alejandra mantiñan

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Dawn is breaking in Buenos Aires. It’s 7am on Saturday and I’ve just got home from a night at La Viruta. At around 2.45am I saw Gabriel Misse and the beautiful Alejandra Mantiñan perform for the first time and they were stunning.

This morning the close of the Milonga with the traditional electronic tango in the dark, followed by La Cumparsita in the bright lights, was somehow extra special. My heart sang as I danced them with my good friend, Carlos. I know every beat of those two tracks now, every change in dynamic is familiar. I move to them with confidence, grace and passion. And it is extra special to dance them with someone who knows my dance and whose dance I know. I am lucky to be able to share precious moments such as these with my friends in a city that I have already grown to love.

Five nights, five Milongas – well actually six (two on Wednesday night!). I was fired up with determination this week, to practice, to progress, to experience better partners. I was rewarded on Wednesday with my best dances so far in Buenos Aires. After a stagnant start at La National, I headed to La Viruta where I was invited from my seat by a man that I first saw at Sabor a Tango, Bien Pulenta Milonga, on my second night in this city back in March. On that night I admired his dancing from afar and a small dream formed in my head. I felt that if one day a porteño who could dance like he did, ever asked me, I would have made it to tango heaven. Now I know that tango heaven exists for real.

Why a guy like him picks a woman like me I’ve no idea. He is young, dresses sharp, dances with poise and precision and with beautiful porteñas. As far as I know he did not see me dance on Wednesday. I had only just arrived at La Viruta and was sitting with friends. I was in my practice shoes, so it wasn’t my heels. I was looking fairly scruffy, so it wasn’t my looks. Gabriella had just said to me, ‘Hey Sal, look who’s here tonight. That amazing dancer.’ I glanced round and he was stood behind me maybe about ten feet away, with his black slicked hair and elegant suit. I turned back to her, ‘Yep it’s him.’ When I looked up he had moved and was in my direct line of sight. To my utter amazement he nodded at me. I almost had to turn to check his stare was not focused on some other woman. But no, I was certain. My heart raced and I nodded back. I prayed silently that I would not fall over, that he would not say thanks after only one dance, and I said to Gabriella, ‘Hey watch this…’ I knew she was going to struggle not to fall off her seat!

Dancing with this man was unlike anything I have ever experienced at a Milonga, anywhere. The dance floor was not crowded so we had space. He led with precision, passion, energy and creativity. I danced huge volcadas, sacadas, ganchos of every type. I danced figures I did not know I could dance. After the first dance he complimented me on my dancing, told me I was great, to relax. I struggled not to act like a kid with the biggest icecream on the planet, as we laughed together. He was human, not an untouchable tango god. He did not say ‘Gracias.’ and escort me back to my seat. I relaxed. After four tangos I felt it polite to ask him if he was happy to continue. There were no tanda breaks. I was worried he might want to stop. But he was happy. We carried on. We danced perhaps ten tangos – I lost count. Believe me this is a huge compliment from a dancer of his calibre. And his obvious enjoyment and his positive words throughout added to my joy. He said to me at one point, ‘Now all the men have seen you, they will ask you to dance.’ He didn’t speak English, but he definitely danced my tango language. By the time he did return me to my seat, we both looked rather disheveled: perspiration on our faces, my heart thumping with adrenalin. When I think back to the night I first saw him dance, two months ago, I know that I have come a long long way…

Last night, back at La Viruta, I watched two world famous tango dancers put on a show packed with passion, skill and grace. It was an honour to watch them as they danced tango, milonga and finally rock and roll! I want you to see them too. I am posting a video that I took. I do have to apologise for the sound. La Viruta is big on NOISE and I didn’t have the foresight to adjust the sound level on my tiny Pentax Optio S7. So before you watch, turn your volume right down and adjust your sound levels to minimise the distortion. I think the video is worth watching for the incredible dancing.  I also have a video of them dancing milonga which I am having problems uploading, but if I achieve the upload I will add a link to it here, so check back soon.

Only a few hours after they inspired me, let the incredible Alejandra and Gabriel inspire you. Then, go dance tango… and live!

Watch Gabriel Misse and Alejandra Mantiñan dance at La Viruta

See pictures of my week of Milongas in Buenos Aires

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