Category Archives: Buenos Aires

La Divina: Andrea Misse

Andrea Misse & Husband

Husband & Wife

Like a warm, gentle, breeze, Andrea caressed our lives and was gone.* We mean our lives – Jani & Kristina.

We first met Andrea Misse briefly in February of 2009 when we were taking a private with Javier Rodriguez. During our first 8-month visit to Buenos Aires, we were particularly interested in learning from male teachers. And in this way, we never thought to take lessons from Andrea. However, when one of our lessons with Javier was just about up, Andrea stopped by. Javier insisted that she dance with Jani. At this time, Andrea was VERY pregnant and it was quite the experience to dance with her. Jani had trouble comprehending what he had just felt with Andrea, but he knew without a doubt that she was the most amazing woman he had ever danced with. Once the lesson was finished and Javier was bringing us downstairs, Jani told Javier that he couldn’t believe how wonderful Andrea felt. Javier’s response was that Andrea not only felt and danced like the old milongueras, but she was a milonguera in a young woman’s body.

Andrea wouldn’t enter our lives again until our trip to the Seoul Tango Festival in May 2011. Taking all nine of Javier & Andrea’s workshops (12 hours), we were immersed in their Tango world. This time it was Kristina who was truly mesmerized by Andrea. How is she so balanced?! How do her legs do that? How does her embrace feel so soft, strong, and all-encompassing (yes, K asked to feel it)?! In all honesty, it was only at this point that Kristina finally and truly fell in love with Andrea Misse, the Tango Goddess.

During the festival, on the night we had performed, Jani cabeceoed Andrea for a tanda of Biagi Tangos. Feeling calm after a glass or two of wine, Jani felt like he danced in the clouds with La Divina Misse. Immediately following the first Tango, she sincerely told Jani that he danced very well. Common flattery, right? However, she also made a point of telling Kristina at the end of the night how lovely Jani’s dancing was and that he was a very good dancer. It was a very sweet gesture that gave us a glimpse into the lovely person she was.

Now fast forward to our current trip to Buenos Aires. We had previously been in touch with Andrea to let her know we would be here and that Jani wanted to take some lessons with her. The first 2 lessons were with Jani only, but Kristina didn’t miss out on the chance to observe the classes – taking notes for Jani and doing her best to visually absorb some of Andrea’s technique. Those 2 classes were so Tango/Life changing, that we decided that the next private would be 2 hours long – one hour for Jani and one hour for the two of us as a couple. And after those 2 hours, we booked another 2-hour lesson for two days later on Friday, December 30th.

Andrea pushed us both hard and was always quick to show how proud of us she was. After dancing a song with Jani where she had demanded that he not be scared to be more violent and more of a brute, she broke away from the embrace and a huge smile slowly spread across her face. After giving us helpful tips to make a calecita-like lean better and more beautiful, our subsequent attempt yielded a “SI!!!!!” and a “Hermosa!!!” And finally, after our last 2-hour lesson while we were thanking her for everything, she stressed how it had been a pleasure for her to teach us.

We were upset after that lesson because we didn’t know when we would have the chance to learn from her again. The next 2 days were “fiesta” days (New Year’s), she was leaving Monday for a festival in Neuquen and after the festival she had plans to go to the beach with her family. Little did we know that we would be one of the last students she would teach… and that we would never learn from her again.

HOWEVER, we were kindly invited to Javier (Rodriguez’) home for New Year’s Eve celebrations along with many other international Tango friends. What an incredible time we had… A 12-hour affair, from 8pm to 8am. Late in the evening (or early in the morning), Andrea, her husband, and their daughter dropped by for a visit. They were beaming with happiness. The little one was so shy, but once a carnival mask was strapped on, she became a different girl and it was then that Andrea and her performed a little choreography that included the cutest (and most appropriate) gancho and sentada combo we have ever seen. It was also during this night that Jani took what may have been their last family photo.

One day later, the news of Andrea’s death hit us, along with MANY others, hard. We had received a message in the evening of the 2nd to go over to Javier’s, but we thought it was for a get-together. It was only half-an-hour later, while checking Facebook, that we found out that Andrea was dead. It was an unbelievable shock and we hurried to contact others in Buenos Aires and get ourselves over to Javier’s where friends were gathering to comfort one another.

