Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 23-29

Thursday, June 23, 2011
Late Shift Milonga.
I didn't take the lesson beforehand, taught by Christy and Adolfo. The milonga was reasonably well attended, and got quite crowded toward the end. There were more Leaders than Followers, but those who were out seemed happy enough to socialize near the bar. Rina Gendelman did an exceptionally fine job spinning the tunes, keeping the energy safe, sane and mellow. I thought we all looked pretty elegant as a group. :o) I wore the Holy Grail shoes and they performed well.

Friday, June 24, 2011
MUSE Milonga with lesson beforehand by Jaimes Fridgen and Christa Rodriguez.
I just caught the tail end of the lesson, and the focus was a simple sequence, but doing it musically and then playing with musical variations to add flavor and texture. It was a good lesson. The milonga was fun, with a nice crowd flowing through the entire evening. Mariana Andrly was supposed to be DJ, but the turntable (OK, mac) was hijacked without complaint by Jaimes Fridgen, who, unbeknownst to me and a lot of other folks, is famous for his DJing. So that was an unexpected musical treat. Maestros did a 2-song performance, which the crowd enjoyed. We also celebrated the day after the day after the birthday of Loren with a very nice birthday dance, with Jaimes taking Loren for the first spin. Walter and Raquel made it down from Mendocino, so it was a nice treat to dance and catch up with them. Though the lovely Rochelle was not in attendance, since this was the last MUSE before a 2-month summer break, she sent along two delicious treats: Bruschetta with mascarpone, fig jam, and pancetta (SUPER YUMMY!!!!), and some apricot bars, which rounded out the rest of the food offerings of veggies, fruit, and bunelos de acelga y champiniones (Swiss chard and mushroom balls) from Pablo (which the veggies loved), and my usual phyllo thingies (beef, egg and olive), cheesy potato chips and chocolate chip cookies and Sheri's delicious fruit-infused iced tea, which was very refreshing on this warm night. I wore the Holy Grail shoes and they performed well, though I felt a slight bit of play. Uh-oh. I hope this does not mean I am blowing out of them.

Saturday, June 25, 2011
TangoUniverse Milonga at Lake Merrit Dance Center.
This was a fun milonga in the upstairs hall with pergo floor. The food was diced watermelon and cantaloupe, sliced cheese, sliced cold cuts, and some homemade Indian food of a rice dish and shredded green beans. The flavor of the Indian food was delicious in its depth and complexity, and the heat was spanked down to more westernized palettes. There was also a selection of wines for those who wanted to imbibe. The milonga was nicely crowded, but not obnoxiously so, and Ashvin did a very good job with the DJing so it turned out to be a very elegant, sweet evening. There was no crazed dancing, and floorcraft was reasonable (most people apologized when they bumped into someone). Interestingly, folks came from all around -- the South Bay, Marin, the East Bay and San Francisco, and it was interesting to hear their reasons for not going to more local-to-them milongas (or the ever-popular All Nighter). The volunteers at this event were especially great, as I was again amazed at how the two magical water pitchers never ran dry, despite the large, thirsty crowd and warm conditions. I didn't wear the Holy Grail shoes since I wanted to give them a rest in case I am starting to blow out of them. Still, I wore them for 7-8 milongas in a row (24 hours total) and they performed well throughout that time. But now I think I should give the shoes and my feet a rest and not test them so fervently.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Pampa Cortes lesson at Villa Del Sol.
It had been many years since I first and last ate at this restaurant, in 2005 with the Chowhounds. Back then, I knew absolutely nothing about Argentine food, and from what I recall, the experience at the time was just OK, not great. Of course they were probably overwhelmed by all of us rather demanding diners (what do you expect from Chowhounds?). So it was with great interest when I saw this event pop up on since I had wanted to return to this restaurant after my BsAs experiences and knowing a little more about Argentine food, but I never got around to it. This time, I was determined. A quick search on the internet uncovered a coupon deal (buy a $25 coupon for $10), which I snapped up that afternoon. I had decided I wanted to have dinner before the lesson and practica, since that is generally how I roll to stave off bonking. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the restaurant around 6:30 p.m., we found it closed and no sign with the business hours. There was, however, a sign in the window that Pampa Cortes teaches there every Tuesday, with a beginners lesson and an intermediate lesson (which was not what was posted on A later inspection of their web site showed that they are actually closed on Tuesdays, so obviously they open the restaurant just for Pampa's lesson and to feed hungry dancers afterwards, should they wish.

So instead, we went to the Peruvian restaurant down the street, Golden Inca Peruvian Restaurant We had ceviche (a little too heavy on the acid, in my opinion, and the fish left a little too long in it), and their mixed grill, which was about a third offal. There was intestine, which I didn't like, but also ample tasty chicken gizzards and beef heart. There was also the usual grilled chicken, steak, and beef with little mounds of ginormous corn kernels, fresh and roasted a la corn nuts (only without the heavy-handed salt/MSG and spices found in commercial corn nuts that we ate as snacks as children). They also gave us some extremely tasty rice, gratis (and I normally don't even like white rice, but this rice was absolutely delicious). The owner was super nice and served as our waiter, host and chef. It was a very satisfying meal, and throughout it, I could not stop studying the menu and the pictures of the dishes on the wall as it was all very fascinating to see so many interesting dishes on the menu.

After dinner, we made our way back to Villa Del Sol to find the lesson already in progress. It was a simple sequence of going to the Follower's cross, and then doing forward ocho steps. We also worked a bit on the ocho cortado, followed by a rock step with Leader right leg stop to cause Follower to sandwich his foot, out to resolution. It was a nice lesson, and I got to demo a lot with Maestro. I also rotated among the beginner Leader students, who were very appreciative of my partnering with them. Maestro teaches in Buenos Aires style with demonstrating the step, commanding the students to watch and pay attention, and also splitting us into two groups so he could show the Leaders what to do as they watched behind him trying to copy is footwork and upper body torsion and lead, while the demo follower (this would be me for this class) did her part in front of him with all the follower students watching behind her and trying to copy what she does. For some parts of the class, he also took out every single follower and demonstrated with her so she could work the correct sequence into her muscle memory, like what Nito does.

Afterwards, a very generous student bought the entire group dinner at the restaurant (yes, you read that right!). So there we were, the dozen or so of us all sitting around with a delicious and simple meal of a couple of orders of Argentine parrillada (beef, chicken, pork, morcilla, chorizo), green salad, perfectly crispy French fries, and a couple of bottles of wine. The conversation flowed fast and fierce in Castellano, so it was a very entertaining evening and a great place for some folks to practice their Spanish (or English). My gringo companion (who is no stranger to BsAs) said it was the most authentic Argentine experience he's ever had in the San Francisco Bay Area. I would agree. It was a super fun, extremely culturally rich evening. Regretfully, I will only be able to attend this once more before I leave.

Sadly, I will also miss La Pena de Pampa Cortes on July 16 at Villa Del Sol. I was excited to receive the flyer, as Penas (dance parties, not specifically tango although some will be played, but more just general dancing, Argentine [chacarera and other folkloric dances], salsa, rock n roll, etc.) are popular in BsAs, but nonexistent in the SF Bay Area. The San Francisco Bay Area is very lucky to have such an amazing Argentine dance icon in its midst in Pampa Cortes, who is exposing a lot of us Gringo tango heads to Argentine culture beyond tango.


Last week's blog posting about the conversation I had with the Three Anonymous Leaders I had lunch with after a Sunday afternoon at Bollyhood piqued some folks' curiosity.

