Thursday, December 27, 2007

Buenos Aires - Day 5

We slept in late and didn’t get out to lunch till 3:00pm. Decided to head over to San Telmo today. We wanted to go to Abril, but couldn’t find it for the longest time… Then when finally there, Eva remembered that she had already tried the place and food was soso. So we headed over to the other restaurant we had in mind, Nacional. It was a dump, clearly not the La Nacional we were thinking of. Walked around and found a parilla place. We went in and sat dawn half-heartledly - it felt like something was off about this place, we weren't feeling it. Well, maybe not every single food outing has to be magical. It was already 3:30pm, kind of late to be searching for yet another restaurant and we were cranky as hell. Decisions, decisions... good thing Eva realized just then that she'd had dinner there too back in May and it was the worst parilla ever (if a parilla in BsAs can be bad). Pheeew, relieved to have a good reason to be picky, we got up and left.

After walking a number of blocks in the area, we found it. On the corner of Avenida Defensa, there was Chez - the most delightful French restaurant. Although it was empty when we peeped inside, there was just something about the place that called out to us - nothing is accidental, not even small things like that. We found Chez or it found us and we were about to make a memory that will be with us each time we think of Buenos Aires. Just a simple, absolutely magical afternoon. You know how sometimes everything aligns, your senses are heightened and the best of feelings are just magically frozen in that particular place and time? Where something stirs you up inside and gives you a whole new perspective on things. Yes, it was just a lunch, but nevertheless, one of our best times in BsAs. We felt as if we had stopped time for a little while, capturing a fleeting moment.

The restaurant's decor was beautiful, with the littlest touches completing the warm french country ambiance. A vase of overflowing bouquet of calla lilies sitting on top of a large wooden antique chest in the center of the room. The randomly placed items like an antique tray of perfectly golden freshly baked pound cake and the beautifully bound french cookbooks.

The long windows were open letting the fresh early summer air in and the sun rays were courting the fresh flowers in the vase and our smiling faces. As we were looking at the menu, already having ordered our champagne, we were wondering why we haven't read about this heavenly place before. As it turned out, the restaurant had only been open for 10 days! Food was out of this world, French Nuevo with local influences, of course. We still haven't forgotten the taste of this divine meal - from the pate, salmon tartar and the most delicious beef loin with pimiento sauce to the dreamy dessert, all this accompanied by plenty of champagne... Roll your eyes as you may, but the little things in life are what matters most. Makes one celebrate life - with all senses and an open soul. We counted our blessings as we completed our meal with Belgium waffles topped with dulce de leche. We were told we had to wait 15 minutes for them to prepare it. When the dessert arrived, we could tell the cream was freshly whipped and the waffles just toasted and generously topped with the best dulce de leche we've had in BsAs. We made funny noises while devouring our little piece of heaven, while the wait staff watched in silence, witnessing our little ritual. While we were waiting for our coffee to arrive, I sneaked outside to smoke a cigarette and while leaning against the front door of Chez, the sun shining on me and making it difficult to see much around me, I closed my eyes and just let myself be. There was no yesterday, no tomorrow... just now, on a small street corner in San Telmo on an early Argentine summer afternoon.

After Chez we leisurely walked the streets of San Telmo and stumbled upon this charming antique shop and bought a few beautiful antique cocktail rings. We then headed back for our lesson at 7pm, then back to the apartment to change. It was a hard time getting dressed for the evening, nothing seemed to fit right after our huge decadent meal... Eva even said "Well, I don't think I fit into anything tonight, I might have to stay in!" After much debate, we decided to go out anyway, even with our little extra dulce du leche curves. You can imagine the surprise on my face, when I heard a man in a suit making loud smooching sounds at me while I was dancing at La Confiteria Ideal. I swear he looked like a monkey in a mating ritual. Eva was supposed to meet Eduardo (the taxi dancer) there to get her video, but we never connected. Maybe it's because we hadn't set an official "appointment".

The place was full of tourists, it wasn't a good milonga night. At the entrance I saw an immaculately dressed older gentlemen, standing next to the door and surveying the place with a stern look, so taking him for the maitre d' or some sort of organizer for the night, I asked for a table. "Yo soy bailarin, senorita!", he said to me stunned that I had talked him for a member of the wait staff. Ok, one dancer lost for the cause already, there was no way he was going to ask me to dance later.

It turned out to be a nice night after all, despite all the tourists, and the relatively slow night for Ideal. Eva bumped into Damian, who was the first person to cabeceo her at Practica X in May. Funny meeting him so randomly again. They danced most of the night together. She was happy that he could see what a beautiful dancer she has become. We were pleased to see our dear Tango Pilgrim. Funny to finally meet so far away from home, yet given our shared passion, not so strange at all. We danced a song together and I enjoyed his warm embrace. After that Carlos, my local bailarin mistaken for a waiter, started to look in my direction. It couldn't be, not possible, this was a major faux pas after all. He gave me the cabeceo! I was happy to accept to make it up to him. As he was taking me in his arms, he was frank enough to say that he invited me to dance because he had just watched me and in his opinion I was a 'linda bailarina'. He was such a lovely dancer. We kept dancing throughout the whole evening. Never two tandas in a row - he would escort me back to the table, and after a tanda or two he would look for me and cabeceo again. The cutest thing. Carlos said he was happy I was there, as there were not many good bailarinas, only tourists that night at Ideal. Ironical - it was my fifth night in BsAs. Eva kept dancing with Damian, they had a great time too. He was very nice and polite to us.

