After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oaxaca Tango

Imagine a large leafy square with fountains and huge trees, surrounded on four sides by the colorful arcades of ancient colonial buildings. Imagine the kiss of a chocolate scented breeze on your skin. Imagine a concert band playing a classical concert under the trees, with elderly couples rising casually from their benches to dance an elegant and sophisticated Danzon.

I didn’t have to imagine it, because I was in Oaxaca, a state capital city in southern Mexico that is as breathtaking as everyone says it is. Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico but one of the richest in tradition, cuisine, culture, and natural beauty. I could have chosen no better vacation spot for the week I was away from my home in San Miguel de Allende, twelve hours north by bus.

I had lunch outside in the Zocalo, a tasty chicken dish with one of the six types of mole sauce that are Oaxacan specialties. The many colossal balloon clusters of invisible vendors seemed like eerie, silent witnesses to the life in the plaza. They bobbed, pulsed, breathed, appearing to me like living plastic and mylar beings of great wisdom. Zocalo life could come and go, but the balloons saw it all and weren’t telling.

Returning to my hotel, I glanced into the courtyard of an ancient building and saw dancers moving together without music. Stopping I looked harder because what they were doing reminded me of tango. A closer look told me it was tango, or was supposed to be.
Unable to help myself, I went inside and asked a seated woman if this was a rehearsal for a dance performance. No, it seemed this was a tango class! Well, I said, I am a tourist here, but I am a tango dancer.

The class came to a sudden halt, and I was swept toward the teacher, a skinny toothless old man. Someone punched play on the boombox, and nothing would do but the old man and I had to dance a tango together for the camcorder! After what was a very painful experience because he hadn’t a clue how to dance but must have picked up some choreography from Rudolf Valentino movies, they turned the video camera on me and asked me to dance solo!! So I did, I danced a solo tango which is now preserved on video in Oaxaca, Mexico!

I talked to some of the students, danced with young Alejandro and exchanged email addresses, and I sashayed on my way feeling like a movie star...

...from 2003


Elizabeth said...

We were in Oaxaca for a long visit right before the strikes and troubles began. We saw the danzon in the zocalo, and were intrigued. It seems a little like tango, a little like salsa, and like something else. The participants love it like we love tango.

We were looking for some place to dance tango. We did dance in a beautiful lobby of a restaurant which billed itself as Argentine, and had tango music playing. The waiters turned up the music and watched us, and applauded...even though we were still at a very early state of our dancing. Oaxaca, it is a magical place. The picture with the balloons took me right back there, on the "chocolate scented breeze". Many Thanks. E

Anonymous said...

I stayed at a hotel facing those balloons a couple of months before the teachers went on strike. I am fascinated by this new concept of dancing tango alone. Who knew it does not take two to Tango? Let's hope it doesn't become a trend, or God forbid, Nuevo NUEVO Tango...

tangocherie said...

Thanks,Elizabeth, and Johanna, for reading and commenting on my Oaxacan experience.

I LOVED Oaxaca, and at that time, I felt a little sorry that I had moved to San Miguel de Allende, 10 hours north by bus, instead of Oaxaca, where it was another world.

I'm happy that you both experienced the special magic there.

Wouldn't it be awful if Solo Tango became a trend? The thing is, I can see it happening in the U.S.!!!

Naya said...

I'm in Oaxaca now and after lliving in the Bay Area for a few years, I really miss the tango every night availability. Can you put me in touch with milongueros in the city?? and I'm also in need of dancing shoes. Pls help! my email is

Unknown said...

We are tangeros from Boston and usually spend a month in Buenos Aries, however this December/January my stay with our friends who live in Oaxaca but only do the local Dansan.

Where is there Tango in Oaxaca>

Carol T.