Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Le Cirque du Soleil

I saw the Cirque du Soleil - Quidam - and it is COOL beyond belief. Really.
I just might run off with the circus.
Or fulfil an old fancy of mine and take up acrobacy.
Or fire juggling! I have a recollection of an old stone bridge across a wide river, lined with statues of saints, the Gothic spires of the towers and the Baroque façades of the churches on either side covered with snow, deserted on a winter night with only a few passers-by hurrying to their homes, muffled in hats and scarves to protect themselves from the fierce cold; and mid-way across the bridge two jugglers with burning torches flying high in the cold winter air, blazing against the outline of the illuminated castle. I stood there and watched until my nose and toes were numb from the cold.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The gloom seems to be lifting somewhat. Not to be trusted, seeing as the dreaded month of November is drawing near and the mere thought of the cold and the darkness to come makes me shudder; but I am doing my best to concentrate on the brighter aspects of this whole unfortunate affair called winter, such as la fondue savoyarde and roasted chestnuts (which reminds me that marrons glacés will soon be appearing in the shops and I mustn´t miss them!), ice-skating and maybe some skiing - although I find that dancing tango addictively makes me worry a tad too much about the safety of my limbs, which somehow takes the fun out of skiing, especially if you revel in a suicidal skiing style like I do:(
There will also be tango, and that´s a huge consolation these days. I think I´ll go to El Corte to dance the weekend away, and maybe to other places with tango-crazed crowds; I find that lately I tend to dance with the same people all the time, my favourite dancers, plus a stranger every now and then, and while this keeps me very happy and prevents most unnecessary frustrations I sometimes long for more variety and the excitement of discovering a new partner.
I have been looking at various festivals and my heart leapt when I saw who was going to be in Istanbul in November - it´s a dream team, really - and then I almost let out a loud wail when I realized that I couldn´t make it that weekend, for obligations familiales, so to speak.

A couple of days ago I was at a milonga, standing at the bar. And there was this bloke, a teacher and a fairly good dancer, of some international renown. He wasn´t entirely sober - but then, he rarely is. Anyway, at one point, after some staring, he says ´Princess, wanna dance with me?´ Not the kind of invitation that would be difficult to turn down; but I was curious. I had never danced with him, and though I don´t particularly like his style, I still wanted to try it out. We went to the dancefloor, embraced, and started dancing. After a couple of steps, he murmured
´You can dance!´ sounding flustered. I refrained from any comments, but I could feel his increasing bewilderment. After the second tango, he stared at me and said ´You dance really well!´ but not in the usual flattering way people say this. He was flabbergasted. I lost my patience, and said ´Yeah, so what? Did you think I couldn´t dance?´
´I did. Not this well, anyway´
(looking at me as though I were an apparition).
´Why did you want to dance with me, then?´ said I, getting a bit annoyed by this silly conversation. But his answer was disarming - it was so matter-of-fact and sincere:
´Because you´re very pretty.´
I rolled my eyes again - this time at him - but I almost laughed. Though it certainly did not increase my esteem for the man, I preferred this frank and straightforward admission to any silly piropo he might have come up with.
Besides, we were even - after all, I wanted to dance with a hot shot and he wanted to dance with a pretty girl, I wonder what´s worse.
C´est le tango...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The previous post, I realized, goes to show one thing - I am practically unable to write a short post. Really. I digress, get lost in free associations, and end up elsewhere. It is like the stream of consciousness technique, which I have always found interesting, but somewhat lacking in purpose. I never did like Mrs. Dalloway. I liked Orlando, though.


Not amphetamine, in case you wonder. I mean just speed, fast motion where the world around you appears and disappears in blurred patches of sun and shade, and you are the center of it, you move and the world moves with you. It is fantastic.

It isn´t about tango, either, and I think it fair to warn those who come here to read about tango to skip this post. My tango life has been quite dreary, lately. Basically, I go to the milonga to eat, chat with friends, and listen to the music. At this point, not dancing is decidedly less frustrating than dancing. Exceptionally, it is not about me. Maybe I should start writing another, non-tango blog, to keep this one coherent.

In the meantime..

