Maybe it’s like having a baby; if you think too much about it, all the pros and cons, you’ll never do it. It’s too scary, too much of a commitment. With tango, too, if your expectations are too high to be realized, well, then maybe a two week vacation in Buenos Aires instead of Provence or Prague is not for you.
When I went to Europe for the first time, I was blown away–it was even better than I expected. But there are first-time tourists who are disappointed, maybe because they have a sense of deja-vu, that they’ve already seen it all at Disneyland and in the movies.
I first came here on a tango tour in 1997, with no expectations, only that I would be learning from the masters, whoever they might be, and dancing in Buenos Aires for ten days. I knew nothing about the codigos, or La Confiteria Ideal (not yet the star of all the tango movies), or Comme Il Faut shoes (which didn’t yet exist). I just expected a fun dance vacation.
And it was.
But it changed my life.
But for those who want to experience an art form at its source, who want to understand tango and Argentina, who want to be immersed in tango culture where taxi drivers sing a tango to you, where at a karaoke party the tangos are sung with passion, where you overhear old milongueros reminiscing about this or that orchestra, where everyone in the street has one opinion or another about the tango, where the history of the tango is intertwined with the history of an entire country–well, then they should experience Buenos Aires.
Put the art museums and rugby matches on the back burner. Buenos Aires is not the Paris of South America or anywhere else. It has its own unique culture, architecture, language (not Spanish, but a combination of Castellano and Lunfardo), history and way of life. But to fully understand it, you need to experience the culture of tango and vice versa.
Anything worth doing is doing as best one can, right? So you don’t want to be a professional dancer or teacher, you just want to dance at your local milongas back home and have fun. Great. But don’t you want to dance as well as you can in this lifetime? For tango, you need to dance in Buenos Aires, to experience the porteño embrace. With no preconceptions, with an open mind.
Otherwise, if you just want to meet like folks and have a social evening, save your money and dance at home or in nearby festivals. Buenos Aires doesn’t need another critical foreigner who is closed-minded and thinks they know everything. There are plenty of those here already.
You might say that tango in other places is like the “French” architecture of Buenos Aires in the 20’s: the “Disney” copy of a beautiful, original phenomenon of another time and place. Which is fine, if that’s what you like. The world is full of dabblers and copiers in all of the arts.
But if you want to delve profoundly, to grow and feel and thrill, to give yourself and be taken, Buenos Aires is waiting for you. There is no place else on earth where the embrace is so emotional, where the music is so embodied, where hundreds of dancers of all ages feel D’Arienzo and express it in their unique way at the same moment in the same salon. There’s no tango experience like it.
And maybe that will change your life too.
Cherie Magnus and her milonguero partner, Ruben Aybar, were Finalistas in the Buenos Aires Tango Championships of 2006 and have been teaching together ever since. Cherie writes a tango blog, and in 2012 published her first book, The Church of Tango: a Memoir, available in paper and Kindle on Amazon.Need To Know, Tango, Things To Do