Archive for July, 2010

A busy day

Saturday, July 31st, 2010


I met a friend for coffee yesterday in an historical cafe in Avenida Corrientes – El Gato Negro. It has a nice atmosphere and an olde worlde feel to it. Originally a spice store when opened in 1927 it has the original wooden display cabinets and furniture. Being something of a tourist attraction the prices are relatively steep.

We sat and watched people scurrying past the display window on a rainy afternoon, under their umbrellas or with collars turned up. We chatted about all things tango and Argentinian. We had an order of a drink and two medialunas each, and later another couple of drinks, a sandwich and a slice of cake. And then they kicked us out! It seems we weren’t consuming enough even though we were making the place look busy by sitting in front of the window. The bill was $65 (pesos not dollars). In the four hours we were sat there I think they had about six other customers come and go.

So next time someone tells you that you can sit all day in the cafes in Buenos Aires for just the price of a coffee, don’t believe them.

There is no shortage of cafes in Buenos Aires so we walked for a few minutes in the rain to Los Galgos on Callao and Lavalle. This is another establishment from the same era with a worn marble step on the way in and a facade hidden behind scaffolding for renovation. Our discussion expanded beyond Argentina to Europe and Australia and exotic beaches in Thailand before returning to tango. After three hours and just a single drink each we decided it was time for food and asked the ancient mozo for our bill. It was the princely sum of $16 (about £3). For excellent service and no hassle we left a 50% tip.

A ten minute stroll down a packed Avenida Corrientes towards Obelisco brought us to another famous Buenos Aires institution: Pizerria Güerrin. Spread over three levels this is a contender for the title of “best” pizzeria in town. It is very popular with the locals and on all my visits has been almost full. After a couple of hours and a shared grande pizza, two puddings and two mineral waters we emerged with change from $100 into the Buenos Aires night. The rain had finally stopped.

Nine hours spent chewing the fat and watching the world go by. I just love this sabbatical.

An unexpected occurrence

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Lunes de Tango at Club Gricel

Club Gricel is a traditional/tourist milonga venue. It attracts a mixture of locals and tourists of all ages. The codigos are mostly observed but not as strictly as at the traditional milongas. At this time of year the proportion of tourists versus locals is small and there is generally greater observation of the codigos.

Last night, at the “Lunes de Tango” milonga in Gricel there was an unexpected occurrence. A woman danced a tanda as leader. Her follower was a man. This wasn’t an exhibition performance, they were just dancing in the milonga. She was doing a better job of leading than he was of following. They only danced the one tanda this way and it looked to me like they were just experimenting. Such behaviour is accepted in the informal milongas (although rare), and expected in the gay-friendly/gender-neutral milongas but is uncommon in the tourist milongas and might lead to excommunication in the traditional milongas. She was quite young and I think a local. He was older and I think is a long stay foreigner. So they probably knew the effect their dancing this way would have. Looking around I did see raised eyebrows on some locals and heard mutterings from others.

Later the same woman lead a tanda with a female follower, which again was unexpected but caused less consternation. I have heard that if 2 women danced together in a traditional milonga they would likely be broken up by a couple of milongueros and expected to dance the tanda in “normal” couples.

They say things happen in threes and actually there was a third unexpected occurrence last night. A few hours into the milonga when it was at its most busy, the hostess stepped onto the pista at the end of a tanda to make an announcement. How busy is busy? Packed in like sardines busy. Rather like this example at los Consagrados last Saturday (video from Janis). But back to the announcement. Like everyone else I was expecting the sorteo (raffle) and had my ticket at the ready. Instead the hostess requested that people take more care when dancing, not to do high boleos, and to show more consideration for others. I hadn’t witnessed any high boleos or other examples of poor floorcraft, or seen any patches of blood on the pista. Presumably though there had been some kind of incident to trigger this rare event.

It was the first time I personally have experienced such a thing. Anywhere. Collectively we want all dancers to behave well, we expect that some won’t, we grumble amongst ourselves when they don’t and we wish the organisers would do something about it. I don’t know whether to make more of the fact that Buenos Aires is not immune to bad behaviour, or that the organisers here are prepared to do something about it.

Crazy gringo

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Last Monday I danced with an Australian girl in a group class. I felt we had a pretty good connection and we chatted after class. She said she felt I had been holding back. She was right. Well not any more.

I have a couple of tanguera friends who are coming out here in August. In a crazy moment last night I thought it would be fun to enter the Buenos Aires Tango World Cup in August with one of them. Jo is up for it. So I’ve signed us up. No more holding back. I will give everything.

Crazy? Absolutely! But why not?