Monday, June 12, 2006


A girl has got to dance, right? But how the hell can you with all these heads in your way? No one can see you hidden away in the gulag near the bathroom or in a far corner. The seats you need to set your eyes on are in the front row. For example, in El Beso, these seats are the front rows on either side of the dance floor. In Maipu 444, they are the seats against the far wall in front of you as you enter the hall, as well as the first row on the right side of the dance floor. The seating heirarchy for the men is the same.

So, how can your work your way up the food chain so that you, too, can be queen of the jungle? It's the same stuff you have to deal with in the workplace. It's who knows whom. It's performance. It's schmoozing. It's politics, baby. You are under surveillance, guilty until proven innocent. It comes to this: The people who run the milongas look at how you dance, with whom you dance, and how often you dance, because having a milonga filled with good, popular dancers makes them the money.

True, being your hot, charming, witty self can open doors, and you'll probably have milonguero slobber all over you before you can say "agua con gas." Ultimately, though, it won't earn you respect as a dancer, only the lust of the men and the disdain of the women. Worse still, though you'll probably dance, you will not dance your best, and you will not be challenged to improve, which is something which we should be striving for in every area of our lives. So, why not show them that you are also a woman of substance and not just a pretty face with a hot bod?

When I first came to BsAs, I had no clue. No one knew me from a hole in the wall, so I found myself seated consistently in a no-man's land, whether that was four rows back from the dance floor or in a corner. The only men who would dance with me were the ones who approached me directly...a big milonga no-no which will be explained in a later blog entry. It was to my detriment that I accepted, because people watch each other dance, and what they saw was someone who couldn't dance.

The only chance I had to save myself from milonga purgatory was -- and this is the first law of jungle politics -- to
DANCE WELL. For me, this meant taking lessons to work on my technique, and implementing these changes at the milongas. Slowly but surely, people started to notice. The better dancers started asking me to dance, which meant I had to sacrifice dancing with the C level dancers, even if it meant not dancing for several tandas in a row. If you watch very carefully, the better milongueras, and milongueros, for that matter, do not dance a lot. They wait because they know they have the pick of the litter. People WANT to dance with them, so they can afford to be more selective...which leads me to the second law...

If you are going to dance, DANCE WITH THE BEST. OK, it's a hard, cruel fact that there are fewer men than women, and it's even more difficult reality that there are even fewer men in the testosterone pool who can actually dance. So, do you save yourself, or do you lower your standards? It sounds so high school, but why settle? You expect the best, so start choosing the best, damn it! If you are uncertain of the level of your perpective partner, ask around. You'll be surprised how the women keep records of how different men dance.

I must add a caveat to this second law, however. Sometimes, one likes to dance with someone out of friendship, because he or she is a gosh-darn nice person. This is so totally cool. I do it, and make no apologies. However, I have deliberately stopped dancing with people because they just weren't good for me any more. I had outgrown them. Think about this in terms of personal relationships. If you've outgrown a relationship, there is no point in staying. You'll be stifled, and you'll stop growing. You need to develop the capacity to let things go so that you can welcome new experiences. I am still pleasant with these people, but some have asked me when why I stopped dancing with them. I casually tell them (because who wants to hurt someone's feelings?) that my feet hurt; or I didn't see them; or I had so many invitations that night. After a few weeks of avoiding their invitation, they usually get the message, and don't bother looking my way.

The third and final law of jungle politics is -- ta-da! -- DANCE!!! But, wait, didn't I just say that the best dancers don't dance often? Why, yes, I did, but I didn't mean be a waste of space. I didn't mean be bump on a log. You worked hard, working your poor feet in those dance classes, so it's time to show people what you've learned. At least start looking at the people with whom you want to share a tanda. Before you know it, you'll be having three guys walking toward your table at the same time thinking you looked at them!

