Monday, March 31, 2008

Doing the Heartbreak Tango

It is too true - tango is the vertical expression of the horizontal obsession.

The connection that is sometimes found is so precious, so tangible you can sometimes not only feel it in your bones, but taste it on your lips, melting into your tongue. The foundation of how a person dances is how they are in bed... or on the couch, the kitchen counter and elsewheres. But that's another story for another day.

Today is a story of tango heartbreak, of two beautiful people who found each other. I will call the follow Lorena and the lead James. Lorena and James fit together in a dance like two bookends, holding up the foundation of tango with their connection. They sizzled. And when the tandas and milongas were over, they'd meet up to find that they had more in common than just their dancing bones. Basically boy meets girl via tango, falls in love and move in together.

And then things started to fall apart, too slowly. As far as love goes, most people know the intrinsic one - the absorbed and too focused one. The one that is not strong enough to stand the sharing of bodies and minds with too many people beyond oneself. How does a regular person stand to see the one they love share a similar connection with someone else, even if it's for 15, 20, 30 minutes? It's like watching the one you love, fall in love with someone else, over and over. It's upsetting for some, it's painful for others and for some whose passions run deep, the insanity of jealousy eats at the very core until it spoils everything.

The fights started happening. Lorena didn't like that James would dance more than one tanda with a woman and definitely not more than two. James hated seeing her close her eyes in bliss in some other man's arms. They tried to work it out, make compromises and assuage each other's egos. But the very core of jealousy is too green, too selfish and the taste of jealousy replaced the sweetness upon their lips.

Et alors, James moved out. He now spends his time avoiding Lorena's eyes, to stare anywhere but the dance floor where her eyes are closed, her body melting into the dance... and another man's arms. And Lorena's eyes wear the colour of sadness, of what could have been if only, staring unblinking into the beautiful pose of her ex-boyfriend moving gracefully about the floor with some beautiful woman's arms wrapped around him. And they cannot avoid each other - they live in the same times, reside in the same community obsessed with tango, share the same tango friends, the same tango events they each host.

James and Lorena's story is not uncommon. I've seen it from Madrid to Amsterdam, from NYC to the Bay Area. And the longest, saddest part is that unless one of them leaves, the closure never comes. Every tango becomes heartbreaking, every milonga is tinged with memories of the person only meters away. And not to mention the awkwardness, for themselves, their friends and anyone who might trip along the way.

This is a situation I've always avoided - but very unfortunately, it takes two to tango. Just because I don't get jealous, doesn't mean my lead doesn't either. I can recall the jealous outbursts, the bad vibes, the seething undertones that may or may not go unvoiced because I connected too well with someone else, the dance too sexual. I've never been jealous - I used to laugh about not minding about sharing. But I do remember being upset that an ex danced only one tanda with me. We did the mature thing, we talked about it. And I felt better, having rationalised that I can dance with him any time I wanted anywhere else.

And what all the hugs and kisses, the embraces and caracias? Not many can handle such, seeing your significant other so well loved by all. I've always rationalised to myself, that regardless of what happens on the dance floor or off, I'm the one he chooses to be with, the one he takes home at night, the one he chooses to maintain the connection with long after the last tanda. But then again, I've been very fortunate in my loves. The breakups have always been amicable, rational, logical. It also helps that I've never been dumped so the ego isn't bruised. That and I don't have to put up with seeing them at every milonga, every class and every festival. Though really, it takes a certain type of person, of mental abilities to be rational and ignore one's significant other's tango crushes.... because as long as you're in tango, there will be tango crushes. What works is knowing that you're love is much more precious than a few tango crushes.

Be careful who you love... and where you love.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ask & you May receive

I asked Mark what the readers would like to hear written from me. He gave me some wonderful insights.

However, if you have direct questions for me, then ask away. I may answer them.

One caveat though - my identity will remain secret - even to my friends. I don't like notoriety, and I don't really want to be known. I'm completely against celebrity-ism and love my privacy very, very much.

And for clarification - Mark has never met me :) - Maybe one day Mark. Soon.

Are You Ever Too Old To Learn Tango?

