Dario taught a swing dance classes in Parque las Tejas/ Tiles park. Despite now living in Buenos Aires, he’s sowing small seeds and nurturing a swing dance community in his home city of Cordoba. Some of those in the class are hip hop and house dance enthusiasts as well as Dai Zapata, an experienced Cordobes tap dancer.
As it was Dario’s last night we had to commemorate the occasion with a dance under the white bridge with the Christmas tree of lights in the distance.
Although barely audible we’re dancing to ‘Wham’ by The Hot Sugar Band.
This is the Campeonato Porteno de Swing/ Buenos Aires Swing Dance Championships and the build up has been exciting with everyone seemingly rehearsing their socks off to refine their coreos/ choreographies. Dear Dario, another kindred Herrang spirit has been consumed with rehearsals and we’re yet to meet and share a mate.
Before I go any further, let me translate Porteno for you! This word refers to somebody from Buenos Aires, a port city = ‘port-eno’. For example:
a ‘Portena’ government building graced with Jacaranda trees of violet blossom.
A ‘Porteno’ taxi.
Elspeth la Inglesa
I meet Elsie, a new pal, on a sun-drenched Saturday morning Avenida and we travel across the city to Pedro Goyena together. Elsie is from Bristol and we met at a Swing City dance class the week beforehand.
She talks in the very best slang that is so familiar to me and her company is muy linda! Together we jabber enthusiastically ‘effing, jeffing as we go, flinging in healthy dollops of sarcasm and random metaphor. Yes, I’m learning Spanish but sometimes it’s nice to take time out and let off steam in your mother tongue.
Elsie’s here in Argentina for six weeks to take stock, dip her plimsolls into Swing dance in Buenos Aires and to work with an alternative farming community in the countryside beyond the city.
We arrive at a beautiful dance hall in a 1930’s building. Dancers are buzzing around with their contest numbers pinned to their clothes. As always in this scene there is the sweetest mix of ye olde 1920s-50s ‘vintage’ variation mixed with casual comfortable plimsols, t-shirt, jeans.
Las Chicas line-up for the Open Jack & Jill.
Meet Jack y Jill
El Campeonato begins with an Open Jack & Jill. To give you a quick definition:
a J&J allows your ability as a dancer to be tested by dancing with a random mix of partners to music chosen by the Deejay, over a number of heats.
This contest was Open to all abilities as opposed to an ‘Invitational’.
Elsie enters the contest but I’m afraid I cower out. This Jack and Jill takes place over four sets with the best dancers selected from Round 1 to compete in subsequent rounds. With each heat, the number of dancers is whittled down to finalists.
I get up and get busy during the 20 minute social dancing breaks in between the Jack & Jill. After some lovely dances I have a surprise reunion with Gabriela, Cinthia and Cesar – we met last year in Brazil. They’ve flown over to compete. Here they are in the Solo Charleston Finals.
As the afternoon progresses I swoon at the talent and dedication of so many dancers here. I am full of admiration. Here’s are the Jack & Jill Finals: *cut to 2:22 for the solos!*
Una Pausa por Alfajores y café con crema
Elsie and I nip out for a much need break of fresh air, natural light, alfajores y café con crema. Upon our return, las coreos comienzan and we sit cross-legged to enjoy the fruits of the previous weeks’ laborious practise. I do love this!! Such humour, creativity and endeavour. This community is motivated and progressive. The energy here is in full flow.
This is my favourite showcase! Rachel Austin y Alex Morgan mix it up and dance like ninjas: “increIBle”!!
Find films of other choreographies at the bottom of this post 🙂
After all, no After Party for Me 😦
As the CAPOS continues into the night, my social batteries slowly wind down and I decide to forego the after party. I catch the No.24 colectivo to Avenida San Juan where I’m staying with amazing Couchsurf host Luciana. Sweaty and in much need of a change of clothes I can’t even comprehend the after party despite Marcela’s encouragement, dressed as a 1920s flapper girl shouting across to Elsie y I on a busy bus at 1am.
Jazzy night bus.
The future is: Campeonato America del Sur
Back to normality at Swing City classes on Monday evening, Juan Villafane is describing his aspirations for the CAPOS. Over the next couple of years the team will continue to grow the event, link-up with scenes in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay and evolve this into the South American Swing Dance Championships. The ambition is exciting and I can’t help but feel drunk on Swing-love! (yes, I’m giddy!)
