Monday, May 09, 2011


A few years ago, after my dissertation defense, my advisor asked me at my celebration dinner, "So, what drew you to Marcelo?" I had danced a tango with Marcelo to illustrate the concepts of tango and the Jungian idea of soul during my presentation, so I suppose that she, like many who meet Marcelo, was intrigued by him. I replied, "I think I wanted a strong lead."

I believe, as many dancers do, that dancing reflects who one is and how one interacts in the world. Marcelo, my now ex-pareja on and off the floor, was the strong presence in my life that I needed around the time I moved to Buenos Aires. He was the charismatic, take-charge personality who made a difficult transition into a different culture and a new chapter in my life, well, a teeny-weeny bit, less difficult. Alright, let's be real. The transition was a bitch, and I never quite got the hang of life in Buenos Aires. Still, I was in love and game for anything.

But was I really in love? Or was I in love with the romance? In love with love, itself? In love with the fact that our relationship began as a tango, each of us seeking each other in a sea of faces across the floor, and finding in our mutual embrace that we responded to each other in ways that were unexpected and exciting? It was the thrill of finding an exotic Other to reflect who each one of us was, or who we wanted to be. That, I believe, is the allure of the tango milonguero and its passionate embrace: the intimate mirroring for a precious 12-15 minutes within the warmth of someone's arms. With the right partner, it's intoxicating. However, when does that embrace, mirroring, and the inevitable shaping of the Other into one's image become dominance and manipulation? In other words, when does a strong lead become suffocating?

The late tango master, Ricardo Vidort, with whom I had the pleasure of taking private lessons before he died, remarked, "Your style is a feather style. Very light." However, he urged me, as did my other teacher, Roberto Canello, to find and develop my own style. Sadly, my tango, as in life, has been to mold myself to the needs and the expectations of my partner within his embrace. I never wanted to weigh my partner down in the tango, or make too many demands on my partners off the dance floor. Consequently, my romantic and dance partners laud my ability to be what they want, especially in the beginning, but what happens to me? What happens to my dance?

Perhaps the larger question is this: Is tango the right dance for me? It takes two to tango, but, if tango turns out not to be the right dance for me, am I going to be dancing solo for the rest of my life? Call me a sappy romantic, but I like being in a relationship. I'm fine as a singleton, but I learn better within a relationship.

Thankfully, as there are many kinds of dances, there are many kinds of couples. Perhaps the ideal partnership for me is one which allows for a delicate balance among freedom, connectedness, and space. Take salsa, for example. The couple can dance apart or together in a larger space that tango allows. In my experience, one is always physically connected to one's partner in tango milonguero, and one has only the space within the embrace to be creative.

Honest to god, in the last year of our relationship, the embrace felt like a trap. I felt suffocated, not only by the relationship, but by the ideas of masculininty and femininity implied in the tango. Forget about Argentina accepting gay marriage; the culture is still unbearably machista. That means that there are certain guidelines for how men and women should behave and look that are even more outdated than those we have in the States. Given the number of people and cultures in the U.S., I believe it's easier to entertain different ideas of masculinity and femininity. Of course, I count among my good friends gay Catholics, theater folk, nudists, art models, those flexible with their ideas of gender and sexual expression, and those who could care less about whom other people love. My perception may be slightly skewed.

The more I remembered who I was and realized that I could never accept these insane rules, the more I imagined myself living a new life without Marcelo in my own country, where I knew I would always return. The possibilities and plans excited me, even as I continued to try, unsuccessfully and increasingly half-heartedly, to be the partner that Marcelo wanted and needed.

So, what is my dance? Clearly, I know what I don't want. "What does Evie want?" the benevolent and radiantly beautiful TG asks. What I want for myself, on and off the dance floor, is a partnership. I've seen partnerships that work, and they look like hella fun. Though my friends admit that they've hit rough patches along the way, they move around each other with the sexy flow that comes from familiarity, a willingness to negotiate, trust, and respect. It's hawt.

Well, I've never been one to wait around for things to happen. I should de-retire my dance shoes now, and slip into something that makes my boobs look perky again.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

EVERYDAY A LITTLE DEATH: Osvaldo Zotto Dies at 46

Another great one has left us for the Great White Way in the sky. One of the stars of TangoX2, which I saw in D.C. when I was just learning how to dance was found dead in his apartment in Boedo of an apparent heart attack last Saturday, the same day that Tete died.