Turns out you may be at the absolutely wrong place according to the BsAs milonga schedule of the ones in the know and still have a wonderful time... It's really circumstantial. And we were at Confiterial Ideal after all - the venue itself was enough to make our evening. There was a dance floor, the beautiful Ideal hall around us and tango music - what else does one need (yes, a good partner, but we were lucky in that respect too - we didn't found many, only a couple, but they surely counted). And as the night was slow and the floor was pretty empty after the performance, as the milonga was winding down it was just Eva and Damian, then Carlos and I on the dance floor of Confiterial Ideal. It was almost surreal - we had the place to ourselves. In the end, as the waiters were starting to clean up and the last song came on, one of the performers from earlier, a Venezuelan guy, asked me to dance. I sensed a smell of coffee and cigarettes as he held me tight against his chest. Somehow it was enchanting, his breath carried the night's mood... He danced beautifully, his lead was so confident, mmmmm...

As usual, the birds cheered for our home coming...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Buenos Aires - Day 4

The 22 hour marathon, 6 glasses of champagne each.

Lesson at 12. Eva worked on boleos. Whipping back boleo, she kicked maestro several times. She apologized and he said jokingly, “If you’re kicking me, then you’re doing it right. No worries, I’ll bring knee pads for lesson in ganchos tomorrow.” Mine was uneventful in that respect, I was good to maestro, no kicking. By the time we left the apartment it was 3pm… We never figured out how time flew by. No sooner would we wake up, and it would be time to get ready for milongas! And that's while on vacation!

We headed for Bar Uriarte in Palermo Viejo, Eva remembered it to be a great place to eat. It had a modern atmosphere, elegant, spacious. Then we saw the garden! Green and luscious with plants enveloping the walls around, it was like a little oasis, so relaxing, yet refreshing. What would be the perfect thing to go with this?? Champagne, of course.

As soon as we ordered, Eva started to make signs at me, discreetly pointing to someone sitting behind me. I couldn't turn around right away, but then I heard her whisper "William Dafoe!" and I had to see for myself. Sure enough, there he was - one of our favorite actors of all times and one of these men that seem to get hotter with age. Sitting casually at a table in the corner in the company of an unassuming looking girl, almost surely Argentine, who was feeding him spaghetti across the table and lovingly caressing his face. Gorgeous blue eyes and the sexiest smile... We tried our best not to stare and fought all urges to ask for a photo. He gave us a big smile as we walked past him on the way out. That made our day, at least so far! What also made us very happy was the food - it was excellent, as any other dining experience so far! Very tasty salads - mixed greens with beef and caramelized walnuts and dulce de leche crème brulee for dessert! Yummy!!! It doesn't get better than that! Until our next food indulgence that is.

As we were sitting at the restaurant and enjoying every second of it, we both realized we had only been here for three days and had not once thought of home and the life we used to live there. We had so easily adapted to the porteno life of dinning after 10pm, beginning to dance only after midnight and getting home as the birds start to chirp “Good Morning!”... If only this could be our normal lifestyle! Then we also realized how lucky we were to have found each other - we had similar tastes in everything - there wasn't a second during our trip when one would want to do something different from the other or would rather enjoy a different experience in whatever we were doing. We were so well tuned into each other's whims and desires... Here in turn is what I want to say to my dearest Eva - thank you, thank you, thank you! For the gift of sharing these amazing days and for being so wonderful, always!

After our lunch we shopped the boutiques in Palermo Viejo; yummy lingerie at Beleidades and Amor Latino. Wanted to get manicure and pedicure, but realized we ran out of time when our cute masseuse called and said he had already arrived at our place. On the way home, we stopped at the little wine store right across from our apartment building. Two bottles of champagne. One chilled and one to be chilled for later. Champagne in hand, we walked over to Sebastian waiting with his massage table. “Hola Sebastian… we are so ready for you!” As he was setting up, he proudly showed us a new massage oil he had brought. It had aromatic ingredients of some sort and real fruit (that you could actually see!) "I made myself!" he declared with a glaring smile. Oh boy... We looked at each other, but decided to be nice and go with it... It wasn't going to kill us after all, or let's hope not... That day's massage was actually particularly relaxing. Maybe the crazy dancing schedule was catching up to us and we were feeling a bit more tired, but whatever he did, he took this all off our shoulders (and feet - he did a great foot massage, thank you Sebastian!), we felt like brand new. I sat out on the balcony while Eva was showering, still in my towel, sipping champagne and listening to the early night city sounds (early night meaning 10-11pm) - the air was full of excitement and bliss. Time had stopped. In what world would we begin getting ready for dinner at that time of night without a care in the world, other than what to wear that night and which pair of shoes will go perfectly with it??

We had planned on dinner in Puerto Madero, but it grew late, so we decided to go straight to milonga. Tonight's choices: El Beso, Porteno Y Bailarin, La Viruta, Practica X. We ended up going to El Beso first. There was a beautiful lady with long black hair who sat at our table, who seemed to know everyone at the milonga. We were still not completely at ease with the cabeceo ritual. Just when I thought a man across from us gave me the cabeceo, it turned out it was for the woman at our table. Don't ask me how I found out. Eva did say it was a bad idea for us to stay at that table with her, so after I felt as embarrassed as could be, we decided to escape this spotlight and sat at the bar.

We got our champagne and quickly got into our usual bubbly mood. It seems that draws people like a magnet because in no time we were literally surrounded by men hovering about and competing who will catch our glance first. I first danced with this porteno who, as soon as he found out we had only been there for a few days, decided to act as a teacher (you know the type - yes, they are everywhere!). Ok, I heard what he had to say. But then I put an end to this and danced with a few lovely dancers. So did Eva. We didn't sit for a second. I will remember El Beso by what a very nice gentleman told me there, something that I had heard many times before, but that resonated with me on a whole different level that night - tango is not about steps, it's about the embrace, the emotion that two people share at that moment.

