End of Season SALE!

Save 20% in all tickets. EnterTANGOTIX at checkout. Great Seats! Free Cancellation!

Tango in the streets: I HEART Buenos Aires moments

Photo credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia 2011


I must admit, I am still yet to see any spontaneous moments of people dancing tango on the street here - an expectation that visitors to Buenos Aires commonly have. Excluding myself (I have been known to practice boleos while waiting for the bus) it seems that impromptu outbreaks of dancing tango on street corners are a myth created from having tango buskers who frequent the infamous markets of Caminito and San Telmo.


But it is true that many porteños live and breath tango in daily life. Not necessarily by frequenting milongas every weekend or even necessarily dancing this wonderful dance, but in a way that rises up from the soul of the city´s heart and worms its way into the culture. If you have your eyes and ears open, you´ll see this through their daily interactions and, what I like to call, I HEART Buenos Aires moments - those moments which make you stop and smile and can only happen if you´re in this wonderfully alive city.


One such fine example of this happened to me during a particularly warm pre-spring day. Out on my bike, enjoying the city at a relaxed pace only achievable with a single-gear bicycle, I became aware of a rather familiar tango melody weaving its way through the traffic chaos. As tango music radiating from cars common here, I did not see any peculiarities about this particular moment and continued on my way, happy at the possibility of a soundtrack to accompany my journey. As the voice continued singing with passion and gusto, it dawned on me that there was no backing track of a bandoneon lament or mourning soulful violin. As the flow of traffic drew to a stop at a red light, a middle aged man with a sun baked face and rough work-worn hands glided past me on his cycle-rickshaw bike, singing this tango at the top of his lungs.  He gestured with a large sweep of his arm and shake of his hand to direct his love and appreciation to the sun, the cornflower blue sky and any woman pedestrian who was crossing his path (tango is, after all, about love).


As the light turned green, he continued on his way down the busy city avenue singing loudly and seemed blissfully at peace despite the loud and obvious large city going ons that were all around him. How happy he seemed with only his bike, the sun and, of course, tango. After all, this city is all about romancing and if its residents can add romance to a trip down a busy avenue, it signifies that there is something special in their veins.


As a visitor to Buenos Aires, it´s easy to think that tango is only alive in the milongas and dance halls. However, it is not unusual to see old transistor radios tinkling out the tango-only station from the sill of a shuttered window during Sunday mornings. During a taxi-ride home, a friend mentioned to the driver that she was heading to a small barrio milonga and he launched into an excited monologue of how he knows and admires the DJ of the milonga, how much the music of tango speaks to him as a porteño, how he enjoys meeting those people who come to the city to experience it and would she like two free entries to several of the milongas that were happening this week?


Tango started in the barrio and there its heart remains, in the eyes of the old man you sit next to on the bus, in the heart of the gorgeously wrinkled woman sitting next to you on the subte, in the veins of the two gentlemen playing chess in the park on a Saturday, in the connection between generations as the young discover the vinyl of their parents, in the couple kissing in the doorway, and in the gatherings of young folk who can surprise you with their knowledge of and appreciation for the tango of old. Watch out for the tango, it hides in the simplest of places. 


There are no comments yet

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up