Saturday, 23 April 2011

Tango and more in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the capital of Tango no doubt about it.
While preparing for this trip I packed a pair of shoes in the bottom of my backpack waiting for some dance lessons in Buenos Aires. I carried them on my back for many kilometres on South American roads and it was now time to reach into the backpack and let the shoes fulfill their purpose.
Buenos Aires was also the place to meet up with a good friend from Geneva (another Nuno), who would then continue with us all the way up to Rio de Janeiro.
We placed our 'base camp' in the center, close to the Obelisco, and soon realized the true dimension of this huge city. Walking a few blocks under the hot sun was very long and tiring and would take us almost nowhere outside the immediate center, therefore the best way to move around turned out to be subway or taxi.
 

Every travel book says that La Boca is not to be missed, and that might be the reason why La Boca sees the highest concentration of tourists in the whole city. Nevertheless it was worth visiting this artistic and picturesque neighbourhood. The taxi driver advised us to be careful and to not move out of the specific tourist area.

La Boca is a playground for street artists, musicians, dancers and painters. The touristic area is a mix of restaurants, art galleries and souvenir shops. The buildings are painted in strong attractive colors and the main street is invaded by the terraces of restaurants. Almost every restaurant has a set of performing tango dancers, and this is where it starts.
It, it the tango 'bug' that hit us all... The concentrated look, the care invested in the choice of clothing, the sweat that drips from the neck and forehead, the conjugated tension with every note of the bandoneón, the music that seems to advance in a slow pace to abruptly change into a rapid one, the embrace of the dancers, a struggle, a fight, a lovers game. Disturbing.
At lunch time we had meat, of course, in a patio where a lonely guitar player in his 60's entertained the audience. During one of his pauses he came to talk to us, after learning of me being Portuguese, he promised to perform a piece of Fado of the great Amalia Rodrigues. After a few minutes of conversation he went back on stage and performed 'Ai Mouraria' in a slight Spanish accent, a good performance that took us for some moments across the ocean back to Lisbon.
At the end to the lunch we realized we didn't have enough money to pay and we were escorted by a big guy with many tattoos to a near ATM, the restaurant people thought it would be safer like that. On the way to the ATM  we met some friends of the big guy, they were all nice people, many tattoos, strange haircuts, but sympathetic. The neighbourhood is small and everybody is a cousin of everybody. We were offered Fernet, a traditional drink that was introduced to us in Cordoba, a mix between a very bitter drink called Fernet and coca cola. It is not easy to like at first but afterwords it becomes a very refreshing drink for the hot Argentinian days and nights.

After the incident we went back to the restaurant and decided to visit the Boca Juniors museum. Boca Juniors is one of the most famous Argentinian football clubs, the home of Diego Maradona, and the stadium is placed right in the middle of the poor streets of La Boca. Around the stadium the feeling is a bit different than in the touristic streets, here people go through their normal everyday lives and struggles.
the other Nuno and Maradona

After our visit to La Boca we were all convinced that we wanted to try Tango ourselves. Our first class was in a huge dance hall, a very popular place to go dancing Milongas. Here we were introduced to the basic steps of tango, and after only 1,5 hours we wanted more.
The next morning we were up for another dance class, this time private. We learned everything over again, but this time in a more depth; how to breath, how to walk, how to lead and how to be led. Now we knew the truth of what our teacher said at the end, its just a question of practice.
A few days later in Uruguay we put our guts together and went for some real practice, a tango night in the market, the place where the locals hang out. We were strong enough to lift our asses from the chairs and went dancing but failed miserably...we managed a few steps but missed most of the rest, and I am sure that in the middle of the darkness only us realized our mistakes, but we realized that we need a lot more practice. At the end we were proud we tried it and someday we will go back to school again.
We were lucky enough to be in Buenos Aires at that moment as it was the end of the summer and the city was offering a huge tango night, most probably the best tango show that there is to see, a show that travelled the best theatres around the world, the famous 'Tango Argentino' was in town and for the first time in open air and for free.
So for the next 2 hours we watched the show in complete delight, with the best tango stars in the world performing for us and a very skilled group of musicians playing some very intense tango music.
 
At the end, the public cheered out for more and was granted one encore. A local old man in his 80's screamed and cried his lungs out throughout the last performance, as he, and we, wanted more. That's how beautiful it was. A perfect summer night in the middle of February.

2 comments:

Josefina said...

Tango is an altogether different beast to anything I’d seen. It’s so meticulous and beautiful. I would never have dreamt of stepping out into the dancing crowd without a lesson or two. Love it!

Josefina A. - hotels in San Telmo

helena said...

It is really beautiful and we loved learning the basis of how to dance it! Even with a couple of lessons though we felt quite intimidated when we hit the dance floor. Definitley need some more classes in the future. So much fun!