|Attentive tangueras at the VIVA LA PEPA MILONGA, Villa Malcom on Sunday, January 25th,|
watching Christina Sosa and Daniel Nacucchio perform.
2 weeks of Buenos Aires, 2 weeks of tango in Buenos Aires - that quite clearly is not enough. But it was enough to get a glimpse of this fascinating world, to change my perception of tango and it was enough to get hooked to this crazy town!
I was astonished to discover that I really learned to like, even to love this city and its people! It is a beautiful town, a metropolis with all the variety it needs, a breath-taking architecture, lively varied quarters, hipper, calmer, fancier, poorer, or more elegant or shabby quarters, lots and lots of trees and green everywhere and this wonderful mediteranean feeling to it, a very european feeling. At the same time I had very charming encounters with the inhabitants of this city. They seem to me to be a very friendly and polite people with respect and a certain air of dignity. If someone bumps into you on the bus, he kindly begs your pardon, elderly and disabled persons are immediately offered a seat, if you look around searchingly, help is offered, but always very politely, not wanting to intrude. I will cover my Buenos Aires impressions in more detail in another post.
But there is a connection between these observations and my experiences in the tango world of Buenos Aires. By far not all porteños do actually dance tango, even if they have heard the music all their lives. My sketcher friends looked at me quite surprised when I asked if they too dance tango. Well, not all Germans wear dirndls either... Okay, gotten rid of that prejudice. But very many Argentines actually do dance tango! And at an incredibly high level. The density of good dancers, of teachers, of tango super starts here is just crazy, you see them at every milonga, have the best of the best right in front of your own nose. Now, that was inspiring!!!!
Tango works a bit differently here. There are uncountable numbers of milongas every evening and you have difficulty deciding which to go to, the variety is so incredibly overwhelming. So what happens is a lot of "milonga-hopping". We start here, then head for the next milonga only to end the night in yet another. A thought I first had to get used to. I did not really make out much of a difference to what is named a milonga and a practica, difficult for me to discern the difference. Only at the DNI-practica I went to on my first day did I notice a more experimental atmosphere than on a regular milonga, no cortinas, lots of partner changing and trying out. What we call a "practica" in Germany here is an open class by different teachers just before the actual milonga.
You dance very late in Buenos Aires. I mutated into a very late bed-goer these two weeks – you actually do not go out much before 10 pm. If there is a show, it happens around 1 am and after that the setting changes – the tourists go home and the porteños remain, dance level rises. I did not get a satisfactory answer to my question, when the porteños actually sleep because a siesta does not happen here. A lady once answered that question with the simple statement: "We eat more meat - maybe that is why we need less sleep!" Well, tried that...
But what impressed me most was the different feeling to a milonga in Buenos Aires. The atmosphere varies from milonga to milonga, as does the quality of the dance. But they all have something in common I would call the social component. People get together to meet socially, to dance socially, to laugh and enjoy the evening in a safe space. They bring along the respect they want to experience themselves. Códigos, the milonga rules, are not simply rules your teacher once told you (if you were lucky), they are necessary elements of tango here, implied by respect and courtesy. Be it the mirada and cabeceo to ask somebody to dance, the cortina in which you actually sit down in order to make space for new eye contacts, the ronda which is present as though the dancers on the dance floor were a single creature, breathing and moving harmoniously as one. I experienced very little bumping (which was immediately excused) and I saw no high flying legs. You dance small and concentrated and do not run the risk of injuring your neighbor. You do not show off your newest moves but enjoy the quality you and your partner bring into the embrace. This all together makes a milonga a safe space in a crazy and surging outside world. In Salon Canning I once sat next to a couple from France, we started chatting away and I learned that they had spent 6 months in Buenos Aires on an internship. Fascinated, I asked how it feels to live here for a longer time. They answered that after 1 1/2 months of Buenos Aires, they were over and worn, too much noise, too much pollution, too many people, to much stress... It was then they started learning tango and going to milongas. Here, they discovered their safe space, the refuge they needed in order to fill up their batteries again, to survive in this milieu. They ended up spending at least 3 evenings every week at milongas, feeling unbalanced if a week did not offer the opportunity to do so.
After 2 weeks of intensive training and dancing and absorption, I feel I have only scratched the surface of tango in Buenos Aires. But I have a crush now, and I will certainly be back!
Christina Sosa and Daniel Nacucchio performing at VIVA LA PEPA, Villa Malcom