One, two three, one two, three … it’s such a beautiful feel, the waltz or vals or valse, depending on which language you prefer. The tango vals is particularly beautiful – it has all the wonderful motion of the three beats, with soaring melodies over the top. Similarly, the dance has quite quick footwork, but with a largesse in its lines.
I always get a kick out of learning something new, and this month in Buenos Aires has been like a giant kick up the bum! I’ve learned to get by in Spanish, negotiate a new city and dance a new and very difficult dance. I still have a an awful lot to learn, but I’m making progress. I danced my last dance in Buenos Aires this evening, and even though ladies are not really allowed to ask gentlemen to dance (it’s always the other way around), I asked my teacher, Juan-Pablo, for my last tango in this fair city. He kindly obliged and danced me around the floor with expertise, playfulness and love.
I confess, it’s late. 3am to be precise. That’s what you do here in Tango-land on Thursday nights, and I left early! The day began early with a tango class at 11:15am, included a concert in the early evening of top notch tango music, and finished after a lovely night of dancing with fellow students and teachers from tango school. My feet will enjoy a good night’s sleep.
In the face of a looming election and economic crisis, the Argentines are hitting the streets with protest. The tango dancers are doing it to, in a gentle and connected way. Yesterday they held another Milonga Contra la Neoliberalismo (Dance Against Neoliberalism), outside in the Plaza Unidad Latinoamericano. All afternoon and into the night a lovely bunch of left wing dancers came together to dance, share mate, hear live music and watch some incredible tango dancers. The weather was chilly for October, which made it even nicer to be sailing around the floor close embrace. My Spanish is still rudimentary, but I understood when someone gave an address on the importance of keeping tango alive in the community, not just as a tourist show, and that dancing is way to connect, understand, and build community.
How lovely it is to have reminders of special people who are no longer with us. For me, these moments happen mostly with music. I was at my tango class today learning how to do graceful ochos (figure eights) and the teacher put on some opera for us to practice to – none other than Délibes’ Flower Duet, which we played at my Nan’s funeral in July. As always, when she pops into my day, the sun was streaming through the dance studio windows and I felt her watching and smiling. Extra special that Nan and Pa used to tango when they were my age.
Having spent a week dancing in my workhorse shoes from home, this morning I acquired a beautiful pair of tango shoes. Let me be clear: they are not fashionable. They are very old fashioned in the tango world where everyone is wearing strappy, sparkly things with stiletto heels. However, I love them, with their closed toes, 1920s design and reasonable heel. Oh, and they make dancing so much easier!
An afternoon spent learning to tango, then actually tangoing in a big old room in the centre of Buenos Aires, the home of tango. The old tango orchestras made beautiful music and the old recordings have a little crackle on the edge, which is quite charming. The music is endlessly fascinating, crisp, and full of melancholy, and a total joy to dance to. Some delightful Argentinian gents were kind enough to dance with me, despite my beginner state, and thus I feel I learned a lot. Definitely the best fun I’ve had with $5 in an awfully long time.
Five weeks off work would make anyone happy, and I’m no exception. An adventure across the Pacific awaits with tango shoes and a foreign language. Sleeping in, dancing late, discovering a new city with its food, culture and songs, meeting people, having time to think, create, wonder and wander. See you Friday, Buenos Aires!