As I was dancing with different people, I was constantly aware of this handsome guy's stare. Dark skinned, slender, with hair pulled back in a long braid, incredibly intense eyes. By the manner he was sitting and scrutinizing the floor with a couple of other men, it seemed that he was a big shot dancer. I was drawn by his eyes - we didn't lose each other's sight for a long time. Wherever I was on the dance floor, I knew his eyes were following me. It was a beautiful thing... How powerful this play was, maybe more powerful than a direct interaction could have been... Maybe. I kept thinking what it would be like to dance with him. Well, I didn't find out. That tango god never came down from his pedestal to dance with a mortal. And I wasn't willing to hang out there forever to find out if that was going to happen.

We headed off to Porteno y Bailarin with a bunch of other people from the El Beso crowd, we were told Alberto Podesta, the living legend, was singing that night! The place was packed, of course. We fought the crowd and headed to the back salon to get a table. We were starving at that point as we had skipped dinner. It happened so that Alberto Podesta had just finished his set and headed over toward us as his table with his whole entourage was right next to ours. People followed to get photos and autographs. Eva happened to be right in his path. He looked at her and smiled and seemed to be expecting some words of praise. Eva didn't really know what to say or rather how to say it, so she kept saying Gracias! Gracias! He gave her a kiss on the cheek and said "No, gracias a vos!". I snapped a photo of them together, beautiful!

We ordered a few empanadas without having great expectations, but they turned out to be the best empanadas we had tasted so far! We had to scarf them down as men were gathering around our table - it was funny, we didn't even have time to eat. It was a great night of dancing. While Eva was dancing with a porteno, who was shorter than her (unusual being the petite girl that she is), she looked over and saw Eduardo, the taxi dancer she hired on her last trip. They greeted each other with a kiss and he told her he had the video that a whole tv crew from Germany took of them dancing then. He said he would call her to make arrangements the next day. She wasn't sure she even wanted to see her dancing back from those beginner days.

Eduardo danced a few tandas with Eva. He then asked me to dance. I was becoming slowly aware that the guy was putting the moves on me! He knew Eva was not interested in hiring him any more or going any further with their acquaintance. I was the next prey. He showed everything he was capable of on the dance floor. Since he was a really good dancer, I didn't mind going along for a while. It was fun, although challenging too, to follow all his fancy moves and steps. This was actually the only time that I did the whole spectrum of "performance tango steps"; we even gathered a crowd. The fact remains this was not the tango you would normally see at the milongas in BsAs, and thank God - as much as i was fascinated by that as a beginner, I now grew to know what tango is really about. So when he decided to use the heat of the moment to kiss me as we were dancing, I was pretty much done. What was he thinking?! After all, that initial blind beginner fascination was long gone. A real vulnerable time for every tanguera, where you're easily seduced by the skills of a good leader. Thank God! Slimy Eduardo!

Eva's pilot/Greek God found her again, it was cute to watch that scene all over again. Eva and I danced some more with a few locals but the night was winding down. We left at 4:30am. Back home, early morning bird songs in the background...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Buenos Aires - Day 3

Our plan today, Comme Il Faut then afternoon tea at the Palace Alvear Hotel. We've been so looking forward to this day. I even had dreams of sitting on the plush seat in the showroom waiting for the stacks of brand new shoes to float out of their stock room. Finally the day has come, where our feet will meet their new lovers.

When we arrived at the showroom, there were several people trying on shoes. We took our seats and then two sales ladies came out to ask for our sizes. Malena's stack of shoes came out first. I had fun sorting through her selections. Finally, my stack came out 5 minutes later. I fell in love instantly when she opened the first box. Pretty black lace on pink satin. I don't normally wear pink shoes but this was a very wearable nude pink and they just screamed Agent Provocator when I put them on. Hmmm, how practical! I looked through the rest of the boxes but nothing jumped out at me. A couple of traditional black strappies and some flashy neon colors in patent leather. I asked what else she had hiding in the back room. She disappeared for a few minutes and returned empty handed. "Sorry, we do not have in your size." Hmmm, she must be lying! How is it possible they only had 6 pairs of shoes in my size instock?? I asked her to please check again. "Sorry, your size is all sold out. You can come Friday... we'll have more shoes Friday." Malena ended up buying two pairs she wasn't totally in love with. Needless to say, we left there a slightly disappointed.

I tried to cheer Malena up and asked if she was ready for our fabulous afternoon tea. "Yeah, I guess so.", She replied with a pout. It’s funny but I knew what that meant. I hailed a taxi and said, "Come on, we're not done yet." Neo Tango wasn't that far away and their selection hadn’t really changed much since I was there in May. Their styles were trendy and I still don’t feel the construction is as sturdy as CIFs. Malena half heartedly bought one pair. We left the store even more disappointed. How can this be??? We flew eleven hours for some kickass one of a kind tango shoes! This can't be!!! Then it hit me... Raquel shoes! A new brand designed by a tanguera from the south of France. I remembered they'd just opened their first store in BsAs. I flipped through our B.A. Tango magazine....Viola! there it was. I hailed another taxi.... "Arenales 1974, por favore."

When we arrived at the showroom on the third floor, we were greeted by a lovely older gentleman, who turned out to be Raquel's husband. He gave us the lowdown on how Raquel started her business and talked about the wonderful milongas they host weekly in their home in the south of France. The styles were stylish and sophisticated but definitely not flashy. I was surprised by the comfort of these shoes... my feet didn't teeter one bit. I was told that each new style is "milonga tested" by Raquel herself. When I was trying on a pair of red suede mary janes, he took me by the hand and we danced in the showroom. He was so delightful that he made me forget where I was. He finally had to say, "Hmm... you might want to look in the mirror to see the shoes while we're dancing." But of course! Why else would we be dancing in a shoe store with no music at 4:30 in the afternoon???