I was taking the tango class at aMuse gallery recently before the milonga started when I noticed a lively group join us. I didn't know what their occasion was, but these folks had clearly brought the party with them. It was time to change partners and a lovely woman in her sixties rotated to me. She said it was her first time taking a tango class, so I asked her why she'd chosen tonight. She replied that she was there with her husband because it was his 80th birthday. He'd wanted to try tango for years and finally he decided it was time. So, a month earlier he told his wife he only wanted one present for his birthday--to take her tango dancing.

And so he did.

And when their daughter heard they were going, she and her husband drove a couple of hours from down south to share this great occasion with her parents. From the moment this party floated into the milonga until they left hours later they were like a bottle of great champagne wafting around the gallery--you couldn't help but notice the joy bubbling from them.

I had a blast watching the birthday boy and his beautiful wife tango. They weren't concerned about steps or moves or looking good for anyone else (there should be a tango blog about how to achieve this!). Actually, I'm not sure they even noticed anyone else around them--all they seemed to care about was having a great time together.

That, and holding each other in a close embrace...tango after tango.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Damn Sexy In Those Comme il Fauts, Ladies!

I had a revelation in a great tango class tonight by George Garcia, who is visiting from Hawaii. It's kind of strange to admit it, but for the first time since I started this Argentine tango blog I saw a pair of tango shoes on a woman tonight at class and I knew instantly they were Comme il Fauts.

And then I went to the Cell Space milonga after class & I saw two more pairs & I knew again, instantly, that they were also Comme il Fauts.

How did I know? Because women look damn sexy in those shoes!

And here I sincerely thought that up to this week I couldn't tell a pair of Comme il Fauts from army boots. But maybe my subconscious was noticing them all along. I'm sure there are other sexy shoes out there--I just don't know who makes them.

I'm not sure. All I know is that this recent Comme il Faut blogging got me thinking. Thinking and wondering and contemplating and pondering how a pair of shoes can look so tango on a woman.

I know some women don't like them because they say they're uncomfortable. But I'm not here to talk about comfort.

I'm here to talk about hotness and to say that every woman I've seen wearing Comme il Fauts has got it going on.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the Amazon Jungle Tango

Now before you ask, no there is no tango in the Amazon Jungle (seriously).

But to tell this story correctly, we must start at the very beginning... when tangueras give tangueros nicknames. Now, these names can be good, bad, ugly and sometimes downright ridiculous. One guy I know was dubbed "Mr. Sex Face" because of this orgasmic expression he makes once or twice during a tanda as if he was about to... err, ahem. I have never been able to look him in the eye and keep a straight face ever since. Another fellow I've danced with was dubbed "Mr. Darcy" for being stuck up and full of himself. Actually, I've met 3 Mr. Darcy's in 3 different regions of the States, and one of those Mr. Darcy's used to be Mr. Sex Face.

[Madre de dios, if my friends read this, they're going to kill me!]

However, one of the most momentous and most memorable tango I've ever had begins like this...

I was in Denver for the tango festival. Can't recall if it was Memorial Day or Labor Day fest, it all blends together after a while. Anyhow, I was in a class with Robin Thomas and Jennifer Olson (back in the day when they were still teaching together) and we were doing something in close embrace. The leads rotated and I got paired with an interesting European guy who left 3 buttons unbuttoned, or was it 4? I noticed it right away because the Amazon Jungle sprouting from his chest wiggled its way from the open shirt and shagged my face.

At first all I could do was stare with a sort of shell shocked and completely flabbergasted daze. Guess he never heard of manscaping. After the shock wore off and I found myself in a close embrace with Fuzzy Wuzzy's second cousin, not removed enough. The chest hair - technically it's chest hair, to me it was the Amazon Jungle come alive to bugger my nose - I couldn't escape from it! He was leading and I was following to the best of my abilities, though I became severely handicapped with all that fern in my face. So I tried turning my head - oh no, it's now tickling my ear!

And dear god my ears are sensitive, so I turned my face back - to have the Amazon Jungle once again shagging my nose! I was in such a quandary - what in hell was I to do? So I did the only thing I could. I sneezed. Right into the Amazon Jungle.

