Today’s #Tango Thought 122: Getting to Buenos Aires
You’ve been dancing for a while, and you keep seeing these posts about Buenos Aires. Your dream has slowly developed to go to Buenos Aires, to experience for yourself what all the fuss is about.
First there’s the dancing, you’ve heard it’s the best. There’s the shoes! OMG the shoes. Then there are friends that have been and rave about teacher X or Milonga Y. You’ve see the videos of performances at Salon Canning (but didn’t know it was Salon Canning), the pictures from Milongas, and thought to yourself that it didn’t look all that challenging than your local milonga there are just more people. You’ve heard that Spanish isn’t necessarily a requirement because there’s a lot of foreigners that speak English, and a good portion of the teachers speak it too. So you if you went, you wouldn’t really need to learn Spanish.
Secondly there’s the loads of Milongas to choose from, and then there are sooooo many classes, and the idea of dancing all night…OMFG that’s just too much!
Thirdly, last but not least, there’s the Tango Immersion Courses you might take, one of several, that could take your dance to the next level – 8 to 10 days of classes, and some shoe shopping, and being guided to Buenos Aires Milongas by a knowledgeable person who knows the lay of the land, as it were. And some courses that you’ve seen, offer daily classes with some of the best dancers that you’ve never heard of to work with you as your partner, so that you ‘feel’ what Tango should feel like.
If only you went you just know that your dancing will improve 1000% fold. In one moment you’re excited by the idea, and scared in the next. It’s expensive. You’d have to take time off work to go. There’s the apartment/house concern. The cats/dogs/fish. And again, the money.
One night you go to the milonga and in a fit of either amazing dancing or the opposite, you make the decision to go on a Tango Tour Trip/Immersion Course. You get home from the Milonga and you buy the ticket…ok the next day during your lunch hour, you buy the ticket. You find the course that one of your friends recommended which does not include airfare. You sign up online and the teacher or organizer, you don’t know which, sends you a few messages, and then a link to pay. You pay your deposit and begin your planning. The rest of the afternoon, in between work breaks, you’re shopping for airfares from your city (skyscanner.com). You’re looking at the tango house where the studio is at, and asking friends on facebook, what’s the best place to stay at. You get back 10 different answers and loads of information that makes your eyes glaze over. You save it all for a later reading after work. Your head is awash in work and buenos aires…and OMG YOU’RE GOING TO BUENOS AIRES!!!!! What did you just do?!?!??!?
After a few more emails with the organizer you buy your airfare later that night and almost max out your credit card. Two Weeks! Two weeks! Two weeks should be enough time. Besides that’s all you could get off work. And 8 days of classes, jeeeze that’s just crazy. It sounds like so much. More than you’ve ever taken in your life. Two weeks should be enough to see the sights, and lots of dancing! Coming back, you think that with just that amount of time in Buenos Aires that your dancing will improve so much, you’ll be ‘better’ after so many classes.
Two weeks in Buenos Aires. Classes. Dancing. Milongas. This is crazy!!!! However there’s a hiccup, you realize that the Immersion Course is at a Tango House and that it’s the room with someone else you’ve never met and you don’t know. You haven’t shared a room with someone since college and it didn’t work out that well the last time. You need your own space. So you look at the other spaces in the Tango House that the studio is at and there are no singles in the time that you’re there. They’re all taken. So next on your list is finding a good place to stay that’s close to the studio you’ll be studying at. You look on AirBnB, and find some really good deals. It’s not that expensive for two weeks. After a few emails and facebook messages from friends and going back to read the messages you got earlier in the day, you decide on Palermo to stay in, and find a space in a high-rise on the 10th floor. You book the space and the owner contacts you a while later to confirm. You confirm and it looks like you’re going to Buenos Aires.
Next you start ’studying’ Spanish using Duolingo on your phone. It’s pretty fun, and easy. You set yourself on a regime of daily Spanish lessons. And speaking of Spanish lessons, you’re gonna need a few lessons from the local tango guru. He’s arrogant as the day is long, but he knows what he’s talking about. He’s usually right. Usually. You danced with him once, he leads and follows. And he gave you some hurtful feedback. He told that your embrace was compressive, that you had a lot of rigidity. It was the way he said it. You didn’t study with him then or since. Others have said he’s hard to work with but he does get results. So, reluctantly, you facebook msg the guy and set up some privates.
