March 9, 2012

The Art of Tango

How could we come to Buenos Aires and not learn to tango? After all, we had such a fun time with our samba lesson in Rio, and tango would help round out our growing repertoire.

Mary booked a babysitter and made reservations for the four of us to go to a tango club in Palermo Viejo last Friday night. It was a good sign when we got out of the cab and found the 8 steps of tango immortalized in the sidewalk.

Upon entering the club, it looked like a mix between the staff quarters in Dirty Dancing and a VFW hall. It was dark, hot and sweaty.

We got settled at our table right along the dance floor and ordered a bottle of wine. We couldn’t have asked for a better set-up. At about 10:00pm, pairings of professional dancers came out and showed everybody how tango should be done. Then the professionals split the crowd into 4 different groups based on experience. We proudly took our spots in the beginner group, and a very handsome young couple spent the next hour teaching us the basic steps. It was a good mix of showing us the steps individually and then letting us practice them with our partners. It was a little tricky, but we got the hang of it pretty quickly.

After our lesson was over, they turned on the house music and it was time to tango. It’s said that when a man wants to dance tango with a women, he makes contact with her from across the room by giving her “eyes”. There was no eye action going on at our table, but there were plenty of suitors who would come by asking if Mary or I would like to dance. We took turns tangoing with our men and then with some randoms. It worked out well this way, because each time we’d dance with a stranger, we would pick up new moves or tricks that we would run back to share with the table.

The most mind boggling thing about tango is that NOBODY FOLLOWS THE STEPS! 
Samba only had 3 basic steps, and when we went to watch locals dance at the clubs, we would see them doing the same steps we learned but about 10 times faster. Tango was totally different. We learned the 8 basic steps and we had them down pat. But as soon as the dance floor opened up, we didn’t see any of the couples remotely executing them. They just danced organically, somehow knowing the next move that the other would make. Truly the art of tango.

After midnight, a live band came out. We had such a good time, but alas we were growing tired and were some of the first ones to leave…at 3:00am.

Subsequently, we’ve seen tango dancers on the streets around the city.

We’re still keeping our eyes peeled for those 8 basic steps. They’re all we’ve got.

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