Sunday, December 2, 2012

October 27 - November 30 - mostly from Buenos Aires

Sabado, 27 Octubre 2012
Dante picked me up, even though it took forever to get through passport control and the luggage x-ray area.  On our drive into BsAs, we chatted away about the usual things, people we know, who was in town, various tango royalty of BsAs, and the economy.  I remarked that this was the first time I had been instructed to bring US$ down.  So then Dante explained to me the whole demand for US$ situation.
Here’s a good article that sums it all up (fascinating for FX / Intl Biz nerds):

And if y’all don’t know what the Blue Rate means, here’s an article that discusses why/how it came to existence:

I arrived to my usual airbnb place (which will go unnamed since I love it so much and want it to be available whenever I am in town), and got settled in.  After unpacking and a quick shower, I made my way over to my favorite shoe place, Lolo Gerard (on Anchorena).  There I found the inventory to be thinner than it had been in the past. While they had some shoes on sale (350-399 pesos), surprisingly, none of them spoke to me.  Could this be the one trip where I don’t buy any Lolo Gerard shoes?!

Next stop: Coto, where the sign said there was a 15% discount using any credit card. So I tried to use mine, but didn’t bring my passport (I just had a copy of it, as well as my real state ID card from the US).  After the manager came over to approve my IDs I was well stocked in the grocery department.  Financially speaking, the 15% discount covers the 3.5% credit card fee that my bank will charge, but the net purchase was likely more expensive than if I had paid in pesos because of the exchange rate differences, since I got better than the official published rate of 4.7 (which is what the cc payment will be in), though nowhere near the blue rate of 6.4 (+36% above published!). Still, it’s very interesting to me how some places charge you EXTRA when you use cc, while clearly the supermarkets give you a discount on certain days. 

While I passed by Maossage, the Chinese Massage place in the same building as the Abasto Coto, I didn’t feel sore or aching or like I needed a massage, so I passed. 

I had planned to go to Villa Malcolm, but fell asleep instead.

Domingo, 28 Octubre 2012
There’s not a whole lot to do in BsAs on Sunday as most locals go to the parks to enjoy nature and free music, and then have an asada with their families and friends. Instead, I went to the Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo, hoping to go to LiberTango shoes, which is supposedly open on the weekends, but usually in the afternoons (after 2pm, despite what the advertisements say). I was curious about this place, as I tried to go last time but couldn’t make it there in time before I had to leave.

Hours on its ad said it would open at 11 am, but based on my experience last time, I’d figure I’d give them until 12.  I was skunked again, because at noon it was still not open. So I walked around the Plaza Dorrego market and the art and craft fair on Defensa Street. Most interesting to me where the wandering food vendors.  Lots of different types of empanadas: Argentine, Columbian, and Tucuman. I tried the Columbian (6 pesos), which was fried and had a dough similar in bite and color to those of Jamaican meat patties in their rich orange color and chewiness.  I also had a crunchy, hippie salad (15 pesos) with brown rice, beans, lettuce, tomato, and carrots purchased from a crunchy, hippy chick.  Then I stumbled upon El Rey De Chorizo, a chorizo stand that sold choripan (15 pesos), bandiola pan (35 pesos) and bife de chorizo pan (35 pesos) and drinks (agua, vino, or cerveza, all 15 pesos).  The smell from the BBQ was divine, and from the looks of the blackened wall, this seeming pop-up BBQ corner was a regular fixture that transformed what appeared to be a parking lot into a food oasis of sorts at the end of Defensa y Mexico.  The plastic tables and chairs with umbrellas for shade looked oddly inviting and more appealing than the many restaurants that dotted Defensa on this warm afternoon.  After I had my fill, I wound my way back down Defensa, back to LiberTango on Bolivar 1111.  Thankfully, it was finally open!  Woo hoo!  Third time’s a charm! 

I tried on just one pair of shoes, and they fit perfectly. So of course I had to get them.  They were full price at 550 pesos.  I tried on one sale shoe for 350 pesos, but it was for a narrow foot.  I was interested in a few other models, but they did not have my size, and told me to come back tomorrow, when another shipment would arrive.  I found their shoes to have good padding, especially at the ball of foot area. I am a size 36 in their shoes, so would consider their shoes medium to wideish-width if you can still wear most shoes comfortably off the rack.  They can also have shoes specifically for narrower width feet (like for fans of Comme Il Faut or NeoTango).  Qualitywise, their shoes seem OK and reasonably durable, though I haven’t put them through the rigors of how I dance yet.  Stylewise, their offering is current, modern, and pretty; nothing stood out as cutting edge or particularly girly-girl sweet (and that’s a good thing!).

Happy with my shoe purchase in hand, I went to the Florida shopping area since it was a Sunday and I figured it would be less hectic.  It was.  I bought a bunch of cheap clothes because I was a tad worried that I hadn’t brought enough. I stopped by EAT. It was closed so I couldn’t get a schedule or see how much classes were.  I passed by Galauno, which is now called Vainilla Massini, and the choripan is now 13 pesos! 

As I was walking back to the Subte station, I was assaulted by the smell of fresh-baked facturas.  The irresistibly heady scent of the warm, yeasty dough, drenched in syrup, and baked to a beguiling, glistening perfection where the syrup just reaches the point of carmelization filled the air, and I could not help but deeply inhale the aroma of the sugar perfectly marry the risen vanilla-infused buttery dough.  I had never noticed this sliver of a shop before, so perhaps it’s new. I looked at their offering and chose 4, not knowing or caring how much they cost.  When I was rung up, I was very surprised when the bill came to 4 pesos (yup, that’s 1 peso each).  As I left the shop, I finally noticed the sign outside, which said 1 doz facturas = 12 pesos.  I couldn’t wait to try them, wanting to savor them while they were still warm, so I snarffled up not one, but two of them right outside in front of the store. They were delicious.

Then I made my way over to the Tribunales subte station, which turned out not to be too far away on foot (it’s just on the other side of the Obelisk, which made me kick myself for the many times I’d go to one of the other subte stops, and then hoof it to transfer over to the green line).  From the Palermo station, I hoofed it home, passing by a Sega Le Vaca Express (which I must try this trip!), and stopping in at the local chino supermercado for some fresh red peppers and cucumbers.

Then home for a nap before heading out to Villa Malcolm.

Club Villa Malcolm Milonga de Pepa! 10 to 2 with advanced lesson beforehand by Julio y Corina (40 pesos for the entire night).  The lesson was good. I teamed up with Deb, who is an excellent leader.  Side step to Follower’s right, leading her to do a forward step (not a side step), to a forward ocho, to a Leader’s sacada of the Follower’s trailing right foot on her left side step, etc… It was an excellent lesson. We drilled a lot to clean up the technique and musicality. 

The milonga was just OK. Lots of local cool kids were there, so it was a tough crowd to break into.  But it was nice seeing so many folks from NYC and BsAs.

Lunes, 29 Octubre 2012
Luciana Valle Intensivo D – Day 1
Variations on the Turn
We began with a review of the concepts.  The Turn is the mother of the circular situations in tango with the same structure underneath.  That is the circle and the center of the circle, like a compass.  When we dance, we switch who is the center and who is the circle.  Later we will change the musicality and structure of the turn.  Left or right, the center is the focus, so when we say a turn to the right or to the left, it is from the center person’s point of view.

We began with doing turns from the Follower’s front cross, here the Leader steps on the opposite (do not step with), so the Leader sends the Follower first, and then changes it, going from a linear situation to a circular one.  The Leader can pivot on one foot, or do fancier footwork, but whatever he does, he needs to do whatever he needs to do to be on axis and in balance as he is the center of the circle.  The Follower walks around the Leader with each step equidistant from the Leader.  The back cross step is an overturned back ocho step.  All steps of the turn need to be the same size.  The Follower walks circularly, turning each step, pivoting a lot, and keeping the braline toward the Leader.  The Leader should not turn the Follower in a block.  The Follower should use the push off the standing leg to have power to build torsion in her upper body.  In the turn, for the Follower there are two pivots that give us rhythm. At the point of the front cross, the Follower’s hips are perpendicular to the Leader’s at 90 degrees. On the Follower’s side step her hips face the Leader’s.  On the back cross step, the Follower’s hips are perpendicular to the Leader’s at 90 degrees.  That is why we have the S-S-Q-Q rhythm in the turn, because there is no pivot in the last steps (back, side).  Remember to maintain the size of each step of the turn.

