27 February 2010

rescued by egyptians

Bad tango night = worse night, every time.

Do you ever get claustrophobic at a milonga?  I don't mean because of the crowds of people blocking you on the floor, maneuvering as best they can because the place is so packed with tango dancers...  Tonight, after about two hours, all I wanted to do was dance, but the last thing on earth I wanted was for someone to look at me, approach me, and ask me to dance.  I was almost panicked, and that doesn't make for good dancing.  Even the idea of having a pleasant conversation with someone at one of the tables was horrifying.  I wanted to dance, but I wanted to disappear even more (but no, not like that scene in Flashdance).

So, knowing nothing good could come out of this emotional state, I put on my street shoes and called a taxi.  My whole being put up a sign: don't approach, see?  I even put on my street shoes to keep you away from me while I wait for my taxi.  A Russian came up to me and said, "That's it?"  The milonga was supposed to go to 3am.  I tried to convince myself that I wasn't feeling well, that was why I was leaving, and I suppose I really wasn't feeling well.  God, if tango brings me a whole new set of neuroses, I won't know what to do...

I left, and when the taxi let me off I stopped into a local café (ha, starbucks) to drown my sorrows.  I thought about how I was too poor to buy a bottle of wine (it's the end of the month and my money flew away on tango classes, practicas, and milongas) and I felt worse.

Then, like a sign from heaven, I sit down with my hot chocolate (very self-destructive, I know, I need to stop drinking) and there are two men speaking Arabic on the couch behind me.  I know, like it's in my blood, that by the way they are talking, they are Egyptian.  Mish maA'oul, yani, ba'oulak eie, mafeesh wa'at; ah, yani, helwa kidda, and all of that.  I am suddenly at Pastroudis again.  Or Arabica.  Or Om Kolthoum.  Or Stiletto.  Or anywhere in that dusty, insane place that I call home.

I turn to them and say, "low samaHt, inta min misr?" to one of them ("excuse me, are you from Egypt?").  Ah, min misr! yes! inti misreya? ("yes, from egypt! are you egyptian?") -- no, I am not Egyptian, I explain, I just... am Egyptian.  They couldn't believe I wasn't born in Egypt, or had Egyptian parents, and I spoke with them for a half hour in Arabic about cairo, boston, molokheya, traffic, alexandria.  So I left starbucks feeling happy, a little cold in the winter weather, but still with a smile on my face.  

I tend to be continually pulled by two things in life: Egypt and tango.  When one "life" disappoints me, the other fulfills me.  When I was suffering in Egypt, tango reminded me that there was incredible beauty in the world.  Now it's Egypt's turn to pick me up, but I still have to live with the fact that I will be a foreigner in every country I go.  I will never be truly Egyptian, I will never be truly American, I will never be French even though I speak like a Parisian, never Russian nor Argentinian or... anything, really.  I'm a stateless emigrée.         

"We find a country in these words..." I once wrote.  But now I'm beginning to think we find a country in these embraces, these sad, lonely little bodies that search for a love that lasts 3 minutes.  Sometimes it's beautiful; sometimes it's just awful.  Who ever said any of this is easy...?  Anyhow, I'm sleeping in my AUC sweatshirt tonight.

25 February 2010

take care of your tango toes

I have great shoes.  They have wonderful support and feel light and lovely.  

That doesn't mean, however, that I don't develop blisters on my feet, and especially calluses on the inside part of my big toe.  At this point these calluses are unavoidable, because I dance all the time with my feet turned out and it's only natural that most of the resistance develops on the inside parts of the toes.  But it's gotten to the point where my toes are so sore that the pain keeps me from turning my feet out as much as I should.  Now this is a problem.

Apparently the best thing to do to these rotten calluses is use a pumice stone and DESTROY THEM.  And also to wrap your toes when you aren't dancing.  For the ballerinas out there (merkel) this is old news, but tomorrow I will give my feet the royal treatment with a long shower, pumice attack (!!), wrapping, and a nice, cushy (but stylish, mind you, who do you think I am?) shoe.

Just dance, gonna be ok... (I love this record baby).

