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

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

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Damn boleo 

I was practising the daily sequence with Lorena, when she suddenly froze (which is a premiere, she would usually tell me to go on when a mistake of mines happens). I had just led a back boleo the way everybody in the world does, by pivoting the lady then stepping around the other way.

"- This is not the way we're teaching boleos. Who taught you this boleo?"

Before I opened the mouth, the assistant, who knows me well as we practise together in another dance studio after the class, hurried to answer.

"He's also taking classes with Naveira!"

This was like ordering a Pepsi-Cola in a bar in Atlanta. Lorena left me with the assistant and ran to talk with Osvaldo who had left for a moment to answer a phone call. Because of the music I could not hear their conversation, apart this frag from an amused Osvaldo:
"Naveira...So he can't even see that *our* lessons are already too difficult for him?"

posted by Pablo  # 5:05 PM (0) comments

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Dance Of The Vampires 

Went to the milonga La Baldosa, where one of the many preliminary selections for the IVth metropolitan tango championship was taking place. Not that I suddenly developped an interest for milongas; but one of my taxi-partners was competing, and as the public can vote too she asked me to be there. One vote is one vote.

Apart from her, all the competitors were unknown to me. Until I noticed that Fabian Peralta and Natacha Poberaj were amongst them.
"Hey", I said naively to my neighbour - a compatriot - , "This is not fair, those two are professionnals!".
"Hmmmm, I'm afraid they all are..." he replied.

For a moment I thought that him and the little me were, like in Polanski's movie, the only two human beings in the place. But then, with all the tango shows in town, with all the gringos like me coming from everywhere to take classes, there is room for quite a respectable number of tango pros here.

I duly voted for my taxi partner, most of the audience did the same and she made it to the semi-finals. Peralta and Poberaj were ranked #1 by the jury, though.

posted by Pablo  # 7:59 AM (0) comments

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Damn violin 

"This sequence", Gustavo said during his class, "needs 16 beats [and given the complexity of each step, 8-beat sequences would be more than enough for me. ] and because of its dynamic character can't really be broken, so you'll have to place it at the beginning of a clear, reliable musical phrase. Wait for a good, solid bandoneon. Forget the violin. They're all talking about dancing on the violin, see, violin here, violin there, but the bare truth is that nobody can hear it and even less dance on it."

posted by Pablo  # 6:18 AM (0) comments

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Half way 

My main teacher decided that our private would be a check-up of all the elements she had been showing to me up to now. Barridas, ochos, boleos, embrace, musicality, giros, rythm, walk.
My ochos/boleos/giros were more or less ok, and my barridas/embrace mejor (read still not good but a bit less worse than they used to be). My musicality though turned out to be non-existent. While I understand and even like the idea of forgetting the beat and "dancing the violin", I'm unable to do it.

This is how it should be:
- I'm dancing on the beat.
- Being familiar with the tango piece, I know a violin solo is coming.
- When the violin solo actually comes, I filter out all the orchestra but the violin and lead a few appropriate steps.
- When the violin solo ends, I come back to dancing on the beat, until another instrument, say the piano, becomes dominant for a while.

And this is how it actually is:
- I'm dancing on the beat, just nervous because an unfamiliar exercize is awaiting me.
- Being unfamiliar with the tango piece, I miss the beginning of the violin solo.
- At some point I notice the solo and hurry to finish the current sequence.
- Then I lead a few auto-pilot dull moves so that my brain is available for figuring out what the hell I could lead that would suit this damn violin.
- The solo soon ends before I've even begun to actually lead one violin step.

Filtering the instruments is an interesting thing though. I'll have to listen to my tango CDs a few dozen times each, and carefully, before I can achieve this.

posted by Pablo  # 10:22 AM (1) comments

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A great suggestion 

Besides the twice-a-week classes with living legends, I'm also having daily privates with an unknown teacher from Corrientes street. Up to now we're revisiting the basics. Walk, barridas, rythm, embrace, giros... No sequence or anything. This suits me fine. Just, the defaults she corrects on some day are supposed to be history on the day after. And are still here actually, most of the time. Maybe for that reason, today after the class she told me about a practise she knew.

"It's seven blocks from here. Twice a week, Thursday and Monday. It's there that all young people go to try their nuevo things, the level is very high, you should go there."

