Argentina, November 2007
This is an account of my trip to Buenos Aires. I am writing it in multiple chapters. Click one of the links to jump to an individual chapter or back to the photos page:
Wednesday - Sunday, November 14 - 18, 2007
The classes on Wednesday were different than the rest of the workshop. Instead of four back to back hour and a quarter classes (with 15 minutes between unless they go over time, which they almost always do), this day is a series of one hour sessions all in one room and taught by a series of the old milongueros, some of whom have been dancing for fifty years or more. Sometimes they just talk about Tango and how it used to be and sometimes we learned new steps or techniques. I danced with Nicole for the entire set and technically, we found these classes to be easy. In the session with Flaco Dani (aka El Flaco, the skinny guy), he taught us some very nice patterns in Milonga Traspie. As I mentioned before, Milonga has always been the link in my Tango and I was determined to remedy that on this trip.
Between El Flaco and the classes with Luis and Maria (sigh), I now have several simple but nice Milonga Traspie steps that I can do but it remains to be seen whether I can lead them with an unsuspecting partner. More practice alone and with a partner is in order here.
Inspired but the old tango masters, I was inspired to write the a short story. If you care to read it, it is posted on my web site.
On Wednesday evening, after yet another fantastic and inexpensive dinner, we got all dolled up and went to the milonga for Pulpo's Tango Week. It started ok, we were assigned a good table, and the dancing was fun but as it became more and more crowded it became almost impossible to dance. It wasn't the numbers on the dance floor that were the problem, it was all these guys trying to show off and lead the complex figures they had learned in the classes. They were shooting across the dance lanes, backing up against the line of dance, and generally being a nuisance. It wasn't universal, several couples were dancing respectfully to the other couples but those who were all over the floor were making it very unpleasant for the rest of us. I shudder to think that I used to be one of those rude dancers.
We left after about an hour and a half; though the milonga was just getting started. Despite the difficulty on the dance floor, I would have preferred to stay but bowed to will of the group. Yes, I know I didn't have to leave with the group but I knew that if I was the only one getting to bed in the not-so-wee hours of the morning, I would either have to sacrifice sleep or abandon our morning breakfast on Thursday. Choosing the more social option, I left with them.
I have thus far, not mentioned the milonga we went to on Sunday. It was a Confeteria Ideal and was hosted by our friends Carlos Sosto and Romina Veron. Carlos and Romina are the two teachers we took many private lessons with on our last trip. After dinner we went to the milonga and I quickly got a dance using the cabaseo (kah-bah-SAY-oh), the Argentine technique where you make eye contact with you desired partner across the room, nod and, only when you are certain of her acceptance, stand up and walk to the dance floor in her direction and wait for her to come to you. Anyway, I had a very nice set of dances with a local woman who, if I understood her Spanish, indicate that I was a very pleasant dance partner. She was pleasant as well and I'll take approval anywhere I can get it, especially from a lady on the dance floor.
Thursday was our day off from classes. They had an optional field trip but I haven't talked to anyone who went. It was supposedly a day on a pampas ranch with gauchos and lots of food. It didn't hold much appeal to the five us so we skipped it, opting instead for a little shopping and lots of much-needed relaxation.
Friday's classes were, in one respect, more of the same but each day, each class brought new challenges and opportunities and this day was stellar for me. Every class was great and fun. I'd say that the success rate was eighty percent, not bad. Plus the classes were gender-balanced. On the first day when there were a few extra ladies, they brought in some local chicos to dance with them.
There was a group of dancers that had come from Japan and I had several lovely Japanese ladies as partners in classes and on the milonga dance floor. There were two leads and eight follows in their group and I never saw one of their leads take a lady onto the dance floor during a milonga.
On Saturday, the water went off, apparently right after my morning shower. I'm sure I had nothing to do with it. This was unfortunate because it left Nicole, Lynn, and Denis high and dry, so to speak. Saturday was also hot, particularly in the studio where the lessons I was in were scheduled. the first two classes were good but in the third I was battling the heat, fatigue, and some physical problems and just gave up and sat in the courtyard waiting for my friends. Several others did likewise which left a lot more room to dance for the remaining brave souls. Due to the aforementioned heat and fatigue, I also skipped the last class (Vals, which is my favorite Tango variation) and returned to the hotel with Nicole, Lynn, and Denis. Roy had left earlier in order to walk the three or so miles back to the hotel.
Still no water. It has me concerned about any restaurant in the area we might choose. Denis got a recommendation from the proprietor of a nearby wine shop. It was a newly opened French restaurant and sounded good so we walked there. Everything was good except the steaks Denis and I ordered. They were flavorless and tough. Luck for me, mine came with a mushroom sauce that was out of this world. This was our most expensive meal to date and was a bit disappointing. We went straight from dinner to the final milonga. It was even more crowded than before but most dancers were behaving themselves. I danced with Lynn and Nicole and with some of the other ladies I met during the workshop. While on a dance with Nelma, Roy mouthed to me that they wanted to leave. I finished a very nice set then joined them. At that moment, an announcer began some introductions and who knows what else in Spanish. Both Luiza and Pulpo spoke, Luiza's voice cracking with emotion. This week was so well planned and executed, better than any comparable tango events I have been to in the U.S. and she said it had been a year in the making. I am sure this evening was a huge release for both of them.
After talking to the crowd, Pulpo and Luiza danced for us. It was so beautiful, complex, yet deceptively simple that it is no wonder students flock to their classes and this event. When the applause finally died down, several other teachers from the workshops performed. I'm really glad we stayed for the performances. Immediately afterwards, the orchestra began to play and we changed our shoes to leave, unfortunately, once again I chose sleep over tango. What's wrong with me! I can sleep on the plane! (well, maybe).
By the way, it turned out to be my own fault that my camera didn't work. The batteries were fine but for some reason, the camera was in a different mode and wouldn't take pictures. Once that was corrected, everything was fine except that I had missed so many photo opportunities. Once I am home, I will put together the photos and post them as well.
We are flying out together, our plane leaving at 10:25pm tonight (Sunday). It will arrive in Dallas-Fort Worth Monday morning. We separate in DFW, me to Portland and the others to Eugene. This has been a good trip but hardly a relaxing vacation. I need to get back home and to work get back in the groove.
Good bye for now my friends and good dancing to you.