Is tango easy or terribly hard? A graphic artist goes on an adventurous trip into the world of
the tango - discovering, laughing, struggling,despairing, learning. Can I tango? Maybe!

Montag, 16. Februar 2015

Buenos Aires Miniatures

Two weeks in Buenos Aires is a short time. But it was an intense time with not only lots of tango but also lots of sketching. I want to share with you a small collection of miniatures, traveling souvenirs, which by themselves have very little to do with tango. Or maybe they do?

Take a taxi in Buenos Aires...

TAKE A TAXI. Take a taxi in Buenos Aires and you are ready for adventure! With hawks eyes and their red "libre" sign on, their drivers spy for any pedestrian just ever so slightly raising their arm, let you get seated, wait for your directions and then you are on! These drivers LIVE in their Taxis. Micro clima and surround sound is fine tuned to their likes but is adapted once they note your reaction in the mirror. You are their guest and they make sure you get to your goal quickly, windig through traffic like snakes, proud of their driving skills. Roller coaster rides are less fun! Having ladies feel at home makes it necesary to flirt with them, signaling how beautiful they are and keeping eye contact through the mirror. When you get out at the end of your trip you are beamed back into reality, sometimes a bit shaky on your legs but an adventure richer.

A rainy day in the dance studio

RAIN. Rain in Buenos Aires seems to come about the city as a catharsis after a series of very hot and humid days. The air gets so dense, you could cut it in slices, the sky covers with clouds and when it becomes seriously unbearable, a thunderstorm breaks the trance and heavy rain poors down, flooding the streets and letting rivers flow down their sides, carrying heat, dirt and odors away. The air cools down and when finally enough water was shed, a new, clear and fresh day begins.

SERIOUS MEAT. There is no way you can experience Argentina without trying some serious meat. A lady answered our question, how Argentines survive with so little sleep, going out late late late at night without a siesta during the day with the statement: "Maybe that's because we eat so much meat!". Well... I had the best beef ever, cooked on a parrilla grill more or less on the side walk with tasty chimichuri and salsa criolla to go with it. Absolute heaven!

Behind the doors

BEHIND THE DOORS. You stand before one of those very high wrought iron doors in Buenos Aires with no names or signs or whatever indicating the life hidden behind it. You ring a bell, hoping it works and the door is opened from inside – an imense, unexpected universe uncoils, room by room, corridor by staircase, patios, rooftops... I have learned to enter these doors with exited expectation.

LA ESQUINA. Since the streets of Buenos Aires are laid out in grid form, the streets are very, very long and house numbers quickly become unmanageable. You indicate your address or the place you want to go to by naming the two streets that meet at "your" corner. This was "our" corner and we have memorized the two streets meeting here so well, we were able to declaim them even if just woken up from deep sleep.

WE CULTIVATE CULTURE. The porteños are very cultured people, as a friend said: "We cultivate culture". There are uncountable museums, galeries, theatres, concert halls, milongas, musicians, creatives, dancers... I was particularly thrilled by a former theatre turned into a huge bookshop with book shelves in the entire parquet and each and every balcony. From the café, located on stage, you have a splendid look into the beautiful theatre as well as into all the stage technique which has been preserved.

THE UNEXPECTED BEAUTY. I have been told before coming here that there are a few nice quarters in Buenos Aires with old buildings, but that a lot is derelict and ugly. I was not prepared for the beauty of Buenos Aires. The architecture is stunning, no bombs have destroyed the city, large parts were built in the same time when it was a booming, rich town. Every quarter has its own charme - there are representative and breath taking quarters and calmer ones, touristy ones and indeed quite derelict quarters. But wherever you go, there are charming details to discover such as this corner house on Scalabrini Ortiz y Norberto Manzilla.

A SWEET TOOTH. Porteños love their sweets. The number of heladerías in Buenos Aires must be record-breaking and those incredibles cakes, pies, tarts and other sweet creations you can find in the confiterías! The most famous sweets next to dulce de leche probably are the medialunas which come in three different gowns - those with butter (medialuna de manteca), a fluffly puff pastry with sweet glaze, those with grease (medialuna de grasa), thinner, much finer foliated puff pastry, and a third variety I have discovered with a yeasty dough and a distinct brioche-feeling to them. My favorites are definitely the medialunas de manteca!

Montag, 9. Februar 2015

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!

My pair of Katrinski-Shoes

I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that I bought shoes in Buenos Aires. Actually, I bought 4 pairs! One pair of flip-flops because it was just too hot. One pair of training shoes from 2x4 al pie ( because we were training a lot in socks on an old wooden floor and I was not keen to collect as vast an amount of splinters in my foot as I did on the first training day. And then I bought a pair of the most lovely tango shoes ever by the wonderful Katrinski! ( She is more known for her flat tango shoes, but in her tiny little artists workshop she also produces a very special collection of handmade heels! Charming colors and design and perfect quality and fitting, I fell in love with my pair of Katrinskis immediately. They fit cozily and walking on them is heaven - as is dancing. Perfect balance, a little squeeze only during the first 2 milongas until the leather gave in a little. Now they are so comfortable, I could walk on them in every day life. And yes, they are green!