A few months later, you’ve gotten through most of the levels on Duolingo and have now progressed to listening to Argentine radio stations and can barely understand them. You’ve gotten your email notifications from the instructor/organizer of the trip, welcoming you to the trip, and the airline has sent you their obligatory notifications of your impending trip. You’ve asked the arrogant teacher who you should study with in BsAs, who’s actually not so arrogant. He does care a lot about his students and now you know why he’s seemingly so arrogant. It’s because he was right, he just doesn’t need to be so smug about it! He loads you up with a list of names. You find them online and ask if they’ve got time in their schedule for a few private lessons. You make some arrangements and all of a sudden the trip is seeming more real. One or two people from your area are going that you knew but hadn’t danced with all that much. The night before you leave, you pack like a mad fiend, packing and unpacking, getting everything just so that you can go through the security check without a hitch. You’ve gotten your Argentine Visa online all squared away and paid the fee.
The day arrives, and you can hardly contain yourself. You get to the airport on time. Get in line, and go through the security check. You get to the gate. The flight is delayed. You are disappointed but hopeful you’ll get there. A few hours later, you’re on the flight and on your way. You’re so wound up that you can’t imagine falling asleep, but you do anyway. You wake up just before you land at EZE in Buenos Aires! You get your stuff, get in line to get off the plane, it all passes in a blur. It’s all new. The Spanish, the people, the heat. You breeze through customs, the customs agent spoke English. You get outside the customs area, fortunately before you left you went to the bank and bought up a whole bunch of pesos so that you’d be ready. And fortunately for you, you hired a car, this guy Dante Proaño to take you directly to your AirBnB location ahead of time because you heard from some guy who’d heard from someone else that Dante was the best! That and you’d seen his postings in a few facebook groups for his Airport Transfer Service that he runs.
Dante speaks fluent English just like an American without an accent. You wonder if the guy is even Argentine. You discover he is. He helps you out with a few things: A cellphone simcard, a subte card (you didn’t even know what that was until Dante told you that you’d need one to get around BsAs), and your bags, he drops you off at your AirBnB and even sticks around to see if you’re all set. The AirBnB host greets you and shows you around your new home for the next 2 weeks. It looks just like the pics online. Nothing is out of the ordinary. Shower, Bedroom, Kitchen. Nice view from the 10th floor. You shake hands, and they give you the keys! You unpack, and then settle in with the wifi to see how best to get to the studio for the first lesson, which is later on that day. You take a nap, rest, and then get out of bed, wash up, get put together and then get downstairs and out onto the street. Dante had given you a few tips about where to stand to get a cab and how to tell the cab driver where you’re going (give them the cross streets closest to your destination). You hail a cab, do as Dante said, the cab driver repeats it back to you, and off you go. Easy.
You arrive at the studio on time, you find the front door. It’s ornate. You can hear tango music from inside. And you see the sign on the door welcoming you to the Tango House. Everyone is there, faces from facebook you hadn’t known before today and there they are in front of you. Class starts off with stretching, and then your first dance. And then another. And another. Then the class is about your walk. Blah, blah, blah. It all goes by in a blur, lots of laughs and giggles, a little embrace trouble here and there, some very different ideas of embracing and some people aren’t all that lovely to dance with. Then the second class, and the third. By the time the clock strikes you discover purely by chance that you’re ravenous, and the house is preparing for dinner and you need to go find yours. There’s a cute restaurant that you saw just down the street that Dante recommended that you go to on Scalibrini Ortiz. So you tell the cab driver the cross streets and off you go. You go in, are seated and look at the menu, of course it’s in Spanish. You’re a little confused and the waiter speaks broken English and helps you out. You pick a steak with fries, and a glass of Malbec. The meal comes with un tomate (tomato) salad, pan (bread), and some different seasonings that you’ve never seen before. The steak is unlike anything you’ve ever had. It’s so different and yet it’s beef! The best beef you’ve ever had in your life. OMG!!! You devour dinner, and then try to quickly pay. You eye the waiter, he comes over, and you say “Cobreme”. The waiter smiles. You pay, leave a tip, and then get back to your place, shower, change, and get onto facebook to see where everyone is going tonight. First a practica back at the house, and some guidelines about milonga etiquette, and then later on going to the milonga, finally!
