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

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Tango combo 

I just bought new A.T shoes. The ballroom shop around the corner advertised they had received some Susana Villaroel Artesanal shoes, so I went there and tried the one (!) model they had for men: the all-black-nothing-special one.

As for the size, they had numbers 7, 8 and 9. My usual number is 9, but during the CITA festival in March 2004, I had bought a n°9 pair of A.T shoes at Flabella's, and as time went by they seemed to loosen, today even with shoelaces tightened to the max tension I'm losing them, and now this pair is basically useless, I use one of my regular ballroom pair of shoes for A.T. So I went for a n°8. Comfortable enough, but when I was putting all the weight on my toes I felt that the shoes where leaving my feet at heel's level. The n°7 was much too small, it reminded me of the famous Chinese torture, but I bought them anyway, hoping the leather will soften.

Being there, I also bought a valsecitos CD and a VHS copy of Carlos Saura's Tango. A bit like The tango lesson, it's a movie about somebody making a movie about somebody making [...endless loops...] a movie about tango.

Back home, I tried a tango combo: I viewed Saura's movie (sound off) while listening to the valsecitos CD and wearing my Artesanal shoes tightly laced. At the end of the movie, I had to face it: it had not been the mystical experience I was expecting.

posted by Pablo  # 5:31 AM (0) comments

Friday, December 17, 2004

They want to dance... 

...but they don't want to learn.

My tuesdays class-partner told me she wouldn't be available for the class+practica next week, and suggested that I may want to contact a girl of her friends who had told her beforehand that she would like to try this class. I duly phoned, and the aforementioned damzel answered that she would not attend the class but would gladly use me as a partner for the following practica.

So this morning I briefly mailed my partner, complaining about these girls who all are eager to dance but never want to take classes. And just now, calling my answering machine, I got a message from my saturdays partner, telling me that tonight she wanted to try the new milonga in town and asking me to be there too, and then adding she would most probably not come at our usual class tomorrow.

Two partners, for two classes, and both of them forfeited. Plus, I'll have to attend two milongas because of them. A.T. is a difficult dance per se, but is made much more difficult by the fact that it involves girls.

posted by Pablo  # 7:29 AM (0) comments

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Remembrance of Things Past 

My very first contact with A.T, about two years ago, occurred in an old mansion in the country. It was a two-day week-end beginner workshop limited to five couples. The girl whom I was trying to date had developed a growing interest for A.T but did not know where to start from, and hearing about this workshop asked me to come too. By then I had myself absolutely no interest at all for this weird dance, but of course I agreed. For her I would have attended even a "learn to comb and dress your Barbie doll" workshop.

After the first day of classes in what had been the stables of this retired cottage, our hostess led us to our sleeping-rooms. Each couple was put in a large room, my sweetheart in a lovely little room with one large bed and a smaller one, and the little me was led to a couch in the corridor.

No TV, and my gameboy had stayed home...what to do? There were many old books on the shelves, I took one and began to read. Soon I had to go to the kitchen and ask for a knife, because some pages were still uncut! Seems I was the first one to actually put my eyes on it... It happened to be Du côté de chez Swann (Swann's Way), by the late Marcel Proust. Unlike tango, it would really bring me something, I thought. I hardly read the first sixty pages or so during the week-end, but when the workshop ended I sure was more willing to continue with Proust than with A.T!

It took some months though before I found the same book in a bookstore. Around the same time I decided to take up some A.T classes, after a disastrous evening in a milonga where, because of my rude lead, my sweetheart fell heavily on the dance floor. And I wondered: what will I achieve first, some mastery in A.T or the reading of the whole series of books by the french novelist? Each volume is quite thick, and there are seven of them, totalizing thousands of pages:

Du côté de chez Swann ( Swann's Way )
À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur ( Within a Budding Grove )
Le côté de chez Guermantes (The Guermantes Way)
Sodome et Gomorrhe (Cities on the Plain )
La prisonnière ( The Captive)
Albertine disparue (The Sweet Cheat Gone)
Le temps retrouvé (Time Regained)

Well, yesterday I finished Le temps retrouvé. As for A.T, I feel I'm somewhere in the middle of the way I still have to walk before I'm an acceptable leader.

posted by Pablo  # 7:31 AM (0) comments

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


There is a fellow in my tango class whom I like to meet in the milongas, because with him in the place I know that I'm not the worst dancer on the dance-floor. And he likes me for the same reason. We encourage each other
("-You look too much at the floor". "- Oh yeah?; well, you're never in the beat!"), and when one is in doubt
("- I had a bad dance with this lady; could you invite her and tell me whether it was her fault or mine?"), the other gives a helpful hand ("-She's fine, Pablo; the fault was yours.")

