No Illusions

Conversation 1. . . .

"I just don't want you to have any illusions when you go down there [to Buenos Aires.]  People go to the milongas to dance with their friends, the people they know - and people who look good to them on the floor. You get danced a lot here - you may sit a lot there. Don't take it personally."

I looked at the concern in this visiting Argentinian teacher's face, and wondered how many students he has told this to. How many complaints has heard from visiting tangueros/as that they came down to dance, but just sat all night? I told him I don't have any illusions or expectations about how much or how little I will dance. Even if I sit on my ass, I said, I'll be sitting on my ass in Buenos Aires - which is still pretty damned exciting for me.

He smiled broadly. "Good, good. Okay, let's get started . . ."

Conversation 2 . . .

Visiting tanguera talking about her last trip to Buenos Aires: "I danced with [so-and-so famous milonguero] and he told me I danced just like a porteña!"
My Argentinian friend responded to his friends with a wink, "I'm sure he did." 
Then, he said to me, "What milongueros say to you in a milonga honestly matters very little. The milongas are full of illusion. Maybe they mean it, mostly they don't. Maybe they meant it yesterday, but not today. Tango isn't about the words we say to each other. The only think that really means anything is, did you enjoy dancing with him? If you did, great. That's what matters."

Conversation 3 . . .

The lesson was over and as we were packing up, my partner talked with our visiting teacher, and the two host teachers. We were clustered in the kitchen. Soon the smattering of English (for my benefit) disappeared.  I could understand a little, and I tried to keep up for a few minutes. I'm not comfortable yet answering in Castellano - so I just listened.

Soon the circle of Argentinians closes and I am on the outside, even in this tiny kitchen.  Yerba maté is made, offered and passed - but not to me.

My partner, my teachers, were miles away.  The illusion of belonging, replaced by the reality of our circumstances.


Janis said...

Jean from Santa Fe, NM wrote me before arriving in BsAs for her third visit. I invited her to join me at a milonga. She told me about the nights on previous visits she sat and didn't dance in BsAs. But she didn't know she was at the wrong milongas. I told her where to dance in the afternoon/evening.

There are nights she dances more than I do. I point out the best dancers to her, and she has danced with several milongueros viejos. She is having such a good time that she is going to extend her trip a couple of weeks in June.

Anonymous said...

I would second Janis´s comment (wow, those are words I never thought I would write!) that whether or not you dance a lot in Buenos Aires is largely a question of finding the right milongas for you and that is something which will depend on your age, level of dancing, preferred style, etc. -- with a large pinch of luck thrown in.

Friends of mine have usually (though not always) found it easier to get dances as a newcomer at the more traditional venues and at afternoon matinees, rather than milongas (I can recommend La Nacional -- see my blog entry "Moet and the Milongueros").

Another, alternative strategy is to go to classes and informal practicas and meet people there. Then you are much more likely to get asked to dance. I will happily try to help you find some good options and have some happy nights at the milonga. You already have a great attitude, which is the most important thing.

One final thing I´d add is that -- in order to avoid pinning all your hopes on dancing at the milongas -- but to make sure you benefit from your time in BA anyway is to do as much learning as you can while you are here. That means taking tango classes, hearing live music, and also using the milongas themselves, those tandas when you are not dancing, to watch and learn.

There are people here rooting for you! I am really looking forward to meeting you when you come here.