Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The rookies enter the dance floor

"Bueno, izquierda, derecha, izquierda, piso, piso, da una vuelta! No, una vuelta! Esperate, 'perate, 'perate! Otra vez, otra vez... izquierda, no, no, NO! IZQUIERDA!"

These kind of instructions are becoming quite commonplace to Joo and me recently. It took us a couple weeks to get settled into San Telmo and find our groove with the daily life, cooking, Spanish, translating, etc., but we finally got around to pursuing one of our main goals in Argentina... the tango. The tango is a very sensual, beautiful dance centered around synchronization and creativity. You may have seen good Argentinian tango in particular in movies like Evita, Scent of a Woman, Save the Last Dance, or Mr. and Mrs. Smith. You may have seen Joo and I's level of Argentinian tango if you've ever watched college football.

Tango is everywhere in Buenos Aires. Yet, it still took us about a week to actually find a class because most places are filled with dancers who have been doing this their entire lives, or at least a few years. We eventually emailed 30 different teachers and sorted through the responses to find some in a good price range that would take beginners in their classes.

Our first class was in the basement of a club. There were about ten other couples there, most of them quite a bit older, and all of them much more experienced. Alberto, the male teacher, began by leading some steps and I tried to follow him as best as I could. Then I grabbed Joo and started swinging her around hopelessly until Alberto walked over laughing and said, "No, no, no. Básico. Básico."

Since then, we've had another public class with Alberto and Fernanda. We basically stumble around playing tango dodgeball as I yank Joo in all directions to avoid the other dancers flying at us. To sharpen us up a bit, we had a private lesson with a dancer named Patricia. In Korea, I never hired a private teacher because they charged $200 an hour. Patricia was only $26 for the hour and she helped us out significantly with the basics (even though there was no way we could remember the entire list of things we were apparently doing wrong!)

We're both very thrilled about the experience overall though, even if we are both quite clumsy at the moment. Learning to dance together with a soulmate has been a dream of both of ours for a long time, and to have it come true in the city where tango was born is euphoric. The only regret I have from the past few years is that I stopped taking salsa classes in Korea when I got too busy. I had taken lessons for about six months and was more confident, in shape, and happy than I had been in quite awhile from all the salsa adrenaline. But I've lost most of it. So the plan now is to learn tango in Argentina, and then relearn salsa on the way back North to the U.S.

In order to get our apartment floor ready for dancing, Joo and I (okay, it was basically only Joo) gave it a thorough cleaning. We even washed Vicky for the first time. Vicky is short for Vicuña, which is the blanket that has been Joo's salvation ever since Peru. She folds it over her like a pancake wherever we stay to give her a millimeter barrier from potential bedbugs.

On a complete tangent, although the steaks in Argentina are mouthwatering, I'm pretty sure there is at least one brand that might not be the biggest hit in the U.S. ...

So, as the stone boys continue to guard the streets of San Telmo, we feel more and more at home here every day (don't worry Mom, we still fully intend to return for Christmas!) and I hope that by the time we return home, we'll be good enough to give free tango lessons to any of you who so desire!


  1. Oooo, count me in on the dance lessons...it will be good for a laugh at least :). Glad you both are having fun with it! Cha Cha Cha - heather

  2. I see the writing on the wall....can't open a present until we do a dance. Mom

  3. haha... reminds me of the time when you guys came to Korea and I couldn't understand why Mom kept resisting the basic salsa steps I was teaching until I realized she thought we were going to dance publicly! Daniel