Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pittsburgh Tango Seen

Lucky for me I had a week to kill before I started my new job here near Wheeling, WV, and so I had a great opportunity to check out Pittsburgh’s multitude of tango offerings. Let me tell you that this is the youngest tango community I’ve ever come across and it is huge! There are lots of tango venues here in and all around the University of PIttsburgh.
Ladies, now hear this! Pittsburgh is LEADER heavy! That means there are too many leaders and too few followers. So please, get your butts up here and even out the numbers!
By far the best, as well as the most unique tango spot was the Milonga @ Rich’s located in the RJW Law Office on a Penn Avenue that is under heavy construction. There are two milongas here simultaneously on the first Friday of the month.
Upstairs there’s classic tango broadcast in a tiny office space. It is strewn with posters of Obama and relics of the Virgin Mary. I think it really is a working legal factory for the masses of Pittsburgh’s proletariat class. Vehicle titles and yellow carbon copies litter a desk at the far end of the room where a laptop executes the night’s music playlist.
It is a very casual scene.
Downstairs are the restrooms, an anteroom where finger foods and empanadas are offered on a small tray before you enter the main ballroom called the Dance Emporium. This place has ambiance that rivals that of the milonga at De Las Puertas in Albuquerque, NM. It does not have the size but it definitely has steel beams of character.
The walls are covered with posters of our President as Comrade Obama and the ceiling is strung with ancient bike parts welded onto plumbing fixtures.
Did I say restrooms? That might not be an accurate description but relief can be found and they are clean(at least the boys room was).
A man who introduced himself as Rob greeted me as soon as I walked in. He was in the middle of a dance with a young lady but that didn’t stop him from fulfilling his duties as a host. He’s a BIG guy: tall and heavy; yet he is a surprisingly talented leader, especially with the colgadas.
I would like to lead colgadas like him before I leave here, if I ever do leave.
It was early and there were five extra leaders. A man came over to play twenty questions and he informed me that Pittsburgh was leader heavy. He promised the odds would even out later and they did around 11 p.m.
I attended several more events over the next seven days and had quite a few conversations with members of the local tango tribe. I feel confident now that I can offer a reasonable account of the state of tango in the Steel City.
Apparently the population surge of young tangueros is a recent occurrence. Tango has been around here in the home of the Steelers since 1995 and there is a solid core of experienced dancers here. I did not notice a dominant style, in fact, I experienced almost all of them, from Milonguero-style or close embrace, to tango salon and nuevo tango.
For a complete and extremely accurate listing of all of P-burg’s tango check out their webpage: http://www.pittsburghtangueros.org/
Almost all of the events I attended were within two miles of the university. Most of the dance floors were small but there are a few genuine dance ballrooms here. 
This town is big on its tango offerings. Just last night I attended a workshop taught by Javier Antar and Kara Wenham. I’ve been here less than a week and already I’ve attended three milongas and two practicas. Sweet!

It looks like the Kayak Hombre got lucky on this job assignment. Great tango only 70 miles away and did I say that I’ve always been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers? I think I might even get a chance to attend one of their games. Now where is my Terrible Towel?





