I think I know what a sardine feels like now

I spent the day rushing around, trying to get too many things done. On the way home, I squeezed into a subway train at the first stop from the terminus. Each stop, more people shoved into the car. Each stop, someone with a loudspeaker had to ask people to let the doors close; each stop, there were people left on the platform who couldn't get in. At one, the announcement happened three times, and someone called, "Attack them!" and everyone in the car chuckled. It is interesting to be surrounded by people, pressed MUCH tighter together than couples on the dance floor, buttocks to other people's fronts/sides/backs/handbags/shopping--and to politely ignore that we are all packed like sardines into this metal box. It was really a relief to fight my way out of the car and get back up into (relatively) fresh air.

Most of this trip, I have walked places. I find that it helps me remember my geography better. I also feel better when I absorb sun. When I am running late, I'll hop into a taxi to get the rest of the way to where I am going if traffic is good. I have been avoiding the buses because most of the time, they don't go all that much faster than walking! The subway is my choice for public transportation if possible because there is so much street traffic that the buses idle in place, with sweating people mopping their brows inside.

I can see why I did not play tourist the first six times I visited Buenos Aires: I am just too tired sometimes to go dancing. Before, if you had given me the choice, I would have stared at you. Of COURSE dancing comes first! However, since I am trying to organize everything I will need for bringing people with me next year, I am spending a lot of time looking at tango hostels, hotels and apartments. I am spending a lot of time doing cultural/touristy things that I should have done before; and I am dancing a lot less.

Right now, I am supposed to be at La Milonguita, a milonga I LOVE, but I never managed to eat today after an early breakfast, so I am eating now. Also, I promised to call my son, and right after school is great for him, but means I miss out on getting to early milongas on time.

Part of why I am late, is that there was a huge demonstration/gathering to hear the outgoing president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, give a speech. On the TV, I could see probably thousands (maybe hundreds) of people jumping up and down, waving flags, chanting, etc. CFK was already speaking when I got home. I watched a bit, fielded a call from my son, and then watched the end of her speech. She was losing her voice by that time.

My hostess was watching the speech, and consequently probably arrived late for the class she teaches. As she got up to leave, I said we would never have this in the USA, that this seemed more like a telenovela than politics--an impassioned speech basically admonishing everyone to take responsibility on themselves for the nation, implying very strongly that a. she will be back in four years ("I am listening to you, I will always listen to you, etc." and b. that the incoming government will be awful--she laughed. She said that, unless one understands the entire history of Argentina, that this speech would seem overly dramatic. Also, we would need to know all of Argentine history to understand that CFK is not a psycho. My hostess seemed very moved by the speech. "We are very Italian," she shrugged. On the other hand, we have Donald Trump doing pretty much the male imitation of what I just saw, so maybe I should not be so shocked.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Seriously, the weather today has been fabulous. Perfect. Whatever word you would like to use. It was the perfect day to walk in the Botanical Gardens (entrance on Santa Fe, opposite the Plaza Italia Subte stop). It's open from 8 am to 6:45 PM, at least in the summer, but it's closed for the holidays Monday and Tuesday, so I am glad I went today.



There is a section of the park for plants and trees from each continent. I love the palm trees and the jungle-like parts of the park best, as they are not something I see much at home.


Buenos Aires, Day 2: Todo cambia

The city feels different this visit. It seems cleaner: less dog poop on the sidewalks, less trash. There are BIKE LANES all over the city, not something I ever expected to see in Buenos Aires! However, the people seem more subdued than before.

A lot of people are nervous about the change of government next week. Whether they supported Macri, the winner, of Scioli, the loser, they are concerned about how things will change. Some are jubilant and sure that a change means good change. Others are downcast and predict change and doom.

Whether change is good or bad, here are some changes I saw today.


Cheek to Cheek (practica)

  • El Juvenil, Av Corrientes 4534
  • Entrada: 30 pesos
  • 3-7 PM


This afternoon, I went to a practica that is new since I last visited Buenos Aires: Cheek to Cheek. There were a lot more tourists there than at De Querusa last night. I danced with and/or talked to people from the USA, Norway, Germany, France and Japan. Most of the dancers were in their 20s and 30s, but there were some of us middle-aged folks, and a smattering of older people. The level was mostly high, with a few advanced beginners (tourists).

I had been told that the practica was stopped at 5 PM for a short lesson. I was skeptical of the idea, but the organizers offered up a complex move, showed it a few times, and then let people dance. After a few minutes, they showed it again, with a few details that people needed to get in order to be successful. A while later, they showed it to the other side, and left people to their own devices.

I always try to lead at lessons because I remember the moves better if I have to lead them. I grabbed someone I knew (yay!). The combo was at a nice level for someone like me (if only I hadn't been in heels!), and several really good couples could do it by the end of the session. My partner wasn't at a high enough level to get the combo smoothly, but she cheerfully kept trying. I appreciated it, as I think I can remember it for Portland because of that.

