wk2, entry 3 - Tango lessons!

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

 › entry 19 of 30 › view all entries

The difference between experiencing the culture and watching, or learning about, the culture.  That’s what I felt when I went Tango dancing on Wednesday night.  The Armenian Cultural Center was a fascinating place with a great atmosphere - lots of friendly young people looking to dance and have fun.  Let me compare Señor Tango with the Tango lessons. 

Señor Tango is a manufactured show, with tourists as its main intended audience.  We were given a glimpse into how things were at one time, but it wasn’t the real culture, real emotion.  The audience was involved a little bit - by those funny looking older women trying to be young and pretty, and by the host - but it all had a disingenuous feel to it.  The people in the show may enjoy their job, but they were there to make money.  At the Armenian Cultural Center, the really good dancers there, the instructors, regardless of whether they were paid, gave a different impression.  They seemed to be part of the social scene there, part of the culture of the (no pun intended) cultural center, and because they genuinely loved dancing Tango, for the joy of it. 

This difference contributed to the atmosphere of the center, one that was very relaxed and welcoming.  I mixed in with the people there, talked with some other beginners, and felt like I was part of the community that night, contributing to it, not merely a spectator of some false reproduction of a culture that never existed in the form it is presented.

I practiced my Spanish with several dance partners - a graduate student studying one semester here, a Spanish teacher, and an older woman who was a lot of fun and taught a new word for “okay,” but I can’t remember it.  (I remember it was four syllables and that it didn’t sound like a real word, it was more like 4 sounds put together, Kirk do you know it?).  I got to see Argentines interacting in a real social situation (instead of one where I am just another annoying tourist), which included almost having to take a drunk guy off a member of our group who was being harassed.  I am tempted to use this to feed the machismo stereotype that I have heard about, though it could easily happen in the US as well.  A more blatant example of machismo was how the main guy treated one of the dancers.  I don’t know exactly what he was saying, but while he was announcing the Tango instructors, he grabbed one of the girls and treated her very roughly right there while he was the center of attention.  He grabbed her by the neck, jerked her around a bit, and bent her over backward.  He laughed, everyone laughed.  I kinda nervously laughed as I looked around.  I have a feeling people in the states wouldn’t take so kindly to that treatment of a young woman by an older man.

Dancing the Tango was challenging, but very enjoyable.  The steps are smooth, the body positioning makes leading your partner easier, and the fast hip-movements of Salsa were not necessary (or at least no significant hip movement was taught in the class).  These facts, combined with the great company and aforementioned atmosphere combined to make the night a blast.  The cultural experience is not one I will soon forget.

louhudspeth says:
Derek my love sorry I have neglected you for so long! Im glad you are having fun and getting to dance. Maybe its just me but a girl likes to be thrown around a bit every now and then. Maybe you should give the machisimo thing a try (not in the drunk obnoxious sense of course) ; ) Buen viaje!
Posted on: Jun 05, 2006
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!