My first week in Buenos Aires has been a real eye opener. I’ve picked up a number of interesting facts, observations and attended some events which you might like to hear about.
BsAs (short for Buenos Aires) is generally considered The Tango Capital of the world , although according to one source I’m told there are possibly less Argentinians who Tango here than in Finland, however, this may just be a rumor of course. Many Tango lovers like myself come to Buenos Aires to learn and dance Tango with the best dancers in the world, hoping that something will rub off on us, and that we will eventually dance beautifully, sensually and with perfect time/rhythm of course, just like ‘true Tangueros/Tangueristas’, either because we are obsessed with Tango, or have an addiction or a need to satisfy some type of deep, unconscious unresolved issue, or just for the pleasure of dancing. However, as I’ve wandered around the streets in the Barrio (or the neighborhood) what struck me most was what a truly musical city BsAs is. I’ve noticed quite a number of people who just whistle away tunes loudly while walking down the street, and sometimes even sing at the top of their voices like opera singers. No matter what time of day or night, I often hear music of all genres from people’s houses right down the street. Perhaps its just part of Argentine culture or maybe Almagro, the area where I’m currently living just happens to be a musical area .
Since arriving in Buenos Aires, I initially decided to take a few days off to give my body a break as I managed to get here a few weeks earlier than I’d anticipated. Two months of ‘dancing on the road’ (not literally of course) was more knackering than I’d imagined . In addition to starting off with a dodgy leg (Tendinitis) , due to a combination of poor manual handling of my luggage and long periods of time spent sitting while driving and on long flights, I managed to get ‘wonky hips’. At first even walking was quite painful. I also needed time to acclimatize myself to the weather, which during the day has been around a wapping 36 degrees celsius, which is probably why I haven’t danced in a suit since I arrived !
My first few days were spent orientating myself to routes/roads, or meeting up with my dear friend Evie and some of the other members of a group visiting from England on a holiday organised by Tracy Tyack-King and Leonarda DeCosta of The London Argentine Tango School. Some of you may recall they very generously supported my ‘Tangothon’ by inviting me to attend ‘La Perla milonga’ (Putney, London) at the beginning of my journey (see ‘All roads lead through London’).
I’ve also been exploring new areas and chilling out at a local park , Parque Rivadavia (Near Rio de Janeiro station), which has a sweet little market with stalls selling books, CDs, and comics and a nice little cafe over the road. Its a great place to watch the world go by and to meditate, even though for the 1st time in my life I managed to get peed on twice, by the same bird !! They say that bird shit is supposed to be lucky , but not sure what they say about pee? I didn’t even know that birds could pee as I’ve never ever witnessed one doing so previously. They are usually more discreet and I suppose that you just take it for granted that they do?
Anyway, enough of the pee and back to my park. I love the fact that even during the day, there are many parents, including fathers, who take time daily to play with their children during what I assume is their siesta/lunch break. I’m also starting to get domesticated and found myself a nice local launderette, a Chinese supermarket, a local bakery, and a cash machine that will actually pay out money. Beware as not all of them do, as I found out on my first night at 2.00 a.m. after dinning out in San Telmo with my friend Evie. Luckily a young lad came to my rescue and persuaded the bus driver to let me ride on his bus ticket.
The good news is that my back is improving and I am now able to dance a little again, however, rather than diving straight into the deep end by attending the big milongas at some of the more well known Tango Salons, I decided to take it slow and try a few small local events/classes instead. I needed to re-learn how to balance , how to walk again and to improve my posture, which all helps especially when you are holding someone in a close embrace, which seems to the preference here in BsAs. I also needed to rebuild my confidence, especially after the previous experience. Although I realise that I have the ability to dance well at times, however, the real challenge is the forming of a emotional connection with a complete stranger you’ve met a few moments previously through just the physical connection and quickly learning how to dance together in harmony with each other and to the beautiful music, which has always been my inspiration. So for the past 4 nights, I’ve attended a number of small local milongas and classes. For those who are interested in the details, these will be posted shortly in the Milongas Section: Tangoing in Buenos Aires.
