2011-03-24

My first tango steps in Buenos Aires

Written by Raffaele Chiacchia
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We arrived at Viruta, a Tango School located in Palermo in the basement of an Armenian Cultural Centre. A big dance floor was already half full with couples dancing to modern tango music. The coloured spotlights shined on a diversity of odd couples: young and old, Argentinians and foreigners, dressed up and casual. Some were already doing some fancy steps while others were sticking to the basic steps. Then the first tango class started. The floors were divided by skill level. We chose the beginners course.

A young couple explained to us the basic steps, which we first danced separately (men on one side of the room, women on the other) and then together. People who couldn’t understand Spanish had to look even more carefully when the teachers showed the steps and explained what they were doing, which they did with enthusiasm and patience. Luckily (sometimes unluckily) after each short song we had to exchange dance partners. This way you got to know a lot of people during the course: there was a good mix of Argentineans and tourists alike, trying to learn the basic steps of the Tango.  

After the first class was over, four pairs of instructors danced in the middle of the dance floor. Besides their nice clothes, they showed some off their best tango moves, e.g. women swinging their legs really fast back and forth between the man’s legs. After they danced for two songs, each teacher of la Viruta were presented individually, culminating in a rather large spectacle. After this, the second class started. While in the first class we learned the Milonga steps, this time we would learn the real tango steps. The basic step is essentially the same with some minor differences, so it wasn’t always easy to stick to the same step!

The part I found most difficult was walking around the dance floor. In contrast to other dances like for example salsa, every couple is expected to hover over the dance floor counterclockwise. As not all the couples had the same speed and direction, some more or less unpleasant crashes were inevitable! Around midnight the two classes were over and a live tango band took over, consisting of some accordions, a piano, a guitar and percussion. They played some lovely music and it was a joy to watch them play for the packed dance floor. Scared to hit even more couples than during the class, I decided to watch the advanced dancers. I studied their movements, in an effort to further understanding this sensual dance. Hopefully soon I will be able to draw attention with some fancier steps, rather than with stumbling over other couples while trying to do the basics!

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