A few more milongas: branching out

El Maipu (La Casa de Galicia, San Jose 224, 1st floor)

Although I always go to Mondays at La Nacional, I had not been to Lucy and Dany's other milonga before. I had planned to go to Plaza Bohemia like last Friday, but I decided to experiment because I was given a discount coupon for this milonga last Monday at La Nacional. That means that I don't know the the actual price for this milonga. I paid 20 pesos (water cost 12 pesos).

My friends had told me that, even though the milonga supposedly starts at 6 PM, when they went at 6:30 PM, there was no one there. I went at 7 PM, and it was not very full. I stayed until 10 PM, and it never filled up all the way, but gradually improved in possible choices of partners. This would be a good place for intermediate dancers to get out on the dance floor (or brave beginners), at least early in the evening, because there was plenty of room to dance, with a lot of space between couples.

The level is pretty good, although not quite as good as La Nacional. You can see several of the regulars dancing in this YouTube video, which also gives you a sense of the space available.

I didn't dance with anyone amazing, but I didn't have any bad dances--except one. Someone asked me to dance, and then, part-way through the tanda, he wanted my arm hanging around his neck. I finished that dance with him, deciding to say "Gracias" after it; he was spared by the cortina. Luckily, I had some decent tandas after that that got me out of my foul mood.

Here is the lovely Lucy; Dany was busy with something, but I promised I'll take their picture together on Monday.



Flor de Monserrat (Aires Tangueros, Av. Rivadavia 1392)

As Flor de Monserrat is only a few blocks from El Maipu, I showed up at 10 PM, when the milonga supposedly started. There was a class going on, and the guy at the door said the milonga starts at 10:30 PM. I went out to eat and came back around 11 PM.

Usually, I don't go to two milongas in the same night, but I had told a milonguero that I'd be at the first milonga he was going to, and I didn't go; so I decided to go to the second milonga he attends, at least for a little bit. This milonga costs 30 pesos. No waiter came by, so I never ordered water, as I was stuffed from dinner.

Without a reservation, I was socked in the corner where I could barely see across the (too dark) dance floor. I wasn't too worried, as I was already tired from a class, three hours of dancing, and too much food.

The level of folks I have danced with this visit reached a new low here. A man from Brazil dragged me around the dance floor mercilessly. Thank goodness the tanda was short and we started one dance into it: I was waiting for that third dance to be over in order to be polite. Hmm, I sound much less charitable than usual today. I think I reached the end of my patience with people who think they are good, but are not. I am always happy to dance with beginners who know they are beginners.

I danced with more people who ran into each other here than anywhere else so far. The floor here is very narrow, with room for one lane of dancers, and a middle space occupied by the less-skilled-at-navigation dancers. There is almost no way to avoid collisions if more than one leader on the dance floor does not navigate well (there were about three). I found it easy to navigate when I led here a few days ago, but I learned to lead at Torquato Tasso, where the milongueros tried to push me off the dance floor because I was a female leading. This is NOT a good milonga for beginners, and it is too dark to cabeceo easily.

Here is a video that shows the size of the space.

I danced a technically interesting tanda of Pugliese with the guy who taught the class before the milonga (I don't know his name), and two nice tandas of valses with guys who had a medium level of technique, but nice groove with the music.

I left around 12:45 to call my son before bedtime. People were still coming in, although the milonga ends at 2 am.


My vote so far

So far, although I love La Nacional, I vote for Sala Siranush/Siranoush (depends on which guide to tango you look at) BECAUSE I had my absolute most wonderful tanda so far this year there. Best compliment so far this year: "You dance as if you were born here in Palermo!" also belonged to that tanda.

La Nacional, you get another chance Monday!




Tango en la calle: dancing on the Avenida de Mayo

Last Saturday night was one I don't think I will ever forget: I got to dance to three live tango orchestras, on the Avenida de Mayo! There was a man filming who films at the milongas. What he told us was that he likes to put up videos to show HOW to dance at the milongas. His video of us dancing will be up on his webpage in a few weeks. This five-minute  Aires de Milonga is a montage of things that were happening the night of the open-air milonga, along Avenida de Mayo. At 4:07, there is ONE second of me dancing :-)

A plug for Carlos Neuman, the videographer: this guy really loves tango, and he really wants folks to dance well. Also, since he regularly films in the milongas, he has some good footage for those of you who have not been here and want to see what it is "really" like. I don't usually take my camera along with me, and I usually just dance, so I am not very helpful in this category; he is.

There were 8000 square meters of dance space along the Avenida, according to the news (sorry if you don't speak Spanish). There were people everywhere, strolling, sitting and listening to music, dancing in flipflops, eating . . . I have never seen an area as stuffed with humans as the areas around the stages.

There was a pride and an energy surrounding the event that I have not felt before here. Dancers were discussing it days before. When I bought shoes, the saleswoman was talking with a guy buying shoes about their plans to dance. The tango world buzzed with excitement, and the the news coverage also had a tone that I usual hear reserved for futbol games!



Strikes, accidents and floods affect even tango-crazed tourists

Strikes and demonstrations

There was another rolling strike scheduled for today, so each subte line was supposed to be closed for three hours. On Sunday, I took the subte without paying because no one was at the ticket windows, and all the "emergency" gates were open for free access. Monday, there was a strike as well.

In addition to that, there are demonstrations going on for all sorts of things. I have been reading the papers, but I am not 100% up on everything going on in the judicial system re: free speech. A very impassioned woman at the milonga was telling me that a big demonstration had been cancelled for today, as the judges had decided to postpone a deadline for rights for two months.

On the way home from the milonga tonight, there was a gathering of youth on Avenida Callao near Congreso, that seemed to consist of large banners that I couldn't read (draped the wrong way); loud drums; beer-swigging young people; and shouting young people. Something about solidarity.


The toxic cloud

This morning, the news reported that a toxic pesticide from a Chinese ship at the port had burned, creating a toxic cloud of gas, headed for Buenos Aires. Since it was going to rain, we assumed that it would still probably be safe to go out. However, when I headed out for lunch, they sent us out of the subway and closed the doors. The downpour started at about the same time, and every taxi in sight was taken. After walking about six blocks and getting soaked, I finally found a taxi. Because of the traffic, it took forever to go just twenty or so blocks.

Later, the news reported that it was NOT a pesticide, that it was relatively not dangerous, and people should stop panicking. Frankly, I don't know which story to believe. My skin felt prickly when I was out, but that might just have been all the chemicals in the air here, added to the rain.


Flooding in Belgrano

We had over 111 millimeters of rain today in an hour (I was unfortunately outside for part of that), and Belgrano flooded. The news had pictures of people wading across streets, with police helping old ladies cling to lines stretched across the street, so that they were not swept away. There were videos of cars being swept down the street. I also saw footage of a guy canoeing down a street.

