Friday, February 8, 2013

¡Qué Vergüenza!

As I walked home from my Pilates class today, I saw a boy of about 12 or 13 (the same age as one of my nephews) being held down in the street by three men. If it weren't for five motherly women, also surrounding the boy, he would have been punched in the face by one them. The cocked fist of the man trembled with rage as the boy screamed and squirmed and kicked, and the man responded in turn with a shriek of anger in the face of this little street monster. I stood mesmerized by the scene.

 "¿Qué pasó?" several people asked me as they stopped to stare as well. By this point I had gathered fragments of the story from witnesses and explained as best I could. The boy had snatched a necklace from a woman's neck. The angry man came to the rescue by tackling him, the other men followed suit. The boy was homeless. No parents.

The police arrived and talked to the victim, the witnesses, and the boy as he sat on the curb with a sullen look on his face. From my view across the street, I couldn't tell if he was crying. As the crowd dispersed, many took a moment to speak to the boy. Even the victim and the other woman she was with knelt down close to him and looked him in the eyes while they had a little chat. One grandmotherly woman patted his cheek as she walked passed. 

The folks on my side of the street had mixed reviews of the scene. ¡Qué vergüenza! What a shame, some felt, he's only a boy. Un niño. Many expressed their disgust at the insecurity of the city. Today he grabs a woman's necklace, but someday he will be stabbing people with knives, one woman standing next to me predicted.

"You don't see this in the United States, do you? This kind of insecurity?" One woman asked me. (I had not told them I was American, by the way, but my accent, barely intelligible Spanish and workout clothes gave me away.)  

"Not usually children," I replied, "Adults. Teenagers. Usually not children. We have social services for children so they don't live on the street, but that's not a perfect system. We have homeless children. Sometimes children steal too." 

Two years ago I witnessed a homeless teenager bleed to death in front of the Orlando library from a stab wound to his neck. I conveyed this story to the women in broken Castellano with hand gestures stabbing at my jugular. "¡Qué horror!" they said, and tsked as old ladies do.  

I asked the women if there were services for homeless children here. Will they take him somewhere and help him now? "Sí," one woman said. The other just shrugged and shook her head as she walked away. 

Soon I was conscious of the fact that I was the last one watching. Only the officers and the boy remained, and they seemed conscious of me too. Slowly I continued down the sidewalk with a lump in my throat. Glancing back, I wasn't sure what I wanted to see. What happens to him now? I just wanted to know.  

As I reached the intersection and crossed the street, I turned to look again, but they were gone. Even the police car had vanished. I looked forward to step up on the curb and suddenly the boy was in front of me. Faded red shirt, dirty, ripped jean shorts and shoes barely covering his growing feet. We locked eyes for a moment, and I wanted to say something to him.

¿Estás bien?

But the words didn't form quickly enough to reach my mouth.

He spotted a bus coming up the street and in a moment he was running away from me, toward the bus stop. And he reached it in time for the 118 to swallow him up as the doors slammed shut.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dear Intrepid Tanguera (Another question) / Querida Tanguera Intrépida (Una otra pregunta)

Dear Intrepid Tanguera,

I have been dancing tango for a few years now and attend milongas every week. The problem is that here in the states there seems to a shortage of DJs that actually know what they are doing. Can you give me some idea of what to do and what not to do when you are building a playlist? Where do you start? What is the main concern? What is going through your mind as you build your playlist?

Any help you can give me would be appreciated.

Tired of bad music!

Dear Tired,

I appreciate that you want to do something to make your community better instead of just complaining about the problem. Organizing events and being a DJ is not as easy as it seems.

I started DJing for milongas for the same reason you are. Take note that I am a tango DJ by hobby, not profession. That said, I do have a passion for tango music and quickly realized from the feedback I received from my community that I have an ear for organizing a nice milonga playlist.

Your question arrives at a great time because I recently started taking lessons about musicality and the history of tango music from Osvaldo Natucci. Mr. Natucci is a well respected tango DJ in Buenos Aires and continues to DJ at tango festivals around the world. I hope to improve my musical ear by learning from the masters. He gave me so much to think about in my first lesson that I am still processing the information, but I am happy to share some of the basic pointers I learned from him, and also convey my own experience.

