Monday, October 30, 2006

Longa Milonga @ Providence Tango - Oct 28 2006

Update: Robin posted the pictures she took here .

Saturday was once again that time of the month. The "Longa Milonga", an all night milonga at the Providence Tango (for those of you still hangover from the weekend, that is in Providence, RI). This was a special one because it was costumed (Halloween being just around the corner).

For those of you who never been to Providence Tango, I'll try a short description (and you can check their website, they have some pictures there as well). It's an old brick building which I assume it was a factory of sorts some time ago. All the tango events I attended took place in a very large studio, which has tables, lounge chairs, love seats, couches and even a ... bed (which comes in handy at some of these all night events. Take your mind out of the gutter now, people use it to take a nap). The wooden floor is perfect for dancing, the decor is tasteful and the whole thing has a warm intimate feeling, quite appropriate for tango.

I was there at opening (9PM) . People started arriving soon after that at and by 10:30 it was pretty lively. That is when I snuck in the bathroom with my bag and change into my costume. It was a "ninja" costume, dark blue silk chinese style costume, complete with two swords on the back, black gloves and a hood that completely covered my head (and mesh covered the face, so I was completely unrecognizable). For the next hour or so I had a lot of fun. Without a word, I asked women to dance, you could tell they were amused and curious about whom they were dancing with. I heard people asking each other "who's that?". It was a lot of fun. Robin took some pictures and I hope I was in one of them. I'll add it to this blog entry later if it turns up.

After about an hour I went and changed back, as it was pretty hot with that hood on. The dancing went on for the rest of the night. I left around 5AM (well, it was actually 4AM because the hour changed) and when I left, there were still a couple of people still dancing. I had a very nice time. I got to dance with quite a few great dancers, from both Providence, Boston and Western Mass, the music was pretty good and the deserts served around midnight were awesome. There is food served at this milonga, but I didn't have any since I ate before I left home so I can't comment on that. People went back for seconds though, so I'm guessing it was pretty good.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Montreal trip report - Oct 19-22 2006

Since I had Th and Fr (Oct 19,20 2006) off, I figured I should check out Montreal since I've never been there. I decided to drive, but I also took the motorcycle on the trailer, the plan being to park the car and ride the motorcycle around, since it should be much easier to park.

Thursday 3:30AM

God I hate waking up in the middle of the night. But sometimes sacrifices need to be made... So after enough coffee to wake up the dead, I managed to get everything loaded up and I was ready to go at 5AM. The ride to Montreal was uneventful, although the sun finally breaking through the heavy cloud cover was quite nice.

I made it to Montreal at 11AM and after getting lost a couple of times I managed to arrive to the hostel around noon. It turns out the "private room" I reserved was in fact a small little cabin located in the yard.
Charming. But the hostel is right in the middle of the old Montreal, so you can walk to a bunch of things easy enough (not that I did, mind you). Parking the car with a trailer attached proved to be the most challenging part of the trip. I finally found a place on the edge of a park, just about 5 miles away from the hostel... So, I unloaded the bike and for the rest of my stay, the car is going to stay where it's at. I am not looking for another parking spot, it may take the rest of the weekend.

By 3pm I was all settled in, with the bike illegally parked right in front of the hostel. They seem to be OK with that. It doesn't look like bikers are hassled in Montreal, as long as you don't overdo it. That's nice. I spent the rest of the afternoon taking a nap and hanging out in the common room at the hostel eating and trying my french. The verdict? Yes, it does suck.

For the evening there was never a question, it will be tango. But where? They have three milongas on Thursdays. Yeah, the scene is definitely more lively then Boston's scene. I picked "Tango Nuestro", a little milonga organized by Lily Palmer. Speaking of that, note to self, when you ride the motorcycle somewhere and the forecast says rain, you may want to take the rain gear with you, as opposed to leaving it in the room. Since I was early I took the opportunity to stop at a bar, have a quick drink and dry myself using half of the establishment napkin supplies.

Thursday 9PM

So, I managed to get there resonably dry. The setup is quite charming but the attendance was quite weak, I'm pretty sure the rainy weather didn't help. Since for a while there was just me a another couple, I took the oportunity to chat with Keith, the DJ. Quite an interesting guy, he's a sound engineer who among other things he re-masters old tango songs (eliminating noise and enhancing the overall sound). And I must say, it sounds really good. The place got more lively after 10:30 PM, and I got to dance a bit. There were mostly locals but also a couple of french girls, one of them visiting from France. She says tango in Canada seems a bit more informal then it is in Paris. I left the place around midnight as I was falling off my feet.

Friday 11AM Montreal Mount Royal park & Botanical Garden

I finally woke up at 11AM and after a quick breakfast I went for a ride. First I ended up in the Mount Royal park which, as the name suggests it's an elevated place from where you can see the entire Montreal . Then as it was getting to be cold up there, I took a ride to the Montreal botanical gardens. I figured I should spend a bit of time outside as it was getting ready to rain. Some sections are very charming, like the vine cover arbor in the picture. Others ... well, they are quite strange ...

I'm sure October is not the best time to visit the Botanical Garden, but some spots were worth seeing.

Friday 3PM The Underground

Around 3PM it started raining pretty heavy and despite the rain gear, I was getting cold. So, perfect time to check out the famous underground pedestrian network. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Montreal has a network of tunnels for pedestrian access that connect various buildings, malls, subway stations, atc. There are stores, restaurants and even art displays. While some of the tunnels look like subway connectors, some are quite interesting.

Friday 7PM Old Montreal @ night

The Old Montreal area is very nicely lit at night, with most building having accent lights to show off the architecture and details. Since it was raining, the reflections of the building and lights were too interesting to pass up, so I had to go out and take a few pictures. Trying to maneuvre the tripod, camera and the umbrella (my camera is not water proof and it's quite expensive) was ... a treat.