We got so carried away buying shoes that we were 30 minutes late for our tango lessons. Maestro was annoyed because he had to be somewhere. We walked in like two guilty little kids... looking down while clutching our bags of goodies. We had to break open our new shoes because we didn't have enough time to stop by the apartment. Maestro was kidding around and said, "Let me wear my fuzzy slippers, so I don't ruin your new shoes." It started out as a joke but, as it turned out, the fuzzy slippers didn't really interfere with our lessons, so we let them stay. They were a pair of fuzzy monster feet, black with red claws. My favorite part was when he lead the sandwich. It was mighty warm and toasty!

Since we skipped afternoon tea, we were both starving and super cranky. After our lessons, we dropped off the bags at the apartment then ran to a local restaurant in Las Canitas, Campo Bravo. That is where we inhaled our first real parilla dinner with a bottle of red. We tried to figure out what part of the cow each piece of meat came from but by that point we were just too hungry to care. Must admit the mystery meat was delicioso! We topped off dinner with a nice plate of crepe con dulce de luce.

Tonight's destination; Saloon Canning. We hopped into taxi and noticed our taxi driver right away... he had the most beautiful green eyes. It turns out he also tangos and said he might stop by after his shift. We arrived at 12:00am and the place was packed. We spotted Ney Melo, Robin Thomas, Rebecca Shulman, many tourists from New York. Gabriel Misse performed that night. When we sat down, the guy from London, whom we had empanadas with the night before, approached our table. He went straight for Malena. He asked her if she is from Russia because she has those distant eyes... "ohh so present but yet so far far away." Malena was speechless and I wanted to burst out laughing. They left the table to dance while I ordered our champagne. A couple of guys that I danced with from last night came by and kissed me hello on the cheek. I love being a part of this tango community. You share a few dances and some idle chats with a total stranger then you're automatically friends.

It was a lay back night. We danced a few tandas and chilled with our champagne. At about 3:00am, we watched our cute taxi driver stroll in. He said hello to someone then surveyed the room but then turned around and left. We would have said hello but we felt it was best to leave early, since we have our lessons at noon the next day. Got into bed completely restless ... hmmm, Ambien to the rescue!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Buenos Aires - Day 2

We woke up at 11:45am, not by choice anyway. Lesson at our apartment at 12pm. Maybe not the best of ideas. Note to self; Lack of sleep = Trouble walking and thinking at the same time. Especially not good for working on embellishments. Pivot with decoration... pivot without decoration... change direction. Again, walk... now with decoration in the front... then in the back, front, back... Heeeeeelp!!!! This was one of those times when I really didn't think very highly of my capacities, dancing or mental. My mind was spinning. Maestro was probably thinking, "What in the world did I get stuck with teaching??!" Although he was very reassuring and sweet..."Well, it happens, we all have these days, it's normal but it sinks in even without you knowing it." Yeaaah, right! Turns out Eva had the same experience. Well, now we know that in BsAs noon is early early morning for us.

While Eva was having her lesson, I ran across the street and got us cafe con leche y cuatro medialunas... para llevar! (Spanish rapidly improving!) This will hold us over until we get to Recoleta. We wandered about the market at Plaza Francia. Got a set of beautiful leather coasters. Only second day here and we are already shopping. Nice! In the middle of our stroll, we realized we needed more cash, as markets don't take credit cards, at least not yet. We were told there was an ATM right around the corner. Hmm, which corner?? We saw a security guy in front of the building. "Donde esta el cajero automatico?", said Eva (did I mention her Spanish was well above mine, and sounded so cute!). He didn't speak a word of English but spoke español muy rápido, which did not help at all - we were completely bewildered. He then decided to take matters into his own hands and this was the beginning of our being escorted throughout the neighbourhood to three ATMs; all non-working. Cajero Autmatico – no denero x 3. He patiently guarded us while we both tried inserting our bank cards into each machine. In the meantime, he began to make attempts to get Eva's number (duh, why else would he be walking around Recoleta escorting two foreigners to no end!). She played stupid and said, "No entiendo." But when he made it so clear that everyone in our surrounding got it, she finally said "No hay telephono, lo siento!", smiling widely at him. Anyway, the fourth ATM was our lucky charm (never rely on getting money from an ATM on a Sunday). We bid him goodbye and decided we were exhausted enough to sit down for a drink and a bite to eat.

We strolled into the first restaurant that looked appealing, actually a very cute place! What do you know, there is a happy hour in BsAs too! We decided on champagne and ordered a few appetizers. Delicioso! Mediterranean bruschetta, chicken kebab of some sort with peppers and a yummy sauce and fried cheesy potato things. We were tired, so the champagne kicked in pretty quickly. We started giggling and got progressively happier by the minute. This is when it was decided - champagne for the rest of the trip! We wanted to keep the bubbly mood going. Well, no problems there.

We hopped into a cab in an excellent mood - so relaxed, mellow, and smiling! The fact that we were far away from everything that had to do with our everyday lives, in a beautiful country where you could dance tango any time of the day, was sinking in and beginning to exhilarate us. There was a silent pact between us to enjoy this for all it was and to fully immerse ourselves in the moment. Everything else but now was becoming a blur. If I have to describe a perfect state of well-being, this was it! So since we were already all set with a sim card and could communicate with the world, on our way home we got a call from a Sebastian, one of the massage guys. We didn't remember at this point who was who anymore - was it the Sebastian with a massage table or the one without. I hear Eva picking up the phone: Hola, Sebastian! You are in front of the building? Now? Oh, we'll be right there!" How was it 18:30 pm already?? She hangs up the phone and I asked the only question on my mind at that minute, "Did he bring a table?" Ok, that started a new giggling fit and we could hardly breathe when we got out of the taxi. It was impossible to keep a straight face at the sight of him and for the next couple of hours for that matter.