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Friday, November 14, 2014

A Farewell to Tango Wisconsin

I have officially moved to Wheeling, West Virginia, and have already made three trips to Pittsburgh for tango. I had better put down some thoughts on my stay in wonderful Wisconsin before it fades from my drafty memory, so here goes.
Wisconsin was very good for me in so many ways. It was here that I finally incorporated a healthy diet into the lifestyle of a telecom switch technician where nine to five can be an a.m. or p.m. shift. It was very difficult to resist all the delicious doughnuts that are available on almost every corner in this vast state but I did.
Madison is the capital city and it is THE place to go. It consistently ranks as the number one best city in the United States. If you come here bring your tango shoes and stay awhile. I would have stayed forever if I could.
Dancing tango at the Cardinal Bar, my favorite tango spot, will be something I remember forever. I had so many great tango encounters here that I couldn’t stop myself from coming back every week. I think I came to Madison every weekend that I was in Wisconsin, a period of eleven months.
Most of the people I met in Madison were from Wisconsin. If I had to choose one word to describe them it would be WARM. Cheeseheads, as they are affectionately known nationwide, are easy to spend time with, be it ten minutes of a tanda dancing tango or a year working on a cellular network contract.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, put a $50 bid on Priceline for a room in the Middleton section of town. Half of the time you will get a room at the Marriott or something just as nice. Go to the Hubbard Diner and Bakery, http://www.hubbardavenuediner.com/, while you’re there for a uniquely Madison dining experience at a reasonable price. Make sure you read the t-shirts worn by the staff, they'll crack you up.
There are lots of weekend tango events and lots of weekday tango instruction available but only one place to go to find out where and when: http://www.madisontango.org/.  They’re on Facebook, too, under the name Madison Tango Society.
If you’re looking for a wild tango scene, you will not find it here. The ladies are all very respectable midwestern gals but they are almost all quite willing to dance with any leader. That is why this is probably one of the fastest growing tango communities in America. In the short time that I was here, two new tango communities sprung up in Viroqua and LaCrosse.
Also, the University of Wisconsin is an institution of world renown. I have met many tango dancers here who were visiting the university from Germany, Italy, Kazahkstan and many, many more countries.
If I ever get the chance to come back here, I will not hesitate. If you get a chance to come, don’t miss it. You will not regret it. Wisconsin is cold in the winter time but my memory of it will always be a warm place in my heart.


For more wanderings of the Kayak Hombre, check out his two books:








Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Albuquerque Tango Festival 2014: No Need to Call a Taxi Here!

                I just got back and once again I am super-elated after four days of total tango immersion! It was the usual smorgasbord of classroom instruction combined with evening milongas but something was different this time and it was us.
               I can’t quote numbers but every milonga and every class I attended was packed. Big deal, you say, we hear that every year about the ABQ Tango Festival, so what else is new? The women were EXTREMELY satisfied, at least the women I met, with the amount of dance invitations they were getting, that’s what was new!
                I have never heard a lady utter the phrase, “I am getting enough dances,” until this weekend! I didn’t hear this from just one person either. It was repeated many times by many tangueras.
               This festival will not be remembered for its fantastic instructors and their teachers, who were absolutely superb; it will be remembered for its awesome milongas and the proclivity of tangueros to sample as many tangueras as possible.
               I asked the show's organizer, Daniel Boardman, if he seeded the field somehow in favor of the ladies but he denied doing anything, crediting it to the good nature of the people in attendance.
               Another recurring event was also different, Tango InForm, a tango warmup session devised and conducted by Carrie Field, a tango/pilates instructor hailing from Taos, NM. 
               I was blown away last year by how well thought-out this exercise was yet she found a way to make it incredibly better. Carrie doesn’t just help us prime our bodies for a weekend of tango, she educates us on what muscles are being used when we dance.  
               The muscle-stretching exercises we performed to her easily understood narration were not the same as those of a year ago but they were just as safe and even more effective. 
               What I found most edifying about her routines were how closely they mimicked tango movements. By the end of the session I felt as if I’d already taken my first class of the day but also felt completely relaxed and refreshed!
               For more on Carrie Field and Tango InForm, check out her website here. For more stories about her click here. And here is a link to their original website where she was and still is one half of the dynamic tango teaching duo known around the world as Taos Tango: click here. Mike Malixi is the Yin to her Yang and he’s also an awesome force in tango as well. If you need more proof of that, clickhere:-D
               Having been to many tango festivals, I employed a new strategy for getting the most out of my investment. This time I decided to focus on one set of instructors to get a clearer picture of their teaching technique as well as to get a feel for how the students reacted to them.
               I chose Cristina and Homer Ladas for two reasons. First, I’d been following them on the internet for most of the eight years I’ve been pursuing proficiency in this dance and didn’t want to waste this chance. Second, they are the most frequently requested tango instructors in Madison, Wisconsin, a place where I tango often but never had the chance to attend one of their workshops.
               I’ll write a separate post about my experience with them but you should know that it was all good! Thank you, Cristina, you've helped my lead for the colgada immensely!
               Once again, the milongas were fantastic! I didn’t lack for partners and the partners I encountered were absolutely thrilled with their experience of the festival. The QTango Orchestra played once again on Saturday night and they were awesome as always. I am their biggest fan so you know I’ve blogged about them before just click here and here for two raving mad reviews.
               The accommodations at Hotel Albuquerque were exquisite: comfortable beds with great pillows, refrigerator upon request; great view of Sandia Peak on the even numbered rooms and a balcony on the odd numbered rooms. If you like the open air, choose the latter. Service was impeccable as it was the last time I stayed here.

