Tag Archive | "class"

Read (and Write) all about it, with Walrus Courses

Rachel Engelman in front of Walrus Books in San Telmo. (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

Buenos Aires is a book city. Many of the continent’s most influential writers have at some stage had a porteño post code. Indeed, the work of great writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar and José Hernández have all been shaped by the passion of the city’s thriving literary contingent. Fast forward to 2012 and there is a burgeoning literary movement emerging in the capital once more – albeit this time hidden down amongst the shelves of a quaint San Telmo bookstore.

Founded by Geoffrey, from the US, and his wife Josefina, from Salta, Walrus Books has become something of a local institution. It is a mecca for ex-pats, tourists, and Argentines alike who all pilgrimage down the cobbled streets of San Telmo in search of their next English language read. But Walrus Books is more than just a bookshop these days; turn the page and it has plenty more to offer. The store has become a welcoming backdrop for original literary discourse and a meeting place for the sort of booklovers that momentarily close their eyes and sigh deeply as they enter it.

Back in March 2012 and under the watchful eye of 4,000 used, new, and hard-to-find titles from the shop’s impressive catalogue, Walrus Courses began. These literature and writing courses are the brainchild of writer and infectiously passionate ex-pat Rachel Engelman, who has studied fiction under Pulitzer Prize winning author, Steven Millhauser. So, how did they come about? After coming into contact with many young people in Buenos Aires who treated reading as a romance rather than a hobby, the Los Angeles native approached Geoffrey at the Walrus with the idea of running a few courses and they have not looked back since. “It’s something fundamentally missing from BA culture and we thought it would be a great thing for a good many people. Literature and Writing classes given in English, not just for foreigners, but for Argentines. For everyone, really,” commented Engelman.

The courses that have been run to-date have covered an eclectic range of subjects approaching literature from a mixture of angles. Over the past few months ‘The Modern American short story’,  ‘The J.D. Salinger Seminar’, ‘The Short Story Course’, ‘The Art Of Fiction: A Course In Reading And Writing’, and the ‘Creative Writing Workshop’, have all been the focus of rigorous debate amongst their participants. Whether a first timer or a seasoned literary scholar, Walrus Courses offer an environment within which expression is encouraged and everyone has room to speak. The class size is limited too, which keeps it intimate and personal.

Rachel Engelman leads a literature class in Walrus Books in San Telmo. (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

Now entering their third wave, the demographic is expanding – “there are the loquacious Argentines with remarkable vocabulary and poetic souls – all writing in English. Then there are the brasileros learning about Ginsberg and the British reading Raymond Carver and the Argentines falling over themselves for Flannery O’Connor,” Engelman added.

The upcoming courses, which are scheduled to start in September and run until late October, include ‘The Paris Writers’ a look at the short stories of the great writers of ‘The Lost Generation’ in 1920s  Paris; ‘California Writers vs. New York Writers’ comparing notable authors from both shores and considering how particular settings inspire particular forms of art; and ‘Creative Writing’, an introduction to fiction writing, which will include narrative assignments designed to hone narrative skills and develop participants’ creative senses. And with interest growing fast, there are plans to open an institute in Palermo Soho with more class variety. But fear not, the evening courses at their spiritual home of the Walrus will remain a mainstay.

It is not just all about the subject material, however. “The courses offer the chance for foreigners to get to know locals on an intimate (and authentic) level,” states Engelman. But diversity does not come just in the form of nationality; previous students have been of all ages and have come from a wide range of backgrounds. There are not only the classic, young literature students, but also economists, film students, translators, salesmen, journalists, and stay at home mothers who have taken courses to-date. It is people from all across the globe meeting under one roof to talk about something they love with a passion. After all as their founder reminds us, these are not lecture courses – “they are conversations in which the classes take on the intimacy of a group of very opinionated friends in a living room”. Except this living room just so happens to have Borges, Cortazar, Hernández and co. looking down on you and hanging off your every word. Unlike the books which encircle them, however, none of the ideas being presented and discussed are second-hand.

