Sunday, March 5, 2017

Dangerous Experiences

We just bought tickets to see the renowned French countertenor Phillippe Jaroussky in concert with Les Violons du Roy at Koerner Hall in April.  We are very excited about this concert.  We both love opera and Phillippe Jaroussky is one of the best, if not the best countertenor in the world right now.  Other countertenors may sign higher or louder but we haven't heard any who can sign with the same kind of beauty, artistry and emotion as Phillippe.  Just listen to this gorgeous Vivaldi aria!

"I'd like to make a comment about 'higher and louder'," said Man Yung.  "What would you prefer to watch, one of those fast and furious acrobatic tango performances with complicated flinging, high kicks but no feeling, or the simple dancing of the old milongueros which is filled with musicality and passion?"

I happen to know lots of people who love the former and not the latter!  There's nothing more exciting than watching the tango equivalent of someone being shot out of a cannon through a ring of fire over an erupting volcano with TNT strapped to their bodies.  But I digress.

I actually hesitated quite a bit before I bought the tickets.  Not because they were expensive, or because we didn't have time to go.  No.  I hesitated to buy the tickets because hearing Phillippe Jaroussky sing live may very well KILL Man Yung.

I don't have a problem with being overcome with something so lovely I would keel over on the spot.  I did start sweating a bit when I first heard Phillippe Jaroussky sing in a video on Youtube, but that was about it.  Man Yung, on the other hand - I thought he was having a heart attack!  Turned out to be indigestion, but it was indigestion CAUSED by the utterly ravishing sound of Phillippe Jaroussky's singing. 

There are actually a couple of things that Man Yung has said he will not be able to withstand any more at his age.  An exhibition of Modigliani's paintings.  Beethoven's 3rd Symphony.  Any more pet cats.  I just hope that a Phillippe Jaroussky concert won't prove to be dangerous to Man Yung's health.  Especially since he hasn't taken out a policy of life insurance (with me as a beneficiary) just to cover such a contingency.

This reminds me of something someone once told me about an old milonguero. Being quite advanced in age, there was quite a high chance that he would accomplish what every true milonguero wishes for - to die with a blissful smile on his face while dancing Tango.  He actually started a fund in case he would die dancing.  The unlucky/lucky lady who is dancing with him when he kicks the bucket would get the proceeds of the fund!  OK, it would probably be no more than $100 but still, it's the thought that counts. 

"Just think about it, Man Yung!  ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS!  I can probably get myself a nice lobster dinner.  And the happy milonguero would go to heaven while being in the heaven of my tango embrace!" I said.

"With the way YOU dance?" scoffed Man Yung.  "Impossible!  I think he would like to SURVIVE that experience and have better luck with the next lady."

Ha ha Man Yung.  Anyway, whether or not I or anyone else would die dancing Tango, it is a fact that Tango is full of dangerous, health and life-threatening experiences.  Just listen to these recent comments by Toronto Tangueros:

"OMG!  His embrace is like anaconda.  I think need a chiropractor.  He nearly crushed my neck into my spine!"

"Phew!  What a close call. That lady's high kick almost sliced my head open!"

"The DJ has been playing tinny rhythmic Canyengues ALL FRIGGIN' NIGHT.  It is so boring and monotonous, you might as well KILL me right now."

"Oh GAG!  I ALMOST DIED trying to hold my breath for 13 minutes.  For god's sake, hasn't he heard of something called DEODORANT?"

Friday, February 3, 2017

"But that's what everybody says!"

A Toronto Tanguero friend recently asked me for advice in a subject I knew really well in Tango.  I'm not going to say what topic it was, but trust me, I know my stuff.

In my experience, many people who ask for advice in Tango aren't seeking any.  More likely, they are looking for an opportunity to show off what they know.  Or they are looking for some kind of praise or validation.  My friend was sincere, he really wanted to hear what I had to say.  So I told him.

I explained as clearly and patiently as I could and gave my best, most honest counsel.  My friend listened attentively, but at the end, he exclaimed -

"But that's what everybody says!"

I was quite surprised to hear that everybody did say that.  And that that my friend had heard the same advice before from others.  Because, quite frankly, most people as far as I could see DID EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE.   And that includes my friend!

Investigation was in order and a quick google search resulted in cyberpages upon cyberpages of fantastic advice about Tango.  How to listen to the music.  How to dance with emotion.  How to embrace.  How to connect.  Written convincingly, beautifully, poetically.   Everybody an expert and all of them Shakespeare to boot.

