As I consider dawn from my room in Buenos Aires, I think over my adventures of the last three weeks. I am half-way through my stay here and wondering why I am here. Just to dance tango? Quizas (maybe). Last night at a milonga, a woman from Florence told me that her coming to Buenos Aires changed her forever. Changed her personality! Before she had lived to work. Her career was everything. Because of BA, she lives to enjoy this life. She echoed voices that I have heard repeatedly since I arrived here.
I came because Oscar Casas casually asked when I would come. I have been dancing tango for four years now. My dancing is acceptable. I considered a planned Christmas in Boston for a daughter who is currently not speaking to me and with a boyfriend who did not want to be there. Why Boston? Why not Argentina? So I booked a ticket. Boston could wait.
Buenos Aires was not what I had expected. I was prepared for a cosmopolitan European-like city with a South American flare (whatever that is) where most people spoke some English. I found a crowded, hot, former European-like (but now too poor to maintain itself) collection of neighborhoods. I was overwhelmed by noise, trash, heat, traffic, dripping AC condensation, and the inability to navigate because of my own ignorance– of the city and its language, Spanish. Nothing like a little contrast to shake the balance and provide a little perspective. But the energy of the Milonga (fast dance), the lilt of the Vals (waltz), and evocative sadness and romance of the Tango– all of that exists here. That energy is like the steam of the boiler room, escaping to fog your windows and distort your vision of the world.
The dancing only added to the “change of weight” (a practice in tango of moving one’s weight from the balance on one leg to another). People stay up all night dancing to music from the early to mid-twentieth century here. I joined the circular rotation. I now no longer sleep in 6-9 hour stretches. I nap between dances.
After my first week, I wrote to Oscar, telling him that I had just had the time of my life dancing. He messaged me, “Oh my friend this is nothing get ready. You didn’t chose tango. TANGO CHOSE YOU!!!
Tango chose me? But why? This is not my heritage. I don’t really belong here. But this adventure is not about belonging somewhere. BA and tango are about feeling the dance, the next step.