For more information visit walruscourses.com or Walrus Books.

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Body and Soul: Bikram Yoga Buenos Aires

Alexandra Garretón getting back into the Bikram stretch (Photo: Melissa Riggall)

Two years ago in Seattle, I had a three month love-affair with Bikram Yoga – then I ran out of money. Since then my life has become considerably less healthy – I’m not exactly in peak physical condition after so many smoky boliches, dancing the night away, and watching the sun come up on the ride home. Not to mention the innumerable choripans…

I decided to return to Bikram Yoga to give me some more stability – both physically and in my general life. It felt amazing and awful to step back into that sweltering room and sweat like there is no tomorrow.

Bikram Yoga is a 90 minutes series of 26 postures plus two breathing exercises – all performed in a hot room, exactly 42 degrees hot. The space is lined with mirrors and most participants are as undressed as prudently possible. Even I exposed the soft and dimply parts of my body, in tiny shorts and a sports bra, to stay cool.

The good news is: I had no time to be self-conscious. It was an hour and a half challenge to control my breathing and to bend that way.  The sheer effort and focus required to follow the instructor’s directions quickly dissipated my nerves and I resigned to the torrents of sweat sliding off of me.

Jay Fairbank, from the US, co-owns Bikram Yoga Buenos Aires with his Chilean wife Carla Cristofori. They began practising Bikram in Texas in 2002, and were hooked right away.

Always athletic, Fairbank had conquered and become bored with many other forms of exercise before he found Bikram. He says he knew right away that it was the type of exercise he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Within six months he decided to become an instructor, and moved to Los Angeles for the nine-week training programme taught by creator Bikram Choudhury.

In 2009, they opened the first and only Bikram studio in Argentina – right off of Parque Las Heras in Buenos Aires. Fairbank said it started slower than he expected but class sizes have grown exponentially over time – with over two thousand visits in March.

“It’s been fun. It’s been hell. If it was easy, there would not be the value. And I think that goes with your practice also – if Bikram Yoga was easy you would not value it.”

The classes are for all levels of Bikram Yogis, but that doesn’t mean it is painless for beginners. With the overwhelming combination of heat and physical exertion, Fairbank explained that just one class is “not enough to really understand what is going on”.

First timers promotion is seven consecutive days for $65, the price of one walk-in class. They encourage people to go to everyday that first week to familiarize themselves with the series.

As Fairbank says, “Come with an open mind. No expectations. Just come.”

Bikram breathing (Photo: Melissa Riggall)

My first class in over two years was as brutal as it was enlightening. I was forced to realise how little control I have over my muscles, as some positions that had been easy, challenged my strength and flexibility again. When I started to panic about the heat, I had to look back on the peace of mind I used to have.

Fairbank became emotional when discussing how much people gain from Bikram. “I still don’t believe it,” he reflected, “Just by going in here for an hour and a half, and working out, people don’t realise, it’s so physical, but something happens in your metaphysical.”

The idea is that you push yourself farther than you think you can – challenge your body to override your mind’s limitations. At the end of the session, as they turn off the lights, and I lay on my mat soaked with sweat and fully exhausted, the most surprising sensation came over me. Gratitude. From myself to my body for taking on the challenge and doing something so good. This is the feeling that will propel me back tomorrow – regardless of how sore I’m going to be.

Posted in Lifestyle, Sport, The LearnerComments (0)

An Authentic Argentine Culinary Class

Food has always been a huge part of my life, and when I decided to come to Argentina, just one word came to mind: empanadas. No stranger to the kitchen but a novice in Argentine fare, I decided it was time to strap on an apron and finally learn just how they make those little pockets of heaven.

Norma Soued runs classes from her Belgrano home (photo/Jessie Akin)

Familiar with several Argentine cooking classes that were geared for tourists, I decided I wanted a more authentic experience. Enter Norma Soued, a delightfully pleasant Argentine psychotherapist who sees cooking as an inexpensive (and more enjoyable!) version of therapy.