Needless to say, he was definitely not appreciative of my snot and germs all over his manliness. He looked down at me with the most disgusted look on his face and I looked back up at him - not apologetically, not shyly... I was about to die of laughter! I was thinking inside my head, "how do I always find myself in these ridiculous situations?" The disgusted look on his face was worth it though - he let go of me and I ran to the lady's withdrawing room and collapsed in massive hysteria.

Monday, March 24, 2008

the Tango that Changes

A dear friend brought something up that was very interesting to me...

There are people we like to dance with and people we don't enjoy dancing with so much. Perhaps there are people we once enjoyed dancing with, but not so much anymore. What happens?

There are people, I've seen this, though have never been apart of this experience, that dance with someone very nicely. But one day they don't dance anymore. Good friends all of a sudden become not so good, because they stop talking to you at tango functions, so as to discourage you from asking them to dance. Huh?

This confounded me for a moment. Thinking back on all my tango friends, the ones I danced with as a beginner, as an intermediate, as a friend, as a lover, as a girlfriend and as an ex. I still dance with a few of my exes when I do happen to see them. We still have that connection. For me, the connection never goes away.

But for others, it is not always the same. J told me that he has experienced changes in connections. Someone he once connected with he may not connect with so well after a few weeks, months, etc. And since the connection is not really there anymore, they discourage chatting, so as to discourage him from asking them to dance O.o

Rather fickle I think. And hardly the kind of dancers I want to dance with. I dance because I love to dance, I dance because it is fun, because I am enjoying the music and I enjoy the person I am with. There are some friends of mine who don't dance very well, their embrace is not as comfortable as it could be, or they try too many tricks, etc. But I don't discourage them from being my friend, nor do I discourage them from asking me to dance.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Tahoe Tango?

My Dad & I just made the four hour drive over to Lake Tahoe today for 3 days of skiing, which of course I'm excited about.

There's only one thing missing: tango.

As we barreled over here today I kept checking my phone with growing envy as my tango posse exchanged emails about whether to go to El Valenciano, La Pista or the Verdi Club tonight. Damn, we've got it good in San Francisco.

So, in my effort to ease my pain of the tango I was missing in SF, I searched online for Tahoe tango, but only found ads for the Chevy Tango truck. I'm getting anxious for any tango, so I watch the Chevy Tango ad on YouTube and not only isn't there any tango dancing in the ad, but they don't even show one person in the entire ad. Tango without gotta love those advertising geniuses.

But I digress.

I resume my search for Tahoe tango by asking the woman working at the front desk. She very politely tries to hide her chuckle at the absurdity of my question.

I head back to my room where I'm alone working on my blog (my Dad's losing his lift ticket money over at blackjack). I give up on finding a milonga and turn on my phone and start playing "Perfume" by Bajofondo Tango Club. I notice my reflection in the mirror fifteen feet away and, getting desparate, I cabeceo, but my reflection turns away, pretending to not have seen my invitation. I'm annoyed--who else is that person going to dance with here!?! And on top of that, that is definitely the worst dancer who has ever rejected my invitation to dance. I let my frustration pass and pretend the rejection doesn't bother me. My reflection looks around the room and finally seems resigned to the fact that it's me or nobody. I cabeceo again and this time my reflection accepts, but with a forced half-smile. We walk towards each other and immediately we both try to lead. Finally, we give up in frustration and walk away from each other.

If I hop into my car right now, I can still make it back to the Verdi club for the last tanda.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Comme il Faut Tango Shoes and Nirvana

With each passing tango email, class or milonga I realize that, when it comes to understanding women and their relationship to tango shoes, I'm only barely scratching the surface of something I'll never fully fathom. But that's ok. My Czech sister-in-law rolls her eyes every time my brother and I start talking for another hour about the Boston Red Sox or New England Patriots. And that's ok, too.

Viva La Difference!