Friday 9PM Air De Tango Milonga

The general consensus was that Air De Tango milonga at Moka Dance was the place to be if you want to tango on a Friday evening. So, since the forecast was calling for low 30s at 3am and it was already raining, I geared up and off I went. If you never saw a fully geared motorcycle rider (winter gear + rain gear) then you can't imagine the looks I got when I entered the door ... ;). Imagine a "Power Ranger" (yes, the cartoon characters ...) lost among evening dresses and suits. To make it worse, to get to the bathroom to change, you have to cross the whole place, including the dance floor... So I made quite an entrance.

Anyway, 10 minutes later after having an interesting time trying to change in the incredibly tiny bathroom, I'm back in the main room dressed appropriately. I have to describe the room as I don't have any pictures due to ... ahem ... technical difficulties with my camera (it turns out, charged batteries are a really good thing to have if you want to take pictures...). As you enter the door, you see a long rectangular room (the door being on one of the short sides). On the right there is a full bar (at ALL tango venues in Montreal they seem to have either a full bar or at least wine), on the left a few tables then the room has the dance floor followed by a lounge area with a few chairs and coffee tables. On the sides of the dance floor there are benches and very narrow tables which makes it very easy to sit and watch the dancers without taking too much valueable floor space. The one downside of this location, between 10:30PM and 1AM (officially the milonga ends at 3am but they were open until 3:30), one really needs navigational skills to dance there. Since there are a lot of very good dancers, I've seen no tragedies, but if crowds intimidate you, you're not going to dance a lot. The place is nicely decorated and it has a homey warm feeling to it. After 2AM I had the best time. There was ample space on the dance floor which allowed me to concentrate on the music and the few dancers that stayed that late were really, really good.

As far as tango level, it's really high. There are quite a few excuisite dancers and while there is really no space for any extravagant figures, the grace and musicality they have is almost intimidating. Speaking of figures, dancers in Montreal don't seem to be very into them. Walks, turns, sacadas is the most you see as far as figures go. Of course you'll see an occasinal volcada or gancho but it seems like most people are focused on the musicality and rithm. Which was really good, because while my figure vocabulary is limited, my musicality and rithm is quite good (or so I'm told). I did spend an hour or so watching and trying to identify the women that would match my style of dancing, because you really want the first few times you dance in a new crowd to look as good as possible. That paid off, and for the rest of the evening I did not seem to have a problem finding people to dance with and since some even stuck around for more then one tanga, I assume they enjoyed dancing with me as well. As far as age, the crowd at Moka Danse was generally in their 30s. It doesn't look like cabaceo is used very often, people that seem engaged in a conversation are routinelly approached and asked to dance and they don't seem to resent it. I don't know if it's because they know each other, but if you're going to try to use cabaceo exclusively, you might not dance as much as you'd like.

I do have to mention one woman in particular, let's call her M. Due to some recent injury she didn't dance much (or at all) throughout the evening, since she didn't think she was able to perform acceptably. We talked for a while and since she seemed like she was missing dancing so much I suggested we could try a song or two and keep it simple. We danced for the next 45 minutes, until they fianlly kicked us out at 3:30. If this is the way you dance M when you are incapaciated, I really have to come back to Montreal to dance with you when you are 100%. Thank you so much, it was a real pleasure to meet you.

Saturday 3:30AM

The ride back to the hostel. Uhh, once again, it's f...g cold in Canada.

Saturday 11:00AM

After a late breakfast (included with the room/bed at the hostel) I jumped back on the bike to explore Montreal some more. Riding in the Old Montreal is not all that fun as the pavement is really bad, and the place looks much better at night because of the light effects, so I headed to one of the more commercial streets (St. Laurent), parked the bike and went exploring.

Then I went to the Little Italy area and I found a real farmers Market. I haven't seen one since I left Romania.

I could not miss the Biosphere, a land mark in Montreal, so I had to do a quick drive by and then I also did a drive by of the Habitat 67. That is quite a place, sadly, it was getting dark and there is absolutely no place to park there, so I have no pictures of my own, but check the link to some more info. If you like funky architecture, this is one place you don't want to miss (and pictures don't do it justice, as it usually happens).

Saturday 7PM

Back to the hostel, getting ready for the "Royal Milonga", one of the more popular tango events for a Saturday night. I was there a bit after it opened and went through the same exercise of morphing from the "Robocop" look to an elegant evening outfit as the night before. The place is elegant with high ceilings, large windows and tasteful decorations. As usual, there is a bar, tables on the sides of the dance ring and even a wall covered with mirrors (so you can check your posture, assuming you can do that and dance at the same time, which I can't).

The crowd is older then it was at the Moka Dance, but once again, the level is quite high and you don't see many beginners. Which begs the question, where are the begginers dancing? As usual, I spend some time watching people dance, familiariazed myself with their style and when the opportunity occured, I asked one of the women that seemed to enjoy dancing with leaders who had styles similar to mine. That went very well and once again, I did not seem to have any problems finding partners after that. I even had to decline some invitations as they were for milongas which I'm still not dancing.

Once again, I have to mention one woman in particular, and once again, let's call her M. Like myself she started tango this year but despite that she is an amazing dancer. We danced several tangas before she and her friend had to leave and I have to say, it was the highlight of my evening. There was no fancy footwork but the musicality and the connection was amazing. Thank you M, it was a delight dancing with you and moments like that are the reason I spend so much time and money and put so much effort to learn and perfect my tango.

Sunday 11AM

All is loaded into the car, the motorcycle is safely strapped to the trailer and I'm off to Boston.

Sunday 4PM

Made it to Boston. It was an exceptional long weekend.

Note: For more pictures from this trip go to my site and check the Montreal folder under Travel.