“I feel that cooking gives people an instant gratification: You cook and you enjoy it, and then you eat and you enjoy it! In therapy, it takes a bit more time!” said Norma.  She began giving the cooking classes out of her home in Belgrano a little over a year ago.

Originally, she wanted the classes to be centered around middle eastern cuisine; having middle eastern roots, she thought many locals may be interested in learning how to make hummus and babaganoush. However, when Norma’s clientele began to grow, the majority tourists begging her to teach them how to make empanadas, Norma realized she needed to make the switch.

“I realized that this isn’t just a cooking class, it’s a way of transmitting Argentine culture. You’re cooking in a porteño kitchen, in a porteño house, and it’s an experience that you can take home with you.”  And literally, you can: the class includes your very own recipe booklet, with traditional Argentine edibles like humita and budin de pan.

When I first arrived at Norma’s home, she welcomed my fellow classmates and I with open arms. She introduced herself and told us a bit about her experience with cooking and sharing it with others. Then, she handed us each an apron and it was time to get to work. On the menu was a sumptuous locro, an chunky Argentine stew that’s perfect for cold winter days. Of course, a meal in Argentina isn’t complete without empanadas and alfajores, the piéce de résistance to a hearty meal.

Learning how to wrap an empanada (photo/Jessie Akin)

The locro was nothing but traditional, with ingredients like white beans, corn, squash, chorizo and tomato sauce.

The empanadas, however, were somewhat varied from the usual: we coated the meat with tomato sauce, and added hard-boiled egg, diced peppers and onions, olives and raisins—yes, raisins—which proved to be the perfect touch. We wrapped up the filling in our empanada shells and learned the art of the “twist”: the essential manoeuvre to wrap an empanada correctly.

We prepared the alfajor dough from scratch and filled the fluffy cookies with the infamous dulce de leche, which Norma recommends you buy fresh from the reposteria. Finally, we were ready to eat: we enjoyed our meal with a glass of vino tinto and reveled in our obvious culinary talents.

“I love to teach and I think learning how to cook Argentine foods is a great way to take a piece of the culture home with you,” said Norma. “You can surprise friends at home when you invite them for empanadas and alfajores!”

Classes are ARS$60 per person, and are held on Saturdays from 11am to 2pm at Norma’s home in Belgrano.  The class includes a recipe booklet and lunch with wine. For more information or to sign up, email Norma at nsoued@gmail.com. Buen provecho!

Posted in Food & Drink, The LearnerComments (2)

Organic Gardening 101, with Alejo Mendez Guerín

By now you’ve become well aware that your lifestyle could use a bit of greening up, but you’re reluctant to make the changes. So many of the changes demanded of living in a more environmentally friendly manner require renouncing elements of our daily lives that we have grown utterly accustomed to: driving less, flying less, eating less meat, using less electricity, using less gas.

But there are other changes we can make that actually  augment our lives: they save us money, encourage us to eat healthier, spend more time outside, reconnect with nature, give us a sense of agency. One of the most beneficial changes we can make, for both our own and the environment’s well being, is to start our own organic gardens.

Organic workshop instructor Alejo Mendez Guerín forms a new compost pile outside of La Plata, Buenos Aires. (Photo/Brian Funk)

This proposition, however, can be daunting, especially for those of us with poor track records in the green thumb department. But that’s where Alejo Mendez Guerín comes in. Alejo offers two day, intensive workshops that cover the basic theories and practices of organic cultivation. The workshops are very reasonably priced and Alejo speaks perfect English and will be able to clear up any questions you may have along the way. He says of his intentions for the workshops, “I try to demystify what organic cultivation is really all about so that people will fell as though it is something that they are very capable of doing.”

Alejo, a tall, spindly young man of 25, mature well beyond his years, is a wealth of knowledge on sustainable agriculture. His eyes brighten as he hurtles through information ranging from explanations of soil varieties to strategies for chemical-free pest prevention. No question goes unanswered, no theory explained without the inclusion of a practical use.