So, even though I don't understand the shoe gene that women have, I have come to understand that there are three states of being for female tango dancers:

Happiness: Buying/wearing Shoes
Joy: Buying/wearing Tango Shoes
Nirvana: Buying/wearing Comme il Faut tango shoes

Now don't get me wrong, I know there are tangueras out there that aren't obsessed with tango shoes. I just haven't met one yet.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What's The Big Deal With Comme il Faut Tango Shoes?

I'm a guy, ok, so caring about shoes just isn't in my DNA. Like my fellow brothers, I just don't have the shoe gene that most of my female friends have. In the past 10 years the only pair of shoes I've spent more than 1 minute thinking about before buying were my Adidas soccer cleats. I spoke to my Irish lads on my soccer team to find out what their favorites were, I got online to do side-by-side comparisons of numerous cleats and I read opinions from the soccer brotherhood around the world. But that was for cleats, for competing, for going head-to-head against another team, for selecting my instruments of victory that enable me to outrun, outscore and outdefend as I kick the other teams ass. (Note: I haven't scored a goal in years and that's a sore subject, so please don't bring that up. And, truth be told, I'm 43 and most of my opponents are in their 20's, so I don't outrun many of those jackrabbits and that's kind of a sore subject, too. Well, I should also admit I don't outdefend much either. So, if you want to quibble over semantics, technically speaking, I don't outrun, outscore or outdefend, but I still kick ass playing soccer!)

But I digress.

The point I was trying to make is this: I don't care what kind of tango shoes women wear. Shoes are shoes.

Or so I thought.

The more milongas I've gone to recently, the more emails my tango friends & I send, the more I realize that women like to talk about Comme il Faut tango shoes. A lot. But you could line up a pair of soccer cleats, work shoes, & Comme il Faut's next to each other & I'd only look at the soccer cleats. I'd never even notice the Comme il Faut's.

Or so I thought.

One of my tanguera friends just told me that Jennifer Bratt (an excellent tango teacher and dancer) sells Comme il Faut's. Why should that matter? Well, um, truth be told, when I heard this I remembered taking a workshop of Jennifers last year at Cafe Cocomo & I remember thinking how great she looked in her shoes & I'm sure now they were Comme il Faut's.

And on top of that, I was at a milonga recently and a friend of mine discreetly announced she was breaking out her new Comme il Faut's for her first tanda. I didn't understand this solemn occasion. I'd already danced two tandas with her in her non-Comme il Faut's and she looked and danced great, as always. But after she put on her Comme il Faut's, I, well, uh, I have to admit she stood out even more.

So, maybe there is something to these Comme il Faut shoes. But I still love lacing up my soccer cleats. And out on the soccer field I still kick, really, I do.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Trio Garufa's CD Release Party


As you've probably noticed from this blog, I'm a big fan of Trio Garufa. So, here's a photo from their recent CD release party, which was held at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. Trio Garufa's newest CD is called "La Segunda Tradición" and they played some new tango songs from it, which were excellent. I'd definitely recommend buying a copy. This milonga was awesome and my friends & I were there tangoing until much tango, such little time.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tango Shoes III

Just as a man wants to feel manly, all women desire to feel womanly. However, there are certain parts of a woman's body that is completely overlooked - her feet (you foot-fetish people, get out of your caves and evangelicize, you're too small in numbers to count)! The reason why women are women - beyond the obvious - is that they're shaped differently and thank the gods! And because we women are so different from men, we like to emphasize how much we are different - by shaving our legs so that we're not hairy apes like you. We grow our hair long so we don't look like young boys. We wear makeup, we smell like flowers and all things nice, we bat our eyelashes and wear clothes to accent our curves.

However, our feet are pretty much the same shape as you men, except smaller -and less hairier (egads! perish the thought). So? We paint our toenails, wear toe-rings and wear pretty shoes. We do NOT want our feet to ever be mistaken for manfeet. And we, as females, as women, and as young girls (in our hearts or otherwise) like to pour our personalities into our feet and mostly our shoes. It is like Goya - self expression and art put together! We want our feet adornments to be Van Gogh's, to be Monet's, da Vinci and Michaelangelo - or some women like to simplify and just wear cheetah prints.

