Let’s begin with what has long been the national dance of Argentina, tango. It was born out of the poor barrios of Argentina at the turn of the 20th century and a recipe of the complex blend of dances that arrived with the influx of thousands of immigrants during this period. Nowadays the spirit of tango oozes from every corner of the city and is performed by everyone, affluent or not.
Milongas (tango nights) blend the familiarity of a social club with the elegance of a 1930’s ballroom dance. You only need a vague sense of rhythm and, more importantly, etiquette to bask in the groove of venues such as Tango Cool and Viruta which welcome all abilities. These are places you can go (and I’d recommend) if you have never danced tango before. The atmosphere is laid-back and includes an eclectic mix of regulars and those who are testing the tango waters for the first time.
The more confident character may dare to enroll in clubs like La Calesita where congregations are slightly more unforgiving and acquiring a partner involves an elaborate code of subtle nods and eyebrow twitches. If you wish only to spectate, then this is somewhere you could come to see some serious tango skills.
However if cutting shapes in a silk shirt and suspenders isn’t your thing, perhaps you are more easily swayed by the thumping, egocentric, vinyl-spinning climate of one of Buenos Aires’ hip-hop clubs. The other week I was so lucky to tag along with some friends who had some Argentine friends who were all going to Club Variete for its popular hip-hop night M.O.D. If you like hip-hop music then this is a real treat. And if you know how to dance hip-hop then you’re in for a field day/night. From midnight on Thursday the club is flooded with street kids (with the odd gringo here and there) all there to either bop along to their beloved hip-hop music or to express themselves in an explosion of breakdancing. With their baggy jeans and lopsided flat-caps, it is like something straight out of a typical American street-dance movie.
And the talent is undeniable; these guys have clearly been practising for years. Teams of boys and girls battle it out to execute flips, spins, flares and slides in a man-made circle that seems forever floating around the dance-floor. The tempo is constant and the kick-drum never stops. The DJ makes sure that songs seamlessly travel from one to the next without any let-up to fuel an exhilarating evening that can be enjoyed by anyone.
Contemporary dance also holds a strong position in this vibrant city. It is this dance form that dominates the handful of very good dance schools dotted around Buenos Aires. Institutions such as Olga Ferri School of Ballet and Arte XXI offer intense courses with the aim to fine-tune the body and movements of its students into an exhibition of grace and athleticism so that they can perform on both a national and international stage. Important figures such as Paula Fontan and Freddy Romero, some of BA’s leading contemporary and modern dance teachers and choreographers have been crucial in inspiring thousands to follow in their step.
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