Leaders: Be careful of your right hand.  Keep it in front of your sternum. Do not let it slack, otherwise you will leave the Follower behind.  If your hand remains in front of your sternum, you will keep the Follower in front of you.

Followers: Keep the braline toward the Leader to have more torsion in your body.  Pivot from the ground up, it’s a down to up motion.  Push the floor to let the torsion go up through your body.  Also, do not lean forward in the turn.  The Axis is straight.  When you stop, be in neutral on axis.

Note that there are two pivots in the turn:
The back cross is a bottom-up pivot.
The front cross is a top-down spiral.

Continuing our work on turns from the back ocho, the Leader steps on the Follower’s back cross step.  The Follower’s turn starts at the back cross step: she should overturn it.  She also needs to stay back and not lean forward.

We did it slow:  S-S-Q-Q so that the Follower could focus on their technique at each step.   If the Leader gives the Follower space, she has to go.

Moving on, we added some interesting footwork for the Leader:
Leader’s lapice starts from the top down, spiral goes down into legs.
To this, we added the Leader’s parada, playing with alternating paradas on either side.  The motion is to come up at the point of the parada, and down when stepping out with a pasada.

We also added the Leader’s enrosque, both front and back (back with the leg in back, and front with the leg in front), both change weight.  The Leader can start an enrosque at any step of the Follower, but it must finish on her back cross step.  We started with the front cross enrosque to understand the structure and the mechanics of both the top to bottom spiral and then the bottom to top pivot for the Leaders.

Next, we played with rhythmicality and the structure of the turn.
We changed the code of the turn, adding the Leader’s block.  This is where the Leader keeps his torso in the same position so that the Follower does all front and open steps (forward steps) in full beats.  We played with going into and out of normal turns (forward, side, back, side, forward, etc.) and then changing the code (to all forward steps).  To this, the Leaders played with leading the double time while the Follower is travelling around him doing all forward steps.


The weather was rainy, so I just went home after class.

Martes, 30 Octubre 2012
Intensivo D – Day 2

We began with a review of the turns, specifically of all the different variations in Leader’s footwork: the lapice, enrosque, and planeo.  For the Follower, the turn energy needs to be the same, regardless of the size (large or small).  She should propel herself and define the steps by pushing, really moving around the Leader. Nobody is going to do that job for you.  The size of the step is determined by the radius of the turn.  The Follower should put more energy into her steps in the turn.

Next, we worked some more of the Follower doing the turn (going around the Leader) but not the code (forward, side, back, side forward).  So instead, she is doing continuous forward steps or continuous back steps around the Leader.  Follower should not fall into her steps, or use the Leader to support her.  She needs to maintain the radius of the circle. 

We drilled dancing with turns, with the code, without the code, single time, double time, and alternating among all these different options.  Follower should not anticipate, should not guess. She should also not go too fast (Luciana said that San Francisco is the fastest community in the U.S. and that we should all slow down [but I speculate that she has not spent much time on the East Coast – certainly not in NYC!]).

Next, we worked on new material: working with the circular situation, with the Leader as the center of the circle and the Follower as the circle, and adding playing with the free leg, specifically barridas (sweeps). 

For the Leader’s right leg barrida, he pivots on his left leg slightly before does his sweep so that he is not pigeon-toed.  If he doesn’t pivot, he will be pigeon toed.  He creates the Follower pasada (step over) around him, as he also rotates his torso around (this is spiral to the left from top down to bottom of his free leg).  The Follower needs to allow her foot to be swept and needs to allow the Leader to decide where he sweeps her foot.

The Leader’s job is to make this a circular barrida (not a linear one), hence his pivot.  The Follower should take care not to fall on her back cross step, and to only step when the pivot is completely over.  The Follower should have ton in her leg and connection with the Leader’s foot/leg so that she gives him feedback and not escape away as he sweeps her foot.

We drilled all the different types of barridas, all on the Follower’s back cross step to her open step:
Leader’s left leg to Follower’s left leg
Leader’s right leg to Follower’s right leg
Leader’s left leg to Follower’s right leg
Leader’s right leg to Follower’s left leg

Next, we changed the relationship between the actor and receptor. Previously, all our work was with the Leader as the actor (sweeper), and the Follower as the receptor (the person being swept).  To change this relationship, we changed the Leader’s footwork so that instead of his foot being on the inside of the Follower’s foot, he changes it to the outside of the Follower’s foot, to make it appear that the Follower is the actor (sweeper) and the Leader is the receptor (the person being swept).  This is an illusion as the Leader is leading the Follower to sweep the Leader.  We tried this right foot to right foot and left foot to left foot.

The next concept we explored was playing with the structure since we have the mechanics down.  So we explored doing this with the Leader’s left foot to the Follower’s right foot and the Leader’s right foot to the Follower’s left foot. And also doing the options from the Follower’s open step to her front cross step, clockwise and counterclockwise (so here is the change of the code of the turn from front cross to open to front cross).

In tango, we should treat each step as if it is the last step and not anticipate what the next step will be.  This is because the possibilities in tango, the next step, are endless.  The next step can be anything and if we try to anticipate often we will guess wrong.


I decided to take advantage of the good weather and decided to walk around and visit some shoe stores.

My first stop was Greta Flora Palermo (Fco Acuna de Figueroa 1612), which was not too horribly far from Villa Malcolm. My overall impression: A thumbs up.  They have styles beyond the flower, and shoes seem well made.  Prices are 650 pesos without flower, 720 pesos with flower, some models on sale for 400-550 pesos, some bridal models with platform [really gorgeous!] for 1100 pesos. The shop gal spoke fluent English. Sizing was on the medium side (not excessively narrow, but I would not consider them wide either).  They had one style I was interested in, but only in one size larger than my usual, which I tried on. Upon seeing the fit, the shop gal immediately said they did not fit (of course I already knew that, but I was very surprised and happy that she did not try to sell them to me anyway).  They seem to have a good business attitude with a good product at a fair price and good sales practices.  So overall a thumbs up.

Taconeando (Cordoba 4030). My thoughts about this place are much the same as last time (2008).  Store is now a showroom, so you need to know the address and ring the doorbell for someone to let you in.  The spoke Spanish. The model I tried on was 500 pesos, which seemed reasonableish if you are OK with the somewhat delicate quality of the shoes.  Fit was kind of weird for my foot so I didn’t buy anything, though I tried on several pairs.

Danzarte (Corrientes 3968) is in the Galerias Patagonias mall right outside the Medrano subte stop, space 24 way in the back.  I didn't see anyone in the small shop and didn't want to ring the bell since I saw all the shoes from the window. They had about 30 women’s models and 12 men’s models on display, and shoes were suitable for salsa and ballroom as well as tango.  Probably not worth a special trip, but if you are in the area (which most of us are at some point), it might be worth a look-see.  No slim sky-high stilettos here (thus targeting the salsa and ballroom crowds as well). Can't say anything about the fit or quality since I didn't try any of them on.

After that, I picked up groceries at the local Coto, and just noticed that they now charge for shopping bags, 15 centavos each!

Miercoles, 31 Octubre 2012
Intensivo D – Day 3

We began, as we usually do, with a review of what we learned yesterday: Barridas, drilling all the options from the Follower’s back cross step to her open step, clockwise and counterclockwise, and all the options from the open to front cross (so the code of the turn is changed from front cross to open to front cross), and with the Leader doing the barrida as the actor, or Leader the Follower to do the barrida as the receptor, which he does by placing his foot outside of hers).

