Buenos Aires is a great city for retirement

April 20, 2018

You probably think this photo is in a bar or cafe in Buenos Aires.  Actually it is in the newest subway station at Las Heras on the H line along Jujuy/Puerreydon.  I discovered it for the first time this month as I was exiting the station after my first ride to Las Heras in Barrio Norte.  I heard the pianist playing a familiar tune that got me to stop and listen.  He was playing, What a Wonderful World, and I began singing along.  When he finished, I said, I know that tune by Ray Charles.  He corrected me — no, it’s Louis Armstrong.  Right!  I thanked him for his beautiful interpretation of a tune with inspiring lyrics.  With all that’s happening in the world today, we need a reminder that life is wonderful.

Music is everywhere in this city — you’ll hear musicians on the subway trains, too.  This is one of many reasons I am grateful to live in Buenos Aires.

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Osvaldo Ficca

February 6, 2018

lt has taken me a month to know who people have been talking about.  After dancing for hours at Obelisco Tango, Osvaldo was hit by a motorcycle driving on Entre Rios as he crossed in the middle of the street to reach his car.  An ambulance took him to the nearest hospital, but he died on arrival.

We danced at the Sunday milonga of Lola and Dorita.  He always greeted me with a nod and a smile from the floor.

Milongas for the early birds

January 29, 2018

It’s possible to attend milongas in Buenos Aires from mid-day to the wee hours of the morning.  I checked Hoy-milonga.com and found these places for early birds:

Sunday: Club Pedro Echague in Flores opens at 13 hs

Monday: El Beso in Balvanera opens at 15 hs

Tuesday & Thursday:  Casa de Galicia in Montserrat opens at 16 hs

Wednesday: La Nacional opens at 15 hs; Salon Canning opens at 15:30 hs

Friday:  El Beso opens at 14,30 hs

Saturday: Club Gricel opens at 15 hs; El Beso at 15 hs; and La Nacional at 16,30 hs.

I also heard that Jony’s new Wednesday milonga will open at 15 hs.  There is enough interest among the older dancers for mid-day early bird milongas.

Keeping up with milonga changes

January 26, 2018

Twenty years ago, we consulted the one bi-monthly guide for the milonga schedule:  B.A. Tango – Buenos Aires Tango.  Tito Palumbo  discontinued publication in 2016 and changed to social media.  That’s the best and only way to keep up with the constant changes.

For example, I planned to meet two visitors at my regular place on Wednesday.  Then I learned that El Maipu wasn’t scheduled in Obelisco Tango as usual at 18 hs; it was temporarily relocated to La Nacional at 20 hs. I cancelled our plans.  If I hadn’t checked their page on Facebook, I wouldn’t have known.  The other source is Hoy-Milonga.com

And then Milonga de Los Consagrados in Centro Region Leonesa was mysteriously cancelled a few weeks ago.  The club’s board may have decided not to rent the salon out for milongas; the Friday milonga moved to La Nacional.  Los Consagrados also relocated to La Nacional one week and then to Casa de Galicia. Both places seat fewer than the 350 capacity at Salon Leonesa.  Tomorrow it’s scheduled in La Nacional, where there was a problem with the air-conditioning a couple of weeks ago.

I feel sorry for all the dancers who don’t have access to the internet.  They show up at their regular milonga, many after an hour of travel by bus, only to find the doors closed.

This week is the craziest month ever in terms of venue changes.  I’ve been on FB for a little more than a year.  I relied on Hoy-Milonga for the schedule, but didn’t always bother to check it before walking out the door.  Power outages are common during the summer months.

Tonight, Milonga de Buenos Aires, usually held in Obelisco Tango is taking place in Lo de Celia, a half a block away.  Repairs and painting are being done in Obelisco Tango (which I hope include the ladies room).  Obelisco seats 350, and Lo de Celia 150.  That means seven organizers scramble to find another place so they don’t have to cancel their milongas and lose money and patrons.  The entrance door was just painted.

The milonga organizers are not only fighting with the city government to stay alive, they have to deal with situations beyond their control to stay open.  It’s not easy running a milonga these days in Buenos Aires.

Do yourself a favor when visiting the milongas: always check the milonga’s Facebook page and Hoy-Milonga.com for confirmation it will be open when you arrive at the door.