JSE and I got to emailing about parts of the conversation:


I gotta tell ya, it's all preference. Like XY (not one of the three Leaders present that afternoon), he thinks I am a tad too heavy and too forward leaning and should be lighter, because that's how "the good dancers in SF are" and he likes superlight. He thinks that's how the "good" dancers in the Bay Area dance. But guess what? That is NOT how the good Leaders like it in Buenos Aires, and some excellent Leaders like it in SF, so you have to take all Leaders' opinions with a grain of salt. Try to tell XY that there is a different opinion and he is not the best dancer in the world (and just might be dissed as not dancing "real tango" if he ever bothered to go to Buenos Aires), and well... you see what I mean? Life is truly different, and your tango perspective is truly different, when you dance in BsAs (XX also confirmed this). XY has never been to BsAs, and neither have two of the three anonymous Leaders. However, all three of those Leaders I had lunch with have a good perspective, respectful of how tango is in BsAs, much more so than XY and a lot of SF leaders.

I was thinking of writing something about the whole lightness versus heavyness/groundedness, because some Leaders are completely clueless!!! Of course, it's just a preference...but still... It depends on what you want... to be a "good dancer" in the eyes of a certain select population of the SF tango community, or in the eyes of the Portenos.


In Buenos Aires, I hear locals that dance close say North Americans dance too light, and I hear traveling international tangueros say San Francisco has a very upright style that runs up and down the West Coast. In open embrace it can be that a Follower is mostly on her/his own axis except when the Leader changes it. But, there is an energetic exchange at times with the leader that brings a dialog, a push and pull, that exchange of energy we seek. Leaders don't want to move a us around like a refrigerator, but they need to feel us, feel our connection to the earth and ground. So, there is something important in saying a good Follower maintains axis, but it's missing something at the same time. We need that exchange of energy, it's why we dance, we need to feel the other person's presence but not because we are speaking for them. If you are too self-sufficient and too self-contained on your own axis, you are not really "showing up" and you can't be felt.

A Russian leader told me tonight that if I do exactly what he expects (I was getting tense thinking I was making a lot of mistakes), he only knows himself, but if I do something unexpected, he gets to know who I am. I asked him, didn't he want to get to know himself better, and he said something like, "Well, I've seen that (meaning himself) several times already", and it was more interesting to him to learn about another person through dance. It seemed extraordinarily profound at the time; it was respectful not sleazy. Just dance.


Friday, June 24, 2011

June 9-22

Saturday, June 11, 2011
The Late Shift milonga.
This milonga was reasonably attended, but with a lot of couples who didn't switch partners much. So I ended up sitting out a good bit, but at least getting a few dances in with some favorite Leaders and a few that I haven't danced with in a long time. I felt my dancing was a bit off and wonky, for some strange reason. Since it was my first time dancing since returning from BsAs, maybe it was the famous BsAs hangover. I wore one of the new pairs of shoes I got in BsAs -- the PERFECT fitting show in the PERFECT non-blowout material from Lolo Gerard. And they performed like a dream. I could not stop smiling (wonky dancing and all), as it felt that I had finally gotten the Holy Grail shoe -- perfect in every way.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
CellSpace Alt Milonga.
I got there too late to attend any lessons. The milonga was OK. I sat out a lot as I was manning the door and they were a little short-staffed on this night. That was OK though. I wore the same Holy Grail shoe again to see if it was a fluke, or to see if it actually felt as good as the first time, on a different surface. They performed great. I could not stop smiling. Cecilia Gonzalez and Somer Surgit did a fine performance of two songs, which was an unexpected treat.

Thursday, June 16, 2011
Verdi Club milonga.
There was a weird mix-up in the tangomango posting, with one posting saying that Diego Lanau was teaching the lesson, and another one saying Cecilia Gonzalez was teaching. The lesson was packed, and it turned out to be taught by Diego Lanau. Personally, I did not take the lesson myself. Afterwards, I heard more than one gripe that they were expecting Cecilia Gonzalez. The milonga was pretty good. DJ Emilio and the band Tangonero did a fine job keeping the energy reasonable so floor craft wasn't too obnoxious despite the crowded conditions. Surprisingly, there were more leaders than followers on this night, so of course I had a good time. :o) Cecilia Gonzalez and Somer Surgit did a fine performance of two songs.

Sunday, June 19, 2011
Bollyhood Free Practica.
On a whim, I decided to go to this, even though I had spent the morning hiking and flea marketing and hadn't made my way home in between to change. Needless to say, I wasn't dressed for the occasion, and thought twice about arriving in my hiking shirt and shorts. But I decided to give it a go anyway. Walking past the Goodwill store on Mission, a serviceable enough dress in the front window caught my eye, so I made my way in, stripped the mannequin, and made my way to the dressing room. Luckily for me, the dress fit. So I just wore it out of the dressing room, had the cashier cut off the tag, and I bought a plastic bag for $0.05 to put my hiking clothes in. Arriving at Bollyhood a couple of minutes later, some Leaders remarked at my dress (more of a night time dress than a daytime Bollyhood dress), and so I told them of the Goodwill escapade and showed them my hiking clothes. They all agreed that the dress was better. I had a good time at this Practica. It had been quite a while since I had been to it. I danced with many of my favorite leaders and quite a few new-to-me leaders. It was a sweltering afternoon, but I spent most of the time dancing anyway.

Afterwards, I had drinks and snacks with three local leaders at Frjtz . We had various drinks and split the sweet potato fries since none of us were particularly starving. And so I was privy to a plethora of ... uh ... gripes from the leaders. One of these leaders has a habit of suggesting what I should write in my blog, and I always encourage him to start one of his own. And so our banter goes back and forth every time the topic comes up of what I should write versus him starting his own blog...

Back to Frjtz, it was a rather eye-opening afternoon as they spoke about who is a good dancer and who isn't, and why...which was strange to me because the gals that I think are good followers (or who look like they are good followers to me), often weren't the same ones they think are good followers. Just goes to show...appearances can be deceiving. One gal who I think is one of the best dancers in the Bay Area, was roundly criticized across the board for hurting Leader's backs, and doing the "Enter The Dragon" embellishments (hilarious terminology!) whenever any leader paused, even if for just a split second. Others were nice enough, but had balance problems which caused them to hang on or nearly topple over the leaders (depending on their physique).

They also spoke about how unpopular they become once they make the decision to not dance with a follower (being "defaced" -- the vernacular for unfriending on facebook, or getting hostile looks at the milonga from said follower, enough for other leaders to notice and comment about).

I suggested to the leader that he draft something up to include in my blog, since he obviously felt very passionately about the subject, and in the interest of adding some guest editorial content, here you go:


This is what so many leaders would say to followers in Tango, if they only could:

Dear Tangueras,

Very often at milongas, we see many ladies sitting a very long time. Clearly, they did not bring that fabulous Betsy Johnson dress with the sexy Comme il Faut shoes to just look pretty. So, why then, are they sitting so much? The answers might disturb you, but we shall try and explain from the leader's side. But before we do this, let's for the moment put aside any physical beauty and youth of age as a factor in getting men to ask them to dance. For, if we do not, this will cloud our ability to see the challenge clearly.

With that said, here goes:

Take classes! Repeat: take classes! If you once took classes, go back to class. Yes, you heard us correctly. If you really want to accelerate the process, start taking ladies' technique workshops. This is the stuff you often don't get in regular class. Here, they teach proper technique, posture and exercises you can do at home, alone, to perfect your following. You will probably be amazed at what you will find there. More than likely, you will probably realize just how much you are doing incorrectly at milongas.