We want our feet adored! Our pods for the past several decades have been ignored, thrown out with the stained glass windows in the days when showing our ankles was taboo. Our peds have been relegated to shameful darkened corners of boring body parts [insert sniff and wail here]. Our feet are no longer considered cool like hour-glass figures or dimples in one's cheeks. Even the word feet conjures up stinky, smelly socks, feet sweat and athlete's foot. Yeeeeuuuukkk!

Are our feet not deserving of some attention? Of course it is - we buy a million shoes to give our feet personalities, in all shapes, sizes, colours, prints, big bows, little bows, zebra prints, polka-dots, ankle straps, t-straps, S&M looking straps going in all sorts of directions. We want our feet adored just like our curves are adored, just like our lips are well loved. But men! Men have forgotten to worship our feet and so we must worship ourselves. Men, this is why women go ga-ga over shoe sales, why we tangueras always, always must pay homage to a lady's awesome shoes. Besides the fact that it's a great conversation starter, as well as a way to make a friend, we are giving each other the attention our feet deserve. Each and every one of us know what it feels like to have a forgotten body part, considered unfeminine and boring. But we women want to be feminine, cute, pretty, gorgeous, beautiful, from the very tops of our heads down to the very tips of our toes.

And when a woman compliments me on my shoes, I liken it to the way a man feels when someone compliments him on changing the tire, fixing the radiator and installing a new kitchen sink all in one day. And when a man compliments me on my shoes, well now...

He likes me, he really, really likes me :)-

Friday, March 14, 2008

Confessions Blog Now Has Tango Readers In 30 Countries Worldwide!

Dear Tango brothers and sisters around the world,
I'm happy to say that this little tango blog now has readers from 24 states across America and 30 countries around the world. I knew Argentine tango was a worldwide passion. But, honestly, I didn't expect that we'd have readers from 30 countries so quickly, given that this blog was only launched on December 11.

I wanted to list all of those countries below, so that we have a better idea of where our fellow tangueros are from. I'm listing them in order of number of visits since Confessions was launched.

There are a lot of obvious things below, such as most of our readers coming from the U.S., since I'm based in San Francisco. And I'm not surprised that the UK is our # 2, but I was surprised to see that readers there come not just from London, but from eight different cities throughout England and Scotland (welcome tangueros in Edinburgh and Aberdeen!). Most of our tangueros in France are in Paris, which is no surprise given how famous that city is for it's tango. And I'm always meeting the coolest Canadians that come down to SF for tango lessons or milongas, so it's good to see them at #4. Of course Buenos Aires is our Mecca for tango, but I am surprised that Argentina is # 5 because when I was in Bs As they were at milongas until 6am, so when do our brothers & sisters there have time to get online?

But the most fascinating thing to me is that we have tangueros from Israel, Qatar, and Yemen (welcome tangueros in Beersheba, Doha and Sana!).

Thank you all for helping spread the word. And thanks, too, to everyone that has posted a comment or emailed me--it's been great connecting with tangueros worldwide.

How awesome would it be if we could have a bunch of international milongas in each of our great countries below?!?:
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. France
4. Canada
5. Argentina
6. Turkey
7. Greece
8. Mexico
9. Brazil
10. Germany
11. Russia
12. Japan
13. Netherlands
14. Bulgaria
15. Spain
16. Chile
17. Switzerland
18. Czech Republic
19. India
20. Trinidad and Tobago
21. Costa Rica
22. Singapore
23. Malaysia
24. Croatia
25. Belgium
26. Romania
27. Israel
28. Qatar
29. Philippines
30. Yemen


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why Women Love Tango Shoes

I'm not going to pretend I can tell you why women love tango shoes. So, I figured the best way to blog about this was to ask a female friend & tanguera, Jessica, to explain it to me. She's done a great job of that below & I think for the first time I'm starting to get it. Take it away Jessica:

"The love and obsession with tango shoes by tangueras is not as simple as the common affliction of a shoe fetish among women in general.

Sure, a good tango heel is a beautiful object in its own right, and any woman wearing a sexy shoe and a high heel lengthens her leg, walks differently and can look sexy as hell.

