Impressions of Buenos Aires

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5th & 11th November 2012

Firstly, I’m not going to gloat about the weather. But it might be interesting to share some impressions of Buenos Aires.

It’s late spring here which means it’s hot.  The city is teeming with people and traffic and is it’s very noisy in the day and most of the night.   Images and the music of tango are everywhere in Buenos Aires. However it is danced by a tiny minority – maybe 50,000 dancers out of a provincial population of  circa 13 million?  It’s a guess.  Tango is important, partially because of the dollars, but for the vast majority it’s something their grandparents used to do.  There is however a burgeoning number of young dancers.  At La Boldosa on Saturday night for instance, a milonga out of town on the city limits, the place was packed with young teachers and aspiring teachers dancing to a very high level and the three show dance couples were young(ish) – Javier Rodriguez & Virginia Pandolfi, Cristian Marquez & Virginia Gomez, and Hugo Daniel & Guillermina Quiroga.

It’s also interesting to go to milongas where lots of the dancers have been dancing tango since the late 60’s or 70’s.  They are very genteel affairs, with strongly established etiquettes. 

Here’s a picture from a few nights ago of Lo de Celia, a very traditional club on Humberto Primo and Entre Rios.  All the guys are sitting on two sides of the room facing each other and all the women are sat in the same way along the other two walls.  Couples are seated behind the front tables.

 This makes cabeceo easier, because you don’t have to strain your eyes to the other side of the room – you look diagonally to the adjacent side.  There is no fear of rejection or of dancing with someone with whom you’d rather not, because the cabeceo is the only way to ask.  Another thing I notice is that the lights are up, it’s not at all dim, so cabaceo is easy.

Club Gricel on Saturday was a little less delineated.  Lots of tables with groups of friends, male and female.  But again cabeceo rules.  It works easily and smoothly.  You can’t see others doing it, just two people getting to their feet and the guy walking over to dance.

I like dancing amongst the old timers.  As long as you are respectful and NEVER bump, they are friendly and seem to say with their eyes “yes this is our way of dancing tango we are delighted that you wish to dance in a similar way”, and also “ah – you know the music!”.  I attract attention because I’m obviously a gringo (you can’t disguise it – school children shout “hello” from their playground as I pass by on the opposite side of the road. It’s that obvious), but the milongueros are charming and smile and nod discretely when I finish a dance in front of them.  To this end I have taken a class with Osvaldo and Coca – a charming milonguero couple in their late 70’s.  They are full of humour as you can see in this wonderful clip of them dancing milonga.  They are a great antidote to the display dancing – a couple who have danced since they were 19 without a thought for how it looks to others – just for the joy of dancing to the music.

 

We have been very privileged to have the company and guidance of Chino and Miho whilst we are here.  They are a big part of the scene here, known and respected for what they do everywhere we go. They are friends with the old timers, and younger generation alike, and have an intimate knowledge of the city and it’s tango scene…. it’s great to have them around and it is boosting the Buenos Airess experience so much.  I already knew it but this trip endorses it – Cambridge is exceptionally lucky to have such a close association with them.  They are of this city but more than that, they understand what is happening in tango here in Buenos Aires and all around the world. 

On the 8th November we witnessed the mass manifestation of public anger against the Kirchner regime.  A fantastic sight – thousands of people making their way peacefully up 9 de Julio banging pots and waving the flag. Families with children too.  It was like a festival, but with a serious point to make. Corruption, fiddling with the constitution, interfering with the freedom of the press, getting seriously rich…. these seemed to be the main allegations.  If the taxi drivers are anything to go by, Cristina is deeply unpopular but not listening. This was a very significant event I think. There is a counter argument, that given by the administration – that it’s the middle classes and their press angry about having to pay taxes…. but having seen the sort of people turning out on 8N, it sounds flimsy.  But I’m no expert…. 

Today is Sunday so we  will take it easy at the famous Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo.  It’s surreal with what seems like a fancy dress competition amongst the stall holders. There is nothing like it anywhere else I’m sure.

Here’s a demo we saw on Saturday night at La Baldosa:

 

 

 

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