25 Sep 2007

A Handful of Handy websites
(a.k.a How to get info in Buenos Aires II)

In the present moment, Sept 2007

I was distracted by the coming of Spring!

Now to continue from where I left off.

Salon Canning – Well, actually it is the website of Parakultural. Of the hugely successful milonga organizer Omar Viola who holds the Monday, Tuesday and Friday milongas at Salon Canning (also a Saturday milonga at San Telmo, Peru 571 since April ‘07).

Information is updated regularly. The month’s coming attractions are all laid out, with line-up of performers and teaching schedules pre-milonga. Not sure who performed 2 Fridays ago?? Find them in the archives of recent months’ events.

Escuela Argentina de Tango (E.A.T) – school with a large assortment of popular teachers such as Aurora Lubiz, Jorge Firpo, ‘El Flaco” Dany etc. Many salon style teachers, a few nuevo style teachers. Main website is on the spartan side. But wow, the downloadable monthly schedules are good!

Now expanded to 3 venues - Galerias Pacifico, Rodriguez Pena 1074 and Recoleta (new, Aug/Sept ‘07).

The main venue is at the Centro Cultural Borges at the upmarket shopping mall, Galerias Pacifico, in the microcentre (cross streets Viamonte and San Martin). The school is slightly tricky to find but you will get there at the end after transversing a few galleries in the Centro Cultural Borges.

I can't resist a mention of the building itself. Galerias Pacifico is a historic building from the late 1800s in the style of Bon Marche in Paris. After falling into disrepairs, it was renovated to the present form and re-opened in 1992. Above is a photo of the famous glass ceiling of Galerias Pacifico.

D.N.I – Pablo Villarraza y Dana Frigoli’s hugely popular school on Av Corrientes. 4 main pairs of teachers including Pablo & Dana. Of the "schools", DNI is probably the most cohesive in terms of similarity of dance/teaching style. The other “schools” are more teaching venues with a loose medley of teachers, like a box of chocolate assortments.

Practica X – popular venue in Abasto for practica on Tuesday nights. Frequent haunt of nuevo style dancers and many nuevo teachers. Well updated website.

Porteno y Bailarin – downtown milonga venue notable for its 2 adjacent dance floors. On the other side of Av. Corrientes from El Beso, 2 minutes stroll. Okie website but sometimes late with info. Well, at least the past month’s archives are available.

There are 2 other popular school/venue to look out for:

* Mariposita – boutique hotel & teaching venue in San Telmo. Another loose assortment of teachers, but not exclusively of nuevo style. For example, Milena Plebs of classic salon style held classes from Jun-Aug ‘07. Unfortunately the teaching schedule is not available online at the moment.

Leti, mother of Carolina Bonaventura is often the de facto manager of the estudio y hotel. And yes, the place is the brainchild of mother and daughter Bonaventura.

* Tangobrujo – Classes held upstairs, shoes and clothing shop downstairs.

Assortment of nuevo style teachers, including Gaston Torelli, Federico Naveira & his sister Ariadna Naveira, Matias Facio & Kara Wenham etc.

Website has nice flash animation. But sadly thin on info besides the address.

For Mariposita and Tangobrujo, you have to look at El Tangauta for the monthly teaching schedule. Even then, its better to get hold of those “slips of paper” (See A Confetti of Paper )

If I come across other useful websites, will add those later.

New addition, 30 Sept '07
La Viruta - the swinging tango nightclub scene of BA, at Armenia 1366 in Palermo. Its said that many a tango wedding were made on its dance floors ☺. DJ Horacio Godoy (brother of Mora Godoy) is one of the organisers, kingpin teacher and a-larger-than life personality in the house.

One either likes it or not. Regardless, La Viruta is part of the tango scene. Frequented by all, from milongueros like "El Flaco" Dany to the young nuevo tango crowd. At La Viruta, you will find nuevo teachers dancing adjacent to absolute beginners. Personally I think that is why navigation is notoriously poor.

Entry is waived on Friday night after 4.00 am, so its a popular spot where the night ends for many dancers winding down the big night out with friends or waiting for Saturday breakfast.

