I have to admit, while I was planning my trip to Argentina, I did not expect to leave the country feeling like OMG I love Tango, but it was seriously so much fun!
We found a Tango Hall, called La Viruta Tango, that offered cheap Tango lessons, and was conveniently located around the corner from our BnB.
When we showed up there was still some free dancing going on, so Su-Young and I just awkwardly waited in the corner. Suddenly the music stopped and people were made to clear the floor, and five couples came out and did a short tango performance. I don’t normally enjoy watching professional dancers, but there was something really cool about watching these people tango. I used to have no idea what the difference between tango and salsa was, but now I know they are totally different. Tango is much more like a ballroom dance with a spicy twist to it.
After, they finish dancing, they start giving instructions to the group to split up, but of course we have no idea where to go because we don’t understand anything. So, I do what I always do in situations like this – try to look totally clueless so that someone will try to help us. Finally someone asks us slowly in heavily accented English “your first time?” We nod and she points to the end of the room, so we scramble down there.
The instructors are giving us instructions in Spanish, but it is easy enough to follow the 8 basic steps (and we at least know uno, duos, tres…). Soon we were actually practicing the moves with partners, and switching around like musical chairs. One of the reasons this may have been one of the coolest experiences in Argentina, is it gave us a chance to interact not only with other travelers, but with locals too. For example, there was a group of college-aged boys there, which we thought was somehow amusing. I ended up partnered with one of them who spoke fairly decent English, and asked him why he came to learn tango. He said, “We were just bored and wanted something to do.” In my head I thought to myself, surreeeee, because this is what 20-year-old boys do to entertain themselves. They probably knew it was popular with study abroad girls, and wanted to meet some (to his credit, there was a large group of study abroad students there.). He said they knew about the place because, his friend has to come here once a week and take lessons by order of his father, which I thought was really fun. I asked him if kids his age associated tango with old people, to which he replied yes. Unfortunately, you see this a lot when travelling. A unique and interesting piece of a culture is associated with being something “old people” do, so it eventually dies out. I laughed when I danced by Su with her partner and him bumbling trying to speak to her in English while she just politely nods and says “yes!”
After lessons are finished around midnight, the place turns into a dance hall or Milonga as they call it in Argentina. It feels pretty old school; we don’t have anything like it in the US. I feel like if you were in a similar place in the US, you would have so many people awkwardly standing around, but here, there were strangers casually asking each other to dance. There was even a live band and tango singer.
The one thing to avoid is being asked to dance by the older men who look like they’ve been doing this for years. They are really good at tangoing and will for some reason assume you are too and try to spin you around and make you do advanced moves. Needless to say, it is really awkward when they realize how bad you are and you can’t even make a joke about it because you don’t speak the same language. But maybe to some people that sounds fun, I don’t know, depends on how adventurous you are.
The place where all of this went down – La Viruta Tango in Palermo Buenos Aires. If you visit BA and want to take some tango lessons, I highly recommend this place. They offer not only tango lessons, but also salsa and even swing lessons. You just pay 60 pesos when you enter and can stay as long as you want.