Alejo has been teaching these workshops for over a year. He also offers private consulting to individuals and groups who are interested in growing organically, but don’t know where to begin. He recently completed his degree from the School of Agricultural Economics and Management at the University of Buenos Aires. While working on the degree, he spent a couple of summers at the Centre for Research and Education of Sustainable Agriculture (CIESA) in the Chubut province of Patagonia studying “biointensive” agriculture methods.

Biointensive agriculture is an method of growing crops organically in a small area, such as a vegetable garden in one’s backyard, or on one’s terrace as is more common here in Buenos Aires. The efficiency of space is the central theme, and most techniques were created to be used in a 10m2 plot of land. The method focuses on producing healthy, high-quality soil by using compost rather than fertilizer, companion planting (growing plants that complement each other) and best utilizing the unique attributes of the given ecosystem. CIESA says that the biointensive method is able to produce, from one 10m2  plot, 40-60% of an annual vegetarian diet for a family of four, and will allow the family to save approximately $1000 a year on groceries.

Students learn the basics of organic gardening by beginning to plant their own seeds. (Photo/Brian Funk)

Enticing statistics like these bring many different types of people to Alejo’s workshops, some with gardening experience, others with strong commitments to a sustainable lifestyle, and still others who are just beginning to dip their toes into the stream of information on how to live in more environmentally friendly ways.

Alejo divides the workshop into two days: the first dedicated to theory, the second devoted to putting the theories into practice and getting dirty in the garden. The theory session begins with a discussion of the true and unnerving nature of modern industrial farming: the effects of genetically modified seeds, the exhaustion of soil by monoculture farming and the dangers of chemical pesticides. After this unsettling presentation Alejo offers a taste of the fruits of choosing a different path: quiches of organic pumpkin and spinach from his own garden. Refreshed and inspired, the participants are now ready to hear about the alternatives.

The second half of the day introduces the participants to the basics of biointensive agriculture. The method’s primary theme is the most efficient utilization of soil. Thus, the different properties and varieties of soil are explained, as well as what crops are best grown in each. The biointensive method teaches a technique called “double-digging”, in which plant beds are raised to allow for a total depth of just over 60 centimetres. This allows the vegetables to send their roots deeper into the soil and access a wealth of nutrients as well as permitting the crops to be planted more closely together. Thus, one is able to produce more food in a smaller area.

Alejo demonstrates the easy way to transplant plants to the garden. (Photo/Brian Funk)

Alejo also expounds on such topics as compost varieties, natural methods of pest prevention and “companion planting”, which involves choosing plants that complement each other’s growth. For example, some plants will produce odours that deter certain insects, while others will change soil composition in manners beneficial to their neighbours.

The manifestation of these theories is exhibited to participants when they join Alejo at his personal vegetable garden on the outskirts of La Plata, in Buenos Aires province, for the practical day of the workshop. But they don’t just marvel at Alejo’s work, they mix compost, dig their pitchforks into the soil and sow seeds.

After completing the workshop, participants have a strong foundational understanding of organic agriculture and are ready, and usually highly motivated, to start their own organic vegetable gardens. Alejo says of his teaching method, “it’s important not to assign people specific formulas to follow, but rather to give them the tools to understand and work with what they already have.”

To find out when Alejo will be offering the next workshop and to register to participate visit: http://alejomendez.com/. The two day workshop costs $150.

Posted in Environment, TOP STORYComments (0)

What’s Cooking: Espacio Azaí

Photo by Eve Turrow

On the corner of Virrey Loreto and Charlone sits an inconspicuous building, no signs or decorations to indicate that behind the simple façade lies the immaculate kitchen of Espacio Azaí, a gourmet cooking facility. I went to Azaí one morning for my first Argentine cooking class.