You may realize you are leaning on us guys. Or pushing or pulling on us. You may see, in a painful way, how you are not on your axis so much of the time, thus making it very difficult to lead you. It may sound cruel, but many leaders refer to various followers as 'she is like a refrigerator. Impossible to move'. This is clearly not a compliment. And I am sure you not happy to hear it. Guess what, we aren't happy, either, to move you around like we are in a weight lifting class! But you can stay in denial about what we are telling you, or you can take steps to become a better follower and get many more dances. Your choice.

But back to the business at hand. Us leaders truly want to dance with you, but not if you are a bad dancer. You have to do the work! If you see someone sitting all the time, you can almost guarantee she is not a good dancer. Contrary to what you may believe, a good leader really doesn’t care much how she looks. He only really cares if she can dance. That may be a hard pill to swallow, but if you could be a leader for a night, you would hear our comments about who can dance and who cannot. And decisions are often made by speaking to other leaders we trust, too. Really, they are. If they give you the good word, we will go on faith that you are good and ask you to dance. Chances are, you are good indeed. So, believe us when we tell you we talk about your dancing all the time. And we do.

We talk about who is promising. Who is getting good. Who is bitchy. Who is not good. Who is arrogant. And everything else you could possibly imagine. Here's one you won't believe. We virtually never talk about 'how fine' you are or 'how gorgeous' you are. That basically doesn’t come into play. Dancing with a beautiful woman who can't dance is not a day at the beach for us. It gets real old, real fast. We may do it as a favor to the guys we respect, if they introduce us, but we won't do it on our own. At least not for long

We are very disappointed that teachers won't tell you what we are saying here. But they cannot. Not if they want to keep you as students and continue to pay their rent.

So, what is the message in all this? Easy. Practice. Get better. And we will hunt you down faster than you give us the cold shoulder when WE are bad dancers asking you for a tanda. Try it and see what happens. Chances are, you won't get much rest sitting in a chair. Trust me.


Anonymous Tango Leaders

Monday, June 20, 2011
Orange Practica with lesson beforehand by Shorey Myers and Mark Harris.
The lesson was good, very thought provoking, with the Leaders and Followers doing a rock step to a Follower front cross step, and the Leader playing with a change in direction. The thought-provoking part was for the Leader to use either foot on the rock step, and to lead the Follower on either of her feet on the rock step, which would of course which way the forward front cross step went, and the subsequent change in direction. The practica was fun too. I rarely go to the Orange Practica on a non-Homer night, so in a way it was nearly a first for me. I got to dance with a lot of people I hadn't danced with in a while, so it was a fun night.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
CellSpace milonga.
I did not go to either the beginner or intermediate lesson since I was on door duty, which actually went very swiftly. The gals from Tang-O-Rama (the opening show for the Queer Tango Festival next week) did a dress rehearsal performance dance to Poema, which was nice. Later on, Jaimes Friedgen & Christa Rodriguez did a two-song performance highlighting their sacada and boleo skills. The milonga was quite crowded, and it was a warm night. There was a strong crew from Sacramento in attendance, and it was super fun to dance with them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Scouting Tour (June 2-8) from BsAs, NY and SF

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Luciana Valle Intensivo C - Day 4.
Notes to follow later.

Madero Tango Show (US$60 per person for dinner and show). JSE and I decided to go to this because Intensivo assistants Jose and Selena were in it. Since we booked quite late (a couple of hours before the show began), we got the not-so-great seats in the $60 dinner section, which was the least expensive dinner section. There were 2 other dinner sections (US$140 or US$230), and they also had show-only options for $35 and $75. The meal was good, with an appetizer (we had soup and a beef empanada, and shared both), a bottle of white or red wine, or champagne (being girls, we chose Champagne), entree (choices of beef, chicken, fish, or vegetarian pasta; we both chose beef because it is so good in Argentina), and dessert (we shared the chocolate flan/mousse thing which was OK, but not as good as the poached pear). The show was fantastic, with Jose and Selena as our favorite dancers, of course. Our table fit 6 people, but we shared it with only one other couple, honeymooners from Brazil. Jose and Selena came by afterwards, which was nice of them.

Friday, June 3, 2011
Luciana Valle Intensivo C - Day 5.
Notes to follow later.

My overall thoughts on the Intensivo: It was great. We basically worked on fine tuning the technique to execute the concepts taught in Intensivo A and a little bit of B, and Al Cuadrado. It was what we really needed to get the concepts into the muscle memory in our bodies. Seeing some of the shows that the assistants were in was truly astounding. I always knew they were good/great, but I never understood how great until I saw them dance to the maximum of their ability. Maestra instructed them to work me hard, really pushing me to the edge of what I am capable of doing. It's funny though. Maestra often accuses me of being lazy, and well, she is right. When I actually really focused and put my mind to my body to do exactly what she instructed, I was able to carry out whatever it was we were working on exactly as I was supposed to. It was also interesting and amazing in that Maestra taught things that I haven't experienced from her: musicality (mostly vals but some milonga) and a little bit on the ocho cortado (shocking!). As usual, she was enthusiastic and encouraging, firm and funny.

I cannot say enough good things about the assistants. All the other students usually take privates with them (around $50 per hour), but I haven't yet had the courage to do so. At JSE's rather forceful urging, I asked Chino for a private, but he declined because he needed to prepare for his trip to Europe to teach! Ah well, maybe next time. Chino has been my favorite for a while, mostly because of his astoundingly creative musicality. It just feels so amazing to dance with him. To me, it feels dreamy and ethereal as we float across the dance floor.

Jose is so kind and patient, and of course a powerful dancer. I get the feeling he will never let me fall. I try not to gape at his painfully beautiful face.

Gaston is much like Jose in terms of power and performance (sounds like a car, eh?), although more happy and joyful.

Nicholas strikes me as the philosopher, who pretty much does things by the book. Whatever Maestra teaches, he works on with us. No wavering of topic, no just dancing because he's tired of working on the material with everyone else and his mind and body need a break. We stick to the topic.

Herman (the handsome one) and Herman (the handsome one with the bigger ego), are both great. Herman the handsome is so encouraging. Herman with the slightly larger ego is super fun and his corrections are spot on, and he always comes up with some nugget for our brains and bodies to chew on so we can become better dancers.

Mati was new, but I liked dancing with him a lot.

Sergio is as he always is, as the most visible, among the favorites of the assistants. Corrections always spot on. Sometimes veers from the subject matter to do more creative things he is working on as a dancer.

Our group was very lucky in that it wasn't super huge, so we had ample dance floor space to practice some of the more real estate demanding moves. While I think Intensivos A and B are great alone on their own, having C to work on solidifying the concepts, refining the technique, and drill even more muscle memory into our bodies, and be in a mental place where the information isn't new, but reiterations and refinements of instruction that we had already been exposed to, was priceless. And there are no better people to work on this with than Maestra's hand-picked assistants, who I've already raved about seemingly ad nauseum.

Guillermina Quiroga workshop at Carlos Copello School on Anchorena
(40 pesos). JSE and I looked forward to this all week, and we called before making our way over to make sure it was happening. Sure enough, it was. So we got there to find Maestra already there. We were concerned that the workshop would be filled with couples or people who did not know how to dance and maybe we'd be stuck working on a sequence. We waited for a while, but lucky for JSE and me, no one else showed up. So we effectively got a 1 hour private women's technique lesson for 80 pesos (a screaming bargain since Maestra gives privates at astronomical rates for Buenos Aires). We worked on walking backward and forward, adding the rulo adorno, and on ochos with the leg delayed back, not immediately collected. After our lesson was over, Maestra mentioned that she also has her own shoe line and tango studio. The mention of "shoes" made our ears perk up, and Maestra suggested we see them at some point, but to call for an appointment beforehand. Since we only had tentative plans to see a show later that night, but had not yet bought the tickets, we suggested to Maestra that we see her shoes right away, after class. She agreed. And just as we were leaving, Carlos Copello himself was at the school, kissed us all hello/goodbye, and JSE and I both made dreamy comments about never washing our right cheeks again after that. He smiled and winked.

