Tuesday, November 27, 2007

$7110.02 ...

... is the amount in fraudulent charges made on my American Express card in the last 5 days. And American express never thought it was odd "I" was charging $3000 at Bloomingdales in NY at the same time I was paying at a restaurant in Montreal.

It doesn't seem like I'm responsible for those charges but still, it's stressful to know we're so exposed. What if that was my debit card? Not that I have that kind of money in my bank account but still.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Montreal again ...

I'm in the car coming back from Montreal where Debbi and I went this weekend to dance. It was a nice trip.

Two of our tango friends came with us in the car, so we talked about tango most of the time, which made the drive seem much shorter then usual.

Friday we went to Moka Danse and we got there around 10. Since there was another special occasion milonga nearby, it wasn't nearly as crowded as it usually is. We met with a friend who recently came back from BsAs with a pair of Comme il Faut for Debbi, and once she put them on, Deb was so happy we quickly went to the dance floor to try them out. And they worked! Debbi was moving well and we had a couple of fun tandas.

My second dance of the night was with L, a girl from Montreal. We danced before and she is a beautiful dancer. While I'm guessing she is in her early twenties, she is been dancing since she was really young, and it shows. Great connection, fantastic musicality, warm and comfortable embrace. I liked the music, I was inspired and there was still some space on the dance floor so it went really well. The two tandas we danced together were probably the best I've had this weekend (with the two tandas I had with Marika a close second, as I was really tired when I danced with Marika and I was not as inspired).

After that, the Friday evening went downhill. It got crowded and I was too stressed out to enjoy myself, I seemed to have such a bad timing when asking people to dance (when I really liked the music the people I wanted to dance with were not available, when they were available, I didn't like the music or the floor was too crowded, when the floor finally cleared up, most people I was looking to dance with were done for the night). So aside from L, the couple of dances I had with E, our lovely host, and Deb, I didn't really had any great dances (in most cases it was not the follower's fault, I just was unable to get in the "zone") but none were bad.

Saturday morning we had breakfast with our hosts which was great (both the breakfast and the company), we hung out, talked about tango, practiced a bit and then later in the afternoon we went to do some food shopping as they were having some people for drinks before going out to dance. We had a blast talking with some of the people we often dance with, but hardly ever talk with, and then we went to a restaurant to have dinner. We had wine and fun conversation but it took forever to bring our food, so I got a bit cranky.

When we got there it wasn't very crowded, but it filled up quickly after we arrived. Me and Deb we danced for a few tandas but I was still cranky and that didn't go all that great.

After dancing with V (a very good dancer from Montreal) for a few tandas, my mood had slowly started to improve. While it was crowded, there were a lot of good dancers and the navigation wasn't too bad.

I danced with too many people to mention them all but I have to mention some.

R (a very sweet Romanian girl from Montreal whom I met at a festival in Montreal a year ago) was there. Somehow we didn't get to dance the last few times we ran into each other, so this time I asked her to dance as soon as we met. She improved a lot since the last time we danced, her embrace was very relaxed and warm and when I asked, she told me she worked with Marika on her embrace. It showed. If a follower finds herself in Montreal and wants to work on her embrace (and I can't see why she wouldn't, as it one of the most important elements of close embrace tango), I would highly recommend to seek out Marika. She is a very sweet person and her embrace is amazing. I have yet to meet anyone who danced with her and disagrees with that statement.

I danced for the first time with M, one of the DJs in Montreal. I wish I was more inspired and less tired, but it was a fun tanda. Between songs she asked how come she didn't see me when she was in Boston two years ago. When I replied I wasn't dancing tango two years ago she seemed very surprised. "But you danced some other dances before tango, right?". No, I didn't. It was nice to hear someone being surprised I've been dancing for less then two years. Sometimes I feel like I am plateauing despite my efforts, so hearing the surprise in her voice was a great compliment.

I had two tandas with Marika who despite not feeling well was just as amazing as always.

