Tango: my life as a not-so-good leader

And you thought that YOU were the worst dancer in the world ?

Friday, April 02, 2004

I'm back...

...from Buenos Aires. Now I'm part of the happy few who went to the tango Mecca, now I can end any tango discussion with a no-reply "You're wrong, they don't do it this way in Buenos-Aires; I saw them when I was there."

Well, technically speaking I stayed 10 days there, but it was more of Cosmotango than Buenos-Aires. With 4 shows during the week there remained few nights for the milongas.

Here follow some snapshots, but of course there simply is too much material for one single post, so I may come back to the subject later.

Milongas: shame upon me, I only attended five of them, and didn't even see the "Confiteria La Ideal". Well, I actually saw the confiteria, but the milonga is only open on afternoons, and during afternoons I had classes. I liked Gricel, Canning, La Viruta, El Beso, and disliked Sunderland because it is basically a basket-ball place (with ads, with powerful white light)
Apart from El Beso, the milongas where less crowded and smokey than I feared beforehand. No big surprise, as they had been booked by Cosmotango, so only foreigners were there. At El Beso (I went there after the festival had ended), it was crowded, and I made the painful experience
of the argentine leaders' bumping technique. Who told they never bump one into the other ? They're always bumping. If you're doing a static pattern and they're walking, they'll kick you; if they're doing a static pattern and you're coming behind, they'll make a small back step to kick you. If you see an empty space near you and want to use it, they'll first kick you to slow and block your move, and then they'll go in the spot. And as they're very grounded, it's like they're the truck and you're the bicycle. The most crowded hour is around 1 am. At 3 am there remain much less people.

Milonga rituals: the schedule is invariably the same : 2 tango tandas, one vals tanda, 2 tango tandas, one milonga tanda. For the cabeceo, I saw it at El Beso. All argentine guys were standing at the bar, while the ladies sat on the opposite part. I stayed within my group of non-argentine, mix-of-men-and-women people, and didn't even try to catch the eyes of some local chica, but the women at my table entered the game, and indeed got dances, despite some cabeceo-beginner mistakes ("I tell you he smiled to me!" "No, have a better look, it was to me, of course!" "You're both wrong, it's me whom he's trying to invite!")

Dancing empanadas: unlike the Loch Ness monster, they're no myth. In Corrientes avenue, between the obelisk and the port, alongside a McDonald-alike fast-empanadas shop, a team of people with empanadas costumes dance on the pavement, to attract customers. They're not dancing tango, though, as their funny costumes have short arms and short legs.

Dance styles: I knew it! I knew it! Buenos-Aires people are not dancing this stupid so-called milonguero-apilado way, both dancers leaning heavily on each other, glued and stuck, unable to move in any direction without lengthy preparation. They dance close, because they have to due the lack of space, but each one on his own, vertical, axis. It makes sense, by the way, as two people in a pyramid-like position need much more room than the same people in a close-but-vertical position.

Levels: Argentine leaders, no big surprise, are good. Not only do they always follow the beat, but they also adapt their way of dancing to the music played: smooth or nervous, large or small, sad or playful, static or walking; and they combine all this, e.g when dancing on El Puntazo (d'Arienzo) they make nervous, small, playful, walking steps. On the opposite side, U.S. citizens are incredibly bad. Not only on the dance floors (at La Estrella I saw a guy unable to make giros, leading with his arms, shaking his partner as an attempt to follow the rythm; to his credit, he wasn't looking at the floor, and
navigated nicely, without bumping. Two days before, as we were chatting informally in the hotel lift, he had told me it already was his third CITA festival, and I had then replied "Oh, you must be a great dancer then!") but also in the classes, where, in an intermediate one I saw U.S leaders not knowing a basic turn and U.S followers unable to do a back ocho.

Teachers: I took a lot of classes at the CITA. Being a beginner, I have to, of course. Maybe I'll detail the pros ans cons of each one in another post. One common thing I can already say is that they had a hard time with the american students, their bad level and their stupid questions. "In a milonga, am I responsible of the collision if I anticipated my leader's lead and moved on my own, but my step was the logical follow-up of the previous steps he had led?" . Hey, CITA is supposed to be a tango congress, not a bad lawyers' one.
Too many times, the teachers had to lower in quantity and quality the material they had intended to present. I have to congratulate them for their patience.

Suggestion: CITA 2004 had many more participants than CITA 2003, which already was great. Somehow the organizers were overwhelmed by their own success, and in many events the place proved too small for the crowd. For 2005, I suggest two separate CITAs: one for U.S people, and another one for the rest of the world.

posted by Pablo  # 2:24 AM
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