La Glorieta is one of my favourite venues for tango in Buenos Aires.
Under its roof I have felt apprehensive (my first night out in Buenos Aires tango, alone), high (after my first ever tanda with Carlos, on my first night out in Buenos Aires tango, alone), caressed by romance (after my second ever tanda with Carlos, one week later), the joy of sharing (on countless occasions ever since when I have taken visiting friends there), crushed (watching the qualifying rounds of the Metropolitano 2007), part of an Argentine life (dancing with the Argentines, in the chilly winter, in my coat, under the moon), and always very very happy.
Why is La Glorieta my kind of place?
It seems to me that it is a place for everyone: to dance, to watch, to chat, to kiss, to be.
It’s outside in a public park and so touches dancers and non-dancers alike: people sit and drink mate on the grass, or stand around on the stone walkways as dusk falls. Children mimic the dancing they see up above. Old folk sit on benches, listen to the music and chat to the dancers as they change their shoes. Passers by are attracted by the drifting melodies, can see tango being danced, perhaps for the first time. People arrive on foot, on bicycles, on motorbikes, on the bus, on the subway.
It’s relaxed: no reservations, no tables, no competition for the best seats, just smiles and shoulders touching as the night gets darker and busier. Eyes meet easily here, or a quiet, ‘Bailas?’ is equally appropriate. Everything and everyone is in the mix: tango shoes, street shoes, people dressed for dancing, people dressed for a walk in the park, the old, the new, the young, the ‘mas grande’ (that means the older not the bigger – well in this context anyway), the friends, the lovers, the singles, a million and one different tango styles and quirks, the beginners, the old hands, the Argentines, those from other countries. This is social dancing for fun, for love, for joy.
It’s kind of home made and reminds me of English summer events outside: the spaghetti junction of cables running to the music system; the music itself, that sometimes falters or changes from vals to tango mid tanda; the lengthy announcement that breaks the evening in two; the ‘no loo’ scenario.
It’s beautiful: the shadows that play in the roof; the weak lights that sometimes give up to let the moonlight in; the extra gentle sound and fresh air when it rains; the curled ironwork which I can lean on, or tie my bag to, or just notice; the wide stone steps; the smooth tiled floor that has felt the sweep of many feet.
On Sunday evening, Carlos and me danced in La Glorieta. Our bodies had wonderful conversations: laughing through milongas, chatting excitedly through valses, whispering through tangos. We watched too with fondness, and chuckled to see an old couple talking aloud constantly as they danced, their torsos pulled apart by their chatting heads. I said, ‘They’re are deciding what to eat for dinner, no?’. During the next tanda a joking C. gave it a go with me, ‘Shall we go to Disco or Coto? What shall we buy?’ We lasted about 30 seconds. ‘Que diferencia!’ Carlos seemed mortified, ‘How can you feel anything if you are talking?’
Too true eh? I have thought the same as a few men in the past have wittered on in my ear… How can you listen to my heart (never mind the music) if you are talking to my head? And why are you letting your voice stamp on your own soul? And, when I’m dancing with you I don’t care who you think you are or what you think the people dancing next to us are doing or who you have decided I am: I want to feel who you really are… so please just shut up and then you might find out who I really am too…
Carlos and me laughed, closed our mouths and left our bodies to it.
As we walked home from La Glorieta on Sunday evening, Carlos told me that he would never have spoken to me before dancing with me, in any other Milonga. But at La Glorieta last April he did so because we happened to be standing next to each other during the mid-evening announcements, close enough together for conversation to be natural. He says he looked at me and thought I looked alone and slightly anxious (he probably means terrified). He says he wanted to help me to feel better, to smile. His tentative, ‘Where from you?’ or some such delightful variation did not fail. Carlos tells me he still can’t believe that he actually spoke to me like that, out of nowhere, him being the shy soul that he is. That he noticed me at all, that he was inspired to speak, that he tried a few English words… these are the things I marvel at. I think La Glorieta smoothed our way with its open nature and generous spirit.
I feel that La Glorieta is a place with a beautiful soul, in part formed of all the magical connections created under the curve of its roof. The memory of our first tentative encounter is in there somewhere, mixed with the echo of their easy conversations, the depth of your kisses, the energy of their dancing, the song of your laughter.
Perhaps if you dance there, you will feel it too.
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