21 February 2010

celebrate extreme colour

Do you ever have wonderful tango nights, but you barely dance at all?  The milonga on Friday night was fairly normal, not too many people, but something miraculous happened that makes me think the universe has its eye on me: give me a bottle of wine and I am the happiest girl on the planet.
When somebody opens a bottle of wine, I can't help but feel joyous even before I taste it.  The popping of the cork set against an old Gardel recording and soft, dim orange light is one of those beautiful images that isn't exactly rare at a milonga, but it still sends my romantic soul swooning.  I barely danced, just sat with the DJ/instructor and some friends watching the others dance; we got to know each other better under the truth-telling influence of a happy Malbec.  Vino veritas.  At the end of the night I shared a great dance to one of my favourite songs (Paris Texas, Gotan Project) and left, wined-up and feeling great.  Wine - don't ever forget it.  How can you?

Other news.  In the last few days I have purchased a few pairs of leg warmers (very practical for both dancing and the winter wind), one of them HOT PINK (definitely not my style but complements my style perfectly, since I wear usually black, grey, white, & beige), and I'm just obsessed with them.  Really.  I look at them all the time, sitting contentedly in my sock drawer as they talk casually to my other socks (yes, my socks have personalities, all of my other clothes do not), I put them on, I spin around, I laugh.  I'm wearing hot pink for the first time in years, and I'm loving it.  I must admit I found it a little strange that some of the people covering NY Fashion Week seemed to talk about leg warmers as the "new obsession" for spring - I thought people have always been wearing them?  And especially in the last 4 years, revived? etc?  

And another thing I'm doing that I haven't done in years -- I'm eating a packet of M&Ms!!  Seriously, it must be 3 years now since I've had an M&M - for a chocolate-lover, this is strange, non?  And I'm in loooove again...


eva and che dance a vals

There are two things Madonna can't do (yes, just two) - the first is, of course, act -- Madonna can't act.  The second is dance Argentine tango.  Look, Madonna can do practically everything better than I can (except act & dance tango), so let me make fun of her gancho/boleo combination at around second 59 of this video:
I'm also astounded at how unnatural she makes the most basic hand gestures look.  "Evita" is arguably the worst music video this woman ever made.  But all the others are just fantastic.

16 February 2010

nothing else matters

Can someone enlighten me on the subject of the TANGO OBSESSION with the song "Nothing Else Matters"??

Here is a video of Junior Carvalho and Mabel Rivero dancing to "Nothing Else Matters":

And here we have Daniela Pucci and Luis Bianchi dancing to... "Nothing Else Matters":

And my absolute favourite is the video of Ismael Ludman and Maria Mondino dancing to... Nothing Else Matters (Metallica).  I have this video on my computer, but it was given to me under strict confidence that I would NOT publish it... I searched all over the internet for it but alas, it doesn't appear to be published.  

Tonight in my class, which was a basic review of close embrace & ochos, the instructor played one song for us to practice to for an hour and a half.  Can you guess what it was??  NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!!  Has anyone else encountered this song over and over and over again in the exclusive and eccentric world that is the Argentine tango?  Please, someone enlighten me!

And because I robbed you of Ismael y Maria (who are my absolute favourite tango couple ever) dancing to this mysterious song, here is another video for you to enjoy.  I love watching them dance because they are so theatrical, their technique is practically perfect, they happily dance to electronic tango, and yet remain so faithful to the spirit of tango that it makes me want to cry (with joy).  Before I go on too long...

Well, I'm off to write a paper on the Hypostasis of the Archons... Gnosticism.  Wish me luck.  Maybe I can relate it to nothing else matters??  Oh wait, that's just tango...   

15 February 2010

(happy) valentine's day

Again I could not resist myself with this beautiful movie, Un Homme et Une Femme.  The song played is "plus fort que nous" by Francis Lai.

For Valentine's day this year, Claude Lelouch, the director of Un Homme et Une Femme, returned to Deauville where he filmed Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant fall in love in 1966.  This time he filmed thousands of couples on the Deauville beach as they ran to each other to embrace et embrasser!  The result is a crazy and charming little hommage à l'amour.  You can find the article by clicking here - to see the film, click on the red "video" icon below the photograph and select the video called "s'embrasser devant la caméra de Lelouch."

