Notes From Buenos Aires

Only 8 days into this 6 week Buenos Aires journey; 12 milongas a little over 40 hours of dancing and lots of observing as well. There is so much hype and mystical nonsense that shrouds the real dance here it is amazing that more people do not comment on it, tango comes down to something as simple as this two people moving to beautiful music surrounded by others doing the same thing. And yet I see people all the time that not only have no sense of themselves in the dance, they can’t see those dancing beside them either – I see that here in Buenos Aires and at home.

You can talk technique and mechanics, you can talk ethereal connections and magical abrazos, you can describe steps and the myriads of way they can be executed, you can even delve into the art form and prescribe and describe the perfect lines and movements that truly communicate the lovely phrases and rhythms that dominate los canciones de tango. Non of this dialog will come close to the real event. The real event is not held by the person dancing in their head trying to execute technique or steps. The real event is beyond the preparation and practice. The real event is soulful and deep… beyond thoughts or words… beyond steps, phrases or patterns… the real event is rare and special even in the murky salons here in Buenos Aries.

The real event of tango is a psychological conundrum of the highest order: you can’t dance this dance with someone you don’t trust or want to dance with. You can’t let go and tango with someone you don’t trust. Enter the cabeceo, the reasons the cabeceo is used here in BA is because these folks know – whether consciously or instinctively – understand that you cannot have a good and pleasing tanda with someone that does not trust and respect you or vice versa. It is that simple. Yet look at the hidden complexities:
How complex is trust?
How complex is respect?
How do you give it?
How do you earn it?

In tango among those that dance very well there is an obvious knowing that casual observer won’t see. There is an understanding that only comes with experience and time. Tango is deep only partially because it is not choreography based, the depth also revolves around the codigos and culture that it comes with. It is similar to an acquired taste in fine foods. Frequently you think you get it when you have a sip of fine wine and good cheese, then a day comes along when the mood is right, the wine is perfect and the cheese is to die for and suddenly you say: “Oh my…. so this is why they eat cheese with wine.”

Dancing a good tango requires that a person stick with it until the choreography is overwhelmed by the connection and that takes years! It requires an acquired taste for some in that they stay with the procedures and codigos until the taste for them grows into a longing. Once they get a taste or a glimpse of what tango has to offer, the quest begins. The quest for another, the search for the perfect tanda.

Sitting here in Buenos Aires in a milonga full of lovely local advanced dancers one immediately gets the sense that something is a foot something that is not there at the average milonga at home in the US. I am going to venture to say that it is not ethereal, rather it is simply a level of comprehension. The comprehension is not something that comes from the class room, rather it comes from the pista de la milonga. It comes from dancing the dance in places where they actually dance the dance. In order for that to happen – to both men and women alike, you have to keep dancing and you have to reach the point where you have actually acquired the taste for why things are the way they are – not a verbal, “Yes I love cheese and wine.” but rather and comprehensive, “Wine and cheese belong together when the wine is fine and the cheese is aged and cultured!”. In order for that to happen in your home town you will have to keep dancing at home! at your local milongas for years to come! You wil have to attend local practicas and class an help those that don’t get it be exposed to those that do. This is what festivals do for us in the US!

(jump ahead 3 days and 6 milongas) An interesting proof of what I was saying about trust happened at a local milonga tonight, Nuevo Chique, when Jo danced with an Porteno Argentine instructor and he thought she was a great dancer so he asked her who she studied with she told him me, so he came over and introduced himself to me and thanked me for making tango look so good and for the quality he got dancing with Joanne. Then one tanda later, I was dancing with a lady from New Hampshire that now lives in BA she was dancing with me very timidly and insecurely, I could tell she was competent but she didn’t trust me. Then in between songs he was standing right next to us, so he introduced her to me as his student and told her: “El es muy bien profesor del tango, un bueno bailarin!” Then when the next song started, her dancing had changed dramatically. She suddenly trusted me enough to move very freely and we had a killer tanda… all because of this extra measure of trust that her teacher added to our connection.