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.

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