Invest in the music. Start by obtaining music from the best classic orchestras of tango from 1935-1955 and listen to this music daily. The majority of the music for a milonga should come from the most popular orchestras of this era. A good collection of tango music should include, but is certainly not limited to: DiSarli, D'Arienzo, Canaro, Biagi, Troilo, Caló, Fresedo, Tanturi, De Angelis, Pugliese and many others.

Yes, you may get requests for nuevo or alternative tango in your community, but unless you are specifically hosting an alternative or nuevo milonga, limit these sets to one or two for the evening and stick to the classics for the rest of the night.

Pay attention to the music. Observe the rhythm and speed of the music while you listen. Note the songs that you enjoy dancing to. Which ones give you that boost of energy to dance? Make a list of these songs. Make a list of at least 30-50 songs. Ultimately, you may not use all of these songs for your playlist, but you will need lots of inspiration to get started.

The most danceable tangos have a strong and regular rhythm--they are very clear. Be careful as you select the music to play for a milonga. There are many beautiful tangos that are brilliant to listen to, but are difficult to dance to. If the rhythm is extremely irregular, that song is not meant to be danced to. When you play music for the masses, with everyone dancing at different skill levels, it is critical that the majority of the music you play is simple and clear so that everyone can enjoy the dance.

Take Requests. Send a message to all your tango friends and ask about their favorites songs and listen to each one. Add the most danceable songs to your list. 

When you start creating tandas for the milonga, use the favorites of the people that sent you requests as the first song of the tanda. When they hear their favorite song, they will know immediately that they want to dance that tanda.

Start creating tandas. A tanda is a series of songs with the same rhythm, the same speed, the same sentiment, and, usually, the same orchestra (although there are exceptions to this rule). Generally, you should also keep songs within the same time period from the same orchestra. For example, Pugliese from 1940 is very different from Pugliese from the late 1950s. Never mix songs from these time periods. They just don't have the same feel.

A tanda is always one type of music--all tango, all vals or all milonga. Mixing the genres is unfair to the dancer. When the tanda starts, you are letting them know what to expect from the set. Don't trick them by switching rhythms mid-series.

Use your list of favorite tangos to create your tandas. Start with a tango and search your collection for three to five other tangos of the same type, using the guidelines I explained above. Do the same for the valses and the milongas. You will find there are fewer vals and milonga songs with most orchestras. In Buenos Aires, the DJs will often mix orchestras for vals and milonga sets, but the songs will still have a similar beat and sentiment.

Organize your list. Every DJ has their own style and way of organizing the tandas, but the skill level of the dancers of your community helps to determine what is best. In general, most DJs use four tangos per tanda, three (sometimes four) valses and three milongas. If you have a high number of beginners attending your milonga, you may want to shorten the sets to three tangos, two valses and two milongas. Beginners are often not comfortable dancing long sets  and may not be ready for vals or milonga yet. Shorter sets allow the dancers to change partners more often. This strategy also works well for informal practicas. Assess what you think will work best for your community and organize your tandas accordingly.

In Buenos Aires, the DJs usually play two or three tandas of tango, one tanda of vals, two or three tandas of tango, one tanda of milonga and this pattern repeats throughout the night. If your community dances other dance styles such as salsa or swing, you can also substitute a vals or milonga set for these other styles.

Select an appropriate cortina. Don't forget to separate each tanda with a cortina, a distinctive short song (or portion of a song) that signals to the dancers that the tanda is over. (Cortina literally  means "curtain," referring to the curtain that is pulled between acts in the theater.) I personally find that upbeat cortinas help maintain a positive energy level in the room. You can use the same song between each tanda, or choose a specific artist or theme and play different songs with that same theme between each set. For example, use Elvis Presley songs, or music from the 80s, or Broadway showtunes.

Enjoy your milonga and learn. A professional DJ can assess when the beginners have gone home, and the hard-core tangueros are ready for more challenging tandas, but on-the-fly changes are tricky. When you first start to DJ, I suggest you avoid making too many changes to your playlist during the night. Eventually you will become more comfortable with the music and your media program (I use iTunes), and will be able to make on-the-spot-changes to your playlist as the mood and level of the dancers dictates. But for now, the best way to test your work is to dance with the community.

Keep a notebook near the computer so you can take notes on the tandas that were popular and those that didn't work out so well. Also take notes of requests for next time you DJ.

Continue to build on your collection of tandas and learn. There are many websites about tango music and tips for the DJ. You will also find many examples of tandas that will help you get started. These are some of my favorites:

Good luck to you, and let me know how it goes.