Even here, where there was no flooding, the streets were so full that it was impossible to avoid getting soaked at least to the knees when buses and cars went past, or from puddles that were too big to jump. I took a towel with me to the milonga to dry off enough to put my dance shoes on.


Low attendance at Lujos (El Beso, Riobamba and Corrientes)

I assumed that a lot of people would stay home because of the awful weather and consequently awful traffic; I was right. This footage shows a night with a LOT more people at the dance (this is what you normally see at El Beso).

Today, the milonga started at six. Since last week, I went later and had to sit in the second row, I went around 6:45ish. There were a total of eight people there, plus the wait staff. Even one of the organizers hadn't made it there yet, so the flustered person helping to seat me asked me what seat I wanted: that must be a first.

Eventually, the milonga filled up a bit. I danced until 10:15. At that point, I had danced with almost every guy in the place at least once. Interestingly, the rain seemed to have kept the male tourists away! I danced with Manuel, who is Spanish but lives here, and another guy who didn't look familiar, but who spoke Spanish. However, until about 10, I didn't see any foreign men come in (there were a few women who were obviously not Argentine).

I've noticed that, each year I come here, I go dancing earlier. Yes, I'm getting older. Yes, I like to call my son before his bedtime. Yes, I am happy to dance for three or four hours, instead of the whole night. However, I think this year there are more good afternoon dances AND since I get to dance pretty much every tanda, I get tired faster than the years when I sat out more.

Rejoicing that the rain had stopped at least for a while, I walked home, detouring to La Americana for my favorite tarta pascualina.


Milongas: Flor de Milonga and La Milonguita

Tuesday: Flor de Milonga (Aires Tangueros, Rivadavia 1392)

This was a new milonga for me. La Flaca Lucia and her partner, Gerry (an Irish guy) run this milonga.They are very friendly, comfortable folks. It was nice to be greeted with, "I saw you dance last night at La Nacional. You are good!"

The dance space is quite small, with barely room for the row of tables for "singles" on one side, but more room on the other side. Most people ordered food, and looked like they enjoyed it, so this would be a good place to eat and dance. I had already eaten, so I can't give a food review/prices.

This was the first day this milonga started at 7 PM, rather than at 10 PM. I decided to go early because it was free until 8 PM: probably a mistake. It was almost completely tourists (Lucia's students) for a while. Most of them were good enough dancers to be enjoyable. Only one was "Boy Scout" duty, but we should all do our community duty, right? Paybacks for all those milongueros who have danced with me in the past.

Things picked up when no one wanted to dance milonga, and the Italian woman next to me started bouncing around to the milonga. I invited her to dance, and she assumed she had to lead! We switched lead and follow, and had a BLAST! I hate to say it, but she was the best leader I've danced with who was a foreigner, and she was better than a lot of the Argentine men, as well. We did a vals set later. The nice thing was that this milonga is very relaxed, and the guys still danced with us. Later, I was told that one of the gay-friendly milongas happens at this place, so the regular milonga rules are relaxed here in terms of gender.

The evening continued to improve. I danced with one Argentine guy who was turned out to be a stage dancer: nice and dynamic, with fancier moves, but still paying attention to navigation and safety. When his friend showed up, he watched me and then pounced for the next tanda. Both of them danced well, and I did two tandas with each of them. It was the first time this trip that I could use all the turn technique and adorno technique I've been working on with Oscar and Georgina.

I had just changed my shoes to go home when they did the chacarera set, but I danced anyway.


Wednesday: La Milonguita (Sala Siranoush, Armenia 1353)

Sala Siranoush is part of a large structure with several buildings, which you reach by a gate at the street. You pay for the milonga right at the entrance (35 pesos), and there is a security guard as well.

The dance hall is beautiful, large, and air-conditioned. The room was not very full when I arrived at about 7:45, but by 8:30, it was pretty full. When I left around 11 PM, it was just starting to thin out a bit. On the whole, there was a good feeling in the room, with tables of men and tables of women alternating around the dance floor. It was pretty much impossible for me to even see the folks at the other end, but I dance all but two tandas; one of them was a choice not to dance because the music was a bit strange.

Although I have danced many times at La Viruta across the street, this was a new venue for me: two new places in two nights! This was the first time I went dancing where I had to take a taxi home. It cost 40 pesos, but it was worth it!

I had the best tanda of my visit so far. I think he said his name was Horacio. Two of the three women at my table went home, and the other woman said, "Quick! That guy across the room is looking at you! He is REALLY good!" And he was. Wow! There was feeling in every step. There was no "get used to each other" part of the first dance: it just worked immediately. We were in the zone. After the first dance ended, we just grinned stupidly at each other for a moment before starting to talk. Lovely, lovely, lovely!




Milongas: Lujos on Sunday, El Maipu on Monday

Although it is getting hotter and hotter, the milongas are air-conditioned, making them feel cool, despite the press of humans inside.

Lujos (Plaza Bohemia), Alsina 2540

Yes, I am sticking to my neighborhood a lot this year. Notice that I've been to two different milongas at Plaza Bohemia; two different Lujos milongas (Plaza Bohemia and El Beso), and now have wandered a few blocks down Alsina. Tonight I will probably to over to Nuevo Chique, which is only a block or two from La Nacional. With taxis costing almost 10 pesos just to put the flag up, I am walking a lot more. Plus, there are great milongas in my neighborhood!!

The dance floor at Plaza Bohemia lists towards the door. After a dance or two, you can feel that there is a definite tilt. However, the dancers accept it, grimace, and readjust; if not, we'd all be in a heap at the one edge!

The tables are arranged all around the floor, with a "guys" side, a "ladies" side (more or less), the most-populated side a mix of male and female tables, with a few larger groups; and most of the tables for couples on the other side or in the back.

Sunday, I had a table one back from the edge, and didn't get as many dances as the other night when I have a ringside seat. On the other hand, I felt exhausted, and I have noticed that the days I don't really feel like dancing, I apparently send off some kind of signal that says, "Leave me alone!" I still got to dance enough to make me happy, with a few breaks to make a list of "guys to avoid" and "guys to cabeceo" in my head. For the first time, I had someone thank me for looking at them! He was Argentine, but obviously more of a beginner. I now do what I call "Boy Scout" dances wherever I go: I dance with almost anyone once, even if they are not very good. After all, they will never get better if all the women avoid them!

Yes, the fans are back! Men, women--everyone--has a fan. Garish fans are everywhere, especially on the men's tables. Perhaps the women pick theirs to go with an outfit, and the guys just grab a fan? As I passed his table, I noticed that one guy I tend to dance with for valses was using the same hot-pink fan that I bought last year. I love that everyone uses a fan. Too bad they are all from China!