So a quick stroll 4 blocks away on Aguero brought us to the lovely little place (palace?) that is Guillermina's and which houses her newly remodeled shoe boutique and dance studio-- a long, large room with mirrors on two sides (1 length and 1 width). The shoes were 500 pesos; neither of us found anything that screamed out to us to take it home. But it was a nice kick to see the newly remodeled building and to see the pride and excitement that Maestra has for the place and her shoes.

Saturday, June 4, 2011
EAT Class on Women's Technique by Aurora Lubiz.
I was surprised when I purchased this class along with Marta y Manolo's Canyengue class, that after I gave the gal a 100-peso bill and she only gave me a 10-peso bill as change, that the prices had gone up since I bought one 5 days earlier.

The new EAT prices, which I believe border on the absurd since I have never had regular classes there cost more than US$10 (and mostly around $7-8), are now:
1 class 45 pesos (this is roughly US$11)
4 class card 166 pesos
8 class card 315 pesos
12 class card 450 pesos

When I expressed my shock at the prices, the gal said Argentina experienced inflation of 25% in May. Either she said it wrong or I understood it wrong, because that would be impossible. But still...its nuts.

I had always been curious about the Women's Technique class since it was always packed with people, and I know this because I always take the class after -- Marta y Manolo's Canyengue. I never took the Women's Technique class since mentally I wasn't in a place where I wanted to work on Women's Technique with anyone other than my usual Women's Technique teachers in San Francisco. In Aurora Lubiz's Women's Technique class, we worked on walking forward and walking backward with the adorno of the rulo and front cross tuck and back cross tuck, and reverse caracia after the reverse rulo. We also worked linearly on our molinete technique, doing in partnership a side step to big pivot, and then a back cross step to big pivot, to side step, etc., with emphasis on being on balance, having good full pivots, and not moving the body while extending the leg (we were supposed to extend the leg first). It was a good class. Maestra is fun and nice, very cheerful and chipper, and another women's technique Maestra at EAT, Patricia Gomez, was in the class to provide additional guidance as needed. I felt a bit rusty on some of the things we worked on, so I may have to revisit signing up for Chelsea Eng's CCSF Wednesday Women's Technique class again, which I found to be excellent.

In Marta y Manolo's Canyengue class at EAT, things worked out in such a way that I got to work with a local porteno who regularly goes to this class, and JSE got to work with Maestra's son. Needless to say, I was pea-green with envy. They looked great, and he certainly is a gifted Canyengue dancer. I am glad JSE's first Canyengue class was a fun experience for her (because depending on who your partner is, it could be a less than stellar experience). I picked up one of Marta y Manolo's DVDs for US$40 (160 pesos). Somehow on the Tuesday prior, I had misunderstood Manolo's communication and thought he meant the DVDs were 40 pesos each (not US$40, which they actually were). Unfortunately, I could not afford the US$200 for all their Canyengue and Milonga (with Al Reves moves) DVDs, so I had to pick just one DVD to purchase, which I did--the Canyengue 1 (there is also Canyengue 2, Milonga 1&2, and Milonga En Scenario (with the Al Reves moves).

After class, since it was Saturday, some shoe stores were open.

We decided to go to what unbeknownst to us would become our new favorite shoe store - Camina at Defensa 682. Since the store is so new, there is no signage yet, so you need to know the address and ring the doorbell for someone to open the door to you. When you go upstairs and into the space, you will find that it's a dance studio with two rooms on either side and and the shoe boutique itself is along the hallway between the two rooms. So it makes for a tight fit from a shoe purchasing standpoint, but it is well worth it. Their shoes are beautiful, well made, and have a more forgiving fit than Comme Il Faut and NeoTango. In CIF and NT I am a size 6, whereas in Camina I am a 5. They also ask you if you want suede on the bottom. We both opted not, since I had to leave the next day and didn't have time for them to put it on for me, and JSE didn't need or want them. But when I thought of the two outrageously impractical but stylish shoes I had back home in the US that I wanted to turn into dance shoes, I asked for the suede pads on second thought, and she happily gave them to me, gratis. This is on top of the 10% off coupon we had for the shoes and another modest discount we got because we were bailarines especiales. :o) Shoes there were normally 420 pesos, with one pair only 400 pesos, and with our discounts, they were even more reasonable. So we happily stocked up.

I really wanted to go to NeoTango as well (the store closes at 4 p.m. and JSE was ambivalent, but there is one shoe that I REALLY want from there that they didn't have in my size the last time), but after Camina, the desire totally disappeared. So we mutually decided and agreed to skip NeoTango.

The clock was still ticking fast, so after our purchase at Camina, we grabbed a cab over to Lolo Gerard. Sure enough, they had more shoes on clearance, so I got an excellent, what I hope to be bullet-proof shoe that I can wear to classes. The heel is lower and it is very sturdy and solid, but still pretty, not frumpy. And I got another basic black shoe that is very similar to one I already own. I bought a dupe since I love the Lolo Gerard durability, which I don't find in other "prettier" more delicate shoes. I dance hard (it's all those maestros' voices ringing in my head telling me I need to connect to the floor below, to propel myself, and to pivot a lot) and my Lolo Gerards really hold together well.

In our cab to Lolo Gerard, we passed by Naranjo de Flor on Anchorena 430, which I had wanted to go to since they have Bertie shoes. Thankfully, this store doesn't close until 7 p.m. on Saturdays (everyday, actually), so we backtracked for a visit. I tried on one pair of silver lame shoes. Though I loved the fit, feel and look, the 550 peso price was too steep for me after an afternoon of buying 4 pairs of shoes elsewhere at substantially lower prices (all shoes were at least 160 pesos less than that). When I remarked about the somewhat high price, she told me that I had chosen the most expensive shoe in the store, and that most of the other ones were 500 pesos (which I still thought was a bit high).

In addition to Bertie shoes, Naranjo de Flor had lots of clothes from designers like Stella Baez (partner of Ernesto Balmeceda), Mara Mansur, and the house brand Naranjo En Flor , so we spent a bit of time trying things on, etc., with the styling help of the shop owner, who happily obliged with excellent suggestions. It was a very girly-girl afternoon.

After an afternoon of two classes and three shoe stores, we decided it was time to eat. We decided to head back home since we had lots of food in the fridge, but stop by the local wine shop for a couple of bottles of champagne. We scored with two bottles for 70 pesos (less than US$20), one from Mumm (from Mendoza, Argentina), and one from Norton (obviously from Argentina also). Both bottles were great, as we shared them with everyone else who floated through the kitchen during my last dinner at the house. We also concluded with Havanna Alfajores all around (52 pesos for a box of 12 mixed), which I had originally planned to give to the Intensivo assistants, but Sheri (who is far more generous than I am) beat me to the punch with Havanna Alfajores for all (100 pesos for a box of 24 mixed).

After dinner, we made our way over to the Borges Cultural Center to watch another tango show (60 pesos). I forget the name of it, but it was slick and fast, a little loud (both JSE and I had to stick some wadded bits of tissue in our ears to spank down the sound), and a little less soulful and interesting than the Wednesday show. Though the dancers were technically excellent, something fell a little flat. We both found the makeup of one dancer, which went overboard on the glitter and cat eye, to be distracting. The singer also had every other number, and we were hoping for more dance. Normally, I would have been disappointed at the short length of the show, coming in at a little over an hour. But in this case, I was not.

