United States

Tango in New York City

Looking for a tango partner, read the Craigslist ad.

I’d been in Buenos Aires a few months and was searching for the same. He was originally from New York, living in Argentina for … reasons he’d not want me to mention. We became good friends.

“I don’t want to visit New York until you’re back there,” I told him as I was leaving Buenos Aires.

That was ten years ago. He’d cleared his name, obtained a passport and returned home to secure his claim on his rent-free apartment in East Village.

“You can stay at my place,” he offered.

“Awesome!” I couldn’t pass that up. I’d written New York off as one of the most expensive cities in the world but, with half the expense waived and a screamin’ deal on airfare, I started packing.

“Meet me at Grand Central Station. I’ll be wearing a red leather jacket,” I confirmed.

“Great! If the rain clears up, we can go dance tango on the pier tonight.”

The pier was still wet when I arrived, so the next night, Monday, we walked four blocks from the apartment to the Ukrainian Restaurant. Down the hall and through the restaurant, we arrived at Ensueño Tango Salon in the Ukrainian Private Ballroom and paid our $13. The class was just finishing up and the room was full. We hadn’t made a reservation so were told there were no tables left; we would have to sit in the row of chairs against the wall. But, after the proprietor finished hanging her decorations, the table in the back corner under the speaker became available. We grabbed it and soon other latecomers joined us.

We had not danced together for 8 years. When we’d met, I’d been the better dancer and he was easily frustrated. But he had stayed in Buenos Aires and improved his skills dramatically. He had turned into a superb milonguero. It was wonderful to be in his capable embrace after so long.

The next evening, we walked to Cafe Argentino. This tiny restaurant in Brooklyn has live music every Tuesday—usually a bandoneonista, but this evening there was a guitarist and singer tucked into one corner. There is no charge for la Esquina de Falucho milonga. We sat at a small table for two beside the open entrance to the patio, ordered a glass of Malbec, and watched the dancers—on the floor and in the videos projected on the wall. The community was welcoming and I enjoyed tandas with highly-skilled tangueros. It was just like old times.

Wednesday, Pier 45 was dry enough to host Volvo Tango. We walked across Manhattan along 4th Street all the way to the Hudson River. Dark clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. A storm threatened but didn’t stop the dedicated dancers as the sun set over New Jersey. The hat is passed for donations.

Saturday morning we headed to Mariella’s Practica at Stepping Out Dance Studios. Andreas from Venezuela and Hugo from Uruguay made me feel like I could dance as well as any New Yorker. It felt good to be complimented by seasoned milongueros.

That afternoon we attended the first of the weekly Central Park Tango by the Shakespeare statue. It’s been operating for 23 years from June to September. Horses trotted carriages by and passersby applauded. The weather cooperated and there were no flies! It was such a treat.

Dancing tango in New York was halfway to dancing tango in Buenos Aires. The city itself, with its old European architecture, reminded me of BA. Many of the tangueros in the New York community were from somewhere else so the dancefloor was full of people from all over the world, speaking different languages and dancing in different styles. I truly felt like I’d had an international experience.

In my zest to stuff a week’s worth of clothes in a carry-on bag, I had neglected to pack tango shoes. Duh! I argued that I could dance in flats; my partner was short. Unfortunately, improper shoes left my feet vulnerable to injury … and I consequently ended up hobbling through the rest of the week. But it didn’t stop me from exploring Manhattan and dancing several times. I did purchase a pair of heels at a thrift store but I felt most comfortable dancing outdoors in my Birkenstocks. Not very sexy but totally doable. There’s no good excuse not to dance when you’re offered such a wonderful opportunity.

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