Partaking in a rather obvious travel moment does happen once in a while, and mine occurred in Buenos Aires: going to a tango class.
Sonia, my host had waxed fairly lyrical about La Viruta, a well-known milonga, a nocturnal haunt in Palermo where the shriveled, sinewy, lean, dumply, divinely coordinated or more two left footed of us gather to learn and practice tango, salsa, and swing.
I tagged along to a tango class on a Saturday night and was immediately cheered by the abundance of “normal” people wiggling about on the dance floor. It all looked possible to replicate, though I did violently berate myself for having come in slippery shoes.
Just as I was wondering if I’d shortly have lost my dignity, sprawled arse over tit on the waxed dance floor, a man in exceedingly tight pants asked us all to step forward to form groups.
I, of course, was to be found at the beginners’ tango class, where I met and danced with the following men:
Mr. I Am The Only Guy Tall Enough For You Here
Upon seeing the vast collection of chest-height men present for selection, I made a beeline for the only guy before me who I could look up at: and whose height and intellectual-looking glasses gave hope to me and my slippery shoes. We danced the beginning round, and as he actually knew more than ziltch about tango, he proved to be an excellent choice as a first partner. Not put off by my spritely ineptitude, he introduced me to the concept of hovering, or simply hanging out on the spot, swaying attractively until one or all of the many other couples around you tango sensually out of your way, allowing you to progress further. Henceforth, relatively few crashes were had, which was of course, abundantly excellent.
Mr. I Count Each and Every Step
Interestingly, Mr Tall left me for a very, very small girl and I was next found not so much ripping up the dance floor, as anxiously exploring it with Man Number Two of the evening: a kindly-looking guy in his late forties who seemed embarrassed by his being from Buenos Aires and not knowing how to dance tango. He proceeded to push me across the dance floor (the man moves forward in tango and the woman backwards) counting fervishly the entire time. His mental spiel went as follows:
(Muttering under his breath) Uno, dos, tres, cua-. Oh, sorry! I screwed that up. (Pushing me slightly to the left) Ok. Uno, dos, tre-. Ahh! Right, so, let’s go again then. Uno, dos…
Seeing as we immediately returned to the start of the sequence, instead of trying to solider ever on, I became very talented indeed at moves one to four of our seven step sequence.
Mr. I Am Not Wrong, Even Though I Am Stepping All Over Your Feet
Later, between learning how to count to five with Count von Count, I spent some time with a man barely taller than my shoulders who believed himself to be sensitive enough as to understand the female role perfectly: When the reality was that he’d scarsely listened to what was required of him as leader. We spent several confused minutes waddling under the dimmed lighting and very often smacking into each other at force. After the sixteenth crash, I felt compelled to inform him that my part at a certain point called for a side step to the right, not at all possible when he believed he was to push me forwards. My polite correction was swatted back at me with the venom of a put off house cat: pointedly and kinda snidely. I remembered why I don’t like cats.
Mr. I Manhandle Your Hand and Refuse to Explain Why
Later, I tangoed a few vueltas with a man resembling Coronel Sanders. The Coronel obsessively and contiually repositioned my right hand, for supposedly, it bothered him greatly. He would move it both to what he considered its correct place and then – after I had kept it there for several seconds only to find that gravity had slid it millimetres away – would twist it back again with a force not unlike a winch. He wife watched us dance and seemed to be on his side of the problem of whether or not to ultimately render my right hand useless.
All things considered, a night out at La Viruta was a wonderful, if at times socially awkward experience. By bringing to the public a dance form so famous that it seemed untouchable, La Viruta and milongas like it allow tango to flourish and gather new and increasingly international audiences as fans.
- La Viruta is located on Calle Armenia 1366 in Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighbourhood. For transport options, use mapa.buenosaires.gov.ar to find your best route by bus or metro.
- Entry is $30 Argentine pesos not including a drink (which are a reasonable price considering the city).
- Classes start at varied times, come early if you want to watch more experienced dancers shake their booties first.
- Tables must be reserved (if you want to sit!) and can be done so over the phone. $10 Argentine pesos is the minimum “consumición” per person, an amount you won’t find difficult to spend.
- Stay later on Saturday nights to watch competitive dancers strut their tango stuff.