But tango, more than any other dance, is about the feet. When we dance tango our upper bodies remain stationary, often pressed together and still. We don't use our hips like salsa. We don't gesture with our hands. As follows we usually even close our eyes. We are dancing with our feet.

As a follow, I don't choose the steps, and my main means of expressing myself with adornments and with my dance style is with my feet. As such a follow's feet are the instruments of her art.

Then there is the aesthetic aspect. So often we follows will go to a milonga in "yet another black dress" and in that case, we can distinguish ourselves with our shoes. A particularly beautiful shoe can be interesting and unique. This fabric or that shiny strap, the look as well as the feel allows us to show off our individual personalities and celebrate our distinction.

As such of course one tanguera will admire another's shoes. She'll pay respect to the other's choice and the time and care she has taken with her appearance. And we love it when a tanguero notices too."


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is Online Dating Better Than Tango For Finding Your Soulmate?

A close friend of mine met a guy recently through online dating and he made a fine first impression. He had an interesting online profile, he was friendly in his emails & he seemed like a nice, smart guy. They exchanged photos and my friend was thinking about possibly meeting him.

Then one night I talked my friend into taking her first tango class and we went together. We walked into the class and immediately she recognized the guy she'd been emailing! The class started and my friend rotated to the guy, but he didn't recognize her.

And now here's where it gets really interesting.

They started their first tango together and she could tell just halfway through it that she could never date this guy. He was "bossy" and every time they made a mistake she could tell through his unspoken frustration with her that he felt those mis-steps were her fault, not theirs, and certainly not his.

Their tango ended and so did any possibility of my friend ever going out with this guy. My friend was able to pick up deeper truths about their compatability (or lack thereof) from one 3 minute tango than was possible from the combination of his online profile, emails and photos.

So, just like I blogged recently on how Argentine tango kicked speed dating's butt, tango has now kicked some serious online dating tail, too! Tango proves, yet again, it's the best way to get to know new people.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

3 Surprises To Expect In Your First Tango Class

Recently I brought a great friend of mine to her first tango class. She loved it, but it wasn't what she was expecting. Why is that? Well, there were 3 main reasons, which I'm listing below. In your first class you'll notice that:

1. Tango isn't as romantic in the first lesson as it appears in performances or on TV. My friend said in the beginning of the class she was so focused on learning the steps, connecting with & following her partner that the romance of the dance was the last thing in her mind. But by the end of the hour she felt like she was getting the basics down well enough to feel like she was finding a tango groove.

2. Tango is more challenging than expected at first. My friend felt that since the professionals make it all look so easy that it would be easy for her, too. Well, it wasn't easy at first, but she did an awesome job of catching on quickly & by the end of our hour she was doing a number of moves with style.

3. The close embrace is, well, close. If you're thinking about trying tango for the first time you should know that most people dance in either an open embrace or a close embrace. The open embrace is typically used in what is called Nuevo Tango and it's very easy to adjust to because you're dancing with your partner nearly at arms length. But then there's close embrace, which is tango's other option. I'll always remember my introduction to close embrace because it was the first Argentine tango lesson of my life. The class started and a woman I'd never met before leaned forward into a close embrace with me. Although I liked it, I thought it was a little forward on her part given that we'd just me. Little did I know that this was normal and exactly what the close embrace is supposed to be--close. Now that I've been dancing tango for a bit I can tell you that I prefer close embrace most of the time, but it takes some time to to get used to it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Awesome Tango Performances By Christy & Darren and Chelsea & Count At Pachamama

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So, after Seth and Pablo played a few tangos Friday night at Pachamama's in San Francisco's North Beach district, Christy Cote & Darren Lees and Chelsea Eng & Count gave fantastic tango performances. I love this photo above of Christy and Darren--it really captures the passion of their dance performance and shows how much the crowd was riveted by them. You can also see how intimiate it is at Pachamama. I've never seen anyone perform tango in a smaller area (it was only about 10 feet x 10 feet), but they did it with ease. Pachamama's was packed & the applause & "Esso!"s were loud. What a wonderful evening of Argentine tango it had already been...and we were only half way through the night! After the show we raced over the Bay Bridge to Trio Garufa's CD release party--I'll blog on that as soon as I can.