In many ways, we were kicking ourselves for not having taken lessons with Andrea during our last visit to Buenos Aires… but then we reminded ourselves that it obviously hadn’t been the right time then. This was now our time. And in this same way, we try to remind ourselves that Andrea is no longer here because it was her time to move on. We couldn’t be more thankful that she came into our lives.

Thank you Andrea for sharing a part of your life and your Tango with us.

Our thoughts, our prays, and our hearts go out to Andrea’s family and friends. We wish them strength and love during this difficult time.

*For those unaware, Andrea moved on from this world after being in a car accident (involving 4 cars in total) with her husband, her daughter, and her husband’s mother. The other passengers sustained some injuries, but are OK.

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Buenos Aires: Week 2

Buenos Aires Street

Although our intention was to blog every few days, we’ve come to realize it’s hard to post often when neither of you actually likes writing or has any real skill for it :)

We’ve definitely been enjoying our time here. It’s been great seeing friends, seeing faces from our last trip, and making new friends. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying our private lessons even though it means we feel like beginners again and there’s a decent amount of frustration involved. We’ve happily gone to new places for Tango and it has helped us to further solidify what Tango means to us.

Being Tall Sucks

This is nothing new, but of course K is being reminded how her height is such an issue here. With her heels on, she’s over 5″10 and that is taller than the majority of men who tango in Buenos Aires. Many shorter men are keen to dance with K, but she is not interested in having men’s eyes at the level of her bust (even if there really isn’t anything to see there). There are only a handful of men who are within her height range – of those, fewer still are nice dancers. Of those dancers, not all of them necessarily want to dance with K. Although K would enjoy dancing more tandas, she would definitely rather sit, listen, and observe than dancing some mediocre tandas (and she’s also had some of those).

Enjoying The After-Glow

Listening and watching are not the only reasons both of us often choose to sit down during a tanda. After dancing a lovely tanda with someone, we both enjoy taking the time to bask in the after-glow. An easy analogy for foodies like us: After taking a bite of some fabulous foie gras, why would you even consider putting another type of food in your mouth right away? No. You want to give yourself time to savour the taste and let the flavour slowly melt away.

Jorge’s Turn

During our last trip, it was K who danced the most in the milongas. Jorge was (and is) constantly working to improve his self-confidence and he often struggled with the attitude needed to draw the attention of new partners. This time around, he feels better about his dance, he’s accepting that not everyone needs to like his dance, and the organizers or staff remember him and have given him good seats at the milongas.

New Milongas and Practicas

A new friend invited us for our first (and last) visit to “Milonga en Orsay” in San Telmo. Stepping into this place, it felt like we were transported to an underground Tango scene. In all the ways the word “underground” can imply, it was dark, dingy, and rough around the edges. The floor was bumpy, uneven, and small, people chatted loudly, and others danced to music that was being played too quietly. A live band of six young musicians played one set. Aside from the bandoneonist nearing tears when one key of his bandoneon remained stuck playing the same note, they were quite interesting to listen to. The violinist was particularly impressive and we rather enjoyed hearing them play.

Today we made it out to practica “La Maria”. Without knowing it, we headed to the location “La Catedral” milonga is held. What a fantastic space – especially with light seeping in through windows high up near the roof! If Canadian children could see this place, they would think they’ve died and gone to heaven. It’s the epitome of a cool homemade fort. With lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, an old record player, a double-leveled stage, curtains held by clothespins, a mannequin, many chairs and tables that had no match, soft sofas, and bumpy wooden floors.

The practica is actually held in the room beside the large tavern (aka fort). The floor is flat and smooth, but very sticky. The music consisted of a half-an-hour playlist of Tangos by Fresedo, Calo, and Rodriguez, along with a few milongas of Canaro… on repeat. That was reason enough to never go back.

However, let us share how seeing some of the ugliest Tango we’ve ever seen at both the milonga and the practica made us realize we didn’t belong there. These places may very well be where young dancers are taking their first Tango steps – and for this we’re excited. But why are none of these dancers being taught or learning anything about posture? The majority of dancers weren’t standing straight – from hunched backs, to heads looking down, to overly bent knees – and there was some strange Tango being danced. Although we have seen for ourselves that Tango Nuevo is definitely no longer in style here, there are remnants of it left over in many dancers and being passed on to many new dancers.

Shoes

Finally, some pictures of K’s new Tango shoes purchases… because it makes many of us Tangueras happy. These are the NeoTango shoes. K has since bought a beautiful pair of Soy Porteno shoes (picture to follow in the next post).