An acquaintance once gave us a videotape with a documentary about Tango.  Couldn't really refuse her, she was so enthusiastic.  "It's like a poem, they way they talk about Tango.  You would love it!" she said. 

Ah, but I was born a cynic and didn't watch the video without any expectations.  And lo and behold, I was not pleasantly surprised either. 

Everyone spoke so enchantingly about Tango in the video, if they could dance their words, they would all be EVEN BETTER than the milongueros. 

Too bad the actual dancing was s***.

"Are these people really still TEACHING people to dance?" asked Man Yung when he turned the tv off in disgust.

Lots of people can talk the talk but not walk the walk.  Can't really even jiggle their legs to the beat even if you hit them over the head with it (to mix all the metaphors - I'm not one for writing beautifully.  Or grammatically.  Too frigging bad).  Man Yung has another golden phrase for this.

"EVERYONE says they listening to the music when they dance!  But quite a lot of them are NOT.  Just bloody look at them!"

You can test that out next time at your local milonga.  Go up to the people who are obviously dancing like they are deaf, and ask them if they are dancing to the music. They are not going to say that they are not!

"Oh look at that Man Yung and Irene!  Dancing like a couple of deaf prats.  Don't listen to them!"
"Yeah right... a couple of prats. IN 2007.  We are even BIGGER PRATS NOW!"

Once, a local instructor told us that he didn't dare watch any old videos of himself performing because it was so embarrassing and looked so bad.
We don't have such a problem.  Everybody looked crappy at one point - maybe they still do!  We are what we are.  No baggage and no need to burn the evidence!

Back to my friend.  Yes, perhaps he had heard it all before.  But why did he do the opposite? 

Turns out he did not really UNDERSTAND what that advice really meant.  I had drive it all home by mercilessly picking him apart.  And do it all again the next time I saw him.  And the next time.  And the next time.

He must be a real friend because 1) he let me pick him apart and 2) it really did sink in after a while.  100% better!  See, I know what I'm talking about.*

* Man Yung says, "The trouble with you, Irene, is that you are not ASSERTIVE enough.  You may know something 100%, but when you try to explain it, your wishy washiness makes you look like you only know 20%.  You have to make yourself look like AN EXPERT.  Look at me!  I may know something 20%, but my RADIANT CONFIDENCE makes me look like I am a PhD!" ** 

** Drum roll to eye roll.  "If they want to listen, they will.  No amount of overbearing posturing (or threatening bodily harm) will convince anyone if they are not receptive to your advice.  Don't waste your time or breath!"

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

...And what a bummer.

Honest Ed's closing its doors forever today.  We pass by this kitschy and beloved Toronto landmark at least once or twice a week on our way to one of the local milongas.  It's all going to be torn down to make way for a swanky new mixed commercial/residential development:

Goodbye Honest Ed's

Le Baron, our favourite camping and fishing store, also closed after 58 years in business.  We don't camp or fish (too busy tangoing) but we do like to wear warm winter parkas.  Can't afford to catch a cold in the middle of winter if we have all those milongas to go to! We got all our Canada Goose parkas there, we've been wearing them since the early 2000's, even before they became super trendy and everyone started wearing them.  We went to visit our friend Lily on the very last day to say goodbye - she sold us every single one of our coats.   So sad. 

 Goodbye Le Baron

We've been practising at Club 300 in Markham ever since Mad for Dance closed a copy of years ago.  It was a really outdated "cosmic bowling" bowling alley with a dance studio space - yeah, strange, but there you have it. Huge parquet floor, drop by anytime (except when there is a line dancing class going on) and just a five minute drive from home!  Some investors bought the building and are planning to turn it into - surprise - mixed residential commercial.  We had a fascinating eight months before the bowling alley closed for good of watching the building slowly crumble and turn derelict before our eyes.  Leaking from the ceiling, flooding, bits of parquet erupting out of the floor, lights being turned off to save energy etc.  Not much we can do except dress to the nines (well, me anyway) and practice among the ruins.  How Tango.

Yeah, yeah... I know, crappy.  But that was back in April!  I guarantee you that now, eight months later, I know 200% more steps, and dance 25% worse!


Goodbye Habeeba Dance Studios in Toronto.  We always enjoyed the lovely practicas and milongas held by Masha there.  Building already torn down to make way for condos.

And Goodbye Celia Blanco.  Lo de Celia, our favourite milonga in Buenos Aires, is not the same without her.

Alberto Dassieu


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