20 Jul 2007

La Primera Vez

Early June, 2007

The first few days after I arrived in Buenos Aires were clouded with jet-lag. Lamely, I would dozed off before 9.00pm. On the 5th day, I was resolute tonight I shall venture out to the milongas in Buenos Aires!

So on Monday night, I took out a gold and lace top and dressed with some care. I decided to head out to Lo De Celia as my first milonga in Buenos Aires, since the down to earth atmosphere may be a good place to initiate my entry. I was filled with some trepidation on the way there. Will I be able to communicate at the basic level? Get a table, order drinks, ask questions?

Finally, I reached Humberto 1° 1462 and rang the doorbell. There was no response. I suddenly noticed the 1st floor of the building was dark. With dismay I realize that there is no Monday milonga at Lo De Celia. The information I found on the internet was outdated. Newly arrived, I hadn’t manage to get hold of any of the popular milonga guides such as El Tangauta, La Milonga Argentina, Buenos Aires Tango or even the myriad smaller publications like Diostango, the tango pocket guide Punto Tango etc.

I hailed a cab to go back home, with a sense of anticlimax. On the way back, the cab driver convinced me that instead of heading home, the place to be on Mondays nights should either be Salon Canning or Club Gricel.

Slowly, I walked through the doorway of Salon Canning on the other side of town in Palermo, just before the midnight hour. Despite my trepidations about the inability to communicate, I was shown to a seat in the front row without much ado. As I walked pass the tables to my seat, it must be my overactive imagination; it felt as if many pairs of eyes are looking in my general direction. After a furtive scan of the room, I saw a couple of other Asian faces. 2 guys in their twenties or thirties. No other Asian females. Perplexed, I thought to myself, aren’t the milongas in Buenos Aires filled with tourists? So why am I the only Asian female at this popular milonga…

I watch the dancers with fascination. So many good dancers! A mixture of all ages and a smaller proportion of milongueros. A face in the crowd popped out – I spotted Osvaldo Natucci. The distinctive way that he danced was unmistakable. With a “tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick” energy that seem to have an almost compulsive edge. As if the world moves at twice the speed for him than for everybody else.

It was a pleasure to watch how the dancers are dancing to the music. Like a lost traveler upon sighting an oasis in the desert, I was so eager to observe and absorb everything on the dance floor. Since I had no great intentions of dancing, I did not change into my shoes. Well aware that the invitation to dance was conducted via cabaceo in Buenos Aires, I was careful not to look at anyone directly in case I inadvertently solicit or accept a dance. Occasionally I stole glances around the room and my eyes slided immediately away from any men that made eye contact with mine. To those who initiated verbal invitations, I declined gently and excused myself on the grounds that I shall change shoes later.

A friendly English girl who has been in Buenos Aires for the last 4 months struck up a conversation with me. We enjoyed an entertaining chat about her experiences at the milongas since her arrival.

3 odd hours passed in a flash. An Argentine who knew my new English friend came up to our table. He was middle-aged, dressed in a black jacket with modern cutting and style and spotted an earring in his ear. Even I did not understand the words, it was clear from his gesticulations and expression that he was aware I have not dance the whole night - does she not dance? Yes, I do. So! He was insistent that I must not spent the night without dancing. My excuse of the shoes failed to work this time. I was nonplussed. My friend whispered that perhaps I should entertain this invitation just once to give face to this particular gentleman. Feeling somewhat at a loss, I changed into my shoes and danced a Pugliese tanda.

Immediately after, another dancer more casually dressed struck an invitation and I was on the dance floor again. It was clear from the beginning that I was dancing with a salon-nuevo style dancer. Of course he must be equally aware that I dance milonguero-style. He turned out to be an excellent leader, with very clear lead with full contact of his chest. I felt secure in his embrace, I could feel he waited for my full transfer of weight and firm contact with the ground from one step to the next. I enjoyed a figure-intensive tanda, fairly exhilarating in view that it is out of my usual repertoire of dance.

This was how I ended my first milonga in Buenos Aires at Salon Canning in the wee hours of Buenos Aires. In a good mood but somewhat confounded. One can’t just sit out the night and watch the dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires, no?

free hit counter script