Sunday, June 5, 2011
Didn't do much except sleep in, eat breakfast around noon, pack, and then take a stroll. Got back home, took a shower, ate and then Dante picked me up exactly at 5:00 p.m. as he was supposed to. Traffic to EZE was light on this Sunday night, so I got there in plenty of time for my flight to NYC.

Random comments about my stay in BsAs:

There seems to be a tangible change in the air toward milonguero style and away from nuevo at the moment (though of course everything is cyclical).
Tango Brujo (the store and school) closed a few months ago.
Susannah Miller now teaches at La Viruta (!!!) -- which totally knocked my socks off when I saw that!
Maestra teaching musicality and the ocho cortado (!!!) at the intensivos.
It is strange and wonderful at the same time. Of course when I reveal the note-taking tangostudent side of my identity, people are very appreciative and gushing about what I do, and yet they are surprised that they run in to me at a Canyengue class (which I've taken for years), and I often hear the comment "You don't dance at all the way I imagined you to dance."

Prices are going up.

Cabs are not as cheap as they used to be. Right now, they are 5.8 pesos initially and 58 centavos every 1/8 mile, and more when you take them late night (which going to/from the milongas, we all do). Used to be 4.1/41, then 4.6/46.
You saw my comments about the EAT prices. Yikes! Strategically, I think the price increases are a mistake, especially when they exceed visiting maestro pre-milonga prices in the US. That's just my $0.02, worth all that you paid for it.
Even empandas are edging up in price.

I didn't go there, but I imagine some folks scan this blog for mentions of Comme Il Faut. While they continue to turn out shoes that are considered by many to be the most beautiful tango shoes that ever graced the planet, I cannot stomach the 550-600 peso price per pair of shoes, especially when I blow out of them so fast. The fit is also for skinny socialite feet, which mine, unfortunately, are not. So I now find myself regularly forgoing the vaguely Sex In The City meets Sephora shopping experience in favor of places I've never been to before (oh the thrill of the hunt!), or some reliable favorites, old and new, especially on a trip as short as this one.

I am not quite sure what day I went to Tango 8 (probably the same day I went first to Lolo Gerard), but the space on Anchorena seems a little less friendly/welcoming than the last time. The space is smaller, with just the front half fully dedicated to retail, and the back half now closed to consumers and just used for storage of inventory. The shoe inventory seems lesser and a little bit more forbidding being behind the glass of enclosed cases. The fashion/clothing items are even more ample, so maybe that is where most of the profit margin is, which is kind of a pity because I liked their shoes (although I do also like the one dress I have from there as well).

Veggie lovers should not be afraid to come. There are lots of veggie/vegan stores and items available. It is not all about the beef here. Same goes for the Kosher folks (though it does require a bit more homework/legwork...but heck, there is an underground/closed door kosher restaurant that is one of Buenos Aires's most famous and oldest).

The Subte (underground train) and Collectivo (bus) continue to be the same, and are a great bargain. They have a new card called the "Sube" which is good on the Subte and a lot of the Collectivos. Get one if you have the patience to. Or get a Monedero card (second choice). The red line continues to be built out to Villa Urquiza. Can't wait for them to be done so it will make going to Sunderland easier and cheaper.

Back in the day, you could take a trip to Buenos Aires, and buy a dozen pair of shoes and take lessons galore and pretty much break even with vacationing in the states. Now, I am not so sure that value proposition exists.

I didn't bother to do any laundry on this short trip. I wore some shirts/pants for two or more days, just like the locals. I was OK and didn't stink or anything (at least I don't think I did). I think we get overly OCD about wearing clothes for more than one wear without washing (good Lord! It's not as if we spend our work days in the coal mine or digging ditches!), though the rest of the world sometimes spends a week or more in the same shirt/pants without washing. Sorry if that skeeves you out, dear reader, but consider it something that brings us all closer to the rest of humanity, most of whom do not wear freshly laundered clothes every single day of the week.

The best compliments I received this trip were a couple of people asking if I lived there because I felt so portena and the statement that I was a good, budding, young milonguera.

Monday, June 6, 2011

NY. After the bus ride into Manhattan, I stopped by a little deli and into the line. Lots of folks were ordering breakfast sandwich bagels, with ketchup, which I thought was bizarre. I did not get to do any tango because I was having too much fun in my non-tango life. After all my work was done, I was exhausted and fell asleep easily and quickly.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CT & NY. I did not get to do any tango because I was working on the serious parts of my non-tango life. The flight back home from JFK to SFO that night was OK. I had a hard time sleeping. After business and first class, the coach seats seemed really upright, even when fully reclined. Gosh, I guess it just took one trip to be hopelessly spoiled forever.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I glued the suede bottoms that I got from Camina onto the two pairs of fashion shoes I had at home with Klebfest Shoe Repair Glue. We shall see how it holds up, although I used the glue wrong. I didn't leave it to set for 5 minutes and get tacky before sticking the pieces together.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

May 26 - June 1

Thursday, May 26, 2011
A text message woke me up from my not-so-sound sleep around 1 a.m. It was American telling me that the flight I booked months ago to Buenos Aires using 80,000 frequent flyer miles was cancelled. Yikes!!! I got on the phone, dialing their number ASAP. While on hold on my land line, they called me on my cell, stating that the flight had been rescheduled to the next day, and instead of going through NYC as originally planned, they routed me through Dallas. I went ahead and accepted their change, as it seemed easier than to wait on hold for hours on end. The day before Jr. Scout Extraordinaire asked about my flight and if it was OK since hers was cancelled and rescheduled for the following day (American cancelled 600+ flights from Dallas on Wednesday due to storm damage to the planes, and seemingly pushed everyone else's flights out a day, even if we weren't flying through Dallas). As I checked out the computer to see what they had on my record, I was annoyed to see that my new flights were all in coach, whereas my original flights were booked on business class on the outbound, and coach on the inbound. Too tired to be strung out about it, I just went to bed instead, already mentally composing my note to American customer service requesting a mileage credit for the change in classes.
When I got up, I was pleased to see my new seat assignments were on first class on the leg to Dallas and on Business Class to Buenos Aires, but with a very high (4) row number. So everything turned out all good.

With a free day, I did what all good daughters should when they have a free day to kill... I went to see my parents. My mother must have been on some weird cosmic connection with me, because believe it or not, she had a couple of slabs of Liguria Bakery foccacia -- my favorite onion and the merely OK to me pizza, though she hasn't bought and given it to me in at least a couple of decades and I certainly didn't ask for it, and she surely did not read my blog last week and how I had some at the Italian American Club milonga. So go figure.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The flight to Dallas on American Airlines first class was OK. It was nice that American also allowed me to use their Admirals' clubs before my flights to Dallas and to Buenos Aires. They are both clean, luxurious facilities with bar service (very generous in Dallas, not so much in San Francisco), with free sodas, coffee/tea, Internet access, snacks, shower facilities, and magazines that have to do with golf or other luxury interests. One small area for improvement was that I wish the bathrooms had hands-free faucets. While I totally understand the bling appeal of Grohe, it is spanked down by me being skeeved out by thinking how many folks' hands have touched those faucets before me, executive or not.

The flight to Buenos Aires was great. The Admirals Club in Dallas greeted me with two premium drink tickets. The chairs on that flight were the fully reclinable barcalounger luxury types. The entertainment system top-notch once it got going. (I watched the new Karate Kid with Jayden Smith and Jackie Chan, which was excellent. I am sure Jayden Smith will be a future movie action hero in the near future with his amazing physical capabilities. I also watched the first bit of Country Strong, and I am amazed at how talented Gwenyth Paltrow is. It makes me want to run out and buy her cook book, even though it was a movie that featured her real singing.)

