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  • Dawnelle Salant

How To Party in Buenos Aires on New Year's Eve

It Takes Two to Tango - And You Better Hope I’m Not Your Partner

New Year’s Eve in Buenos Aires is the opposite of most of the rest of the world. Everything closed around 6 - including restaurants. Being tourist staying in a hotel with no restaurants open posed a slight problem for dinner. Our only option was to hit the corner store, so our New Year’s Eve feast consisted of a beer, nuts, crackers and a dulce de leche covered biscuit. So by the time we left for our New Year’s Eve Adventure, we were already starving and a little apprehensive of what the night would bring. Residents of Buenos Aires celebrate New Year’s Eve by having house parties, so we ended up heading to a house party in San Telmo, BA’s boho neighbourhood. How do two Canadians who know no-one in Argentina end up at a house party in BA on New Year’s Eve? AirBnB experiences - there are actually many activities you can book on the website, there is a lot more to AirBnB than just accommodation. We rang the bell with pounding hearts, but when our host, Manu, greeted us, all doubts disappeared. After an awkward moment when he went it for a kiss in the traditional Argentinian greeting, he invited us into his house and we were blown away by our surroundings. After a treacherous climb up a steep, rickety, winding metal staircase, we ended up on two rooftop terraces with a cool breeze that gave us delightful goosebumps. We were the first ones to arrive, because we were on time. (Argentinians are never on time, and I knew that, but I also hate being late!) Within a few minutes, other tourists started arriving. Other guests, besides a big group of locals, included people from New York, London, Texas, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Milan, Switzerland and Kentucky - (quite possibly the girl responsible for Bye Felicia!) The first portion of the evening consisted of a tango lesson. I will keep this short, because it was genuinely a mortifying experience. I’m glad I did it, but I can not say that I enjoyed it. I learned that Tango is in your heart, not your mind. You feel tango, you don’t think it. It is all about connection, and when you are dancing with a stranger who knows nothing about tango, all you do is think and there is very little possibility of connection. You don’t use your hips in tango so the couple from Brazil had a difficult time. Manu told us to keep your spine straight - that line doesn’t move. We had to keep our knees bent, our eyes closed and sway - side to side, and back and forth. That was the easy part. Then we were put into pairs and had to sway, then stop, and the leader (I was never sure who the leader was, especially when I was dancing with another woman and we were’t allowed to talk) had to guide their partner forward or backward with steps. There were other things we attempted - like pivoting, which Manu pronounced peevote - when I finally figured out what he was saying, I yelled out PIVOT, in a a most Ross Geller like fashion. I do think that if I had a partner who knew what they were doing, and I’d had more than 10 hours sleep in 4 days, I may have performed a little bit better. It’s definitely something I’d try again, but a group lesson for beginners did not make Dawnelle a tango dancer.

After the lesson, everyone converged on the other rooftop terrace to grab a drink and socialize. This is one of those times that I put my camera down and just soaked everything in. Photos would never do this experience justice. To be in an authentic experience like this is a rare thing and I just wanted to be present. I chatted with people in English, Spanish and tried out some of my Portuguese. We toasted the New Year with Champagne and everyone hugged and kissed each other on the cheek in true Argentine fashion. We watched fireworks exploding all over the city. I couldn’t think of a better way to start 2020 - and the adventure of a lifetime. We danced to some fantastic 80’s music, and as the night wore on, the live musicians started playing and the dancers started to tango. The first dancers were two men - totally normal and completely mesmerizing. The dance is something really special, it shows a connection between two people as they move and follow each other. It’s not necessarily a romantic connection, but one of being present in the moment and savouring each other’s presence. It’s enthralling. One thing I love about travel is meeting other people, and I don’t believe that I have even been in a such a unique and remarkable situation - with people from such diverse backgrounds and so many different countries. Watching the dancers and the live musicians so completely entranced in their celebration actually brought tears to my eyes. I felt privileged to be there. Finally at 3:30, after fighting jet lag and lack of sleep, we decided to call it a night. People were incredulous that we were leaving “so early”. In fact, throngs of people were just showing up. It was so hard to get a taxi or uber that the singer had to drive us and another couple back to the hotel. I don’t think this evening could have been any more perfect, or authentic. I am truly blessed.


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