As I walked through the front door I came upon a state-of-the-art kitchen, with a large stovetop and spices spread along the cabinets and counters: paprika, basil, cinnamon, anis. And there to greet me was Alicia Bersi, 33, a former English teacher and current cooking instructor at Espacio Azaí, along with her assistant Luigi Baez, 21. Azaí’s kitchen contains a seating area with a table and a large bookshelf filled with recipe books. There is also a hanger to pick up your apron and a bar to sit at. All the ingredients and utensils for the day are laid out and organized on the counter for you.

Azaí offers one of the only English-speaking cooking classes in Buenos Aires. Designed for tourists and expats, their ‘Argentine Cooking Class for Tourists’ can be conducted in English, Spanish or Portuguese. On the docket: chipas (tapioca starch cheese bread), empanadas de carne y humitas (sweet corn and meat hand pies), carbonada (typical Argentine stew), and panqueques de dulce de leche (crêpes rolled with caramel).

The class began with Alicia showing us the basic ingredients of Argentine food: onion, red pepper, salt, paprika, and ground pepper. The class then progressed with perfect flow as she demonstrated cooking tricks, such how to slice an onion and pour crepe batter, shared snippets of Argentine history, and encouraged us to partake in the cooking experience. After watching Alicia demonstrate, each of us had the opportunity to give it a go ourselves, flipping our own panqueques and folding empanadas. We learned the perfect consistency for chipas batter and that traditional empanadas de carne include olives, hardboiled eggs, and raisins. The afternoon was filled with eating, chopping, laughter and conversation.

At 1pm we settled at the table with a bottle of wine to enjoy the fruits of our labour. The chipas turned out perfectly, being best described as the ultimate cheesy bread. With a small crust on the outside, the inside oozed melted cheese. The empanadas were nothing short of fantastic, with a great mixture of textures and flavours. My favourite food of the day was the carbonada, a hearty, delicious stew, with the slightest hint of sweetness added by one dried peach. And of course, to finish it off, the panqueque de dulce de leche simply melted in my mouth.

Photo by Eve Turrow

Near the end of the meal, Marcelo Kulish, the owner, sat down and joined us. He discussed the elements of Argentine cooking with us further, sharing specialty jams he had in the kitchen (one of which was made from wood!), and welcomed us to his kitchen. A former engineer turned chef and then masseuse, Espacio Azaí is the revelation of Kulish’s recently developed dream: a business that offers classes in massage, dance, and cooking. Kulish studied professional cooking at Colegio de Cocineros Gato Dumas. He now teaches the weekly themed cooking classes at Azaí, ranging from Thai cooking and sushi lessons to Mexican and Peruvian cuisines. He also leads cooking events for businesses. “The objective of Azaí has always been that people enjoy themselves, that they enjoy what they’re doing and feel comfortable. We also want them to learn something, work with their hands, and improve their way of eating,” said Kulish. And after meeting him and participating in the course, those sentiments were made clear.

I enjoyed my time at Espacio Azaí so thoroughly that I cannot wait to recreate the dishes for my family and friends, and I hope to return soon for an evening class. Maybe Peruvian cuisine next time?

The schedule of courses changes but frequently includes classes in Thai ($500 for four classes), Peruvian, and Multiethnic cooking. The price for the tourist course depends on the number of participants: 1 person is $350, 2 people $250, 3 people $200, and over three $170, everything included. Espacio Azaí also offers classes in massage and rhythmic dance. For more information, please visit www.espacioazai.com.ar.

Posted in Food & Drink, The LearnerComments (5)

Un Lenguaje de Danza

“Dance is the mother of all languages” – R. G. Collingwood

Photo by Ellen Knuti

There is a Zimbabwean proverb which declares that “If you can walk, you can dance”. After an hour of dancing with Laila Canteros, I most certainly cannot walk.

Indeed, Laila Canteros’ ‘Introducción a la técnica de danza AfroContemporáneo’ is incredibly physically demanding, yet undeniably exhilarating. She is a teacher, choreographer, performer and now pioneer of a completely organic form of movement. The mode of dance she teaches in her class is a rich blend of styles and techniques which draw from a wealth of experience and training. As a former pupil of a staggering collection of maestros of traditional African performing arts, Canteros’ vast education encompasses the dances of Guinea, Senegal and Cameroon, as well as training in danzas primitivas, Afro-jazz and Afro-Brazilian movement.

