This is going to be the last blog about Buenos Aires milongas (at least for now). It's time we got back to the whole 'historical novels' thing.
We went to Club Gricel last time
we were in Buenos Aires and it was very quiet. I vaguely remember going
there before, many years ago, and wondering then what the fuss was
about. This time we found out.
An important thing to remember
about milongas in Buenos Aires is that the same place can be very
different on different nights. Fashions change too: a place that is
wildly popular one year can be deserted the next. Well in 2012, it seems
that Thursday nights are the time to turn up at Club Gricel.
get there about 10.30, which we thought would be on the early side, but
the place was already heaving. It's a great barn with a bar at one end
and tables packed around a floor probably rather less than half the size
of the main London clubs.
We'd been at an incredibly crowded place in the
afternoon and admired the way that the dancers moved like a shoal of
fish, each one pursuing their own agenda but merging harmoniously, so
that the crowd swirled like a single organism. Not so at Club Gricel. If
the dancers were better than in London, any technical
advantage was offset by the density of the crowd. Leaders here are
out to have a good time and impress the women with their exciting pivots
and turns. Never mind that there's barely room for a small forward
step, macho blokes in naff suits carve a space with their elbows. In
fairness, all the pushing and shoving is done with the upper body.
There's no insane boleros or wild sacadas. I am not kicked or trodden
on once and people are good tempered, even apologising if their
enthusiastic lane changes cut you up too blatantly. But anyone who
really believes that the famous Buenos Aires tango venues are packed
with elegant tangueros leading their partners smoothly through the steps
of a classic dance need only spend an hour at Gricel to discover that
this is far from always the case.
So why do people go? It's
crowded, the architecture lacks any distinction at all, the music is
much the same as anywhere else and the dancing is no better than you'd
expect in the crush. The answer is that I have absolutely no idea yet,
tired as we were, we were still there at 1.00am, fighting for our half a
square metre on the dance floor and (god help us) even attempting a
milonga (a fiendishly quick dance that most people like a bit of space for). We said 'hello' to two people we knew and recognised others we
don't know yet. We drank our coffee and strutted our stuff and staggered
out to walk half an hour home and collapse into bed (we had been
dancing all afternoon) tired but happy. And still not quite sure why.