One more caveat: Sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how bad-ass you are on the dance floor, the dueno (the person running the milonga) just doesn't take to you. There's bad blood or karma between you guys, and you don't get the seat that you want. In the end, it doesn't matter, because a good dancer will always have dance partners. Your partners will seek you out. Of course, you have to make your presence known. Pass by their table on the way to the bathroom, and say, "Hello!" I experimented with this once, and, sure enough, although I was sitting further away from the floor than I would have liked, my "clients", as I like to call them, still sought me out.

So, to recap the laws of the jungle: 1) Dance well; 2) Dance with the best; and 3) Dance. These three rules will help get your booty closer to a prime seat near the dance floor where you belong!

Friday, June 09, 2006


To "manejar" through a jungle filled with Juans, Marios, and Ricardos (oh, my!), a girl needs to be prepared. Here is what I always stash in my bag:

1. Handwipes! OK, ladies, the ugly truth is that there are some people who don't wash their hands after they do their business...and I mean, men AND women. It's gross. And then these guys wanna get their paws all over my dress. Are you kidding me?!?! At the very least, YOU can be hygenic. I should hand these out like condoms. Hand-sanitizing gel would work, too.

2. Face wash or facial wipes. I like to put in 100% when I'm dancing. I like pressing my cheek against my partner's cheek. It just feels so nice and intimate. Unfortunately, you don't know where that cheek has been. Just think about it. If he's a really popular dancer, imagine how much muck from other women is collecting in his pores? And then there's HIS sweat. That muck and sweat is getting all over YOU. It's worse if he has a 5 o'clock shadow because he's basically scratching up your cheek and imbedding all the "mugre" into your pores. My dermatologist here saw lots of microscopic scratches and clogged pores on my right cheek, and I am RELIGIOUS about my nighttime skin cleansing regimen. Now, I try to wipe down a few times during the milonga.

2. Breath mints. You need them even if you think you don't. If your partner is particularly offensive, share the wealth.

3. Kleenex. Runny noses, little accidents, spare toilet paper.

4. Spare tampons. Because you never know.

5. Hand lotion. Washing your hands can take a toll on your skin. To keep your hands feeling and looking as young as a baby's ass, slather the stuff on. The guys will thank you.

6. Band Aids. I have my share of battle scars from other women's heels. Throw a few in your bag, and you're good to go.

7. Spare change. In case you need to tip the bathroom person for your allotted 2 squares of toilet paper.

8. Extra make-up. To think I use to envy the thin lips of my caucasian classmates in elementary school. Now I'm pouting it up like Angelina Jolie. I'm a Blistex/lip balm addict, and lipstick and lipgloss are really only primping products that I use on a consistent basis.

9. Business cards. I got tired of having to write my info. on napkins, so I picked up some pretty and cheap business cards with my name, e-mail, and (will be adding my) cell phone number. They come in handy if you happen to meet the love of your life or of the moment at a milonga.

10. Meds. Yay for self-medicating! My girlfriend does it by shopping. Another friend does it with vodka. I do it with magnesium. Apparently, it's suppose to help with stress. I also throw in some aspirin or Advil, and I always go prepared with my asthma puffer in case I'm surrounded by nicotine addicts.

Keep in mind that your bag doesn't have to end up looking like the local CVS or Walgreens. Buy travel size items, or empty one of those millions of little bottles of hotel shampoo you've stolen over the years, and go to town!

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Restaurant: Zadvarie
Address: Uriarte 1423, Palermo
Tel: 4831-2719

My boyfriend, in his attempt to sate my need for culinary variety, took me to the Zadvarie for lunch yesterday afternoon (Saturday). The business card reads,"Concina de Inspiracion Peruana, Sabores del Altiplano." I was expecting a llama (as in the South American animal, not "como se llama.")smorgasbord, but their menu proved to be inventive, a superfresh palate extravaganza.