Undeniably a popular venue for nuevo tango classes. Salsa & rock & roll also part of the repertoire. Information on the website for classes is updated.

From the link on this page, go to the La Viruta website. Either click directly on "Tango.milonga" on the mainpage or navigate further to the tango section, by going to the sections on "clases", "shows" and "novedades". The monthly seminario "specials" are listed under the latter.
New addition, 2 Oct '07
Above I have added a photo of the event poster this month at La Viruta. You can click on the photo to enlarge it for easy reading. Every month I will update the photo so that dancers from outside of Buenos Aires can lay their hands on this info.

New addition, 3 Oct '07
Hmm. This piece is taking on a life of its own.

La Marshall - Wednesday nights after 22.00 hs at Maipu 444 in the microcentre. Same sex gay & lesbian milonga but the crowd is not exclusively so. An interesting constrast, La Marshall is held at the same venue as the traditional milonga Cachirulo on Saturdays. Website is updated.

In Sept '07, La Marshal held its own Campeonata de baile (Tango Championship).

Basic Spanish for the non-English websites
Lunes - Monday
Martes - Tuesday
Miercoles - Wednesday
Jueves - Thursday
Viernes - Friday
Sabado - Saturday
Domingo - Sunday

1. If you see "de 21.30 a 0.30 hs", it means from 9.30 pm to 12.30 am. Buenos Aires often use the 24-hour time format.

2. "A partir de 19.30 hs" means from 7.30 pm onwards.

3. "Toca" means playing of a musical instrument or orchestra.

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23 Sep 2007

Spring comes to Buenos Aires!

In the present moment, Sept 2007

Friday 21 September was El Dia de la Primavera, the first day of Spring. Spring Day! Hurraay!!!

Spring Day was also El Dia de los Estudiantes. On this day, school was out for University and high school students. Masses of young happy people gathered at the parks of Palermo for a day of fiesta in the outdoors, having picnics, music, chatting to friends. Basically having a great time in celebration of Spring. This congregation at the parks of Palermo is a tradition here.

On the streets of Buenos Aires, many young women clutched sprigs of flowers as gifts of spring. It was a sunny day, filled with heaps of sights, movement and sound. The vibrancy of Spring and general revival of life in the city was infectious. A kind of euphoria filled me. The terrible winter in BA has lost the battle, its cold talons, my imprisonment for the last 3 months no longer torments. My body felt free at last!

In addition, the language barrier was beginning to lift slowly. I understand enough in the tango classes to make it an enjoyable experience once again. The way is free to take more classes.

This 2-fold sense of liberty fill me with hope for the future. Suddenly, I had a feeling. These coming months in BA will be some of the happiest days of my life...

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14 Sep 2007

A Confetti of Paper
(a.k.a How to get info in Buenos Aires)

In the present moment, Sept 2007

At some milongas and practicas in Buenos Aires, one is hit with a shower of slips of paper with information about upcoming events of the milonga, other milongas, clases & seminars, advertisements on shoes, clothes, apartment for rental etc etc. The list goes on.

Rather than being a total waste of paper, these slips are a useful source of information. Because often they are the only means of getting the most updated news on a monthly basis, short of actually dropping into the establishment. Or calling up to ask, especially if the option isn’t available for the linguistically challenged.

In this age of internet penetration, we rely heavily on websites as an essential source of getting info. But Buenos Aires doesn’t work this way. Some teachers, milongas or shops do not have a website. Or more often the case, the info listed is outdated. Here in Buenos Aires, that means last month’s info. Be warned about this, because this month’s schedule is likely to be different.

One has to understand a basic fact of the Buenos Aires tango world. Events are often planned from month to month and not 2-3 months ahead. It is just how it works here, so accept it.

In other cases, some websites have simply stopped working. As one of my friends here, a Korean girl named Rey says “all the info one needs is found HERE in Buenos Aires”.