13 February 2010

tango en ciel de lit

Sometimes when I'm bored and have not so much to do, I put on my tango shoes.  Then I start moving around, sometimes I get the idea to film myself for technique correction.  This is a very useful thing to do!

But lately I just dance around to Brigitte Bardot like an idiot, because my nights are ever so eventful, and so I decided to combine forces: a tango video to Brigitte Bardot.  I was practicing boleos (continuing instruction from Fernanda Cajide), and you can see by the end of the video I get a bit carried away and my technique & form COMPLETELY die.  But I don't really care- who doesn't secretly wish that at a milonga once in awhile, they play 60s french pop?  And not just for the cortina...
boleos for one - tango en ciel de lit

10 February 2010

snow, snowstorm, snow

In celebration of both the snowstorm and my love for Doctor Zhivago, I just have to model my fur hat for you:

I don't know if you can see it in the background, but there is a photo from Doctor Zhivago on the wall, with Yuri and Lara wearing hats quite similar!

Dear J. Peterman: One rabbit fur hat, flaps can be tied up or worn down. Made especially for coming in on dark winter nights to a Turkish rug and a fire burning in the fireplace. Or for a quick stroll to the counter-revolutionary artists' café, The Stray Dog, in St. Petersburg, 1912.  Also quite useful for deserting the Red army and making your way, somehow, sometime, to Paris.      

What does one do in a snowstorm??  Anna Akhmatova, the great Russian poet, has some ideas:

Empty white Christmastide.
Snow, snowstorm, snow.
Let the roads be an ice-rink -
I've nowhere to go!

A.A. January 1914

08 February 2010

la trattoria

La Trattoria is one of Cairo's best restaurants.  It's on 13 El-Maraashli St., which is right around the corner from 37A Ahmed Heshmat (my old apartment) - lucky me.

Strangely enough, this picture is taken from Omar Sharif's favourite table. You can often see him dining there, and I have had the pleasure of sharing drinks with this wonderful, elegant gentleman numerous times because of mutual friends.  The first time I met him was at the bar in November 2008; and was again introduced to him when I got to know the owners of the restaurant and their friends again in October 2009.  Needless to say, La Trattoria is a relaxing place with good food and a fine selection of "under-the-table" imported wines.
I miss the kind, humorous waiters there, and the elegance that few people know how to preserve in a post-revolution Egypt...

If you love Doctor Zhivago (and Mr. Sharif) as much as I do, watch out for my next post...

07 February 2010

in tango, attention to detail

I know it's poor form to take tango videos without the dancers' permission, but since there is very little dancing you see, I want to post it because I want to make a different point with this video.  I took it, sneakily with an iphone, at Providence Tango before Fernanda Cajide taught an excellent class on boleos.
There isn't much going on in this video - the dancers are doing back ochos, the instructor is watching them.  The reason why I love this video is because it shows why I love good tango instructors -- attention to detail.  Perfectionists.  Form.  In the video, the instructor stops the woman while she is doing her back ocho and adjusts the position of her leg.  The angle of her foot.  Anyone can do an ocho, a boleo, etc., but when I take a class with an expert, I want that person to tell me all of the things they see wrong about my dancing.  If my foot is not turned out enough, I do want them to stop me and turn it out for me, so I have the physical memory.  I want my instructor to be just as obsessive about my form as I am, and whenever I see someone adjusting someone's body position, the turn of their foot, the setting of their shoulders or turning of the torso, I am inspired by perfection and connection.  

I suppose that's the paradox of tango... Connection is always imperfect because it involves two human beings... and yet each of us individually strives for a perfection of form that can only come about through the trials and errors of embrace.  And together, through our imperfections, we try to dance a beautiful tango... 

Alors...  Vous avez mon salut...!

06 February 2010

let's face it, designer sunglasses are made in italy.

I have been aware for some time that I have a problem.  It began in Cairo, January 2009.  I bought a pair of Police sunglasses with a friend of mine, who bought Givenchy for 770LE.

...And what followed??
And then...
This was the last of them, I thought, surely one cannot find a more perfect pair of sunglasses than the Ray-Ban Wayfarer...  But no.  I was seduced, in November of 2009, by MANGO in Cairo...

