Argentine men have the art of seduction down to a T. Or would that be capital A for Amore? L for Love? Just because every man you meet calls you linda, hermosa, divina, preciosa, una diosa… even waiters bringing you coffee… do they really mean it? jaja … Do they really think you’re the cat’s meow, baby? Wake up, girl! Reality check! They’re just practicing their seduction skills…. anticipating a little hootchie-coochie or an even higher return on their verbal investment.
Porteños can sling piropos in their sleep… “Tengo frío, tengo calor…tengo todo, menos tu amor!
Can you blame me for not being very focused on writing? Sure, sometimes I get an idea and go on a roll. But it’s just not a priority anymore. Is it possible to be too happy? There’s always a cheerful vibe in this city… it’s the people. The offspring of intense, handsome spaniards and laughing, creative Italians who mixed with whoever else was here when they arrived, and whoever showed up later. Mix with plenty of vino tinto, pasta, salads, argentine beef and good bread. Naturally, the government and infrastructure are fucked up, confused and disorganized, but the people are warm, friendly and hospitable. Can I ever be this happy back in the states?
“Tus ojos me dicen sí; por qué tu corazón no?”
If a guy asks you (while dancing) if you can cook, (after using some of the afore-mentioned adjectives) maybe it’s a pre-interview screening for a lifelong unpaid domestic contract (which you’ll end up having to pay up the yin/yang to get out of), or maybe it means you’re just such hot stuff they’re already feeling the heat! If they ask you out for coffee, beware!
It doesn’t help that Argentine males are so Fine. I mean Fine with a Capital F. All that Spanish, Indian and Italian blood sizzling thru those Vesuvian veins… they can’t help it! And trying to resist their charms is a full time occupation! Do I need occupational therapy? OSHA, where are you? Oh, yeah, up north, where the weather is cool and so are the men… with some exceptions, of course. Is there an antidote? An antibiotic? An evening-before pill? Why not pass them out at milongas? For 70 pesos you get your entry ticket and your anti-swoon medication. Live tango orchestra with singer? Make that 100 pesos.
Hmmm… wait a sec. Wouldn’t that take all the pleasure out of tango? Who wants to dance close embrace with someone who doesn’t make your DNA strands start buzzing like bumblebees? Deactivate that thought, girl!
“…. Argentines [are] quite uninhibited in publicly expressing tenderness and affection among people of the same or different sex. Men of all ages will embrace and kiss each other when meeting, and there are also exchanges of kisses among men and women who are relatives or friends, and, of course, among women themselves.” [from the Kinsey Institute on Argentina]
If these seductive Argentines are powerful wizards and magicians they may send their own personal spirit interventionist to bewitch and seduce you while you’re asleep. Did you think your dreams were just random subconscious meanderings? A kind of merging with some universal image transfer center, a cosmic Kinko’s? Google Image holodeck? Netflix unhinged? Where do you think all these words I’m writing come from, anyway? Perhaps I subscribe to a giant interplanetary recycling center that implants bits of shredded text into my brain while I’m sleeping? Who the heck knows? Some days I need a double latte just to remember my name… don’t we all?
On the downside of Latino men, there do still exist those possessive and jealous males who go completely beserk if their wife or girlfriend dances with others. On this subject, I’ve said plenty in the past. Love and fear can’t exist side by side. Fear begets jealousy and insecurity. If a man likes to dance with lots of pretty women, he’s enviable and seen as completely normal, right? But if a woman likes to dance with lots of men… start piling the stones! Whatever happened to the women’s liberation movement? I guess I’m starting my own South American front. “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” (Oscar Wilde)
Lest the reader think I’m a completely insensitive female swine, let me just say that I like to have fun with words and I like to play on the dance floor. But, seriously, Tango is all about the heart connection. The creativity of shared expression. The pure sensuality of one’s feet caressing the floor. The complexity of the music, mutually interpreted. The buena onda (good vibe) shared by everyone on the dance floor. The tangible pleasure of human connection unhindered by social convention… simply guided by the códigos (codes) of Tango.