Neo Tango Shoes

Neo Tango Shoes

Neo Tango Shoes

Photos by Jorge


Buenos Aires – First Few Days


View from our balcony - Photo by Jorge

The Travel

Ack! It was horrible and it’s starting to become our travel norm. As usual, we left packing (and cleaning) until the day before and this meant that by the time we left home, we were stressed beyond belief. However, passing through American customs (where the custom officers think they are world Gods) went smoothly and quickly, and we were on our way to Miami.  We arrived in Miami to see that our next flight was “on time” and proceeded to wait 3-4 hours for our boarding time. We’re not sure why we didn’t learn from our travels to Seoul in May, but we forgot to keep checking on our flight status. We made the erroneous assumption that “on time” four hours earlier meant the flight was still going to be on time come boarding time. WRONG. Our American Airline flight (going bankrupt anyone?) for 11.20pm was cancelled due to “maintenance issues” and was rescheduled for 7am. After waiting in line for an hour to have our tickets rescheduled, we were given food vouchers and a night’s stay (5 hours) in the Sheraton.

By the next morning, we were tired and feeling pretty lousy. Our flight left on time and we arrived in Santiago for another 5-hour layover. This meant we arrived in Buenos Aires at 12.35am instead of 9 hours earlier in the afternoon.  Not so bad considering, but it meant we were sleep deprived and arriving in the middle of the night with no plans to have someone meet us at our rented apartment (we were unable to get internet connection when it mattered the most). Luckily, we called the one contact we had been given through BYTArgentina and they were able to meet us at the apartment along with the owners to check us in!!!

Settling In

Our studio apartment is nice but very spartan. It being a new rental, it’s missing a lot of the things we had in our last 2 rentals here.  However, it’s bright, it has air conditioning, the shower is great, there’s a balcony, we’re right beside a subway station, AND there’s a pool with a nice deck.  Unfortunately, this city that usually doesn’t see much rain in the summer has been giving us some rain every day (except today) and it hasn’t been super warm!?

We’ve been out to get groceries, eaten empanadas (K wants to eat them every day!), gotten a SIM card and minutes for our old Nokia phone, and been screwed over by Argentinians. Those who followed our meagre travel blog last time around know that we’re not in love with this city. We love this city that lives and breathes Tango, we love many of the people of this city, but when it comes to safety/security, appearance, and quality… We’re not in love with it at all. So when we bought our first media lunas (croissants) and took them home to eat, we discovered hard, day-old (maybe even 2-day-old) media lunas that were inedible. The jerk purposely gave us the crappy ones instead of the nice fluffy ones on top.

Aside from that, we’ve felt far safer and far more confident this time around. We know where we’re going and we know how to get there. We’ve already taken the subway numerous times and we went to and from the milonga the other night by bus. We’ve also located our nearest laundry and empanada places. Now, we need to find a milonga routine.

Milongas

We’ve been to El Beso twice and to Nino Bien once. The first night at El Beso was Milonga Cachirulo and we had a really nice time.  We caught up with some friends (from Toronto, Buenos Aires, and Seoul) and we got our milonga feet wet. We were both quite nervous and trying to remember how this all works.

Wednesday night at La Bruja (El Beso) was extremely quiet. Jorge was told by a local woman that this year has been very quiet in the milongas and there are far fewer tourists. The level of dancing was lower than the night before, but we still had a good time.

Thursday we headed to Nino Bien, against our better judgment, and discovered a tourist milonga. There are many who complain about people saying they want to avoid “tourist milongas”, but this is what they mean: It’s not just milongas where tourists go, it’s milongas where the dancing resembles what is seen back home in their own country. Within 10 minutes, we already wanted to leave. But being the frugal (cheap) people we are, we decided to stay and suffer.

Lessons

We love learning. We love private lessons. We love our teachers.

We’ve had 3 private lessons so far and this time around we decided we would not only take privates as a couple, but also individually. The first private was Jorge with Andrea Misse and it was a fantastic lesson. Andrea had Jorge work on making his right chest (teta) more present and passing all the leading information through it. In combination with that, adding more of a connection between his left hand and right “teta”. Finally, he was asked to add more colours to his dance… and be more brutal. This is a constant theme for Jorge… and a constant struggle for a calm and gentle man.

