Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tango vs. Netflix

...And the chain-smoking philandering alcoholic Mad Men won!

Instead of going out to a milonga last night, we stayed in to watch Mad Men on Netflix.  Of course it wasn't just that watching Netflix was more tempting than an evening of "tango boogie" - there was 10 cm of snow and some freezing drizzle making the prospect of driving all the way downtown daunting.   And Man Yung had some kind of running nose/sniffles.  And I am fed up and tired out with all this bad weather and brutal slushy commutes to and from work all week.  And our cat has constipation and needs some heavy duty massage to poop.

HOWEVER we have to face the fact that bad weather and germs and fatigue and cat constipation didn't used to stop us from going out to tango before.  To illustrate, this was our list of non-work non-sleep activity priority as recent as 2015:

1.  Tango!
2.  Staying home because not feeling good/tired/snow storm/tornado
3.  Spending time with family because have to/birthday party/wedding/special occasion
4.  Going to a concert
5.  Eating out

This is the revised list of priority as of beginning of 2018:

1.  Staying home because not feeling good/tired/snow storm/tornado
2.  Tango!  
     (But sometimes tied with or losing to Netflix)
3.  Spending time with family because have to etc.
4.  Eating out
5.  Watching a robovac vacuum our carpet (We are too tired and old to sit through a 3 hour opera or 2 hour concert now).   After much deep thought, we have given our robovac the very original nickname of "Robot".  

Back way back when people would flock to the milongas because there wasn't anything but re-runs of Seinfeld and Friends on tv. But now Tango has some serious competition.  People have other "better" things to do, like sitting on their asses eating ice cream and chips while online shopping or binge watching shows on Netflix.

It's time for Tango to "try harder".  And it is. But I think, it's trying harder in all the wrong ways.  Like too many freakin' festivals/marathons and visiting tango teachers.  Too much exclusive obscure and no-body has played before frackin' "special" music.  And too much friggin' competition style tango.

I wouldn't be bored at all to go to a milonga to dance to the greatest hits of tango with dancers who have great embraces and who listen and express the music with their dancing.  I wouldn't give a s*** about Netflix if that was the case.

Instead I go to some red-hot Toronto milonga and I immediately regret not staying home to watch "Paul Blart Mall Cop 2".  About 90% of the dancers think they are top of the pops because they've gone to lots of workshops by "famous" dancers. They don't want to embrace and don't want to be embraced because 1) they want space to see what their feet are doing because they learned some really nifty! "Tango de la Pista!" steps and 2) they need space for their feet to do lots and lots of adornos. And they don't want to hear the same old stuff.  Bring on the Circus Music please!

Not like they are listening anyway they are too busy showing off, or putting 100% of their concentration into duplicating their workshop steps correctly and in the right sequence.  Recently, a couple dancing behind us was so engrossed in tango salon steppage, the leader stepped right on top of Man Yung's feet.

Unfortunately, I don't see that things are going to change in the near future. The people learning to dance now may be taking workshops on "Floorcraft" or "Dancing to music from _________ orchestra" or "Steps for dancing in a Milonga" but the people they are learning from don't have good floor craft, can't dance to any music from any orchestra with any meaning and moreover their steps aren't suitable for dancing in the milonga. So sue me.

Netflix costs $10.99 per month in Canada. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Gentleman

Came across this on one of my portable usb drives - it's a videoclip of me dancing Tango Salon with our Maestro and wonderful friend El Gallego Manolo after a class at Escuela Argentina de Tango in 2009:

After class with Martha and Manolo at Escuela Argentina de Tango, 2009

I used to cringe when I was watched it.  I screwed up so bad on some of the steps near the end! :-(

However my haircut was REALLY GOOD.  This was before my hair started to fall out from sheer frustration at having to learn to lead and not being able to do anything except turn to the left in endless circles.  And before I gained 15 lbs from homemade ice cream.  

After things like that one does not cringe anymore looking at one's past shitty dancing.  I am too busy admiring my lustrous hair and svelt figure in the video to cringe. 

"What I remember most about that video is that after you danced with Manolo, Manolo apologized for YOUR screw up!" said Man Yung.  "What a Gentleman!"

"Oh yeah, that's right!" I said, remembering.  Manolo is the epitome of a Gentleman.  He always makes sure that his jacket is buttoned when he gets up.  Opening doors for ladies.  Getting up from his seat and standing when someone is greeting him and kissing him hello.  His presence puts everyone at ease, he radiates confidence, courtesy, kindness and grace.

"Manolo is the perfect Gentleman, I agree.  Quite different from what I get from you!" I said to Man Yung.  "When I screw up following you, not only do you not apologize, you give me the evil eye!  And when YOU screw up following me, I apologize to you and you still give me the evil eye!"