Querida Tanguera Intrépida:

He estado bailando tango por unos años y voy a milongas cada semana. Me parece que faltan musicalizadores que sepan lo que están haciendo. ¿Podés darme una idea de qué hacer y qué no hacer cuando organizás una lista de música para las milongas? ¿Por dónde comenzás? ¿Cuál es el asunto más importante? ¿Qué estás pensando cuando hacés tu lista? Cualquier ayuda que puedas darme va a ser apreciada.

Cansado de la Mala Música

Querido Cansado:

Primero, permítime decir que aprecio que desees hacer algo para mejorar tu comunidad en vez de sólo estar quejándote del problema. Así es como yo comencé a ser una musicalizadora también. Lo soy por afición, no por profesión, pero la música de tango es mi pasión.

Tu pregunta llega en un buen momento porque la semana pasada comencé a tomar lecciónes para aprender musicalidad y la historia de la música del tango con Osvaldo Natucci. El Sr. Natucci es uno de los más respetados musicalizadores de tango en todo el mundo. Espero mejorar mis habilidades como musicalizadora aprendiendo de los maestros. Fue un privilegio hablar con él. El me dejó mucho para pensar, y estoy procesando la información, pero voy a compartir algo de la filosofía básica para que puedas comenzar inmediatamente.

Invertir en la música. Obtené música de las mejores orquestas clásicas desde 1935 a 1955 y escuchala a diario. La mayoría de la música para una milonga debe venir de las orquestas más populares de esta época. Una buena colección de música incluye: DiSarli, D'Arienzo, Canaro, Biagi, Troilo, Caló, Fresedo, Tanturi, Pugliese y mucho otros.

Prestar atención a la música. Observá el ritmo y la velocidad de la música mientras la escuchás. Anotá los tangos que disfrutás bailando. Anotá los que te hacen sentir la energía al bailar. Hace una lista de tus favoritos. Los tangos más bailables tienen un ritmo fuerte y regular. Son muy claros. Tené cuidado cuando elegís la música para poner en una milonga. Hay muchos tangos muy hermosos, pero no bailables para la mayoría de los bailarines porque el ritmo es muy irregular. Cuando ponés música para mucha gente, para todos los diferentes niveles de habilidad, es importante que la mayoría de la música sea simple y clara para bailar.

Tomar peticiones. Enviá un mensaje a todos los amigos de tango y pedíles sus canciones favoritas y escuchá cada uno. Añadí los más bailables a tu lista.

Cuando comenzás creando tandas para la milonga, usá las favoritas de la gente de tu comunidad como la primera canción en la tanda, porque cuando ellos oyen  sus favoritas, saben que quieren bailar esa tanda.

Comenzar creando tandas. Una tanda es una sucesión de canciones con el mismo ritmo, la misma velocidad, el mismo sentimiento, y usualmente la misma orquesta (aunque, hay excepciones). Generalmente, eligí canciones de el mismo periodo de tiempo de esta orquesta. Por ejemplo, Pugliese de la década del '40, es muy diferente a Pugliese desde finales de los '50. Nunca mezcles estos.

Una tanda es siempre sólo un tipo de música--sólo tango, sólo vals o sólo milonga. Nunca mezcles los géneros, porque es injusto para el bailarín. Cuando comenzás una tanda, les estás diciendo lo que van a esperar durante la tanda. No los engañés.

Usá tu lista de tangos favoritos para crear las tandas. Comenzá con un tango, y buscá en tu colección otros tres tangos del mismo tipo, usando mis directrices de antes. Hacé lo mismo para las valses y para las milongas. Recordá que hay muchas tandas en una milonga. Por una hora de música, necesitás aproximadamente cuatro tandas de tango, una tanda de vals y una tanda de milonga.

Organizar tu lista. Cada musicalizador tiene propio estilo y forma de organizar las tandas, pero el nivel de baile en la comunidad ayuda a determinar que es mejor. En general, hay cuatro tangos por tanda, tres valses y tres milongas, pero si en tu comunidad hay muchos bailarines principantes y no hay muchos avanzados, tal vez sean mejor, tres tangos, y sólo dos valses y dos milongas.