At one end of the spectrum, you have Tete, who, for better or worse, lived his life the way he wished. At the other end, a younger artist who was paving the way for the less experienced dancers. In them, one sees the old, with his lived experience of the tango's origins, and the new, with his innovation, energy, and the exportation of modern tango into the world. Both talented, and both gone.

Has the TG turned morbid on you? Well, I have had death on my mind a lot, even though I'm a goddess and all. These two events that rocked the tango world just seemed to be the physical manifestation of the metaphorical deaths and losses I experienced in 2009.

I realized for the first time last year that perhaps one of the big lessons I must learn is the art of letting go. So far, loss has only been metaphorical, but no less painful. From the moment I decided to move here, loss has been a constant companion. I've had to let go of relationships, ambitions, projects, hopes, and ideas about myself that weren't doing anything to enrich my life because they were either outmoded or rendered irrelevant, given my geographical location. Although these things were necessary for the life I had then, they kept me trapped now in who I believed I still was and/or had to be, in a life I believe still existed. So, letting go left some huge gaps that, honestly, were pretty damn scary to deal with.

But, as Julie Andrew says in The Sound of Music, "Whenever God closes the door, somewhere He opens a window." The losses and the spaces they created were accompanied by surprises and opportunities that came to fill in them, including new family relationships and friendships, and a new vocation that merges my interests in health and psychology. These new additions don't replace what I had before. I believe they are a transformation of what went before, a reincarnation of what once was, entering my life to carry me forward into 2010,and, maybe, beyond.

Of course, death and loss sucks when it happens, and pondering the inevitable--physical deterioration and death of loved ones--will either make me want to crawl under a rock, or, hopefully, make me appreciate everyday I have with them and to love them more generously.

Happy 2010!

Friday, January 08, 2010


If you've spent any time in Buenos Aires, you would have seen a white haired whirling dervish on the floor otherwise known as Tete. Though wheezy from asthma with an ample belly, he could dance circles--literally--around younger dancers.

Last night, the security person at El Beso told us that Tete had died yesterday at noon. Lucia added that he had been dancing the night before until around midnight, though he had been dealing with some health problems for a few weeks. She explained that he died of cardiac problems at his home, and that they had found him already dead on the floor. Most people were stunned, including us. One sees them as fixtures at the milongas, and expects to see them sitting there forever. However, as divine as they may seem on the floor, they succumb to death as all of us less-divine dancers will.

I was suprised to hear that quite a few had mixed feelings about this man, this tango legend. I have to admit that the few times I danced with him were torture. When I was his partner, and when I watched him, I always got the feeling that he wasn't dancing with me; rather, I was just along for the white-knuckle ride. So, I never danced with him again. For me, he was an acquired taste.

However, I can't deny that the man had a unique style that will never be replicated, even though one catches glimpses of his creativity and his energy in his young nephew, with whom I adore dancing. Just as the other milonguero greats who left this mortal dance floor before him--Ricardo Vidort and Carlos Gavito, for example--Tete takes with him his tango memories, his knowledge of tango's history which he lived and breathed. I looked around El Beso last night and wondered who would be next. Chiche? El Flaco Danny? These aren't guys who make good health and clean living a priority, which, I suppose, is part of their charm and, ultimately, their downfall. However, their presence in the world leaves an indelible mark on tango and the milonga, and their absence leaves an empty spot on the dance floor that will never again be filled by their own particular, even peculiar, magic. R.I.P.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


In the tango jungle, one finds many a strange and exotic species. There is one peculiar creature that migrates to the southern hemisphere from his native Italy at least once a year to partake in the elaborate mating ritual that is the tango. There are many subspecies of this particular bicho that many females at the milonga have enjoyed studying up-close-and-personal, such as the sweet-smelling and physically attractive Tanus Hottius, but the Tanus Odiferous is probably the rarest of this group. I have only discovered two very closely-related subjects in existence in the past four and a half years.

Although the slightly bloated physique of the Tanus Odiferous suggests a more distant relation to the Tanus Hottius, our subject, like most in this family of exotica, shares the former's impressive terpsichorean abilities. And, unfortunately, that's where the similarities end.

