Nonstop dancing

They were sitting right behind me in Obelisco Tango.  I heard the woman speaking in English with another friend at the table.  When she got up to dance with the taxi dancer, I went to talk with the friend.  She said that Anita is from NYC and was there for two hours of dancing.

Later I introduced myself to Anita, and we got to know one another in a matter of an hour.  She mentioned several times that “I’m paying him to dance with me,” and she didn’t want to sit out a tanda.  She was in Buenos Aires for a conference until Saturday, and she decided to make a point of dancing tango, too.

There are so many milongas in NYC, though I know things are different there.  She was curious about why all the men were on one side of the floor and the women on the opposite side.  She asked if there were any couples at the milonga.  She didn’t know much Spanish, and her taxi dancer didn’t speak much English.  She was happy anyway.

“In New York, we do lots of fancy steps in tango.  Why is everyone just walking to the music?”  Well, I explained, in Buenos Aires it’s what you feel in the music that matters, not the steps.

Why don’t you give close embrace a try with your dance partner?  You may even like it.  After all, you’re in Buenos Aires and have an Argentine partner.  He was willing to try, and so was she.  I took out my camera to record a short video of them.  The smile on her face as she returned to the table was confirmation that she liked it. That was her last tanda.

I tried convincing her to stay at the milonga after her taxi dancer’s time had expired, but he escorted her to the hotel in a taxi.  We were so engaged in conversation that she forgot to pay the drink bill.  The waitress spoke with me about it, and I paid it.

I gave Anita my card so I could send her the photo and the video of her night at Obelisco when she writes.  She’s back in NYC now.  I hope I’ll still be dancing tango when I reach her age.

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6 Responses to “Nonstop dancing”

  1. Felicity Says:

    What a lovely photo, story and video!

  2. Tango Tails Says:

    Very nice article and lovely photo of a beautiful lady with her taxi dancer. I hope that I’m still dancing tango at her age too, and look as nice as she does – I know a man could never look as lovely as a lady, but refering only as a man of course. I really like the idea of a “taxi dancer” for cases/opportunities like she had for only a short visit.

  3. jantango Says:

    I suppose I am naive. I’m exercising and maintaining my flexibility so that I’ll be dancing at her age (87) and expecting men to invite me, too. Obviously by that time all of the milongueros viejos will be gone.

    Waiting for an invitation when you are a new face in the milonga is one thing. Men want to dance with women who are younger than they are, not by a year or two.

    Will I be hiring a young taxi dancer for a night of tango? Never say never.

  4. Felicity Says:

    87? She looks fabulous!

    The first time I saw taxi dancers was when I briefly dipped into the ceroc scene. Very helpful, friendly guys – volunteers I think – would get newcomers dancing socially very quickly. It was a very well organised and successful system though that scene was not for me. On the other hand I used to think taxi dancing in the milongas was not far off engaging in prostitution at worst and at best mere simulation of “the real thing”. I was really against it. This was before I saw it in Buenos Aires. At the same time I knew people who used taxi dancers and I understood it worked for them and why it did and I thought well why not? So it was a conflicted issue.

    In Buenos Aires my second dance was with a guy with whom I later danced often but it was not until much later in my stay that he mentioned he would be working, not dancing in the next milonga at which we would meet. What did he mean? Then he said he was a taxi dancer. This guy was one of the best partners I had in Buenos Aires and I was always pleased to dance with him socially. He had a real feeling for the woman. He danced very often for work and pleasure, with tourists and with locals. I also saw one or two guys who were taxi dancers in very traditional milongas, but not many and I saw a couple of guys who probably were the one time I went to Confiteria Ideal – the staff thought so too. They were all very good, very understated dancers.

    We pay to live with locals via Airbnb and there is often a kind of understanding that we pay to some informal, undefined extent – which may or may not happen – for the opportunity to ask things only a local would know. Taxi dancers are not so different. It strikes me as a very good way for a visitor, especially if you are alone, or you don’t have much time, or don’t speak the language, or you are older, to get oriented or just to have fun. Perhaps I’ll try it one day, for curiosity. When I started to feel lost and foolish in the milongas it might have been a good life-ring. As for it being fake…well, if you think there is only one thing going on in the milonga, then perhaps. But there are parties and friendships, chat, spectators, comedy and the communion of souls all happening in the milonga. So who’s to say what’s real and what’s fake? I think there’s a place for taxi dancers. I think I would rather there are than there are not taxi dancers.

  5. jantango Says:

    I didn’t know that your favorite partner during your visit works as a taxi dancer. There is work for tango dancers who need it in the milongas. When they work with a good agency, they earn a very good wage for accompanying a woman to a milonga for a few hours for dancing only.

    Times have changed. It used to be the women were paid for dances. https://jantango.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/ten-cents-a-dance/

    On this very same evening in Obelisco Tango, there were two other taxi dancers taking care of their regular clients. They sat in the back of the room with their clients. Everyone knows that the women pay them for dancing continuously for two hours, and then they leave the milonga. The taxi dancers are years younger than the women. One of these two men has worked at least ten years as a taxi dancer, and he can’t find the beat of the music and leads with his arms.

  6. Felicity Says:

    jantango said:
    “I didn’t know that your favorite partner during your visit works as a taxi dancer. ”
    One of them. it was a surprise to me too!

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