Things started to wind down around 6:15 because of the intense humidity in the space: men were wiping their faces, heads, necks, and women were fanning themselves. When some Fresedo started, I decided to lead, and led a few dances before heading home to shop before dinner.

What I liked best: the high energy, slightly crazed lesson delivery (I think some of these guys may be actors too), the good music, and the general energy of the organizers.



Sad changes

There are definitely changes in where to shop from three years ago until now.

Tango Imagen (Dr. Tomás Manuel de Anchorena 606) is still open. The space is much smaller, with fewer clothes and fewer sizes available. I just don't fit into a size 2; never have and never will.

Tango 8, which used to be next to Tango Imagen, is closed. The store across the street, whose name I can't remember, is also closed.

I tried to go to Susanna Villaroel's Artesanal store, but it was also gone. At NeoTango, they told me that they think you can call and get an appointment, but the store is gone; she has moved to an apartment/store. More on this as I keep looking.

Good news (somethings don't change)

Neotango (Sarmiento 1938) is still going strong. Ariel (the salesman) remembered me, and even managed to remember how long since I had been there. I must have bought more shoes than most people...

I have the widest feet on the planet. When barefoot, they almost look square. After trying shoes all over town, and every style Neotango has, I know what I need without much extra, "Oooh! Look at THOSE!" I bought my standard replacements for the shoes I have worn out: black and pewter. They were out of silver in the model I like, so I am the owner of a pair of platinum heels. I also bought a pair of black trainers, as I had forgotten to pack my leading shoes.

At this point, the blue dollar rate is so much better than the official rate, that it makes sense to exchange money and pay in cash. There is also a small cash discount for paying in cash.



Back in the saddle: Buenos Aires otra vez!

I just got back from a nice milonga that is new for me, De Querusa (Carlos Calvo 3745).

I almost didn't go dancing today. My body feels exhausted. The flight felt endless because I was not able to sleep. Luckily, the nice originally-from-Taiwan-now-from-Oklahoma man next to me couldn't sleep either, so we talked most of the way.

Then, there was the mother of all lines at the airport for customs. An hour and a half after landing, I was still waiting to get through customs. I have NEVER seen a line like that, ever, at any airport. It was crazy.

Luis and his son picked me up at the airport, so I got a nice long summary of good new milongas, what they think of Macri, family news and the economy. I am REALLY glad I don't drive here. The lines on the road seem to be merely a challenge, not even guidelines. After so many visits, I no longer panic in taxis. If you are going to die today, oh well...

I didn't think I would make it out dancing, but, after several hours of napping instead of getting anything done (blew off the class I wanted to take), I was in good enough shape to get showered, dressed, makeup on, and get out the door.

De Querusa had a nice mix of people. There were people from 20-something to at least 60-something; portenos, tourists, expats--a nice mix. I saw people I know from the USA, people I know from other years, and made new friends with a Romanian woman and her Argentine boyfriend who sat next to me. One poor French guy didn't speak Spanish, and my French was completed mixed up with my Spanish today. My Spanish is coming back quickly, as I am not speaking English.

Too tired to dance very much, but I am glad that I went. When in Buenos Aires, you need to just get in the saddle and keep moving.

De Querusa info: 50 pesos entrance; 25 pesos for a bottle of water; dancing Mondays and Thursday. I paid 80 pesos for the taxi back and forth (the sky opened up and soaked everything tonight). With the current exchange rate, the total for milonga, taxi and drink comes to $12-$16 (bank or blue rate exchange). Add in the (gluten-free!) food from the local Chinese buffet (about $3), and I had a pretty cheap evening.

I just found out that there are two days of holidays coming next week, so I need to figure out what will be open. Perhaps tomorrow just became a super shopping day! I am trying to figure out how to show video without having my camera stolen. Hasta manana!


Milonga class review Dec09

Milonga Class (October-December 2009), Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, Portland OR

This session, we worked on Robert's favorite milonga traspie moves, built into a basic framework of steps.

Abbreviations in text:

  • S=slow
  • Q=quick
  • CW=clockwise
  • CCW=counter-clockwise
  • Ld=leader
  • Fl=follower
  • L=left
  • R=right
  • fd=forward
  • sd=side
  • bk=back
  • LOD=line of dance
  • diag=diagonal
  • tog=together
  • []=variation, can add or leave out without changing rest of pattern

Basic framework:

  1. Traveling LOD:  With QQS rhythm, Ld is facing out of room, and steps L tog L (remember "la marca" for helping the Fl do this sd tog step). For Fl, R tog R.
  2. In place: Ld steps through with R (as if going to the cross, but facing outside wall, so move goes fd diag LOD). Robert's version: Ld touches L foot fd and replaces it under self; then does small rebound with R foot, returning to L; then steps bk on R, turning slightly to move back fd diag LOD, ready to start over.  My version: turn the step touch into a rebound step, moving with the follower. The follower steps bk on L (like going to the cross), bk on R with a rebound fd onto L; steps in place with R; rebounds L back onto R; and steps fd with L, ready to start again.

