Thursday, December 8, 2011

November 24-December 7

Sunday, November 27, 2011
Milonga Roko @ Manhattan Ballroom Dance.
I went to the lesson beforehand, taught by Brigitta Winkler. The lesson was good, focusing on Milonga. We began with a musicality exercise, first individually, and then partnered.

The meat of our lesson focused on the traspie movement, and disassociating.

The milonga was fun. It was my first night out dancing since I got back from Buenos Aires, and before that I was away on the weekends with Homer and Cristina. So in actuality, I had been gone from the community for about a month. Surprisingly, I was missed. So it was a very full night of dancing for me, as I caught up with my usual favorite leaders. I also got a chance to dance with several new people (very skilled dancers), so that was a nice treat, too. I danced nearly every tanda, and during my last one, my feet really started to hurt (I was starting to wonder if I had a hairline fracture at the sole of my left foot), so much so that I heard the coaching voice inside my head insist that I stop dancing (because it was silly and unwise to dance while I was in that much pain, being no stranger to turning minor injuries into major ones by overstressing, kicking myself afterwards that if I had just rested, I would have healed quickly).

After I had changed my shoes, a performance was announced. A visiting couple from Poland, Katarzyna Czech and Tymoteusz Ley, did a nice two-song Nuevo performance demo. They were good, and are in town for a while. Video is at

Saturday, December 3, 2011
Mariela Franganillo’s La Practica at Dance Manhattan.
I got there on the early side, as this is my favorite tango event in NYC, so I wanted to pack in as much dancing as possible in the event’s three hours. That being said, it was reasonably full but not overly crowded, with more Followers than Leaders. So the Leaders had a full plate, and most Followers sat out at least some of the time. I danced with several new people, so that was great. One of them was very good, and I asked him why I had never seen him at any of the NYC milongas. He said he didn’t have time to go (and he also whispered to me that he was not happy with the night milonga experience, which seems like not a unique experience among the folks who go to La Practica). I danced a Pugliese tanda with someone new to me, and I blew his mind (and mine, too). I feel like I had a Pugliese breakthrough.

My buddies from NJ were also there, and they greeted me warmly. We made plans to go to Boqueria afterwards for brunch. And that’s what we did after the practica was over, all of us getting the burger (we were hungry). I had mine with egg and bacon; the bacon was excellent but the egg not done quite enough. Next time I will skip the egg and ask for the burger medium instead of medium rare. As usual, we had a blast at brunch.

Though I was planning on going to Triangulo afterwards, I had forgotten that this was the first Saturday, and last month I had promised to go to Michael and Angeles’s Fernet Milonga in NJ. So after brunch we went our separate ways, with plans to meet up later that night.

Milonga Fernet at Alluring Ballroom in New Jersey. My NJ buddies said that this milonga would be where a lot of NJ’s dancers would be, as it’s an event that draws all of the NJ tango communities. When I arrived, my buddies greeted me warmly and made it a point to introduce me to all their friends, which was super nice. I got there early enough for the lesson because I have been curious about Maestros’ teaching since I had arrived on the East Coast, but hadn’t had time to make my way to any of their NYC lessons.

The intermediate lesson was a very simple sequence focused on the male lead in getting in out of walking in cross system to parallel system and vice versa, and leading the Follower to pass in front of him from side to side, inside and outside so that he could walk in parallel or cross. It was a good lesson, very detailed in its technical explanation, and ample time for drilling, with Michael and Angeles going around to offer corrections and technical pointers to individual couples. The ending of the sequence involved a forward step and then a side step (a half molinete) for the Follower, one direction and then the other, so our work involved collecting completely and prettily at the left foot front cross tuck, then taking long reaching steps around the Leader, and also have spiral energy going from top down on the last left foot front cross step to right foot side, pivoting well, and then taking a good side open step. Maestra emphasized being musical in every step we take, at every inch of the milonga dance floor. There was also a beginner lesson taught by Marcelo “Chulo” Manfredi.

The milonga itself was OK. Though Maestro emphasized that we should dance with many people, not just the ones we came with, most people did just that, unfortunately. There were many couples who did not change partners at all during the night, lots of folks who only danced with 2 or 3 different people, and a minority who danced with lots of different people.