OK... not as cute as his picture, but he was so sweet! Ingles no muy buen, so that made things even funnier. Try to explain to a masseuse how you like your massage with no language in common and post two glasses of afternoon champagne was just plain ludicrous! So Sebastian did have a table after all and he started setting up in the living room. He then turned to Eva, asked her something, motioning washing hands and washing arms. She looked at him amazed: "Do you want to shower?!". At the sound of that, I burst out laughing uncontrollably and ran into the kitchen not being able put any sort of remotely serious look on my face. The guy got utterly embarrassed and said something to the effect of "Well, if you want me to..." Turns out he was asking for the bathroom to wash his hands. All three of us just couldn't stop laughing from there on. Even well into Eva's massage, she was still giggling on the table while Sebastian kept repeating the word 'shower' and was trying to explain that misunderstandings happen a lot during first sessions. He also practiced Reiki and kept saying to Eva in broken English "Your head very strong, your heart very relaxed." She wasn't entirely sure what that meant. I was upstairs on the balcony having a cigarette while still not being able to stop laughing myself. It had been awhile since my stomach hurt from laughing. The massages were great nevertheless. They do wonders especially when you have to get ready for another marathon on your feet. Off for 2 hour nap before dinner and milonga.

Porteno Y Bailarin tonight. It turned out to be our favorite place. We were a bit nervous as this clearly wasn't a place like La Viruta - here the cabeceo seemed to be in full play. No sooner were we seated (after some back and forth with the guy in charge, he was so nice to us!), Eva was invited to dance. I followed, but didn't have great luck. I realized there are bad dancers in Argentina too! Thankfully, much fewer and farther between. I survived the first tanda and just when I thought no one will ever ask me to dance again, this old old man came and motioned me in the quieter back room. I followed while realizing that he was at least ninety, if not a hundred years old (I am quite serious). It was one of the most beautiful and authentic tandas I have ever had. He was tiny, much shorter than me, shaky, and even though his shirt was scuffed up at the collar edges, he was wearing a suit and a hat and looked very presentable! And, most importantly, so full of life! We must have made an interesting couple - people were looking at us and smiling. It was incredible! In the meantime Eva was dancing with a 6'4" Greek pilot and the tiny thing that she is, it looked like she was dancing with Daddy! She was reaching high for his shoulders and he was carrying her around like a feather. She asked him in between songs if he's ever had any trouble fitting into the cockpit. Perfectly reasonable question.

As the night progressed we got a much better table, closer to the dance floor. The table next to us was occupied by a big crowd - Javier Rodrigues, Andrea Misse, and a bunch of other people (among which there was, as Eva put it, a hot hot hot hot guy!) were celebrating Gabriel Misse's birthday. What are the chances of that happening! It was surreal. You go to a random milonga and get to hang out at the same place with some of the best dancers there are! Just like that. Then we saw Gabriel's birthday dance. All the girls in that big group danced tango like it was nothing. In their casual shoes and clothes, but my God, they looked like they were born dancing!

It was a good night, with great dancers. Towards the end we both danced with this gentleman from London. Interesting character. Architect, working out of Buenos Aires for two months out of the year. And dancing every night of course. Where do we sign up for that, I would like to know???
The three of us left together around 4:30 am and found a little place nearby where we sat down for a quick round of empanadas.

When we got home the birds were already out and about. Chirping away, kind of loud actually! I don't think I have known another place where you could hear the birds like that... How do you fall asleep with this going on?! It was something we would have had to get used to.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Buenos Aires - Day 1

Our trip to Buenos Aires was one of the best vacations I've ever taken.

Here're my top 5 reasons.

1) I had the best travel partner ever....

Dear Darling Malena, thank you for being you. You're one of those people who have no idea just how beautiful they are. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. I'm so thankful that tango has brought us together. We must book our next BsAs trip soon but I have only one request... can you please lighten up on the luggage next time??

2) No schedules (except for tango lessons and massages). It was all about me, me, me... without an ounce of guilt. For one week, we lived as if life didn't exist outside of BsAs.

3) No boys... and kept flirting to a minimal. (wink)

4) We had at least one good belly laugh per day.

5) Our days were filled with champagne & dulce de leche and our nights, champagne and tango.

Day 1

Stepped outside the airport and felt a chill in the air. Damn, we only packed summer clothes! Ok, sleeping on the plane just plain sucks... have neck cramps and feel puffy all over from the 11 hour flight. We arrived at our ultra girly duplex apartment in Las Canitas and met Eugenia, the rental manager. She was so sweet and wonderful. She even offered to help us get the three items we so desperately needed (a sim card for my cellphone, a hair dryer, and an adaptor).

The apartment. Antique white and pale lilac walls, each rooms tastefully decorated with a posh mix of antique furniture and modern touches. We stepped outside our balcony (one on each floor) and heard the birds chirping away. Realizing our first tango lesson was in just 3 hours, we decided to get some lunch at the corner restaurant. Ahhh! Our first cup of cafe con leche and jamon y queso sandwiches.

Our first lesson. We had initially wanted to take privates all week with Geraldine but at the last minute decided to spend the money on expanding our tango shoe collection instead. So we opted to go with someone less well known but came highly recommended to us by several tango friends. He was a delight and we spent our first lesson getting to know each other and talked about what we wanted to work on for the week. Neither Malena or I like to get too technical when it comes to tango. We are not one of those people who takes notes and breakdown every move mathematically. We'd rather not rationalize too much but spend the time repeating the right movements and letting it sink into our muscle memory. Before we left him, we ask if he could help us make a phone call to our masseuse, whom didn't speak a word of english. Several weeks back, we found an ad for a masseuse name Sebastian on Craiglist. I responded to the ad but didn’t get a response. The next day I noticed another ad with the same name. Thinking it was the same person, Ms Smartypants decided to try writing again, but this time I send it to both email addresses from the two ads. Later that day, I received two different responses in Spanish with references and contact numbers. It didn't occur to me that they were from two different people till the day we were leaving. I received an email from one of the Sebastians, this time in english (w/ help from a friend), questioning the other email address. This started a battle between the two sebastians. One said the other was on his tail trying to steal his clients, while the other one accused him of being an unqualified masseuse because he doesn’t even own a massage table. Malena and I had a discussion and decided to go with Sebastian #2, the one without qualifications and massage table. Why? because we saw his photo and he is hot. (wink)