Your first Buenos Aires milonga! You are understandably excited and have been chomping at the bit to do just this. All day long, you knew you were going dancing. Even during the sessions you were thinking and dreaming of this. Through dinner, the shower, this was always there in your mind. You’ve heard about the Milongas and have been properly prepared. Or so you thought. The dancing is really, really, really close. It’s close embrace alright. It’s just so packed. There’s no space between the couples. How do they navigate ?!?! At home you have space for dancing. This is completely different!!! You can’t imagine dancing in that. It’s so fast. And completely crazy!! All the leads look so…you don’t have words for it. And the Followers…good lord! This is nothing like home! How are you going to do that ?!?!?!? All that technique. You feel like the kid that shows up to a school dance wearing the wrong clothes! Speaking of being dressed. Jesus H. Christ it’s hot in the room. Like a frakkin’ oven! Don’t these people believe in Air Conditioning! The fans are running, but there’s no airflow. You’re gonna suffocate. Screw dancing. It’s too hot to even move. Everyone is dressed to the 9’s and you’re sweating like a pig!
The floor is room is packed. The floor is packed in tight like sardines and yet moving like a singular organism. You become so focused, transfixed on the dancing that you hardly notice that someone wants your attention. They’re asking for a dance. They look, you look, you nod, they nod. Your first Cabeceo/Mirada!!! Which one was it ? Who cares!!! You get to them and they jump out of their seat to get to you, and you both arrive at the floor together, at the entry point at the same time. Immediately the fear hits you. Are you good enough. They’re all so good here. Will you screw up ? Can you remember that pattern from class ? What class ? Was there a class today ? How do you walk again ?
You realize that there’s no way to get into the line of dance. Your partner grabs your hand, and just jumps right in. You’re just a little fearful. No names, no nothing. They embrace. You embrace. You’re dancing in Buenos Aires!!! Holy shit! It all goes by in a flash. Your heart is racing because it’s so exciting. You don’t notice the bumping here and there, an elbow here, a toe there. The song is over. You mumble some words in Spanish and it turns out your partner speaks English. They’re from Germany. You small talk a bit, and they tell you all about their experience in 5 minutes and how long they’re staying. The next song, and then the next, and then the tanda. They walk with you back to your table. The night goes by in a flash. There are pix that get taken that go up on facebook. You mug for your friends and tag here and there. You get some drinks, and dance more. Two hours go by before you know it.
There’s a performance of some amazing couple you’ve never heard of before. But they’re amazing. People line the floor, sit on the floor, plaster against the walls. The moves are crisp. Sharp. The lines are so … and the clothes, the shoes…look at the walk. Omg the feet! You want feet like that. Who are they ??!?!? A Tango. Another Tango. And the room erupts. Another tango you think. Everyone is stomping the floor, clapping hard, all in unison yelling “ME-LONG-AH”. And finally the ‘Milonga’ song. And the room goes crazy. It’s that familiar one that every seemingly performs milonga to. The really fast one. You don’t know the name but everyone seems to dance to it. They finish and there’s lots of bowing and smiles and flowers and kisses, and then the host speaking in Spanish and English, a few words you catch here and there but it’s so fast. You stand there with your phone in hand, having forgotten to take a video. Damn it!
