Helaine's Adventures in Buenos Aires Tangoland - Episode #1
At a very crowded “Gricel” one Thursday night, I’d danced with a chubby young man who had given me the best of my 20 tandas that evening. His dancing was technically clean, richly complex, and musically stimulating, while he was always emotionally present, and navigated the dance floor skillfully and respectfully. I had asked him at what milongas I could find younger dancers like him. He recommended one that he said was the most “arcane (“known or knowable only to the initiate” - Merriam-Webster). I went there the following week.
This milonga was publicized to start at 11:30pm. I arrived at 12:30. I had to walk through a very noisy hall full of wild salsa dancers to climb the stairs to tango, and the room was empty, except for a two middle-aged Korean ladies eating pizza, and a table in the corner with about 10 athletic looking 20-somethings dressed in leggings, jeans, flip-flops or low, casual boots. Some of the girls wore no makeup. They were also eating together - looked like they had just finished a class and were having a bite before the milonga. At 1am the two organizers started setting up. A few couples were dancing modern tango to traditional tango music, including two blonde girls who looked European, taking turns leading each other. Black and white films from tango history were projected on a big screen.
One 40-ish Porteño, a decent dancer, who was hosting a pretty Brazilian lady around my age at his table, invited me to dance. I was feeling good about my dancing. But I had assumed I would NOT be dancing much that night with these people between 18 and early 30's - who danced amazingly well! Just in case, I decided to order water and not finish my glass of wine, to be prepared to dance. The kids who started coming onto the dance floor ranged from good to outstanding. A few seemed to be the caliber of any professional I've ever seen, and I realized that these young people have worked and studied a lot to achieve that level of skill. One young woman in colorful palazzo pants and a shirt tied at the waist was dancing so powerfully she seemed to vibrate. I watched her for a while and thought, “She dances like Virginia Pandolfi 'on steroids'!”
Next an 18-year-old boy, who looked even younger, invited me to dance. He was very good for his level of experience, but he apologized for being “lacking”. To me this boy was much better technically and musically than many of the milongueros who started 50-60 years ago, at his age.
A couple was brought to sit at my table, because it was a table for 4. They were around 30, good-looking and athletic. He turned out to be an American from Arizona, who's been living in BA and studying tango intensively for 6 years. She was a tango professional from Japan. We introduced ourselves and they got up to dance. Their dancing were gorgeous. I was so impressed that an American guy could dance like that. Later he moved to the seat next to mine to make room for someone, and we chatted at length. He told me a lot about his background, including his winning an Argentine award last year for his dancing. He runs a tango house for young people from abroad. He gave me a lot of referrals and advice, including the milongas he most recommends for high-quality tango, and the most effective ways he knows to find the right partner, from his own experience and others'.
The young American asked, “By the way, do you know who that is?” He pointed to the girl in the palazzo pants. “That’s Virginia Pandolfi!” Seeing her close up, in casual clothes, with hair simple and little makeup, I hadn’t recognized her. But I had recognized how she moved! I guessed that she had taught the class of the 10 students in the corner. (Watch the videos below featuring Virginia Pandolfi and Javier Rodriguez.)
The next week, I started following the American's advice, and I will tell you about my further adventures in upcoming episodes of "Helaine's Adventures in Buenos Aires Tangoland"!
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In the first "episode" of my new series, "Helaine's Adventures in Buenos Aires Tangoland", above, I mentioned how impressed I was with the girl who danced like Virginia Pandolfi "on steroids". She turned out to be Virginia herself, "unplugged", in a casual environment - a young, late-night milonga.
I haven't found a video to show you the "unplugged" side of Virginia. But last December, I sent my readers the following video of Virginia dancing with Javier Rodriguez, almost a year after his beautiful professional partner Andrea Misse had died in an auto accident. Javier's new partnership with Virginia began shortly afterward.
Have a look at this one again, and read the comments below from viewers if you like, but make sure to then scroll down to the second video link for the big video treat!
Recently, I saw a few videos in which Javier danced with someone else, and I wondered whether he and Virginia were still partnering. Well, here's the "video treat" I promised you: 9 minutes - two tangos and a milonga, with Virginia and Javier performing about a month ago at a festival in Monte Hermoso, Argentina:
Of course, I'm always happy to hear your thoughts!