So for tango visitors coming to Buenos Aires without time on your side, look out for these confetti slips of paper. In addition, arm yourself with the tango publications big and small (see previous post La Primera Vez). Else you should pop in the shop or school to get the new schedule for the current month. By the way, there is a scrabble to get the 3 larger tango magazines “El Tangauta”, “La Milonga” and "B.A. Tango" in the 1st week of each month. Yes, the mags are not released at the end of the preceding month. Or at least they only become widely available in the 1st week. Everyone zealously guard their own copies at this time ☺

But a word of warning, in case some readers takes these 3 tango magazines as the absolute tango bible guide. Although they cover the main scope of information, it is not a total comprehensive listing. Or, on occasion the current month’s schedule published is not accurate. For "El Tangauta", it is better to rely on the schedules published by the schools or the personal adverts of the teachers. The schedules listed via days of the week under the section "Tango Guia/Clases" can be invalid.

Just to illustrate the extent of variability, the teaching schedule for 2 popular schools of tango, DNI & Escuela Argentina de Tango, changed month to month since I have arrived. Why? Because teachers are going overseas for teaching and festival assignments. Otherwise they have just returned after months of teaching abroad. Understandably the timetable has to shift accordingly.

Occasionally, changes to the teaching schedule/venue happened after the monthly submission deadline for adverts to the tango magazines. You could double check the overall schedule with teachers or the establishment once you are there for classes or milongas. People are generally patient with such questions. Better yet, just ask for the updated schedule and you will be given yet another slip of paper to add to your growing collection of paper heap.

Despite of what I said at the beginning about websites, there are some good ones. That's for my next entry.

Footnote: If all fails, you can always download your monthly copy of El Tangauta online ☺

New addition, 2 Oct 07
You can also check out 2 other tango publications online:

La Milonga Argentina - Sadly (because its really quite colourful) its drawback are 2-fold. The online issue is at least 1 month late. And mostly in Spanish.

Punto Tango - The pocketbook guide. Issue is updated! ...though all in Spanish.

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5 Sep 2007

Ah, the music!

I am slightly surprised by my response to the music in the milongas in Buenos Aires.

In Buenos Aires, I experience tango music much more strongly than I ever had before. Here in the milongas, my feelings for tango music are intensified 2-3 times over. Before one jump to the conclusion it is due to the musicality of my porteno partners, let me say that I do experience this musical high when I am simply sitting out a tanda listening to the music.

Is it due to a particular venue then? But I had the same experience at different milonga venues such as at El Beso, Salon Canning and Maipu 444 with different DJs. Of course it goes without saying these milongas have talented DJs who direct the flow & ebb of music with consummate skills.

How does it feel like? In one word, I would describe it as “overwhelming”. Literally it feels like the music is expanding inside of me like a balloon, ready to burst out from the chest. I have the same experience, the same “soaring” emotional reverberation when listening to a great operatic aria.

What surprised me most was that I felt this emotional rush frequently when listening to Jorge Duran, one of the singers of the Di Sarli orquesta. Alberto Podesta remains my favourite Di Sarli singer, for his voice’s sotto voce quality and longing hue. I was never fond of Jorge Duran. His characteristic barrel-like voice I always found too loud and rather lacking in delicacy of emotions. So imagine my surprise when time after time in the milongas here, I would be swept away when a Duran-Di Sarli tanda comes on. I don’t even own a single CD of Duran’s singing. Yet often I can identify Duran-Di Sarli’s songs with certainty. In fact, I would experience the emotional response and then come to the realisation that the singer is Duran.

A quick aside. Among the Podesta-Di Sarli songs, “Otra noche” comes close to the same dramatic intensity. Di Sarli’s “Buenos Aires”, sang by Roberto Florio, is fairly dramatic but I find Florio’s voice in the song too thin and lacks Duran’s booming richness to give the same intensity. The end result just come across as slightly hysteric.

So why do I experience tango music more intensely here?

Does it boil down simply to first-rate DJing in the milongas? Or is it the emotional energy given off by dancers? Perhaps decades of tango music have seeped into the very pores of the walls and in the air that we breathe, in this city where tango music was born. I don’t have an answer. All I know is that there is a special quality in the Buenos Aires milongas that give extra emotional intensity to tango music.

It makes the overall experience for dancing, truly larger than life.

THIS is why we come to Buenos Aires.

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