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Later, with the group at your table, there’s some talk of going to another Milonga because some people in the group aren’t getting dances. They’re not happy. They’re grumbling. It’s like midnightish, and you’re not tired. Some people want to go back to the house. They continue to quibble. You suggest that you’re going to the suggested milonga and if anyone is coming that you’re leaving and are grabbing a cab. A few grab their belongings and you just head for the door. That was brave of you. All that dithering, you just want to dance, but you want to see the rest of these milongas in Buenos Aires. You get a cab, and 5 or 6 pile into the cab with you, and you tell the cab driver the cross streets of the Milonga. “Ahhh”, he says and repeats the address back to you, and then says, “La Viruta!”. By the time you get there it’s 1 am, and the line to get in is long. You get to the door, and pay and go in and try to find a table. The place is packed. It’s dark. Really dark. Insanely dark. Somehow you find a table near some friends that someone knows and they’re sharing a table. So you scoot onto this half seat to share with someone else. You put your shoes on and your head is a whir with the music, the scene that it’s about 45 minutes later that you realize that someone is asking for drinks. You haven’t danced. It’s insane. No one is dancing from your table. They’re all just watching. Eventually your eyes adjust the lack of light and you can see the floor. And it’s all moving at hyper speed, in tighter spaces than you saw at the last place.
You begin to get antsy. You want to dance. You look around the table and lock eyes with someone that you haven’t danced with from the group. You look, they look, you nod, they nod and you head for the floor. You just insert yourself as a couple into the line of dance as quickly as you can, no discussion. This is insane! The dancing is tight, small, and so fast, there’s no space for errors. You notice your partner’s embrace, it’s so restrictive. They’re holding on tight to you with a vice grip. And truth be told you’ve noticed this is the norm. So much pressure. So much tension. The pulling and pushing. It’s not like Tango Topics said it should be like. There’s no room for that stuff. You don’t realize it but you’re freaking out. The tanda ends in a whiz and you’re sweating. Thankful that it’s over, but in a state of wanting to it again. The entire floor is clearing, not like the last place. You’re standing there thinking that you should get off the floor talking to your partner. They’re talking and people are quickly getting off the floor. So you and your partner start heading for the corner. And the next tanda starts, and you get on the floor immediately and start dancing quickly. But the couple of ahead of you isn’t dancing, they’re talking. No one is moving. They’re talking. They’re all talking. You’re about halfway through the first song of the tanda and they’re all still talking. Your partner doesn’t care.
The rest of the night at La Viruta seems to be going ‘ok’ until about 3 am. You’re not tired, you’re more excited more than anything else. About that time it seems like the room clears out and a whole new crew of dancers comes in. You recognize a few from the last milonga. And the quality of dance in the room changes drastically. You thought it was orderly and crazy fast before. Nope. The class of dancers just changed…and so did the quality of dance in the room. It’s crazy. Holy shit there’s Chicho! You spot the Godoy guy. You’re supposed to do a lesson with him later, next week. Where’s Juana ? About 4 am after another bottle or three of Champagne, it’s time for MEDIALUNAS y CAFE! You don’t realize just how ravenous you are! The table orders 2 or 3 plate piles of them with cafe for everyone. They arrive and they smell amazing. Intoxicating. You down 3 all at once and have your hand on a fourth! You didn’t realize just how hungry you were. A few people from the group are saying it’s time for them to get back to the house. You can’t believe that people need to leave. That’s crazy! You’re here to dance. How can they leave ?!?!?! You ? You’re staying!!!
A few leave, you and a few others stay to watch, and to dance. You start watching certain dancers, and try to ‘cabeceo’ people and no one is looking in your direction. So you dance with someone at the table, again. This goes on for a while until the lights change. First it goes all blue, then all red, and then finally the lights come all the way up and it’s like a stark change of reality. There must be at least a hundred people in the room and you look at your iPhone it’s 5:05 am!!! You missed the last dance. That was it. You gather your things, kiss and hug everyone and head out the door upstairs. There’s a huge crowd all looking to get a cab. You wait and wait and wait as it starts to rain.
The cab drops you off at your door, and you go up to your apartment. You fumble for the key. It’s a heavy metal skeleton key that you’d never loose. Buenos Aires has some strange anachronisms even at 5 am in the morning. An ultramodern building, with a skeleton key for a key to your door! You get inside, take a quick shower to get the sweat off you. And climb into bed just as the light is filling the room. You set your alarm for 10 am. And then drift off to sleep.