Saturday, 17 December 2016

Lavalle 3101 - DNI Tango Store Grand Opening

Its Friday 16 December, the weather is hot with uninterrupted blue skies. The Jacaranda tree outside casts a short shadow. Here in the garden dappled light cuts through the banana tree protecting the palms and a carpet of intensely green moss.

Our goal today is the Grand Opening of the new DNI Tango Store in Lavalle. Dana has sent Stephanie an invitation, and we are to meet Michael, our Casa Luna house guest, there.

Milongueros, those Portenos that dance tango, care less for tango fashion and more for tango technique. It is not what you wear, but how you dance. Older milongueros arrive in short sleeved shirts and worn suit trousers, with battered shoes in which they walked to the milonga. The milongueras dress for comfort to keep cool. At the milongas their fan and lipstick may provide the only splash of crimson. Europeans and North Americans on the other hand cannot resist the 'tango wardrobe' - the latest shoes, the dress with cowl back, the tango skirt, the wide legged trousers, the shirt with patterned insert. DNI know this, and the need of those with US$ or Euros to spend on 'the right look'.

If I sound judgmental, I am not. It is the visitors who spend that keep the milongas alive. Yes, entry charges to milongas rise, but this is due to rampant inflation - the cost of room hire, paying for the DJ, the cashier and the wardrobe attendant - and not the visitors. The visitors help to subsidise their existence, and without tourists many milongas would close.

The tourists add colour, and not infrequently, style. Before their trip to Buenos Aires many have paid a fortune for private lessons with visiting Argentine teachers, to perfect their salon tango, whilst many milongueros have never taken a tango lesson. Some tourists arrive lacking 'a feel' for the milongas, and sometimes without a full understanding of the codigos, but many acquit themselves well on the pista.

Colectivo 168 leaves Pres Louis Saenz Pena with a jolt as we speed into the traffic jam that is ubiquitous just after 7 pm in Monserrat. Stephanie and I stand, hanging onto the rails after paying our 6.5 pesos fare. Portenos are returning home from work and most look tired, whilst we are fresh from a chilled beer. We reach Estacion Once and cut across Corrientes to Lavalle.

The store is situated on the corner and clearly in party mode. The latest tango fashions are displayed against larger-than-life black and white photos of Dana y Jonny. Flashes from a photographer. The hubble of voices as racks are explored for 'that dress'. A champagne cork pops. A woman pirouettes to test her new tango shoes. Another bends to check the hem of a dress.

We find Michael alone in the corner for the tangueros. He tries new trousers that are yet to fit at the waist  He reaches for his champagne glass to toast our arrival. Immediately I lose Stephanie to a rail of tango dresses from which she leaves with a hanger and darts to the changing room. Within seconds she emerges transformed from 'Primark to Prada' in a floral dress. Dana smiles - from the transformation she knows she has a sale. Other women look disconsolate - perhaps because their size 14 does not have the effect of Stephanie's size 10. The dress touches, or should I say, caresses every curve. For a moment Michael releases the waistband of his new tango pants, then juggles modesty and champagne.

This is the success of tango fashion - not for necessity - but because of the 'feel good factor' that changes girls into women, and women into girls. For the men, each metre of new cloth adds centimetres to their height, each tailored shirt removing inches of girth.

We celebrate the acquisition of a dress,whilst DNI celebrate the acquisition of pesos. This is 'win-win'. Another glass of champagne chills my credit card. We smile, Michael grins, the sales girls croon, and I bite on a finger sandwich.

It is after 8.00 pm that we leave the store to retrace our steps to the colectivo. Dusk has arrived as we leave. The bus is quieter now as we watch the passing streets and barios, the closing shops rolling down shutters, neon lights transforming the city from day to night. Stephanie clutches her DNI bag and rests her head on my shoulder. It is now quick change for Yira Yira milonga. But will she wear the dress?