If the Follower thinks f the feet as separate from the body, it makes dancing more difficult.  Follower should keep the braline toward the Leader.

Next, we worked on the contra barrida, which is a barrida that changes direction.  Here, the Leader takes the standing leg of the Follower at her front cross step, and then changes the direction of her step.  The Leader should let the Follower arrive to her standing leg, and then take her foot, and then change the direction in a barrida.  Follower should keep her braline toward the Leader, otherwise she her ochos will be flat. 

We did a fun exercise whereby at her left foot front cross to open step in the Follower’s counterclockwise molinete, where instead of her pivoting out to her side step, the Leader holds her in place, and forces her right foot to do a back tuck against her left foot, changes her weight to her right foot, and then her left foot goes out forward and does a planeo as the Leader walks around her counterclockwise.

Then we built on this concept of the Leader forcing the Follower’s right foot to do a back tuck against her left foot by the Leader changing the embrace and turning her to do an outside turn of the Follower’s right arm so that she turns in a soltada.  We tried this on both sides.

Again, Maestra reiterated that we should dance each step in tango, propel ourselves at each step, and do not rush our steps.

Next, we moved on to a different subject, though still focused on the footwork, specifically, the free leg of the Leader.  Our work would focus on Tomadas and Pasadas, where the Leader takes the foot of the Follower and creates a pass through for the Leader and for the Follower.

In tango there are 10-12 laws, where the same foundational concepts repeat.

In the Tomadas and Pasadas that we would work on, the Leader takes the Follower’s standing leg like for the contra barrida (his open step to the right). Both are moving through the weight change of the other person.  So the Follower does a forward right foot front cross step to the left, and then a left foot side step, where the Leader does a Tomada (take/block) with his right foot, then sends her back  so her body and right foot go back elastically as if for a colgada, and then as she comes forward to step over with her right foot, his body goes back as he moves his center (this weight send/receive is simultaneous with the Follower’s). 

Then the Leader switches using his other leg and then he steps over and then she steps over his back trailing leg.  It was a variation on the “he goes, she goes” concept.


I went directly back home since I wanted to check the news regarding the situation at JFK. It did not look good.

Then I dropped off my laundry at the corner wash place (20 pesos for a load, large or small, and I had a small one, next day service).  And headed back home and stayed glued to the laptop the rest of the night.

Jueves, 1 Noviembre 2012
Luciana Valle Intensivo D – Day 4

We began our day with a review of the Tomadas y Pasadas we worked on yesterday, moving using each others’ weight change, with the Follower’s weight change making the Leader pass through and the Leader’s weight change making the Follower pass through.  We did this while focusing on the 1-3-1 rhythm, and in an elastic way.

The Follower needs to really arrive on the back step, and immediately push off to go forward to have a real feeling of elasticity.  The Follower should not fall from the back. She should also not rest on her back foot, otherwise she will never push off forward to step over.

Next, we added to our Tomada and Pasada work by adding Barridas to them. 

However, because there were so may questions from the Followers regarding Pivots versus Spirals, Maestra decided that we should all work on these foundational concepts again.

The difference between the Pivot and the Spiral is that the Pivots start from the bottom up and the Spirals start from the top down.  There is a direct relationship between the Leader’s top and the motion of the Follower’s hips. 

The Leader pushes on the floor, anchors, and torques, which gives the Follower’s pivot energy.  The Follower’s pivot energy comes from the push of the Leader’s standing leg.  The Leader and Follower have opposite relationships of torsion: When the Leader moves his top, the Follower’s hips move. The Leader tells the Follower to pivot via the opening in his back. 

The pivot is like a piece of chocolate.  You eat this tiny amount, but your hips move by a huge amount.  There is a down to up pivot, because it starts with pushing into the floor.

To understand these concepts, we drilled doing back ochos: regular underturned ones that travel back; linear ones that do not travel but just go side to side; and overturned ones that go forward.  The Follower should keep her braline to the Leader, and keep her arms connected to her back and the Leader so she does not absorb the lead in her arms.  Follower should not lean into the Leader.  For the Leader to get more pivot from the Follower, he should use more energy and more torsion.

Next we drilled forward ochos: regular underturned ones that travel forward; linear ones that do not travel but just go side to side; and overturned ones that go back.

In doing all these ochos, it is important for the Follower to use her fingers/thumb and palm of her left hand in her connection to the Leader.  Connection comes from the Follower’s side.  She should also not be lazy about finishing is the pivot.  The pivot is the pivot, and the step is the step.  They are not combined.  You have to be able to dance the pivot.  Note that the back cross step of the turn is an overturned back ocho step.

Next, we worked on Spirals.  Here, the Follower’s braline always stays with the Leader, even in an overturned ocho.

In Pivots, the Braline is the anchor and the hips/standing foot is the motor.
In Spirals, the Braline is the anchor and the motor.

The difference is from where you do it: top down is spiral; bottom up is pivot.

We drilled doing pivots and spirals.


After dropping my stuff off I went to the hipermercado near my home, which happened to be a gigantic Jumbo.  I had heard that Jumbo was where the locals shopped, so I figured it was cheaper than Coto and Disco.  This was not the case with the Jumbo near my home.  They even charged more for the bags (25 centavos)!  Situated in an upscale indoor mall, this particular Jumbo was very clean and appealing.  The buffet items were all behind a counter so someone had to scoop it out for you.  I found the items more expensive than at the Abasto Coto, but they did appear to be fresher and better looking.

Viernes, 2 Noviembre 2012
Intensivo D – Day 5

Today, we worked on musicality.

The class began with Maestra discussing musicality with 5 volunteer beats, much like Ney Melo’s musicality exercise with the chairs.

The most typical rhythm is the 1-3-1 rhythm, where the half beat is in the middle (the 3) and in our dancing, the steps are even.

In the 1-2-1 rhythm, often called the syncopa, the ¼ beat is closest to the 1.

In the 1-4-1 rhythm, the half beat is moved closer to the second 1, so the first step is larger, and the second step is shorter.

We began with dancing, just stepping with everything on the 1.  Here we would also work on musical phrasing.  In tango music, the phrases are usually 8 beats, so in our exercise we would try to do very strong steps or things with up energy at the 1, and at the end of the phrase, we would use more down energy, or do something in place to allow the Follower to play with her feet and resolve the phrase.  For our drilling just stepping on the one, we used La Muneca by DiSarli, doing a big step on the 1, and slowing down/becoming softer toward the 8.

Next, we drilled dancing the 1-3-1 and the 1 rhythm, doing turns, ochos, cross system, barridas, and rock steps.  Every time there is a change in dynamics in the dance, it could be from the motion of the Leader or from the music.  In the ocho cortado and the turn, the Follower can be on the music independently from the Leader, getting back on the music if he’s off because he is in one place while the Follower is going around him. Followers should not rush into the cross.

Next, to our dancing the 1-3-1, we added the boleo and added the Tomada and Pasadas (he goes, she goes).  Again in our dancing, we should use the last part of the beat and not rush to the next step.

Next, we drilled dancing to the 1-2-1 rhythm.  Here, the 1-2 is the shorter step and the next step to 1 is longer.  So we should attack the motion faster on the 1-2, and the energy is completely different.  We drilled specifically with the Leader leading the corrida and walking steps and rock steps.   Then we added the Follower’s turn whereby she could do the 1-2-1 timing, in a regular turn and in the ocho cortado.  The Follower can find the 1-2-1 even if the Leader is leading the 1-3-1 to make/create contrast with the music.

Next, we drilled dancing to the 1-4-1 rhythm, putting the double time closer to the second beat.  We practiced this first with just the side step, where it’s short first, and then long after, like a fake step or one where the Leader changes his mind, and then goes.


After the Intensivo, I went with Stuart and Virginia to their apartment as they kindly offered to help me out of a tough bind.  Strolling through Palermo Soho was very pleasant on this hot afternoon.

Then I spent a quiet evening at home, which has been my usual routine. I know I probably should attempt to go out to the local milongas, but after spending my days at the Intensivo and dancing with among the best leaders in the world, it almost seems kind of pointless.  Maybe I will think differently next week.

