Tango in an Elevator

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We’d heard a lot about the neighborhood La Boca and decided to brave the crazy taxi ride in rush hour traffic to get there (traffic laws and stoplights are clearly just a suggestion here). La Boca was originally settled by poor Italian immigrants who would paint their homes with any color that was available. It’s still a working class neighborhood with a small tourist center called El Caminito, an amateur photographer’s dream. All of the guidebooks were clear about not staying after dark for safety reasons, which led to a mass exodus of the tourist-lemmings 45 minutes before sunset. This gave us the opportunity to stick around for a bit longer to take advantage of the empty streets and the perfect light.

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These boys were playing a heated game of futbol in the shadow of the Boca Juniors futbol stadium. Could this be the next Messi?

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For dinner we decided to take a break from red meat and headed to a little Italian restaurant in our neighborhood. We’d heard you could find good Italian food in Buenos Aires and La Pecora Nera (The Black Sheep) did not disappoint. Unfortunately the atmosphere was more sophisticated than we’re used to and taking photos of our food seemed a little tacky. Elliott resorted to taking incognito shots with his cell phone which made us feel like secret food spies. The highlights were a tortellini stuffed with eggplant and provolone and the desserts: a creamy tiramisu and frozen citrus custard with candied oranges.

One of the primary attractions of visiting Buenos Aires is the opportunity to see some real, live Argentine tango. There are fancy staged shows every night of the week but we opted to head to a “milonga,” a late-night dance club that focuses exclusively on tango. We hooked up with a couple visiting from New York and headed to El Beso, a club within walking distance of our hotel. By the time we arrived at 11:30, the room was filled with dancers of all ages, from twenty-somethings to elegant grandparents.

As we learned early on, this was a traditional club with classic etiquette. Here eye contact and a subtle gesture are invitations to tango. When Elliott politely gestured for a woman to pass him in the crowd, she nodded and began to follow him in the direction of the dance floor. Elliott sheepishly explained that he didn’t know how to tango and was only heading for a bottle of water.

It was fascinating to watch men pick out their partners, dance intimately for a few songs, and then switch to a completely new partner. We were amazed at the complexity of the footwork only to learn that there are a few basic steps and the rest is completely improvised. Clearly this is a dance that takes a lifetime to learn, as evidenced by the many suave octogenarians out at 1:30 in the morning on a Tuesday night.

The evening inspired us to dance our own tango in the privacy of our hotel’s elevator. Perhaps after a few lessons we’ll get out on that dance floor. For now, Carinn is on a mission to find that perfect pair of tango shoes.

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