El Maipu (La Nacional), Alsina 1465

It felt great to be back at La Nacional. It is a popular milonga, as is always very crowded. This time, I remembered to call for reservations. Even so, we were at the second table back at the end of the room (they have redesigned how the tables are arranged, so there are fewer tables at the side and more at the end.

The only problem I had with that space last year, was the slippery floor. This year, the floor feels wonderful. Someone told me that they had a new floor put in, imported from Slovenia. I don't know if this is true, but it is a new floor, and it is nice!

I met up with Sarah, who had been living in Portland this fall. We went to the milonga together, so I actually have teeny clips of me dancing! Thank you Sarah! It is pretty much impossible to see down the line of dance, even to get a cabeceo for dancing; so it was not possible to follow me dancing :-)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGGLPUh8I5g?fs=1&feature=oembed] 

Here is another one, also very short (the video and the guy!):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdK3gO3hnas?fs=1&feature=oembed] 

Guys: this is why I keep working on having you dance in small spaces! Practice, practice, practice!

Although the length of the room made it impossible to cabeceo a few guys I usually dance with who were at the opposite end of the room, there were plenty nearby. I sat out the first tanda of milongas, but otherwise, danced the entire time we were there.




Plaza Bohemia, a lesson, and a shopping frenzy: what a day!

Lesson with Oscar and Georgina

I had my first lesson of the trip today with Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas. Oscar has been my main teacher since 2000, and Georgina for the past five years. They rock, which is why they are my teachers! At least here I don't have to argue with everyone that they are stage dancers. Here, people know that they dance social dance milonga. Yes, they also dance on the stage, but they are not stage dancers. They are simply the best, in my humble opinion.

For the first time ever, we didn't start by working on my walk! I guess that means I am starting to get there. It's nice to hear your teachers say things like, "Wow! You haven't lost very much in the year since we've seen you! Ok, let's get to work!" instead of "What happened???" which is what they asked last year.

I have quite a list of things I want to accomplish in ten days of lessons, but it's nice when they say I am entering a higher stage of dancing. Yay!


Shopping frenzy

Georgina has started her own line of clothing, so I've already spent most of my clothing budget without going to any stores. I have some new skirts; two top/skirt outfits; a new top/pants outfit; and a dress cut down in the back so far that it's almost indecent, in a lovely blue print that I'll wear as soon as I figure out a way to keep it on better.

Don't worry, shoppers! I will still wander through the stores and give you a what's-hot list, but I probably won't buy much more myself.


Plaza Bohemia (Alsina 2540)

I used to go to the Friday afternoon dance at Centro Leonesa (Nino Bien). If you remember from last year's blog and the year before, that was always my favorite milonga. It moved, apparently because of the cost of the room rental. Now, it is called Plaza Bohemia, and is at Alsina 2540. Definitely not as high-class in terms of the space, but a lot of the same folks go, so the level is fair.

The price is lower than at Lujos, which cost 35 pesos. This milonga cost 25 (and the water was 12, instead of 14 pesos).

I got there later than I had planned, about 8 PM (it runs from 6 PM until 2 am, but when I left around 11:30, it was starting to thin out). Apart from sitting out a tanda to find the waitress and get water, I danced the entire time. I got a nice spot at a front table. It did not let me see behind me, but I had a good view of the rest of the room.

The music was really good, a nice mix of 1930s and 1940s music, but a tanda of Pugliese cleared the floor. Age-wise, I was probably almost the youngest person there, but there was a mix of middle-aged and elderly folks. I have seen many of the same people at Salon Canning in the afternoons. If you want to do the "scene" for tango, this is NOT the place. If you want to just go and dance, with none of the "Here's my card, I teach tango" or the "Hey, Baby!" comments, this is a good place.





Back in Buenos Aires

Lujos (at El Beso), 11/29/12

I arrived this morning, with no sleep. I've never stayed up the entire flight. I did try to sleep, but without any results. With a two-hour nap under my belt, I headed out to the newly reopened El Beso. 

El Beso had been closed because of failing to meet saftey codes. As far as I can tell, the new "safety features" only include a wider door to the outside, but I assume there are more. It would be nice if the speaker in the far corner were turned down; another safety feature to protect our ears!

I arrived between 7:30 and 8 PM. I had planned to go earlier, but didn't. The milonga starts at 6 PM, and Georgina had suggested going around 6:30 to get a good seat, and to have a better chance of dancing, before the regulars all arrived. I got a seat in the middle of the far wall, on the second row (the front row are regulars) Between 8 and 8:30, many of the regular women did show up, but it didn't seem to change dance opportunities. When a regular sat back at my table, the other women asked her why, and she told them she was tired and didn't feel like dancing!

It was great to see a bunch of familiar faces. I sat out only one or two tandas the entire evening, thanks to that. The dance level was better than last year, perhaps because several of the guys I danced with last year have gotten a LOT better over the year.  One grinned at me and said, "Well I do go dancing every night!"

In terms of dance style, I saw a lot less extreme apilado (leaning style) than was usual ten years ago. I would say that half the guys danced with a V that allowed me to pivot my hips and actually dance. About half insisted on holding me as if we were dancing apilado (square), but then danced on their own track. This is harder on my body, but I can extricate my legs from back ochos, etc. when I have to. I know I keep telling you guys in Portland not to walk in front of me: NO ONE danced square in front of me. After all, there is no room to maneuver.

This was a friendly crowd. Only one guy decided to correct me on my dancing while we danced. After I was goaded into saying, "I was on that foot! I did what you asked; I just added an adorno!" he chuckled and left off teaching as much. I don't plan to dance with him again. Here is the catty comment I managed to avoid saying: "If you would actually lead me clearly, we would both be having a better time of this!"

I went home early at about 11 PM. When my stomach started making audible conversation with my partners, I figured it was time for dinner and more sleep.


Beginner's Luck

in 1999, the first night I ever went dancing in Buenos Aires, I danced almost all night, despite being in street shoes (Clark's) and not being dressed to dance. My friend, Silvana, took me on a tour of places to dance in the neighborhood on the way to dinner, and we never made it to dinner because she convinced me to have a glass of wine at Almagro (I miss that place!). She doesn't dance, despite having taken tango from me when studying in the United States, so when someone came over and asked her to dance, she made them dance with me. After that, I danced a bunch before finally going out to dinner a few hours late. I was in heaven!

My favorite dance of the evening was with a tiny, wizened old man, who stopped in the middle of the dance and said, "Did you see that? That's my step! I made that up!" and then kept dancing.


Food for the day

My favorite food in Buenos Aires also comes from that first day in Buenos Aires in 1999. Silvana made me a tarta pascualina, a pastry shell with either swiss chard or spinach and egg filling. Last night, I picked up a hot slice at La Americana in the 'hood, and went home to eat. Oh, and a cheese and onion empanada. Yum!