We left around 4:30AM and we crashed as soon as we hit the bed. Woke up at noon, we met a friend for brunch at one and we were back on the road at 3pm.

Overall it was a fun trip. I had a few great dances, most of the others were at least good, none were bad. We got to know M and E a bit more and they are awesome (and their apartment is gorgeous, Deb has a serious case of apartment envy). We met some fun people, socialized and spent a little time in Montreal, a city we really like.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007


Until a couple of days I was blissfully ignorant about the networking sites. I've heard people talk about them but I didn't pay attention. Until a few days ago when a friend sent me a message about some pictures she posted online and went through the link in the email to ... facebook.

Shit, now I have another addiction.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Last Nocturne at Empire

To fend off some of the expected post-festival depression, Deb and I hopped in the car Saturday and came to NYC to attend the last "Nocturne" at Empire. We were expecting everybody to be there and they were. A & S were so kind to host us on such short notice and after the 4 of us had dinner at an indian restaurant, Deb and I headed to Empire for the class before the milonga. The class was not all that much fun but not many group classes are.

After opening the evening with Deb as usual, my second dance was with A from Princeton. She has a very warm and relaxed embrace, good connection and musicality. The last time (which was also the first) we danced together at the NYC tango festival on live music which I didn't like much so this was the first time we danced on traditional recorded music. While I wasn't uber inspired it was a very pleasant couple of tandas.

During the dinner with our host, we were talking about the best women dancers in NYC, making a list. It was not a very big list. As I was at the milonga I realized that most of them were there, and most of them are people with whom I dance with most times when we run into each other. When I feel like bitching about where I live I need to remember that I am luckier then most. One person on the list who was there and with whom I never danced before was V. S introduced us and I asked her if she was going to stay later, as the floor was crowded and I prefer to have space when I dance for the first time with someone really good. Unfortunately she was going to leave soon, so off we went. On top of crowded floor issue, the next two tandas were also completely un-inspiring, some lyrical music with a lot of vocals. I tried to make the best of it, but I'm afraid I didn't make a stellar impression... Maybe next time I'll have better luck.

The surprise of the evening was a fellow blogger, Nuit. While we met some time ago, last night was the first time we had a chance to dance together. She's only been dancing for 6 months yet she has a relaxed and warm embrace, she is pretty good at following through the steps (not anticipating movement), a clear sense of the music and one other quality that is difficult to come by, she doesn't tense up when stuff doesn't work. She is already lovely to dance with and if she continues to progress at the same pace, she has the potential to be pretty great. In between sets I told her I found her dancing rather impressive for someone that has been dancing for such a short time and she replied along the lines of "oh, you are too kind". Mmm, no, not really. I don't remember ever making a compliment I didn't mean or even "padding" a compliment. Just ask Deb ;-).

I got to dance with S again, and the music sucked both tandas. Speaking of the music, Avik from Ann Arbor was DJing, the tandas that I liked, I really liked, but he kept playing throughout the evening lyrical sets with a lot of vocals and little rhythm. While this type of music is pleasant to dance once in a while, last night I think it was one in 3 or 4 tandas. She is such a blast to dance with on the right music, it wasn't meant to be.

The lyrical music did work for me once last night. Marika from Montreal was there and I saw her sitting down after dancing with Felipe for a few high energy tandas. I felt a little guilty for not letting her catch her breath but she is hardly ever sitting and I thought if I waited any longer I'd miss my chance. She has such a lovely embrace and she is one of the very few people I really enjoy dancing on very lyrical music. Absolutely lovely two tandas.

R was there and we danced one set, but once again, I didn't like the music. But she has a great embrace so it was a good tanda regardless.

Toward the end of the night I danced with L for the first time. I didn't remember seeing her before, even though she started about a year ago. I saw her dancing last night and she looked good. After the first song I asked her if she is studying with Robin Thomas, and she confirmed. She has some signature qualities which made it very easy for me to guess who her teacher was. The embrace, the way she steps forward and some other details, (all of them positives). Robin is such a good influence on followers I can't really imagine how the NYC scene would be without him.