This is much easier than it sounds.  I diagram my dancing, rather than writing out the words like this, but I don't know if it is easy for others to understand my diagrams.  Here's my notes for the basic framework.  It reads like Arabic, from right to left, as that is the direction of the steps. Arrows denote diagonals from LOD, not forward or back for the dancer (I think navigationally most of the time):

Framework diagram

Variations that are built onto the framework:

Holding pattern:

  • If there is no room to progress LOD, don't do the initial traveling QQS (step tog step).  Instead, replace it a rebound/traspie step LOD, and a small step fd with L for Ld (small step bk with R for Fl).
  • Continue with rest of pattern.

Turn in place (CW with Ld walking backwards):

  • One variation that happens at the END of the basic framework is a small walking circle instead of the last rebound/traspie and step (the ultimate QQS of the pattern).
  • The leader does a rebound/traspie step with the R, back onto the L, and then walks backwards in a curved path R L, making sure to lead the Fl to step to the Ld's R (what Robert calls outside and I call inside!), rather than straight in line with the Ld. These four steps have a QQSS pattern to the rhythm.
  • Followers rebound L to R, and then walk forward L, R.
  • To end, go back to either the holding pattern or the traveling QQS LOD at the beginning of the basic framework.

Follower does "step together step together" turn around leader:

  • Instead of the basic framework's last traspie and step at the end of the pattern (or the turn in place), the leader can initiate a turn in place for the couple.
  • Do NOT lead the traspie step after the follower steps fd. Instead, lead immediately into the turn with the Fl's L.
  • Make sure that Fl gets a clear signal to stay facing the Ld, so as not to start a grapevine step.
  • While Fl does step tog step tog etc., Ld does small paddle step. The weight stays primarily on the L, with small paddles of the R foot to turn. (This is Robert's version; I do it slightly differently)
  • To end, you can finish with the end rebound and step movement from the basic framework to prepare to travel LOD again.

Side rebound/traspie steps combined with traveling steps:

  • This is one of my favorite steps of Robert's repertoire.
  • The leader takes the last rebound step of the basic framework and redirects the Fl to step LOD with the L (Ld does rebound with R then back onto L; and steps bk LOD with R).
  • The leader is traveling LOD, but facing backwards; the Fl is facing fd LOD.
  • Continue with a rebound and travel step to the other side (Ld's L foot, Fl's R). On this side, the leader must tell the Fl to step THROUGH, not just in front of the Ld. This gives the pattern a sexy, tigerlike prowl, rather than a bland feeling. The extra twist in the torso allows the pattern to twine LOD.

Clockwise circles with leader walking forward:

  • The follower walks backwards in a tight circle (so as to avoid going to the cross!), starting with a side rebound/traspie step to the right with the R foot, rebounding to the L, and walking back R, L.
  • The leader leads a side rebound with the L (R), walking forward L, R.
  • Make sure that the body's torsion stays strong for the leader's R fd step, so that the leader walks to the inside (Robert's "outside"/Fl's R) to corkscrew the movement.
  • You can combine these with the leader walking backwards circles, as we practiced in class, making a strange sort of mobius strip kind of move!
  • Enter from the other circles (leader walking backwards) by doing the traspie section of that circle, taking ONE slow step, and immediately doing the first traspie of this circle, starting a new pattern. The timing for this is QQS QQS, rather than QQSS.

Traveling traspie steps with leader facing LOD:

  • This is the same as above, but opposite facings.
  • You can enter this pattern best from the clockwise circles described above (there are lots of options, but this is the one we worked on in class).
  • Ld does rebound with L foot, back to R, and steps fd LOD into center track. Ld then does rebound with L foot, back to L, and steps fd THROUGH to the inside track (Fl's R side, Robert calls it outside) with the R for the springy feeling of the move.
  • Fl does rebound with R foot, back to L, and steps bk diag LOD with the R foot. Next rebound is with L foot, back to R, and step bk diag LOD with L foot.
  • I'm not sure I should describe the step after the rebound as diagonal: remember that we practiced stepping straight behind ourselves? The FEELING is diagonal because of the torso rotation, but the progression is straight towards LOD.
  • Exit into more turns or back into the sd tog sd initial step of the framework.

My blog platform now supports video, so my New Year's resolution is to learn how to post pictures/videos of this instead of words!!

Hope to see you January 6th for the new session: we'll learn some of my favorite moves, as well as continuing with Robert's repertoire.