Our next 2 lessons were with Andres Laza Moreno. The first of which was only with K. After a first warm-up dance, Andres said, “You’re dancing like a student. Dance like a woman.” K understood perfectly what he meant. Otherwise, Andres wanted K to connect her right hand to his, connect her free leg more to her right hand, stretch more between her chest up and lower body down, and some more focus on ocho technique.

The following lesson with Andres was as a couple. We worked on adding shades to the dance, tuning into each other’s weight changes, K slowing down, and Jorge leading earlier (giving the woman plenty of time to read the next step). Jorge was also told for the first time, something that may seem obvious, that everything the  man does in Tango with his body is to move the woman’s body (aside from disassociated movements like adornments).

Shoes

Of course, we’ve made a purchase of Tango shoes. This time, we put our money on NeoTango. Once Jorge finishes processing the photos, we’ll add them here.

Off we go to enjoy more Tango fun!


Tango is FUN!

In our previous post, we wrote about a special moment that rarely happens in an embrace.  It involves laughing.  Perhaps this will lead many to think it is not a rare occurrence… because Tango is FUN!

There is a “North American” Tango mentality that exists; a mentality that does not exist in the Tango of Buenos Aires.* In Buenos Aires, Tango is serious business.  It’s a passionate affair of the heart, the mind, and the body.  Portenos who Tango are in love with the dance, the music, the embrace, going to milongas, and yes, the nostalgia of it all.  They radiate intense energy while dancing and while listening to the music at their seats.  But are they smiling much?  No, not really.

We have been asked often why people don’t seem to smile while dancing Tango.  “Isn’t it enjoyable?” Our answer comes in the form of an analogy which coincides well with the horrible Tango media sound-byte: “Tango is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire.”  The analogy is this: When participating in sex/love-making with a partner, how many of you are smiling while doing so?  We think it’s safe to say that most of you are not smiling.  Does that mean it isn’t enjoyable?  No! Sex/love-making is serious business.

This brings us to the point of this post.  Regardless of the “style” or version of Tango being danced, we have observed the North American Tango mentality to be completely different from the Buenos Aires Tango mentality.  Looking at it from the North American Tango mentality (NATM), we have narrowed these differences into three groups: the “Enjoyment Factor”, the “Connection Factor”, and the “Being Nice Factor”.

Enjoyment Factor – the NATM requires Tango to be “fun”.  There is almost an expectation that we should smile while we dance.  There is a tendency for the cortinas (the interlude songs between the groups of Tango music) to be really upbeat and “fun”.  Finally, there is a need to make one’s dance “fun”.  In order to do this, one should “play” with the moves and the music, and your dance should be “unique”… and fun.

Look at that “fun” boleo!

Connection Factor – the NATM has an almost obsessive fixation on “connection”.  This is not in reference to the straight-forward glue-your-chests-together embrace connection, but more to do with the “elusive” connection talked about, blogged about, and “workshopped” about.  It remains elusive because it isn’t so elusive!

It has been our experience as students and teachers that the reason for this may have to do with the fact that the embrace is not being taught well, or more importantly, at all.  When students are taught to give their chests to their partner at all times and they are taught to “chase” each other’s chest at all times, “connection” becomes an almost obsolete term.

Being Nice Factor – Finally, the NATM is all about being “nice”. Forget about going out to dance Tango because you would like to have a lovely evening.  No, the milonga is the place to put your desires aside.  There is an expectation that you should dance with everyone and with as many people as you can, regardless of the dancer’s level/ability.  In some communities, you are also expected to hug your partner after the tanda (although the man may nevertheless leave you standing in the middle of the floor afterward).

We have said it before, but we’ll say it again: Tango is more than just a dance; it is a culture.  If the two are separated, we are left dancing a ghostly version of what Tango is.  For this reason, we do our best to live and exude the culture in our dance.

*We cannot speak to the mentalities that exist in Asia, Europe, or other places in the world.


Tango in Buenos Aires (Part IV)

The Elusive Embrace

Now the mother of all dances was the one K had the night she had 5 dances. This far older man (maybe mid 70s) came in much later. He danced maybe one tanda, K saw him and thought, “Shit!  I wanna dance with him.” :) His posture was amazing, he was so smooth, and so musical. Well K couldn’t believe that when she looked at him, he said yes (with a bit of surprise on his face :). The minute they went into the embrace, K knew that THIS was The Elusive Embrace she has been looking for and only felt (slightly) once before.

