The staccato rhythms of the tango pulsated behind the curtains; then they opened slowly, seamlessly, Now the strains of the bandoneon fused with the strains of the orchestra adding poignancy to the opening bars of the tango music, "El Choclo". It was as if the music was cutting into the heart of the essence of life, breathing its rhythms into the old walls of this most traditional venue in Buenos Aires that had seen thousands of tango enthusiasts pass through its portals. Called the Piazzolla. it was an Arts and Performance Centre, but during its life it had often held group tango lessons.
The elaborate baroque features of the interior were a far cry from the open spaces where gauchos. mainly struggling migrants from Europe, danced with each other to the nostalgic strains of the bandoneon one hundred and fifty years ago. Their longing for their homelands translated itself into this haunting music and the smooth flowing movements of the tango. Later, tango moved into the brothels with couples dancing together.
However, the cat-like theatrical movements of the couples on the stage that I was now watching exuded a sophistication and choreography that was the result of years of planned dramatic dance movements; it had become an art form. Here, in Buenos Aires, the dancers still expressed passion for the tango, but it was subdued by the sleek, refined movements that were the hallmark of Argentine Tango. The brightly coloured slinky attire of the female dancers was in stark contrast to the dark suits of the male dancers and their frequently white-toed leather shoes.
I was drawn into the spectacle by the hypnotic beat of the music, and the dance movements mesmerized me. It was all so dramatic and a far cry from the intimate tango I had learned in classes and danced at milongas in the UK. I had to pinch myself to make sure that this was reality, that I was finally here in Buenos Aires. Although the Japanese had recently won first place in the World Tango Championships, much to the chagrin of Argentinians, the home of tango was still here.
The day before, I had enjoyed the process of buying a new pair of tango shoes in Suipicha Street (Calle Suipicha). The sales assistant was male and had been quite flattering in his manner while I tried on different pairs of shoes. How expensive were they? No importa. Who cares? What does it matter? It was the playfulness of the purchasing scenario that was important. So I ended up as the proud owner of the elegant open-toed stilettos. Stilettos always flatter the figure, elongating the legs. They made me feel svelte. It had been fun placing my feet into the sculptured "tango footsteps" created in the concrete pavement outside the shop. Now I would have to try the new shoes out in a practical situation, such as a milonga or, at the very least, a tango lesson from the maestros of tango. This purchase and a visit to a tango café had led to my buying a ticket to the top tango show in Buenos Aires, at the Piazzolla.
(Chapter 1 opening in "South America Under the Skin of a Foreign Country")
Enjoy watching some Argentine Tango in this trailer of my book:
To buy my book click:
Barbara M Webb graduated in English at Queensland University, St Lucia. She has lived in 7 of the 52 countries she has visited. and now lives in Cornwall in the UK.