Prices are definitely higher than last year. The water at the milonga was 14 pesos. Last year, water was 6-10 pesos. My dinner takeout was 24 pesos, also higher than last year.

Bits and pieces that haven't fit in anywhere

Good massage place

Marta Rey does reflexology, massage, facials, moxibustion, etc., and has those strange but very nice Korean massage beds that roll your spine for you. I tried it once, and Gayle is back getting everything loosened up for the flight home. Both of us really liked how our backs and feet felt afterwards. Marta speaks some English. You can reach her to set up a time (you will need 2.5-3 hours for the whole works) at 4951-6755; 4953-7223; or 15-4061-3232. All numbers that start with 15- are mobile numbers. The other two are her work phone and her home phone; I am not sure which, but try the first one first. She is at Rivadavia 1966, 3rd floor, Apt. A (in Congreso). We got a deal for being friends of friends, so I am not sure of the price, but I think it's around 120ish pesos. Tipping is nice.

Good pedicure and hair place

Claudio Zappulla, Ayacucho 57 (also in Congreso) was hopping when we went in to schedule pedicures: we had to wait two days! Some friends get their hair done here, too, and vouch for the stylists. I don't know if they speak English, but the pedicure person did not. They aren't afraid to remove callus here. If you haven't had a pedicure outside the USA, don't panic when they start shaving callus off (last year, at another place, the girl broke open a disposable razor and used a blade from it; at this place, at least they have the right tools!). The little sander-like tool made everything supersmooth, but I'm very ticklish, so it was a bit of a torture for me. However, my feet felt GREAT afterwards. I think it was 75 pesos for the most thorough pedicure I've ever had. Telephone: 4953-6584.

Nice leather products

We wandered into a few leather stores, as my handbag started to disintegrate a week into our stay (it's "Ecoleather" aka vinyl). Camila Cueros, Lavalle 741, had pushy salespeople, but very good quality leather. The prices seemed high to me because I don't buy leather in the USA, but Gayle assured me that the prices were really good deals, compared to prices at home.

Good ice cream

Cadore Gelato Artigianale, Av. Corrientes 1695. I already mentioned this place last year, but I went back. I REALLY like their gelato!

Shoe repair

I think I already said this, but I'll put it here, too. Sarmiento 1882, half a block away from Neotango Shoes. They can get stuff done fast: they put croma on Gayle's shoes between yesterday afternoon and 9 am today. Fast, good service and repair.

My new favorite clothing store for tango: Tango-Imagin

Tango-Imagen Anchorena 606, tel,. 4864-3847, email: jazmin.tangoimagen@gmail.com, is next to Tango 8, and I hadn't seen it before. However, the nice ladies at Susana Artesanal steered us that way after we couldn't find what we wanted at their store. What a nice place (both). At Tango-Imagen, three people do the cutting and sewing and selling, so they know the fabrics, they know what they have, and they can take special orders. They have a mix of performance stuff, going out to dance clothing, and practice clothing.

The man who helped us makes most of the pants they sell, but he was able to look at how one outfit fit Gayle and suggest another one because the fabric was stretchier. It only came in one size fits all, but that stretchier one was perfect, and she bought it. Pretty designs, nice fabrics--how can you lose? Check them out! Buy their clothing!

Favorite seafood restaurant

La Gran Taberna, Combate de los Pozos 95 (esq. Hipolito Yrigoyen), has things from quite cheap to very expensive. We went on the less expensive side, and stuffed ourselves. What I really like about this place: the waiter took our order, and then said, "Look, that's too much food for the two of you. What if you share one order of the fish, along with your salad and sauted asparagus?" Where else would they suggest you order less of the most expensive part of your meal? Also, we ordered two glasses of wine, and the waiter brought us a bottle: he said that, if we shared a third glass of wine, it would be the same price as the whole bottle. Now that is service! We helped the waiters with their English homework, too. They have a second door on Combate de los Pozos that is their take-out service. Yum! Reservations: 4951-7586.

Slightly cheaper, nice place

Puenta Cuore Restaurant, Rivadavia and Ayacucho (in Congreso), had nice salads. I had an excellent merluza (fish) and steamed veggie meal. Gayle had yummy pasta. The restaurant is on a corner, and it was fun to people watch. The waiter was attentive.

Vegetarian possibilities

There are a lot more vegetables in restaurants than ten years ago. Also, I found three vegetarian restaurants in the area between Lavalle and Corrientes; between Callao and Junin. I didn't try any of them. Sorry, Geofrey! I know you wanted more information.

Gluten and life in Bs As

If you don't eat gluten, eating out is almost impossible if you are also a vegetarian. I opted for eating more meat than usual, and went off my gluten-free lifestyle. Thank goodness I'm not allergic! Many people said they had heard that some people can't eat gluten, but I didn't meet anyone who said they were gluten-intolerant or allergic to gluten. They don't eat in restaurants here, I bet!

Miscellaneous thoughts

1. Song I don't have that I wish I had bought: Di Sarli's Volver a Sonar. At least that's what the DJ Sunday at Canning wrote down for me. Hey, I still have a few hours!

2.  Our taxi driver one night would need to change his name to emigrate to the USA: on the placard showing his license, etc., it claimed that his last name was Moron. I kid you not.

3.  I think American milongas would be better if we kept the idea of a set or two of something different, interpersed during the evening. I love having a chacarera set and a set of "tropical" (cumbia, salsa, merengue) during the evening to relax my body, take a break from concentrating, and enjoy the other dances that I love. I would accept a set of "rock 'n roll" as long as it wasn't all Dixieland jazz (a bit overplayed here) or Elvis (don't get me wrong: I love him, but too much is too much).


Rude people on the dance floor

When annoying men try to teach on the dance floor (and yes, I know women do this too), I have found I have a limit to my politeness.  When one French man informed me that I had anticipated a step, I said nothing, but when he REPEATED it at the end of the tanda: "You anticipated one step."  One step in the tanda!!  I am afraid I told him that it was rude to criticize on the dance floor, and that I had not said anything about his mistakes, but rather, had fixed them. Grrr.

The other rude man--as opposed to those who are trying to be helpful--was at Nino Bien.  An awful Argentine dancer hauled me around the floor, and then suggested I go to La Viruta to learn that style of dance.  It was obvious he didn't care whether I was enjoying the dance, and he didn't bother try to adjust at all: he just pulled me in tighter and higher, until I could barely keep my feet on the floor.  I smiled at him and told him that good technique works with everyone, and walked away. Grrr.

I have taught dance for 25 years, and I would never dream of saying things like that to another dancer while dancing socially!!! Shame on them.