An Argentinean was visiting Toronto and he went out dancing one night.  K had the pleasure of dancing with him three times that night.  He was not a very advanced dancer, but he had “the” embrace… an embrace that is not felt in Toronto.  It is this embrace that Jorge & K are on the hunt for and plan to discover before leaving this Tango land.

So as we were saying, K knew that this was going to be THE dance of the night.  The embrace and the dance were like honey… It was like dancing on clouds. K felt so protected. The embrace was so soft, as was his core. He didn’t use his left hand much with K, but it’s likely that he uses it with the women he needs to. He definitely uses the right arm (using the elbow to lift or place) and he uses the right hand which in all honesty, was more than K needed or likes, but it was fine by her :) He complimented K after the first dance and then asked if Jorge was the novio or esposo. Then he said Jorge’s dancing is muy lindo… muy milonguero!?!? Holy crap! That was such an amazing compliment coming from him. After the second dance, we were stopped right in front of Jorge’s area and Carlos (the milonguero’s name) looked over at Jorge and gave him a thumb’s up regarding my dancing!! After we finished dancing, he then spoke a bit with Jorge and he kissed us goodbye at the end of the night.

We also experienced the same Elusive Embrace in our private lesson with our very young Tango teachers here.  One dance with each one of them and we were in Heaven… and truly determined to find this embrace for ourselves.

More about “The Elusive Embrace”.  The best way we’ve been able to describe it is this way:  A leader with The Elusive Embrace feels soft and light, but is very strong, is very present, takes care of the follower completely, and leads gently, but with 100% intention.  A follower with The Elusive Embrace also feels soft and light, is very present, is always right “there” never anticipating the next step, and has a soft strength in her core.  The Elusive Embrace is pure Tango Heaven.

Posture

In Toronto, Jorge (and also K at times) have been told that everyone in BA would call us out on our dance background.  We were warned that our posture would be slightly criticized for being so straight (hmm… like Todaro?!) and being “ballroom-like” (we have been criticized in Toronto for our posture… as well as complimented).  We are happy to report that Jorge is being told over and over again by locals at different milongas that his posture is really good. Not one single person has asked us if we have a background in dancing or ballroom especially.  We are truly happy about this because we were slightly worried that something was “wrong” with our posture.  Our private lessons here also confirmed that our posture is good – only that we need to relax the tension in our arms and shoulders, keep our cores activated and strong (but soft tummies!), and continue to be soft in our leading/following.

Overall Comparisons Between Hometown and BA Tango

Truth: No one owns Tango.  Truth: We, in particular, do not own Tango.  Truth: Tango comes from this city – the city of Buenos Aires (no need to nit-pick and bring up Uruguay).  We are currently in this city and we have danced at (only) six different milongas.  Here is what we are observing so far:

1)      American/Alternative version of Tango do not exist here, except by foreigners and young dancers who like dancing at places like La Viruta (a post will follow soon on our thoughts at viewing the dance floor at La Viruta)

2)      Nuevo Tango is either not being danced at all in the traditional milongas or it is being danced by one or two couples in the middle of the floor (while the older locals look on in disgust)

3)      SOS musicality does not exist in the traditional milongas

4)      Local dancers who have been dancing for years respect the dance.  Even the younger locals who have obviously been attempting to truly learn Tango are respecting the dance.  What this means is that dancers are not trying to create their own personal version of Tango (which is seen over and over again in North America).  They all dance ARGENTINE TANGO.  They dance musically, they dance for themselves, all to the best of their ability.

We have only been here for 2.5 weeks and we are baffled by the amount of dancers in our own tango community who have been to Buenos Aires and return home only to continue dancing the way they do.  They have witnessed how Tango is danced here.  Did they not take in anything while they were here?  Or was their goal simply to come here and watch how other foreigners dance and then pick and choose what they wanted to take from their observations?  That said, after having spent a night at Canning followed by La Viruta where the floors are packed with foreigners, we have a better understanding (since so many foreigners spend their time dancing only at these places).

Read more about our experiences in our previous posts: Tango in Buenos Aires (Part I), Tango in Buenos Aires (Part II), Tango in Buenos Aires (Part III).


Tango in Buenos Aires (Part III)

Music

A little note on music in the milongas… The music has been incredible in all the milongas.  Incredible in comparison to what we have generally heard in Toronto.  The playlists are generally amazing and the djs are generally reading the floor.  It just seems completely unacceptable that bad tango is being played in milongas around the world.  Keep in mind that we’ve only been to the traditional milongas where the “good” DJs play.