But even with the barcalounger chairs and nifty amenity goody bag (filled with eye patch, ear plugs, pen, socks, small pack of kleenex, Burt's Bee's lip balm and Burt's Bee's lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, and tooth flosser a la Plackers but not specifically Plackers branded), I had a very hard time falling asleep and remaining asleep. If anything, I had a horrible nightmare with me having some weird bug and worm like growth things coming out of my arm, which totally made me wake up because it was so upsetting.

The food on both flights was excellent, but more so on the Buenos Aires flight. It was all delicious and ample. In fact, I ended up on that flight just not being able to eat another bite, I was so stuffed.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The flight arrived in Buenos Aires right on time, and I waited for Dante to pick me up at the usual spot. Only the usual spot had changed because of all the construction they are doing at that terminal. Dante saw me though, so he got me straightaway as I stared around cluelessly looking for the coffee shop that used to be where new ticket counters are going in. I've thought about taking the regular remise services from EZE to BsAs, but decided to pay the few extra dollars and have Dante pick me up as usual. There is something comforting about him meeting me as usual, and telling me all the goings on in BsAs at that particular moment. We catch up on our respective lives, and he tells me what he knows about the current places that I stay at.

Arriving at a Very Nice Tango Residence that will go unnamed since I don't want it to be overrun was a breeze since Dante knows the area so well, and it's not in any weird or obscure area. The kitchen was clean and orderly, so based on my experience at another BsAS tango residence, it was obvious to me that either the guests were considerate and conscientious and/or there is regular maid service that is active and enthusiastic, both of which made me let out a huge sigh of relief. The owner/manager was here to meet me exactly when I arrived, gave me a quick but thorough tour of the facility and overview of the house rules, handed me the keys, and left me on my own. In short... it was perfect. I certainly could not ask for more as a short-term boarder.

The bathrooms are clean and modern, and downright luxurious (albeit small since they had no bidet) by BsAs standards, and pretty nice by U.S. standards as well. The showers, in particular, thankfully do what they are supposed to do without making the entire bathroom all wet (which is what happens in many other BsAs bathrooms I've been in, some at some very "luxurious" places).

I was still pretty wired, so I did not bother to take a nap or shower before I headed out to explore.

My first stop was to Asignatura Pendiente on Corrientes to see if I could replace a pair of Negra y Portena tango shoes that I completely adored but which had suffered a horrible fate at the hands of a dastardly scoundrel. No such luck. Not only did they not have any Negra y Portena tango shoes in my size, but they also conveyed to me that their shoes are very exclusive in that they only make one size in any one model they make. So a shoe design will only have 1 in size 35, 1 in size 36, 1 in size 37, etc. So I was totally out of luck. Being a little disheartened, I headed out the door. But the sale rack of dresses caught my eye, and I got one that fit perfectly for $150 pesos (about US $39, based on the rounded exchange rate of 4 Argentine Pesos = US$1). I tried to pay with my credit card, but was told it would be 10% more. I thought this was way too steep as I was used to hearing percentages in the 3% range in the US, and though they exist, extremely few US merchants charge additional fees to use credit cards.

Then I made my way to Lolo Gerard on Anchorena since I was getting a little hungry and had to buy my food for the next few days. I figured I could swing by there first before I made my way to the Abasto Coto hipermercado. I was not disappointed. I was able to find literally, THE PERFECT fitting shoe in the PERFECT non-blowout material. SCORE!!!! Normally, I don't buy shoes on my first day in BsAS and strongly encourage everyone else not to as well since our feet are usually quite swollen from the flight. However, since my feet weren't swollen at all thanks to the barcalounger chairs, I threw caution in the wind. This sale shoe was $290 pesos (about US$72), but the thing about their sale items is that they demand payment in cash (effectivo), and will not accept tarjeta (credit cards). More about the rationale behind this later... Yikes!!! I was pretty sure I didn't have $290 since I went out with very little pesos since the residence manager warned against pick pockets pretty forcefully, and again reiterated what I have heard from many other group leaders I've come to BsAs with, and that is DO NOT GO OUT WITH A HUGE AMOUNT OF CASH, ONLY BRING OUT WHAT YOU NEED. I've personally never had a problem with pickpockets, but having heard this same warning over and over, and quite forcefully, does make one pretty cautious and weary. I also didn't want to walk around with any more than I had to, and I thought I had enough pesos to last one afternoon, so only had my credit card and photocopy of my passport with me (i.e., no ATM card, no California ID)...more on the problem that would arise because of this later.

Anyway, so I dug around all the many pockets of my bag and managed to scrounge together $267 pesos. The shop woman was very kind and understanding, and she said that was fine. I was relieved. My Spanish isn't good enough to have explained to her that I would have returned with all the pesos if she could hold my shoes, but I am glad that wasn't necessary. She was such a sweetie. Lolo Gerard's nonsale shoes are around $450 pesos (around US$114). I am sure it will be one of the last stops I make in another week or so before I leave BsAs.

A trip to BsAs would not begin without a trip to the Abasto Coto. I bought lots of my usual favorites (grilled red peppers, fried calamari, milenesa de terna, torta de acelga, and they had a huge vat of mondongo on sale -- a real bargain, and all the locals were lined up to buy some). When I got in line and finally at the register to pay for it, the cashier told me she could not take my credit card since I did not have an ORIGINAL ID document (just a photocopy of my passport). She called over a manager, who looked over at what I bought -- none of which was easily "returnable" to the buffet table without wasting all the containers and plastic wrap and just being a huge pain to do, who eventually OK'd the purchase with a warning that next time I paid with a credit card, I needed to have an original ID document. I was hugely grateful and relieved as by then I had no more pesos on me and my stomach was growling and my head getting light headed. So when I finally got the bill, I was surprised that it was for $109 pesos instead of the $120 that showed on the register screen. To me, that was all very bizarre, although I assumed the cashier knew what she was doing as I wasn't one of their routine transactions. Later as I looked in detail at the receipt, I saw that there was a 10% DISCOUNT for using a credit card. Now I was totally confused by BsAs credit card policies, after Asignatura Pendiente told me it would be 10% EXTRA to use my credit card, while Coto was giving me a 10% discount for using a credit card.

I got back home and put away my food after I had taken a lunch size portion of each item. It was all very delicious, just as I remembered. Then I went to lie down for a bit as the plane travel and morning events had begun to make fatigue seep into my bones.

After a short nap, I decided to hoof it down Corrientes, and made it all the way to the Subte station 5 stations away before heading back home. I had to pick up a bar of soap ($6 pesos for cucumber Dove) since none was provided in my private bathroom, and also some fresh veggies ($16 pesos, about US$4 for 3 red bell peppers, 3 kiwi, and 3 bananas), since there are many veggie markets near where I live and they are much cheaper than veggies at Coto or Disco.

Finally, I took a shower to wash all the travel grime and running around BsAs grime from my body before my dinner engagement, which was at an closed-door/underground restaurant called Casa Saltshaker.

It was US$50, which is very steep by BsAs standards for a meal for one person. I thought it was a decent value as the food was excellent-- very gourmet, and the company and conversation excellent (all English speakers, mostly from the US, although the Queen-loving countries were also represented).

The menu theme for the evening was "Vincentennial" -- Vincent Price, since the day prior was what would have been his 100th birthday if he had still been alive. I am a big fan of the Vincent Price Treasury of Great Recipe book, having had three copies and still possessing two after giving one away to a friend in the SF Bay Area, who has his own supper club (underground restaurant). The dishes were not from any of Vincent or Mary Price's recipe books, but were done in modern style, interpreting dishes they made or would have liked based on their historical written word.