Maria Inés Bogado, winner of the mundial in 2010 (with partner Sebastian Jiménez), sums up in a few words the pleasure of a great connection: “… I have to feel that he receives me, surrounds me, is with me in the dance.” She expresses her displeasure with men who dance …. as if their partner were a mannequin: “I don’t like when the man does not think about the woman in the dance, but concentrates on the figure…. I love when the couple is moving like one person, when the dancers are concentrating on each other. When I saw tango for the first time, I loved that it is more about the connection and therefore I don’t like when the man is harsh and wants to show something to the outer world, to the people around, not keeping the feeling inside the couple, inside the embrace. Even in tango nuevo there are ways and styles of dancing that allow the man to show [off] the lady he is dancing with, to show he is there with her.” (from an interview in El Tanguata)
For those of you who are still on the fence about your next trip to Buenos Aires, here’s a quick heads-up. Why do tango dancers from all over the world flock to the Mecca of Tango?
1) The dancing: classes, milongas, cultural events, clubs, shows, dancing in the streets. For the sheer number and quality of milongas here in Buenos Aires, there is NO place like it in the world. Are we having fun yet?
2) The atmosphere: the wabi-sabi beauty of this city, like Paris but grittier, less polished, perfectly imperfect: trees, parks, fountains, sculptures, sidewalk cafés and bistros, museums, architecture from classic to avant garde, arte deco and nouveau, even the dubious 50s Fellini/Stalinesque.
3) The milongas: every type of milonga you can imagine, gay, straight or confused; hipster, dragster, elegant or tacky, luxe or wabi-sabi… classic or nuevo… you can find it here. Afternoon milongas, early evening milongas, late night… the 20-something crowd (La Marshall, de los Zucca, la Pepa), the old geezers’ cruise-ship crowd (El Arranque, Lo de Celia), the students (Zona Tango, Maldita Milonga, la Viruta), the international scene (Canning, Gricel, la Milonguita), the tourist milongas (La Ideal), the milongas del barrio (el Tacuarí, La Milonga de Morán, Fulgor de Villa Crespo, La Floresta), the young hipster crowd (La Catedral, La Marshall, Oliverio Gironda). The choices are endless! My favorites? El Beso, Porteño y Bailarín, Maldita Milonga.
4) The shopping: cool, artisanal clothing in boutiques and street fairs, stuff you won’t find anywhere else… lots of lacy summer things right now… Tango Moda (Balcarce 961, San Telmo) is a hip and colorful boutique offering Porteño style trousers, shirts and jackets for all you seductive milongueros, locally tailored in gorgeous fabrics; they also have a diverse assortment of elegant ladies’ tango clothing, from casual to the nines. Tango shoes: the list is quite long. On Suipacha in the 500 block there are 5 or 6 tango shoe shops. Flabella is my favorite, one of the original tango shoe shops, not pricey and they last forever. Darcos is next door. I also love Neotango, on Sarmiento… considered by many, including yours truly, to be the BEST tango shoes in terms of both price and style. (No, I’m not gettin’ paid to say it … I wish!) The other shop to make us swoon is Comme il Faut, in Recoleta. Very pretty shoes; many swear by them.
5) also shopping for books and tango CD’s, from the old guy who sells vintage CDs and vinyl in San Telmo, to Zivals and El Ateneo. Plan to spend some time going through the horizontal stacks. El Ateneo is also the place for books, cards, journals, agendas… not to mention coffee, special events, readings, art exhibits, etc. Antiques like maté accessories, gaucho horse gear, china and crystal, etc. can be found at the Feria San Telmo and also in little shops tucked away all over the city. Leather goods, of which the best are of excellent quality, are beautiful and NOT cheap.
5) Want to stay for at least a week up to a few months, but don’t want to spend a few months’ salary on hotels? Rent an apartment. Check out bytargentina.com, or AirBnB.com. An awesome writer and tango dancer friend of mine has a lovely apartment in Barrio Norte that you can rent when she’s out of the country. (www.airbnb.com/rooms/4650379) I also know of some inexpensive options for you penny counters… you can contact me via comments.
6) Need medical care? Surgery? Teeth fixed? Emergency care is free here, and surgical procedures will cost you less than your co-pay in the states, including inpatient. The hospitals are beautiful and up to date. Think state-of-the-art German, French, Italian, Argentine hospitals.