Overall thoughts on the Intensivo D experience:
It was wonderful.  I had the best time I’ve ever had at any of the Intensivos.  I felt happy and relaxed and my mind and body could better absorb the concepts.  I was very nervous about coming to this again this year, as I had not been dancing as much or taking as many lessons on the East Coast and I worried that I was not in ideal physical or mental condition to be doing such intense training.  But I brought the right shoes (my Sansha Helium dance sneakers, which still make me feel like I am dancing on air they are so cushioned), and the days are a bit shorter than they were in the past (we only spend 4 hours for 5 days training, whereas in the past I believe they were something like 5 hours for four days and 2.5 hours for two days).  And most thankfully, we had a very nice, friendly, drama-free group.

While some of the regular assistants from years past were not present this time around (Chino,  Sergio), the new assistants (Jorge, Pedro, Marcos, and Dani [Dani is not new to the Intensivos, but he was never one of the assistants when I took them since he was already a big-time travelling maestro. This time around we just lucked out as he was in BsAs on vacation to visit his family]) were, dare I say, equally fabulous!  I know, hard to believe...but it’s true! (At least in my mind!)  What a pleasure it was to see the same encouraging faces (Nicolas, German x2, Mati, Jose, Eduardo, Gaston, Quique) from years past who have played a key role in knocking my dancing into shape, to help it become what it is today.  And it was very nice to hear their words of encouragement and approval.  I was sure to tell them that I had been working on my homework with some local folks on the East Coast who had also taken the Intensivos in the past and who were serious (drama-free) students and skilled dancers (so no problems with their intelligence, recollection, and physical capabilities and no needy ulterior motives).

Every year I question whether it is worth it (in expense and vacation time) to come back to train, and every year when I am here I wonder why on earth I doubted the value of it in the first place.  Words cannot describe how valuable it is to work this material and dance with the assistants (likely all of them are tango professionals in Buenos Aires—whether they are teachers or performers in shows, or both!), who all have different feels to their leads, and all are excellent leaders.  While every one of them may not be an expert at whatever the class concept may be, many of them are or are on their way to be.  And each one has a different insight on what our particular dance problems are, each one gives us at least one (if not many more) little nugget that is a priceless gem of wisdom regarding how we can improve our dancing.  And some of them are just plain old great dancers that feel absolutely delicious to dance with!  They say that tango is all about hope.  And in dancing with the assistants, I feel that that “hope” is finally realized.  We dance these amazing dances with how we think tango should feel, how we hope tango will feel.

And I feel for the first time, I could hear with crystal clarity Maestra’s instructions. I could truly appreciate her precise use of language, instruction, and illustrations, more than I ever had in the past.  It felt as if the cotton had been removed from my ears. Maybe it’s me and maybe it’s just that I am fully at peace this time around, with no needless irritating distractions and drama to inhibit my learning, and fully rested instead of being dog-tired.

Sabado, 3 Noviembre 2012

I got up and planned a day of shoe shopping, take care to go to the places that are advertised as open on Saturday (many shoe shops are only open M-F), and making sure I didn’t criss cross the city 27 times. 

My first stop was Victorio (Valle 399). I hadn’t been too keen on returning here since my first visit to this store in 2008 for various reasons. But the advertisement in the free Tango Map Guide persuaded me to make a second trip, since it advertised shoes for $399 pesos.  As is typical in Buenos Aires, it took me a lot longer to get there on the subte, as I had stopped beforehand to get my US$ changed into pesos (at a rate closer to blue than published).  All of the women’s shoes had suede bottoms.  I found the sizing to be on the medium side, with some models wide and some models more narrow, but most in the range of “medium”.  I tried on three pairs and didn’t particularly love any of them, but I found one to be OK.  I asked the nice sales gal the price of the shoes and she said they were 650 pesos, but 400 pesos if paid in cash, true to their advertisement.  Because of their good business practice of transparent pricing and being true to their word, I decided to buy a pair even though I could have just as easily passed on it.  So I was happy and they were happy.

My second stop was Bertie (Venezuela 1593).  This was my second attempt to go to this store, having shown up at an empty storefront a few trips ago.  This time the advertisement in Punto said it was a new location, as well as showing the plata lame shoe I wanted last time (which I tried on and loved at Naranja de Flor, but which I found shockingly expensive at the time.  I found the place easily and they indeed had shoes for 300/400 pesos and up.  The advertisement showed the exact plata lame shoe that I wanted with a price underneath of 300/400 pesos, so of course I had to go.  I made it there, found the shoe, as well as one in oro and one in pewter as well.  I tried on all three, and all three fit perfectly, wouldn’t you know?  When I asked the price, it was a good thing I was sitting down because he said they were all 790 pesos each!  Ugh!  I offered him 1800 pesos for all three, after which he explained it was a special lame imported from Italy, and was much better than the lame at other shoe stores (this was exactly the same thing that the gal at Naranja de Flor said last time about the same shoe) and that inflation was way up in Buenos Aires in the last seven months, but that his shoe prices remained the same.  He then conceded and came down a little in price, to 2100 for all three.  That still seemed too steep to me, so I told him it was just the beginning of my trip and that I wanted to visit other shoe shops first but that I would return at some point.  Then I left, Bertie shoeless.

I walked over to Alma Buenos Aires, a new shoe store in San Telmo on Estados Unidos 652.  Again, I liked their advertisement, which clearly stated they were open on Saturdays from 11 to 7, and it also had their web site address, so I could see beforehand their shoe selection.  I liked several of their metallic lame shoes (can you see a pattern here…obviously I have glitter on my mind) on their web site, so decided to give them a go. I was not disappointed. The shop has clothes as well, and they are not big in volume, but on quality.  Dresses were in the 400-550 peso range.  Shoes were clearly marked at three price points of 590/650/690 pesos.  I saw two lame shoes that sang out to me, one in gold, and one in multicolored confetti.  The shoes on display were my size, so I put them on and they fit perfectly.  Oddly though, they were not marked with their price, though all the other shoes in the store were.  The shop gal told me they were 690 pesos each (figures it would be the highest price point!), but then I asked how much for both, paid in cash. She came back with a price of 660 each, but then said 650 each so an even 1300 for both.  That made me happy and I told her so.  Interestingly, the store had Alma branded shoes as well as Tango Imagen shoes (which were the ones I bought) and a random Lolo Gerard shoe. So I guess that means the same factory/manufacturer makes shoes for all three brands.

Then I made my way over to LiberTango shoes again (Bolivar 1111) as I was hoping that they had a few more models that I liked in my size.  I tried on a few pairs that were OK but didn’t sing to me.  So I left without any more shoes from them.  And of course they said they would be getting in another shipment next week, of course in the models in my size that I liked (which is what they said last week!).

I then made my way over to Florida y Lavalle again as I wanted to revisit the clothing store where I bought two dresses last weekend, as I wanted to get another one of one I got, only in a different pattern.  Unfortunately, when I got to the storefront, it was clear that the vendor was no longer there!  So it seems the storefronts turn over very quickly right now with the economy the way it is, so it definitely pays to just pick things up in multiples if you find something you like at a price you are willing to pay.

By then I was starving, so I had lunch at the Arabian Food place (LaValle 697), where I had a Shwarma de Cordero y cerveza for 32 pesos, so still a bargain, and I was glad to see their prices had not doubled or tripled the way some other places have. 

After my late lunch I wanted to go to Escuela Argentina de Tango since it was so close and I wanted to pick up a schedule and price list.  Prices are now 52 pesos for one class, 4 class card 192 pesos, 8 class card 384 pesos, and 12 class card 520 pesos.  So classes there are pretty steep (to compare, classes at DNI are 30 pesos).

I also picked up a few flyers from the Borges Cultural Center, as they have tango shows several nights a week there for 100/110/140 pesos. I usually just stick to the 100 peso tickets as there is not a bad seat in the house.

