Wow, did we have a busy weekend. Our friend Tamar arrived Wednesday so now we have another partner in this adventure. But even before I get to the dance party, I have to tell you about the very best dessert, which I had following fabulous cacio e pepe (yes, I had extreme dog belly, but it was worth it) on Thursday night. I love chocolate. I really love chocolate mousse. When I heard that I could have the special chocolate mousse at La Locanda, I leapt at the chance. I thought it sounded odd because they add salt, pepper, and olive oil to the already delicious treat BUT, porque no? So I ordered it. First, the waiter had us try the standard chocolate mousse before he put in the extra ingredients and it was really yummy. Then, he salted, peppered, oiled, and stirred. OMG! It was creamy and amazing. Try it!
OK, on to the weekend. Our friends Marco and Barbara invited us to a peña. We had no idea what it was, but we said yes and we are very glad we did. It’s a community dance party (think the kind of dance party they had during the 1940s big band era) where everyone dances traditional Argentine dances to live music. This being Argentina, it doesn’t even start until after 10 p.m., so we wisely had an afternoon siesta. Marco and Barbara picked us up and after learning that open 24 hours does not mean the parking lot is really open 24 hours, we found a parking lot and walked over. The room has a big dance floor against a stage. There’s a small bar where you can get water, beer, wine and, of course, empanadas and pizza. Folding with tables and chairs frame the edges of the dance floor. During the week, dance lessons are offered.
We arrived in time to take the dance lesson before the peña even officially starts (and remember we arrived at 10!), so we were total experts after one hour of learning five or six difference dances. Sure thing. At the end of the class, we snaked around the room hand-in-hand in that classic of all cultures where you try to whip the end of the line by moving faster and faster and making tighter turns until everyone is just laughing. There was also a hora-ish circle dance — another staple of party dancing.
During the class, we learned (to say I learned would be a very large overstatement) the chacarera, gato, chacarera doble, escondido, and a few others. Most involved dancing facing a partner and then dancing to and around them in various steps. Apparently, we were dancing stories, but we were happy to sort of get our feet going in the right direction. In one of the dances (I don’t remember it’s name), we were lined up with women facing the men and when we met and crossed the lines over, we held our fists up. Barbara said the dance originated as a show of strength between tribes.
One dance we could manage was a couple’s dance — take two steps one way and one step the other (umm…we mostly managed, but I kept losing the count when my mind would wander). Excellent! Even simpler than a box step. We were pretty good at that one. But let’s just say that Marco is a great teacher and we enjoyed ourselves even if we ended up the wrong way round many times.
The first band had 10 members who played several different horns, piano, guitar, bandoneón (like a small accordion), and drums. If you could stop yourself from dancing, more power to you. After a break, a second band with a singer who had a fabulous voice played. We danced and talked and had a great time. We also got to see excellent dancers doing the samba, the zamba, and other dances that even Marcos wouldn’t do without more lessons. We learned that the samba has very specific moves and the partners signal each other with handkerchiefs. (the video below is Sue and Tamar doing the chacarera)
What made it so amazing was not the music or the dancing, it was the community atmosphere and joy. The crowd ranged from 20-somethings to oldies (even older than us) and everyone was on their feet. Sometimes the dance floor was so crowded, bumping one another was inevitable, but everyone was laughing about it.
The second band finished up at about 3 a.m., but we could have kept on dancing. (At least I could have, I’ll let Steven tell you how he felt. (Old, but not particularly tired. ) We did sleep well that night, but that didn’t mean we lounged about on Saturday. No way. Too much to do.
Every weekend, artisans set up shop in a pedestrian area right outside Cementeria de la Recoleta where Eva Peron is buried. We walked over and perused the arts and crafts at a local outdoor market before heading into the cemetery. When we got to the gate, an attendant asked us if we were Argentinian. When we said no, she said, Ooooh and ducked her head as if she were so sorry that we were unfortunate enough to have been born elsewhere.
The cemetery is all paved and originally we thought it was all above ground. It is full of grand mausoleums, but some of the graves are underground (some you can look in and see the coffins, others you see stairs going down). Anyway, being unfortunate enough not to be Argentinian (we must have done something bad in a previous life), we didn’t really know anyone else to visit besides Evita, but we wandered around anyway because there were many cool photos to be taken (Apparently before she was interred in her family’s crypt, her body had a unusual time — including being displayed in her husband’s dining room for a while — read about it here).
We grabbed some empanadas for lunch at a deli and ate in the glorious sunshine, did some errands, and Steven and Tamar had plates of meat for dinner. I had pasta.
I’m going to leave Sunday’s adventure for the next blog, since Tamar and I are starting Spanish classes tomorrow at the ridiculous hour of 8:30 a.m.