7) Vacation in Patagonia. Rock-climbing in El Chaltén, skiing in Ushuaia. Visit the Perito Moreno glacier, los Torres del Paine. Hiking and fly-fishing in the Lake District: the land of 7 lakes and 7 rivers, home to the most stunning Andean lake in the world: Nahuel Huapi. Absolutely gorgeous! Get your hydrotherapy fix at Iguazu Falls, on the Brazilian border. Beach it in Mar de Plata, cruise the Galapagos and see la Tierra del Fuego. My favorite? Horseback riding in the Andes.
8) Trying to lose weight? Follow my regimen for at least 2 weeks and you will lose weight, unless you have some sort of metabolic/hormonal/emotional issue. You will walk everywhere, eat 2 meals/day (small portions), snack on fresh fruit, veggies and yogurt. Ice cream and café cortados at midnight, before or after the milongas. You will dance 3+ hours/day. You will drink unsweetened teas and lattes. Get plenty of sleep. You WILL lose weight! And your feet may be a little sore…
10) Do you need a dance partner? a taxi dancer? You are perhaps a beginner and no one wants to dance with you? Dance classes with the best tango teachers in BAires will run you about $7.00 for a 90 minute group class. Privates are a different story. Some of the best local teachers offer privates for around $500 pesos/hour (about $40/hr.) My friend Marcela Hourquebie is one of the best. Check her out on Facebook.
Teachers who also teach in the U.S. will charge foreigners the same astronomical sums as in the states. You can accelerate your learning curve by taking privates but remember, you can’t make the grass grow by pulling on it! Focus and determination are required. Tango is not for the easily discouraged!
La Nueva Escuela Argentina de Tango boasts classes by tango superstars Aurora Lubíz, Raúl Bravo, Jorge Firpo, Gabriela Elias, Claude Murga and others (located in the Centro Cultural Borges, las Gallerias, Viamonte and Córdoba). El Tacuarí, in San Telmo (Tacuarí 1557) has some great classes and prácticas, including the absolute best women’s technique class I’ve ever had, taught by the fabulous Ruth Manonellas… a class I continue to take, and if I was into beating myself up, I’d take it every day! DNI Tango School in Almagro (Bulnes 1011) has 90 minute classes for US $6, and offer a free first class. Their teachers are all young pro dancers, but not superstars… not yet, anyway. I have not taken classes at DNI, but many good friends have. If you’re into nuevo, it’s the tango school for you.
11) Where else can you hear the best live tango orchestras?
12) the fact that God is Argentine:
13) Where else can you make a living walking dogs? New York, Paris, and Buenos Aires.
14) Summertime is a beautiful season to be in Buenos Aires. Most days are somewhat hot and humid, with temps in the 25°- 34°C range. But not to worry, most of the milongas have working A/C, and they’re not so crowded, ’cause everybody’s at the beach! I’m not kidding, either:
I must end this post on a sad note, because in recent days and weeks the tango community has lost some of its most beloved dancers and musicians.
“Qué días grises vive el tango. A las recientes desapariciones del poeta Horacio Ferrer y de Leopoldo Federico se acaba de sumar la repentina muerte de Carlos Rodolfo Dinzelbacher, más conocido en el ambiente como Cacho Dinzel, maestro de bailarines, un decano en la enseñanza del tango danza. Por su famosa escuela del barrio de Boedo pasaron casi todos los grandes bailarines de los últimos 30 años, porque su tarea docente empezó incluso antes de que volviera la democracia a la Argentina y el baile porteño recuperara la importancia social que tuvo en el pasado.” La Nación, 4 enero, 2015.
“These are grey days for tango. To the recent passing away of the poet Horacio Ferrer and of bandoneonista Leopoldo Federico has been added the sudden death of Carlos Rodolfo Dinzelbacher, better known in the tango community as Cacho Dinzel, tango teacher, dean of the tango academy. Through his famous school in Boedo passed almost all the great dancers of the past 30 years; he began teaching before democracy returned to Argentina, and was instrumental in restoring the social importance of tango in Buenos Aires.”
Adiós to Marta Antón, a lovely and talented dancer who, alongside her companion of many years Manolo (el Gallego), taught me, and many others, to dance Canyengue.
“Aníbal Troilo has long been considered the supreme bandeonista of all time, but there is no doubt that Leopoldo Federico was the foremost bandoneon player of all those born after 1975, the year Troilo passed on, and also the best of those born some years earlier.” (Mauro Apicella, La Nación, 28 diciembre, 2014.) His loss to the tango community is deeply felt.