I was a little worried last Wednesday when I showed up for Tango class and there was only one other person in the room. It turned out that I was the only student that showed up. In a big class, you can hide behind more experienced dancers and get away with mistakes here and there. This class would be different. It was a rigorous start and stop session focused on improving my form, my step…no easy task, and my ability to guide my partner. Through the windows, I could admire the early twentieth century architecture of the buildings on Florida Street and enjoy the beautiful tango that was playing in the room. The class was incredible and as I returned back to my home-stay I was so glad I took advantage of the opportunity to study in Argentina.
I feel it takes brief but powerful experiences like the tango lesson to really fall in love with the country you are visiting. My first week in Buenos Aires, I had many difficulties getting adjusted to cultural differences and appreciating the unique beauty of the city. Things started to change, however, after my first trip to an Estancia, or ranch, where the Argentinean Gauchos worked and lived. I had read excerpts of the poem Martín Fierro which describes the larger than life character of the Gauchos. But until seeing them in person, the work seemed like any other form of propaganda portraying one lifestyle as more exciting or more honorable than another. After meeting the Gauchos and seeing the Estancia with my own eyes, Martín Fierro, seemed more like a documentary. The plains in Argentina are beautiful in their simplicity and extend for miles in every direction. And the Gauchos were the most charming individuals I have ever met. I was hoping to gain some skills through careful observation as to what made them so at ease around strangers, made them great dancers, and inspired them to sing about great stories and grand emotions long past. It could have been the horses they rode or their incredible ability at Corrida de la Sortija a competition that involves threading a needle through a tiny hole while riding horseback at a fast pace. Either way, they had a captive audience.