Monday, November 15, 2010

The good, the magical and the ugly tango

Evening milongas at Confitería Ideal are definitely on my dislike list. The matinees are tolerable on, say, a Monday afternoon when there are few milongas to choose from, but at night…good grief. 
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the architectural beauty and history of the venue itself, and I recommend a visit by any person seeing Buenos Aires for the first time (tanguero or simply tourist), but that's also part of the problem. The venue is always full of gawkers.

Tango instructors prey on the tourists like vultures to road kill. The dance floor is sprinkled with the tourists who took their first tango lesson in the afternoon and have decided, unwisely, that they can brave a turn on a Baires dance floor—awkward and also dangerous. Local men (who should know better) make verbal invitations instead of using the cabeceo. Overall, the quality of dancing is disappointing. For entertainment value, however, Ideal also features the oh-my-God-I-can't-keep-my-eyes-off-this-train-wreck kind of tango, performed by a few “characters” from town—regulars that are a spectacle to see.

Against my better judgment, I agreed to meet a porteña friend of Matthew's last Saturday at Ideal. I was glad to go because I had not had the opportunity to meet Sofia before, but even in her email she promised, "The dancing is not so good, but perhaps you will find ONE good candidate." On the upside, there would be live music by Los Reyes del Tango and a performance by Coco and Osvaldo.

In hindsight, I should have left my dance shoes at home and just enjoyed the entertainment value of the place. One thing about Ideal, you won't offend anyone by breaking out your camera and taking some video of the dance floor. While frowned upon at the traditional venues unless there is a performance, at Ideal anything goes, which is probably why the characters choose to dance here.

I will share these oddities with you, but only if you promise to watch the above link of Coco and Osvald which captures the authentic Argentine tango I love.

The couple in this video rival another couple that frequent Ideal, Julian and Alicia who Matthew and I find endearing. Julian and Alicia have a "Golden Age" elegance to them in spite of their outrageous dance moves, where as this other couple is just out-and-out garish and strange. The clip is short and doesn't quite capture the full picture so let me help. 

She is donning a black corset that attaches at the crotch and rides up at the hips leaving a gap of skin at her red skirt waist. Safety pins keep the pieces from falling completely apart. Her snagged and running thigh-high stockings end at her butt cheeks—the true stars of the show. Spoiler alert: Let's just say she is not wearing her granny panties like a proper lady.

This is Julian and Alicia. Matthew introduced himself to them last year because we were so intrigued by earnestness. Their dancing in this particular clip is tame compared to their usual action. She will often do half splits, pelvic gyrations and deep knee bends all the way down to the floor while shimming her shoulders. They really are sweet people, are obviously dedicated to their craft, and I hope this clip at least illustrates what I mean by “Golden Age elegance.”


  1. Ideal is dreadful of an evening, but Julian and Alicia are as awesome as they are alarming. I'm glad they're still around. They're from Spain. They were really sweet when I talked to them. That other couple, wow, self-expression is a slippery slope. Only in the capital.

  2. Matthew, I will let you drag me there just so you can talk to these new oddities and find out what makes them tick. Only 10 more days...

  3. What most people don’t know about Tango is that it tells sad stories about men that had their heart broken. Anyways, the lyrics are beautiful, and they match the beautiful culture of Argentina to a great music style. La Cumparsita is very well-known and has millions of fans around the world. Last year I rented one of those Furnished apartments in Buenos Aires which was located in Caminito, a neighborhood in which is all about tango. I even bought a costume! Milonga, on the other hand, is super fun, joyful and with a very catchy rhythm. I love both kinds of music; they are rich in history as well as in instruments.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the city and the tango, Tracy! They both have a bit of magic to them, don't they. Hope you have a chance to return some day.