Street fairs: San Telmo, Recoleta, and the non-existent Plaza Italia fair

After seventeen years in Eugene, I feel pretty much "done" with Saturday Market artesanal fair and street fairs in general. However, on a sunny day, wandering around the city by perusing blocks and blocks of street vendors is a nice way to spend some time.

San Telmo

Our first Sunday was sunny and warm: perfect for going to the street fair.The fair is a combination of artesanal objects for sale (clothing, jewelry, art), antiques, tourist gear (magnets, Tshirts, tango CDs)  and made-in-China things sold by Bolivians.

I didn't end up buying anything, but Gayle had a lot of fun with artwork. In fact, we had an epic search for a bank machine, as the only one I knew in the area (at Plaza de Mayo) was down for repairs. Even the sellers had no idea where to go for money, as they didn't live in the area. In the end, we identified several in walking distance of the fair with help from Gayle's iPhone; got money; and made several artists happy.

My favorite was Oscar Divito, from whom Gayle bought a beautiful painting (acrylic on canvas). Check out his work on his link. Warmhearted, gracious, nice person AND art. He is usually at Defensa and Alsina (a bit towards the Casa Rosada from Alsina).

This street fair is huge compared to ten years ago: it used to stretch a few blocks in all directions from Plaza Dorrego at Defensa and Humberto Primo. Now, it starts at Defensa where it meets the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada (the equivalent of the White House, but it's pink), and continues all the way to Plaza Dorrego. Wow!



Recoleta street fair is at Plaza Francia: it's not actually on a street. Instead, booths are set on winding paths starting in front of Recoleta Cemetary and stretching down the hill. This fair reminds me a lot of Saturday Market in Portland and Eugene: there were Brazilian drummers, a smell of pot, hippie girls, etc.

The offerings are similar to Saturday Market, too. I saw a LOT of crocheted tops, leather handbags, ceramic mugs and jewelry. However, there were some very beautiful handcrafts. The most beautiful were the handcrafted marionettes, which I would have bought to take home if I had had any money left by that time; after the bank search the weekend before, I didn't want to repeat the forced march around the neighborhood.

Sublime Cueros had a nice selection of leather boxes and knickknacks. They also very fun jewelry boxes shaped like mini chests of drawers in bright colors. Pretty! There were many other leather workers as well.



Plaza Italia

Ten years ago, Plaza Italia had a big street fair. I hadn't checked it out for ten years, so we hopped in a taxi and went across town to check it out. The other street fairs have decimated the population of this fair. Can you call something a street fair when there are only ten booths, and only five are populated? Very disappointing.

There is a street fair here, but it is only used books. If you are interested in used books, you could probably spend all afternoon wandering through the booths. It strikes me as much smaller than the book fair along the Seine in Paris, and it is not nearly as picturesque. However, if you want used books, there they are. Personally, I would choose to hit the used bookstores around the Corrientes and Callao area.

My friend Alejandro from college recommended a huge bookstore, El Ateneo for my buying pleasure, but as I found out about it Saturday night, and it was closed Sunday, and Monday was a holiday, I don't think I'm going to make it over there today :-(







Bikes in Buenos Aires

It is striking how much pro-bicycle change has happened in the past two years. I was amazed to see a bike lane on CORRIENTES! Wow!

Bike lane corrientes

Areas in downtown have bike lights and green boxes, just like in Portland:



This one is on Suipacha, at Diagonal Norte.

I talked to a few of the taxi drivers. The general view is that one must get accustomed to the idea, but that it is snarling traffic because of street size. For example, on a two-lane, one-way street with parking, no other changes were made. Cars are still trying to fit into two lanes, and people are still parking their cars on one side. No adjustments have been made, except to drive closer together and closer to parked cars. Eek! Eventually, I think some streets will either lose parking or be reduced to single lanes, but it is not clear to anyone if the government of the city has considered this carefully.

I saw a lot more bikers than ever before (and a lot of motorcycles in the bike lane). I also saw one crazy rollerblader going down the middle of Corrientes, in between the cars. That guy must have a death wish!


Thanksgiving 2011: The best night I've ever had in Bs As

Ok, that was the best night of dancing I've ever had in Buenos Aires, perhaps in my entire life in tango!!!  And at Niño Bien (Humberto 1, 1462)! We arrived at the beginning, right at 10:30. We didn't get good seats, but it didn't matter! Oh, dear, too many exclamation points, but that's how I feel: the good dancers finally found me! For Thanksgiving, I am thankful that people made up this awesome dance and spread it around the world.

I danced with a man with whom I had a great tanda of Pugliese the night before, plus a DiSarli set last night. I have no idea what we danced tonight, but we danced even better together. Then another guy in a suit grabbed me. He had only danced nine years, but nine years in Buenos Aires is like dog years are to human years. Then two younger guys who had been intently watching me asked me to dance over the course of the next few tandas, and they were great! I think I've forgoteen another good dancer who helped make my night.

It's not that I didn't have mediocre tandas: I did boy scout tandas with a few foreigners and one Argentine man. However, they didn't get in the way of the really good sets. No one was horrible; even the foreigners for the most part were musical, if beginners. Also, having led in Niño Bien myself, I know how crazy it gets to navigate between the old guard being pushy and the foreigners being clueless. I think that the fact that even this milonga is less crowded, made it danceable all night, whereas it used to become impossible for about an hour in the middle of the evening.

What made tonight memorable was musicality. All the good tandas were led with very few complex steps, but with high affinity for the music and intimate knowledge of the songs. One guy complimented me, saying that it was unusual for a woman to know the music (he apologized and said people, but I think he meant that people who don't lead don't listen to the music sometimes). The old milongueros called out "Esa!" when I nailed an ending right in front of a bunch of them (YES!).

It's almost 4 am and I need to go to sleep because I have a massage at 10 am, but I'm so jazzed up that I don't know if I can sleep. Happy, happy, happy.

Milongas: finishing out the first week

Things are different this year in Buenos Aires. The high inflation rate has made everyone tighten their belt a bit, especially the elderly. A few men who I danced with last year have told me this year that they no longer go out nightly. They now go out two or three times a week instead. The difference is obvious in some of the milongas that had been preserves of the older guys. There are more women per male dancer than before. There is a higher percentage of foreigners than before. Also, there are simply gaps in the ranks: empty tables at places that never had empty tables.


Monday at "Maipu" (La Nacional, Alsina 1465) was packed full, more than any other milonga so far. I have been used to all milongas looking like this. The organizers said that tons of tourists are here right now, making it difficult to seat everyone. We were seated way in the back because we got there late, but one of the organizers, Dany, took a liking to me and made sure that some guys headed our way. Over the course of the night, we got to dance more and more, and ended up dancing continously by the end of the evening. Still, the ratio of foreigners to locals was high, especially later in the evening.