Ciko was hosting and dancing so I only caught her about ten minutes before the milonga ended, it was way past 4am. She is so much fun to dance with, but I was almost wiped out by then so I'm afraid I didn't have much to offer. When "La Cumparsita" started I went and woke up Deb, who crashed about an hour earlier and we had our last dance, both of us being wiped out. We did good considering ...

Now Deb is driving back and I'm writing this. Was this worth the cost? My Jeep is a gas guzzler, so this trip cost us about $100 in gas plus the other expenses. Probably, I had a great time.

Next week we're going to Montreal for a special event. Looking forward to that, despite the optimistically 5 hour drive.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tango de Los Muertos

It's Wednesday and I'm back to work. This time I was smart enough to get both Monday and Tuesday off (after the festival). I'm glad I did as I was exhausted. I was planning on doing some work around the house yesterday, but I didn't really do much the whole day. Worked a little on the pictures I took at the festival (I took over a thousand pictures, it will take some serious work to edit, crop and adjust all of them).

The festival was great. I mean, what is really important was awesome : the dancers, the music and plenty of time to dance. There were some things I wish were different, but I'll get to that later.

New friendships

Like it happens at every festival, I met new people with whom I had some amazing dances. Amazing for me that is, if they enjoyed it a 1/4th of how much I did, I'd be happy. I will mention the ones that are teaching tango in their cities, because while I never had the opportunity to take classes with any of them, they are such amazing dancers, and such awesome people, I have no doubt they have a lot to give. So, here they are in no particular order. Thank you Jenna (Portland) for the awesome dances. She has a such an amazingly active following style, and if you are a follower and you have a change to take a class, ask her to show you how to improve your giro, I can guarantee she can show you how to make it amazing. Oh yeah, and sorry Jenna for the 10000 left turns I was leading, they were just too much fun, I could not help myself... ;-) You know a dancer is amazing when it inspires you to do things that you were never did before, like that gancho which I didn't even think it was possible ;-) Thank you Charity (San Fracisco) for the most fun bar none I've ever had dancing on live music Thursday and on nuevo music Sunday. I did not think it was possible for me to enjoy dancing on live music or nuevo music. Boy, was I wrong. A very good dancer from NY told me one of his best tanda ever was with Charity. Same here. Her ability to maintain a connection (despite my sometimes awfully clumsy moves) was just amazing. After that tanda on Sunday afternoon, I was high on endorphins for at least half an hour. Thank you Christina (San Francisco) for giving me my first couple of tandas of the festival. DiSarli's Corazon is just too beautiful song not to dance to and thanks to you, not only it didn't go to waste, but I got to dance to it with a great dancer. She has such a calming way of moving, she managed to keep my upper back tension (my nemesis) down, which was an amazing accomplishment in itself.

Old(er) friendships

Then there were the people that I already knew. Marika (Montreal) with her amazing embrace, Mila (Kansas City) which I have to thank for my first two tandas at Sundays afternoon milonga, which set the tone for an amazing tango day. S (NY) which sadly I only got to dance with once at the height of the Saturday mayhem, and who was such a sport about my abysmal navigation skills and inspiration at that time. Shorey (San Francisco) the best DJ I know, with her amazing music on Saturday, I only wish I was more inspired when we danced on Friday. M from NY who is such a sweet person and awesome dancer, R (Princeton) who I rarely get to dance with, which put up with my milonga dancing, M (Chicago) whom I was so glad to see again after meeting her at the NY festival, S (Montreal) and many others.

And then last but certainly not least, my lovely Debbi, with whom I had the last dance each night (well, maybe I should say every morning) and who after less then one year of dancing she dances better then most.

