Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Night of Tango

Last Friday, the Wayward Winos attended a tango show at Complejo Tango, a tango club in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. It was an ideal night in this South American city filled with dance, steaks, and wine.

Tango is one of those Argentine pillars that one must try, similar to the maté. It is like visiting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and having to try a cheese-steak, or simply having to go to a baseball game anywhere in the States. Even if you wind up hating it, at least you tried something culturally important. In this case, the event was more fun than my two-left feet expected.

The night started off with an hour lesson in the Argentine dance of tango; the very basic steps and nothing more. Being the gentleman of the couple, I had it easy: lead, be firm, but wait for the lady to finish her steps before reacting. As I turned my shoulders from right to left, Melanie made her "ocho", or figure eight, with her feet in our close embrace. After two or so "ochos", I would stop her dead in her tracks, splitting her legs with mine as she kicked her right foot through my split legs; the "gaucho". Then after a few clumsy sets of "ochos" and "gauchos", the final destination of our dance was reached: the "dip". Hands on the small of her back, firmly holding as she leaned back, chest pushed up, her hair barely grazing the floor, eyes to ceiling.

Dinner was served promptly at 9:30 P.M., after the lesson. She had the fillet, rare, I had the pumpkin stuffed ravioli. We both shared a bottle of red... then another. Wine was the atmosphere of the night by the time the show started. Through dance, the show told the story of three young gangsters in Buenos Aires and their love interests; a show of love and violence in the streets and clubs of the city. Warm embraces and violent spins and dips.

It was all something that Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin would have been apart of, except instead of whiskey and martinis, there was red wine. Deep, rugged voiced men, voices scarred with cigarette smoke and cigars, sang of cold-hearted women and rough nights. They walked through the small room, serenading women sitting in the audience and raising their glasses to the men. The lights fell and when they returned, another chapter of the young gangsters life started.

This went on for about two hours, and, even though the entire thing was done in their native tongue of Spanish, we never lost interest. After the lights came up, we finished our glasses and strolled home talking about our second tango class and our future careers in dance- all the awards and competitions we would win.

Overall, the night was splendid, although it was a bit touristic. The class was in English, which I suppose was for the better, so we could actually learn something, but it did take a little edge off of the event. The audience seemed to be entirely filled with visitors looking for a piece of tango culture, as well; it wasn't the dark, candle-lit, smokey milonga with Argentines tango-ing the night away, drunk and making love in the corners, but you get the idea. For the price tag, $380 Argentine pesos or about $89 (USD) for the two of us, it was a bargain experience that included a class, a spectacular show, a tasty three-course meal, and unlimited wine.

In the end, we left feeling a bit more Argentine.

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