It's a barrio milonga, in the heart of "Villa Urquiza". It was filled with locals - there was only one table of tourists who had lost their way and ended up there instead of the much more famous Sin Rumbo a couple of blocks away.
Once again, Osvaldo and Coca knew everyone there, but it was no swanky downtown tango hall. Instead, we got the feeling that we were walking into a neighbourhood block party. At Circulo Apolo, you won't find a long line of single women and men staring hungrily at each other across an empty floor. The people were seated in in groups - couples, friends, families. Everyone had known everyone else for years. They were laughing, chatting, eating, drinking - dancing is only a little part of the fun on Friday nights.
We finished dinner. Osvaldo nonchalantly asked us, "What music do you like to dance to?" I thought a little and said, "Di Sarli..." - then I added, "We also like to dance to Donato's "El Adios"!" I was hoping to score some brownie points - it's Osvaldo and Coca's theme song. Osvaldo and Coca seemed to approve.
Then, half an hour later, Osvaldo told us to write our names on a piece of paper. We obliged. "What's that for?" we asked. "It's for me," Osvaldo said firmly, squirreling the paper away. We didn't ask why. He's the Maestro - you don't ask questions!
We learned that tonight was a special night - the 73rd or 74th (not quite sure, my memory fails me) anniversary party for Circulo Apolo. The festivities began with a long speech by the host, a baby-faced silver-haired man in a dark suit. It was a soft rambling monologue of "thank-you's", and here's my approximation and summary of what I think he said:
"Thank you to the people on each of the tables for celebrating with us on this occasion [he names several individuals among the attendees, including Osvaldo and Coca - polite applause ensues]... thank you to the regular instructor of the class on Monday night... thank you to the instructor of the class before the milonga on Friday night... thank you to Daniel Nacucchio and Cristina Sosa [the 2008 Tango Salon Mundial champions] who are our official instructors... thank you to the guy who takes the entradas at the door... thank you to the gentleman who used to sing for D'Agostino's orchestra [not Angel Vargas, but someone who came later - he has a regular table at the milonga]... thank you to the chef who is in charge of the food at the milonga [and out of the kitchen comes this young chica without her apron to receive the kisses and hugs and hand shakes]... thank you to everyone who has signed the lovely birthday card for the club......................................... and thank you to the visitors we have from the Republic of China, Irene and Man Yung [here we stand up and do a little embarrassed wave]... they are going to perform for us to Donato's "El Adios"........."
Eeeeek! I didn't have time to check whether Osvaldo and Coca were giggling. And as Man Yung didn't understand a single word of the speech he didn't know what was up - it was my urgent job to tell him.
"Man Yung! Put on your jacket NOW!" He saw my wide-eyed expression of horror - and immediately understood. We half-scrambled half-tumbled over our chairs onto the dance floor.
We stand there, probably looking embarrassed. I'm upset that I didn't have my camera ready to film the whole event. The music plays - Donato all right, but it was "El Acomodo".
Interesting. But we were not the captains of our own fate so we just started dancing - for about 15 seconds. Then the track was abruptly cut short.
"Ooops! A mix-up!" somebody said. And while they sorted the music out I rushed back to our table, whipped out my camera, turned it on and passed it to the gentleman on the next table - praying to the tango gods that at least some of this momentous event (to us, at least) would get captured on film!
And this is what we got:
Yay Toronto (and apparently also the "Republic of China")! We perform to Donato's "El Adios".
Osvaldo Cartery not only filmed us - he provided the live(ly) commentary
We felt incredibly lucky, and incredibly loved. Osvaldo and Coca had arranged this - just for us. It reminded us of the time during the first Camicando when Manolo told us to dance for Osvaldo and Coca. We asked Manolo what he wanted us to dance - and he said "Whatever you like." He felt proud to be our teacher and had confidence in us, and he wanted his friends to see us dance to see what he meant when he called us his "amigos".
Osvaldo and Coca's surprise at Circulo Apolo was just like that. They didn't coach us, they didn't prepare us, they didn't want to change a single thing about us. They just arranged everything quietly, on this very important night at Circulo Apolo, and sent us out there just as we were so that everyone could see what they meant when they told them that we were their friends.
We could still feel the warmth of the love in that embrace now, four weeks later and nine thousand kilometres away in Toronto.
Please enjoy the rest of the performances from that night!:
Tango salon performance by a milonguero couple to Di Sarli's "Derrotado"
Canyengue performance to Donato's "El Huracan" by two of Circulo Apolo's resident instructors
Three milonguero couples, friends of the club Circulo Apolo, perform to a Villasboa's vals
Osvaldo and Coca perform to Canaro's "Poema".
Daniel Nacucchio and Cristina Sosa perform to D'Arienzo
The grand finale: Osvaldo and Coca and Daniel and Cristina dance to Di Sarli's "El Cielo y Tu"
- after switching partners!
- after switching partners!