Milonga shuffling

January 22, 2018

Barajando is the perfect name for the newest milonga in Buenos Aires.  I think it’s about time Jonatan Rojas organized a milonga.  He’s a familiar face in the milongas and a fine dancer.  There’s no better venue for Jony to start than where he was a waiter for so many years.

Barajando means shuffling a deck of cards.   The tango Barajando was recorded by Juan D’Arienzo with Alberto Echague.

Jony is the right person to revive Sundays at the corner of Humberto Primo and Entre Rios.  He’s had a full house so far and already has plans for a Wednesday milonga.  When an organizer knows how to take care of the dancers, they come.  He’s worked in the salon almost since Celia’s opening, so it’s only natural for him to hold his first milonga there.

I wish Jony much success as organizer.  He takes care of his customers.

What is a silent milonga?

January 20, 2018

There were silent milongas in Maui, Hawaii.  They are the idea of Murat Erdemsel

“We dance to the Music. Nobody speaks between tangos, tandas and around the dance floor.”

Here’s what Ingeborg Mussche wrote:

For more than a year now a friend and I have danced silently, no talking between songs, well 90% of the time. Yes, it was awkward at first and sometimes still feels a bit awkward, but now mostly it seems normal and more comfortable.

Tonight, for the first time I especially realized how lovely this. I became distinctly aware of relaxing into the music, our embrace, my/our breathing, and the enjoyment of our moving together and listening together. Also, the dance felt more relaxed and not rushed. My mind was not thinking what I might say between songs. I was just enjoying, just present in the moment. We chatted briefly afterwards and both felt it had been a lovelier tanda than we typically experience.

I hope many more have the opportunity to enjoy this during their tandas, but be aware it may take a long time before you realize that sensation. Will it happen again? I hope so.

Of course.  People don’t know what they’re missing without silence.  The music of a tanda continues for about 12 minutes.  The few seconds from the end of one tango to start of another doesn’t allow for conversation.  What is so important that it can’t wait until after the milonga?

I wrote about this topic here and here.

Tangoman

January 19, 2018

There are those who get tango, and those who will never get tango.  This isn’t to say that only Argentinians get tango, and all foreigners don’t get what tango is.  It makes a difference when one grew up on tango in Buenos Aires and learned the dance early in life.  It’s in their blood.

Taking classes with many teachers is no guarantee that one gets tango.  Some Argentine teachers don’t get tango, so how can they inspire others with the music, lyrics, and orquestas.  They teach choreography and call it tango.

I was enjoying the music from my table when a foreigner made an overt, almost horizontal pose to get my attention for the tanda.  My standard advice to foreign visitors is: refuse to dance with men who approach your table; the worst dancers prey upon newcomers.  I don’t usually accept an , but I did this time and didn’t expect much.

Things didn’t get off to a good start.  My hair was in his face and he brushed it away with his hand, commanding that I do something to relieve his discomfort.  I did, but that would have been the perfect excuse to avoid the tanda with him.   My cheek rested on his sweaty face and my arm on his wet shirt from perspiration.  I couldn’t have been more uncomfortable.

I knew after the first few steps on the floor that I was with a man who danced for himself, not for his partner.  He danced memorized sequences and didn’t hear the music.  There is nothing I hate more than a dancer with no connection to the music.  Another is expecting a partner to automatically follow when there is no lead.  He had no awareness of me, only his own dancing.

After the first dance, I asked him where he is from.  He told me, and then added he’s been living in Buenos Aires for six years.  That proves that people don’t get tango even while living here.

After the second dance, I asked him if he heard about the cabeceo for inviting someone to dance.  He said he couldn’t see very far.  I suggested wearing glasses,  but he said they don’t help him.  Later I saw him wearing glasses.  All the women were 20 feet away across the floor. If he didn’t use the cabeceo, he wasn’t going to dance.

This tangoman has a lot to learn.

There is no comparison

January 10, 2018

I danced for the first time with Jose Mario about two months ago in El Maipu.  I remember how much I enjoyed a tanda with him.  I was hoping to catch his attention yesterday in Nuevo Chique.  There were only a few dancers left at 22 hs.  I was about to call it a night and change my shoes.  Then Jose Mario caught my eye and invited me for the Pugliese tanda that began with Recuerdos.  I accepted even though I don’t usually dance the Pugliese tanda.

