Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 16-23

Sunday, July 17, 2011
Milonga RoKo @ Manhattan Ballroom Dance.
I missed the class beforehand, from 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., because to get there on time, I would have had to leave my apartment by about 6:00 p.m., which meant I would have had to start getting ready by 5:30 p.m. So timingwise, it was a bit of a stretch for a milonga that started at 8:15 p.m. I was a little confused when I got there and the door gal said the admission was $10. The NY tango page writeup said $12, but I suppose that was the price that included the lesson. When I got there, there was already a nice crowd, not packed, but a good number to make things interesting and fun. I spied a food table in the corner, and I was relieved. When I strolled by later on, I saw that it had a nice selection of nibbles: whole wheat ham, cucumber and mayonnaise finger sandwiches (bread cut into sixths, with crust and ends on unpretentiously and frugally), veggie platter, red and green grapes, and potato chips. There was also water from a filter machine, coffee and tea. In short, it was a nice little spread, enough to nourish us to dance the night away with food that should have pleased the vegans and the carnivores and everyone in between.

The milonga itself was super fun. Lots of folks came in throughout the night, and I had many quality tandas. The leaders were all gracious and charming. Floorcrafting became difficult throughout the night because of the increasingly dense crowd. Some dancers were clearly very technically skilled performance dancers, which was good for them, but which made for some unanticipated obstacles for the social dancers who made up 90% of the rest of the crowd. It became too crowded and the dancing became less fun, so I left around 11:30 p.m., an hour before the official end. And even then, I was told that it was a lighter-than-usual night. I'll be back, but definitely on the earlier side.

Saturday, July 23, 2011
New York Milonga @ Lafayette Grill.
I tried to get there early enough for the free beginners' lesson, but wasn't able to since I got lost. It had been 20 or so years since I had taken the subway, so when I got out of the station and onto the street, I got turned around wrong so ended up walking four blocks north and then four blocks west when I needed to walk south. No biggie though, as it gave me a chance to scout out the lay of the land around the Canal Street exit. Chinatown is right there, so I will definitely be back since the city where I live does not have an Asian grocery store (Chinese or otherwise).

When I finally got going in the right direction, as I walked on Franklin Street, I noticed with surprise that there were quite a few parking spots. (The next day, my roommate confirmed that parking was free after 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and all day Sunday, so those might be the days to drive into the city, rather than foot the $18.50 round trip train fare + $4.50 round trip subway fare, as well as shave off an hour from the total commute time.)

When I got to the restaurant, the guy who organizes the milonga, Mega Martinez, was telling another tanguera who got there just ahead of me that there was no beginners' lesson that night because no one showed up for it. So that gave me a chance to cool off a bit at the bar with a club soda with lime, which was very refreshing on this second-to-the-hottest day I've experienced yet on the East Coast, but a little steep at $4 ($5 with tip).

While I was sitting at the bar, I asked the bartender if I could look at the menu, telling her I wasn't going to order anything at that moment. The restaurant touts itself as Mediterranean, and most of the dishes were Grecian in nature. Starters on the menu were generally $10-15, and the main courses were $15-30. They had calamari and octopus on the menu, so that really piqued my curiosity. The gal sitting next to me was having the mussels ($15) and the very ample portion looked delicious next to the freebie bread and butter and bowl of olives. When she was done, I overheard her tell the bartender that they were the best mussels she had ever had in NYC.

The intermediate lesson was taught by Jon Tariq, and it was an interesting sequence. Follower side step right (Leaders left), Follower left foot back (Leader right foot forward), Follower side step right (Leader left foot weight change), Leader does right foot barrida of Follower's left foot, Follower pivots counterclockwise on left foot as the Leader changes his feet to offer his left foot in parada. After Follower completes her pivot with feet collected, she pasadas over the Leader's left foot with her right foot, to a side step. Leader then offers his right thigh for Follower to gancho with her right leg. For Follower's technique on the gancho, Maestro recommend that the leg go up and tightly around after the gancho, not out. After the gancho, Follower pivots a lot and collects, after which she does a right foot back sacada of Leader's trailing left on his forward right foot step as he leads her in a clockwise molinete. He can also add a shared-axis turn (mini colgada) at this point.

So it was a very interesting lesson chock full of fun things though light on the technical minutia, well worth the $5 fee on top of the $12 milonga entrance.

The milonga was pretty good. It was the same night as the New York Tango Festival's black and white milonga (a pricey $35), so I imagine that it was slightly less crowded than usual. That being said, it was plenty but not overly crowded. I had many very nice tandas.

At 10:00 p.m., about an hour into it, I got really hungry (having had dinner at 6:00 p.m. before I got ready). I saw a fellow classmate having dinner alone, so I joined him at his table. He had the moussaka with salad, and it was a very ample portion. I had the octopus starter ($15), and it was ample and glorious-- the best octopus I had ever had in this country -- char grilled and served on a bed of lettuce. Curiously, when we finally got the bill, there was a charge for "service charge" that roughly amounted to about 15%. Neither I nor my dining companion knew if that meant "tip" so we might have ended up undertipping. I'll have to look up NY Service Charge on google to make sure.

After that I danced some more, and at 11:00 p.m., a portena singer in town who performed at the Festival, Geraldine (last name I didn't quite catch), sang 5 songs, (Milena, Mi Buenos Aires Querido, two other songs, concluding with Don't Cry for Me Argentina). She has a very nice voice and very modern, jazzy interpretations of these classics.

Maestro Jon Tariq and his performance partner for the evening, Maestra Carolina Juarena (who teaches a Followers' technique class on Wednesdays at Triangulo) did a very nice three-song performance. I was surprised at just how good of a dancer he is, especially in milonga, as he and Carolina looked great (she has fantastic technique, though you could see she hesitated a bit when he led her in an aerial). Afterwards, two raffle prizes were given away: a nice bottle of wine and entry into a future Saturday Lafayette Grill milonga.

By the midnight hour, it was really crowded, so I ended up sitting a lot after that, which was fine with me because even though the facility has air conditioning and fans to help circulation, it was still very warm (to me, uncomfortably warm to dance). So I checked the clock and I figured I had just enough time to catch the second-to-last express train back to my town.

So back to the Canal subway station I went, just missing the 6 to Grand Central. So I had to wait 10 minutes for the next one. Even though I was sitting down and it was nearly 1:00 a.m., I was dripping with sweat, it was so hot down there. Thankfully the train came on time, and it was air conditioned. There were plenty of passengers so it was a lively, safe ride. Unfortunately, we pulled in to Grand Central right as my train was pulling out, so I had to wait other 40 minutes for the next one.

I started to get hungry again, so ended up getting a pretzel and soda ($6), which I snarffled up right quick. The train soon came, and the ride home was uneventful. I again took another cab home, because even though it seems safe enough to walk, I didn't want to push my luck at 2:30 a.m. to save $6.

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