Buenos Aires: A Latin Bohemian Rhapsody

A Rhapsody in music is a piece work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing, with contrasting moods. It’s considered a freer type of music, unorthodox and extravagant in expression.  If a rhapsody could be defined with a city, Buenos Aires would encapsulate it.

The Tango – a ballroom dance originating in Buenos Aires, characterized by marked rhythms and postures and abrupt pauses.

Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is its largest and most vibrant cosmopolitan city. Buenos Aires is the epicenter of technology, culture, commerce, industry, and politics.  All Latin American cities are influenced European culture in language, architecture, music, and food. Buenos Aires is no exception, but on a much larger scale.

History of the tango

In the 19th century, the working-class introduced the tango, a vibrant dance created in the working-class peripheries of Buenos Aires.  Tango was a huge hit in big cities like London, Rome, Berlin and New York. It became the dance everyone wanted to learn, and even became an influencing factor in changing fashion. For example, women giving up their traditional Victorian corset so they could better master the dance.  Dancers showcase sensual moves evoking romance and nostalgia, specifically “lost love,” or “unrequited love.” Originally, the tango was shunned by middle to upper classes because of its origination from the working classes of society. As Argentina became wealthy around the turn of the century, rich families would often look for adventure and excitement in the lower socio-economic parties of Buenos Aires, and learned the tango as part of their cultural norm.  

A milonga is a social event or location for tango dancing. In essence, milongas are tango dance parties.

Milongas

A milonga is a common event in Argentina.  It’s an organized event where people can dance the tango. On any given night of Milonga,  you can find numerous people sitting around a dance floor, drinking wine and enjoying the dancers. Milongueros, usually out-of-towners and backpackers take the lead and dazzle the crowd.  As a word of caution, most don’t get going until midnight or after. So get plenty of rest during the day before you embark on this endeavor.  More experienced dancers will show you the etiquette once the dancing commences.  Once you get comfortable, it’s paramount that a beginning dancer does not ask for a dance until the music starts playing. Doing this prevents a situation where you don’t want to dance to a song you aren’t familiar or comfortable with.  Milonga “tango tours” are common in Buenos Aires. It won’t be difficult to find a group of professional dancers offering events and lessons for people from across the globe.

Language & People

Listen and watch the locals speak to each other.

The widely spoken language of Buenos Aires is Spanish.  It would be helpful to take a class before you visit. But keep in mind that Argentinian Spanish is different from the language common in Spain. Argentinian Spanish has heavy Italian influences. Most locals in Buenos Aires are descendants of European ancestry.  Sit in a local cafe and hear English, Portuguese, Italian, German, and indigenous languages like Mapuche, Guarani, Aymara, Toba, and Quechua throughout the city. Buenos Aires is a melting pot of cultures.

Many places offer Tango lessons in Buenos Aires.  They cater to non-Spanish speakers. Some even offer free classes.

Explore

From the European style architecture to the vibrant restaurants, to the seductive and stimulating dance of the tango, Buenos Aires is ideal for any adventurer looking to expand her comfort zone.  Adapting to Buenos Aires’ bohemian culture is like learning the Tango. You need to watch, listen, and learn from the locals. As a result, you will let yourself loose and go with the flow.



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