For their lunch special, they offered a curry vegetable puree soup which warmed the bones, followed by cappeletis stuffed with chicken in a (relatively light) cream sauce. It rocked. The Man (the boyfriend, sidekick, bossman) ordered a salmon gravlax (gravlax=a way of preparing the salmon that involves dehydrating without leaving it completely dry) that came with 2 sides: quinoa with mango and bulgar/couscous. I think I ate half of his dish, too. Then, I ate almost all my mandarin cheesecake, which was just so lovely and light, and another dessert with algarroba (a tree indigenous to Paraguay and Argentina whose seeds are used for cooking) and chocolate drizzled ice cream. Delish. I ended up working out before going to the milonga that night AND doing more aerobics this morning! SO worth it, though.

Atmosphere: Minimal, yet warm. White tables and chairs, raw concrete walls. Funky sixties light fixtures. A clean, simple atmosphere which allowed the fantastic cuisine to shine.

Service: Excellent. Waiters were attentive, even as they were eating their lunch, which lasted all of 10 minutes. They always made sure their eyes were on the kitchen so they delivered our food the minute it came out.

Bathroom: Unfortunately, didn't think about this when I was there. Was too busy eating. (And, hey, this is my first restaurant review.) I will assume, however, that the high standard in the dining room can also be found in the bathrooms, as well. Will update when I return, which will be really soon, I hope.

Total damage: 50 pesos, including 2 non-alcoholic drinks

Overall: GREAT CHOW!

Friday, June 02, 2006


Hola, and welcome to my blog, fellow milonguera!

A few months ago, I was talking to an American girlfriend of mine about starting some kind of website or blog to inform women about the milongas and all the funkiness that goes along with being part of this scene. Voila! A few months later, out pops this blog. I'm hoping that it will serve women from all over the world who want an insider's look at the tango scene, an atmosphere that is unlike anything most people have ever experienced.

A little about moi. I'm a former psychotherapist/counselor/struggling actor/successful figure model who grew up in L.A. and lived in Arlington, VA until April 2005. A friend of mine introduced me to Argentine tango in D.C. in the mid-90's (God, doesn't this sound like it was eons ago???), and I've been dancing on and off -- through boyfriends and hairstyles, divorce, and graduate degrees -- since then.
At my most fanatic, when I was dancing almost every night, I decided to do my dissertation on the tango (as metaphor for soul...more on this later). Of course, one can't possibly do a dissertation without doing some kind of research, so I bought my ticket to Buenos Aires to experience what it was like to dance in the very birthplace of the tango.

I wish I had known then what I know now. It would have saved me a lot of frustration and embarrassment, and would have probably improved my learning curve in terms of my dancing. Because I didn't know the codes of the milonga and was way too eager to dance to take the time to learn about the idiosyncracies of the tango culture (and, indeed, it is a culture in itself... see how much my BA in international relations degree helped?), I danced with the worst dancers, which marked me as a tourist, an outsider, and "extranjera" only here to hit on another Argentine man. I learned by making a complete dork out of myself (which included slipping in front everyone at a milonga, being groped by a slimey guy as I danced, asking a guy to dance, etc. Oh, yes, and let's not forget not knowing the language well enough to defend myself!).

Now, after having lived and danced here for more than a year, I find that I am now dancing with some of the better old school milongueros, those who, had I not learned to say, "No" to some of the more unsavory characters, would have continued to ignore me, or alternatively, only shown interest in me to do the horizontal mambo, if you dig what I'm saying. Plus, the women are nicer to me, too! So, while I'm still an "extranjera," I am now an informed, educated extranjera who isn't going anywhere for a while. I like to think that I earned my seat in the "primer fila," a subject which will be discussed in a future blog.

But wait, there's more! What?! No, way! More bang for your buck? Yesiree. I'll be including a weekly restaurant review called the Milonguera's Chow Guide, a list of where to get decent clothing and tango shoes, teacher suggestions, what to do if you happen to fall in love with one of these milongueros, and a whole lot more! Ideas are just flying out of my head!

So, I welcome any advice, comments, suggestions, updates, or questions you may have. We, women, have got to stick together because it's a jungle out there!

Cheers, and happy tango-ing!

Tango Goddess