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...:)))

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mafalda es argentina!!!

..and I had no idea! Aaaaah... not only did Argentina give birth to tango, but also to one of my favourite comic strips! The creator of Mafalda, Joaquín Salvador Lavado, known as Quino, was born in the province of Mendoza, 76 years ago; who would have thought so?
:) Well, in any case, one more reason for this fanatic of la BD to love Argentina!

(We´re screwed, guys! Turns out that if you don´t hurry up and change the world, it is the world that changes you!)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tango et câlins

There is an open air milonga in the park, a very pretty place, a kind of a bower which actually looks almost exactly like La Glorieta in Belgrano, only the floor is not tiles but wood - and pretty rough at that; I wore a pair of shoes that had the privilege of only having trodden the beautiful Canning parquet, so that after dancing in them nights on end the soles were practically intact, whereas now, after a few hours they´re all coarse and scratched. Ah, Canning... my feet have had a passionate love affair with its dancefloor; no matter what you think about Canning, its parquet IS the best in town, and the best I have ever danced on - apart from the corner in front of the bar, where the parquet is damaged and uneven.. but I digress. So there I was sitting on the stairs and putting on my shoes and next to me there was a young woman with a little girl and a little boy, all of them watching the dancers, and then the little girl said, pensively -
´Ils font des câlins
Her mother shook her head at her question and said ´No silly, they aren´t cuddling, they´re dancing!´
I laughed. And I told the little girl ´It is tango, they are half cuddling, half dancing.´
I wish I had seen someone dance tango when I was 5; I wonder what I would have made of it..?