Week 1: Broom Closets and Bliss (but most definitely not at the same time)

(Insert bandoneon and violin.) So, my first night in Buenos Aires… (Skreech! Needle pulls off the record) was spent in a broom closet. What? Let me back up…

Everything was going perfectly smoothly up until then. The flight was a breeze (10.5 hours wasn’t really that different from 9 hours which I’d done before), I was picked up from the airport by a lovely driver who sang beautifully to me, gave me a cd, and his promise to be my friend, mentor, and father-figure should I need anything while I was in Buenos Aires. The woman with the keys arrived at the apartment as expected, I did a little grocery shopping around the corner, came home, took a shower, and logged on to the internet. Buenos Aires? Piece of cake!

Thanks to the internet I was invited by a well known tango instructor who I had met previously in Chicago to a milonga that night. How could I resist? Not only was he a wonderful dancer but to be seen dancing with him would surely open the door to more dances. So without having taken a nap, off I went in a taxi, in my little black dress to my first milonga, Porteño y Bailarin.

It was a lovely night. I couldn’t sit for long without being asked to dance again (they say it helps to be young and attractive, and I love that in tango years I am still very young). It was a real mix of foreigners and porteños, tango masters and beginners (or bad dancers). Since I didn’t have time to judge my leaders beforehand I did get tripped and thrown around by several poor dancers, generally all foreigners (and Italians?). But being told by the revered El Pibe Sarandi that I danced well certainly made up for that. It was superb to look around and see many tango celebrities just hanging out around me.

I went home at around 3 am and skipped down the hallway, proud of what I had accomplished my first day in BsAs. Bottom apartment door lock: open. Top lock:…skip to one hour and two hand blisters later…completely jammed. So here I am, first night in a foreign city, stuck in a cold hallway at 3am with an uncharged cell phone, and no way to contact anyone or go anywhere. I didn’t panic yet. I figured someone had to come out of their apartment at some point. I sat down on the cold marble floor and tried to sleep. A girl came out of her apartment and from the floor I asked for help, “perdon, ¿me puedes ayudar?” She lowered her eyes and ran to the elevator. As if I were a threat! It was at this point that the tears came. After sobbing for a bit I remembered that the concierge lived in the building and so I went to the outside door and rang him. Thank goodness my castellano was in good shape or I would have been in real trouble. After explaining my situation he tried to open the lock himself. No luck. He told me he could try to climb through my (9th floor) window at a decent hour of the morning through my neighbor’s apartment. He told me that for the next three hours I could either sleep in his bed with him (naturally) or I could sit at his desk in the cold room the size of a broom closet. I chose the broom closet. I was cold, hungry, and tired, but not delirious enough to choose the former. In the morning he gave me coffee and then did as he promised: jumped from my neighbor’s balcony to mine, opened a window which was fortunately not all the way closed, and let me in.

At this point you may feel a wee bit sorry for me, but that should go away as I tell you that since then it’s been a steady diet of tango bliss. Milongas every night: Salon Canning, Parakultural, Practica X, Tango Lab, Villa Malcom…and the dances seem to get better and better. The people are very welcoming, the environments are warm, and tango superstars and tango tourists mingle seamlessly. Every milonga has had performances with masters, including one of my idols, Geraldin Rojas. Not only did I get to see her perform, but I saw her smoothly exit an oops moment where her heel caught her skirt and exposed the top of her thong-clad bottom.

[Side note: I am impressed daily by performers who choose to wear very little between their legs, exposing practically everything for those brief seconds they kick their legs up. I wouldn’t do it personally, but hey, they sure know how to put on a show.]

I’ve danced with many talented foreigners and porteños here. With much love to all the foreign tango dancers like myself, I must say that the Argentine men posses something special in their dance. There are those who dance tango like that moment is the most divine delicacy in the universe. Where every movement is a declaration of their love…for the music, for the dance, and for you, though you have never met before and may never meet again. That is what you taste when you are in Buenos Aires.

And yes, as one of my tanguera friends told me, those are often the guys that ask you out for “coffee” afterwards. True, but not always. There are some who really relish in that moment in time with you.

As for the others, yes, the men here can be relentless with the pick-up lines (my green eyes they especially like). This includes the concierge who after helping me out has taken to slipping love notes under my door daily, along with a few phone calls (“Estoy hablando con la chica con los ojos mas lindas de Buenos Aires?/Am I speaking with the girl with the most beeeeautiful eyes in Buenos Aires?”) , and gifting me a bon-bon one day as I left the building. By the way, he knows where I live. So needless to say, along with practicing my castellano (which has been rolling quite smoothly), I’ve had to practice my “no’s.”

My impressions of the city itself so far: the people are wonderfully nice, much warmer than Spaniards I would say. The city is in fact very European, but not exactly. I can’t speak for the city as a whole yet since I’ve seen very little. I live in a working class area called Boedo, more authentic, more run down perhaps than more historic or touristy areas of the city. I may not have very many pictures to show as it’s best to avoid looking like a tourist and a target for pickpockets.

I’ve taken cabs, subways, and buses. The bus system makes my head almost explode it’s so complicated (those who say it’s not, please just tell me how to read this bus book please!). I know which bus to take to the studio I’m studying at so that’s good.

There are a million and one classes, practicas, and milongas to go to. I have 5 more weeks to try out different milongas but I am very pleased with all that I’ve been to so far.

DNI tango studio is as fabulous as everyone says. It’s a big warm family there and the teachers all really know their stuff. Seeing how they incorporate knowledge from contemporary dance, yoga, and even qi gong with tango is truly fantastic. Dana and Pablo who run the studio are incredibly special people and I am honored to be able to take classes from them. I was moved to tears for the second time by Dana’s exhibition in class.

I have however caught a little something, some sort of a head cold, and it’s for this reason that I’m here writing and not at a milonga. If I never return to this blog again, you’ll know why.

Chau chau!

One Response to “Week 1: Broom Closets and Bliss (but most definitely not at the same time)”

  1. Maria Mulcahy ·

    Sublime! Funny! Descriptive! So nice you’re taking the time to write and by so doing give us a window into your adventure. Gracias chica…no pare, sigue sigue…


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