We had:
Salted Cucumber Caesar Salad with Green Tomato Croutons
Red Bean, Rocoto & Swiss Chard Soup
Smoked Herring & Onion Trio Risotto
Crispy Skin Salmon, Prawn, & Miso Sabayon
Chocolate, Berry and Meringue Tower (like his famous Boccone Dolce)

I was not going to have the wine pairing, opting instead for the cheaper US$35 option of the meal and welcome drink and water/coffee/tea. But after seeing the menu, I changed my mind. The wine pairings were good, and I loved how each pairing was served in its own proper glass.

Dan, the chef/owner had many suggestions about which other underground restaurants in BsAs we might like to try, as well as the conventional, mainstream restaurants. He also was a fountain of information about what it is like to buy property in BsAs, and he explained the whole upcharge/discount thing with credit card use, the best way for us newbie gringo visitors to get to the Mataderos fair on Sunday, and the Murillo street versus other areas of BsAs to get leather.

Sunday, May 29, 2011
I got up around 9:00 a.m. thinking that Jr. Scout Extraordinaire would arrive soon, as I did at the same time since I was on the same flight the day prior and picked up by reliable and trustworthy Dante, who does airport transfers (, and who I and JSE ALWAYS use the services of when we are here. And so I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally I checked the airline web site and saw that her flight was delayed by an hour. Still, it had been two hours since the plane had landed, which I think is more than enough time to pick up baggage, go through customs, and into BsAs centro from EZE. Finally, around 11:00 a.m., they arrived.

It was a very nice reuniting, and I was glad that the flight and everything else was OK despite the delay. So having a very light brunch snack and after being chatty Cathys for a while, we decided to go out to the ATM to get local pesos and other errands. I only get pesos from machines marked "banelco" (no need to search for star, link, plus or any other names that really mean nothing to me in the US). So we went to one a block or two away from home, and got our pesos. We then made our way to Farmacity (as ubiquitous as CVS in the US) to pick up a few items for her and me (call me the panuellos queen-- big boxes, little boxes, purse-size packets by the half dozen, I had to have them all).

We had talked about going to the Mataderos Fair by bus and JSE was game, but the clock was quickly moving fast and it was already 2:30 p.m. The bus out was at least another hour, and despite our looking on the Internet, we could not get a good answer on which bus to take. So we decided to just suck it up and take a cab out. The fare came to 40 pesos (US$10) from where we were, but we split it, so it wasn't that bad. I was glad that the cab driver didn't blink twice or give any push back about our destination as I had heard some cab drivers do.

I had heard and read about Mataderos for years, but this is the first time I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand. It was a typical street fair, the emphasis of which was the local gaucho culture. So there were lots of folkloric dancing going on, mostly Chacarera with vastly superior dancers than I had seen in my life since this really was a way of life for them. So their arm styling, costuming, etc., was superb. It was the real deal, as were the musicians.

There were lots of artisan craft stalls with knives, woodwork, knitwork and other handcraft items made from all sorts of different materials, made into clothes and decorative housewares. There was also food, lots of food. This was the first choripan I had experienced on this trip in Buenos Aires, so I was a little surprised at the 10 peso price. But it was delicious, and there were ample condiments of ketchup, mustard, chimmichurri sauce, and a salsa-like sauce that was heavy on the onions, and shredded potato chips. JSE had the brilliant idea of splitting it, and I was happy that my castellano did not fail me and I could verbally request that it be cut in two without the visual aids of chopping hand motions and holding up two fingers.

We spent an enjoyable afternoon strolling among the artisan stalls and noshing on a few more things, and I just kind of looked at everything (humitas, empanadas of course, chorizo, morcilla, a ton of different types of pastries that made me want to check my blood sugar after just looking at them, and even some more unusual things like pickled meats (among lots of other pickled items). One food stand had this interesting thing called Locro, which I had never heard of before. A quick search on the internet afterwords said it was a corn stew.

After a while, JSE started to fade a little since she had not had a nap yet after her long flight from the US so we decided to call it a day. Somehow we had a crazy burst of ambition and decided to take the bus. But the buses are a bit bizarre here, and after a few people in front of us pushed in and got on, the bus started to leave as we approached the door, even though it was still open and people were on the stairs. We also weren't quite sure which bus to take, but figured all of them would get us closer to home than where we currently were. We also had our trusty free tango maps with us, and had just each just purchased Guias that afternoon (8 pesos each), so we figured that between the both of us, we could figure out how to get home reasonably well.

We took the no. 80 bus because it said "Sarmiento" on the front, thinking that it would take us to Sarmiento street (near where we are staying) at some point on the route. Halfway through the ride I decided to cross check the route against the big tango map. Uh oh. It was going to take us to Barrio Sarmiento, which is nowhere near where we were staying. So I quickly did some more analyzing of the map and cross checking it with the Guia and decided that we should get off at Las Incas and just take the Subte directly from there. We moved to the very front seats of the bus so we could see where we were going better. Since when we got on the bus initially, we never told the driver where we were going, and no one else was getting off at the Los Incas subte stop on Corrientes, he drove on by. Ugh! So that's when I piped up. Thankfully, we were only a half block past where we were supposed to get off, and the traffic was cooperative enough so that the driver let us off right there.

After that, we got to the Los Incas subte stop and took it to where we needed to get off, which is still a 3-4 blocks away from home. It was clear at that point that JSE needed a shot of sugar or caffeine, or preferably both. So we went to the heladoria and café to fuel up, where I got a Fernet y soda (total was 25 pesos, a bargain by US standards).

As we finally made our way the last block to home, I was disappointed that the Peruvian veggie store next door was closed for the evening and I just HAD to have sliced veggies for my lunch the next day. So she went up to shower, rest, etc., before a night out at the milongas, and I went around the corner to another veggie market. Thank goodness there are so many of these wonderful shops around so that it is super easy to always have access to fresh veggies. So I had my veggie store adventure, asking for some cherry tomatoes, but wondering out loud why they are called "Cherry" and not "Tomate Cereza" and asking for "Lechuga mas bonita" and being told that Lechugas are not bonitas, but Chicas are. It was a fun little conversation, so after my purchases (sliced veggies, cherry tomatoes, and two heads of lettuce, all for 13 pesos), I made my way back home.

Having more than my fair share of travel with another partner or in groups, I know the luxury of being able to be by one's self occasionally, so I decided to let her have the room all to herself for a few hours while I went down to the living room to blog blog blog. I gotta tell you, I am totally appreciating all the thoughtful touches here at the Place That Shall Go Unnamed including and especially the free Internet access on a decent computer with a decent keyboard (albiet South American with its different key locations and extra alt options, and a very difficult to access "at" symbol), and that the owner/manager is very responsive and quick about things that go wrong (and believe me, this is Buenos Aires, so infrastructural things DO go wrong, no matter how upscale and expensive the lodgings). In short, it's only day 2, but I am finding that I really love this place that I am staying at.
We got ready to go to the milonga, and I wanted to go to on Loca at Club Chalmers on Niceto Vega. But we got there at the absurdly early hour of 10:30 p.m., and saw that it was completely dark. Closed. Shoot.

We decided to go to La Viruta since it was only a few blocks away and we could walk there, but when we got there, they were doing Rock & Roll (Swing). Apparently, though this is listed as a milonga that starts at 11:00 p.m., tango dancing actually doesn't start until 1:00 a.m. and lasts until 6:00 a.m. Go figure.