The organizer took a picture of me posing with one of his friends. He told the guy that he was going to cut that part of the picture out and keep the part with me in it. His friend told him that the camera was going to break and other stuff like that. I like it when the guys get silly together.


Tuesday at El Beso (Riobamba 416) was a workout in terms of cabeceo. Again, we were put in the last row, with two rows of women in front of us; mostly foreigners. Luckily a few guys we knew already saw us, and came to get us to dance, because the male:female ratio was off. I think it is due to the higher cost of going dancing because the bar area was almost empty, and it used to be where all the guys stood who could not get tables; it used to be standing room only.

A little old Argentine guy got stuck back in the corner, and spent a lot of time mumbling about "how dare they do that to me, when they put the young guys up in front?" but the waiter told me he knew the guy couldn't dance. Ouch! Does that mean he thought WE couldn't dance? I'll show him.

I had a really special tanda with a guy called Eugenio. I had danced with him Saturday night. He is not an advanced dancer by any means, but has a really good sense of rhythm, nice musicality--and awful floorcraft. He asked me if I had a husband, and I told him I had a son and a boyfriend; and asked him the same questions. He said he had two grown children, but that his wife had passed away after 35 years of marriage. He told me that was ten years ago, and then pulled out his phone and showed me her picture: the wallpaper on his phone. I tried to tell him how lucky he was to have had the love of his life married to him for that long, and he answered, "Lucky? Lucky? She died!!" The next song of the set was really emotional, and so was our dance. It felt completely different from the other songs in the tanda. I almost burst into tears myself, and I could tell he was struggling. Wow.

I had seen a guy from California walk in, and had avoided a cabeceo because we didn't do well on the dance floor the night before. However, when the rock 'n roll set came on, he was standing up, bouncing around, so I figured he could dance that. Yes! We did a good swing, and then an awesome salsa. It felt good to cut loose a bit and shake it! Much as I love tango, I don't think I could ever abandon my other dancing because it gives me other things that tango does not.

Just before we left, Gayle had changed her shoes, and I was walking over to change my shoes, when a few guys gave us grief about leaving before the end of the milonga. After all, we hadn't even looked at them! I told them we'd been sitting there all night, and they hadn't invited us to dance. "That's not our fault! It's the woman's fault! You didn't look at us at all!" True: I hadn't seen them at all. He handed my shoes to Gayle and dragged me out on the dance floor for a tanda. Strange, but fun.


Wednesday at "Mi Refugio" (La Nacional, Alsina 1465), there were a quarter of the people who went last year. Last year, this was our favorite night at La Nacional. This time, we had danced with all the men who were not in partners by midnight and were on to repeating ourselves, but we waited for the exhibition. Most of the men left before the exhibition, too, leaving only the young kids (mostly beginners) at one table, some tourists, couples, and maybe six available men.

The woman next to me danced one dance the whole night, and I never saw her friend get up from the table. Gayle and I danced most of the time, but that included accepting a cabeceo from the not-very-good Argentine boy after he stalked me for part of a tanda; it's hard to say no when all the women around you are poking you, saying, "He's looking at YOU."

Our amusement for the evening was a young German girl who was seated with us. While I was dancing, she announced to Gayle that it was hard to find a teacher because she was "a very good dancer!" She preferred the awful dancer to good dancers, but sat most of the night because she was not a very good dancer. Young, yes. Skinny, yes. Beautiful, yes. Good dancer? Not yet.

For my foodies (you know who you are!)

Friday night, we ate at La Americana (Bartolome Mitre y Callao), an empanada and pizza place. Arriving around 1 am, the place was PACKED with noisy friends and family groups. I ordered one of my favorites (veggie) Pascualina tart. Traditionally eaten during Lent (thus the name), this swiss chard and egg wrapped in pastry, has been a favorite of mine since my first day in Buenos Aires in 1999, when my friend Silvana made this for dinner. Gayle had a Gallego de atun, a tuna, tomatoes and onion pie. We both had a glass of wine and finished off dinner with a flan mixto, my favorite dessert of all time: flan custard covered with whipped cream and dulce de leche. That might explain why it is 2 am and I am still awake: sugar! Dinner tonight was more reasonable than last night: 80 pesos for two people, or around $10 each.

This restaurant would work for vegetarians if they eat eggs and cheese. There were many pizzas available without meat, and some empanadas as well. One empanada was a veggie medley, but I was set on the Pascualina tart, so I didn't try it.

Saturday lunch, we ate at Punta Cuore, 2000 Rivadavia (Rivadavia y Ayacucho). Gayle liked this one the best so far. I had grilled fish with steamed veggies (carrots, zucchini, winter squash and baby potatoes): 33 pesos. She had a big Caprese salad (tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil with black olives): 35 pesos. Trapiche malbec cost the same as the house red, so she ordered that: 16 pesos. With bottled water, 120 pesos for 2 people, plus tip. Nice service, nice and quiet, nearby . . . we will be back!

Sunday lunch, we went to the San Telmo street fair and ate at The Puerto Rico Cafe, Alsina 416, in San Telmo. They have a little tango show there in the afternoons which we did not stay for (free, I think they said). We had broccoli and mushroom tart, and ham/cheese tart, and coffee. The broccoli was amazingly good. The coffee was also really good.

After dancing Sunday night, we tried to go to La Espanol (Alsina y Rincon) in Congreso, but it was closing for the night at 12:30!! I had never noticed that a lot of places close early on Sundays before. Ten years ago, I used to go to La Espanol a lot because it was one of the few places my boyfriend could afford (Argentine men don't usually like women to pay for dates). It is the place where he and his friends dared me to eat various meat things, and afterwards told me what body part I was eating. Ugh.

SO, we wandered over to Cafe de los Angelitos (Av. Rivadavia 2100 (esq. Rincón). The kitchen was closed, but we were able to order a tostado mixto (toasted ham and cheese), a small bottle of wine and mineral water. The waiter told us about the tango show that happens every evening and gave us cards with reservation information on them. 80 pesos including tip.

I have abandoned my attempt to remain gluten-free in Buenos Aires, and I am enjoying the pastries!



Day three: Shopping, dancing and cab drivers


Today we wandered over to Zival's (Corrientes y Callao). I wanted "Noche de Cabaret" with Varela's orchestra, which I found on a nice double CD. Gayle wanted Donato's "El Gato" milonga, which was not there. The guy at the information counter said, "It's not our fault we don't have it! If it isn't produced, it's not available." I already had the Donato CD that was there, and so did Gayle. No Lomuto at all :-(  We agreed today was not the day to browse in the store: we will save that for a rainy day when we have nothing to do.

