After the class we dashed to La Confiteria Ideal with Ms. X from Toronto in tow to see Milonguisimo. Ms. X is a veteran repeat visitor to Buenos Aires and she must have watched every single big production "Forever Tango" type show available in the city, but we were determined to see the Milonguisimo, so we dragged her along with us. We didn't know how Ms. X would like it, given her taste for big sparkly vegas-style tango extravaganzas!
Ms. X is also a regular at Confiteria Ideal, as it is one of her favourite milonga venues. Many people we have talked to in Toronto, especially the older social dance couples who eventually took up tango, love going to La Confiteria Ideal and indeed, try to book hotels not far from its steps. It was only our second time there - we were there for the Camicando closing milonga in 2007 - but it is easy to see the appeal. With its turn-of-the-century european architecture, creamy marble/tile floor, glowing belle-epoque light fixtures, glimmering lights reflected from every mirror, and something in the air whispering (or hissing) "Hey man! Tango History!", La Confiteria Ideal is something out of a tango dream. Just step onto its premises and many will imagine being transformed into a part of "The" Tango Fantasy. Just watch Carlos Saura's "Tango" or Sally Potter's "The Tango Lesson" and you (may) know what we mean.
Insert your favourite tango fantasy here
We thought that we were going to be late for the show but in fact, the show didn't start until an hour after we got there. It was expensive! The burly doorman/bouncer with the handlebar moustache stated quite sternly that tickets were 100 pesos for the show, and 150 pesos for show and dinner (per person). We paid much less, maybe 15 pesos for the milonga entrada including tickets to Milonguisimo at Glorias Argentinas in 2007, so the price of the ticket was a little bit of a shock. Was there a premium for the location? We just paid for the ticket to the show, and sat ourselves at a table right in front of the stage.
This is an interesting documentary on La Confiteria Ideal - shows a bit of its architecture, decor, history, and you can even see the stage on which tango shows like Milonguisimo were performed. With regards to the trays of delectable pastries that are shown enticingly throughout the video - watch out!
They will cost you an arm and a leg!
They will cost you an arm and a leg!
It was a quiet night at La Confiteria Ideal. There were only a few spectators for Milonguisimo on the first floor, a space that is the doppelganger twin of the second floor where rather touristy (And expensive! No surprise there) milongas are held. For the longest time it was just the sound of us talking amongst ourselves at our table, waiting. I was sweating, but there was a mighty breeze from the wall fans which made it chilly. Looking at the menu and seeing that the prices of the drinks and snacks were at least three times more expensive than anywhere we had been - I couldn't decide whether I was hot or cold or just fainting at the prices.
When the performers arrived, it was without fanfare. The stage was a platform propped up one side of the room, so there was no backstage or frontstage - just a stage. First Oscar Hector arrived, walking past the stage in the area in front of our table - and naturally we said hello. Then Haydee, Oscar's sister, arrived and we greeted her as well. She reminded us about some special event that she will be participating in that was going to be held at Glorias Argentinas, but unfortunately, it was going to be held a week after our departure from Toronto, so we had to let her know we will have to miss it. Susy Tilbe arrived shortly afterwards. We had been exchanging emails with her since we met her at Glorias Argentinas the previous year, so it was delightful to see her again.
Ms. X was surprised that we knew so many of the performers. Was Ms. X also surprised at how down-to-earth the whole Milonguisimo production was? Before the show started, the performers were walking up and down in front of our table in their street clothes. The change room was no glamourous inner sanctum but a rather dodgy washroom behind the bar. The core Milonguisimo dancers - whom we utterly idolize - were not slinky bright young things in feathers, sequins and pinstripe suits, but people (even old people!) from the milonga, dressed for the milonga. Did Ms. X ever entertain the thought that Irene and Man Yung may not be maximizing their tango dollars (which could even conceivably be better spent on tickets to "Tanguera"?)
I'm not sure we will ever be certain about the doubts that crossed Ms. X's mind while we were sitting waiting for the show to start, but I think at the end of day, the wonderful music and the incredible dancing in Milonguisimo won Ms. X over. Once the lights went down, it was all about Tango: Miguel Angel Balbi's heartfelt and passionate singing; the superfast staccato footwork of Jorge Uzunian and Haydee Malagrino; the elegant walk of Juan Esquivel with Susy Tilbe; the playful choreography and musicality of Oscar Hector and Teresita Brandon; the quirky figures of Horacio Prestamo and the exquisite adornments of his partner. The show presented the life of the milongas - a little bit of history, a little bit of swing (the cast are amazing swing and rock and roll dancers too - there's nothing like watching the Portenos letting it all hang loose to "Blue Suede Shoes" at a milonga), a little bit of heartbreak, a little bit of mischief. There was even the obligatory young show dance couple (they looked like they were still in their teens!) with such athleticism and fire they would put any other show couple on the biggest stage in Buenos Aires to shame.
It was an amazing show that filled our entire evening. Even though there were only a dozen spectators, it didn't matter, Milonguisimo gave its all.
After the show ended, the performers mixed with the audience and we had a chance to congratulate the dancers on their performances and Miguel Angel Balbi on his beautiful singing. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay long - Ms. X had to go and we had Camicando to look forward to the next day.
We said goodbye at the door and hopped into our taxis. Glancing backward, we saw some of the Milonguisimo dancers standing on the sidewalk. Some of the best dancers in Buenos Aires - waiting for the bus. No red carpet, no paparazzis. Often, Tango is humble - because Tango is life.
We waved goodbye to each other again and sped into the night.