Usualmente hay dos o tres tandas de tango, una tanda de vals, dos o tres tandas de tango, una tanda de milonga, y este patrón se repite toda la noche. Si la gente de tu comunidad también baila otros tipos de danzas (por ejemplo "tropical" o "rock and roll"), podés sustituir una tanda de valses o milongas con otro tipo.

Elegir una cortina apropiada. Separá cada tanda con una "cortina," una canción corta o una parte de una canción. La cortina debe ser muy distinta de tango para transmitir el fin de la tanda. Por ejemplo, tal vez usás canciónes de Elvis Presley, o música de los '80. Seleccioná tu cortina para ayudar a mantener el nivel de energía.

Disfrutar tu milonga y aprender. Para el musicalizador aficionado, es mucho más fácil para hacer tu lista antes de la milonga y no hagas muchos cambios durante la noche. Problabamente, querés bailar también, y no querés pasar toda la noche en la computadora.

Me parece que la mejor forma de testear tu trabajo, es bailar. Poné tu música en una milonga y bailala con la gente. Mantené un cuaderno cerca de la computadora y hacé una nota de las tandas que son buenas, y las que no funcionan. Anotá las peticiones de los bailarines para la próxima vez.

Continuá construyendo tu colección de tandas así aprendés. Hay muchos sitios web sobre la música de tango con consejos para el musicalizador. También hay muchos ejemplos de tandas para ayudarte a comenzar. Estos son mis favoritos:

¡Buena suerte!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We found cupcakes! / ¡Encontramos cupcakes!

We are both sick. Matthew since last Thursday; two days for me. I have a cough and my body aches. The stress from the move; the hustle of the city. It all caught up to us.  

Feeling a little better tonight, we went for a walk in our neighborhood. While we were walking, Matthew remembered that he saw a cupcake store a few blocks from our apartment. Nothing makes me happier than cupcakes. Well, maybe empanadas. Maybe my sister's chocolate chip cookies. But today, cupcakes made me happy.

We found the store near Riobamba and Arenales in Recoleta. It is simply called "The Cupcake Store." In the window, there were many cupcakes in a rainbow of colors that rivaled the styles of Yum Yum Cupcakes and Blue Bird Bake Shop, my favorite cupcake bakeries in Orlando.  

A very lively gentleman was helping the customers, explaining the flavors of the cupcakes. Since he seemed so upbeat and friendly, I guessed that he was the owner and that he was American or British. (Although I did not detect an accent in his well spoken Castellano.)  

Usually, the employees and business owners of Buenos Aires are not very friendly. They aren't rude or unhelpful, but they aren't often welcoming either. Not this guy. He was very excited to tell you all about his cupcakes. 

I need to learn not to prejudge. Claudio, the owner of The Cupcake Store, is, in fact, an Argentine. A few years ago, he traveled to New York and saw cupcakes everywhere. He thought it would be a great business to start in Buenos Aires. He was correct! He loves his job. 

I had a cupcake with an Argentinean flare--vanilla cake with dulce de leche in the center, orange buttercream frosting with sprinkles and a sugar flower to top it off.  

Claudio explained that "frosting" translates as "frosting" and "buttercream" as "buttercream" in Spanish. "Cream cheese frosting" is "cream cheese frosting."  Go figure! Easy for me to remember. I will return when I need my next cupcake fix.


Estamos enfermos ambos. Matthew desde el jueves pasado; yo hace dos dias. Tengo tos y me duele el cuerpo. El estrés de mudarnos; el bullicio de la ciudad. Fue demasiado.

Estamos sintiendonos un poco mejor esta noche, fuimos a caminar por nuestro barrio. Mientras andábamos, Matthew recordó que vio una tienda a pocas cuadras de nuestro departamento. Nada me hace más feliz que los cupcakes. Bueno, tal vez las empanadas. Tal vez las galletas con chispas de chocolate de mi hermana.  Pero hoy, los cupcakes me hicieron muy feliz.  

Encontramos la tienda cerca de Riobamba y Arenales en Recoleta. Se llama simplemente "The Cupcake Store." En la vidriera habia muchos cupcakes en un arco iris de colores que compitan con los estilos de Yum Yum Cupcakes y Blue Bird Bake Shop pastelerías favoritas de cupcakes en Orlando. 

Un hombre muy animado estaba ayudando a las clientas, estaba explicando los sabores de los cupcakes. Como parecía tan optimista y muy amable, adiviné que era el propietario, y que el era estadounidense o ingles. (Aunque no detecté un acento en su castellano bueno.)