               Finally, there were vendors, lots of vendors selling dresses and shoes and much, much more. I think they only take cash or checks so bring some with you if you come next year. I ended up buying a pair of practice shoes in my size, something I’ve been reluctant to do online.
               Thanks to all who made this event possible, mostly Daniel Boardman and the Tango Club of Albuquerque. Evidently you guys are not just getting older, you’re getting better. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and I want to thank you profusely, so here goes: Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, a hundred times, Thank You VERY, VERY MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




For more on the Kayak Hombre and his adventures, check out his two books:




Monday, October 27, 2014

The Right Tango Partner


           It is possible to master the fundamentals of tango and yet remain ignorant of the purpose of this dance. We gather to have fun and to heal. We are drawn to tango by something akin to our sex drive: a need to make contact with the opposite sex and to move in harmony with the music.
               Skill is not a prerequisite for a successful tango engagement; necessity is.
               The gauchos and fisherman of early twentieth century Argentina and Uruguay were busy with cattle and cod and you can bet that they had no time to practice a cat-like walk on the pampas or at sea. The women at the bordellos waiting for the herds to arrive or the ships to dock were equally busy living the life of a prostitute, where good negotiating skills easily trumped a need to move with precision. Tango was born as a result of men and women doing what they needed to do in order to survive.
               No man is an island in a sea of men; he is simply another drop of water in the ocean, grounded to nothing.
               Most men cannot live without the presence of the fairer sex in their world. Our need is much more than a desire to procreate, we crave to be a part of their world, to delight in the sound of a lady’s laughter, to engage in frivolous banter, to be treated with an affectionate warmth that only a woman can generate, if only for a short time.
               I watched a movie last weekend called Fury. It is a gruesome war movie about men in a tank. They share an intense bond that is dissolved by only one thing: a man’s desire for feminine companionship.
               This is demonstrated in a dinner scene where the tank commander, played by Brad Pitt, forces two German women to cook him dinner and serve it to his men. One of the men tries to disrupt the civility of the occasion and the tank commander indicates that he is ready to fight to preserve the sanctity of the meal.
               I believe it is entirely possible for a tanguera to become so focused on improving her skills that she completely obscures what it is that she brings to the table. She is God’s gift to men but sometimes she forgets or maybe she has never realized this to be true.
               All men desire to be king of something and that something is nothing unless there is a woman in it.
               I am like the gaucho and the fisherman in Argentina of old. I am traveling around America in search of employment to provide for my family. It is a years-long endeavor as well as a solitary existence except for the times I get to dance tango.

                 The right partner for me, therefore, is not the tanguera who executes molinete with flawless perfection whilst performing a myriad of dazzling adornments; she is the woman who needs me for whatever reason. The right partner brings beauty into my world, moves with me to the music and soothes the savage beast that lives in the hearts of men.





For more on the Kayak Hombre, check out his two books:



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Battle of the Sexes

               I’m a big baby. I can be moody and sometimes resolve never to dance again with a tanguera who has slighted me but I usually get over it. I spent a lot of time, energy and money to learn how to lead the tango and it irks me to have that discarded as a casual endeavor equal to something like lifting the toilet seat. Also, the use of perfume in lieu of showers really bothers me.  
               I say this because I want women to know how combustible a man’s constitution can be though he may appear quite calm.
               I have to assume something of the sort is also true for women. I think that, for many women, men are the biggest problems in their lives, and vice versa for men. An engagement on the dance floor with a member of the opposite sex sometimes feels like a battle-field assignment but you shouldn't back off from giving it all you got.
               A tango dancer needs to be aware of the possibly fragile nature of their partner that could not be discerned from the cabeceo. Do not shirk an engagement with this person, but rather confront their moodiness head-on. Be the bull or the stubborn mare, get angry, flare your nostrils but, above all else, do not walk away.
               Moodiness is no match for tango, a dance that handles unbridled passion with twinkling piano keys. The world is a big place and the emotional forecast is often stormy.
               Tango is not for the faint of heart. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger is an adage that is so true in this dance. You may not have enjoyed that tanda but the fact that you didn't back down from the dark clouds of a poor disposition is a tiny, yet satisfying, victory. A win is a win, no matter what the size.
            If you are here seeking only the fair-weather tanda, then maybe you should go back to watching tango on the computer screen or reading about it in books. We are emotional creatures. Times like these will make you a better dancer and add to your enjoyment when that sunny-day dance finally comes your way. 




For more on the Kayak Hombre, check out my books available on Amazon:





Thursday, October 16, 2014

Slut Shamer vs. the Tanguera


               Tango has a tawdry side and it is difficult for me to understand.
               Every now and then a woman with whom I am dancing will perform an embellishment that can only be described as vulgar. I've seen a great number of these in my eight years of tango dancing and they always have me asking, “WTF?”
               Recently, a Facebook friend posted a youtube clip from an opera called Carmen. I couldn't understand the words they were singing because it was in French but I knew what they were saying: Carmen is a slut!
               She’s not just a slut, she’s a slut with a knife and she used it on the woman accusing her of promiscuity. Carmen gets arrested but manages to seduce the soldier guarding her into letting her go.
               There is a monster that lives in the universe of women that never rears its ugly head in a man's world. It is called the Slut Shamer and it’s a real killer.
               Slut shaming is a new word used to describe the means by which women condemn inappropriate sexual behavior by other women. It begins at an early age and is pervasive throughout all cultures. The definition of inappropriate is entirely up to the plaintiff. The tactics vary from simple name calling to imprisonment and even execution.
               I think that women live in constant fear of the Slut Shamer. For some there comes a point in their lives when they can’t take it anymore and they call the beast out. Tango is one of the arenas where these women make their stand and when they do it can be quite shocking.
In the video, Carmen doesn't succumb to the guilt her accuser tries to force upon her. She holds her head high and struts unashamed.
And so it is with the risque embellishment. The follower does not cower in fear of reprisal having made her blatant display of passion, of l'amore, she continues to dance, oblivious to any reaction the audience may have.




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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tango Is Not Just Music and Dancing


               At a recent milonga, I spied a young tanguera in the throes of communicating disinterest. A young man, so new to tango that he could not lead a back ocho much less be considered a tanguero, was propositioning her for a dance. She slumped in her chair trying her best not to look at him and he was doing his best to get her attention.
               I had already heard her decline his blatant offers with a polite, “no thank you,” but he was undeterred; his patient was flatlining and he was going to do everything he could to save her. He was certain that a dance with him would resuscitate her. 
               He was desperate because she wasn't the only one who was dying.
               Watching the scene play out from across the room I wondered if I should amble over and rescue her. I decided that would be too rude and that she would just have to ride this wave all the way to the shore.
               I couldn’t blame the young man for not giving up. She was intoxicating. I knew that beyond her youthful good looks she was an absolutely delightful dance partner, something he would not know until he began taking his tango education a bit more seriously.
               I was staring in amazement at her ability to appear lifeless when a potential Romeo walked past and was immediately pulled into her orbit. It took Christ three days to rise from the dead but this girl did it in three milliseconds!
               Sitting bolt upright, her neck extended, she smiled at the new man in her life. It made me happy to just to watch her shine.

               Tango is not just music and dancing. It is old men remembering when that light once shone for them as well as the times when they could not even get a fire started.




For more of the Kayak Hombre, read my books Fear of Intimacy and the Tango Cure and River Tango. Available at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle editions.