He once wanted to invite a gorgeous damzel, but was almost sure that she would decline because of his so-so skills. So he went to me.
"- See this chick, Pablo?
- The one chatting with the DJ ?
- Yes. I want to invite her. So you go first, you invite her, she refuses...
- She refuses?
- Yes, because she's talking to the DJ, and you're a stranger to her. You come back, I go, and she'll dance with me.
- She'll dance with you?
- Yes, because refusing two invitations in a row would be against the etiquette. This is simply not done.
Oh, and when she throws you back, go to the bar, don't come back here, she might notice something."

I was impressed, this was really a well-thought plan. So I went, stopped right in front of her, and without a word I extended my two hands near her face, interrupting her conversation as rudely as I could.

She stood up with a smile. We danced.

"- I'm sorry", I whispered to my fellow a few minutes later, "I did my best; maybe you can invite her later."
"- No. Her boyfriend is here now, she'll dance only with him. Let's go to the bar, and pay me a beer."

posted by Pablo  # 3:06 AM (0) comments

Monday, December 06, 2004

Wait and see 

They say that in Buenos Aires, men won't invite you (or, if you're a guy, women will ignore your invitations) until, having seen you dancing for a while, they've made up their mind about your skill. (Somehow this means you're in a quite hopeless situation if you come alone in a milonga where you don't know anybody...)

Last saturday I went to a free milonga, full of people, and had a few dances with two girls I knew. Then, three unknown ladies came to me and asked me to invite them. All of them, as it became obvious to me after only a few steps, were near-to absolute beginners. And in a flash I understood that after my two first dances they had labelled me too as "beginner". One of them even said: "I was so impressed by all these wonderful milongueros here making these nice steps, but I knew they would never invite me; and then I saw you on the dance floor, and thought that you, for sure, would not refuse."

Well well... I intended to go to Confiteria La Ideal during my trip to Buenos-Aires next year and try to get a few dances there, but I bet I'll have to find a plan B.

posted by Pablo  # 2:18 AM (0) comments

Friday, December 03, 2004

milonga teams 

At the end of the class, the maestros asked us to sit and emphatically said that nobody would go out until the matter would be settled. Nobody had any idea of what would follow. Without explaining what it was all about, they began to create teams. First they named six captains (the only question asked being the possession of a cell phone) , and then chose six-seven members for each team.

Only then did they tell us what they had in mind. Knowing how stressful and disappointing an experience it can be for a beginner to attend his first real-life milongas, they had decided to create milonga squads. So now, each time any pupil goes to any milonga somewhere in town, he has to inform his captain, who in his turn will join all the other people. All this by SMS. If the captain feels that too many members from his own team have other plans for the night, then he will reach the other captains. Eventually, at least one or two students will join in, and instead of one lone beginner in the milonga there will be a nice group of two or three ones, so they can dance between themselves. Or, if bad luck has it that they're all of the same gender, they'll have somebody to chat with.

Despite not being concerned (I came a bit early for my Intermediate class, the beginner's class was far from
finished, and so I was recruited as a taxi-boy. Oh, and I don't own a cell phone.) and therefore not included in any team, I liked the idea. I had already read something similar somewhere on the web one yar ago: somebody suggesting that building a team of around 6 people of roughly same tango skill, gender balanced, and attending together the festivals, workshops and milongas was the most effective way to improve quickly one's tango, and have fun in the process. But it's the first time that I can see it being actually implemented.

Here the technology sure helps a lot: cell phones with the SMS feature are the perfect tools for reaching people without disturbing them and wasting your own time. You compose your message, something like "Going to La Nacional tonight, wanna join in ?", you select the 6 phone numbers, you click, and the game is over, 6 people know they won't be alone if they decide to go to La Naciona tonight. (Or one hundred thousands of Iraqi civilians are now dead, if you're G. Bush Jr). I once was, a long time ago, in ages where SMS or even e-mails didn' exist, the captain of a sport team, and as time went by I found it more and more tedious and displeasing to have each month eight times the same conversation with eight different players:
"- Hi Jon, Pablo here. Ready for tomorrow's match ?
- Hello, it's Mike here, who is speaking?
- Pablo is. Would you please call your father?
- Dad! Daaaaaad! It's Pablo, it's for the match, come here dad!"
And here in the phone I could hear a distant voice "Oh s**t! Pablo!", and then a heavyweight adult stampedeing to the the phone, and finally his voice:
"- Pablo! You don't say, the match is THIS sunday ?"

posted by Pablo  # 6:45 AM (0) comments


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