I went roller-skating today.
I know this may sound banal, but I am probably the least athletic person you can imagine. In my adult life, anyway. I hate sport for the sake of sport, for the sake of moving, for the sake of - God forbid! - burning calories (ok, I was born with the genetic predisposition to be slim, it runs in the family - the older, the thinner; I´ve always imagined myself, in some forty or fifty years, as one of those tiny, frail and almost transparent old ladies - you know the kind, that look like a gush of wind might carry them away - and I am quite looking forward to it; hence my laziness, probably). I could never ´go to the gym´. The mere thought of the machines and the sweating people makes me nauseous. On the other hand, I love swimming, sailing, skiing, skating, yoga, contemporary dance - as long as it is not perceived as a sport, but an entertaining activity. I like bicycles, but for me they are a means of transport (city transport, preferably). Those people capable of spending their holidays on mountain bikes, cycling forty of fifty kilometers every day, simply puzzle me. Why???
Another reason may have its origin in my childhood. I had an active mother who signed me for classes of practically any activity I had shown any talent in. Unfortunately I was reasonably talented in many spheres, and so I spent my afternoons in all kinds of sport and artistic activities (which I all liked, to be fair). By the time I was fourteen, I´d had enough. All I wanted to do was hang out on the street, like my best friend, who was from a single-parent family and never did anything else. She was also allowed to wear make-up and hot pants that made her the dream of any pedophile. Her mother was very young - practically my age now - and too busy with her own messy love life to mind her teenage daughter, which I then thought was cool (now I feel sorry for her - I find my life complicated enough as it is, without a teenage daughter. The mere thought makes me shiver.)
But how on earth have I got here?

I was saying, I went roller-skating. I prefer ice-skating, actually, because one can develop greater speed, which I assume must be due to lesser friction (hear the amateur physicist!). And for some reason, speed has an almost theraupeutic effect on me. I sometimes go ice-skating after work, during the winter season. Like tango, fast motion makes me forget everything, get rid of any accumulated tension, and joyfully concentrate on the now and here.
I don´t know why.
Is that why people drive fast cars?
There is a large park near my home with large patches of lawn, grown trees, shrubberies, lakes, a fountain, and even a tiny neo-gothic manor house. And a cycling/skating trail. So far, I have only made use of the park to fling myself on the grass with a book, or sit on an old tree and drink mate, or to picnic. But I think I´ll join the rangs of the roller-skaters, every now and then. The thing is, I love skating and listening to Kevin Johansen;) it´s exactly that kind of music..

I will soon be changing my geographical coordinates, so there´s a slight hope for some better tango. Or not.
I am just somewhat tango-depressed.
Why else would I go roller-skating?

Friday, August 01, 2008


.. are magic, aren´t they?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Colours and Tango

I have a cold, in the middle of a hot summer. I hate that. Apart from other things I had been looking forward to, like having picnics in the park, swimming in a lake, throwing dinners, mingling with the tourists in the lantern-lit medieval streets of the city centre on warm summer nights or sitting on the ramparts of the castle overlooking the river and the city, I shall also have to stay away from the milongas for a while. On the bright side, I have the time to read tango blogs. And so, sitting here and sipping mate (as a universal panacea), I came upon an interesting post of Debbi´s where, among other things, she mentions being told that always dressing in dark coulours makes her ´invisible´ at a milonga.
Hmm... I read the numerous comments and started writing one but then realized it would be too long, so I decided to write a post instead.

Should you wear bright colours to a milonga, in order to be seen?

The question had never occured to me before. But then again, I do dress in bright coulours, both in and out of the milongas. Not to be seen; I just like them. And I think there isn´t much of them around. Our culture, in this age, tends to avoid bright colours rather than encourage them. For some reason there is this widespread belief that to look good and cool, black is the best choice. I don´t know. I, too, like black, sometimes. But too much is.. too much. Why don´t we wear colours?
I love the clothes worn by the women in African neighbourhoods, the vivid colours and beautiful textures like brocade that they wear with such grace. I do realize that not everyone can get away with such colours, but then again, the various combinations of grey, brown or navy blue are not particularly flattering, either.

Colour preferences are, of course, very subjective. I like surrounding myself with colours, they make me feel good, and I like exploring different colour combinations; among my favourites there´s orange with bright white, apple-green with black, pale violet with silver, and, my latest fancy, bright red with dark purple. The only drawback is that such clothes can only be worn with black shoes. Now, the last time I wanted to buy simple black tango shoes, I came back with these:

Yep. You get the idea.
They are called Las ondas amarillas and it was love at first sight; but they can only be worn with black, which I find rather limiting.