Pablo Motta and Seth Asarnow's Great Tango Performance At Pachamama

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Friday night was one of the best experiences of my tango life. It all started with going with a great group of fun friends to Pena Pachamama for dinner and an Argentine tango show. Pachamama is a landmark Bolivian restaurant in San Francisco that means "Mother Earth." It's also the same site where Joe DiMaggio & Marilyn Monroe had their wedding dinner and one of the coziest places I've ever been to in SF. We went to see our teachers and friends perform and because Pablo Motta was in town from Los Angeles and playing bass to Seth Asarnow's bandoneon. They were awesome! Pablo & Seth played a number of tango songs by themselves and then they played for great performances by Christy & Darren and Chelsea & Count. After Pachamama, we went to Trio Garufa's CD release party, which was also a blast, but I'll blog more on that later. If you haven't had the opportunity yet to hear Pablo and Seth play, please go next time they're in your area--they are fantastic musicians.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Top 3 Things I Learned From My Classes With Oscar & Georgina

Last year I had an awesome private and a number of group classes with Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas. They have such a distinctive, seductive style I wanted to blog on what they highlight in their classes. They teach a lot of things, but here are the 3 things that Oscar and Georgina stressed the most that I took away:

1. Connect with your partner. Relax, slow down and enjoy each note of every tango. They intentionally spend time at the beginning of each tango connecting instead of rushing off at the sound of the first note.

2. Solar plex up. Too many people dance with their chest bent over, but Oscar and Georgina emphasize that our solar plex should not be angled down & not even facing straight forward, but instead should be facing up diagonally at a 45 degree angle.

3. More contra motion when walking. Some leading couples don't use much contra motion when walking & it works for them. But Oscar and Georgina teach that we should use it for a more natural walking motion and style.

I hope you enjoy this great video of them above performing at Nora's Tango Week last summer where they bring these 3 teachings to life in spades.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why Are Women Obsessed With Tango Shoes?

There's a lot that I don't understand in this world, but over time I'm usually able to figure most things out and the rest I just find a way to live with. In tango, though, I've attempted for a year and a half to decipher that greatest question of all, that most puzzling of puzzles, that indecipherable code, that riddle known only to women. I'm talking, of course, about that wonderful mystery:

Why are women obsessed with tango shoes?!?

Well, I give up. I'm raising the white flag, I admit I have failed, I will never solve this conundrum, I'm not smarter than a 5th grader because I cannot figure it out.

Women are fascinated by not just their own tango shoes (and mine), but especially by other women's. I can't tell you how many times I've been sitting at a table with a female friend as a woman walks by. I'll look at the women's face to see if I know her and my female friend will look at the women's tango shoes (sometimes it's at her dress, but that's a different post for a different night).

I had a conversation with a friend recently at a milonga and it went something like this:
My friend: "Wow, you have really nice shoes, Mark!"
Me: "Uh, thanks?"
My friend: "Do they have a touch of purple in them?"
Me: "Umm, I don't think so--they're black."
My friend: "Do you have any other tango shoes?"
Me: "Yeah, I've got another black pair" (I'm proud to say I anticipated that she'd want to know the color, so I told her black in advance. I have no idea why the color would matter, but I was starting to sense it did)
My friend: "Were they made in Buenos Aires? "
Me: "Geez, I'm not really sure."

My friend ran out of shoe questions at this point. I'm not sure if I passed the exam. I think she was serious with those questions--she had a sincere expression like she really cared about the color of my other tango shoes. I'm very confused.

And now she's looking at me expectantly. I thought this part of the conversation was done, but now it seems like it's not closed. But why? There's a long pause and I sense that she's waiting for me to say something. But what? I feel like I'm trying to tango my way out of a huge pitch-black room that only has one small exit and I can't find my way out. Ok, think, think. She probably doesn't want to talk about the awesome news that the Patriots signed Randy Moss today. So, what else is there? She doesn't want me to ask her about her shoes, does she? No, I start laughing to myself--that can't be it. But I can't think of anything else, so I take a stab in the dark.