Sure I will go there. All the hyper-sharp tango youngsters in town attempting to make the latest fashionable out-of-axis whirlpool even more flashy, and the old gringo attempting to find somebody to improve his barrida...

posted by Pablo  # 10:20 AM (0) comments

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The most beautiful girl in the world... 

... can only give what she has (Russian proverb).

And so however lovely she may be my taxi dancer can´t make me a better leader. A side effect of her beauty though is that in a group class the teacher is likely to come and see us more often than the other couples. Yesterday, as I was struggling with the sequence, she finally told me
"- Look, you're not getting it. Why don't we just ask Gustavo ?"
And as a matter of fact if I hadn't been watching my feet for all this time I'd have noticed that the maestro was just here, arms crossed, looking at me with a "Are you sure you know what advanced class means?" face. He embraced my partner and for a few minutes, with a luxury of details, went on to explain where I had to put the feet, what variations were possible, and how close and firm a leader was supposed to hold a follower for a volcada.

(For some reason Giselle Anne never comes and help us.)

posted by Pablo  # 10:25 AM (1) comments

Friday, May 05, 2006

Broomstick (a.k.a Bs-As, day... well I stopped counting) 

From Bolivar station, the subte (line E) will bring you to Boedo station, which is the nearest to Zotto's dance studio. Except when line E decides without notice to go out of order. Then a taxi will bring you to the same place, but it will take both more money and more time. That's how I began my classes: 15 minutes late.

The logistics is impressive. For your money you get Osvaldo, Lorena, a assistant who will be your partner, and a little white dog which kept barking at me. "She's trained to bark when she notices a mistake in one's lead", I was told afterwards.
Though they would use other words, the general idea is that you have to dance like you've swallowed a broomstick. All that could be detrimental to your verticality is prohibited. I'm not even sure I was allowed to breathe. Their dance floor is very long, even more when you have to walk it on your own, with all of them ( the three people and the dog) watching you. The verdict was that I had some natural elegance when static but that every move of mine was ruining everything instantly.

The class with Gustavo, the day after, was totally different (except I also came 15 minutes late) as it was a group class, with a lot of attendance even including some locals. Another pupil from my tango school was there too, and greeted me with a kind of relief smile. At least now he would not be any more the clumsiest student in the place. But I didn't mind: my taxi dancer was much prettier than his.

posted by Pablo  # 10:27 AM (0) comments

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

There is a lady here... (a.k.a Bs-As, day four) 

The bacan/otario paid even more than he had thought, the back-home taxi (which drived home the partner, the tour-organizers, and their friends) being all paid by him (11 pesos).

Near the middle of the milonga (Gricel), my taxi-dancer, a quite pretty creature, -imagine a very young Sophia Loren- told me with a soft voice that
"There is a lady here who wants to dance with you".
Three times I asked her to repeat. The lady was seated one table behind ours, thus the soft voice my taxi used. "She asked me to tell you."

Inviting a foreigner when the room is full of porteños ...
I figured out it was either a forgery by my partner, or that the lady, seing me dancing with my taxi and not knowing she was covering my mistakes, got the illusion that I was a reasonably skilled leader...

posted by Pablo  # 11:35 AM (4) comments

Monday, May 01, 2006

Buenos Aires, day three 

Bacan: rich guy who pays again and again, for parties, for girls...
Otario: gullible guy.

Tonight I'll be bacan and otario, paying milonga entrance, taxis, drinks to no less than five people. The taxi dancer, the tour organizers who found the taxi dancer, and two friends of them who haven't done anything for me but were added at the last minute. I'm supposed to phone them today to know the place and the hour, but each time I'm doing so they've found a new idea to charge me.

Not much to do today either. I wanted to change some money but it's 1st of May and I've been told that everything would be closed. My favourite locutorio is open though.

So far it's a non-tango trip, even the restaurant I chose yesterday evening was... a chinese one.

Somewhere I've read that people who made the Bs-As trip, once back in their communities, stop dancing because they find that locals aren't good enough for them. Well, if the remaining days of my trip are like the first three, it looks like I'll have to pretend that I´ve become good.

posted by Pablo  # 7:35 AM (0) comments


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