From the second I entered his embrace, I surrendered to the music and closed my eyes.  There were no more than five couples on the floor.  I rarely close my eyes while dancing, but I let it happen naturally.  It was magical.  It was feeling, not steps.  We moved together in harmony like we’ve danced together for years.

I had danced earlier with men from Germany, Australia, and England, including a very young Argentine who has learned for two years.

The German tried to get my attention from the other side of the room, but I ignored him because he is too tall for me.  He approached my table, and I accepted.  It was the Biaggi tanda.  He started like a racehorse out of the gate with long steps.  I said, slow down.  He was dancing for himself, not for me. Later he commented, “the music has energy so you have to put energy into the dance.”  This wasn’t his first visit to Buenos Aires.  I couldn’t feel the lead from his upper body.  I had to concentrate on his steps and try to follow.  A few times I didn’t follow along because there was no lead.  He didn’t notice.  He was dancing for himself.

The Australian and I danced together at the same milonga a day after his arrival.  He invited me for the Rodriguez tanda yesterday.  [I haven’t heard this orquesta in a very long time. Thanks to Daniel Borelli, who I consider the best DJ in Buenos Aires, for including it yesterday.]  He’s here for a month to dance and take classes — two privates and eight group classes each week.  He said he’s here to learn the milonguero style.  I offered free private sessions, but he has a full agenda. It’s no wonder that he’s still thinking tango, not feeling it.

Foreigners are in a hurry; the milongueros take their time.  Foreigners focus on the steps; the milongueros focus on the woman in their embrace.  There is no comparison.  One is exercise, the other is a feeling.  If I need exercise, I go for a walk or practice Pilates.  When a man shares what he feels in the music, I melt.  And I did last night with Jose Mario.

Tango is losing its role models

January 6, 2018

Making the journey to the home of tango is no guarantee that one will find good role models for social dancing. You need to sift through so many styles and venues to find the real thing.

Group classes rarely produce good social dancers. After so many years in Buenos Aires, I feel that tango is best learned in the culture it was born. Those who come to dance in the milongas reap the benefits. It’s where they learn the codes and customs which are basically ignored in their local communities. Dancers may call it tango, but they are adding their local flavor; Buenos Aires isn’t an ingredient.

My approach to teaching today is entirely different from when I began in 1993 in Chicago. I could teach what I learned from others, which had no resemblance to the social style of the Buenos Aires milongas. My eyes were opened in 1996 in Buenos Aires, and it took years to understand what is so different about tango there.

Now I offer a free three-hour weekly session to anyone who is interested in social tango. We begin with exercises to prepare the body. I talk about the rhythms and feeling the music, not about steps. The milonga codes and customs are part of each class from the start. I record during the class for self-criticism and improvement. The goal is to dance well with a stranger at a milonga. I’ve learned so much from the milongueros viejos who are no longer around and want to pass it on to keep social tango alive and well. Tango is losing its role models. Performers aren’t doing social tango any good.

[My comment posted on Tango High and Low, May 12, 2017]

Which is your technique — gazing or staring?

November 26, 2017

Over the years, several milongueros viejos have told me how important subtlety was when inviting a woman to dance if she refused him by looking in another direction.  After one refusal from a woman, a milonguero viejo didn’t look again in her direction.  That way they avoided public embarrassment after a refusal when the mirada/cabeceo came into use in the early 1940s.  Men moved from standing in the center of the floor to sitting at tables*.  It wasn’t obvious to anyone who invited who until two people united to dance.

I like watching the men who nonchalantly make the slightest movement (from where they’re seated) to invite a woman on the other side of the room or a table nearby.  That takes practice and perfect timing.

There is a big difference between gazing and staring at a stranger across the dance floor.  Often just a glance is all it takes.

gaze: look steadily and intently, especially in admiration, surprise, or thought.

stare: look fixedly or vacantly at someone or something with one’s eyes wide open.

glance: take a brief or hurried look.

The stare technique may only result in the other person looking away as if not to notice you.  The gaze technique is clear yet subtle.  Glances with a smile are nice surprises.

Which technique do you use successfully?

*Alito was the first to use tables in the salon in Centro Region Leonesa.  That way the men didn’t have to leave the dance to have a drink.