Usualmente, los empleados y los propietarios en los negocios de Buenos Aires no son muy amables. No son necesariamente groseros o inútiles, pero no son a menudo acogedores tampoco. No como este hombre. Estaba muy emocionado por contar todo sobre sus cupcakes.  

Necesito aprender a no prejuzgar. Claudio, el propietario de The Cupcake Store, es, de hecho, un argentino. Hace unos años, viajó a Nueva York y vio cupcakes en todas partes. Pensó que sería un gran negocio para comenzar en Buenos Aires. ¡Fue correcto! Le encanta su trabajo. 

Comí un cupcake con un adorno argentino--tarta de vainilla con dulce de leche en el medio, buttercream frosting naranja con confites y una flor de azucar por encima.

Claudio explicó que "frosting" se traduce "frosting" y "buttercream" es "buttercream" en español. "Cream cheese frosting" es "cream cheese frosting."  ¡Imagínate!

Simple para recordar. Voy a volver otra vez pronto cuando quiera otro cupcake.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Dear Intrepid Tanguera / Querida Tanguera Intrépida

Tonight a reader sent me this question, and I thought I could help others with my tips as well. If you have a tango related question you would like my perspective on, send it to me in comments or email me. You can request to remain anonymous.
Dear Intrepid Tanguera,

"I need help in learning to turn down some 'dangerous stepping' tangueros!!!! I almost broke my leg last night dancing with this guy." --A Frustrated Tanguera
Dear Frustrated Tanguera,
Turning down a prospective partner is a big challenge if your community does not practice the cabeceo. It is hard not to feel pressured to dance with someone when they approach you with a verbal invitation.
At a traditional milonga in Buenos Aires, a verbal invitation will almost always get turned down by the local tangueras. But, especially in small communities in the U.S., the verbal invitation is the norm, therefore, everyone is put on the spot.
The protection of our bodies is more important than a man's perceived ego. There is absolutely nothing wrong with turning down a prospective partner, especially if that dancer's "dangerous" moves makes you feel unsafe on the dance floor. Saying "No, thank you," should be sufficient, but if he doesn't want to take "no" for an answer, there are other ways you can handle the situation depending on your comfort level.
Honesty is the best policy, but a milonga is never a good place to have an intense conversation with someone about why you don't want to dance with him. If you find it difficult to turn someone down flat, or you are being asked by Mr. Persistant, I personally have no problem giving him an excuse. While I don't condone lying, telling him you want to sit one out, or that you were about to head to the restroom, is an easy way to let him down gently and can end the awkwardness quickly. Just make sure you actually do what you say you are going to do. Sit one out. Go to the bathroom.
Be careful, ladies. If you turn someone down a few times, or perhaps even once, they may stop asking you to dance all together. If you deny a dance to someone you actually enjoy dancing with, make sure you make it clear to him that you would like him to ask you again, and that you really do just want to sit one out because your feet hurt.
If you are a little bolder, or know the person well and see him in a more casual environment such as a practica or class, you may also want to have a gentle conversation with him explaining why you don't accept his invitations to dance. Some men may be open to the feedback and take it as an opportunity to improve. If his isn't, at least you tried, and you are likely not going to have to worry about him asking you again. Be prepared and open to get some feedback from them as well. Don't take offense, use the opportunity to learn from each other.
And a note for the gentleman. "No" means "No." Don't draw out the uncomfortable situation by insisting a woman dance with you if she has turned you down. If a woman consistantly turns down your invitations to dance, accept that she may not enjoy your dance style. Maybe ask for her feedback (not at a milonga) if you really want to improve your skills.
Esta noche una lectora me envió esta pregunta y creí que puedo ayudar a otros con mi consejo también. Si tenés una pregunta sobre tango y te gustaría saber mi punto de vista, enviámela en los comentarios o por email. Podés solicitar mantener el anonimato.
Querida Tanguera Intrépida,
¡"Necesito tu ayuda para aparender a rechazar unos tangueros 'peligrosos pisando'"! Casi me rompí la pierna anoche bailando con este bruto." --Una Tanguera Frustrada
Querida Tanguera Frustrada,
Rechazar un compañero potencial es un gran desafío si tu comunidad no practica el cabeceo. Es difícil no sentirse presionadas a bailar con alguien cuando se te acercan con una invitación verbal.
En una milonga tradicional de Buenos Aires, una invitación verbal casi siempre será rachazada por las tangueras locales. Pero, especialmente en comunidades chicas en E.E.U.U., la invitación verbal es la norma, por lo tanto, todos están en un aprieto.
La protección de nuestros cuerpos es más importante que el ego de un hombre. No hay absolutamente nada malo en rechazar a un compañero potencial, especialmente si los movimentos "peligrosos" del bailarín te hace sentir insegura en la pista de baile. Decir, "No, gracias," es suficiente, pero si él no quiere aceptar un "no" como repuesta, hay otras maneras para poder manejar la situación dependiendo de tu nivel de comodidad.
La honestidad es la mejor política, pero una milonga nunca es un buen lugar para tener una conversación muy intensa con alguien sobre porque no querés bailar con él. Si es difícil rechazar a alguien, o te lo preguntó varias veces el Sr. Persistente, personalmente, no tengo ningún problema en darle una excusa. Aunque no me condeno mintiendo, decirle que deseás sentarte, o que tenés que ir el baño, es una manera fácil de rechazar suavemente y puede terminar la incomodidad rápidamente. Asegurate de que realmente hacés lo que decís que vas a hacer: Sentate o andá al baño.
iCuidado, chicas! Si rechazan a alguien varias veces, o tal vez incluso sólo una, pueden todos dejar de pedirte bailar juntos. Si te negás a un baile con alguien, con quien realmente disfrutas bailando, asegurate en dejarle claro que te gustaría que te vuelva a preguntar y que realmente sólo querés sentarte por un rato porque te duelen los pies.
Si sos un poco más atrevida, o conocés bien a la persona y lo ves en un ambiente más informal, como una practica o clase, es posible tener una conversación amable con él que explique por qué no aceptás su invitación a bailar.
Algunos hombres pueden estar abiertos a las opiniones y tomarlo como una oportunidad para mejorar. Si no es así, al menos lo intentaste, pero probablemente vas a tener que preocuparte de que te lo pregunte de nuevo. Está preparada y receptiva, sin embargo, para recibir algunas opiniones de él también. No te ofendás, usá la oportunidad para aprender unos de otros.
Y una nota para el caballero: "No" significa "No". No compliques la incómoda situación al insistir en un baile si la mujer te ha rechazado. Si una mujer reiteradamente rechaza tu invitación a la danza, aceptá que puede no disfrutar de tu estilo de baile. Tal vez podés pedir su opinion (no en una milonga) si vos realmente deseás mejorar tus habilidades.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The mysterious cabeceo / El cabeceo misterioso