"Ah, you know what they say," said Man Yung.  "Love means never having to say you are sorry!"*

*Yeah right! Love means I'M constantly apologizing.  And I've got dual British and Canadian citizenship which means I apologize at least 200% more! **

** Man Yung would like to say that since he is Cantonese Chinese Macho, he apologizes 200% less meaning there is a 400% apologizing deficit.  ***

*** He better treat me to a nice lunch and give me a foot massage because that's a reason for stabbing right there!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The good old days

Happy 2018 record breaking freezing temperatures!

We're entering our 15th year dancing tango!  This qualifies us to reminisce about the "good old days" and "way back when" of Toronto Tango like a couple of annoying old fogeys:

1.   When we started Tango, there were only a few milongas each week and on any given night, there would only be one milonga and not two or three competing ones and the whole of Toronto Tango would crowd into at that one event to kick each other in the shins.

Now there are plenty of milongas to choose from and milongas are less crowded, even deserted in some cases.  If you want a good shin kicking you have to choose to go to a milonga that has a super small space to dancer ratio, or super aggressive dancers, or both.

2.  Tango instructors would go to milongas of other tango instructors to dance with and try to steal students using their superior dance skills and/or smooth talking. People used to get pretty worked up and angry about student poaching!

Unfortunately this doesn't work very much any more, everyone has seen better dancing on Youtube and no-one is impressed by anyone's dancing or talking. 

3.  There wasn't a lot of tango information available back then.  Youtube did not exist and video footage of tango was limited to copies of Tango Shows and things that people copied off "Solo Tango" TV channel in Buenos Aires.  We were once given a videotape with snippets of choreographed pieces that were "dubbed" with tango music on top and the action had no relation to the soundtrack.  No wonder a lot of people danced like they couldn't hear the music!  That was what they saw on video and in shows and that was what their instructors saw too.

Now there really isn't any excuse because Youtube has lots of examples of great dancing to the music.  Dancers on the whole are better but strangely, some people still dance like they are deaf and they aren't even from those way back when days.

4.   You used to be able to get whole sets of video instruction from famous Argentinian tango dancers.  There was the "Asi se baila el Tango" by Mora Godoy and Osvaldo Zotto, "Asi se baila Milonga" by Pepito Avellaneda, "Asi baila Cayengue" by Martha Anton and Luis Grodona, "Un Tal Gavito" by Carlos Gavito and Marcela Duran, "Tango Estilo del Centro" by Daniel Lapadula and the Bridge to Tango series featuring old time dancers like Rodolfo and Maria Cieri, Petaca, Manolo El Gallego, Juan Bruno, Pupi Castello etc.

Getting the videos was not easy, you had to find trusted websites to order from or get them from stores in Buenos Aires either directly or from friends who were traveling there. The production values and the content on the videos were quite good.  A lot of thought and planning went into most of the videos in presenting a whole and complete - and unique - "systems" of dancing of the featured dancers.

I don't believe that instructors are producing these kinds of videos any more, it isn't worth it people can easily rip out footage and post on Youtube and no-one pays for any copyright.  Besides, search for any kind of step or movement you want to learn on Youtube and you will get hundreds of search results, who would bother paying now when you can get it for free?

5.  Back then, people used to travel a lot more to Buenos Aires and even planned to move and live there.

I don't think people are doing this as much any more.  Maybe it has become too expensive.  Or we are talking to people from the good old days more than people who started dancing recently.  The good old days people have seen the good old days of Tango in the 90's and early to mid 2000's in BAs and the Tango scene has changed so much since then   Most of the fantastic older dancers have died and a lot of the milonga venues have closed.

When we first went to Buenos Aires in 2007 there were some really good, interesting, unique dancers to watch on the dance floor and milongas that we would look forward to going.  It's not the same.  Things just don't seem to be as much fun. 

6.  There used to be only a handful of Tango Blogs and Tango websites.  Then there was an explosion of Tango Blogs.  In fact, at one time, we used to have like five or six regularly updated blogs by Toronto dancers.

Now, who even blogs anymore?  Are they Facebooking Tango blogging?  Or What'sapping Tango blogging?  Or Tweeting Tango Blogging?  Help me out here, I'm an technology ignorant old Tango fogey and I don't know what I'm talking about.

7. People used to be more excited about visiting Tango instructors.  Now they come so frequently and dance so much alike.

People used to care about the annual Tango Mundial thingy too.  Now we don't even remember who won...the last ten times.  Meh x Infinity.

8.  Remember we said New Tango is dead?  Yes, we were right!  Back then a whole bunch of people danced it recklessly on crowded floors to look cutting edge and cool.

If someone dances it now in the milonga, not only does it not look new, it looks anachronistic.*

* "WTF Irene, you are still talking about this?" asked Man Yung.  "That is so passé no one even talks about this anymore!"

If you feel like it, there's more old fogey reminiscing here.

Alberto Dassieu


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