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Saturday, 26 September 2009

BsAs milonga observations

For any tanguero planning to travel to BsAs or simply interested in tango culture, we thought the following might be of interest:
  • We were told that attendances at milongas were down, but that only seems to be the case at milongas relying on tourists to bolster their numbers, where the world economic crisis, swine flu and winter seem to have taken their toll. As a result some milongas have been suspended. One might also speculate whether too many tourists lacking necessary navigation skills have driven locals away from some venues. Having said that, a local said recently how impressed he was with the dancing skills of many foreigners in the last few years.

  • Milongas requiring a high standard of skills such as Cachirulo, Lujos (Maipù 444), La Baldosa and Sin Rumbo are as busy as ever, despite the increase in entrance fees.

  • If attending a milonga as a single, being seated in a good location (making the cabeceo easy) by the organiser, will largely depend on how frequently you go to the milonga. Regulars get seats automatically reserved in prime locations. So persistence is required to work your way up the pecking order.

  • Another benefit of frequent attendance is becoming known by the other regulars. This means that more eyes will be looking your way for a dance.

  • Generally it helps to attend milongas early, if you are not a regular. This gives you the chance to get a reasonable seat, the dance-floor is not yet so congested, so others can actually see that you are competent dancer and therefore worth dancing with.

  • Lighting is generally much brighter than in Australian milongas. But at El Beso (Riobamba 416), the dim lighting and crowded seating add further dimensions to the cabeceo challenge. Even those of us with keen eyesight experience uncertainty. Was it me he was looking at? Can she see me looking her way?

  • Waiting staff at these milongas deserve recognition, too. They are an important part of the scene. Once they get to know you, they treat you like royalty.

  • El Arranque (especially on Tuesday) is a well-attended matinee milonga for locals attending as singles.

  • Some traditional milongas are largely for couples and groups, such as La Baldosa, Circulo Trovador and Sin Rumbo, have a more relaxed and uncompetitive feel.

  • A couple of years ago we were delighted that smoking had been banned from BsAs milongas, as well as restaurants, cafes, etc. But we were in for a rude shock, last Friday at Circulo Trovador, a very popular milonga just outside the city limits. It appears that the law only applies to the City of Bs As and not the provincia.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Anecdotes from Buenos Aires #1

Buenos Aires feels like a home away from home after 10 years of coming here, and each year brings new impressions:
  • the most striking difference has been the state of the footpaths - their comparative cleanliness leaps out immediately. Less litter, and more importantly, many dog owners are cleaning up after their pets; this hasn´t followed some regulation or advertising campaign, but rather remarkably, decisions made by individuals. It´s quite a treat to walk without having eyes glued to the footpath!

  • we chose this earlier time in the year to avoid the hot, humid weather that can come in by late October, and apart from a first day of 34C, it´s been mid-teens with the occasional rain; much better for getting around, and dancing, of course.

  • prices are generally up, some significantly, but not all. For example, the subway has increased from 70 centavos to 90 & now 1.10 over the past 2 years; clothes & shoes are still cheap for us - even though shoes are 50% dearer than 2 years ago, our dollar is stronger by 50%; taxis are cheap; CDs the same price (around $8 -$10); food approaching Adelaide prices in some cases, with coffee between 7 and 12 pesos ($1 = 3pesos); tango lessons up by about 50% in one year.

  • money: we´ve had no trouble getting 800 pesos out of ATMs now, in contrast to previous years when the limit was usually 300! And people don´t blink anymore if you hand over 100 peso to cafes & shops notes now.

  • politics in Argentina changes little with regular scandals & rallies in the streets, while the government is trying to give an impression of more transparancy by opening the Casa Rosada for tours all weekend, and dedicating one room to prominent Argentine women.

  • some milongas change, others remain their successful selves, but the DJs at all we have attended have been great. Entry is now 15 pesos. The afternoon milongas like El Arranque & Confiteria Ideal, which have catered for the more mature locals for a long time, are now much quieter, while Maipu 444 is full almost every night of the week with good dancers of all ages, both local & foreign. However, there was an interesting touch at Cachirulo last Saturday when Argentina played football against arch-rival Brazil. The TV was on at one end of the room, with a small group of men crowded around while the milonga carried on; even some of the dancers had their eyes on the screen as they danced past. (By the way, Brazil won 3:1, much to the dismay of the locals.) Canning on Sunday is a largely local affair, and it was shoulder-to-shoulder dancing; not much room for anything significant, but a great test of navigation while moving to the music. Sin Rumbo probably hasn´t changed much in its 40 year history, but it was busier than last year; this is a very traditional milonga that draws dancers from its local suburb - where friends meet to talk, listen, watch, and dance. Aurora Lubiz learned to dance tango here, so she was a good person to have as our companion last Friday.

  • speaking of Aurora, she is now with a handsome Brazilian, Luciano, and they dance beautifully together; they also teach together both in BsAs & in Rio, so it was great to pick up lots from them during private lessons & the women´s technique classes at the Escuela Argentina del Tango.

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