Teachers

Before leaving for Buenos Aires, we had done our good share of research on people we might be interested in learning from.  We knew that we would focus more on group classes until we found someone we might be interested in learning from in privates.  We also knew that we would not pay ridiculous prices for private lessons from some or any of the “big names” in tango.  As we slowly got our bearings in this city, we started attending some group classes.  OK, we attended two group classes and realized group lessons were NOT going to work for us; at least not the “popular” classes or “all-level” classes.  In the classes we went to, you were forced to change partners.  Yes, yes, this is supposed to be a good thing.  Well it’s not a good thing when the dancers have no idea what they’re doing (in the intermediate/advanced class), but then attempt to avoid the obvious foreigners (i.e., the two of us).  This is quite amusing when you are obviously the best dancers in the class!?  Yes, a complete lack of modesty here, but we also want to be honest about our experiences.  There were some great technical aspects taught, but it was at this point we realized that group classes were going to be a waste of time and money for us.

At our fourth visited milonga, we spent most of the night being captivated by the dancing of one much older couple… what INCREDIBLE dancers. They were older but danced much younger in that she had beautiful technique in her legs and his posture was straight and beautiful. Their dancing was extremely intricate and super musical. They were elegant and amazing. We decided we must speak with them and see if they teach. And we did. He was very happy that we liked their dancing and were interested in lessons. His wife and him do teach (they have a card that says so ;) and they teach only couples at their place… for get this, 60 pesos for a 1.5 hour lesson by both of them!  Finally, a non-tourist price and they are one of the most beautiful couples we’ve seen dancing so far. Are they “milongueros”?  No. But they have a special something.

We start lessons with them next week.  If it goes well, we’ll definitely continue with weekly privates with them.  We have never seen them on YouTube, we haven’t heard their names before and you can’t really find anything about them on the internet. However, they seemed to be really respected at the milonga and we trust our background in dancing and our short lives in Tango as proof that they are quite amazing.

Finally, we emailed the one young, “semi-big name” couple we adore for lessons.  Since they are touring a lot, they weren’t teaching any group lessons during their brief return to BA (and as we mentioned, we’re pretty turned off group lessons).  We were extremely happy to hear that they charge very reasonable prices (somewhere between Argentinean prices and tourist prices).  We booked 3 lessons with them (in order to get a more discounted price AND to get a couple lessons with them).

We had our three lessons with them and they were great.  When asked what we wanted to work on, we replied, “Our walk, our posture, and the Argentinean feel of the embrace” (more on this in “The Elusive Embrace”).  They were able to spot very specific weaknesses in our dance and then give us very specific exercises to work on (right there during the lesson and as “take-homes”).

As time progressed, we realized we weren’t all that happy with the private lessons and we realized their teaching was not specific to our needs.  In other words, we found that we could have been any couple and they were sort or regurgitating the same things they teach everyone (regardless of level or ability).  With that, we decided to take their group classes instead.

Still more to come in Part IV!

Read more about our experiences in our previous posts: Tango in Buenos Aires (Part I) and Tango in Buenos Aires (Part II).


Tango in Buenos Aires (Part II)

Milongas

We have only been to 4 different milongas so far… and they have been quite the rollercoaster ride.  The first milonga was OK although it was full of mostly tourists.  We sat together, observed mostly, and danced together a bit.  We were surprised that men were trying to cabeceo K. even though we were sitting together.  There wasn’t anyone worth dancing with (especially since we didn’t come all the way to Buenos Aires to dance with a bunch of tourists), however, at the end of the night, a young Argentinean man was doing all he could to get K’s attention for a dance.  K accepted his dance and enjoyed his embrace – the embrace that cannot be found in Toronto (more on this later).

Our second visited milonga was amazing.  We were the youngest there by oh… 20-30 years. We sat together again so we could observe and chat about what we saw.  At this milonga, it mattered that we sat together and we were not asked to dance by anyone.  We danced together a couple times and although crowded, it wasn’t completely crazy. Jorge’s navigation/dancing was really good. We were given positive feedback and told at the end of the night that our dancing is “muy elegante”.  It was fascinating to see every old man there being able to dance Tango AND with musicality.

One of the most lovely dancers there sat right in front of us.  We were watching him dance with smiles on our faces and when he noticed this, he started showing off!  He had the moves! And he knew the songs inside out. He was winking at us and started chatting with us… He informed us that he’s been dancing since he was 18 and that he’s 88 now!?!? He danced like he was the youngest guy there – with his hearing aid and all!