Then I went to the 1 peso factura place again (gosh those things are addictive), Panaderias Del Pueblo (LaValle 835), and chose 5 delectable looking facturas. As I was leaving, I noticed someone else choosing facturas, and he used the tongs to poke at them to judge their tenderness.  I just look for the ones with the most filling.

Domingo, 4 Noviembre 2012
There isn’t a whole lot to do in Buenos Aires on Sunday, so I just decided to kick back at home, work on my Intensivo notes (which I finished! Yay!) and pack.  So that’s what I did, in addition to checking into work for an hour or so.

I had to move to another place since there was another boarder coming in so there was no space for me, and I had decided to stay in Buenos Aires for another week thanks to Superstorm Sandy.  I found a place easily enough (thank God for!), and reasonably close so I could just walk my stuff over (thank God for wheeled luggage!).

The couple who own the home are young, hip, and cool, just like their place.  While the bathroom is tiny and typically Argentine, the room itself is nice, in a sparse, Zen-like way, and their neighborhood quiet.  No A/C in the room though, which kind of sucks in this sweltering weather with mosquitos galore (that never happened before. Dunno why this season is so bad.  JSE said there was speculation that they didn’t do as much spraying this year).  Still, the wifi worked reasonably well, and there was a laundry machine on site.  Overall, I like it so far. It seems like a nice place to spend a week.

Lunes, 5 de Noviembre 2012
I worked all day.

Martes, 6 de Noviembre 2012
I worked all day and was feeling stir crazy, so afterwards I just felt like walking.  So I decided to go to Madreselva. When I got to the Abasto Plaza hotel, I was told that it was no longer there.  So I just walked and walked, all the way down to Callo y Corrientes, even though it was a sweltering day, figuring I’d go to NeoTango since it was early enough that it should be open.  As I got closer and closer, I noticed that every other house or so had no electricity, which I thought was strange.  When I got to NeoTango, the metal gate was coming down and the store beyond was pitch black.  I asked the many who was coming through the little door in the gate if the store was open. He hesitated, looked back at the store and then back at me, and said yes, but that they had no power.  However, he welcomed me in.  I walked through, saw one show that I liked (a silver lame) and asked how much it was. He said 750 pesos.  I said I would come back when they had power. 

Tango Leike, just across, the street, still had power and lights.  Peeking in from the window, I noticed that their selection is much more severly edited (read: they have a lot less inventory, though very nicely displayed). I didn’t go in because there was no one else in the store, and none of their shoes really grabbed me and yelled at me to take them home.

Walking around Callo, I passed by a CD store that was blaring, so obviously they still had power.  I picked up some CDs from the current bargain line (Cronica Del Tango, all 15 pesos and 15 songs each): Salgan, DiSarli, Pugliese, De Angelis, Vargas, Castillo, Troilo.

As I walked back to my place, I suddenly found myself famished.  I eyed a Nac y Pop on Corrientes and decided to give it a go.  Nac y Pop is a fast food chain, and there are plenty of them in Buenos Aires.  Literally, they are all over the place and you cannot miss their bright read awning and graffiti signage, which boasts “pan casero” – home made bread, which I would discover would be much better than the usual high fructose corn syrup processed white flour crappy buns we typically eat in the U.S.  They sell mostly hamburguesas y panchos (hot dogs) and coffee, beer, gaseosas and Fernet, with alfajores and popcorn rounding out the dessert offerings.  They also have a Prime Condom machine (2 pesos – a fantastic bargain!).  I had una hamburguesa (15 pesos) and a Guinness (29 pesos!).  The hamburguesa came with potato chips. Like I said, the bun was better than the usual US buns (of course that’s not saying much since US buns are horrible to begin with) and the meat was OK.  Not great by Argentine standards, that’s for sure, but not completely horrible from US standards (again, I suppose that is not saying much).  But it was fast, convenient and cheap, and I like how they kept the self-serve mayo in the fridge.  While I would certainly not make any Nac y Pop a destination, it’s not a bad place to duck into for a quick, cheap bite and drink.

Miercoles, 7 de Noviembre 2012
I spent an uneventful morning working, the fan humming away in the background, which helped to keep the mosquitos off me on an even more sweltering day than yesterday. Then, complete disaster struck.  The power went out. Which means the Internet went out.  Which means my work cellphone connection got lost too.  So I had no way of telling them I was offline at all. 

I quickly gathered up all my belongings, and remembering the numerous wifi signs I saw in the windows of local cafes, I booked it out of there.  Now, normally I would tell you were I went, but honestly, it’s such a great, reliable place that I don’t want it overrun with folks who need mobile offices and who will park there for hours on end (like I did).  It is true that in South America, Buenos Aires too, that the waiters never rush people out to turn the tables.  It’s like they have all the time in the world and want you to stay and linger.  This place was no different.  It was a Godsend to me that afternoon, as they had a big, juicy, wonderful Internet connection. 

I got back onto my work’s system quickly enough so that no one noticed that I was gone, and our work was not negatively affected in any way.  Phew!!!

I also noticed that this restaurant had its own generator, in case the power did go out!

I felt horribly guilty that I had parked there for hours, so I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu: the picada (70 pesos).  The charming, handsome waiter looked at me bemusedly, and made sure that the picada was indeed what I wanted.  I confirmed that indeed it was, and yes, I knew it came with a shocking amount of food typically shared among 2-4 people.  I told him I would take the leftovers to go.  The answer seemed to satisfy him, so he took it, and then went back to the kitchen. A short while later, he arrived with all 15 dishes.  Yes, 15! They were: (1) black olives; (2) green olives; (3) sliced pancho (hot dog); (4) sliced chorizo (delicious!); (5) peanuts; (6) potato chips; (7) anchovies; (8) sliced onion bread; (9) sliced cheese bread; (10) sliced ham y cheese empanada; (11) sliced faina; (12) cheese cubes; (13) ham; (14) crunchy bits; (15) crunchy bits (yes, two dishes of the same thing).  I also had water (15 pesos) and Fernet (22) pesos, to bring my bill to over 100 pesos, which was my goal.  On top of that, I tipped generously to make any future visits welcome on their part, as I really liked this café.

I really liked this café, and will leave it unnamed as I wouldn’t want it to get overrun with gypsy workers logging in remotely. But it’s a wonderful place, with the following advertised on their door: security, handicapped bathroom, baby section, wifi, wii section for children, and air conditioning. Along with ample food and beverages, for me it served as an ideal location.

Jueves, 8 de Noviembre 2012
Since the day was projected to be even more sweltering than the day before, I decided not to chance it. So first thing in the morning, I went to my café, parked myself at the same table, and began my workday.  For breakfast, I tried to order grapefruit juice (jugo de pomelo), but the waiter said they did not have it (even though it was on the menu).  Instead, he gave me Fanta pomelo gaseosa (I was actually hoping for the Ser, the local brand like everyone else had). I also ordered 3 medialunas, not knowing that they were the gigantic ones (some places have teeny tiny ones or medium sized ones).  Since I was there all day, I also had lunch: milanesa de ternera y lechuga y tomate.  It was good (but I have yet to have a milanesa that I didn’t like).  The day went by pleasantly enough, considering the circumstances.

Viernes, 9 de Noviembre
I had been enjoying my café so much that I went over again, even though the weather had finally broken, and a much cooler, rainy day was projected. For breakfast I ordered only 2 medialunas this time, along with jugo de naranja y agua.  Lunch was un ensalada con lechuga, tomate, pepinos, championes, y huevos.  It was delicious and really hit the spot. It came with at least two eggs, so was chock full of clean, efficient protein.  Soon enough the 5 o’clock hour came and it was time for me to go. It was a strange experience to have sat their for 8 hours straight, more or less, and to look up and see the darkening sky. It had rained off and on during the day, sometimes heavily storming. But it hadn’t rained in a few hours, but the darkening sky started to look a little threatening.  It started to come down lightly as I made my way home.  I didn’t mind.  It felt refreshing.