Oh, how I've missed the cabeceo!

For those of you not familiar with the term, the cabeceo is the method in which a man asks a woman to dance at a traditional Argentine milonga. The verb "cabecear" literally means "to nod" in Spanish. Those of us English speakers have adapted the word to fit our language, i.e. "He cabeceoed her." Or, "I think he is cabeceoing me."

In the tango world, the cabeceo uses a flirty combination of eye contact, a slight nod of the head (sometimes a sideways head incline gesturing toward the dance floor), often a smile, sometimes a wink. Once he makes eye contact with a woman he wants to dance with, the milonguero may even mouth the word "¿Bailamos?" ("Shall we dance?") just to seal the deal.

To accept the invitation, the woman maintains firm eye contact, gives an affirmative nod and smiles reassuringly. In a crowded room, the tanguera may also look around her, point to herself and confirm "¿Yo?" ("Me?") and keep that eye contact with the gentleman as he approaches her table. The smart tanguera also stays firmly planted in her seat until the gentleman has approached her table (or as close as he can depending how many tables deep she is in the crowded peanut gallery).

The true genius of the cabeceo is the freedom it gives both parties. The tangueros do not risk an ego busting moment if a woman turns him down. The tangueras are never put in the awkward position of either dancing with (or turning down) a man when she wants to sit one out, or does not want to dance with that specific person. A woman can avoid dancing with undesirable partners by simply avoiding his gaze.

It is inevitable, however, that mistakes sometimes happen. I had two gentleman approach me at once at Nuevo Chiqué one afternoon, each thinking that he was the one I had accepted. I was so flustered and tongue tied by my lack of the language, that the more aggressive gentleman (whom I had already danced with and had no desire to dance with again) insisted it was his invitation I had accepted and swept me on to the dance floor.

