Finding the real tango in Buenos Aires

I had the pleasure of meeting a young tango dancer from Europe last year.  He contacted me about his upcoming visit to Buenos Aires, and we arranged a meeting to talk.  I directed him to the milongas and offered a private lesson if he was interested.  After going to a milonga, he took me up on my offer.  He learned the embrace with me.  Not only did he adapt to it quickly, but he liked it.  Dancing with him was such a pleasure for me.  He wrote his thoughts about how Buenos Aires changed his tango.


I’ve been writing this email for a long time now, with new realizations coming all the time. But now that a month and a half has passed since I came back to Europe, it’s high time I let you know about my experience so far.

Most importantly, my preference for partners has changed quite a bit. There are a couple of women whom I considered excellent dancers before, but now I dance with them mostly because I like them as friends, but frankly wouldn’t mind if we didn’t manage to cabeceo each other. In fact, I moved to another country two weeks ago, and I really enjoy that I could start building my tango circle from scratch, with no social obligations to dance with women with whom I used to dance in the past.

Of course, a change in the opposite direction has also occurred. Some of the women whom I didn’t quite enjoy dancing with before are now among my favorites. Plenty of them are not considered good dancers by other men, and so I have very little competition when trying to invite them. I suspect it’s because they cannot execute the complicated movements, and so other men are bored when dancing with them. Those ladies make up for their limited vocabulary with perfect balance and very attentive following — something that “more advanced” ladies are severely lacking.

I actually thought that it was I who was for some mysterious reason struggling with my balance, until I danced with Anne. I saw her at many milongas in BA. I really didn’t want to dance with her back there. But seeing her in Ukraine, this small country on the edge of Europe, was such a surprise that I decided to give it a try. It was pure bliss!  She made me realize how much I miss dancing with the BA milongueras (Anne has been spending a lot of time in BA for the past 11 years, and she definitely has developed a similar style). After that, I also became very aware of how often women here pull on me to keep their balance while their stilettos fly high into the air.

It’s now more difficult to predict how I will enjoy different partners based on observation alone. Probably because no other leaders dance like I do now. I’m getting better at paying attention to the right things when watching, but it’s still a work in progress. So far, there are plenty of disappointments but also pleasant surprises. The very skinny ladies are a reasonably safe bet because even if they cannot dance well, at least they cannot hurt my back due to their low body weight.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that now any attraction between me and the partner enhances the dance, rather than disrupting it. I remember that before I came to Buenos Aires, I would become more stressed and stiff when dancing with a partner that I fancied. If the partner happened to fancy me, it would be even worse — her attempts to show off would completely ruin the leader-follower dynamic. Now, there is no stress, tension and showing off. When we are both attracted to each other, it becomes obvious through the tenderness of the embrace. Even more striking: the more attraction there is, the shorter the breaks between songs within a tanda, if those breaks even occur at all. Earlier, those breaks and short pieces of conversation inserted between songs were the time to progress the interaction. Now, with everything that can be communicated through the embrace, nothing remains to be said, except for specific arrangements to meet outside a milonga. I actually don’t get to enjoy this change very often since few women in the tango scene appeal to me in this way, but it’s still a wonderful thing to experience when it does happen.

Thank you again for unveiling to me this way of dancing. Chances are, I would have never found it if it wasn’t for you.

3 Responses to “Finding the real tango in Buenos Aires”

  1. tangogeoff Says:

    Congratulations, Janis! You made a wonderful difference to yet another dancer’s life!

  2. jantango Says:

    I am grateful I can give them what the milongueros gave me.

  3. suerteloca Says:

    I went through the same sort of changes in Buenos Aires 12 years ago. Thanks for sharing his interesting email.

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