Friday, February 19, 2016

First Tango in Buenos Aires

19 February 2016

Last week I met up with friends from St. Thomas who were in Buenos Aires on a cruise.  It was their last day before heading back, so we timed our arrival in Argentina to meet up with them.  Had a wonderful time and I'm so glad we were able to do this!

So anyone else with travel plans, let us know, we'll do our best to get together!

I decided that since we're here in Buenos Aires, I need to take some classes in tango.  This is the home of the tango, and I love dancing.  Don't get to dance enough.  So this would be my Argentinian adventure - learn to really dance the tango!

Just down two blocks and around the corner from our hotel is the Academia Nacional de Tango, the National Academy of Tango.  Also housing the Museo de Tango, and the Tango Hall of Fame.  How could I go wrong?

So on Thursday I went over in time for the 3 PM class.  There are two two-hour classes per day, one at 3 PM and the other at 6 PM.  There are also private classes, but I thought the group class would be fine.  

There are also two options for paying - either per class (80 pesos, which is about $5.30 US), or to purchase a card of ten classes (550 pesos, or about $3.75 US per class).  Since we aren't sure how long we'll be in Buenos Aires, I figured the per-class rate was fine.

Turned out there were four of us in the class - an older man from Vancouver, BC; a middle-aged woman from Argentina; a young man who spoke Spanish and no English, so I don't know where he's from; and me.  

We had two instructors:  Victor, a middle-aged Argentinian, and Graciella, a young woman from the Patagonia region of Argentina.

So, after introductions (which included people kissing me on my cheek, this is just how it's done here although I do get a little freaked out about it!), we started.  And it suddenly dawns on me that the Argentinian tango is NOTHING like the American tango!

I've participated in folk dancing since I was in high school.  I can hora and polka and grapevine and all that.  I attended the workshops for teachers in ballroom dancing, I can waltz as if I were dancing in Vienna in the 1800s.  I can do the swing, the foxtrot, all that.  And yes, the tango was included - the slow backwards steps, the slinky slide to the left, the dramatic side march and back, with the head thrown back and maybe an imagined rose clenched between my teeth.

This isn't that.  At all.

The tango in Argentina is less dramatic and more sensual.  A flirtatious dance between two people who are toying with each other's emotions and bodies.  The man takes a few steps and pauses while the woman is guided through twists and turns and swishes.  He puts a foot out and she knows to kick a foot here petulantly, or slide a foot there seductively, step over his foot, and then delicately move on.  Then a few steps to the side and backwards, and the twisting turning kicking sliding seduction begins again.

We practiced the initial steps.  Embellished on the steps.  I was partnered with the man from Vancouver, and we were guided through the first part of the routine.  And, well, I was told to stop leading and just follow.  Um, okay, I do tend to lead once I learn the steps.  So I had to stop leading.  And then, well, I was told to follow.  Because even when I stop leading, I keep doing the steps I'm supposed to do even if my dance partner forgets what to do.  Because that's my part, right?  (Well, actually, I'm supposed to be the docile woman who follows the guy's lead.  I'm not good at that in life, so you know I'm not going to do that while dancing either.  Oh well.)

After a while, to demonstrate to the guy, the male dance teacher danced with me, and he's a much stronger guide because he knows what he's doing.  Which, of course, made it much easier for me to follow, since he was doing his routine and giving me indications as to what I was supposed to do.  

Anyway, it really was fun, I had a great time even if I was giving this poor man trouble by not being patient while he learned to lead.  I finally told him I thought we just had different rhythms in the dance - I didn't tell him he was too slow, but, well, he wasn't dancing to the rhythm I heard in the music.  Classic Thoreau problem.

We had about one hour and 45 minutes, then it was time to demonstrate what we've learned.  But my partner didn't want to stand up and dance, so I had another chance to dance with the instructor.  Then our two instructors danced together, and wow, it really is an amazing and slinky and sensual dance when people know what they're doing!

I chatted a little with the other woman and the instructors, and then they all did the cheek kissing good-byes.  Headed back to the hotel all set to practice my steps, and ready for a class today, Friday.  But the 3 PM class was suspended for the day, possibly due to the heavy rain we had all morning.  I'll head back on Monday for more dancing.

And I'll try to go against my natural independence and try to follow.


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