Sabado, 10 de Noviembre 2012
My allergies were killing me (and I hoped they were allergies and that I wasn’t coming down with a cold since I had not worn a lot of clothes yesterday, and got caught in the rain), so I spent most of the day at home, after spending a couple of hours exploring a place called Urban Station (, which is a co-working space in Palermo Soho (El Salvador 4588).  I was curious to see if the Internet was faster and more reliable, and specifically I was interested to see if they had a back-up generator. I emailed them, but just got a canned response about hours and pricing, with no answer to my generator question. They also have an auditorium and other larger meeting rooms with projectors, etc., and prepaid cards or monthly passes, so that it can truly function as an office away from your usual normal office.

It turns out the internet connection at Urban Station was no better than my cafe.  So other than Urban Station’s free coffee bar (with medialunas, crackers, cookies, and packaged cheese and jams, water, teas, etc.) and security (you have to be buzzed in and out), I don't think it was superior to my café (though there are three different networks at Urban Station).  Plus I know that my café has a generator in case there's a power outage. The gal who was manning the place was nice though, and while I was only there for two hours (first hour is 23 pesos, each additional hour is 21 pesos, with a daily max charge, the exact amount of which I don’t recall), after I had paid the bill, she gave me two passes, each worth a free hour. She spoke limited English. 

Lunch was at Sinior Shwarma (Honduras 5322), which I have passed by many times and had always been curious about.  A Sharma de Cordero con papas y cerveza (Quilmes Bock) was 45 pesos, a bargain and delicious! Big thumbs up for this place!

Domingo, 11 de Noviembre 2012
I got up early to pack and move back to my old place.  My current landlords weren’t up yet, so I left a note for them that I would return to give them the keys.  (At all these BsAs places, the security is really high where you need get multiple keys: a key to your room, a key to the house/apartment, and a key to the building, and you need all keys to get in and get out.)

When I got to my usual place, I couldn’t believe it when I got there: there were two other boarders!  One just leaving, and one who looked like she would be there for a while. It was bizarre.  My room wasn’t ready, but the landlady prepared it in no time flat.  Still, it was awkward having us three girls rushing around.  One coming (that would be me), one going (the one vacating my room), and another one kind of goingish but still hanging around.  Like I said, it was bizarre.  After I was able to access my room and unpack and get it all set up the way I like, it was time to go back to my previous place to drop off the keys.

After that, I just took to subte down to Florida, with the goal to build my CD collection again.  So I picked up some D’Arienzo, Biagi, and Rodriguez (30 pesos each, except D’Arienzo, which was a 2 CD set for 65 pesos, all 15-20 songs per CD).  Lunch was at the Arab place again (Shawarma de Cordero, papas, y cerveza, 37 pesos. Papas were very much like Mickey D’s).  The 1 peso factura place was not open, sadly.  So I had to make due with a 5 peso cona from Mickey D’s.  Why I decided that, I had no clue.  I mean, the stuff isn’t even real ice cream. It’s just some really gross, disgusting, man-made chemical stew that’s frozen to a creamy consistency.  But it was only 5 pesos and I was curious.  I had a combo, which I thought would be swirled vanilla and chocolate, but this being Buenos Aires, the other flavor was dulce de leche.  Very civilizedly, they gave me a little spoon to eat with it, which I put to good use.  So, what did it taste like?  It wasn’t bad. It was what I expected, which is a soft serve cone.  For some reason, even though it was quite cool, it started to melt really fast, so I had to snarffle it up quickly, which I did.  The whole dang thing.  I don’t think I will do that for another three decades (which approximates the last time I had something like this).

It seemed that fewer shops were open today then previous Sundays, so I just decided to walk up Corrientes to see how far I could get.  At Abasto, I decided to do my usual Sunday grocery shopping at the mega Coto, and the store seemed more crowded than previous Sundays.  I quickly got what I wanted and got in line to get rung up.  Unfortuntely, Typhoid Mario got directly behind me and was hacking away and gurgling phlem with mouth open like it was nobody’s business.  I could only stand about 10 seconds of that before I quickly switched lines.  Unfortunately, that line was extremely slow, and even though I was quite a bit away, I could still hear Typhoid Mario hacking and gurgling, mouth open the entire time (which seemed like forever).  Of course I gave him the hairy eyeball, which he did not notice one bit.  Man, that was seriously annoying. Thing is, he didn’t look sick. He just sounded sick. Maybe he had some undiagnosed cystic fibrosis or weird backward nasal drip or severe allergies.  But whatever it was, he seriously needed to get that taken care of professionally.

Lunes, 12 de Noviembre 2012
Luciana Valle – Intensivo Al Cuadrado – Focus on Follower’s Technique
Day 1
The facility was the same place as Taconeando, as there are a couple dance practice rooms with wood floors and A/C. 

On this day our focus was on boleos, and really recognizing the difference between circular and linear ones, and from all directions (forward, backward, ones that change direction, etc.).  We drilled a lot, with Maestra pointing out our individual weaknesses and the corrections, both based on her watching us and from feedback from the leader assistants (Jose and Mati on this day).

From this, we moved on to going from spiral directly into pivots, working on different speeds and different directions.  We also linked the whole spiral motion with how we do boleos, as it was obvious that one of my weaknesses is that there is a disconnect in my body.

We did lots and lots and lots of drilling, which was wonderful, to help us work on cleaning up our respective problems. Though are session was only two hours due to the small size of the class and intense work, I was thoroughly physically exhausted by the end.

After class, I made my way over to the DNI Tango Store (1011 Bulnes).  DNI had moved since the last time I visited several years ago.  Now the Tango Store part of DNI has a windowed storefront clearly visible from the street, and there is a full café in the middle area of the building.  I did not peek into any classrooms, but they had a lot of folks milling around, asking questions about the class schedule and pricing, and a lot of people eating at the café.

From what I could see, DNI Tango Store only had 2 or 3 different styles of women’s stilettos, but with various different materials (630 pesos).  I bought a pair because I was intrigued by the sole, which is made of two different materials: rubber on most of the sole, and suede on the big toe (I assume to help make walking backward easier).  This was my first pair of tango stiletto tango shoes that have a rubber sole.  In my opinion, sizing is on the wide side, as 36s were definitely too big for me, as were the 35.5s (note that they have half sizes).  The 35s fit me well.  They also had some interesting chunky Mary Jane style tango shoes (450 pesos) and urban hipster heeled tango sneakers (didn’t get the price).  There were also ample women’s clothes (generally from 240 pesos to 500 pesos) and men’s clothes in the style of Chicho (I didn’t look at the prices) and men’s shoes as well.

Next, I made my to Tango Bazar (Santa Fe 1780, 7th floor, room 707).  I was intrigued by this place, as the advertisement showed that it had La Vikinga, Fabio and Negra y Portena shoes, as well as a bunch of clothing lines (Mimi Pinzon, NapoliTu, 4Corazones, DeColibries, GaRua, Munecas Bravas, and Miguel Mancera Boutique).  The store certainly did carry all of these brands, but a limited selection of each. I would say it’s a good place to go to if you want to check out the offerings of many different vendors at one place, but if you want to see the entire line of what one brand offers, it would be more advantageous to go to the specific branded store (La Vikinga, for example).  The clothes offerings were more substantial than the shoe selection.  I wanted to try on a couple of La Vikinga shoes, but sadly they did not have my size.  The shop girl was very nice, and she recommended that I make my way up the street to Fabio Shoes to see the new Pepe Lopez line of shoes, which she showed to me on computer.  I was intrigued enough by what I saw that I decided to take her advice.

Upon emerging from the store onto the street, and despite having a map, I got turned around and ended up on Arenales.  I thought twice about going to Comme Il Faut, since it was only 6 blocks away, but looked at my watch and decided against it as I had a list of shoe places I wanted to go to that afternoon.  While I was curious about their shoe prices, I knew that I would not buy any of them.

