Don’t Make Eye Contact Unless You Mean It

South America Tour 2012 - Day 10
Friday, January 27th, 2012

Tango lessons with Cherie

Buenos Aires means Tango and Tango means Hot Shoes. We did tango right with lessons from experts and bought handmade shoes from a little shop around the corner from our dance studio. We started the day with a city tour led by Jessica, a young woman from New Jersey who's lived here for about five years. She really knows the city and gave us cultural references to help us understand the social, political and cultural elements a bit better.

Cafe Tortoni with Jessica


The city has over three million people and seems to ramble over miles. We've spent a lot of time in cabs traveling vast distances. Jessica took us down to the old part of town where the Spanish established the city in 1580. Colonial era churches and government buildings that have survived the humid climate or have been reconstructed are surrounded by an assortment of structures of various styles.

Casa Rosario

Mid-tour we stopped at Tortoni, an iconic café where artists have hung out since its opening in 1858. Cups of the best hot chocolate ever and a tasty ham and cheese tortilla carried us through the rest of the walk. We hopped the metro, the oldest subway line in South America, and rode in cars built in Belgium in the 1910s. The president of Argentina works in the Casa Rosario, or Pink House. This is also the building where Juan and Eva Peron addressed the nation from the balcony. The square in front of the Casa Rosario is dedicated to political discourse and protest. The bricks are still painted with diaper headscarves, the symbol of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo who protested the disappearance of their sons and husbands in the 1970s.

Symbol of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

After Jessica left us in the Plaza, we broke into groups. Mark and Tamara walked back to the hotel. Kitty, Sarah, and Karla went shopping and found some very cool togs to wear for our tango experience.

 

La Boca

Judy took a cab over to La Boca where clever developers have created a tourist destination in what was a scruffy port neighborhood. The houses were painted in bright hues so sailors could easily spot their homes as they returned from sea voyages. The colorful houses have been turned into cafes and bars where dancers do tango shows all afternoon and evening for swarms of visitors. On the way back to the hotel, her driver not only charged her double fare, he gave her a counterfeit 50 peso bill. She broke the number one rule of traveling in South America--always have small change when you ride in cabs!

Ruben and Cherie demonstrating

Our tango class with Cherie and Ruben was a blast. They move beautifully, with a grace that can't be learned-it just is. Patient, kind, and funny, they demonstrated forward and backward steps and the forward and backward ocho and then let us try. The moves that looked so easy when they did them took some practice, and an hour and a half later, we were ready to show off our skills. We went to a milonga for our public tango debut. Some of us hadn't brought the proper shoes for dancing, and Cherie took shopping. Around the corner is Flabella, a shop with towers of shoes boxes, shoes in the windows and a handmade shoe factory in the back. We all found sexy shoes just made for tango.

Sarah finding the perfect tango shoe

Cherie gave us the rules of the milonga: everyone dances with everyone-young with old, big with small, expert with beginner. It's just fun. Dancers get up for a four song set with breaks between songs for conversation. If a man catches a woman's eye and makes a questioning gesture, she either rejects or accepts his offer to dance. A woman must be careful when making eye contact because once she's accepted the offer, she's committed for the entire set unless the guy is hurting her.

 

Hot tango shoes

Ruben and Cherie took us to La Confitería Ideal, a tearoom and tango salon from 1912. Tables and chairs placed around the edges of the room were filled with women together, couples, single men, and our group of eight. Men were going around making 'come dance with me' looks and getting up to dance with lots of different women. We were careful with our eye contact at first, but after getting out on the dance floor, we took our tango shoes out for dances with strangers. The men were very nice and adjusted their steps to accommodate our rank beginner status. We had so much fun that we've already found tango classes in Dallas. Our husbands may be surprised.

In the milonga


 

Our last dinner of the trip was at Paraje Arevalo, a tiny place not far from our hotel. Our waiter, Charlie Chaplin lookalike, explained that we could choose from 6, 8 or 10 courses. We stuck with 6 and 8-after last night the idea of 10 courses was way too much. We're sad that the fun is coming to an end. It was a great evening.

Charlie


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