The tragedy of his aromaticness marks a shocking contrast to his dancing, which pleases Her Divinity. In his less pungent, yet still smellificent state, I have enjoyed forays on the dance floor with him. Of course, after these occasions, my consort ordered me to perform a ritual cleansing before joining him in bed, but it was worth the price of admission for a great tanda. However, a few nights ago in El Beso, the Tanus Odiferous was particularly pungent. And when I write, "pungent," I mean he raised the bar on stinky, elevated reeking to an art form, broke all olfactory boundaries. El Macho summed it up succinctly: El mal olor se pudrio (The stinkiness rotted.). It was a heady, complex bouquet of rotting meat, sweaty feet, rotten eggs, musty clothes, kitchen grease, and Roquefort dating back to the French Revolution. Dude. Was. Ripe.

As he made his way around the perimeter of the room with his most unfortunate partner, both men and women turned their heads away in disgust. In her beneficence, the TG was feeling mighty sorry for him watching people's reactions. She thought, “What gives, O, Putrid One? Dost thou not know that thy powerful odor rises to the heavens, and offends greatly both mortal and divine alike?” In the midst of her reverie, El Macho dared look at her straight in the eyes and warned her: "If you dance with him, I swear I will book you a room in a hotel because you'll just end up polluting the house with his smell. It'll take forever to clear out."

Dag. Harsh.

I'd like to say that my own Italiano was exaggerating, but, if anyone knows about olores, it's him. He reveled in his own barely tolerable odors when we first started knockin' boots. But love (and lots of pleading and nagging on my part) changes you, and now he's a normal daily showerer. The point is that with his Italian schnoz, he can pick up scents like a dog, embarrassing scents I don't dare mention here. So, as he walked toward me to dance, it took him a millisecond before he grabbed my hand and stepped a full 2 yards away from Tanus Odiferous, his eyes wide in wonder as he whispered, "Lo sentis?"

Yes, doll, TG did, and in her infinite wisdom, decided against sullying her outfit with Mr. Odiferous' mortal stench.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


A few weeks ago, El Hombre was miffed when a friend of ours, who had just arrived at the milonga, walked by him without so much as a wave as Hector of Cachirulo was escorting him to his seat. To add insult to perceived injury, this friend stopped to greet another man seated beside him who called out his name to shake hands and give the perfunctory kiss before scurrying off to catch up with Hector.

Knowing our friend, he probably didn't want to keep Hector waiting for him as he made his social rounds. However, it bothered my Earthly Consort enough to cross the great man-woman milonga divide during a tanda to talk to me about it. My Mortal Partner said, “I think it’s because he’s shy, but you need to tell him that this could have negative consequences for him. People could get really angry off at him and refuse to talk to him ever again.”

Sheesh! Are people that sensitive? Apparently so. And the message is clear when you shun someone at the milonga: I don’t want to have anything to do with you. The consequence to you, the shunner-soon-to-be-shunee, will also be crystal clear: I don’t want to have anything to do with you, either.

I have been on the receiving and given end of the brush off. Take
Exhibit A: Señor A, an Argentine and tango milonguero aficionado, and I had a short-lived fling back in the day when I was still living Stateside, and, when I moved to Buenos Aires, we would see each other at milongas when he was in town. Though “broken-up,” we still mixed business and non-horizontal, tango pleasure. However, when our business relationship went awry (read: tipped to his advantage), I made certain that I got things quietly back on course (read: even). No words were exchanged. I did not create any drama, but he knew I had discretely righted a wrong by taking back what rightfully belonged to me. Still, I saw no need in avoiding each other. We were adults after all.

Shortly after I had retrieved my personal property, I saw Señor A at the milonga. He walked toward my table, and, like a dork, I smiled at him, thinking he would say, "Hello." If you’ve been to a milonga in BsAs, you’d know how people are packed at tables like sardines. Unless you were totally blind and/or clueless, you wouldn’t be able to miss the person sitting on either side of the person you were greeting. Though I smiled at him, he greeted only the person beside me, and walked toward his seat.

Oh, no, he didn’t.

Girl, oh, yes, he did. Hm-mm. (Insert here image of angry black woman with pursed lips, elaborately decorated long nails with hand on hip, and head moving in circle.)