I spent that entire tanda with my eyes wide open, carefully forming in my head an apology in Castellano to that sweet grandpa milonguero whom I had actually wanted to dance with, but walked away from the situation with disappointed puppy eyes. Instead of returning me to my table after the tanda, as milongueros usually do, I broke away from the other gentleman to speak to my dejected suitor.

"Lo siento, señor, quiero que bailamos, pero no tengo las palabras." ("I am sorry, sir, I want that we dance, but I not have the words.") Kindly, he insisted I need not apologize, and I accepted his immediate invitation to dance the next tanda. Sleepless night avoided.

I have also made embarrassing blunders on more than one occasion.

At El Arranque, where you can be seated in a section where the men and women are sitting directly across from one another with no dance floor as a buffer, a gentleman sitting less than four feet away from me got up and walked toward the dance floor. I thought we had made eye contact, and so I followed him only to realize that he had actually cabeceoed a woman sitting several seats behind me. (Oh, cringe.)

On another extremely crowded night at El Beso, sitting four or five rows deep in the crowd, I thought a man was trying to catch my eye so I lumbered my way out of the dense forest of chairs, tables and people. Oh, horror! By the time I reached the dance floor, my milonguero was dancing with another tanguera. It wasn't me he had chosen after all! I shamefully climbed back to my seat.

But even with the potential pitfalls, I still love the cabeceo. It thrills me to scan the faces of the tangueros and choose my next dance partner. Who's checking me out? Which one will I choose? Hmmm...

(Before my 2010 trip to Buenos Aires, I got great tips for perfecting my cabeceo from the book "Happy Tango" by Sally Blake. Check it out on Amazon, won't you?)


¡Oh, cómo he echado de menos el cabeceo!

Para aquellos de ustedes que no están familiarizados con el término, el cabeceo es el método en el que un hombre le pregunta a una mujer a bailar en una milonga tradicional argentina. Aquellos de nosotros los de habla inglesa han adaptado la palabra para adaptarse a nuestro idioma.

En el mundo del tango, el cabeceo utiliza una combinación coqueta de contacto con los ojos, una leve inclinación de la cabeza (a veces una inclinación hacia un lado la cabeza haciendo un gesto hacia la pista de baile), a menudo una sonrisa, a veces un guiño. Una vez que se hace contacto visual con una mujer a la que quiere bailar, el milonguero puede incluso boca la palabra "¿Bailamos?" sólo para sellar el contracto.

Para aceptar la invitación, la mujer mantiene firme contacto visual, da un gesto afirmativo y sonríe tranquilizadora. En una sala llena de gente, la tanguera también puede mirar a su alrededor, apuntar a sí misma y confirmar "¿Yo?" y mantenga el contacto visual con el caballero como él se acerca a su mesa. La inteligente tanguera también se queda firmemente plantado en su asiento hasta que el caballero se ha acercado a la mesa (o tan cerca como pueda, dependiendo cuántas mesas profundo que está en el gallinero lleno de gente).

El verdadero genio del cabeceo es la libertad que da a ambas partes. Las tangueros no se arriesgue a un momento revienta ego si una mujer lo rechaza. Las tangueras nunca se ponen en la incómoda posición de cualquiera de baile con (o rechazar) un hombre cuando quiere uno sentarse, o no quieren bailar con esa persona específica. Una mujer puede evitar bailar con los socios indeseables simplemente evitando su mirada.

Es inevitable, sin embargo, que los errores suceden a veces. Tuve dos caballeros me acercan mí a la vez en Nuevo Chiqué una tarde, cada uno pensando que él era el que yo había aceptado. Yo estaba nervioso y así la lengua atada por mi falta de la lengua, que el caballero más agresivo (a quien yo había bailado ya con y no tenía ganas de bailar otra vez) insistió en que era la invitación que había aceptado y me barrió a la pista de baile.

Pasé esa tanda entera con los ojos abiertos, cuidadosamente formando en mi cabeza una disculpa en Castellano a la dulce milonguero abuelo a quien había querido realmente a bailar, pero se retiró de la situación con ojos de cachorro decepcionados. En lugar de regresar conmigo a mi mesa después de la tanda, como suelen hacer milongueros, me rompió el otro señor hablar con mi pretendiente abatido.