After our lesson, we decided to get a small bite before getting ready for our first milonga. Pizza and empanadas. We went to the pizzaria downstairs from the apt. I walked up to the counter and said, "Cuatro empanadas con carne, Una pizza y una pizza napoli, por favor." The bill came out to 20+pesos. We paid it and started to wonder why pizza was so expensive in BsAs. 5 minutes later, we decided to check the menu and realized he thought we'd wanted one pizza pie each. It took us 15 minutes to explain we only wanted 1 slice of pizza and 2 small empanadas each. The guy behind the counter gave us back our change and we left there with 3 slices and 4 empanadas. Ok... not bad for our first attempt. We picked up a bottle of red on the way home. Pizza y empanadas con vino rojo para cena. Malena giggled while she ate her empanada and said, "These things are good!" Apparently, It was her first empanada... ever. It was a kodak worthy moment... so I snapped our first photo in BsAs.

Off to La Viruta. It was more of a disco than a milonga with mixed music. We went there because we heard Color Tango was playing that night. The place was already packed when we arrived at 11:30pm. We were definitely too elegantly dressed for the place. A lot of the younger women were in jeans and skimpy tops. The minute we sat down, we noticed a few men started to gather by our table. We were anxious and excited to receive our very first cabeceo. I glanced at the men around me a few times but mostly kept my eyes on the dance floor. What can I say, maybe it's a cultural thing but I was definitely not that comfortable with the idea of staring at a stranger for more than a second. While I was observing the dance floor, I felt a "tap tap tap" on the right shoulder, then I heard a man say “Bailar tango???” He was a porteno in his 50's... so I nodded, got up from my seat and started my week of Tang-a-thon.

Color Tango came on around 1:30am. A tall, dark and handsome man in a dark suit gave Malena the cabeceo. Malena danced three songs then excused herself because she was worried that he was being polite and was waiting for her to say thank you. We knew that dancing more than one tanda with someone might be misconstrued for romantic interest but what do you do when an orchestra is playing and there is no cortina to mark the end of a tanda??? She sat down and pouted, so I encouraged her to give him the cabeceo later. La Viruta was a decent size venue and he was the only well dressed good looking man in the place (that we noticed). She waited and looked his way several times but he seemed to be busy dancing with other women. After that, I decided not to follow the codigo and danced with the same man while Color Tango was performing their second set. They were outstanding, the energy in the room was electrifying, the sound was mesmerizing. My partner was an older tanguero with the most comfortable embrace and a soft but clear milonguero lead. I closed my eyes and danced with a smile on my face. Every fiber in my body was excited by the music, each movement executed from my core. Wow, after months of anticipation, we're finally here. I was so happy and filled with unexpected emotions that my eyes started to swell up. I don't think I've ever fully understood what "living in the moment" meant till then.

We left around 4:30am. We were hungry and wandered around our neighborhood looking for media lunas but nothing was open. We noticed a man in red car watching us, circling our block several times. Yikes! Still in our 4 inch CIF stilettos, we ran back to our apt. Ugh! Must sleep! Have to wake up at 11:30am for lesson 2.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tango Soulmates

What is it that makes these very few people special partners to us? I've been trying to understand why I am drawn to a particular dancer as opposed to another with seemingly similar skills. There are good leaders out there who, alas, we just don't seem to be able to connect with on a deeper level, and then there are the ones whose sole purpose for the duration of the tanda seems to be making us the center of their dance.

I am coming to the realization that certain people's style and feel for tango, in combination with the chemistry of course, simply bring out the best in us as dancers. Is it a matter of compatability, just like in real-life relationships? All of us have noticed that the way we dance can be very different depending on the leader, almost as if belonging to different people, both in terms of skills and style. These few special partners give us the power of their lead, yet grace us with the right amount of freedom for expression. And weave into our expression in turn. The woman. The leader. Then together. Like a special conversation, an aria, or a Shakespearean dialogue...

In his arms I move in a way I never knew I could and I feel the symphony of movements with every fiber of my body. The music reaches my very soul and resonates with my being, now I am truly discovering it as if for the first time and it becomes an intricate part of me. I perform embellishments I never thought I could or was even aware of - now they are drawings of a feeling and not just a spice to my movements. In other words, I dance my best dance. It's light, effortless, I have never felt more in my element before (who said our most natural movement is walking?!) Not for a second I feel timed, controlled, confined or corrected. Rather, I am allowed to be truly myself. No, not allowed. Encouraged! All so naturally, he brings out my true self through his movements, the look in his eyes, his breathing, his heartbeat, through his presence in that very moment. It feels as if we carry the world's existence upon this perfect connection.

And then I understand why people say that when you dance tango there is no past, no future. Everything other than the present disappears in the background. There is only now. Somehow this person makes me open up completely. And bloom, yes, like a flower. I can hear Nora Jones's voice...
Yes, there are these dancers who reach and turn on that light inside of us. Our lost tango other halves who we will always be searching for...

I was sharing these chaotic thoughts with a good friend of mine and after patiently hearing me out, he said: Honey, are you sure you are talking about dancing?
I had to laugh, but I hope this makes at least some sense to someone... Or am I in this too deep...

Xoxo, Malena

Friday, November 02, 2007

Que Es Esto??!!!

Hola amigas y amigos!

Just came across this video and I am curious as to what you all think. Didn't quite know what to make of it at first, I was fairly stunned. One of the good tango dancers once said that there are no styles in tango and that the only style that exists is tango. Yes, it's all about feeling and having fun, and one shouldn't be judgemental, but this has got to be something else!

Saludos, Malena

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What is tango?

