Friday, April 8, 2011

Diana Howell in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is still buzzing from the free outside concert by the Obelisque by Placido Domingo. It was to commemorate the 24th March, the beginning of the ¨dark years¨ with the PeronÅ›. Placido sang Volver, El Dia Que Me Querias, Buenos Aires Querido, Besame Mucho, and many more, con tanto carino (with much heart), that emotions of millions of people flooded the atmosphere, y hay lagrimas por los ojos(tears in everyone´s eyes).

I caught the dance ¨super boat¨ the day I arrived, dancing 4 hours straight at a very cool milonga, El Arranque, very close to my hotel. Only one ¨pulpo¨(octopus) that I had to ignore his further cabazeos, everyone else great. Every night in BA, you look at the milonga dance publication, and choose which of the about 20 offerings that you want to go to. It lists the name of the milonga (like El Arranque), the promoter, the address, the hours of operation. People choose their milongas for the promoters (they like the music of that particular D.J.), and know the types of dancers who will be there. So, you attend a milonga for the music and the types of dancers you want to dance with. I usually ask a leader with whom I´ve enoyed dancing with, which are his favorite milongas. I also ask Argentinian women, with whom I am seated, and I see that they dance well.

Last night I went to one of my favorite milongas, Entre Tango y Tango, but it was not being so fun, because there were 40 or more extra women there. So this really nice Danish woman next to me and I started talking, and we decided to ¨jet¨ that place and go to another place that she knew that would surely have more leaders. Monterey ladies, wouldn´t that be great, if we could jet over to another milonga when there were way too many women to dance a lot at ours? That is the beauty of B.A., if your feet hold out, you can make it to 3-4 milongas.

We took a taxi over to Correo Viejo Milonga (¨Old post-office¨), and the taxi stoppped in front of what looked like a very old and abandoned building. When we got out, the small door into the building opened, and a doorman came out and greeted us, just like a speak-easy from American prohibition days. The foyer, where you pay, was seperated from the dance area by a heavy velvet drape (very common in BA), so we paid, and were escorted to a table on the ladies side of the room. It looked just like a bat cave, someone had decorated with spray painted textured greyish-green globular paint, and truly, I expected Dracula to come out and take our order! However, the raised DJ box, great speaker system (Argentinians like their music loud, so you can hear it), and somewhat annoying spot lights, lent a great atmosphere to the place, and the old tile floor (black & white) was really smooth, like pivoting on ice! The really great thing about most milongas in BA is that for ladies, there are usually seats in the foyer or bathroom, so that you can put on your shoes. Portenas (BA ladies) think it is unflattering to bend over and struggle with straps in front of potential partners. Makes sense, no?

So now, we are here, and my other new girlfriend fron the previous night´s milonga, at El Arranque (wow!, only 2 blocks from my hotel), showed up, with hugs and holas, and now it is time to dance, so begin the cabazeos.

If you don´t cabazeo (catch eye, make eye contact, validate eye contact, search eye contact, etc.), you don´t dance in BA, unless you are at a totally tourist place, and this place was only locals. Once you make eye contact, and you are sure that it is for you, I like to sit until the leader gets up to walk across the room to be in front of me, if the situation doesn´t allow for that, then you repeat the cabazeo and do several eye contacts while you are both approaching the dance floor. Believe me, there is nothing more embarassing that going to the dance floor only to find out that it was the lady behind you who got asked to dance, and in that case, the best thing to do is to keep walking like you know where you are going, (like to the bathroom or such), to deflect the awkward moment.

One Argentinian leader told me that the most important thing in the dance for the guy is to ¨marke¨ el tiempo (mark the timing), somehow, otherwise, you cannot be in the music, and if you are not in the music, you are not dancing tango. A follower follows, of course, but can mark when she does embellishments (which are few). Dancers in B.A. only really do about 5 steps, none of the other things, like gaunchos, leg wraps, volcadas, etc. Those are done on the stage.

For the guy, enrosques are very important, as well as walk, crossadas, pivots, sacadas, paradas. For the ladies, what is admired is the how smooth you are, how you are able to follow, and your eyes better be closed! Really, last year one guy kept asking me if I was SURE that my eyes were closed, I felt like I was being grilled by the FBI! They absolutely don´t want you scamming the room while you are dancing with them, it makes them ¨loose face,¨ like they are not pleasing you with their expertise of dance, etc., and nothing is more important to the Argentian male, than his ego (except for maybe, his mother). The time to scam is when you are sitting down to cabazeo. Everyone here understands that Tango is about being in the moment: that music, that time , that dancer. And everybody (mostly) understands that it goes on for the dance only, nada mas (nothing more),so when the tanda ends, so does that chapter in tango time. Also, no one has conversation during the dance, that is for in between the songs, and really, it makes sense, right, how can you be in the moment with the dance and blah, blah, blah? No es possible! The conversation in between songs is of the ¨light¨variety, usually. Cortinas are to ¨re-assemble¨, and I like to be re-escorted at least half-way to my table, if not the whole way.
I think the big thing you notice here, is that everyone is enjoying the music, and it binds us all together; the music is the first level, the dancing is the second, and the personalities of the dancers is the least important. So, after my Danish friend and I danced with everyone we wanted to dance with, we left, our dancing feet satisfied.

Oh, news flash! I saw Oscar and a very pregnant Georgina weaving their magic at Entre Tango y Tango last night. They looked very happy!

More later, I am off to partake in more of my Atkin´s Diet---nice Argentinian steak lunch.

Diana
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