Saturday, 26 November 2011

Buenos Diaries Pt. 2: Diary Harder

The exciting conclusion to my adventures in Argentina

Day 8 The lessons begin

Decide to be gross and eat at mcdonalds for lunch. Wouldn't accept credit card. Hmm. Try to find a citibank. Also no go. Tried to go to Disco supermarket - card worked there before - but place is completely friggin' packed. Sunbathe for an hour. Head to meet maestro Damian, who taught me various bits about the close embrace. A bunch more lessons with him await.

Return to Disco later. Card isn't blocked, just can't withdraw cash it seems, or pay for Big Macs (not that I need to). Before evening of dancing I post the first week's worth of blog stuff.

Two milongas (yes, two!) were complete washouts. Ended up practically performing in front of a crowd on an empty dance floor with Irina in a place called La Catedral. Someone was taking photos, I think, so I'm probably on someone's facebook wall by now. Floor there sucks. Thumbs down. Studenty BoHo crowd more interested in watching people than actually getting up themselves.

Early-ish start tomorrow.

Day 9 Cleaning up my act

Damian is an unbelievably nice guy who, aside from dancing, also plays the piano, teaches at the Fine School of Arts, and used to paint - so much so that his house is strewn with his works. His place is also totally awesome. His main room has an enormous mirror and a perfect solid wooden floor for dancing on.

After a couple minutes of dancing, Damian sets about picking apart various issues I have. Doing the basic figure called the sandwich (wherein the leader closes his feet over one of his partner's, performing a kind of 180 turn and ending up on the other side), he noticed that I'm switching my weight too soon. You should always "plant" your partner before doing any particular movement to avoid losing balance and falling over like a prat.

As (sort of) said before "leader" and "follower" is misleading when talking about the actual actions. As a leader, you aren't just dragging your partner about where you so please. You have to "invite" the movement and, if she accepts, you follow *her* and *then* lead her - if that makes any sense. It's not so much caveman "me - go; you - follow". It's more "My darling, would you kindly accompany me on this horse drawn carriage and we can hold the reins together?" You're also translating this idea into your hips. I know this analogy makes no sense.

MOVING ON. The next chief issue was contact in the open and close embrace, and switching between the two. Problem with open was pressure in right hand on shoulder blade, problem with close was the lack of support by the right hand and the elbow interfering. Also, breathing out at the end of a figure.

Figures worked on included ocho cortado (walking around leg to pretty much force it into a cross), entrada/salida(?) with the left after a cross leading into a forward ocho with another entrada/salida on the right, step to the left placing right foot between partner's (thick in the middle!) turning their hips with the foot (and a bit of the upper body) closing feet and shortcutting into a cross, step to the left switch weight into a sandwich contact on the shins don't lean away from partner, back step with right sidestep left plant both feet lead partner into cross system and follow into a cross. Most figures focused on simply closing the feet, rather than trying to keep step with the partner. [Editor's note: upon review of this it makes no sense.]

Always the whole time in close embrace maintaining pressure on chest (but not too much! opening and closing doors!). Bad habit of side-stepping on my part.

Try to pick up suit on return home - still not ready, should be tomorrow. Back at flat, sunbathe for a bit. Snooze. Zhenya brings me money (woohoo!). Milonga later. Hopefully it won't stink like last night's.

Meh. Knocked Germany and Austria off the list. Returned home early, getting too busy. I think I'll go to Villa Malcolm tomorrow like last week. Good crowd there the last time.

Day 10 Miercoles Milonga

Class with Damian at noon. Focus on milonga style music. Three styles of music are danced to in Argentine tango: tango, waltz (3/4), and milonga (kind of 2/4 but over the course of 8 beats with stress on the 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th - not to mention an alternative 3-beat syncopation). Milonga therefore is faster. Quicker, smaller steps required. Learned five figures in total (consult scrawled notes made in coffee shop afterwards ad memoriam, might be able to force Anton into teaching them back home). Maybe tackle waltz tomorrow.

Despite recommendation, nearby coffee shop did not boast best of service. Finally acquired tailored suit. Set me back some 700 pesos in total (divide by 4-ish for price in dollars). Fabulous new shoes the other day cost me about 550 pesos.

Tried to go to another group class in afternoon, place was bare except for one couple, turns out dude giving private class, listing is out of date. Consult El Tangauta magazine more carefully next time.

Eat at another restaurant dad recommended [Editor's note: wrong one entirely, but still good]. Called El Establo. Large hunk of cow again. Will gladly fly halfway across the world again for meat of that quality.

Contemplating another milonga to break suit in. Another glass of malbec is required for decision-making.

What a waste of taxi time, at least I got a free ticket to Friday milonga at the place. Armenian cultural center is not that good a venue.

Day 11 Thursday Waltzing

Didn't sleep at all. People like making noise in this city. Short blasts of sunbathing for barely half an hour has left me red. Sun is very strong here. Wash other clothes. Too hot and stuffy.

Class in evening with Damian. Nearly turn up late because of traffic. I suggest a waltz figure. Damian takes it and expands on it. Also sacada followed by in-step for follower into a cross.

Main focus was on the lapis and how I should (probably) be getting used to the idea of returning to the neutral position. Consult post-session scrawled notes for fuzzy details. Damian says I should bring my camera tomorrow, so we'll record every figure we've done this week. Will probably post this as a second part of the diaries on Friday [Editor's note: fat chance].

Small party at Mike's tonight.

Party is great fun. Heading to milonga tomorrow at Fundacion Tango Argentino (hopefully).

Day 12 Filming Friday

Taxi to Damian's is a bit messed up. Slightly psychotic old git who at one point was humming really off-key to Radiohead (no, seriously). Swerved dangerously in front of everyone. Arrive in one piece. Definitely more terrifying than Moscow. [Editor's note: Mike told me at one point that Buenos Aires has one of the highest car accident fatalities in the world.]

