Sunday, October 28, 2007

Winter time

We´re switching to winter time! I have never quite understood why some people complain about these changes – I myself always regret the one hour we loose in the spring, but getting an extra hour of life, to sleep – or to tango – in the autumn is such a treat! I suppose that what intrigues me most about the whole business of winter/summer time is that ´the authorities´, so to speak, officially award the public an extra hour of life – or take one away; I find the notion absolutely sensational. It gives me the impression that time doesn´t, after all, flow as ruthlessly as we have learnt to accept, that it is a fluid medium which we can actually modify, by simply deciding to do so...I mean, imagine the possibilities! Also, I have just found out (gathering all kind of fancy information about Buenos Aires for my trip there in winter) that Argentina does not observe daylight saving time – and so no extra hour to dance for the Argentine milongueros and milongueras this weekend... how unfair!

I must admit with regret though that this year, I used my extra hour to sleep...I really needed it. Have had several long evenings lately, and what with the winter approaching and the cold outside, the mornings are so bleak I would just abolish them and sleep until noon (which looks just as bleak, I am afraid). My only consolation is that I will be spending the month of February in Buenos Aires and will thus cheat the year of one extra month of summer:))) – the trick of switching hemispheres is even better than the one with summer/winter time, I must say.

Anyway, some of those long evenings were due to my celebrating my birthday, so I ought not complain:) On the eve of my birthday I went to the milonga. Didn´t mean to celebrate, but somehow the news leaked out and I got the traditional solo dance with men cutting in on each other. It was fun, really. My perhaps all-time favourite dancer also came to the milonga, but he was tired and spent the evening sitting in a corner chatting with friends. However, before the last tanda he put on his dancing shoes – and invited me to dance! It was the perfect ending of an evening, and, though not meant that way, a wonderful birthday gift:)

In any case, what I am looking forward to most in Argentina is that the water going down the drain will be swirling clockwise. Imagine just how thrilling it will be to brush my teeth in the morning and watch the water swirl in the opposite direction than the one I have been seeing all my life! To me, that is nothing short of a miracle:)

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I hadn´t known a soul at that first milonga I went to here, but I got the impression that getting an invitation wasn´t a problem at all, and so I set out for my second milonga full of optimism. Turns out it is a very – and I mean very – small place, lots of people sitting at the tables and around the bar, but no one dancing. I was somewhat taken aback – it was a quarter to midnight, SOME dancers were bound to have arrived, even here, where people never, ever, go out before eleven; I even considered leaving, but then, I had nothing better to do, so I sat down, got myself a drink, and waited to see what would come out of it.

The situation improved somewhat around half past midnight, when several more people arrived and started, finally, some serious dancing (I later found out that someone had been celebrating their birthday there that evening and brought a lot of non-dancing friends – hence the deserted dancefloor and awkward atmosphere). And then this young bloke, apparently alone, crossed the floor and invited me to dance. It was nice, although he apologized saying he hadn´t danced for ages (he was on a short leave from the army, desperate for some dancing and women, as he earnestly put it), and after several tandas we sat down together and spent the rest of the night dancing and talking; and at one point, our talk turned to the (another) eternal topic – men/women and dance invitations in tango...

The cabeceo, alas, is not commonly practised here, not in its traditional form. Alas, I say, because it seems to me that the cabeceo is the most sensible and equitable system invented so far to allow both men AND women to choose their dance partners – though I am really curious to find out for myself when I go to Buenos Aires whether it really works so well in practice... From my experience, eye contact with (sensitive) leaders can also lead to their coming over to invite you, although, I admit, the strategy is far from being flawless. But seeing as I don´t invite men myself, I haven´t got much of a choice.

Opinions on who should invite whom differ; my own attitude in this respect is somewhat contradictory: I think it makes perfect sense for women to invite men, because they should, after all, also have a say in whom they dance with. That said, I never invite men myself, not because I disapprove of such practices, but because it simply doesn´t do for me; I don´t know whether it is my character, or upbringing, some inhibition, or just pride, but although I think there is nothing wrong with inviting men to dance, I cannot bring myself to do it. Perversely, I find it much more gratifying when someone I long to dance with comes to invite me without getting any sign from me, by the sheer force of telepathy.

Anyway, there was a shortage of men at that milonga, and, to my great awe, as we sat and talked, no less than four ladies came, one after another, and ignoring me superbly they wedged themselves in between us and invited my companion to dance. Needless to say, he always accepted very gracefully, danced one or two tandas and chatted with the ladies for a while before coming back to our table. After it happened for a fifth time, I was going to bring the subject up, when he said ´You never invite men, do you?´ I admitted I didn´t, and added hurriedly that I, nevertheless, found it a very sensible thing to do. I have rarely seen men decline an invitation from a woman, and have always thought most men rather enjoyed being invited by a woman. But my friend, surprisingly, disagreed with me. Now, to put this into context, he comes from an island in the south of the country, whose men are famed for their manliness, one of the bastions of true manhood, so to speak, where men still carry daggers and will slit your throat if you look at their sister (or at least that is what they claim – they do have a tradition to keep up, you see, and that is no small matter). ´Where I come from, this (women inviting men) does not happen´ he said resolutely. ´Not this often, anyway.´ (understand: it happens all the time, but I would rather die than admit it, it would make us seem so much less macho) ´It is not like here in the capital´ (a slight disapproval in his voice).

And we then had this discussion about the traditional role of the man and the woman in our society, and how our attitudes towards this subject in tango might reflect those in our relationships with the opposite sex in general. I wonder... If a man´s natural instinct really is to chase after the woman while a woman´s instinct should be to wait and attract the chase, rather than to start it herself – then I guess these ´traditional´ roles have indeed become rather confused. I mean, reality certainly challenges this theory that my friend was so deeply convinced of; you can observe that at any milonga, though one might not notice it at first sight. He claimed that man´s natural instinct was to chase, yet of the six women he danced with that night I was the only one he had actually invited himself. Then again, I was also the only one he invited repeatedly. In short – it made me wonder whether men really actually resent being invited by women, although they will accept the invitation without showing any resentment, and might even enjoy it, because it is comfortable and flattering...?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sun, the Sea, and Tango

I have decided to take a break and gone off to see my parents. I have missed the south dearly and after spending the month of August in the Netherlands I needed a taste of real summer - because in this country of my childhood the autumn is warm and sunny, more summerlike, really, than the northern summer itself.

I initially didn´t mean to tango much here, but I brought my shoes, just in case – I take them everywhere with me, just in case – and eventually, overcome with curiosity (I have never danced tango here) and mild withdrawal symptoms, I set out to explore the local tango scene.

I was quite pleasantly surprised; the first milonga I went to had a great atmosphere and style, the dancing level was fairly good and there were many young men – maybe more men then women, or so it felt at least, for I never waited longer than a couple of songs for an invitation. In any case, it seems tango is becoming rather fashionable among the young people here, which is good:)

Besides, there is this delightful detail: the men here are not very tall, not by northern standards, anyway. I am sort of petite myself, and though I am quite used to dancing with tall men, since most men in the north are much taller than I am, I find a big difference in height inevitably interferes with the connection between the dancers. It was ever so pleasant to dance with men – most of them, here – whose height is just right for me – it made our connection very natural and effortless.