The festival, the good

Tova & Carlos got a lot right with this festival. They managed to attract fantastic dancers from everywhere, they got amazing DJs, danceable live music (those of you who read my blog on regular basis, you didn't think I was ever going to say that, didn't you?), long milongas so we had lots of time to enjoy all those things (like 2 all nighters and the Friday till 3am). The location was Springstep which has great hardwood floors, a great sound system, plenty of parking and it's easily accessible. The themed milongas were fun, a lot of people got into it and came dressed in some very inventive outfits. I thought some of the decorations were inspired, some in my opinion were not (the vertical food thing was awkward at best), but I personally don't think decorations are all that important at a milonga, to me they are pretty much at the bottom of my list (way behind the layout, lighting, drinks and food). Tova & Carlos convinced a local restaurant to open at 5AM so people can go have an early breakfast after the all nighters, which was a nice touch.

the not so good (in my opinion)

table layout - Saturday, the layout of the tables and chairs was uninspired at best. Having chairs along both long walls and nothing else had everyone walk on the dance floor which created a navigational nightmare. I am surprised I have never seen any organizer using cordons to mark the dance floor. They don't take any space and I suspect they would be highly effective at stopping people from using the dance floor as a pass through area.

performances - In my opinion the performances were way too long (3 couples 3 songs each) and taking a one tanda break between the second and third couple was an odd choice at best. They were also very late, past midnight so all the people who were there for the performances were forced to stay longer they would've otherwise. The festivals where performances are scheduled separately, before the milonga are best in my opinion, as it gives one the option of not going to either the performance or the milonga if they don't want to. As far as the performances themselves, while technically perfect (as much as I could tell) they had a lot of acrobatics which I personally don't care for. They reminded me of gymnastics competitions, where the gymnasts are performing complicated heart stopping moves with a face expression that shows the incredible concentration required to do all that stuff. I fail to see tango in all of that. I watched the same people dancing socially later and I liked their social dancing a lot better.

- In my opinion the large studio at Springstep was not large enough for the amount of people that were in attendance. Between 10PM and 2AM it was almost impossible to dance without getting injured. While the orange studio was opened as well on both Friday and Saturday, almost no one went to dance there. I tried, it just felt weird to ask someone to dance and take them to another room. I think more people would've used the room if it was designated as an "alternative/nuevo" milonga with a different DJ.

- The lighting is awkward in the large studio at springstep and aside from that they only had two reflectors on a single stand. As a photographer I am more sensitive then most to the lighting and there is no way to properly light a room with one light stand. I wish some of the effort and money spent on decorations went to a better lighting setup. Which reminds me, I continue to be surprised by people's preference for dark rooms for milongas. How is a dark room more suitable for tango is beyond my ability to understand.

The conclusion

The positive far outweighed the negatives, it was a great festival, looking forward to the next year. And now I'm going back to the regularly scheduled post-festival depression ;)


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"You're too greedy..."

I took last night a private (tango lesson) with Tomas Howlin. Deb booked it and she asked me to join her. While there are countless things I need to work on, I had some doubts that I would get new useful information, I thought I was aware of my shortcomings.

Deb asked him to help her become a more musical follower and since I consider musicality to be the most important quality a dancer can have, I figured I would ask for the same kind of help. Tomas watched us dance for half a song and then he told me.

"You are too greedy". Since I started my quest on finding "the tango", improving my musicality was at the top of my list. Being able to isolate and dance to the various beats and melody was at the top of my priority list. And I got better and better at it. What I did sort of lose sight of is that there is such a thing as too much "musicality". Tango music is complex, the beats and musicality offer countless options to move to, but I forgot I don't have to dance to ALL of them. I am too greedy, I want to dance to all nuances (that I can hear), which is often way too much.

It's funny too, I was talking with Deb that day before the class about some dances I had with some really good dancers at TdLM. I have no doubt they had a lot of fun when we were dancing, one just can't fake that, but at the end of the tanda they seemed exhausted (not physically of course). Now I know why.

So we worked on the quality of a step, the ways one can step, transfer weight (make it shorter, longer, delay it, etc), on how to use the upper body to communicate that to the partner.

It was time and money well spent. I just wished I did this sooner. Tomas is a great teacher and I would highly recommend him to anyone that wants to learn what is truly important about tango.