We didn't want to wait that long, so we went to El Beso instead. We had a nice time there, with JSE dancing with some folks she already knew, and me being effective with my laser beam cabaceoing and getting my fair share of dances with no one I knew. One porteno said he would not normally have asked me to dance, but I was so insistent with my cabaceo that he felt he HAD to. I wasn't really sure how to take that. But he was happy with my dancing, and he told me I would do well at milongas and that that was not the case with shyer gals, no matter how skilled dancewise.

Monday, May 30,2011
Luciana Valle Intensivo C - Day 1. The topic of the day was the quality of movement, and consisted of a lot of exercises focused on power, presence, and dynamics, and the Follower feedback being clear to the Leader. In short, we were trying to clean up the details of our dance and try to be more powerful, more elegant, and have more presence in our dance.

I'll write my detailed notes after I get back home since it would make this crazy long post even longer.

I don't know why but I was inspired to walk home afterwards, which took me an hour. Big mistake. But oh well. At least I got to explore the lay of the land.
I stopped by at Noble & Natural, on Corrientes right out side the Angel Gallardo Subte station, a local vegetarian takeout store with lots of hot steam-table items, prepacked and priced, mostly around 12 pesos. I picked up a bunch of vegetarian items (noodles, rice, mixed veggies, a mixed veggie thing with tofu, pot stickers, and interestingly, seitan, olive, and red bell pepper whole wheat empanadas). It was all very yummy, and really hit the spot since the local Disco near home doesn't have as many steam table items and prepared foods as the Abasto Coto.

JSE and I had planned to go to the Women's Technique class taught by Virginia Pandolfi at the Carlos Copello school on Anchorena by Artesanal, Lolo Gerard, et al, and she was still game since she was fresh and enthusiastic since she had not taken the Intensivo C. I was really dog tired, but went anyway as curiosity got the better of me. Generously, the school allowed me to watch, as JSE paid the 30 pesos (about US$7.50 to attend).

They began with stretching exercises, starting with the head and going all the way down to include the feet. Then they worked on the front crosses and back crosses, making them pretty and rounded, and then adding the side step.

Then they worked on molinetes, first starting out doing the footwork in a linear fashion of doing forward (front cross), side (open), back (back cross), side step. Their goal was to make a smoother pass of feet by each other, and not a hard, abrupt, militaristic collection because it stops the fluidity of the turn.

Then they worked on the molinete footwork, all in a circle, arm in arm, clockwise and counterclockwise, and changing back and forth. The Follower needs to have tone in her embrace and and push against the Leader to be able to pivot a lot. She can also practice this against a wall.

The adorno they worked on was a big lapice of the free leg to cross in back to pivoted change of direction of the turn.

It was an excellent lesson.

After that, I went home and to bed while JSE danced the night away at a milonga.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Luciana Valle Intensivo C - Day 2. Notes to follow later.

After class, I made it over to EAT (Escuela Argentina de Tango) at the Galerias Pacifico to take Marta y Manolo's Canyengue class. I had stopped beforehand to pick up some flowers (15 pesos) since it was Marta's birthday.

When I got to the school, I was shocked at the new prices:
1 class 39 pesos
4 class card 144 pesos
8 class card 273 pesos
12 class card 390 pesos
I was going to buy a 4 class card, but since it was so expensive, I just decided to pay for the Canyengue class.

The class was good, as usual, as I got to partner with a nice man from Uruguay who now lives in BsAs and has a bed and breakfast in San Telmo. His Canyengue was already good, so it was nice to be able to work the material with someone who knew what he was doing.

Marta did not arrive to teach as she was having health issues. So I gave my flowers to Manolo to give to her. He was very touched and said she would be too.

The other couple in the class were brand spakin' newbies, portenos who now live in Idaho Falls. In our small talk chit chat after class, they asked where I was from, and when I mentioned the San Francisco Bay Area, they mentioned Homer and Cristina and how they loved their videos and notes. I told them who I was, and they absolutely gushed with appreciation for the notes, which made me blush as Manolo looked at us curiously seeing our exchange.

After class, I went over to Galauno, where I got a choripan (8 pesos) con lachuga y tomate (an extra 3 pesos). It was as delicious as ever, although I was slightly disappointed by the higher price and the lack of Carlos at the restaurant on this particular night.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Luciana Valle Intensivo - Day 3. Notes to follow later.
I took a cab all the way home after class, since JSE and I had planned to take the 6:00 pm Josefina Avila/Bermudez's Women's Technique class at the Carlos Copello tango school on Anchorena. This being Buenos Aires, we got to the school on time, only to find out the class was cancelled because maestra was travelling. Since we were skunked in this endeavor, we had no choice but to go shoe shopping instead as the stores would be open one more hour until 7:00 pm.

Since we were just a block away from Lolo Gerard, of course that was our first stop. JSE found a great pair of shoes, but didn't have enough cash or her credit card on her, so she paid a 100 peso deposit and will return with the rest the next day or two.

Then we made our way to Artesanal since we remembered their advertisement of their sale of buy one pair and get the second at half off, which they were having in JSE's size (but not mine). The cats were all still there, and inventory seemed a little leaner. We didn't find any shoes that we liked, and with a half hour until 7 pm, we decided to take the Subte to NeoTango on Sarmiento.

When we approached NeoTango, I saw that the sign was not lit, and made a comment to JSE that that was not a good sign. Sure enough, when we got there at 6:45 pm, the gate was down, and the shop looked under construction. Then we saw the sign out front that said they were remodelling, and would open on June 2, 2011, the next day. Being no stranger to construction, I had serious doubts about that, and pointed out to JSE how the opening date kept getting crossed off and pushed out later. Then a man came out and spoke to us, assuring us they would be open tomorrow afternoon. We thanked him and told him we'd be back, although realistically, we won't return until the weekend, and hopefully by then the store will be open for sure.

We then made our way over to the Galerias Pacifico and the Borges Cultural Center to take in one of the 3 tango shows they are currently running (all shows are 60, 80, or 100 pesos, though as I told JSE, it doesn't really make sense to pay for the 100 peso seats since they are not appreciably better than the 60 peso seats since the theatre is so small).

We ended up watching "Bien de Tango" and as JSE was reading through the program, we discovered that two of our friends who we know as Luciana Valle's Intensivo assistants were two stars of the show. So that was exciting!

The show was traditional in nature with lots of dance scenes, orchestra scenes, and singers both male and female doing their respective solos and duets. It was super fun seeing Quique y Jime performing; we both thought they were the best dancers, though of course we are both quite biased. :o)

The male singer in the show, Maximiliano Bayo, did a wonderful rendition of Remembranzas that brought tears to JSE's eyes and chills down my spine, it was THAT good.

Seeing our friends perform, and talking to a lot of the assistants in Intensivo C and hearing about the shows they perform in, and bumping into another of them (Nicolas) at EAT since he was subbing for one of the regular teachers, makes me realize just how HIGH quality, amazingly skilled dancers/performers/teachers the "assistants" are. I used to understand that on an intellectual level, but actually seeing them perform is truly a humbling experience to know how fantastic they are, and how they are...ummmm... kind of slumming it dancing with us tango hacks from around the world.

JSE had a very good time watching the tango show at the Borges Cultural Center, so much so that we are planning on seeing their other tango show, "Con Alma de Tango".
When we got back home, there were a bunch of people in the kitchen, as there often is at that time of night. It is such a nice, fun atmosphere to be in, where everyone is cooking or preparing food to eat, talking about tango, and sharing life experiences cross culturally trying to communicate with each other when often times English/Spanish is our second (or third or fourth) language. It's a wonderful experience.