The tango gods can be fickle: From El Beso heaven to Salon Canning limbo

Surprisingly, an entire week of 6.30am starts didn’t kill me. But the benefit of the early starts is that by 11am, my working day was over – and weekend mode engaged!

I did have a couple of things to take care of before the dancing began, and of course Argentina does her best to entertain us in even the most mundane of activities …

We usually use Azimo to send money to ourselves, but their network had an extended outage, so I instead sent the money for my shirts to Western Union. Steph and Tina had already discovered that not all WU branches can actually give you your money, and the company decided to add some additional fun for me.

The first transaction takes longer, as they need to do identity checks. That took just over 24 hours, then the cash was shown as Available for collection. Until I got there, when I got an email saying the transaction was under review, and the status in the app changed from Available to Unavailable.

The email claimed the review would take 30 minutes, and the queue was quite long, so I decided to take my chances. When I was two places from the front, the status flipped back to Available.

The app claims that any ‘government-issued photo ID’ is acceptable as proof of identity. I was highly sceptical, but tested this with my driving licence, as I’d be happier carrying that around than my passport. It was duly handed back with a shake of the head and, probably, the Spanish for ‘We do not trust you Malvinas-stealing foreigner types with anything less than a passport.’ I had, of course, taken that with me again, and emerged with a large fortune.

Most of which was handed over to my tailor in exchange for six excellent linen shirts which were, surprisingly, ready on time (I’m wearing the sixth).

Milonga 11: El Abrazo at El Beso

Next on the list was El Abrazo at El Beso. Tina needed to deliver a bottle of wine to the host, Diego, and it’s a lovely milonga. I booked a table for 5.30pm, and as a proper Englishman was, naturally, there at 5.30pm. Steph and Tina arrived at 7.10pm.

I’m a big fan of El Beso. I’ve been to three or four afternoon milongas there, and although they were different organisers, and different DJs, the feel is very consistent between them. An older crowd, relaxed, friendly, good standard of dance, with excellent floorcraft. If you haven’t been there but have been to the Feast, you’d feel right at home.

Of course, everywhere you go here, you run into dancers from London, and today it was Sylvia. We had a lovely tanda together.

It’s also a very flattering place for a leader: when it comes to buttering up foreigners with compliments, they clearly took the advanced course! But chatting with Steph afterwards, I think one thing followers here appreciate because they don’t get it from too many leaders is space for their own dance. I danced pretty much non-stop from beginning to end.

My mild facial aphasia once again proved entertaining. Several women came up to me and said it was lovely to see me again, and I recognised exactly none of them – though I did subsequently identify two of them. BsAs is a large city and a small town.

We stayed to the end, and got a photo with Diego Fontclara, the organiser.

Steph and Tina were starving, and wanted to go straight to dinner. I didn’t feel very hungry at the time, so we compromised on dropping our stuff at home first, then going to an Italian restaurant that our very own Diego recommended: Broccolino. The proprietor took very good care of us.

Despite my protestations of not being too hungry, I polished off a town-sized portion of the most wonderful lasagne.

Milonga 12: Salon Canning

After dinner, we again went to Parakultural Salon Canning around 11pm. Tina had booked a taxi dancer for two hours. Last time, it was heaven here; tonight not so much!

I think it was Martin, the taxi dancer, who had previously warned us that pre- and post-2am Parakultural were really two different milongas, and this was indeed the case. Steph and I danced one tanda together, and Steph danced with one American leader, and that was it. Very few people looking outside of their group of mates, and the few cabeceos we could manage were declined.

We did at least get a photo out of it, even if I do appear to be leading while sleeping.

But more generally, this is of course tango. Even if you are at exactly the same milonga at exactly the same time on exactly the same day, it can be heaven one time and, well, nothing the next.

Milonga 13: La Viruta

I suggested that the two of us head down to La Viruta and return to Canning later. Tina decided that she could dance with Martin as well there as here, so we all walked the two blocks down.

Such a different experience! I mean, La Viruta has its drawbacks … The floorcraft is terrible. When it’s crowded, 90% of the work is avoiding people. I’m told this is because the milonga caters for all kinds of dance, so a lot of people on the floor are not really tango dancers, so unfamiliar with the concept of a ronda. This makes it rather like dodgems!

But, like before, I did my best to treat it as a game. How could I ensure that avoidance manoeuvres felt musical? How many of them could I make so smooth that the follower wouldn’t be aware? It’s not my ideal form of dance, for sure, but it is kind of fun … All the same, I greatly preferred it a little later when there was more space on the floor.

La Viruta also has frequent interruptions to the tango for Chacerera, Samba, jive and who knows what. I’ve had exactly one Chacerera lesson in my life, a group class at Tango Terra. But nobody here takes anything seriously, and I figured if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I dragged Steph out onto the floor, and mostly remembered the basic structure of the dance. I don’t think our version was too much worse than the average there …

Being cruelly deprived of another Salon Canning attempt

I wanted to head back to Canning at 2am, to see if it was by then the more chilled crowd. However, when we got there it was absolutely rammed, and opening the door was like opening one to an oven! I was game to give it a go for a wafer-thin tanda, but by that stage Tina had run out of feet, and Steph was falling asleep. Steph also argued, entirely spuriously, that my ‘just one more tanda’ claims are never true. We instead headed home.

We chatted for a while, then went to bed around 4am. Then was woken at 8am by Steph’s phone repeatedly buzzing! She’d switched off the ringer, but not Do Not Disturb. She shall, for the moment, be known as La Señorita de la BZZZZ.

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