I am currently building my own website called TANGO NOTES, a resource about tango music. Feel free to visit here:

Selected Tango Immigrant posts will continue to be up for the foreseeable future.

18 August 2014

Anything goes: asking in the cortina

Him: “Would you like to dance afterwards?”
Me: “Let’s see what the music is first.”
Him: “Oh that’s right, you listen to the music!”


When asking for dances during the cortina, several outcomes are possible: 1) you get to dance with someone who wants to dance with you. 2) you get to dance with someone who doesn’t want to dance with you, but couldn’t say no. 3) you don’t get to dance at all. Instead, you get rejected. A rejection of a verbal invitation is a true win-win situation: you’ll both feel awkward *and* make people annoyed at the same time. Remember that it’s actually uncomfortable to say no. If people feel forced to say no directly, they will feel a bit bad about themselves, and to get rid of these negative feelings, they’ll seek to blame someone else: you, because you were the one who initiated the discomfort. It may not be logical, but it’s how people work.

From my point of view, there are two reasons to keep the cortinas free from direct invitations. One reason is the music. If you ask for dances in the cortina, it could be because you 1) love all tango music and will therefore dance to any music at any given time, or 2) couldn’t care less about tango music and will therefore dance to any music at any given time. Either way,  it somehow conveys a message that you don't think the selection of music is important, and that you don't realise that it could be important to others. Waiting until the tanda starts shows respect for the music itself, for the DJ’s work, and for the fact that people have musical preferences.

Then there’s respect for the community. Asking for dances in the cortina is a bit like jump-starting in a race. Better dive in to get the ladies before anyone else takes them. Never mind that they haven’t had a chance to rest or drink or savour their previous tanda. Never mind that they haven’t had a chance to look around and make an independent decision about their next partner. Never mind the guys who don't ask in the cortina. It's their problem that they don't want to compete with you.

And to all the well-behaved ladies out there: Is it possible that you miss out on dances you really want because “someone else asked first”? Well, you’re not a fruit, so don’t just let people pick you when you have other plans or hopes.

Personally, I’m not sure that everything we do in modern society needs to be super informal. We are so worried about losing our individuality and personal freedom that we don’t notice the collective clutter we create. Maybe a bit of old-fashioned etiquette can actually be nice: a clutter-free zone in our stressful lives.

(Yes, I know that girls hog, too. But there are more guys that hog, so forgive today's generalisation.)

12 August 2014

Troilo for beginners

Some time ago, I decided to try liking Troilo. Ok, so I already liked his earlier tangos a lot, like Te aconsejo que me olvides from 1941 with Fiorentino as the singer, or the instrumental C.T.V. from 1942. But I simply could not move on to appreciating the change that happened in Troilo’s music towards the middle of the 1940s. It felt like all the fun was gone and was replaced with this weird mix of introvert and dramatic - a frustrating combination for any girl who enjoys the (maybe simpler) musical pleasures of the 1930s.

For me, tango music had always been an acquired taste, though. In the beginning, I didn’t like the traditional tango music at all, but as I heard it being played in the milongas, I slowly started discovering orchestra after delightful orchestra. Yet my relationship with Troilo remained firmly distant. It seemed that an affinity for his music wouldn’t just come with time, the way it had happened with the other orchestras.

Then I started DJing. I knew that Troilo was considered one of the most important orchestra leaders and that people I respected liked his music. I realised that the time had come for a bit of self-education.

So I sat myself down to make tandas. I picked a couple of tangos I already thought were quite nice - like Gricel with Fiorentino 1942 and Alhucema with Marino 1944 - and tried to find good matches for them. The tandas turned out quite nicely, so I played them at milongas. And since I had become more familiar with these tangos, I found myself wanting to dance to them as well. And that’s more or less it. Not only have I started liking these tangos a lot better than before. I’m even finding a few of them desperately, heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Cotorrita de la suerte. Torrente. Cristal.

Not all music is “catchy”. Not all music will float painlessly through your ear canals and magically turn into favourites. You might need to make an effort to understand it, because understanding something is often the key to liking it. And the effort you're putting in will in some cases make you like the challenging music more than the easy stuff. Try it!

The music on YouTube:

Te aconsejo que me olvides (1941 - singer: Francisco Fiorentino)

C.T.V.  (1942 - instrumental)

Gricel (1942 - singer: Francisco Fiorentino)

Alhucema (1944 - singer: Alberto Marino)

Torrente (1944 - singer: Alberto Marino)

Cristal (1944 - singer: Alberto Marino)

Cotorrita de la suerte (1945 - singer: Alberto Marino)