BA Tango passion and pain

Each Buenos Aires Milonga has in it the potential to leave you flying or crying. The past week has been a rollercoaster ride. Some Milongas I have loved, some I have hated, some I long to return to and some – well, they are now at the bottom of my list. I promised honesty in this blog so I am not going to pretend that every experience in my adventure is a good one.

There’s no question that the lowest point so far in my BA tango journey was Salon Canning on Friday night. It was my second visit to this venue. We arrived at about 1am and the place was packed. There are tables around the dance floor and we did manage to sit eventually, but it was stressful with guys pushing past all the time in search of their next tango. Sadly none of them chose me. My younger friends got several dances. This was a horrible feeling. In a second I convinced myself I was too old and ugly, couldn’t dance at all, would never be asked to dance again… My spirits plunged. To compound matters I gained a ‘stalker’. A man approached me but not for a dance. He invited me to accompany him to a casino and although I refused, he approached me again and again as the night progressed. He made his way towards me wherever I fled, sat in chairs next to me and stared at me constantly. A kind woman told him to leave me alone. He did not. Later, when my teacher Ariel came to my rescue and asked me to dance it was already the final dance in the tanda and over in a second. It was just one of those nights I guess, but the experience left me cold and wondering why the hell I ever came to Buenos Aires.

Thank God that every Milonga is a new beginning. Saturday was my second time at the gorgeous Club Gricel. Here we were recognised and greeted by the immaculately turned out older clientele who were all seated in exactly the same reserved tables as the previous week. We were with our class mates so had easy and enjoyable dances to begin with. One of our group had a birthday so there was cake and singing. To my delight I spotted Julio, my favourite dance partner from my Thursday group class. He was equally happy to see me and insisted on dancing alternate tandas with Gabriella and I until our feet would take no more! He is a great dancer and I even danced milonga in his arms without tripping up… really believe me, the way these guys dance this is an achievement to be proud of. The only pain on this night was in my feet which felt like the bones had been in a vice by the time we left. My heart on the other hand was bursting with passion for tango, Buenos Aires and Argentina as I floated home in the cab.

On Sunday evening I ventured out alone for the first time, with my head full of elementary Spanish phrases , to La Glorieta. What a perfect place. Because I am English I will describe the venue as a raised open sided bandstand in a public park. Steps lead up to the dance floor and the tangueros stand around the edge. It is worth mentioning that there is nowhere to leave bags unattended so carry your valuables in a belt purse. The Milonga is busy by 8 and finishes at 11pm. It was delightful. I got the impression that most of the dancers were Argentine, but despite this I danced all night. Because you stand shoulder to shoulder with guys between dances, it is easy for them to turn and invite you. Here I had my most sensual dances yet. One man, Jorge, managed to make me feel as if I danced on a cloud. Carlos, perhaps the most attractive man I have met here so far – apart from Ariel of course – danced like an angel and with him I have to say it felt like sex with clothes on. Lucky for me there were six dances in a tanda! I actually left after that because I wanted to drift home on my pink cloud.

Yesterday I spent an hour with Gabriella at a practica at Club Villa Malcolm in Palermo close to where we are staying. This could have been a tricky night. The lights were full on and the room, behind a cafe/bar, was full of gorgeous young people mainly dancing Tango Nuevo – not yet in my repertoire! Most people seemed to dance with partners they knew. Fortunately I noticed Fernando who I had met in a group class at Club Gricel. I chatted with him and then we danced many tangos. He danced close embrace, slowly and with grace. I was able to practice decorating my ochos as I have learned with Ariel. I was also able to practice my Spanish. So for me the evening was a success. But I’m not sure I’ll be rushing back there for a while.

I visited La Catedral on Tuesday night last week. Lots of people in England had mentioned this place. I understand from Ariel, who accompanied us there, that it has changed in character since reopening after a period of closure. A few years ago there was a fire in a concert hall in Buenos Aires and many Milongas closed down to refurbish for new fire regulations. La Catedral used to be a popular Milonga with a packed dance floor. These days it has more of the atmosphere and clientele of a bohemian club. It is not on the tourist map of Milongas. The entrance is completely unmarked. It is upstairs in a building that has the feel of an old warehouse. Inside it is dark, atmospheric and the badly cracked and pitted wooden dance floor is surrounded by old sofas. A huge picture of Carlos Gardel hangs above the dancers who are young, of mixed levels and who dance a wide variety of tango styles including Nuevo. A live band played a set of Argentine folk music which was extremely beautiful and I danced a gorgeous tanda with Ariel. After two tangos he told me that I would be a great dancer. This statement earned him a massive hug right there on the dance floor. He was probably mortified but you all know how enthusiastic I can be when I am happy. And I was buzzing happy!

Tonight we plan to pack in two Milongas, El Beso and Porteño de Bailarin which are located near each other on Riobamba. We are heading there around 11pm in search of the lovely Carlos I mentioned earlier. He recommended these Milongas to me for a Tuesday night. So a new week, new Milongas and maybe – if luck is on my side – new and exciting dance partners. Cross your fingers for me that the next few days bring more passion than pain…

See pictures of Julio and of Club Villa Malcolm

Learn more about Carlos Gardel

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3 Responses

  1. Ahh, you are half portenita ahora! I had a doublely painful experience at Villa Malcolm – Boxing day, with a broken toe, hardly any dancing experience, and totally shunned by the ‘beautiful people’ who dance there……….the lows hit as hard as the highs hit the ceiling -this is Buenos Aires, no emotion is left unturned…
    I’m re-living every day there as I read your blog! Keep smiling, keep dancing, love you and miss you lots.xxxxxx

  2. Finally, I found where I left off in my comments. *chuckle* Anywhoo, I find tango is much like Life. You have your good days and your bad days.

    I just returned from a milonga and was having a ball until I danced with one my old classmates who went to BaAs for CITA earlier this year.

    She has always asked me to be honest with her if she was doing something wrong. Well, I informed her she wasn’t doing her traspie correctly and attempted to show her how to do it.

    Yeesh! She got all insulted and said how I wasn’t giving the proper lead for me. First, you must know something about me. One, I rarely correct people whether it’s a milonga or a practica unless asked. Because I don’t like hurting other peeps’ feelings.

    I thought I was still under the impression since she has always asked me in the past to correct her if I thought she was doing something that it was still okay. Obviously, she must’ve gotten a big head after returning from BsAs.

    So I let it go…I will probably never correct her again…somewhat dampened my evening. BTW, the lead was perfect because all my teachers said it was subtle and clear—that is the best compliment one can receive from a teacher. *chuckle*

    As I say again, tango is like Life. You have your good days and your bad days and sometimes they can all occur simultaneously in one milonga.

    Glad a new milonga was the beginning of a new day to pursue your dreams.

  3. I have started from the beginning instead of working backwards, so your ideas may have changed.

    Salon Canning is so 50/50, one never really knows how the night will be. One night you can sit forever the next you are begging to sit out a tanda or two. So don´t feel too sad.

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