‘AfroContemporánea’ fuses the earthy, dynamic and expressive quality of these dances with Canteros’ impressive background in classical and contemporary methods. She also incorporates Técnica Silvestre (a Brazilian style of contemporary dance), a technique which she was taught by Rosangela Silvestre herself, in Brazil.

The result is the conception of an entirely new hybrid dance form, a melting pot of modes of expression. But the product is by no means a finished one. Canteros says she sees her classes as a “project”, an exploration of how this fusion can develop into “a unique language”.

Reference to her dance as a language is apt, given Canteros’ extremely vocal method of teaching. She encourages the group to communicate, ask questions and keep the beat by counting aloud. As she shows us a breakdown of each movement, she sings, illustrating the dynamics of the dance and encouraging us to understand its musicality. The rhythm is provided by two live percussionists who – helpfully – adjust the tempo accordingly when we make mistakes.

Photo by Ellen Knuti

The African drums were an interesting accompaniment to the first half hour, which was a more formal session in contemporary technique. Although intended for beginners, the balletic pliés and tandues would perhaps have proved a struggle for those with no previous experience of classical or contemporary dance. However, the few students who were not as comfortable with the standard of the contemporary element were assisted, as Canteros physically moved and moulded their bodies into the required shapes, explaining how their muscles should feel in these positions.

In contrast, as we embarked upon the dance’s ‘Afro’ component, classical training seemed to rather hinder a full grasp of the required quality of movement. As a classical dancer, I was constantly told not to point my toes, to get lower to the ground and loosen my neck. The key movement was la ondulación (an undulation, reminiscent of ‘the worm’ in break dancing), and Canteros spent most of the class pressing us to “ondula más!” During one particular sequence, my request for clarification of the arms’ position was quite simply met with: “Libres.”

We were challenged. Canteros was adamant that we tested the bounds of our bodies’ capabilities. She told us to use our breath to deepen our stretches, to push a position to the point of unbalance, and she ordered the drummers to quicken the pace of the music, forcing us to do the same with our steps. The experience was invigorating, and if nothing else, ‘Introducción a la técnica de danza AfroContemporáneo’ serves as an excellent work-out.

Of course it was a good deal more than this. If you are looking to be taught a rigid dance technique in a formal manner, this is definitely not the class to attend, although advanced classes focus more on already established techniques of Canteros’ “lenguaje de danza”. The atmosphere in the studio was a celebration of our bodies’ astounding capacity for movement and expression, set to an uplifting drumbeat. Canteros would whoop and clap with genuine excitement when she saw a new take on a sequence. With every skill and style she taught us, we were free to adapt the movement in order to achieve our “greatest expressive potential”.

Photo by Ellen Knuti
Laila Canteros

Although exhausting, the experience of developing as a dancer alongside the dance itself is exciting, and it would be an excellent investment to buy a month’s course of two classes per week. Even without any previous training, Laila Canteros’ class is ultimately a fun and unique experience; plenty can be gained from attending a one-off clase de prueba of such an innovative dance movement at its birthplace here in Argentina.

Classes are priced at $30 for a one-off session, or $100 for a month’s course of two sessions per week. Beginner’s classes take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8-9.30pm at Mario Brava 478, Capital Federal, Sala X. To reserve a place or for more information on intermediate and advanced classes, visit http://lailacanteros.blogspot.com, or email lailacanteros@hotmail.com, or call 15-5618-1213.

Posted in The Learner, TheatreComments (0)

Takes two to tango


I have no particular problem with dancing. I certainly like to piss around and am not adverse to public performances. I was however a little concerned when my editor asked me to accompany the lovely, somewhat lippy, Laura to a tango class.

