Thursday, January 12, 2006

Up, down & out in Buenos Aires

Word reached me at the cardboard box Olga and I have been "living" in that there would be a benefit milonga for us in Eugene. The news was like a ray of sunlight through the darkest of nights. After carefully folding the one dirty towel we have been using as a blanket and replacing it over Olga´s emaciated shoulders, I hobbled to the street corner and took out my wadded up hat more determined than ever to earn us the centavos we needed to go to the internet and thank all of you. So with renewed confidence I raised my red nose up, opened my jaw, and belted out all the old favorites with renewed vigor- "A media luz", "Porteno y bailarin", "Naranja en flor" never sounded so good ... I sang "Caminito" and taxis stopped to watch ... I sang louder. I sang "El Amanecer" and the birds stopped to listen. A crowd gathered speechless, small children with looks of disbelief came close! Then, as I finished my reprise of Piazzolla´s "Adios Nonino" Olga took her cue and shuffled out from behind the streetlamp. She was wearing her one good dress we made from an old tablecloth from a nearby Parilla with glued sequins and still with most of the tape intact. We did the old Zotto/Carolina routine complete with 5 different goncho figures, hand in pocket bit, three dramatic leg lifts, and the real crowd pleaser, the bum-slap-to-the-beat finish. We sweated so much and Olga fainted but boy did they eat it up! We made enough money for two empanadas and some soap.

- Rebecca

Monday, January 09, 2006

The dancing life

Rebecca woke up in the morning with huge eyes, still disoriented from her deep sleep. "What a dream I just had!" -- she exclaimed. "We were teaching tango in Eugene, a musicality class, with a huge turnout of people, and we were explaining how to step on the beat. And people just went crazy: they liked the idea of stepping on the beat so much that ... that they didn't know how to show their appreciation -- they shouted "Amazing!" "Genius!" "Thank you for sharing your deep secrets from Buenos Aires!"

Milongas in BsAs are quite an experience (or adventure). You can spend the whole night sitting and looking around, or you can dance the entire night with the best & most famous Argentine dancers. We normally go to Milongas after 2am. Before then, there are no tables available (which isn't really a problem: as an experienced tango bum I can change my shoes anywhere), but also it's very crowded and hot. Even if you dance with an experience dancer, who can 'navigate like a NY cab driver', somebody will crash into you, for sure, because more than half the population of the Milongas we visit, are tourists. I love dancing with Argentines, they are really trying to reach to your soul, and feel your blood. Even Argentine nuevo dancers are very different from foreigners.

Argentine men are very polite and nice, but sometimes they can be too nice. There is a man at one Milonga, a very handsome Argentino. My two girlfriends & I danced with him, and we all had the same experience. Each time he leads you to a front ocho, he tries to kiss you, sort of like paying a toll when you cross the bridge. One of my girlfriends tried to talk to him, in between songs, and the conversation went into politics - how bad american foreign policy is, and the american government, so the guy said "Yes, yes, your president is very very bad" ...... and he added "are you bad too?". The other girl in between songs was trying to explain to him that all she wants is to dance, no kissing, OK? He would agree, but couldn't stop the kissing part anyway ...

American men have a completely different experience with Argentine women. After having a good dance with a local girl, the innocent, open-hearted, enthusiastic americans say "how wonderful you dance ... thank you so much for the dance ... it would be so lovely to dance with you more!" The girl looks very indifferent, and you can read easily in her eyes - "man, you are not taking me home tonight!"

The famous La Viruta -- a very deep dark shitty basement, that smells horrible, with a floor covered in cigarette butts and spilled beer. The other day we were going down the stairs inside, and a man vomited right in front of us, like a geyser -- we had to jump a few stairs up to avoid being splashed. Well, the music is also very strange there - a mix between disco (very old american disco like Michael Jackson), samba, rock-n-roll (the second-favorite dance in Argentina) and tango which doesn't start before 2am. But at this place you can see the best tango performances in the world, and the best tango dancers are there. Each time I'm there I feel like I'm travelling in time ... and i'm at the high school dance. But, somehow, I like it there.