My favourite so far has been a beautiful out door milonga ‘Placita del Plancela Bianco’ (Defensa 1100, Plaza Dorrego). Here’s a video clip I took on a beautiful, warm, summer’s evening, to give you a sense of the ambiance at the open air milonga at Plaza Dorrego.
Its really incredible that while I was wandering through the crowd, I just happened to spot Celeste and Luciano, a lovely couple who professionally dance and teach Tango, whom I’d met at classes in Oxford, and it turned out they are soon going to perform at the following milongas in Buenos Aires.
Apart from Tangoing at nights, my days are spent either listening to Tango, practicing Tango, or talking about Tango with some of my fellow in-mates at ‘Casa de Gerard’, which is full of some very fascinating and lovely characters, whom I’d love to introduce to you.
There’s Alain, a fairly tall, burly rugby player type French Osteopath, who comes from a village near Nice, and very kindly assisted in straightening my back and helping me re-learn how to balance. On one particular afternoon, I ended up dancing with a topless, hairy chested Alain, in the Patio/Courtyard, when I suddenly realised that we happened to have an audience. Just to clarify we were in ‘open embrace’ at the time (i.e not chest-to-chest). Alain was only here for a few days as he was just passing through on his way back home from Tangoing in Montevideo (Uruguay). On the day I arrived , he introduced himself by offering me a glass of red wine, and that as they say was that. We sat chatting for hours and were joined by the Great Natucci (short for Ozvaldo Natucci), an Argentinian Tanguero who appears to have been Tangoing since the beginning of time and is generally well respected as the all knowing Tango oracle; who speaks with passion and knowledge with words that sound like he’s reciting intellectual, political, Tango prose. When Natucci speaks, its like he’s holding court and everyone listens, and some people even record his sayings. Due to my limited understanding of the Spanish language I don’t understand every word he utters, especially after a few glasses of red wine, but try and follow nonetheless, as whatever he says sounds profound. I often receive translations from Alain, or Michael, a friendly very lean looking New Yorker, probably in his 50s , who with his cap and glasses has a kind of ‘Woody Allen-esque’ look about him. Michael is very softly spoken and speaks fluent Spanish with a very cute American accent. He tells me that he is a ‘Sleep expert’ by profession, but currently spends his days in a library researching and photographing original Tango newspaper adverts from 1930s-40s, so that he can upload them to an on-line catalogue and share them with others. At night, Michael goes to milongas , usually with the lovely Renate, a petite Brazilian lady who is a kindergaten teacher. Renate is very sweet and maternal towards me, although the first day we met I was slightly surprised by the hug she gave Alain. It was clear that they hadn’t seen each other in some time, especially from the way he squeezed her cheeks. Christian, one of the other residents whom I’ve only spoken to once, as I only see him in the early evening when he practices Tango in the salon , is an Argentinian of Italian origin, probably in his late 20s, and seems like a very seriously focused Tango dancer/ teacher by profession. Given his rates, I should imagine he must be exceedingly brilliant. Christian also does Tango shows and is planning to go to Hong Kong shortly.
Apart from the residents, I should also introduce you to the ‘Casa de Gerard’ team. So we have the lovely Vivian, the Manager, who speaks about 5 languages, enjoys dancing Tango (click to see demo) and has agreed to take me along to her local Tango group soon. Then there is the formidable Gerard (owner), who certainly has a presence and is a fairly loudly spoken Frenchman. Gerard enjoys dancing folklore and often addresses the ladies as ‘Mira’ (which I assume means dear/darling’?) Last but not least, we have the lovely Rezilla and Daniella, who don’t dance Tango or speak English, but seem kind and thoughtful and help me with the day to day stuff.
So ladies and gents, that’s all for now , I better run as I have a hot Tango date with a lovely Swiss lady.
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