I was aghast. We had shared spit, after all, and the romance didn’t end badly. Plus, I wasn’t going rip him a new one on the dance floor for trying to bilk me out of my personal property. Well, maybe just yank his chain a little, but, since I absolutely hate confrontation, I would have guised it as jest. After thinking about it, I decided that it wasn’t worth trying to salvage a friendship that didn’t really exist to begin with, so I went along with it. We don't acknowledge each other's presence anymore, though I noticed that he stares at me sometimes when I dance.

Exhibit B: Señora B is a porteña in her late 50’s who used to share a table with me, used to run into me and my partner at gym classes in the park, and even once offered to give me a lift close to home after a milonga. I thought we were pseudo-tango friends. Then we were not. I would continue greeting her, but she stopped reciprocating.

It got me thinking...This brush off coincided with making my relationship with my partner official, meaning everyone in the milongas knew I was here to stay. It made me wonder: So, it's OK for a foreign gal to have a brief fling with regular in the milonga, but if she decides to stay and have a committed, happy relationship with a regular, well, then, that’s just not acceptable. I would have called myself paranoid if I hadn't experienced the change in ‘tude around the same time with other milongueras with whom we broke bread on numerous occasions. W. T. F.?!

But I digress.

So, whereas I still greet Señora B's friend who sits beside her every Saturday night, I don’t make an effort to greet Señora B anymore. Good goddess, the woman won't even look at me in the eyes anymore. But, as I asked myself after Señor A publically dissed me, I asked myself how much energy I was willing to invest in someone who, in the end, did not really think highly of me to begin with?

My partner, on the other hand, won't be havin' that 'tude. If someone snubs him, he will look them in the eye, grab their arm or hand, and greet them. They can either: a) look like a jackass in front of everyone when they diss my partner, or b) play nice and give it up for The Man. It's not that he wants to reconcile and be all BFF with them; he just refuses to let an insult go unvenganzad. I, on the other hand, just couldn't be bothered with all that Michael Corleone venganza. I can live with the mutual dissing. It's unfortunate, but, in the end, not unpleasant. We cease to exist for each other, and, I'm fine with that.

However, dissing another person can affect your standing in the milonga, especially if you are new and trying to establish yourself as a dancer. Do as the politicians do. Smile, wave, say, “hello”, hold babies for foto opps. It gets you votes, my fellow jungle people (this goes for the guys, too). At the very least, even if they don't dance with you, they’ll register your presence.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Hong Kong Style
Montañeses 2149 (Belgrano, Capital Federal)
Tel: 4786-3456

There are Asian restaurants around. Some are even OK. However, I've noticed that the one crucial element conspicuously missing from many an Asian restaurant is Asian customers. I mean, where are all the people from the "yellow countries," a term Argentines learn to denote the yellow-colored countries populated by "yellow" people? (Ooooooh! The Yellow People. Be afraid.)

I am, according to the white Argentines of European descent, a person of yellow hue, and, therefore, obviously from one of the only 3 countries that make up the exotic East in their minds: China, Korea, or Japan. However, being of Southeast Asian descent, thankyouvermuch, I am browner than my yellow brothers and sisters. Still, this brown can get down with mellow yellow, and geez, it's nice to walk into a Chinese restaurant where half the tables are filled with noisy, slurpy, eating-with-your-mouth-open Chinese, Taiwanese, or Hong Kongense people. It makes me all warm and fuzzy, and I feel instantly en casa. Call it an Asian thing. Call it a good Asian restaurant.

I noted recently in an Argentina mag that mentioned good Asian places in Buenos Aires. They couldn't have been more wrong. Palitos in Barrio Chino? Palitos sucks, and so does the service. What makes this place stand out? First, as aforementioned, lots of Asians. This is a good sign. Most restos in Barrio Chino or sushi joints in the area are filled with Argentines. Where do all the yellow people go eat? I see them in the Asian Market in Barrio Chino (the best one is on Mendoza, just 2 blocks up from Libertador) busily picking out the freshest fish and veggies, so, it seems, they all must eat at home...or come here.

The resto also has great service. The owner is a gracious, energetic woman in her fifties who checks in once in a while with the customers when she's not working the register. The 2 waiters are friendly and efficient.