So I walked up Callo and then over a block to Fabio Shoes (Riobamba 10, 10th Floor, 10A).  It was still in the same place as when I last visited in 2008, and they still had their usual dance sneakers (women’s were 550 pesos).  But what brought me there were the Pepe Lopez shoes.  I tried on 4 different styles (all that they had in my size), and found them to be narrow.  So none of them worked for me, though they were beautiful and well made (650 pesos).  They also had a few high-style couture-like models (999 pesos).

Then I made my way to NeoTango, to try on some lame shoes. As I tried on the pewter lame ones (750 pesos), I noticed that they had a tiny (6 shoe) collection of sale shoes (said AR 290/390 – I don’t know what the two prices were). In NeoTango, I am now a size 35, so I believe they have made their shoes a tiny bit wider over the years as I used to be a 36 in their shoes, and obviously my feet have not shrunk! And lucky for me, they had two sale shoes in my size!  So I tried them on and they felt good so I went ahead and bought them.  While I have gone to NeoTango for years, and saw their sale shoes (the last size in that particular model), they never had any that I could fit.  So this time I finally lucked out with not just one, but two sale pairs!  Woo hoo!

Next, I made my way over to Anchorena, as I wanted to visit Tango Imagen (Anchorena 606, right next to Tango 8 and across the street from Lolo Gerard, which appears to have changed its name to just “Lolo”), as I was intrigued by the brand since my shoes that I adore from Alma had Tango Imagen labels.  In the past, I had only known that Tango Imagen was big on clothes (performers especially seem to like them); I did not know they sold shoes as well.  At the store, they only had a small selection, with prices of 630 or 535 if paid in cash.  Actually, everything in the store was 15% cheaper if paid for in cash, and they have a sign right there that says so.  Sadly, the shoe styles in this store did not appeal to me, though they were all very well made, just like Lolo Gerard. In fact, some of them were of the same materials and very similar styles, so I believe they have the same manufacturer/factory for many of their styles.

Since I was in the ‘hood, I decided to walk across the street to Lolo Gerard, where I found a nice pair of very low-heeled shoes with a flower on them (similar to Greta Flora) that I could use for classes on sale for 350 pesos.  Regular shoes are priced at 650 pesos.

After a day of the Intensivo and walking all over Buenos Aires and visiting six (!) shoe places, I started to get hungry and decided it was time to go home. So down to the subte I went.  However, by now it was rush hour, and the trains were packed.  The thought of squishing myself in among the portenos y portenas was unappealing, and after letting 3 packed trains go by, I decided to walk instead.  I got a little farther than the next subte stop before I decided I was completely famished and exhausted, so ducked into a La Continental for dinner while I browsed the tango magazines I had picked up during my shoe excursion.  I had a hamburger, drinks, and dessert, which were all delicious.

Fueled and rested, it was time for me to walk the rest of the way back home.  On Corrientes, I ran into Cristobal de Bahia Area, who is here with his lovely wife touring with Meastro Marcelo.  So we chatted and caught up, which was nice.

Then it was really, really time for me to go. And on the way back home, I stopped in at the vegetarian precooked food place (Corrientes 4657), which I really like a lot, got some noodles, and a few Chinese items (a bun, an eggroll), and a deep fried ball (which I had no clue was, but which looked for too beguiling in its golden speckled crunchiness for me to resist) (all 35 pesos per kilo).

When I finally got home, super late by this time, I got a phone call from JSE, and we then made plans to meet up to go to El Motivo later on, and dinner beforehand at Damiana (Cordoba 5099), the restaurant across the street (Cordoba 5099).  It was a wonderful evening, a perfect 70 degrees.  At Damiana, we split a burger and drinks. The burger was super awesome delicious, substantial, and it came with fried egg (yum!) and papas (I have not had any bad papas here at all, ever. They really know how to do potatoes in Buenos Aires!).

The milonga was OK.  I didn’t dance much (only 1 person asked me to dance, and it was just for two songs before he said “Gracias”).  Here, they play music in the style of a practica, so there are no cortinas.  So you just keep dancing until the other person says “Gracias.” It was fun watching the dancers, most of whom were more technically skilled than normally seen at BsAs milongas.

Martes, 13 de Noviembre, 2012
Since we were starting late today, I decided to make my way over to Vos Baila (Scalabrini Ortiz 658), as I liked what I saw on their web site, as it showed their business hours (10-1, 2-7), and prices ($310-790 pesos).  So I got there around 12:30 pm, rang the doorbell, but no one came. Drat!  So even though I went by during their posted hours and the lights were on in the store, for me, at least, it was close.  This was the same location as the former Buenos Aires 1951 used to be. I speculate they are the same folks, only with different store name, as many of the shoes in the window still had the 1951 label.  Since the store was closed, I did not have a chance to try on any shoes, though I recall from last time that I thought their shoes were generally wide.

Intensivo Al Cuadrado – Day 2
In class, we worked some more on going from spiral to pivots, really focusing on the transition from one, which is slow (the spiral) to quickly going into the pivot, so really trying to get quickness and snappiness in our hips to go into things like Follower’s back sacadas.  The trick to this was to use our upper body, our backs and arms in our embrace so that we could use the Leader’s hand to push against to get more energy into our pivots.

We also worked on rebounds and elasticity in the context of tomadas and pasadas, similar to what we worked on in Intensivo D.  Again, for the rebound, the action comes more from the energy in our legs, but for elasticity, the action and energy needs to come more from our upper body, our arms and hands, and our connection with the Leader.  There was a strong emphasis in using the fingers part of our embrace to get a good elastic energy to go back when the Leader pulls us back.

Bottom line to all of this is that it was very important for the Follower not to absorb the lead in her upper body and her embrace and arms/hands, but to receive it from the Leader, and transfer it through her core, down to her hips and feet.  So basically, she has to dance with the lead and message transferring through her whole body, not just going from her brain, bypassing her torso and going directly to her legs/feet (the way … ahem … some unnamed people do).

It was an excellent lesson, as usual, which left me exhausted in the end as it is very physically demanding doing this much drilling for 2 hours.

Miercoles, 14 de Noviembre, 2012
Intensivo Al Cuadrado – Day 3
We worked on off axis moves such as volcadas and colgadas, with a focus on knowing when to use more dynamics, when to give the Leader more feedback, and when the Follower needs to use the Leader more and how to do it. Basically, we worked and drilled to deepen our understanding of when we as Followers need to move with extra energy, when we need to do additional work, or add additional energy.  When there is a change in dynamics, we need to know when to use more energy to get around (i.e., when to pivot A LOT).  It was very similar to our work in doing planeos to back sacadas regarding the change in connection.

For our volcada work, we were to not incline, but be on axis when the Leader walks around, so that we would focus on having good spiral in our upper bodies before our legs came around as a consequence of the Leader walking around.  For whatever reason, Maestra had me work on my back volcada and the other Follower work on her forward sacada.

We also worked on the front enganche/wrap, with a focus on using spiral energy coming from our top and working its way down.  The gancho happens on the exit, not on the go/entry.  What produces the gancho is the Leader’s transfer of weight from the free to the weight leg.  The Follower’s front boleo is around herself, but the Leader’s leg is in the way.

We also worked on the structure of the contra boleo with contra motion.  The Follower answers from the top spiral, not just the bottom legs/feet.

After class, I decided to go to P.H. (Grito de Ascencio 3602 x Cachi en Pompeya). It is now easier to get to, since the yellow subte line H is running. I just took it to the end (Parque Patricios, when it completes it’s construction to Hospitales, it will be even closer) and then cabbed it from there to Grito de Ascensio y Cachi (about 20 pesos; cab meters now start at 9.1 pesos and with 91 centavo increments).   The store hours are 10 am to 6 pm L-V.  Cerrado S&D.  Shoes are generally 400-500 pesos. I bought 2; both were 450 each. Their off the rack shoes are current fashionwise, but they are best known for their custom shoes, with any type of heel and heel height for ladies and different materials and designs for men. Thankfully for me, I am fine with their off the rack shoes. The fit of their off the rack shoes tends toward wide, IMHO. 