Tango is a mode of transportation.
Tango is a conversation with legs.
Tango is Tai-Chi for two, Akido for two, yoga for two, a martial art for two, with music.
Tango is a three-minute romance.
Tango is a Way in the world, a state of mind, an art, a religion, an addiction.
Tango begins when you decide to live in another country in another time in your mind, while continuing to function in the life you are living.
When people speak of tango they use words like love, passion, fear, desire, sorrow, exile, longing, and anguish. No other social dance form is described with these words. It is not completely true that it takes two to tango. It takes three. An audience. Witnesses.
Tango is a syndrome, a gestalt.
Tango is a sad thought that can be danced.
Tango expresses and creates exile.
Tango is a ritual of encounters and separations.
Tango is the music, the lyrics, the instruments, and the dance - they cannot be separated.
Tango is whatever a milonguero or milonguera says it is for them.
Tango is Argentina.

By Robert Fulghum, copyright 2007
The Continuing Chronicles of Senor Don Roberto Juan Carlos Fuljumero y Suipacha

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tango Dresses (Pretty in Lace)


1. Champagne Cocktail Dress (Gorgeous black tulle detail throughout this strapless.)

2. Lay of the land Dress (Love the scallop lace at neck/hem-line. pretty shade of moss green.)

3. Soft Focus Dress (Old fashion glamour and romance, love the lace details and color.)

4. Meadow-Brown Dress (A-line dress with tulle and a sexy but wearable bustline.)

5. Night Falls Dress (Love the dotted-lace cap sleeves with pretty sash in the back.)

1-5 available at Anthropologie

6. Sexy Red Dress by Giselle James (It's satin, it's lace and it's RED. Need I say more?)

7. Dina Bar-el Lace Cocktail Dress (Sexy & elegant cocktail number from all angles.)

8. Lux in Between Days Dress (Sexy delicate crochet cutouts on neckline, back and hemline.)

9. Alexia Admor Dress (great asymmetrical lace hemline at a great price)

10. Tadashi Lace Illusion Dress (Gorgeous dress...especially from the back!)

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Kiss

I watched Cinema Paradiso again today. I am not the type of girl who cries over hallmark commercials but this movie gets me every time. It has one of the most beautiful film scores ever composed by Ennio Morricone.

Now tell me... when was the last time you kissed like that?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Revenge is Sweet

It finally happened at a milonga this past weekend. I know he's been watching me for the past 5 months. I have moved on since that painful and disappointing day. I was a new and naive kid on the block, getting picked on by a senior bully on the playground. I guess it never crossed my mind then that this sort of thing could happen on the social dance floor.

He was watching me; watching and waiting for that perfect song and that perfect moment. The second song of the tanda had just started when he got up from his seat across the room. He actually walked across the middle of the dance floor, while people were dancing. (talk about not respecting the line of dance.) I tried not to look directly at him, but I could sense him approaching with my peripheral vision.

"Oh my, I think The Tan-Ego is about to ask me to dance."

I've played out this scenario in my mind many times. Each time I saw him at a milonga, I knew it was just a matter of time before we'd meet again. The community isn't THAT big and I was making improvements in my dancing. There were so many things I wanted to say to him(...and do to him!)

A) I could be angry.

"What did you ask me you little f#@ker? Why don't you put on your Comme Il Fauts and dance with a pole instead!!!"

B) Kill him with kindness for the greater good of all mankind.

"Hi there, I don't know if you remember me but we met 5 months ago. I was a newbie and you were a bit hard on me. You may not have realized it but I was really hurt and it made me cry. Please be gentle with your comments to the beginners in the future. For the sake of preserving the art of tango, let's work together to build and expand this tango community. With that said, let's make up and enjoy this beautiful dance together."(head tilted and batting my eyelashes)


Ugh! He's coming closer... only 4 seconds to decide!

(4...... 3...... 2...... 1)

"Would you like to dance?"

I was aware that the people around me were also watching him walk across the crowded moving dance floor. So I looked him in the eyes, paused then said in a clear voice,

"No, thank you."

He looked surprised then walked away with his tail between his legs. My impulse would have chosen response A, but I knew it was best to treat him like any other guy, whom I have no interest in dancing with. I also wanted him to feel the rejection that he so feared. He certainly wouldn't have felt that rejection, if he knew I was rejecting him because he had hurt my feelings. It is not up to me to help him fix his issues. I am just a tanguera, who wants to dance with her eyes closed.

After my final encounter with the Tan-Ego, I smiled and danced without a break for four sweet sweet hours. : )

Friday, October 12, 2007

Which side of the brain do you use most?

This is a great Right Brain vs Left Brain Test!

Ok ready?

Now click on this photo...
Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

Most of us would see the dancer turning counter-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

I'm curious to see the results of this poll from you tangueros and tangueras.

* Please vote when you are done.

* For those of you, who didn't get enough, here's a more in-depth Right/Left Brain test.

It's free but just remember to click "Skip all Offers" at the top of the page when you are done to get your results.

FINAL POLL RESULTS: (based on 33 votes)
51% Right Brain
30% Left Brain
18% Both

(Hmm....does this conclude that people who dance tango are more right brained??)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Good Leaders, Where Art Thou??!!

Help!! There is a serious shortage of decent leaders in our city!!!

As a follow up to Eva's last post - we thought we were having a temporary dry moment in our usual tango exhilaration, but I am beginning to get really discouraged! Just came back from the only afternoon milonga in the city, which I went to with the thought that it might be good idea to try a new milonga. I had heard it's informal and laid-back, so I figured maybe this is where the good dancers (who are unpretentious and dance for the sake of dancing) could be found. My hopes were shattered as soon as I got off the elevator and headed to the studio. I overheard a woman telling her friend to just turn around and not waste her time. What a disaster indeed! There were few men to begin with, and all the wrong ones at that. I must have danced with two of the worst dancers there, before a somewhat decent but still beginner-intermediate leader asked me to dance. Well, he was as good as it got there. I left after less than an hour. I simply refuse to be jerked around like a rag doll and to be led by men who are musically deaf anymore. I guess the days when we would be happy to dance with almost anyone are far gone. Is this what they call the curse of the good dancer? There are just very few people whom we enjoy dancing with nowadays. Don't get me wrong, I don't consider myself a tango goddess by any means! There is so much to learn. But we enjoy the hard work we put into learning this dance, and at this point, we just refuse to put up with leaders who are on the dance floor for the wrong reasons.

