On Saturday night my friend invites me to go dance tango with her. I had asked her about several places I saw on the Internet. She insists that there is only one place to go. I am doubtful, but I do not want to argue. I would rather see my friend.
She is over exuberant about tango like most people who live in the exterior are. Non stop talking, analyzing. Those days have long passed for me. Tango is a part of my life and soul. I do not need to talk about 24/7. It just is. A few weeks ago some of my Argentine friends and I had dinner with some tango tourists. One of my Argentine friends leaned over and said to me "I wish she would shut up. All she wants to talk about is tango." I explained to him that she thinks because he is Argentine that is his whole life and she thinks that she is flattering him.
After the dinner was over around 1:00 am, the Argentines and I prepared to leave. The tourists wanted to know what milonga we were going to. None of us were going out. We had just spent 80 pesos on a dinner and the idea of spending another 50 pesos on a milonga was not going to work. Not only that, most of us had to work the next day. The tango tourists were surprised. I, the designated translator for both language and culture had to explain.
I am on the bus headed towards this milonga in the Providencia. When I get to the place I realize it was where I went in 2005. It was a terrible place. No one knew how to dance. I wonder if it has improved in the 7 years since I was there. I was unsure of what to wear..so I have on my basic black.
The place looks like a Miami Chilean version of what a place in La Boca looks like. The host welcomes me and takes me to the table where my friends are seated. People are smoking. I want to gag. Iam happy to see my friend. She is with a handsome Chilean man. The people are well dressed in this place. Better dressed than how we dress in our milongas in Buenos Aires. For Chile they are good, for Buenos Aires, not so great. I try not to be hypercritical.
When the quartet leaves the stage a few people get up to dance. Que horror! Just as bad as I remember. I ask my friend if more people will come to dance. She tells me maybe not. I ask her if there are many singles here. She tells me no. Why am I here? Oh yes, to see my friend.
My friend gets up to dance with her partner. They dance pasos. There are a couple of clowns on the floor who have no idea how to dance. They are banging into people. After each song people clap. This is really bizarre. I decide that I am not going to dance.
The quartet plays again and the owners come on and dance. You know there is an old saying that if you can't don't. They should not try to do flashy show moves they cannot execute. People clap because the do not know better.
My friend's partner invites me to dance. I tell him a tango. I cannot imagine dancing a milonga with him. I would rather die and never dance again. I ask my friends about the other tango places. He tells me old people from Argentina go there. "It must be good." I say to him. "No they dance traditional tango, milonguero style." (I wonder what he thinks most of them are dancing - with their close embrace.) "They dance slow." Yeah they dance to the music pelotudo, I think to myself. Not like you, racing around the floor. Instead I say "Older dancers can be the best dancers, and what is wrong with milonguero style?" He starts to explain to me why people need to dance faster. I interrupt him. "You feel the music, and dance to the music. You should not just dance faster."
Mr. Big Stuff takes me to dance. We go out to the floor. I know he has no posture. I position myself in embrace. He takes a step forward with no lead and steps on my foot. As we dance he continues to step on my feet. I have to constantly watch his feet to see what he is doing because he has absolutely no lead. He then starts to push me with both hands in this maniacle move. I taught tango for 7 years. I have no idea what he is doing. Finally it dawns on me.
"Do you want me to turn?" He tells me yes. "Using your hands?" I am astounded. Especially in the way he is doing it. It just falls out my mouth; "Who taught you this?" He looks at me and says "I will teach you to turn since you do not know how." I catch myself before I start laughing. "No amor," I say to him. "I will teach you. The giro comes from the chest, not from pushing with the hands. NEVER push a woman so hard through any step. This is not tango." Let's just walk. Which he also is miserable at. I am grateful when the song ends.
We go back to the table. My friend is talking to the Spainard at the table behind us. She invites him to join us. He sits next to me. He is in Santiago to work. He smokes like a chimney. He smells like a brewery. I am doomed.
The Spaniard tells me friends how much he loves watching the tango. He says he never really saw it before. I tell him that there is lots of tango in Barcelona, and in Spain. Mr. Big Stuff looks at me. I mention that I have danced there and in Madrid as well. The Spaniard says that he dances salsa and is a good salsa dancer. I tell him that we will dance salsa when they play the salsa music.
Iwatch the dancers. The singer is dancing. He better than the rest. At least he dances with the music. I look at him so he knows I want to dance with him. Mr. Big Stuff starts spouting more B.S. He has never been to Buenos Aires. He then makes a comment that he can dance with any woman, except one who has bad habits and has not been taught properly. He looks at me. The Spaniard asks him how long he has been dancing. He says 4 years and an Argentine woman who lives in Chile taught him.
They play a salsa break. I take the Spaniard onto the floor. He is protesting. Once we get out there it is evident why. After an hour of hearing what a great salsa dancer he is, he admits he cannot dance salsa. He can't dance anything. I tell him not to worry. Just have fun. So there I am with a drunk Spaniard trying to dance salsa.
When the song ends we go back to the table. The Spaniard says to my friend and Mr. Big Stuff. I can't dance. I can't dance anything. I am a really bad dancer. I smile at him and say "But that is OK. A bad dancer who knows he is a bad dancer is better than a bad dancer who thinks he is a good dancer." and I look directly at Mr. Big Stuff.
The singer comes to get me to dance. Compared to Mr. Big Stuff he is heaven. In Buenos AIres I would probably not dance with him. He starts the whole rap. You dance very well. Where are you from. How long are you here for. Then I look at him.."Flaco, tienes un anillo, OK?" After that he shuts up. He dances a couple of songs with me.
I sit at the table and have to listen to Mr. Big Stuff talk about what a great dancer he is. Or I have to listen to the drunk Spaniard..and I am getting smoked out. I dance one more song with the singer and I decide I must leave. I cannot take it anymore. I say goodbye to my friends. The host gives me a chocolate candy on my way out and wishes me a Happy Mother's day.
The taxi back I have to argue a bit with the driver. My karma. He passes my hostel which is next door to the Argentine Embassy. (Can you believe?) So he starts to drive backwards down the street. The carbinero stops him. He tells the carbinero that I am Argentine and must go to the embassy. I pay him and jump out of the taxi.
The carbinero (policeman in Chile) looks at me and says "You must be a very important person to have to go to the embassy this late at night. I tell him the taxi driver was an idiot that he passed my hostel and that was why he was driving backwards.
They open the door for me to my hostel and I go to my room. I sit on the bed and unwrap the candy they gave me. It looks like a luscious dark chocolate. I take a bite. YEECH! It is horrible. It tastes like soap. I go to take a drink of water to rinse my mouth. I look at the label. I shake my head. It is soap. Chocolate almond soap. What a way to end my evening.