I only danced with one other person besides my buddy. This person was a skilled dancer, and I enjoyed dancing with him, though he shook the entire first tanda. And no, I did not believe he was shaking because he thought I was super scorching hot and he was excited (in more than a tango way) to be dancing with me. If anything, I thought maybe had too much caffeine, or that had early stage Parkinson’s, or needed a change to his meds, or that he had a massively demanding upper body weights workout at the gym earlier. During our second tanda there was substantially less shaking (though still a little bit).

Tonight was a special night with live music with Octavio Brunetti on keys and Machiko Ozawa on violin. They were brilliant together, playing off yet complementing each other well the way very skilled (usually jazz) musicians do. I think she was a part of his orchestra at Tango Factory’s Drom a few months. Watching them at their craft up close and in person was wonderful, seeing them make music with such passion and with their entire beings, and mesmerizing to watch their fingers and hands flow so beautifully, expressively, quickly, and agily over the keys and strings, and with Machiko’s masterful command and strength with the bow. They are also very good tango dancers, and it was fun seeing them dance during the DJ’d portion of the milonga.

Alluring Ballroom is a ballroom in a strip mall, with a pergo floor, which I found OK for the lesson, but a little to slick for social dancing. Food was Doritos and salsa, bite-size black velvet cupcakes, olives, and maybe some other items that I didn’t see since I didn’t wander over to the food table until late. There was also bottled water and apple/cranberry juice and ice. Many folks brought bottles of wine and shared. The hosts’ table had a bottle of Fernet-Branca and regular Coca Cola (not diet).

This milonga was a combination of live music and DJ’d sets, with the cortina being a very funny polka-esque song Fernet by the Sultanes . Fernet (usually con cola) is extremely popular in Buenos Aires, and there you can get many different brands and flavors of Fernet (1882 is another famous one), some extremely cheap. In SF, you don’t really see any Fernets beyond Fernet Branca and Fernet Menta, and it’s usually drunk by the bartending crowd in shots. But good luck finding it in CT (I haven’t looked, but overall the spirits options are pretty basic and mainstream here, and only sold at specialty retail stores, not supermarkets, which only sell beer. And on Sundays you can’t buy booze at all at supermarkets or specialty retailers, only bars and restaurants). So what does Fernet taste like? Well, it’s a very high alcohol herbaceous bitter, like Jagermeister only not as sweet and more licoricey. It’s an acquired taste, that’s for sure.

The drive to and from Allure was 3 hours round trip (150 miles = 6 gallons of gas=$22), with total tolls coming to about $24 ($4.95 + $0.60 + $4.85 + $12 + 1.75), which I hadn’t factored into my budget. On this, my first time driving to NJ, I found the whole toll thing/process very strange and irritating (there were places where you take a ticket, then drive many miles on the road, and pay for the toll based on mileage later when you gave them your ticket). After getting all tapped out of cash and feeling tolled to death, I had to pull off at the Vince Lombardi service area in NJ for their ATM. When I got there, there were big signs on the front door noting that they sold EZ Passes. So obviously, there was significant enough demand from EZ Pass-less folks like me to make this a strategic sales outpost. I went ahead and got one so that I wouldn’t worry about not having enough cash for all these tolls that seem to pop up everywhere on the roads in NY and NJ, and for totally random amounts.

Sunday, December 4, 2011
Carlyn Afternoon Milonga at Smith’s Dancing School in Hawthorne, NY.
I went because I wanted to experience the growing community in Westchester County. The facility is easy to get to with ample parking (and thankfully no toll roads along the way), and the Hawthorne train station is right by the school. The building itself is quality new construction, with a nice hardwood floor. There were ample sodas (9 different two-liter bottles, with back-ups!), juices, and water, but nothing alcoholic. The snacks were varied (carrots, sugar snap peas, ginger snaps, Pepperidge Farms Milano cookies, triscuits, crackers, cheese, pretzels, pfeffernusse cookies, and candy). It was striking that people kept talking about the flan (or more accurately, expressing disappointment that it wasn’t there), suggesting it must be pretty amazing.

Carlos, one of the hosts, was very gracious and danced with everyone. Many of the other folks came as couples and danced with just their usual partner. The space is very large relative to the size of the community (there were about 30 people at the milonga). There were no cortinas, and it seemed the custom to change partners after every song or two, likely reflecting the strong ballroom background of the dancers/organizers. It was fun watching the dancers, although I did get a chance to dance with three different leaders.

No comments: