Tango. For many people, the mention of this iconic Argentine dance conjures up images of a man with slicked-back hair stalking across the dance floor, his partner poured into a slinky dress with a rose clenched between her teeth. Or perhaps that famous scene from "Scent of a Woman" comes to mind.
The tango danced in the milongas (tango dance halls) of Buenos Aires bears little resemblance to what you've seen in the movies, but I assure you that it's no less soulful and engaging to watch.
I was lucky to receive an invitation to attend a milonga from two tango-dancing Aussies that I met at my friend Deby's birthday party. Sharon, Rosa and I made our way to "El Beso" after the party, where I had a chance to see what Argentine tango is all about.
Upon arrival at El Beso, I was seated at a table in the back row, as the most desirable seats up front are reserved for regulars. Since there was no tango dancing in my future, a spot up against the wall was no big deal; however, for those looking for an invitation to the dance floor, it's much harder to attract another dancer's attention from the back of the room.
When I inquired about taking photos, the milonga organizer requested that I be very discreet and limit myself to shots of the crowd in general as opposed to specific couples. She explained that married men and women often come to the milongas alone to dance without the knowledge of their spouses, and she didn't want to be responsible for any divorces. In fact, every time she passed by my table and glanced at my camera, she would knit her brows and exclaim, "¡No quiero divorcios! ¡No quiero divorcios!"
Honestly, she didn't have much to worry about as the dim lighting and movement made picture-taking near impossible. I did manage a bit of video (I apologize for the less-than-stellar quality), but please don't scrutinize the faces of the dancers. ¡No quiero divorcios!
Please click here if you can't see the video.
I had a great time listening to the music, watching the dancers, and learning a bit about the códigos of tango (tango etiquette in the milonga) from Rosa and Sharon.