Liliana spent a lot of time with me and showed me all of the shoes in styles that I liked in my size.  I spent a lot of time trying the size 6s and size 5s, and remarked that now I am a size 5 in their shoes whereas before I was a size 6.  Liliana said about sizing: the higher the heel, the greater the propensity to slide forward, thus rendering the heel too loose and the shoe too big.  In addition, open back shoes, which I tried on more of this visit even though I normally just stick with closed back shoes, have more wiggle room for sizing, so if you are all the way forward in the shoe, you will have room in the back to stick out/hang over a bit.  That’s how she explained my difference in sizing from 6 in years past to more 5s: that I am likely wearing models with higher heels and open backs.  I am a 5 in their open back models, more like a 5.5 in their closed back (but of course they don't have half sizes! So basically, I am saying that their 6s are a little too big for me, even though my shoe rack is filled with their size 6 shoes!

Jueves, 15 de Noviembre, 2012
Intensivo Al Cuadrado – Day 4
Today our work focused on being responsive all the time, and dealing with our own problem and connection.  We worked on ganchos on the front (enganches) leg wraps.  The Follower does a spiral, like in a contra boleo.  Not like back or side, it’s more of a change in direction.  It happens on the way out, like in the boleo.  The Leader is moving around the Follower’s standing leg, which causes the Follower’s spiral, to wrap in a front cross.

We also worked on piernazos because the other Follower wanted to (certainly not because I wanted to).  We were to focus on the quality of our technique on each step.  We should focus on our unwinding.  Mostly we focused on fine tuning our technique and maximizing the space between our braline and hips.  We were to forget the pattern.  We need to actively do pivots by pushing the floor to exit.

In piernazos, the Follower is the center of the circle.  The Leader sets himself up so that he is behind her.  The Follower’s left foot steps forward, with the Leader behind her, as he also steps left foot forward to immediately take a right foot step behind her, to change the direction as he goes around her right foot to lead the Follower’s left foot to do a piernazo around his left hip.

The Leader can also lead a gancho, but the Follower is the center of the circle and then turns the Follower’s hips to lead a gancho.

The Follower should feel that the piernazo I the only option (as opposed to a different type of gancho or step). 

Some things I was told repeatedly to work on: The Follower needs to go if the Leader leads her to step.  She should always try to maximize the space between her braline and hips.  Keep shoulders on top of hips.  Really arrive to axis before taking the next step.  Really connect the arms to the back.  Push against the Leader’s left hand with your right hand and his right bicep with your left thumb when doing a back cross step and when going from a planeo to a back sacada. The key to the back sacada is the back cross step.  The rebound is in the legs; the elasticity is in the arms.  Don’t let go of his right shoulder with your left hand.

As usual, it was a really great class filled with relentless drilling and focusing on trying to improve our respective weaknesses.

Viernes, 16 de Noviembre 2012
Intensivo Al Cuadrado – Day 5
Maestra asked what we wanted to work on, and we both agreed that we just wanted to continue drilling all that we learned in the last four days, with a focus on improving the areas where we were most weak.

So things I needed to continue to work on: Keep the embrace, use the arms, not just the hands.  Do not overuse the hands.  Keep the shoulders on top of the hips. Do not lean forward and do not lean back.  Pivot faster by sending the energy from the top down into the floor.

It was a great class, as usual.

This Intesivo Al Cuadrado was experimental to us all since it is so small and more like a group private that it focused on Followers’ Technique.  Fortunately, the other student in class had been to many Intensivos as I have (I think she’s been at all the ones I’ve gone to), and is of comparable skill, academic seriousness and blissfully drama-free.  So we all had a great time and moved quickly through the content.  She and I both have similar problems in our dance, so corrections and instructions were applicable to us both. It was a very productive process, and I feel so lucky and spoiled and blessed to have worked at such a high level with such intensity and with such precise focus on MY dance and MY weaknesses (but without the super laser beam focus if I were to go it alone, and with the nice contrast of being able to work on the material with Maestra’s three hand-picked assistants (Jose, Mati, and German), who many would consider the cream of the crop in terms of leading, sensitivity, communication, and diagnosis of problems).

After the class, I went over to my café to sign in to work.  Thankfully, all went well and they didn’t need me after all. So I had a delightful lunch, largely peaceful and uninterrupted by work, though I kept an eagle eye on things.

Afterwards, I got my hair cut at Peliqueria de la Cabeza (Mario Bravo 1136 xCordoba).  It was OK, not great but serviceable enough.  Cost was 95 pesos for the cut, and then there were a couple of add-ons for washing and I don’t know what else (maybe blow drying?), so the total came out to be 145 pesos.  I gave her a 20 peso tip, thinking I was being generous, as I thought the bill was going to be 95 peso.  Whoops.  Later on, JSE assured me that my tip amount was adequate.

That night, I went to La Baldosa (Ramon Falcon 2750). According to Punto and the other free tango magazines, there was supposed to be a lesson @ 9 pm. I got there exactly at 9 (entry was only 20 pesos as they were celebrating their 10 year anniversary for all of November), looked around and saw about 20 or so people there, either just sitting at tables or having dinner.  Maestra was there, but didn’t look like she was going to teach.  I was right. She didn’t.  Since it was early with only a few people there, I decided to have dinner. So I ordered two beef empanadas (6 pesos each), a bottle of wine (20 pesos for a bottle of Santa Ana Etiqueta Negra; I went for a bottle because a glass of wine was 9 pesos) and a bottle of water (10 pesos), which came to a total of 42 pesos, which I thought was an amazing bargain.

Happily, Cristobal came by and we shared some wine, and were able to enjoy several tandas on the spacious dance floor with only a few other couples since it was early.  Then his lovely wife and Marcelo’s party came, so he went to their table instead, and the portenos then cabaceo’d me (or I them).  I danced a lot, and had a good time.

The highlight of the evening for me was the performance. I knew that Alejandra Mantinan would perform as that’s what Punto said, but I was surprised that Damian Garcia would perform with his partner, and that Joana Copes would also perform with a male dancer whose name escapes me.  But Alejandra was the highlight. She danced with someone named Pancho and they were truly amazing.  It’s such an amazing, absolutely ethereal experience watching her dance (in real life and on YouTube!).

Sabado, 17 de Noviembre 2012
I spent the morning packing, which was easy since I had brought so little, and with an additional empty carry-on bag that luckily fit all the 11 pairs of shoes I acquired.

Then I spent the better part of the afternoon with JSE to catch up since we didn’t have the opportunity to earlier on this trip, even though I had been in town for three weeks(!).  We were chatty Cathys for hours, and had lunch at a nice little café near her place. 

Then it was time for me to go to Confiteria Ideal (Suipacha 384) for their afternoon milonga, the same one so many of us had gone to in years past right before our evening flights. When I arrived, there were about 20 people, 2/3rds women.  So I just sat there and waited.  Luckily, Cristobal arrived (I told him I was planning to be there) and we managed to squeeze in a couple of tandas before I really had to go.

Dante was a half-our early, but was totally fine with me taking a shower and doing last-minute rejuggling of the luggage contents before my flight.  The ride to Eziza was fine and brisk, as it usually is on a weekend evening.

My flight home was very cold, and I my nose started to run controllably.  So I was very relieved when the plane finally touched down at JFK early Sunday morning.

Sunday, November 18, 2012
I was congested and my nose was runny all day, so I did not go to Roko though I had entertained the thought.

Sunday, November 25, 2012
RoKo Milonga, with lesson beforehand by Robin Tomas and Maria Elena Ybarra. It was another excellent lesson, as usual, although shame on me for not writing down any notes.  I had a nice time at the milonga.  I tried to employ all that I learned from my recent trip to Buenos Aires.  Some dancers did say I felt different.  But I am not sure if that was because I wanted them to say that (I kept asking them) or because it was true. Anyway, it was all good. No post-BsAs hangover with being disappointed in dancing with the locals this time around. Guess I was much more focused on doing my best with my own part in the dance.