Following a long drive from Champeix in Auvergne, it was pretty dark by the time I actually reached the Jura mountains in Eastern France. I found myself slowly crawling along some very long windy roads in really thick fog, which at high altitude felt a bit like I was driving through a cloud, however, in the end I finally managed to arrive safely in Ferney-Voltaire. Ferney is a sweet little town situated on the border of Switzerland and France. I was here to visit Olive, the daughter of my dear friend Nancy C, whom I know through my Tango Aurora Group in Oxford. Despite the fact that Olive and I had only met once before in our lives, being the kind and gentle soul that she is, Olive very generously offered me a place to stay. Olive previously mentioned that she knew a few friends who love Argentine Tango, and so I decided to take a slight detour and that ladies and gentleman is how I ended up meeting Olive’s delightful friend, Maria, who took me to my very first milonga in Geneva, Switzerland !
Maria and I arrived in Geneva a little early for the milonga, despite the fact that we had to initially head back as someone forgot to take their passport . Well, to be fair, its not very often that I’m required to carry my passport with me to a milonga on a Saturday night, but apparently the border Police at the check points don’t look too favorably on people trying to get into the country without a passport and with my dark complexion I didn’t think it was worth the risk, especially in the present climate !
Before we headed to the milonga, Maria very kindly took me around Geneva, and we had some mulled wine and hot chocolate as we sat by the ‘Bains de Pâquis’, which is a beautiful little spot by a lake. There’s a little lighthouse and a beach where people go swimming/bathing , even in winter, and then go for a Hammam (massage) afterwards.
Milonga no. 7: Milonga La Roja
(UOG, Place des Grottes 3, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland)
As there was a free Chacarera class laid on before the milonga started , Maria and I were both keen to give it a try. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the Chacarera yet, its a really sweet rural folk dance to traditional music which originated from Santiago del Estero, Argentina and appears to have lots of similarities with other South American folk dances. Simply put, its a series of forward, backward and circular movements designed to facilitate a courtship ritual between men and women, and can be great fun, even when you don’t get it right. Here’s an example of me giving it a go .
Following the lesson, the bright fluorescent lighting was replaced by a beautiful kaleidoscope of every colour you can imagine under the rainbow as the Geneva milonga set, many of whom were clearly dressed to impress, slowly arrived to fill the venue to listen and dance to DJ Mauricio Borgarello , who as it turned out was a pretty nifty little dancer himself.
Maria introduced me to Jorge, the organizer of La Milonga Roja, who is of Argentine heritage . Jorge explained that this is just something he does in his spare time and that its not just a hobby but a passion of his. Apparently Jorge is multi-talented, as he also used to be professional Rugby player who it turns out played for the Swiss national team, but now works for the United Nations.
Jorge very kindly offers me the opportunity to address the crowd to say a few words about the ‘Tangoing to Argentina in 80 days’ project for Parkinson’s UK’, or ‘Tele-Tango’ as he calls it . My initial concerns that my French wouldn’t be good enough to share this information eloquently to the audience turn out to be irrelevant . Not only does everyone speak and understand English, much to the relief of Maria, who very kindly offered to act as interpreter, however, many people also appeared to be aware about Parkinson’s and its impact, which was an added bonus !
As the clock strikes mid night, the lovely ‘lady in red’ and I said our good byes to our amazing host Jorge and headed back over the border into France after a wonderful evening of dancing and having made a few new friends.
Next stop: Marseille
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