2 months in BA: the reality

I have been very ill this week: flu, nausea, exhaustion. I have been forced to stay in my apartment, lie on my sofa, do nothing. I have had time to think back over the last two months. I have realised that some major personal resources have been needed to begin to build a new life as a tango dancer in Buenos Aires. It’s easy to write exciting posts about the great dances, the ‘wow factor’ of the Milongas, the joy of dancing to live orchestras. Yes, I have fallen under the spell of this city and have no desire to rush back to the UK. But after over two months here, I am now in a position to reflect on the hard work that has been involved so far.

I suppose that I set my goals high. I didn’t come here wanting to simply join the tourist tango scene, dance with other foreigners who might be visiting for two weeks, or two months. If I had, perhaps I could have made my life easier. I could have joined many group classes, gone to the practicas afterwards, then danced at the Milongas with these people. I chose not to and maybe I have missed out. Time will tell.

Instead I have spent my money on private lessons and headed straight out to the Milongas looking to dance with porteños. You have read about my gradual successes. Of course I have met and danced with many lovely tourists too and my girlfriends here are both from the States. I met one of them in my hostel and one at La Ideal. I will miss them when they leave in July, but I am hopeful that other lovely people are waiting round the corner.

Building a new life alone in a strange country, a strange city, with a strange language is tough. Take the tango for starters. There have been many nights, and there still can be, when I go to a Milonga, sit for maybe three or four hours and only dance a few disappointing tandas. Success means hard work. To get dances I have to look as if I can dance, look attractive, constantly look around the room. I have to walk between the tables, smiling at strangers, letting people know that I am there, that I am interested in dancing. When I dance I have to dance well, whatever the lead is like, because I am always being watched. I have to observe the dancers, work out who I don’t want to dance with, and then avoid their eyes. Some nights, men I know but don’t like, will constantly stand in my view, which ever way I face. It is stressful and requires effort to look away, while appearing not to do it on purpose. At some Milongas, particularly in the afternoons at La Ideal, men will approach me and ask me directly, ‘Queres bailar?’ and I have to find inoffensive ways of refusing. I do this if I have danced with them before and know that they are poor dancers, that they will want to hold on to me between dances, or will manage to manouvre their faces while dancing so that their lips are virtually touching mine. Gabriella and I are toughening up, support each other in developing strategies to avoid these guys. BA is full of every type of dancer and every type of man. In the beginning we danced with anyone who looked vaguely interested in us. Not so now.

If I describe my days here in a nutshell, maybe they sound easy: wake at 11 or later, take a dance class, do a bit of shopping and life administration, write my blog, organise my photographs online, rest at home, sleep, eat, get ready to go out, dance all night, home at 5 or 6 or 7. The reality is, that to get to the point where I really am dancing all night with good dancers (and this can actually happen these days) has required a huge effort on my part. I have had two months now of challenging private classes including endless exercises, solo practice, learning a new language, researching the Milongas and their different etiquettes, plus many hours of staying up late into the night ‘working’ at getting the next amazing dance. Chatting over dinner the other night, Gabriella and I reckoned that we have ‘earned our stripes’!

Maybe you have dreams of coming out here, living in Buenos Aires as a tanguero or tanguera. Or maybe you have other dreams that you long to live out. What can I say to you, having been here for two months, following my dream to become a great dancer?

I can only tell you what it is within me that has put me on this continent, in this city, in this new life and what it is that drives me on. I see myself as an adventurer, an explorer. I believe that I am following in the footsteps of my great aunt who emigrated to Australia when she was just 18 with her new husband, having no concept of the life that would unfold for her. I have no children and cannot pass on my name or my genes, but I can pass on my enthusiasm for adventure. If I can inspire just one person to do something new, then I will have achieved one of my goals in life.

Recently, with the help of a trusted friend I have learned the qualities/beliefs/values within me today, that support my desire to explore, to live life as an adventurer. Maybe you have some of them plus others that will drive you to follow your dreams…

  1. PASSION:  I feel a love so intense that it forces action. 
  2. COURAGE: I feel the fear but do it any way.
  3. SELF BELIEF: I have all the resources that I need.
  4. FAITH: My life always works out the way it’s meant to.
  5. DETERMINATION: I cannot fail, only learn and grow.
  6. CURIOSITY: I want to touch everything before I die. 
  7. IMPERMANANCE:  I embrace change and go with the flow.
  8. FOR THE HELL OF IT: I can do it! Why not me?
  9. OPPORTUNITY: When one door closes, another opens. 
  10. JOY: When I take a risk, push my boundaries, I feel alive.

I get through my difficult days because I always believe that there will be a wonderful day just around the corner. There will be a colour I never noticed before, an unfamiliar sound that sings in my ears, a fresh touch that makes me cry, a tango danced with a deeper intensity. These are the fractions of a second that I know will happen. These are the moments when I connect with my soul and I know that my life is the colour of gold.

And just in case you are thinking that I’m not getting enough golden moments, here’s a short video clip of La Viruta at six in the morning. La Cumparsita has just been danced, the bright lights have been turned on and the venue and people who have lasted through the night are revealed in all their ‘glory’. It never fails to make me smile… (don’t forget to turn the volume down!).

See La Viruta, Club Armenia at 6am on Saturday morning

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3 Responses

  1. Interesting. Nobody ever talked about the tourist tango circuit before. In retrospect, it makes sense that many of BA’s finest would rather avoid the constant flux of visiting dancers, many of whom cannot dance for toffee. It’s an elitist enough hobby as it is in the rest of the world. Is there such a clear division in BA?

    Some day I’ll see this all myself. With sufficient conviction, it will be sooner rather than later, although I doubt I will be staying for the duration. In some ways I feel compelled to see to it that there is tango just as good outside of Argentina.

  2. I have been interested to observe the mix of portenos and tourists at the various Milongas I have been to. Of course there are tourists everywhere, but less so now that the tourist season is drawing to a close. The tango schools inevitably draw tourists to their group classes. Maybe too, the nuevo tango scene here attracts more young tourists. I haven’t really explored that side of tango life in BA yet.
    There are good dancers everywhere, no matter what their country of birth but I guess I came to BA with the idea of dancing with portenos – the students of the masters, or the students of the students of the masters, and maybe even eventually one of the masters!
    I came here to dance with people that I simply can’t dance with anywhere else. Afterwards who knows? But at least I will know then what Buenos Aires really has to offer to an English tango dancer like me and then I will be in a position to make informed comparisons.

  3. Well, I’m sure that you’re feeling much better in July 20 than when you were on May 16, Sally-Sweetie. 🙂

    I agree with your philosophy. Sounds very similar to mine: optimism and persistence. *grin*

    I think your two months of intensive tango is where I am at in my almost two years of tango. 🙂

    I’m sure the professionals go somewhere else to dance with each other or to certain milongas that’s only for the elite. Then again, it may not always be to dance…but also more like a tango exchange…to share new moves or find ways to change the embrace to do new moves…after all, tango is always evolving…

    …I’m sure your goal to be a great tango dancer…you’ll sooner than later be invited to be asked to one…it’s only a matter of time…especially with your dedication and passion—it’s simply infectious. *warm smile*

    Hugs, “Sly” 🙂

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