|The dance floor at La Catedral, a milonga in Palermo Soho.|
Matt and I took our first tango lesson the other day. Our first dance lessons ever actually. We both agreed that since Buenos Aires is the birthplace of Tango, taking a dance lesson was the best way to learn about it. To give you a brief history, tango was started in the lower class districts of Buenos Aires was first debuted in the 19th century amongst Italians, Spaniards, blacks and urban gauchos. It order to become truly excepted by the upper classes, tango had to be shown worthy to european culture. It become the latest fad in Paris and London and New York were quick to follow suit.
Just walk around the city and you will see how very alive tango still is today. Matt and I took a private class at the school where he takes Spanish lessons. Our instructor started the class with a series of balancing and walking exercises where she lead and we followed. She explained to us, in Spanish of course, that tango is all about keeping your head level. As Matt and I tried our best not to bobble our heads as we strut across the room, our instructor with her lean figure and graceful feet showed us each new slowly and effortlessly. She would show me a routine and then move onto Matt and after Matt would try it together. There were many instances where I wanted to laugh or make fun of Matt but I used my better judgement and kept quiet because tango is a very serious dance and I didn't want my teacher to think I wasn't taking it seriously. The other keys to tango are leading with your chest, not your arms and always maintain the same distance between you and your partner. When the man takes a big step, the woman has to mimic the same size step. Even though the man leads, the woman has to accept the offer first. It truly the dance of proposal, invitation and seduction!
With a lesson under our belt and a newfound appreciation for the dance, we threw on our dancing shoes and headed off to a milonga, or a tango club. Ok just kidding, we left the dancing shoes at home but maybe after a few more lessons we will build up the courage. Milongas are all over Buenos Aires and typically they will have lessons from 9 to 11 and then 11 to 4am the dance floor is open to the public. Compared to the tango shows, which can cost up to $300 dollars, milongas are a fun and cheap way to experience the magic of tango. Milongas are not choreographed like shows and not every milonga is the same. There are traditional milongas, couple milongas, formal milongas, and ones that I am sure I will never know. The one we went to was in a large industrial garage-type room with old dusty couches and broken wooden tables. There were couple free style dancing under the light and surrounding the stage were people drinking and chatting at tables. We took a seat and enjoyed the young, the old, the short, the awkward, the nervous, the pros, all come together on the same platform and strut their moves. This is chance for tango enthusiasts and wanna-be pros to practice their style and feel the beat. I know for a fact that if I hadn't taken a lesson I wouldn't have appreciated the experience as much.