We were scared shitless dancing there :) but we ended up being quite well received.  Jorge’s floor navigation was good… now he would like to learn the very rounded way they dance here socially on a crowded floor… so much to learn!!!

Our third visited milonga was a nightmare.  We went to the guided practica beforehand.  The teacher/organizer is such a sweetheart and she was teaching us all these old-school moves (not that we wanted to learn moves, but it was cool).  What a sight –leading K when she only reached K’s bellybutton ;)  But the milonga that followed… eek.  Choose one of your city’s worst milongas and this was it.  There was one lovely couple dancing (only together) and that was it.  K danced with one man who had nice musicality… otherwise… eek!  The men led roughly with too much right arm.  Many of them didn’t even follow any of the “codes”.  No cabeceo from some of the men – although they were reminded by the organizer during a little announcement to do so.  Most didn’t follow the line of dance and there weren’t that many people, although apparently that was one of their busier nights.

We re-visited milonga number two to restore our faith in beautiful tango.  People were happy to see us there again – which was really nice. We chose to sit apart this time and even though everyone knew we were together, we had given the sign that we were willing to dance with others. The staff there is incredible and the young man who seats people is awesome.  He was kindly offering us advice throughout the night and this was very much appreciated. He gave K. a front row seat which she was shocked by (even though he had seen us dance last time… it was odd). He sat Jorge more in the back though.  There’s less space for the men and all the men seem to be really good regulars. However, a man that wasn’t there last time told Jorge to come and sit with him at his table! He kept quizzing Jorge on the orchestras playing and was surprised over and over again when Jorge would answer correctly :)

K. danced with 5 men that night (not counting Jorge).  It is definitely difficult to find men who are not a foot shorter than her with heels on. Let’s get to the truth of the matter. Many of these men CAN dance and DO have really good musicality… but the majority of them feel like crap (sometimes even crappier then the men back home!?). They know the dance, they know the music… but they don’t have the embrace or the feeling. Just like in Toronto, they are used to leading unleadable women – women who don’t wait and have to be forced into their steps. Jorge danced with 4 different women – he could have had more dances but was too scared ;) Of the women he danced with, two were foreigners and 2 were portenas. All of them were better than dancers found back home (with about 4 exceptions in Toronto). Jorge had to really lead them/contain them all though.

We were both given lots of compliments from everyone – muy lindo/a, you really can dance, etc! It was so nice to hear and made us feel more confident. Yes, we do need positive reinforcement and we do know we have so much to learn here.  The mother of all dances happened at this milonga and will be spoken about in “The Elusive Embrace.”

After dancing with “The Elusive Embrace”, a man showed up in front of K as though he had been cabeceoed… which he hadn’t. Actually, it was virtually impossible that K. had even suggested it by mistake because she was looking at a man at the tables on the other side of the room. Of course K. got up and pretended she had asked him for a dance and luckily it was pretty good… but it was no Elusive Embrace :)

The fourth visited milonga was good in a very different way.  We trekked it out all the way across town.  It took us an eternity to figure out which bus would get us there and back. There are many different private bus companies and the way to figure out the buses is by looking at a gridded map and corresponding the bus number in the grid you are starting from with the bus number in the grid you want to go to. You find out which bus shows up in both grids and then look up that bus number at the back of the bus guide. There, you are told which streets the bus travels down. It’s quite the hellish process – especially when you don’t know the names of the streets and where they’re located on a map!?

Anyway, we made it to the milonga and decided to sit apart. We were given tables that were beside each other though. What we quickly realized was that everyone arrives there as couples or big groups. There are no single tables… So after quite a while apart (and feeling a little embarrassed by the whole ordeal) we moved together :)

There was no dancing with other people for us at this milonga and in general, people are dancing with the person they showed up with or with their friends at that table. There were many tourists which is surprising since they’re saying that tango tourism is really down. There was a group of women with their very obvious taxi dancers – blah!

To describe the dancing at this milonga: it is completely different.  Once you look past all the stupid tourists (yes, including us), you see how the dancing there does have a completely different embrace – more of a “V” and definitely a more flexible embrace. The steps are more intricate and not as predictable as what we saw at the last milonga.  There is a very specific style of dancing that happens there.

More to come in Part III.

Read more about our experiences in our previous posts Tango in Buenos Aires (Part I).