Lastly, the food. Sigh. If the Asian people think it's finger lickin' good, then it really must be good. Today, we ordered our usual arrolladitos (the ubiquitous and familiar, meat-filled eggrolls) for starters, with a little bowl for my vinegar 'cause we Filipinos like it like that. Then came our whole, deep-fried, sweet and sour fish, complete with tail and mouth agape. You'll have to ask for the bowl of white rice on the side to get the full-on experience. Delish! According to the owner, fish and other mariscos are, in fact, Hong Kong Style's specialty. I'm going to have to free my mind and try something else from the ample-sized menu.

But that didn´t stop me from looking around to check out what the other non-Argentines were eating. Surprise! There's dimsum, except, instead of the little carts that pass each table, one can pick it out of the pink menu that is handwritten in Chinese. Of course, it's all in Chinese, because who else but Asian people eats this stuff? Hell to the yeah, I DO, I say! If I can't read it, I'll just point to the next table, or ask for it in Spanish. Chicken feet! Sea food and pork-filled steamed dumplings! Fried tofu slabs! Siumai! Get in my belly.

After trying out the various Chinese eateries in Barrio Chino and beyond, Hong Kong Style is, by far, our favorite Chinese trough.

Ambiance: For some reason, most of the Chines/Taiwanese/Hong Kongenses/and one random Filipina-American with her Italian partner congretated to the left of the room, part of which is separated by a screen. No idea why, although the waiter pointed out to us that the heaters were on the left. Very clean place for your usual Chinese restaurant. Chairs could be a little more comfortable.

Service: Excellent. If you decide to try the whole, fried, sweet and sour fish, you can order it before you come to the restaurant so you won't have to wait as long for your order. They're cool like dat.

Price: 1 order of arrolladitos, 1 whole fried fish, 1 bowl of white rice, and 2 hot green teas came up to 74 pesos. Decent price for a very good meal.

Overall: Super duper! I'm coming back for more.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Last Tango in Cachirulo: In Memoriam

I'd see him off and on at the milonga in El Beso, a pasty-looking, low-profile kind o' guy in his 70's with snow-white hair parted severely off to one side. We danced once a long time ago, when I had just moved here--or was it when I was still visiting? There were never any tango fireworks, so I marked him off as "just a guy I had a tanda with once upon a time". I don't know if he was a good man or a bad man. A milonguero or a regular guy who liked to dance. During our tanda, he was...nice. In other words: non-descript. At best, he was a fixture that I knew would probably be in the same place at the same time.

Fast forward a few years later. I discovered a weeks ago that he had died. Ricardo, one of my usual partners pointed to the spot where he died at Cachirulo, saying, "He was dancing with that woman there, and then he had a heart attack and died." The paramedics tried to revive him, but didn't have any luck. He died on the floor that night.

I looked at the woman who was to be his last spin around the floor. She was in her late 40's, maybe early 50's, and cute. He must have been thrilled to danced with her because he never really danced a lot, was never in-demand as a dance partner. Then again, maybe she was one of his usual clients. I just didn't pay attention to him enough. Usually, it seemed he kept to himself, watching the other couples dance, sometimes with a little smile on his face.

Ricardo explained that this guy--I never caught his name--had a history of cardiac problems, which explains why he might not have danced so much. Tango is not the most aerobic dance, but the right partner can get your heart pumping, your juices flowing. What was going through his mind when he decided to ask her to dance? How did he react when she accepted? Did he know it would be his last tanda? Did he know he was going to die when he felt that first sharp pain? And did he try to ignore it? What was it like gasping for your last breath in the arms of an attractive woman, after having danced the dance you loved the most, being embraced to the music you grew up listening to?

Cachirulo remains the same. Same music. Same people. Same cattiness and petty competition for the best seats. But knowing that this man--this gentleman whose name I've forgotten or never bothered getting the first time--died doing what he may have loved the best, but never could do as much as he wanted, makes me appreciate what I am lucky enough to do, albeit rather clumsily at times.

Sometimes I wonder how I'll be spending my last moments. I hope my last days on la tierra won't involve a lot of blood, because I can't deal with the mess. Not that I'd have to clean it up after I kick the bucket. You know, I'm just sayin'. I hope I'll just go to sleep and never wake up, just slipping peacefully into the Great Beyond. Then again, that seems so anti-climactic, especially given that I've had a pretty eventful life thus far. Perhaps choosing to say, "Screw my cardiac problems! I'm going to dance with this hottie even if it kills me," is the best affirmation of life, even in the face of death.