And, most recently, most shamefully, a pair of Wayfarer imitators to counter-act my Wayfarer originals...

The first thing I look for in a pair of sunglasses is its weight.  You can tell if a pair of sunglasses has a perfect weight, they're designer.  Not that I care so much about owning designer sunglasses; 3 of the 5 pairs you see above are not designer sunglasses (MANGO does not count as designer!) -- however, it's just a habit I've developed, discerning whether certain brands of sunglasses are authentic by their weight, the materials they use.  Quality is important.  For instance, I was in a shop in Cairo looking for the (somewhere) above black wayfarers, and the salesman gave me a great deal on a pair of Ray-Bans - 510LE, about $90USD.  This is $20 less than most places.  The catch?  They were 100% fake, although they looked immaculate and like the real thing.  How could I tell?  The way they had written "MADE IN ITALY" on the stem.  Wayfarer doesn't write Made in Italy.  They write, Hand Made in Italy.
So, they might as well have been...
Let's face it, designer sunglasses are made in Italy, and there is no comparison.  I know, I know.  I have a problem.  Who else sits around on Friday night with all of her sunglasses sprawled out on her bed thinking, "Let's do a photo-shoot!"  What's sad is, I have 2 pairs of sunglasses I left out of this photo-shoot.  

To be fair, I just got back from a great class on BOLEOS with Fernanda Cajide, and my feet hurt, and I am only writing this post because I am waiting for a video I took to upload to YouTube so that you can all see some of the tango bootlegging I did tonight...

05 February 2010

un homme et une femme

Early Valentine's day gift, I couldn't help myself:
From "Un Homme et Une Femme" (1966), Pierre Barouh sings the Samba Sarava.

03 February 2010

the black lace fan

It was carnival season, and I was sitting at a café on the Piazza San Marco.  The city seemed to be overflowing with tourists, stragglers, and mysterious, old-world types of beautiful dress who might as well have been inducted into a secret cult the night before.  I was having an espresso when a man, dressed in a white shirt and a tweed vest, a white silk scarf tied under his collar, approached me. He did not say a word, but rather dropped a red envelope on my table, and then vanished. Suddenly a wild old woman was in front of me. "My Dear, what an honor, the Duke's masquerade ball!  But do you think you can go just as you are now?" She pulled something from her cloaks. "Here, you will need this."   

One black lace fan, purchased in Venice in July of 2009, now sitting on my wall next to a mirror and a picture of a man with a cat.  Perfect for the Cairo heat??  Oui, mais malheureusement I feel more Victorian than I do elegant when I carry it around...  Sorry Mr. Peterman.

But it's nice and striking when it sits there on my wall, no?
...  Will I bring it to life next summer?

02 February 2010

back to buenos aires

Nostalgic video by Federico Aubele, Argentinian musician with a sometimes tango twist - I remember dancing to his song "Pena" in Cairo.

This is "La Esquina," from his first album Panamericana:

Gold, melancholy: los recuerdos del ayer.

classic egyptian cinema

Chéri je t'aime, chéri je t'adore...
Do you enjoy this as much as I do?? Many of my Egyptian friends have always argued that the films that were made in Cairo in the 40s, 50s, and 60s are equal to, if not better than most of the films coming out of Hollywood at the time. How true this is, well - that's a matter of a very biased opinion (of course).

This is from a film called "Il Hob Kida" ("Such is Love"), 1961. The song, "Bahebak ya Moustafa" ("I Love You, Moustafa") speaks for itself in both French and Arabic:

Oh the franco-egyptian glamour!!  The first time I saw "Chit-Chat on the Nile" (the 60s film portraying the "decadence of the Nasr period" and based on a book by Naguib Mahfouz) with a friend, I was literally shocked to see Egyptians smoking hash, having illicit rendez-vous on a houseboat, driving around drunk, and all on screen!  The Cairo cinema today is laughable if not propagandistic for an oppressive government. So these little clips of celebrations, giving us a hint of the glamour of a different world, are like silly gems at the bottom of a very polluted Nile.
Chéri je t'aime, chéri je t'adore...