If you have counted well, you will realize that those were only 3 pairs of shoes. The 4th pair of shoes is being made right now. Sitting in Katrinskis artists workshop, I could not take my eyes off all the different leathers she has piled up, the colors, the structures...! When I returned assist in buying shoes for my traveling companion, I looked at those colors again, in my head creating shoes and shoes and shoes, color combinations, materials... sigh! Yes, I ordered a second pair. Open heels this time and with a sunny yellow as main color, olive as contrast and a little shining light green to spice it up - yummy! They will be sent home to me for what seems a little sum once they are finished. I had my feet traced on paper and Katrinski will make sure this new pair will fit my feet at least as well as the first ones did. Happy girl! So if you do travel to Buenos Aires and are "in need" of a pair of shoes, do contact her, you will not regret!

Sonntag, 8. Februar 2015

Just a glimpse

Attentive tangueras at the VIVA LA PEPA MILONGA, Villa Malcom on Sunday, January 25th,
watching Christina Sosa and Daniel Nacucchio perform.

2 weeks of Buenos Aires, 2 weeks of tango in Buenos Aires - that quite clearly is not enough. But it was enough to get a glimpse of this fascinating world, to change my perception of tango and it was enough to get hooked to this crazy town!

I was astonished to discover that I really learned to like, even to love this city and its people! It is a beautiful town, a metropolis with all the variety it needs, a breath-taking architecture, lively varied quarters, hipper, calmer, fancier, poorer, or more elegant or shabby quarters, lots and lots of trees and green everywhere and this wonderful mediteranean feeling to it, a very european feeling. At the same time I had very charming encounters with the inhabitants of this city. They seem to me to be a very friendly and polite people with respect and a certain air of dignity. If someone bumps into you on the bus, he kindly begs your pardon, elderly and disabled persons are immediately offered a seat, if you look around searchingly, help is offered, but always very politely, not wanting to intrude. I will cover my Buenos Aires impressions in more detail in another post.

But there is a connection between these observations and my experiences in the tango world of Buenos Aires. By far not all porteños do actually dance tango, even if they have heard the music all their lives. My sketcher friends looked at me quite surprised when I asked if they too dance tango. Well, not all Germans wear dirndls either... Okay, gotten rid of that prejudice. But very many Argentines actually do dance tango! And at an incredibly high level. The density of good dancers, of teachers, of tango super starts here is just crazy, you see them at every milonga, have the best of the best right in front of your own nose. Now, that was inspiring!!!!

Tango works a bit differently here. There are uncountable numbers of milongas every evening and you have difficulty deciding which to go to, the variety is so incredibly overwhelming. So what happens is a lot of "milonga-hopping". We start here, then head for the next milonga only to end the night in yet another. A thought I first had to get used to. I did not really make out much of a difference to what is named a milonga and a practica, difficult for me to discern the difference. Only at the DNI-practica I went to on my first day did I notice a more experimental atmosphere than on a regular milonga, no cortinas, lots of partner changing and trying out. What we call a "practica" in Germany here is an open class by different teachers just before the actual milonga.

You dance very late in Buenos Aires. I mutated into a very late bed-goer these two weeks – you actually do not go out much before 10 pm. If there is a show, it happens around 1 am and after that the setting changes – the tourists go home and the porteños remain, dance level rises. I did not get a satisfactory answer to my question, when the porteños actually sleep because a siesta does not happen here. A lady once answered that question with the simple statement: "We eat more meat - maybe that is why we need less sleep!" Well, tried that...

But what impressed me most was the different feeling to a milonga in Buenos Aires. The atmosphere varies from milonga to milonga, as does the quality of the dance. But they all have something in common I would call the social component. People get together to meet socially, to dance socially, to laugh and enjoy the evening in a safe space. They bring along the respect they want to experience themselves. Códigos, the milonga rules, are not simply rules your teacher once told you (if you were lucky), they are necessary elements of tango here, implied by respect and courtesy. Be it the mirada and cabeceo to ask somebody to dance, the cortina in which you actually sit down in order to make space for new eye contacts, the ronda which is present as though the dancers on the dance floor were a single creature, breathing and moving harmoniously as one. I experienced very little bumping (which was immediately excused) and I saw no high flying legs. You dance small and concentrated and do not run the risk of injuring your neighbor. You do not show off your newest moves but enjoy the quality you and your partner bring into the embrace. This all together makes a milonga a safe space in a crazy and surging outside world. In Salon Canning I once sat next to a couple from France, we started chatting away and I learned that they had spent 6 months in Buenos Aires on an internship. Fascinated, I asked how it feels to live here for a longer time. They answered that after 1 1/2 months of Buenos Aires, they were over and worn, too much noise, too much pollution, too many people, to much stress... It was then they started learning tango and going to milongas. Here, they discovered their safe space, the refuge they needed in order to fill up their batteries again, to survive in this milieu. They ended up spending at least 3 evenings every week at milongas, feeling unbalanced if a week did not offer the opportunity to do so.

After 2 weeks of intensive training and dancing and absorption, I feel I have only scratched the surface of tango in Buenos Aires. But I have a crush now, and I will certainly be back!

Christina Sosa and Daniel Nacucchio performing at VIVA LA PEPA, Villa Malcom