Argentina and the Art of Being into It

June 21st, 2014

It being whatever it is, and Argentina being a good place to be.

I've been to two tango shows since landing in the Southern Hemisphere. The first was at a large venue with tables and back-lit agate (a favored assemblage in these parts which casts a lovely glow on all; I quite like it). The second was a much less formal affair in a drama department-style theatre wedged into the back of a shopping mall. No agate, but a proliferation of endearingly shitty stage equipment including chintzy stenciled backdrops and a malfunctioning fog machine that gave out a little poot after every performance. The unfailing flatulence of that thing had me in stitches. I nearly burst out snorting like an unfettered donkey traipsing o'er the buttercups every time, but thankfully managed to swallow and nose-pinch myself into relative silence.

There was a little bonus-show caught two nights in a row at the intersection of two streets, performed by apparently non-busking buskers, as well. They didn't want money, they didn't need a flat surface for dancing, they were just doing it, the it they'd chosen. That's been a running theme, here; the shameless delivery of interest, an open infatuation with the thing at hand. I imagine the Argentines themselves would call this la pasiĆ³n, but on second thought it's entirely possible they're not even conscious of this, their most alluring quality.

My eyes might be called western. I grew up in California and have lived in a handful of other states, but my travels have taken me decidedly outside of that particular nest (or so I'd think). Romania, Mexico, Costa Rica, Sweden, Turkey, Serbia, Hungary...surely somewhere in there one could say my States-o-Matic Perception Unit has enjoyed a few glitches. So it's quite the surprise when I realize my eyes have as yet unmet comparable kismet --the palpable goodness of fit between people and whatever it is they're doing.

To wit, the least talented of the dancers in the second show (...poot) may have lacked the finesse of her peers, but her sheer enjoyment of every move, her wonderfully embodied delight at the trickiest parts, the smile that her partner couldn't help but mirror, despite his efforts to affect the typical tango visage of drama, more than compensated for her merely competent dancing, as far as I'm concerned.

Street musicians are in on it. One kid, sitting on an upturned bucket somewhere downtown, with a series of other such buckets laid out before him, proceeds to lay out an incredibly precise series of beats and is unmistakably having a ball. People walking down my street --the theatre street--, break into song here and there without a trace of hesitancy or shyness. Pizza hawkers and confection counter workers tie up their take-out gingerly with little strings, whistling, smiling, seemingly unaware of this western-world rule that everyone hates their job.

Perhaps an army of exceptions awaits around some corner of "getting settled" or "different district", but I daresay the positive impression is made, and will be the unblemishable first of this land.

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