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Erica Ehm


Buenos Aires -- Her Love Affair With the Tango


Journeywoman Andrea Gourgy is a freelance writer and editor based in Montreal, Canada. She holds an M.A. in journalism and her work has been featured in publications such as the Long Beach Press Telegram, The Daily Breeze, Angeleno Magazine and Chicago Social. Andrea fills us in on the art of tango in Argentina. She writes...

When I headed south to Buenos Aires with two female relatives, all in our 20s, we were very nervous about our safety in a city of 12 million people in the throes of an economic crisis. Before leaving Canada, we signed up for a Spanish-language school that helped us settle into a studio apartment in a Buenos Aires suburb and assigned us to Claudia, an overpriced, mediocre tango teacher.

All of us tired of Spanish grammar and Claudia within a short period of time and decided to go solo. We found a new apartment and then tracked down a wonderful tango teacher by scanning newspaper ads and posters on subway walls. We were really surprised at how easy it seemed and how secure we felt in a city in the midst of a crisis. Luckily we never got into any real trouble though we did take extra care and never took our security for granted.

While I was there I fell in love with the tango...

Tango is in the air, everywhere...

We were positioned cheek-to-cheek on a Buenos Aires dance floor. My eyes were closed, my arms wrapped tightly around his neck as I followed his every delicate movement almost instinctively. After a six-week extended stay in Buenos Aires, it wasn't until this evening, my very last evening in the city, until I met Paulo, that is, that I finally understood the tango.

Tango, a dance that was born of immigrants in the city slums, is now in the air all over the capital: the music blares from restaurants and canteens and one can see couples performing expertly in the streets. I had never even heard a tango melody when I decided I would travel to Buenos Aires to learn the 19th century dance. After a 25-hour journey south from Canada, I finally made it to the dance studio where I would spend the bulk of my trip.

Did he just nod at me?

Claudia, a world-renowned tango dancer and teacher, sat across from me on a worn couch in her downtown Buenos Aires studio. 'First, you must learn the rules of the dance,' she told me as she took a sip of Mate (typical Argentinean tea) from a large silver thermos. 'First and most importantly,' she continued, 'the man must always invite the woman to dance. And the woman should never say no.'

A lean, dark-haired woman, Claudia was obviously seasoned by years of late nights and shady men in the tango scene; she looked significantly older than her chronological age of 34. She proceeded to explain the following rigid, but essential tango protocol: (1) A man makes eye contact with a woman and nods ever so subtly to indicate that he would like to dance with her. (2) The woman then nods in assent. (3) The two get up to meet on the dance floor.

Argentinean men have very fragile egos and, according to Claudia, if you turn down even one potential dance partner, no others will risk your rejection. Should the woman not wish to dance with the man who is nodding to her, the events should proceed as such: (1) A man makes eye contact with a woman and nods ever so subtly to indicate that he would like to dance with her. (2) She pretends not to notice.

She falls in love ...





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