Being a professional dancer, it would have been a great disappointment to myself, my past teachers and my education not to try and seek out some Argentine Tango on the streets of Buenos Aires whilst we were there.
A Very Brief History
Now I’m not going to give a detailed description of the dance as far as what beat that it’s performed too. You can find that all out on Wikipedia if you’re interested. I’ve just written an extremely brief explanation of the dance to help overall understanding.
There isn’t much written history of this internationally known social dance, however it is generally thought that the dance came about in the late 19th century. It was founded in working class neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay but is also influenced by Europe and North America, hence the multiple variations and styles found today.
What Is It Exactly?
Argentine Tango appears as a lot of walking with a partner to some music but it is based heavily on improvisation which is why it is so difficult to deconstruct and master.
The dance is performed only in pairs with a ‘leader’ and a ‘follower’. These named roles help whilst learning the style as the ‘follower’ takes the direction to move only from the ‘leader’. They can provide resistance but it is the ‘leader’ who initiates the movements.
I decided to take a weekly class back home in Edinburgh at Dancebase – The National Centre for Dance in Scotland before leaving for this trip. As a performer who is used to dancing as an individual, this ‘follower’ role was hard for me to adapt to at first. That’s basically a diplomatic way of me saying I like to be in control! Anyways, another aspect of Argentine Tango I found challenging was the constant weight change of the feet. It is rare that the dancers have their weight on both feet at the same time. This subsequently means there needs to be unspoken communication between the ‘leader’ and ‘follower’ in order for the dance to run smoothly without tripping on anyone’s toes. Lastly, I found the posture of the ‘follower’ particularly hard to grasp. Coming from a classical ballet background I’ve been trained to have very upright posture involving the ‘tucking’ of the bum, so when I was learning to walk backwards in Tango I had to release this feeling in order to achieve the gliding effect.
Finding Tango In Buenos Aires
I really wanted to witness raw, authentic tango on the streets of Buenos Aires and also partake in a class with Peter. This was the goal. Surprisingly this was harder to achieve than I expected. If you have read my previous post you’ll see we went to many areas in Buenos Aires, including San Telmo. I read online that this was an area where dancers would perform on the streets during the day and night. Now, I don’t know if it was due to the time of year or day but when we searched for it we couldn’t find any. All that seemed to be offered was Tango shows with a sit down meal and we didn’t really want to dig deep into our pockets for something that apparently you can easily witness on the street.
On the Saturday we went to the area of La Boca to see the coloured houses and La Bombanera stadium. Fortunately there was quite a few restaurants in the area with live Tango happening. I was so excited! It was such a nice setting and the performances felt very intimate.
Argentine Tango Class And Milonga
One of our last nights in Buenos Aires I sought out a free Argentine Tango beginners class as Peter hadn’t done any before on the website hoy-milonga.com. This was actually in the area of San Telmo in Plaza Dorrego. It started about 7:30pm and lasted for about 30 minutes. Of course it was taught in Spanish but the instructions were demonstrated so it was very clear. Both Peter and I had a lot of fun learning and enjoyed the class. Afterwards there was a Milonga where all different ages and types of people asked each other to dance and off they went, improvising to the music. It was lovely to watch and observe numerous people gathering together on a Sunday night to dance.
It felt very special to me to witness this. I wonder the chances of me persuading Peter to attend more classes in the future…? 🤔