We dropped our shoes off at the shoe repair to get cromo (suede) on the soles on two pair a piece. I have some plain and some with cromo, so if I go somewhere where the floor is sticky, I take leather soles, and for slippery floors, cromo. We will get them back by Tuesday, which is way better than the place I found last year that took a week. I forgot to photograph them before they were dropped off, but I promise to do that ASAP Tuesday.

Grr...I wrote six more paragraphs, and the internet went down when I pressed save.  Grr.

I bought practice shoes at Fabio Shoes for leading. My old men's ballroom shoes have finally worn through the leather after about fifteen years of use. These have a Cuban-style heel, but a bit higher than a man's Cuban heel. I am not sure if I like them; I may sell them. I am so used to using men's shoes for leading, that these seem a little frivolous!


Tonight we went to Cachirulo, but in a new location. Last year, it was a short shot down Corrientes to get to Maipu. Now, it's a twenty-minute taxi ride (30 pesos) to the Villa Malcom Sports Club (Cordoba 5064). Since it was pouring rain, we abandoned our walk to the subte and grabbed a taxi.

When we arrived, the ration of men to women was perhaps 1:15 or 1:20, and it did not improve much. We were seated in the second row and on the end, where it was almost impossible to see the men for cabeceo. Given those odds, it's probably a miracle that we each danced six or seven tandas. There were a lot of women who we never saw get on the dance floor, and who left early, only to be replaced with more women.

The level of dancing was higher than at Nino Bien or Entre Tango y Tango. It wasn't that there were better dancers per se, because a lot of the same guys were at Friday and Saturday dances. However, there were fewer lower-level dancers, both male and female, so the entire room looked good dancing (apart from some scary dresses, but that's another story). The musicality was more evident because the whole room moved better together. A few guys crashed in the middle, but most danced competently in two rows around the outside.

When we left, a guy teased us about leaving early. Gayle decided to give him a hard time back, and made me tell him she had waited all night to dance with him. He promised to dance with us tomorrow, as we are going to the same place. Then, a salsa came on, and I danced in my street shoes right there in the back of the room with him. I needed that! I often play hooky from tango in Bs As and go salsa dancing one night while I'm here (Azucar Club is good).

Cab drivers in Bs As

I am fond of cab drivers here in Buenos Aires. I don't know if they are as well-spoken and educated in other places because I usually walk places or take the bus when I'm out of Portland. Here, get them talking, and watch them go!

On the way to the dance, we got a cab driver who talked about the traffic and how it's changed in the past ten years. On the way back, we hit a gold mine of economic information. It's amazing how commenting on the weather, or the traffic, or the temperature morphs into an interesting discussion.

On the way home, the cabbie sat in front of our destination for about five minutes, still talking about the past twenty years in Argentina. I tried valiantly to keep up the translation for Gayle while listening and converting it to English in my head. Here are the salient points for thought:

  • Because of recent events in Argentine history, Argentines are realists. They don't live in a bubble that is going to explode and make them face reality, as he feels folks do in Europe and the USA.
  • Since so many bad things happened to individuals in Argentina during the dictatorships, everyone knows that you need to work in solidarity with friends and family and other Argentines to fight for rights. He feels that Americans are concerned only with themselves, and can't work together like this because we haven't experienced enough crisis for us to mature yet.
  • With the hyperinflation in the 1980s of 300-400% per month, the current 10-15% is nothing. He said they can get through this with no problem because everyone remembers how much worse it was before.
  • He told us about how money was not circulating at all at one point, and people went to fairs and bartered goods in order to eat. He said only six people had work on his block, and each would get a different product and share, in order to survive.
  • In 2008, the government took steps to inject money into the local economy. He feels that they have been "immunized" to withstand the current global slide, and suggested that if Argentina took a leadership role, we could reduce the global crisis.

I find this impressive, as an "immature" American who does not know statistics for my own country's economic state during my lifetime. It's time to get educated!

Day Two: Shoes!

Thanks for all the comments on FB about what you all want to hear. I've made a list. Alisan gets first dibs because we went shoe shopping. Between the two of us, we bought seven pairs of shoes today.

Neotango (Sarmiento 1938) is near where we are staying, so we went there first. In 2010, they didn't have any shoes that fit me the whole time I was here, so I tried on a bunch and bought two pair (the pewter ones to replace the same ones I had already), and turquoise, which was NOT on my list, but fit perfectly. Last year, shoes cost about 420 pesos a pair. This year? 590 pesos a pair. Oy!

What a clusteryouknowwhat! There were a dozen people all trying to buy shoes at the same time, but then it cleared out and we had the salesman to ourselves. They were helpful and friendly (not the case in 2010). I'm going back before I leave to buy at least one more pair.

Artesanal (Anchorena 537) near the Abasto, appeared to have fewer shoes than last year, but they said they had merely rearranged the shop. I only found one pair that fit with the heel I prefer: black patent leather with polkadots on the front. I'm not a polkadot girl, but when things fit this well, I go shopping for outfits after I get the shoes! There, Gayle found a pair on sale for 380 pesos, but my new models cost me 620 pesos for the pair; I forget if that was the cash discount or not.

The saleslady remembered me and my quest for shoes for wide feet last year; it's nice to be recognized, even if it's for fat feet.

So, shoes are around $130/pair, instead of $110/pair like last year. Sigh. Perhaps I will buy fewer pair than I had intended.

We are going to photograph our shoes tomorrow, and post them with another round on shopping, so stay tuned! I danced my lesson in my new pewter shoes, and went to the milonga in the turquoise ones. I am going to buy more shoes!!!!!



Day Two: Dancing

Another day spent with: "Come on, Ely! You used to know this!" and gentle scolding about not taking enough time to practice. It's nice when your teachers want you to become a better person as well as a better dancer ("Take time for yourself!"), so I am not complaining. I know that, by the time I leave, my dance will be better than ever before; but it's hard to do the tune-up part sometimes.

The focus today: finding just the right amount of stretch in the body while keeping the knees softer, so that all my pivots land on balance and don't ever lean toward the leader or move away. This is harder than it sounds, but I could feel the rightness of what they said, even though it took an hour and a half to really nail it. When I went to the milonga in the evening, I managed to dance correctly for about four tandas before I could no longer feel what was right. After that, it came and went for the rest of the evening.

I don't think it's cheating to go to the same place two nights in a row, especially when different folks inhabit the space. We went back to the Centro Cultural Leonesa (Humberto 1, 1462) for the late afternoon to evening milonga. Arriving at 8 PM, we missed the opportunity to sit across from most of the guys, and got put in a corner. However, as the guys had to walk past our corner if they wanted to get to the rest of the room, we were in a good space compared to where most tourists were stuck. I only sat out one tanda for the evening. After a lesson and 4.5 hours of dancing, my feet are tired, but I did all that in brand new shoes (more on that next post), so no complaints there.