Get camera set up, no need to scribble down notes, except for the title of my new favourite milonga track called "Papas Calientes" (literally "hot potatoes") by Juan D'Arienzo. Class is pretty draining. Crappy lunch in nearby cafe again. Now in possession of about 50 minutes of footage that may or may not cause the netbook to explode during the transfer :/ At least now I have a record of the major stuff.

Milonga starts at 10-ish. I have been informed that I should go to the venue Confiteria Ideal at some point. Apparently it's famous *shrug*

Milonga at Fundacion totally blows. Small and very stuffy. Head to La Catedral to meet Mike & co. Ends up being awesome. Live orchestra in attendance with some French beatboxer joining them as part of his "tour" (or whatever the announcer said). Whirled a Polish girl about for a bit in front of the crowd. Almost certainly photos of me on some website now somewhere making an arse out of myself. Eventually in bed at about 4ish?

Day 13 Moar souvenirs

Didn't sleep for shit. Apparently, if I understood Andrey correctly, 16 people were stuck in the lift. The max is 6, so I probably misheard that figure [Editor's note: no, this is actually correct upon chatting to the parties in question later]. Either way, they certainly spent half the night banging the elevator in an attempt to move/escape. Allegedly somewhere between the 3rd and 4th floor they managed to crawl out.

Afternoon we head to La Boca. Birthplace of tango allegedly (photos somewhere), so big on tourist shite.

More Russians have arrived to the group. Buy some fridge magnets. Lunch involves a huge amount of meat.

Everyone else is tired in the evening. Shrug my shoulders - stuff it - and head out to Villa Malcolm on Cordoba by myself. I only came here for three things anyway. Good dances. Knocked Korea off the list. Left after a sort of half-time interval that involved a pretty shit hot Korean dude in a suit pulling off an impressive milonga routine. Taxi driver there was Danny Trejo's long lost brother. Taxi back was another fucking psychopath who I'm pretty sure spent more time looking at his GPS than the road itself. Radio played Flash Gordon at one point. Uh huh.

Day 14 Sunday... uhh... sort of sucked

Knackered from last night. Wander off to local supermarket called Disco to buy lunch and a couple of beers on a whim, which completely knock me out for the rest of the afternoon. Napping is the worst. Wake up feeling like crap. Bump into other Russians, ask if they wanna milonga later tonight. Anton *finally* arrives (yet to see him, he's probably tired). At about 10pm the sky decides to piss its pants, so the milonga idea goes out the window (I wasn't about to ruin my new good shoes).

Day 15 Penultimonday!

Wake up earlyish. Actually kinda breezy outside. Use weird washing machine again. Halfheartedly begin prepping for tomorrow, which is when I leave. Class with Damian this afternoon, possibly meeting Mike one more time before I head off. We grab a quick cafe con leche before my final session with Mr. Essel. I ask him to focus on steps and balance. Enlightening lecture on extreme subtleties of the step follows, which I can barely wrap my head around. It all makes sense, but putting it into practice is a whole other ball game.

Phone runs out of credit. Thankfully bump into Zhenya and Anton at coffee shop around the corner. Milonga is unfathomably shit. Some sort of stupid referees. Should have gone to Confiteria Ideal. There's always next year.


Wake up, pack up, Anton summons me to the roof to drink far too much beer in the blazing midday sun, then we go and buy nine pairs of women's shoes for me to take back home. Because that's, like, y'know, normal.

We lunch at some place called Meridian 58 not far from the apartment, which serves an amazing steak with some sort of pumpkin salsa. And more wine and beer.

Get my shit together, head for airport. Get the luggage wrapped up in clingfilm by one of those stupid devices for about twenty dollars, which is probably a lot less harder and cheaper than if you attempted to do so yourself in the kitchen. Seems sensible, considering the footwear I'm packin'.

Flight is incredibly delayed, but it's not so bad as it means the layover in Madrid won't stink as much. What's four hours, really, in the grand scheme of things? Look at trinkets. I eat some sort of excuse for a sandwich, which may or may not be the death of me. If I don't make it back to Moscow, I demand vengeance. There is a passenger wandering about whose eyelids look like they have been doing drugs since the 80s.

Little in the way to alleviate the sheer dullness of a four hour delay. Allegedly some sort of volcano warning.

Flight takes off, huuuuuuge airbus. Exhausted at this point.

Periodically re-open notebook to review footage from Damian's class. Sandwich from BsAs' airport still hasn't claimed my life. I am a god.

Get to Madrid, eat a burger, pay exorbitant sum for internet, yay skype and that boingo access thing. In spite of 4 hour twiddling of thumbs in EZE, there's still another 5 to go here in Barajas.

Gate changes about three times. Shitty airbus this time around. Very cramped [Editor's note: Russians have this horrendous habit of buying every single item in duty free and completely overloading the baggage lockers]. Nevertheless, the flight back from Shanghai has yet to be beaten. Food sucks, but Iberia are an okay company. Next time I'm booking my own flight with someone else.

Land in Moscow. Some sort of clusterfuck with the immigration thing. System has changed recently in that you no longer have to smudge your name across a crappy slip of paper that could be easily reproduced, they print them out instead with the necessary info filled in. All very well until the printer breaks or the computer crashes.

Get through, barely recognize my bag as it's shrink wrapped in green plastic, but I think it's mine. I hope. I'll be in trouble if it isn't.

Manage to waltz from one end of the airport to the other to get the express on time. I am typing this on the train to Paveletskaya Station. Almost thirty hours have passed since I set foot in Buenos Aires' airport. It is -10 degrees.

Welcome home.

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