"Lo Siento, señor, Quiero Que bailamos, Pero No Tengo Las Palabras". Amablemente, insistió en que no tiene por qué disculparse, y acepté su invitación inmediata a bailar toda la tanda próximo. Noche de insomnio evitado.

También he hecho errores disparate en más de una ocasión.

En El Arranque, donde te podés estar sentado en una sección donde los hombres y las mujeres están sentados directamente a través de el uno del otro, sin pista de baile como un buffer, un caballero sentado aproximadamente un metro de mí se levantó y caminó hacia la pista de baile . Pensé que había hecho contacto con los ojos, y así lo seguí sólo para darse cuenta de que había cabeceo en realidad una mujer sentada varios asientos detrás de mí. (Ay, encogerse.)

Otra noche muy lleno en El Beso, sentado cuatro o cinco filas de profundidad en la multitud, pensé que un hombre estaba tratando de llamar mi atención, así que avanzó pesadamente mi manera de salir de la densa selva de sillas, mesas y personas. ¡Qué, horror! En el momento en que llegué a la pista de baile, mi milonguero estaba bailando con otra tanguera. No fui yo había escogido después de todo! Yo vergonzosamente volví a mi silla.

Pero incluso con los escollos potenciales, todavía me encanta el cabeceo. Me emociona para escanear las caras de los tangueros y elegir a mi pareja de baile próximo. ¿Quién me está mirando? ¿Cuál va a elegir? Hmmm...

(Antes de mi viaje de 2010 a Buenos Aires, recibí consejos para perfeccionar mi cabeceo del libro "Happy Tango" por Sally Blake. Compruébalo en Amazon, ¿sí?)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two languages, one post / Dos linguas, una entrada

Fernanda (a.k.a Pipa), my instructor from Ìbero Spanish School where I took group lessons two years ago, has found time to squeeze me into her busy schedule for private lessons three days a week. We hit the books on Monday.

Well, to tell the truth, at the beginning of my lesson, Fernanda started flipping through my old books from Ìbero and asked me, "Why are most of these assignments not finished?"

"Because I was a very bad student and never did my homework?" I said tentatively. "Remember?"

Uh-huh. She remembered. Unfortunately, taking private lessons means I don't have the luxury of other students to distract her from the fact that I don't do my homework. Her first assignment for me: Write my entries for "The Intrepid Tanguera" in Spanish. So here is my first English to Spanish blog post.
How did I do, Pipa? 


Fernanda (alias Pipa), mi profesora de Ìbero Spanish School donde tomé clases en grupo hace dos años, ha encontrado tiempo parameterse en su apretada agenda para clases privadas tres días a la semana. Llegamos a los libros el lunes.

Bueno, a decir la verdad, al comienzo de la lección, Fernanda comenzó a hoejeando en mis libros viejos de y me preguntó: "¿Por qué la mayoría de estas tareasno ha terminado?"

"Porque yo era una estudiante muy mala y nuncahice mi tarea?" Le dije tímidamente. "¿Recordás?"

Uh-huh. Ella recordaba.Desafortunadamente, tomar clases privadas significa que no tengo el lujo de otros estudiantespara distraerla del hecho de que yo no hago mi tarea. Suprimer trabajo para mí: Escribir mi blog para "The IntrepidTanguera" en español. Así que acá está. Mi primera entrada del inglés al español.

¿Cómo lo hice, Pipa?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dancing in the park

Matthew tried to take me to La Glorieta on our first visit to Buenos Aires in 2009, but when we got there, we were the only ones there. It was pretty cold that evening, and it might have been raining that day.

We remedied our disappointment with ice cream from Volta down the street.

On Saturday we tried La Glorieta again. The milonga is located in a huge gazebo in the Barrancas de Belgrano park. Something magical about approaching a park and hearing tango music inviting you to dance.

The location is lovely, and the idea of dancing in a  gazebo on a spring-like winter evening makes my heart jump. But this was definitely a place that I was only dancing with my sweetheart. Not many leaders in the crowd were even attempting to keep a line of dance. The floor was chaotic, and I felt like we were playing bumper cars. Poor Matthew had the difficult job of navigating the tempest. We danced a few tandas and then watched for awhile.

Watching was better. Although the floor craft was a bit scary, the atmosphere was fun and casual. The music was classic. People watching was amusing. We ended the night with our traditional trip to Volta.