

Despite the overall loveliness and elegance of the space and tasty food selection, I only had an OK time dancing. It was too hot for me, so I was glad to sit out quite a bit and just watch other people dance. I don't believe I was alone in thinking it was too warm since even those who are never warm were fanning themselves quite ferociously at times. So for me, it was an OK, reasonably nice, but not great, evening. Loved the nostalgia of being back in the 'hood, but disliked how trendy and hip it has become, especially with the Saturday night crowds spilling out from the restaurants, bars, cafes and gelato places. It seems the recession is over, at least on Saturday nights in North Beach.

Coming up next week...

Ana y Jr. Scout Extraordinaire's Excellent Adventure in ...

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