To all the tangueros out there, please keep studying! Why do most men assume that once they get the basics, and can move around the floor without bumping into every couple, they can just stop improving?? No, no, no! You need to keep at it... dear leaders! And as an added benefit to becoming a good dancer, you will have all the power of being "highly sought after". Do you know to what lengths followers will go to dance with a good leader?? On that note, if I can give one word of advice to any guy who is pondering over what hobby to take up, it would be: Learn to tango! Put all your effort into becoming a good dancer and this may change your life around. I am not joking.

Since it takes much longer for men to improve then for women, what do we do in the meantime? Who do we dance with??? I don't know if you tangueras out there have noticed, but I keep seeing a lot of female leaders at milongas lately. I actually danced with a tanguera last week, who was a better leader than a lot of the men present at the milonga. It was refreshing... she was such a joy! Coincidental or have we decided to take matters into our own hands?? I am far from promoting the idea and I happen to prefer being in the embrace of a man because I do feel tango is essentially about the connection between a man and a woman. After all this is how it's meant to be. But why do these women show such initiative and dedication in learning the art of leading, while some men don't seem to care at all? How could they love tango and be satisfied with being lousy dancers?

Still hopeful,

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tango Angels

The dreaded tango dry-spells. The love is gone. I've read about them, but haven't experienced it till now. It's been over a month since I've lost my dancing mojo. (Maybe I lost it at that awful milonga from four weeks ago.) Like a relationship turning stagnant; the excitement is gone because my lover's moves have become all too predictable. What happened??? Am I over that beginner's high, where almost every dance feels brand spanking new??? Well, it's been almost a year now since I started and the dancers I once thought was so fabulous are no longer that fabulous. What's changed? Is it because I've gotten to know them better and I'm feeling too comfortable? Because I'm constantly finding myself picking apart their techniques and secretly wishing they could hear my thoughts.

TO: T1
"I like you. You're a really nice man but you sweat too much and it smells like vomit."

TO: T2
"If only you would pay more attention to the music and worry less about your STUPID little steps."

TO: T2 (yes, you again.)
"You could take a longer pause here, the music is screaming.. slow the FCUK down!!!"

"You're leading a little too much with your right hand on the giros and the back boleos, it feels jerky... YOU BIG JERK!!!"

"Don't you're standing too fcuking close to me when you lead the crusada??? I just sliced my toe open on the hard tip of your big shoe...for the fifth time!!!"

Don't get me wrong, there are good things about their dancing that I do enjoy but I am just feeling that enjoyment is slowly dwindling away. So the big question is what has changed? Could it be that they have reached their plateau, while my dancing has improved? Does this mean I should start saying no to my friends at the milongas, so I can make room for new tangueros, even though I do notice a lot of the decent tangueros only dance with THEIR friends???

I was determined to get out of this funk last week, so Malena and I went to our usual milonga. We sat watching for a while before I turned to her and said, "It's not getting better, is it? What should we do? Do we take a break from tango?" I paused. "Hmm, maybe we could do something else." I then realized just how absurd that sounded because Malena gave me a look and said, "What else IS there to do???"

This past month has been bad. I know it's bad because I've had my eyes opened most nights while I was dancing. I was so bored that I was checking out other people's shoes. I mean I might as well have been filing my nails or even better... his nails. Almost every dance I had, the same thought ran through my mind, "What a waste of a good pair of CIFs!" ( was THAT bad.)

My maestro showed up that night and I tried to hide from him. I was worried that he would be disappointed in me if he knew I've lost my desire to dance. Anyways, he spotted me when he was dancing and even stopped in between songs to give me a kiss hello. (I just adore that man.) While we danced that night, I told him I didn't know what was wrong but I just wasn't feeling it. He said to me sweetly, "I know, Niña. Try to be here, be in the now, enjoy me, but dance for yourself and not for anyone else."

"Dance for yourself and not for anyone else" (I repeated it to myself)

"Dance for yourself and not for anyone else." (with my eyes closed)

So I blocked out every single person in that room; the dancers dancing; the dancers sitting; the spectators in the corner enjoying their wine. I closed my eyes, listened to the music, listened to his lead, listened to his body, listened to my body and I listened to it's natural impulses. I breathed him in, melted into his embrace, torso to torso, I allowed him to enter into my space. I forget how subconsciously guarded I can be sometimes. But hey, who can blame us when there're all kinds of strange looking creeps lurking at milongas. In the arms of my maestro, I felt safe and we danced two more tandas like this. I exhaled deeply... Pheewww! I could finally breath again! I smiled and gave him a big hug and a kiss for bringing this little tanguera back to life.

Strange but true, when I went to look for Malena to tell her the good news, I found her in a close embrace with HER former maestro, who interestingly also showed up at this milonga and revived her as well. By the time the lovefest ended, it was midnight. We both left the milonga smiling and laughing for the first time in a month. I'm still amazed at what a difference that evening made in our moods. Hey, perhaps the Tango Gods heard our cries and decided to send his tango angels to our rescue.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tango Dérive, Williamsburg Bridge

Tango Intervention
New York, New York , 9/16/07
12 Couples dance 2.1 miles from Tenement Musuem on the Lower East Side to Conflux Festival Headquarters at 84 Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg.

Here are the photos from this event.