Salon Tango Finals

Welcome to the New Normal. Are you wondering what I’m talking about?  Well, maybe I’m wondering what I’m going to say next.  You see, I grew up in the sixties, when normal was usually negotiable, and frequently difficult to define.  One of my favorite country western singers said, “Some people have friends in high places.  I have high friends in places!” If you know who I’m quoting, you win!  The winner gets…. something really special … TBA in a moment TBA.  Like maybe a free tango lesson?  A Buenos Aires city tour?  Va bene?

So, we were having dinner the other night in a really nice little bistro, a seafood place about 3 blocks from our apartment, the food was really good, it was about 10 pm and really crowded and noisy.  Suddenly I had a Realization.  I didn’t mind the crowd or the noise.  In fact, I really liked it.  That’s such a sea-change for me, lover-girl of horses and wide open spaces.  But the point here being that I had stepped through a portal into another reality!  I had been assimilated into the city!  After all the daily subway and bus rides at rush hour (which is perpetual unless you’re up and about in the morning which I’m not; public transport evaporates after about 10:30 pm, except for taxis which purr around the city in the middle of the night when you’ve just emerged from a milonga and your feet are killing you and it’s cold out and you might have to walk a few blocks to a busier street and wait 5 or 10 minutes for one to show up, finally…), I’ve adapted.  (You know, like in that Star Trek episode when Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and his gang are fighting off a Borg invasion, and our fearless heroes keep recalibrating their weapons but Data, the android, keeps announcing “they’ve adapted.”)  All this to say I’m finally getting used to all the crowding and being squished, aplastada like an empanada, hordes of busy people in motion everywhere.  I will probably never get used to walking on the extremely crowded pedestrian-only streets downtown, like Suipacha, Florída, Lavalle, also known as pickpocket central.  But I have adjusted my system prefs to accommodate all the people and the constant noise levels of Buenos Aires.  I am in the New Normal.

Buenos Aires is so different from other cities.  In some ways it feels like New York, with all the tall buildings and traffic and noise, but it’s so much friendlier, so much more hip, the beautiful buildings, parks, cafés.  More like Paris, they say, but I’ve never been to Paris.  Not yet.  The people here are really good-looking, and seem more educated and cultured than anywhere I’ve ever been.  They are also kind and considerate.  Men open doors for women, people smile and make eye contact.  None of this walking around, head down, don’t speak to anyone.  Even the cops are friendly.  Buenos Aires is truly a liveable city.  Like, where else would you see the tiniest vintage microcar pull up to a light?

1953 BMW Isetta

Luckily for all of us, Ben had the presence of mind to get his camera out before the light turned.  Is this not the most adorable Barbie car ever?  It’s only got one cylinder, and the front of the car opens up to let you get in!  How cute it that?  There were two little girls in the front seat next to the driver, they appeared to be just as excited to be riding in it as we were to catch a glimpse!

And now to the Finals of the World Cup of Tango!  El Mundial!

we had a great view

Here we are at the Tango Salón finals.  As I explained in my last blog, Tango Salón is close embrace dancing.  It’s the only way to dance tango on a crowded dance floor.  Tango Escenario, or stage tango, is the other style which is beautiful and very dramatic.  The finals were held in a sports stadium called Luna Park, in La Boca.  It’s a very nice venue, and was packed to the rim for both nights of the Finals.  The fabulous Mario Orlando DJ’d the entire event, except for the live music provided by Rubén Rada and the Orquesta Río de la Plata:

Mario played tangos by the orchestras of DiSarli, Pugliese, D’Arrienzo, Troilo, Tanturi, Biagi, Lucio Demare, Enrique Rodríguez, Fresedo.  All much-loved tunes that you tangueros are familiar with.  There were four final rounds, with 10 couples in each round.  They were all very good dancers!  And they came from the four corners of the whole world.

The judges were a grouping of the legendary:  Maria Nieves, Eduardo Arquimbau, Carlos Borges, Guillermina Quiroga, Julio Dupláa, Jorge Torres, Miguel Angel Zotto, Cachi & Juan Manuel Fernández, and Aguila Crespo.  My apologies in advance for any spelling errors!

The first prize given out went to a couple from Japan, for Most Elegant Couple.  Fifth prize went to another Japanese couple, from Tokyo; Fourth to a very chic Italian couple; Third to a pair from San Francisco (Go Team!) Brian Nguyen & Yuliana Basmajyan.   (All entrants had to pre-qualify by winning the competitions in their home country.  In California, it was our friends and longtime tango teachers Gato and Andrea who were in charge of the US Finals which took place last spring in SF.)

After those presentations were made, complete with flowers and boxes of tango clothes and shoes and trophy bowls for the lucky winning dancers, the announcer let the crowd know that the judges were unable to decide between 1st and 2nd place.  So the stage was cleared once again to make room for the dance-off between the top two couples. Here’s a photo:

They were phenomenal!  I personally was voting for the Venezuelans: a tall elegant guy in a white suit, and his gorgeous partner.  But they were all so perfect, how could anyone choose?  The judges’ point system came out in favor of the Colombians.  It was a happy, ecstatic moment, as you can see:

Diego Benavídez Hernández and Natasha Agudelo Arboleda, from Bogotá, Colombia!  Besides all the flowers, engraved glass bowls, tango clothes and shoes, the winning couple received 30,000 Pesos (about $8,000) a trip to Paris (this weekend!) from Air France, including a mandatory performance (are we jealous yet?) dancing at the Eiffel Tower!

2nd Place winners John Erban & Clarissa Sánchez

Topping off the evening was a tango by Juan Carlos Copes and his daughter, Joana Copes, with the full orchestra.  They were fantastic!  I feel most privileged to have seen the living legend in person!  He also dances an awesome milonga in Carlos Saura’s movie Tango, from a few years back.  (Please note, all of these performances are on uTube, check it out!  Use these search terms:  Mundial de Tango Salon Buenos Aires 2011)

Juan Carlos Copes y Joana Copes

All in all, the Mundial was attended by 400,000 people during its two weeks of concerts, shows, films, workshops, dance classes, milongas & etc.  It was a fabulous success, and the talk about town is that once again tango has gone back to its roots, i.e., we are in the midst of a renaissance at the local level: emerging new tango clubs, young new composers, musicians, orquestras, dancers from a host of barrios (as portrayed in my post on the Tango Zone!).  This is truly an exciting time to be here.  Our favorite dance teachers, and doubtless all the best maestros of Buenos Aires, have been working with the dancers, helping them  polish their technique and choreography.  No matter where the couples were from, I think I can say absolutely that this was not their first trip to Buenos Aires.  A pilgrimage to the Mecca of Tango is a journey that all serious dancers must take at some point.  (Hello!  this means YOU)  The downside talk is that porteños are a bit embarrassed that there were no winners from Buenos Aires this year, and people asking why.  How can it be possible that foreigners are taking the gold?  A very interesting question and topic for discussion.

The next big competition is the CITA (Congreso Internacional de Tango Argentino), in March.  We were here during the CITA a few years ago, the milongas were so packed you could not even find a place to drop your jacket & purse unless you made a reservation AND showed up before 11 or so.   The CITA offers classes, workshops, the whole nine yards.   It also means that the price of privates (dance classes) will double, and hotel rooms and late night taxis will be harder to find.

gelato at Persicco

Hope you enjoyed the post!  Here I am rematando (finishing off) the evening with a dulce de leche granizado.  The best!  Ciao from Buenos Aires!

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