Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gay tango dancing in Buenos Aires

Having had a few lessons on how to dance the Tango in the city where he lives, boyfriend number 2 was aching to visit Buenos Aires, which is where the dance originated over one hundred years ago. So last summer, since neither of us had ever visited Argentina, we decided that we'd try and take a holiday there before the end of the year.

"And shall we have some Tango lessons together while we're there?" boyfriend number 2 had asked.

"Yeah I'd love to," I replied, "but you'll have to be gentle with me, I'll be a complete beginner!"

Eventually the holiday gets arranged for December. The week before we arrive, boyfriend number 2 manages to locate a gay guy who lives in Buenos Aries and teaches the Tango. So after a couple of emails have been exchanged, we've got a private lesson booked together for one hour during the afternoon of what will be our second day in Buenos Aries.

The day arrives and boyfriend number 2 wants to go shopping.

GB's new Tango shoes"Let's buy some proper Tango shoes," he suggests. "Everything is meant to be so cheap here, so I bet we could get some really good Tango shoes that would cost us a fortune back home :-)."

He really does have Tango on the brain! Without too much trouble, we locate a few shops in Suipacha street which specialise in Tango shoes. And it does indeed seem very cheap to me. A pair of hand made leather shoes only costs 170 Argentinian pesos, which is less than £30!

"At that price, I may as well get a pair too," I say, "even though I don't (yet?) know how to dance the Tango!"

With too much sight seeing and shopping to do, we arrive slightly late for the lesson. Luckily the teacher is waiting patiently outside for us and it's not big problem. We head into the dance studio, put our new shoes on, and the lesson begins.

"Let's just start by walking," the teacher says. He speaks very good English, but with a gorgeous Argentinian accent. All three of us walk up and down the room, looking at ourselves in the mirror.

"When we dance the Tango, one person leads, and the other person follows," the teacher continues. "We usually teach how to do both, although most guys tend to have a preference".

"So I guess you call the guys that don't have a preference versatile," I joke. Boyfriend number 2 grins, although the teacher doesn't react.

"Do you have a preference?" he asks boyfriend number 2, "Since you've already had a few lessons?"

"Actually I much prefer to follow," says boyfriend number 2.

"In which case," says the teacher turning to me with a smile on his face, "you'll have to lead!"

We try a few steps with me leading, and at first it all seems rather easy. But gradually it gets more complicated. Then we try what we've learned with music, and it's clear that I'm hopeless.

"Remember," says the teacher, "Tango is a dance of improvisation. And try to keep your shoes close to the floor at all times. We don't know if it's true, but they say that when the Tango started the people who danced it were very poor, so they kept their shoes close to the floor to avoid revealing the holes in their shoes!"

By the end of the lesson I reckon I’ve learned a bit, just enough to realise that there's a huge amount that I don't know. Boyfriend number 2 is a bit disappointed though.

"I guess it was right for him to concentrate on you, since you've never done it before," he says, "but I don't think I learned very much".

None the less, one thing that we did learn from the teacher was the location of a couple of gay milongas. And one of them was taking place that evening, so we had to go along to see what it was like.

San Telmo, Tango dancing ghetto?It's held in a ground floor bar in the San Telmo district, and by the time we arrive there are around twenty people there. To my surprise, it's very mixed in terms of gender. But looking closely, I notice that that the boys are dancing with the boys and the girls are dancing with the girls! And in fact, it seems that it's a couple of lesbians who are in charge.

"Have you danced much Tango before", one of them asks us. As with the teacher in the afternoon, she speaks very good English.

"I had my first lesson today", I explain, "but my boyfriend has had a few lessons before".

"OK no problem," she says. "Well what we do here is start off with some Tango lessons. That's what we're doing now. Then after about an hour or so the dancing starts, each to their own ability!"

"Sounds great :-)."

"Right!", she says, and she takes a firm hold of me. "Since you're a complete beginner, you'll have to follow. Why don't you let me lead you for a while?"

It turns out that she's very very good at leading. I'm never left in any doubt about which direction I'm meant to go in. Boyfriend number 2 also gets some tuition from one of the other experienced Tango dancers there.

Once the lessons are over, we spend a couple of happy hours there, eating some supper, and having a go at dancing the Tango. It is genuinely good fun, and even though we're complete outsiders, we are made to feel very welcome.

During our stay in Argentina, we manage to fit in another couple of hours of private lessons with the first Tango teacher, and I make sure that one hour is purely for boyfriend number 2. We also visit the other gay milonga that we were told about, which provides us with another chance to practice what we'd learned. Again, it's much more gender balanced than a lot of events that I'm familiar with on the gay scene in London.

"Look," says boyfriend number 2, picking up a card as we're leaving the second milonga, "there's an International Queer Tango Festival in Stockholm next April. Perhaps we should go?"

"I'm sure it would be good fun," I reply, "but boyfriend number 1 will probably expect me to take my next holiday with him!"

I'd thoroughly recommend any visitors to Buenos Aires to take a few tango lessons, and to visit the milongas. During our visit, our guides and our hotel staff kept on trying to sell us "Tango shows", which I'm sure are a complete tourist trap. It's definitely much more fun to trying to take part. And in terms of my personality of course, I'm much more of an exhibitionist than a voyeur!

Links about gay Tango dancing in Buenos Aries article, March 2006 article, March 2004


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had fun :)

Merry Christmas GB! (and congrats on the run ;) )

Anonymous said...

Wow! - you clearly got good use out of the shoes, what a brilliant holiday idea. What was the food like?

MadeInScotland said...

GB, a belated Merry Christmas. I'm a bit behind on your reading..or rather, reading you. I'm just back from the Alps.

Man, I'd love to go to BA.

But what about BF1? No one even says "oops" when they're passing their gas...know what I mean? Was he dancing somewhere, with someone other than you? Or was he sweeping up the pins from the fir tree as they became a grand Christmas carpet at home?

Hey, here's to the killer dillers! Like the life you live, live the life you like...even marry Harry and mess around with Ike. It's good, isn't it great isn't it swell? But nothing stays...

Or so I'm told. We're off to Chicago tonight, so some of these words are borrowed from there!


GB said...

The food was very good and very cheap Hedgie, with lots of steak! But in spite of all the steak, we met a vegetarian on our travels there, and she said she had good food too :-).

Thanks for trying to be my conscience czechOUT! I reckon the biggest problem with a polyamorous lifestyle is tying not to hurt any of the guys that I love. And I'm sure you're quite right that nothing lasts forever. However, I'm hoping that with this lifestyle, my relationship with boyfriend number 1 will last longer because we won't get bored of each other.

GB xxx

Will said...

I know the one area I disappoint Fritz is dancing because I've never been comfortable on a dance floor and he loves to dance. I keep practicing with him and maybe I'll "get it" some day.

I'm told that the tango was originally danced by men with each other, in the brothels while they were waiting to go to their favorite whores. Does this agree with anything you heard while you were in BA?

GB said...

Well Will, I did hear that originally straight men would sometimes dance with other straight men, but the precise context wasn't made clear to me. However I did hear that originally pimps would dance with their prostitutes, so your suggestion makes sense :-).

GB xxx

close encounters said...

Argentina is close to the top of my to-do list !

Are you planning to post any further holiday details - I'd love to hear about the rest of your trip ??

GB said...

Yes close encounters, I'm planning on posting photos of where we went in Argentina, just like I did last year when we went to Asia :-).

GB xxx