And so I do, sometimes, dress in black to go dancing. And, frankly, I haven´t noticed any marked difference in the number of invitations I get.
It is a pity no man commented on this aspect of Debbi´s post, but it seems to confirm my theory:
From my experience most men, starting with my brother and including friends and lovers, are fairly conservative as far as fashion is concerned. My understanding has always been that I dress up in crazy colour combinations in spite of men, rather than for them. Let me explain - they like it, of course; but if I actually asked them whether I should put on a black skirt or a bright orange one, 9 men out of 10 would go for the black one. Luckily I am not so foolish as to ask a man´s advice in matters of clothing, so I will just put on the orange one, because it suits my mood, and get an admiring look with ´You look so lovely today!´.
Men. :)
I think it is best to dress for yourself, even if, obviously, you are going to a milonga to be invited (ergo: liked) by others; because after all, if you feel good, and beautiful, you come across as beautiful. And if someone likes your dancing, they will probably notice you even if you´re all in black.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mientras que milanesas...

.. y panqueques NO lo son!

And neither is the wolf-whistle!
(Btw, what do you call the wolf-whistle in castellano? I´ve never heard it named in Argentina, just whistled:)
All these things, and more, I have heard Argentines believe to be of their own invention, typical and unique to their culture. And they were mighty surprised when told that, ehm, the wolf-whistle IS a pretty common and internationally intelligible way of expressing appreciation for a woman´s looks, they DO have panqueques in France, because they, ehm, actually invented them in Brittany, and milanesas? well, what do they sound like to you? No matter whether you call them cotolette alla milanese, or Wiener Schnitzel - because yes, that´s where the Italians got the idea from, Milan being very close to the Austrian empire, and then took this way of cooking meat overseas to Argentina, see?
It all came back to me when reflecting on the almost irrational pride in their country displayed by many Argentines. There are some cultures like that. I know a couple from quite close, so I can understand it very well. Then there are cultures that consider such a stance ridiculous, if not inappropriate; there are countries where nationalism is considered almost a swear word, and often for good reasons.. it is obviously a cultural matter that might not have a rational explanation, although I think this ferocious pride and conviction that one´s country is the best in the world is more often than not seen in immigrant cultures, which, I suppose, might feel a greater need to assert their traditions and history (or lack of thereof?).
Aaaaaaaaaanyway, forget about my amateur attemps at sociology.. and think: what is the biggest compliment you have ever got from an Argentine?
When I was in Buenos Aires, I was often told that I looked like a porteña, and judging from the way people behaved towards me, it was probably true. I didn´t really pay any attention to it, because I know I happen to have a faculty of blending in which can confuse most observers - it is a talent developed in my childhood which has now become an instinctive reflex. Besides, being a mixture of the north and the south, with my brown hair, pale skin and green eyes I can usually pass unnoticed (in the good sense of the word;) in most (European) countries, the extreme south and Scandinavia excluded, I guess (in Argentina it was only just in Buenos Aires that I didn´t stick out; I had the most marvellous experience in Salta... but that is another story:)
But, to get back to my point, I was once in La Viruta, dancing on a packed dancefloor (and you know how it is when the dancefloor is packed in La Viruta, it isn´t exactly Niño Bien), and on our way back to the table, my partner said, with a hint of disgust in his voice -
´Hay muchos extranjeros en la pista, no?´
This happens; people will sometimes criticise foreigners in front of me, apparently forgetting that I am a foreigner myself.. I reckon it is flattering, in a way, but I still find such situations somewhat embarassing.
So I smirked, and said
´Si, y estas bailando con una de ellos.´
He didn´t hesitate for a moment (I like this about Argentines:) and with a wide smile and a deep conviction in his voice he said -
´Noooo, vos no sos extranjera, vos sos argentina!´
Another example: at an international tango event, people from all over the world, we were talking about who was from where, guessing, looking for a common language to communicate in, when an acquaintance pointed at me, jokingly -
´So, where does she look like she´s from?´ (It usually proves a tough one to guess.)
And Andrea, putting her hand around my shoulders and saying, in a matter-of-course way -
´Ella? Ella parece argentina. Si, parece porteña.´
Andrea, of course, knows full well where I am from.
Of course I am not Argentine. I might look like a porteña. Or not.
But you see, that´s not the point. Because, I realized, in both cases, the assertion of my argentinidad wasn´t so much about my looks, my castellano, or even my ability to dance tango. No no no.
It was a mark of affection. Like saying ´She´s ours.´
And that felt so good.
Mind you, not that I wouldn´t want to be Argentine:) when it comes to that, there´s plenty of things in the Argentine culture that suit my nature de maravilla - like, boy, was it tough coming back to Europe and having people reproach you for arriving 15 minutes late, when back in Buenos Aires you could take your time, no stress, arrive whenever you arrive, and no problem, not even a glance at the watch.. aaaah, Argentina...:)))