My vague feelings of concern turned into sheer panic when I arrived to see that the class takes place in the middle of an open café! A bottle of full bodied Dutch-courage was promptly ordered and enjoyed until our teachers told me that I quite simply could not learn the tango with a glass of wine in my hand.


Photo by Kate Stanworth

The class however, was thoroughly enjoyable. It was explained to me that the public setting was a must with the tango (a public dance) and off we went. The teachers explained everything clearly in both Spanish and English and it was a learn-as-you-dance kind of lesson. Learn some basic steps, try it out, be corrected and try again. The class was about eight people strong and a mixture of locals and tourists. The atmosphere was casual but the teaching was professional: tango made easy!

Laura however was anything but, and was most certainly more lippy than lovely! Screaming at me for making mistakes is bad enough, but her reign of terror did not end there. On the odd occasion that I decided to dance with the girls who had turned up without dates (always with the purest of intentions I might add) the music was drowned out by a tirade of abuse.


Photo by Kate Stanworth

“Are you dumping me then? Well you’re a rubbish dancer anyway! Bloody hell Josh! Stop hitting on her Josh!”

It went on and on! Clearly overcome by jealousy, Laura then proceeded to knock into me at every opportunity. Lippy Laura strikes again!

So, Laura and I had our clashes, and I will not be inviting her to the dance any time soon. Despite that, the lesson was great fun. Taught simply enough so that I got the hang of it (depending on who you ask!) and in a really comfortable environment.

I have been converted; from the public setting to the individual performances they encourage, it was all a laugh and I really did learn something.

I’ll see you next week (Not you Laura!)


I have a problem with dancing. I have a particular problem with sexy dancing. I also have a particular problem with a colleague, Josh. I was therefore less than amused when my editor informed me upon my return from holiday that the entire team had decided that Josh and I would be the perfect pair for a tango review.


Photo by Kate Stanworth

The class got off to a great start: Josh and I were separated. I was relieved to say the least, although I did spare a thought for the poor girl who was left with him before I glided into the arms of Nicolas, my tall, dark stranger from Rosario. What a gentleman he was. Our relationship blossomed as our grasp of the basic steps grew stronger.

After ten minutes of solo practice I was ready for the moment I had been waiting for – our embrace. The teachers, Mariel and José Luis, had ironed out our errors and their clear instruction (both in Spanish and English) and the relaxed atmosphere of the class had filled me with confidence for the passionate tryst that I was sure lay ahead. We clasped hands and I felt Nico (as he requested I called him – no longer strangers) pull me close. A coy nod to each other, we breathed in unison and drifted into our first steps…forward, across, back, back, cross of the feet and…thump…Josh. He clumsily backed into me. I apologised to Nico for the small association I had to Josh and we glided on on our way… forward, across, back, back, cross of the feet and…aaargh…Josh again. His clown feet had crushed my delicate toes. His nervous laughter and distinctly unwitty repartee could be heard from every corner of the room. I pitied the other girls he danced with and, from the looks on their faces, they pitied themselves too.

In a class where you learn the basic steps quickly it is a real drawback to have a partner like Josh weighing you down. By the end of the 90 minutes, Nico and I were shimmying and flicking limbs here and there. We could still hear Josh mumbling the steps confusedly, occasionally interrupted by a clatter with his latest victim and an unintelligible wine-fuelled outburst.


Photo by Kate Stanworth

The class may be not be for everyone (i.e. Josh), but it is for most. Mariel’s teaching and the fun atmosphere make for a fun and successful evening. The constant rotation of partners means you won’t be stuck with a Josh for too long. You never know, you may even find a Nico.

We’ve starting practising for our wedding.

If you are interested in joining Laura and Josh, they attended a class with Mariel and José Luis in RaRa in San Telmo, Carlos Calvo 601. Lessons are available in English, Portuguese and Turkish, as well as Spanish. For more information please email mariel.altobello@gmail.com or call 15 6025 1199.

Posted in Lifestyle, The LearnerComments (0)

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