With such a feeling the enormous ocean between us here in Buenos Aires and Europe ….or the miles of land to North America and west to Korea, Japan, India, China….these distances all fade away and through this community I feel such a comfort of human connection 🙂
(Thank you Ana Luz Crespi, ALC Fotografica for permission to use your photos.)
I arrived here at sunset by ferry from Colonia, Uruguay.
Our boat was welcomed by a sprouting of sky scrapers. Canary Wharf springs to mind, I feel a strange comfort. I imagine being an early immigrant arriving in this new land (before the skyscrapers) fleeing adversity and seeking some fortune.
Early 20th century European migrants to Argentina included the Fraser family from Britain. Many moved south to try their luck in Patagonia where their heritage still exists. (source: http://www.bbc.co.uk)
Puerto Madero y a small illuminated boat.
My backpack feels huge, like I’m giving someone a piggy back. I wish it were lighter…smaller…but on this trip, with plans to head south to Patagonia just like the Fraser family, I included a tent and camping kit plus hiking boots…oh, and a 36″ hula hoop. This is the consequence 🙂
On emerging from Puerto Madero I haggle for a good taxi fare to Colegiales where Matti lives. We met through Capoeira in Salvador. I stay with him for my first few days and he helps me get organised with a Subte transport card + phone sim + phone apps to translate this matrix of calles /streets y colectivos /buses y barrios /neighbourhoods.
“Oh no” for Alfajores!
Matti also introduces me to ‘Alfajores’….oh dear, my Achilles heel twerks: they’re like a ultra-uber-mega-souped up Wagon Wheel with a smother of dulce di leche in the middle. To update you: ‘dulce di leche’ is one of the pillars on which Argentine gastronomy is rooted 🙂 A condensed milk caramel, it’s ubiquitous here and heavenly to taste. Danger!
‘A’ is for Alfajor
I feel a distinct absence of culture shock being here in Buenos Aires. I keep reminding myself that I’m no longer in Europe but thousands of miles across an enormous expanse of ocean. According to the Portenos/ Buenos Airean locals, many profess Italian descent; the architecture here is a mixture of Italian, French and Spanish baroque as well as Art Nouveau and Deco. All in all the Euro-vibe starts to make sense.
This is a Swing City!
As always the local Swing dance scene is my faithful key, travel companion, my portal into a parallel experience. Buenos Aires is blessed with a bulging scene of daily classes and social dances. I am overjoyed and overwhelmed! Where does one triple step to first?!
Celeste and I after her super class above a bookshop in San Telmo / A pilgrimage place for Swing dancers the world over: Herrang!
Lovely Celeste meets me at a Big Band night in Belgrano, my first night on the town. She’s been non-stop all day with rehearsals for the forthcoming CAPOS (Campeonato Porteno de Swing/ Buenos Aires Swing Dance Championships). We met back in August in Sweden at the infamous Herrang Dance Camp.
Thankfully, she advises which classes to take and introduces me to two Americans who have lived here in the big Latino Smoke for the past year, Heather and Blake.
‘Baila Swing’ con Lu Salinas y Jose Zarazaga.
Swing San Telmo with Celeste y Mariano.
Swingin’ Nights at the Niceto Club. Free Entry with my Swing City membership card 🙂
Tiempo para Aprender Espanol/ Time to learn Spanish
I take the leap and enroll myself on one week of Spanish classes on Suipacha from Lunes/ Monday. I must learn the language here! no excuses. This is a valuable lesson learnt from never-quite-grasping Portuguese in Brasil to any level other than limited casual chat.
Medialuna = ‘Half moon’. Croissant cafe bakeries are everywhere in Buenos Aires.
After a couple of days of four-hour classes plus afternoon orientation tours, I’m tired but go along to Swing City dance classes nearby on Sarmiento. This is the Escuela de Baila Swing/ Swing dance school of jazz dance star Juan Villafane, Mariel Gastiarena y Manuel Bicain Goral. The mirrored studio is great, there are students a plenty, …..remarkably the Leads outnumber the Follows! and the class content is generous and challenging. !! HURRAH !!