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.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why Indeed Come to Buenos Aires?

Previously I wondered Why do some dancers bother to come here to dance?.

Ms Hedgehog asks the same good question on her blog post Me and Buenos Aires.
She lists her ten reasons (perhaps protesting too much?) why a trip to BsAs is not for her.

Painting of my Flabella tango shoes by Mexican artist Santiago Corral.

Maybe it's like having a baby; if you think too much about it, all the pros and cons, you'll never do it. It's too scary, too much of a commitment. With tango, too, if your expectations are too high to be realized, well, then maybe a two week vacation in Buenos Aires instead of Provence or Prague is not for you.

When I went to Europe for the first time, I was blown away--it was even better than I expected. But there are first-time tourists who are disappointed, maybe because they have a sense of deja-vu, that they've already seen it all at Disneyland and in the movies.

I first came here on a tango tour in 1997, with no expectations, only that I would be learning from the masters, whoever they might be, and dancing in Buenos Aires for ten days. I knew nothing about the codigos, or La Confiteria Ideal (not yet the star of all the tango movies), or Comme Il Faut shoes (which didn't yet exist). I just expected a fun dance vacation.

And it was.

But it changed my life.

For Ms Hedgehog and others who don't see the point, I say stay home.

But for those who want to experience an art form at its source, who want to understand tango and Argentina, who want to be immersed in tango culture where taxi drivers sing a tango to you, where at a karaoke party the tangos are sung with passion, where you overhear old milongueros reminiscing about this or that orchestra, where everyone in the street has one opinion or another about the tango, where the history of the tango is intertwined with the history of an entire country--well, then they should experience Buenos Aires.

Forget about the art museums and rugby matches. Buenos Aires is not the Paris of South America or anywhere else. It has its own unique culture, architecture, language (not Spanish, but a combination of Castellano and Lunfardo), history and way of life. But to fully understand it, you need to experience the culture of tango and vice versa.

Anything worth doing is doing as best one can, right? So you don't want to be a professional dancer or teacher, you just want to dance at your local milongas and have fun. Great. But don't you want to dance as well as you can in this lifetime? For tango, you need to dance in Buenos Aires, to experience the porteño embrace. With no preconceptions, with an open mind.

Otherwise, if you just want to meet like folks and have a social evening, save your money and dance at home or in nearby festivals. Buenos Aires doesn't need another critical foreigner who is closed-minded and thinks they know everything. There are plenty of those here already.

You might say that tango in other places is like the "French" architecture of Buenos Aires in the 20's: the "Disney" copy of a beautiful, original phenomenon of another time and place. Which is fine, if that's what you like. The world is full of dabblers and copiers in all of the arts.

But if you want to delve profoundly, to grow and feel and thrill, to give yourself and be taken, Buenos Aires is waiting for you. There is no place else on earth where the embrace is so emotional, where the music is so embodied, where hundreds of dancers of all ages feel D'Arienzo and express it in their unique way at the same moment in the same salon. There's no tango experience like it.

And maybe that will change your life too.


TP said...


Elizabeth said...

I read MsHedghog's entry with interest, and started to comment but did not because my thoughts were complicated. I treasure my experience in BA, and the connections there that have grown and endured. But the city itself is a hard one to visit. Just being in the room with those milongueros gives one some knowledge and understanding of what tango really is. The depth of it, the connections between past and present, the gift of the music that never stops. I am glad I was there, and I hope to be there again for an extended time (because that is really the only way to enter through those doors to milonga bliss). But even so, there are people who get it without actually being there, and a couple of them are real milongueros of the north. AND tango is truly international now. But I've never seen anywhere else where the people in the milonga are all, and each, dancing with a partner, the music, and with the entire room, all at once. Magic.

tangocherie said...

Thank you, Z, for your thumbs up.

And Elizabeth, your thoughts are beautifully articulated as always, and I so appreciate your sharing them.

You are correct in that tango is truly international now, but is it the same tango? I've danced all over the world and seen the world dancing here. While many foreigners dance very well indeed, those who never visit BsAs perhaps still could learn something here? Take it to another level?

Que se yo?


msHedgehog said...

Well, thumbs up from me too. I was actually thinking of an article of yours about the unrealistic expecations people sometimes have, in which what you said made a lot of sense to me - I don't remember the title or date, but I'd like to link to it if you know which one I'm thinking of.

Considering changing lives, I'm sure my life has many changes yet to come, and that's not necessarily the next direction I'd choose to go, given a choice; there may well be others more compatible with my character, friendships, and family life.

It certainly goes without saying that I could learn much by visiting BsAs, and perhaps that would include taking it to another level. That might be the level where my interest and commitment would begin all over again afresh, with a new energy, or it might be the level where it became incompatible with other things that are important to me, and I'm not quite ready for that yet. It might even be a level where it became incompatible with itself. I doubt that it's possible to know in advance.

I realise that there is a downside to not going; until I do, I will never have learned those things or had that experience. The question for me is one of (mainly local) priorities.

But you ought not to depise the Pumas. They beat France at home twice in Paris, you know; and also New Zealand. And they will be working on Australia and South Africa, quite soon.

Anonymous said...

I could not have said it better,too many who visit the festivals in Europe think that they have seen it all and do not need Buenos Aires. It is their loss, unfortunately for most of the year I must put up with their attitude, but once or twice a year when I have saved every penny I come here, nobody can tell me that anything in europe compares.

tangocherie said...

Ms Hedgehog, so glad you left a comment and that we are having this conversation. Like Elizabeth, I was going to leave a comment on your blog, but instead I was inspired to write this post.

If the link you refer to isn't the one in this post, Why do some dancers come to BsAs?, maybe it's Tango: the Dark Side of 3 years ago:

Tangogales, thank you for wrapping it up so neatly!