It was a year ago to the day that I was last here in BsAs for a month-long stay. As a freelance writer, I don’t earn any money when I’m not working, so my last visit was one week of pure holiday, and three weeks working holiday. This was … not a good plan!
Don’t misunderstand me: I had a truly wonderful time. What I did not have was much sleep! So this time I decided to take the financial hit of three weeks’ holiday and just the last week of working in the mornings …
One of the many things I adore about this city is that, no matter what you need, someone knows someone! It could be anything from a shoe repair to a nuclear power station, ask around and it won’t be long before someone puts you in touch with someone who can help.
In the case of airport pickup, my local tango teacher’s father is a taxi driver (also an excellent historian and social commentator, so the journeys are never dull). He was wearing a suitably bright shirt for help us spot him, and we had the traditional airport selfie – though this time with a different friend, Alessandra instead of Tina.
I’d found a posher apartment at around the same price, a little closer to the port.
Appropriately enough, given Alessandra is Italian, we’re on the corner of Plaza Roma.
We unpacked, and got settled in, then I took Alessandra on an orientation tour of microcentral. This included an introduction to the only city in the world where changing cash on the street is not an insane thing to do – and a delicious steak and Malbec lunch. The former claimed to be lomo, but judging from the size, I’m pretty sure it was an entire cow with the head, tail and legs chopped off.
Our main goal for the day was to stay awake until around 8pm, to stand some hope of being on local-ish time by the morning. This mission was accomplished.
The morning saw us take a walking tour of the port, which was very pretty.
It of course included the Puente de la Mujer, which is made from 100,000 recycled plastic bottles.
The walk was also very long, very hot, and followed by a nap, before the real business of the day commenced.
Milonga 1: Barajando at Lo De Celia
The problem with doing two evening milongas is that you have to arrive relatively early for one of them, which usually means lots of rhythmical music. I feel reasonably ok dancing it now, having just enough double-time work to throw into the mix, but it’s definitely not the music which pulls me out of my seat.
Of course, you can’t go anywhere in BsAs without bumping into a friend, and I met Liesbeth there, having a very lovely tanda with her. But aside from that and a couple of tandas with Alessandra, I think I only danced two or three others, simply because the music didn’t inspire.
When it hadn’t changed 90 minutes later, we decided an early move was in order. Which is, of course, one of the joys of BsAs: there are always plenty of other milongas available, and when entry costs you two or three quid, and a taxi there the same, there’s no reason not to try your luck elsewhere.
Milonga 2: Milonga de Los Domingos at El Beso
I was explaining to Alessandra that there are multiple milongas each week at the same venues, so it’s the event you need to look at, rather than where it is held. I hadn’t danced at Milonga de Los Domingos before, so warned her I couldn’t guarantee anything beyond better aircon!
However, it was a night-and-day difference! The music was fantastic. A great mix or rhythmical and lyrical tandas, and the rhythmical ones were also layered. The age range was more varied. And there was just generally a lighter and more sociable atmosphere.
Again, more friends! Bumped into Felicia, and had a very nice tanda with her. I’d also spotted Paul, though we were both on the dance floor so much it was quite some time before we managed to say hello!
I danced a lot. In fact, for the last few hours, it was the vast majority of tandas. Of course, milongas can be a different experience for leaders and followers, but happily Ale was dancing as much as me.
My conversational Spanish isn’t very, being more geared to ordering steak and letting taxi drivers know where I’m going, so small-talk between songs is more challenging than usual here. However, ‘Mi nombre es Ben’ leads to them introducing themselves, and invariably asking ‘¿De dónde eres?’, so by the time I’ve told them London and asked where they are from, it’s time to dance again.
I did, of course, have the usual experience a couple of times: giving them my best alleged Spanish, only to find that they were struggling too, and we both in fact speak English.
BsAs followers are shameless flatterers, so the hug and a few words at the end of a tanda are always a great ego boost! I don’t take it seriously, given they are spending their lives being led by locals, but it’s nice all the same.
I’ve said several times before that it’s always interesting seeing the different responses to making space for the follower’s dance. Some just wait for me to get on with it, but the majority of all ages take full advantage – which always makes for a fun dance.
One goal I had for this trip was to join in the silliness that is chacarera, mostly because it’s a way of showing respect for the culture. I’d had a group lesson one time, and it didn’t seem too tricky, so I watched enough YouTube videos to memorise the sequence.
I risked it for the first time tonight, cabeceoing a woman who looked a little dubious, but accepted anyway. It turned out she was no chacarera expert either, but we both managed to avoid embarrassing ourselves, and … I must admit it was actually great fun! So I now have my chacarera licence …
I’d half-joked on Facebook that we might close the place at 3am, not imagining we really would stay ’til the end on the day after we landed, but that’s in fact exactly what happened. By 2.30am, it was down to a few diehards, and at a quarter to three the (wonderful!) DJ decided to deploy the ‘Haven’t you lot got homes to go to?’ La Cumparsita at the end of the current tanda, rather than announcing a Last Tanda.
Since I was by then 50% sleepwalker and 50% puddle of sweat, and feeling as blurry as this photo, I didn’t demand a refund for the stolen 15 minutes.
Monday is a quiet day for BsAs tango, probably because half the city has been dancing ’til 3am throughout the weekend, so I decided that was good timing for a rest day. (I don’t always remember to take those, having frequently been told that I haven’t quite got the hang of the ‘holiday’ part of holidays.)
Tuesday’s plan is to drop into La Catedral so that Ale can experience the place, and dance a tanda or two, and then head to Parakultural at its new home in Marabu. I’ll miss Salon Canning hugely, and am slightly nervous about how much of the magic will have survived the move …