Personal highlights of Buenos Aires

Serrano st

Samba school
I was very proud to have learnt to samba! Well enough to at least join in with the slow, old and retired samba dancing crowd of Brasil.

If only the ashram in India could see just how unsuccessful they were in flushing out the meat and dairy eater in me..tsk tsk. The rumours around the world are true – the steak in Buenos Aires is simply irresistible to any carnivore.

Only in Buenos Aires will you see a young couple in love slowly and ever so tenderly start dancing the tango while waiting for the bus at the bus stop. It was so sweet and adorible that it actually induced feelings of nausea in me … show ponies..

The Nightlife
Between the food and the nightlife, I would have surely died a blissfully high and heavily cholesteroled death in Buenos Aires. Much respect to the talented DJs at Club Bahrain, especially for it’s Drum & Bass Tuesdays, and its dual electro and reggaeton saturday nights which satisfied both the needs of K and myself. (I can’t stand reggaeton, K can’t stand electro)

And most importantly, the People (Che!)
I’ve never met a friendlier bunch of people who were willing to share their thoughts, opinions, customs, country and their homes. Whether it was standing in line at a bar, waiting at the bus stop, finding like-minded music lovers at a club, or attending a pool competition and being welcomed into the pool circuit crowd. These people are coool!

Vic, my dear Argentine friend who took K and I on his infamous ‘undercover pub crawl’ once said ‘The air in Buenos Aires is so thick and humid you have to swim through it’, true in so many ways. There is a graceful movement to Buenos Aires, a current of heat and pleasurable indulgence that’s hard to resist and much easier and more enjoyable to just ‘float along’ with.

‘Buenos Aires is the gem of South America’ a statement made from several foreign and local acquaintances.

‘The gem’, .. perhaps. ‘A gem’, definitely! 🙂

I can samba baby…SAMBA! – Samba 4

By the 5th lesson it was all coming together. Feet, hips, arms. There were even moments when I thought not only was dancing the samba heaps of fun, but that it was actually starting to look good!

T, referring to the music – ‘So is this the type of music they play at carnival in Rio?’

Belu and Matias, another dance instructor at Bailer, laugh at me, then positioned themselves to do a demonstration… An amazing demonstration with leg action faster than I could count!

The music for carnival was about a hundred times faster than the songs I had been practicing to.

T, lets out a long – ‘… shiiiiiiiiiit!’

Martias, laughs – ‘I felt that come straight from your heart! Yes, for every 1 2 3 that you do, Belu just did 4 or 5.’

Belu – ‘And the girls in Rio do it in high heels! That’s why when you see them dance they have big muscles in their legs, and big butts.’

With this confirmation that I was far from being Rio samba ready, I booked another week of private samba classes.

Watch your arms, it’s not pretty – Samba 3

Belu – ‘Now, when you move your arms to samba it has to be tense with relaxed lady like hands. What you’re doing is more Thriller’ (refer to Michael Jackson dancing zombie graveyard scene)

For some reason, while trying to concentrate on swinging my hips and getting the 1 2 3 step, my hands would refer to the more crab claw position with a ‘zombie coming to get you’ like swing. When trying to relax my hands in an attempt to be more ‘lady like’, they would start finger-pointing or tense into a stop sign.

I was like a hip-shaking, samba dancing traffic controller.

It’s all in the hips – Samba 2

Belu spent the next 2 samba lessons concentrating on my stiff hips.

Belu, counting out the basic step – ‘123, 123, 123, Hips Hips Hips, I want to see more hips..MORE!’

It was like my hip joints were fused together and had no mobility or muscle strength. I started wondering if 30 was too old to start learning the samba (?)

Then on the third day I let my posture slacken out of exhaustion with my arse sticking out and, low and behold, my hips started swinging to the beat and in time with the steps.

T to Belu, stunned with swinging hips – ‘look, my hips are moving, they’re MOVING! Hip hip hip hip… ‘

Belu had performed a samba miracle on me, and I was not an easy student – tired, hungover, and stiff most of the time with a serious lack of arm, hip, feet, left and right coordination. It wasn’t a simple task for her – She’s just a brilliant dance teacher!

I was very happy with this hip swinging breakthrough.

Belu, relieved – ‘Good. Tomorrow, we work on the arms.’

Samba’s first shocking lesson – rhythm, co-ordination, where are you?!

The first night K and I ventured out into Palermo, we followed the drum beats to a Brazilian bar called Foyness. In Foyness there was an amazing live band playing with a female lead singer who was absolutely gorgeous! Her voice was incredible and the hypnotic shakes of her hips and rhythmic movements of her arms held me captivated. I fell in love… With her dancing!

In the following week, I found a dance school- Bailer – in Palermo and tried to describe what I had seen without the use of re-enactment. The helpful staff at Bailer informed me that what I needed to learn was the Samba. As the group classes fell at an inconvenient time, and I had limited time in Buenos Aires, I booked myself in for some private lessons.

Thank f#cking Christ. Because what happened in that first private lesson should never be exposed to the public. It was hideous. The movements felt so foreign, so alien to my body. My hips, feet and arms felt like they belonged to different creatures – a duck, hippo and goat, each with their own interpretation of beat and direction. I was so far removed from words like graceful, and sexy, and dangerously too close to descriptions like abominable, with all sorts of wrongs happening simultaneously. No one should ever be forced to see themselves like this, I resembled the snakes on Medusa’s head – the more I watch myself attempt to Samba the stronger the urge to be stone still.

My instructor, the beautifully fit and talented Belu explained that the Samba steps are very very difficult. But that the movement was ‘just like walking’. Hmm, 30 years of ‘walking’ did NOT prepare me for this moment…

Funnily enough, I’ve used that line myself a couple of years ago when I was annoyingly frustrated at Mark for not getting the basic Salsa step ‘Mark, it’s just like walking! What’s WRONG with you!’

He never did get that dance. And after the first Samba session I was pretty doubtful that I would ever get this dance, and whether something this unattractive and improper could possibly evolve into something presentable in time for Carnival in Rio.