Me: "Umm, you have really nice shoes, too?"
My friend (her face lighting up): "Oh, no, these are really worn think so?"
Me (getting the hang of it): "Do you get your shoes from Buenos Aires?"
My friend: "Mostly, every time I go there I go to the shoe district..."

She tells me more about shoe buying in Bs As, shoe color, fit, height, comfort etc. and this time it feels like we've found resolution. I have no idea what that resolution is, but, like I said, I've learned to live with things in life that I'll never understand.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tango et Amour, ouch!

I was in Denver basking in the wonderful organisation skills of Tom Stermitz and his crew. His milongas are always seething with sublime dancers to the number of 400 and beyond. Some nights it looked like BA gone mad. All of the teachers present are highly reputable, no beginning classes, only intermediate and advanced - There's no skirmishes on the dance floor, little traffic jams, no people bumping into each other and just the blissful moments of dancing. Of all the tango festivals I've gone to, Denver is by far the best laid out and best in terms of dancer quality... which is why I continue to come back year after year, regardless of where I am or what I happen to be doing - Denver is a must.

And I'm definitely not the only one who feels this way. Many dancers rave about Denver - and many dancers see the same faces every year. We introduce ourselves, exchange hugs and kisses and dance our life away. One day I found myself incredibly attracted to Ulric (not real name). The two of us together was a recipe for instantaneous combustion. And combust we did. However, it was too good to last - we avoided each other at the milongas henceforth. Sadly, we both loved the same festivals and had the same schedule/routine.

One day - the gods must have cackling in glee - I was about to collect my then boyfriend, Tenzig (not real name) for the last tanda of the night - in Denver. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw whom he was chatting with. Ulric. They turned out to be good friends (they lived on different sides of the continent, were not in the same profession, had a gap in age difference, one had been dancing for a long time, the other a newbie, what were the odds?). I wish Emily Post wrote something for this type of scenario. The only good news is that I am an extremely private person - no one knew I had dated Ulric or that I was dating Tenzig. After I collected myself, I smiled at both of them when they looked at me expectantly, walked right passed them and headed for the bathroom to wash the sleeziness from my hands.

I vowed, after that situation, I will never date another tango dancer again. So in light of the speed dating conversation, I beg to differ. And to this day I still run into Tenzig and Ulric.

Who Needs Speed Dating When We Have Tango?

OK, first of all two disclosures: (a) I've never tried speed dating, (b) a lot of folks that tango are either married, in a relationship, or single, but not looking. They come to milongas because they love to tango and meet great people. But there are some single folks that are open to meeting the right person and for any of you thinking of trying speed dating instead, let me tell you that tango is the answer. Why? We'll let's do a comparison for fun:

What's going on?
Speed dating: two people who have never met sit across from each other for 3 minutes
Tango: two people who have never met take each other into a close embrace and tango for 3 minutes

What happens after 3 minutes?
Speed dating: even if you want to keep talking to the person, you have to move to the next person. The system dictates.
Tango: after the first tango, you get three more! Then comes the cortina, but you can always dance another tanda or find each other later for more tango. You and your partner decide.

Sounds of the evening
Speed dating: every three minutes someone rings a bell
Tango: you get to enjoy hours of great tango music from Di Sarli, Pugliese, Gardel, Gotan Project, Trio Garufa...

What happens if the two people aren't interested in being more than friends?
Speed dating: Nothing. Contact info is only exchanged for those interested in dating.
Tango: Great! That's the norm anyway--just keep tangoing & enjoy your new friendship. I've made more new friends over the past year from tango than from anything else in life.

What will tango tell me about compatility? Dance a tango together & then ask yourself these questions:
-how well do you work together?

-is your tango based on give and take?
-how do you both react when the inevitable challenges arise (you step on your partner's foot, a couple bumps into you, you just aren't feeling a certain tango & you have a bad dance...)? Does this cause tension between the two of you or do you both laugh it off?
-how comfortable are you two in a close embrace?

It's tango by a TKO! I could go on but this feels like piling on. If this was a little league baseball game it would be called by the "mercy rule".

Tango wins, yet again.