Tonight made up for last night: mostly great dances, with the only not great dances being with folks from the USA and Europe. Another goal of mine: make North Americans dance musically!!! It was SO frustrating to feel more competent dancing than many of the old milongueros, but off the music. I prefer dancing the milongueros 4-5 steps, but really, really on the music.

My best musical tanda tonight was with a guy who kept grinning and saying, "Fun!" in between songs (kind of a goofball). However, we had danced one set before, and he told me he wanted to dance again. The music started, and I looked up, accepted his cabeceo from a distance far enough away that I could have said no, and got up to dance. It was Varela! I only started listening to Varela in the past few months (thanks, Vadym!), and I LOVED this tanda!

  1. 1. Fueron Tres Años
  2. Noche De Cabaret
  3. Y Todavía Te Quiero
  4. Y Te Parece Todavia

This made me feel wonderful because I knew what the orchestra was, and the old milonguero had no idea. Also, I played a set of Varela this summer when I was Djing, and I played two of these, so I really nailed the musicality for those. I had an amazingly musical set with an OK dancer who got into the energy/feeling of what I was feeling: wow again! I went up to the DJ when I left, and asked what he had played in the Varela set, because I had never heard #2 in the set. I think I like this better than Pugliese right now. I am going to buy some albums!

I missed out on chacarera because I forgot they played it at this milonga, and so did not set up a partner for it. However, I got a partner for part of the tropical set, and merengued my little heart out. I wish we played sets of salsa/cumbia/merengue and "rock 'n roll" (swing) at our milongas. Hmm.

A lovely evening out dancing!



Day One, Round Five

People kept asking me if I was excited about going to Buenos Aires, and I kept saying, "Not really." I had so much else going on in my life, plus the added tasks to get ready to be gone for a few weeks, that I really only got excited when I walked out the door of the airport into warm, humid sunshine, and thought, "I'm home!" I felt that way the first time I came here, and I still feel that way.

Luis picked us up at the airport and sang us tangos all the way into the city.  Then he said, "Your turn!" and I ended up singing some opera because I don't know any tangos by heart.  HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE??? OK, new goal: learn a few tangos to sing. If some middle-aged guy can do it, so can I!

Call home, unpack, nap #1.

Landed at 10 am, and in the studio dancing by 5 PM. After an hour and a half lesson, I once again feel that I'm never going to get good at this dance. This happens every time, but I don't usually have a lesson the first day, so in a way, the "maybe I should quit teaching this dance and become something else" moment is good to get over right away. I have new things to think about that Oscar and Georgina assure me I used to know, but must have forgotten. Luckily, I am a kinesthetic learner, so by the end of the lesson, I could feel what I was doing wrong and correct it most of the time.

Main problem today (because you KNOW it's going to change each day): I need to turn my feet out just a teensy bit more, and suddenly, my turns work better. Also, I've gotten lazy with having the precise amount of flexion needed at the knees to keep my hips aligned, and I am supposed to be able to lift my abdominals even more at all times, while breathing and fixing my feet, knees and hips. A note to my students: I told you they were going to work on my basics, didn't I?

After that, nap #2.

We headed out and had dinner at Café Victoria: Entre Ríos 114, Congreso. Gayle had a chicken breast with steamed vegetables (squash, carrots, zucchini, etc.). I had tortilla espanol, which I love, and a portion of faina, a gluten-free, garbanzo-based flatbread, and a glass of wine. Prices have shot up in the past 1.5 years, with that kind of meal costing almost double what it did in 2010: 100 pesos this time, compared to about 50-60 pesos in 2010. Inflation here is insane at the moment.

Nino Bien, Humberto 1 (Humberto Primo) 1462, is an old mainstay of a milonga. There were fewer people than in 2010, but still a nice crowd. I saw a lot of familiar faces from before, and we both had some nice tandas. It was Luis' birthday; he's been the maitre d' there since I don't know when, but I remember him in 1999 when he wore jeans, not a suit like now. The entrance cost was 20 pesos in 2010, and is now 30 pesos: another example of price jumps.

My feet and legs are still swollen from the flight, despite getting some exercise and some rest. We agreed to leave early (1 am), grabbed a taxi home despite being teased at the door about going home early by a guy who looked familiar and was just arriving.

That's all until tomorrow, folks. Oh, I mean today, don't I? Time to call my nene (my kiddo) and say goodnight.


Weighing in on the cabeceo

I have strong feelings about the cabeceo: I LOVE THE CABECEO! I always teach it in my beginning classes, and make my private students practice it. As a cultural anthropologist, I can't imagine teaching people to do a dance without also teaching the appropriate cultural rules that go with the dance.

When I first encountered the cabeceo in Argentina, it took me a while to feel comfortable with it. I am quite shy with people I don't know (yes, I know I hide it well, but there it is), so the experience of making eye contact for a seemingly long time made me feel uncomfortable. I forced myself to look at stranger's faces, willing them to invite me to dance.

At first, I danced with anyone who was willing to look at me. As I got to know the other dancers, I found there were folks I did not want to dance with; and I could avoid them politely by not looking at them. Having been trained as a nice North American girl, I have difficulty refusing a dance partner who walks up and asks me to dance. Cabeceo gave me a sense of control over partner-picking that I never experienced in North America.

This is not to say that the cabeceo is fool-proof. This past February in Buenos Aires, I enjoyed going to La Nacional on Wednesday nights, as well as the Centro Leonese (Nino Bien) on Friday evenings: women were seated on one side, men on the other. We all had our glasses on to see, but you could see almost all the potential dance partners and angle for a cabeceo better. At one point, a guy smiled at our table, and all six women (sitting three deep) pointed to themselves and mouthed, "Yo?" He made an apologetic gesture, pointed at the one he wanted, and she got up to dance. The other five laughed and readjusted to look for another partner. That sounds chaotic, but I prefer that to being accosted by someone I've tried to avoid by not looking at their face all evening!

With patience, the cabeceo becomes easy to use and provides a lot of control for both partners to choose a dance couple for a tanda.

Someone on the listserve mentioned that it was inappropriate for a woman to cabeceo another woman. I don't think I agree with that. I wouldn't cabeceo another woman in Buenos Aires at a traditional dance, but I would at a gay milonga, where the rules are more relaxed.  With women who are my friends, we use the cabeceo. In Portland, I rarely use the cabeceo women (or men) who I don't already know.

As a teacher, I have always felt that I need to be the model forcorrect behavior in the community. Because I know beginners get better much faster if more experienced dancers dance with them, I have always interpreted that as needing to dance with anyone who asks me (short of those whose grip hurts my body). However, perhaps I will do more good as a model of correct cabeceo! Remember, if I don't have my glasses on, I might not have ignored you: I may have just not seen you looking! Try again!