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SALSA / MAMBO IN BUENOS AIRES 

By Maya

I didn't expect much from BA salsa scene, but was amazed:  a huge club was filled with mambo dancers who could match some of the best New Yorkers!  In this land of tango, mambo is thriving with over 300 dancers, about 50 salsa troupes and many schools.  You can dance salsa here almost every night, but most places are out of town.   

In the capital, Congreso district has salsa Wed. and Sun night in club Sudaka (Wed more popular);  Abasto Azucar has weekly Fri and Sat dances and classes, but advanced salseros show up only for special events on Thursday.   Previously thriving Cuban style is giving way to mambo fans, but there are still plenty of clubs and restaurants with Cuban music. 

Another pleasant surprise – DJ music selections.  I’m not a fan of “speedy Gonzalez” songs, but in BA it has never been an issue (at least, at the few dances I attended) Mambo DJs actually do play a lot of mambo tunes, not salsa, and some of them seemed too slow even for me.   

Like in many salsa communities, visitors do not fare well here – dancers prefer the safety of the familiar faces (unless you’re young and gorgeous of course), but my own requests were never denied and 2 guys actually did return for seconds. 

It's great that we can all dance together regardless of where we learned out basics.  But as great as it is to have many "frankies" and "eddies",  it does not leave much room for creativity and originality. Copying the greats is the first step that many salseros inspire to reach, but  very few dare to be themselves beyond that.  

Ladies especially are hindered in that regard: most salsa leaders frown upon their creativity.  I’ve seen some fantastic followers in Buenos Aires, but just like everywhere else, they shy away from expressing their own individuality. Rare exceptions, like Magna Gopal from Vancouver (currently residing in New York,) are bold and creative (and beautiful) enough to show what they can do, earn respect and establish themselves as an example to be followed. 

As one dancer commented, in BA, like in many other salsa circles, originality is often questioned and ridiculed unless it comes from an established name.  I had fun dancing with Alejandro Baigorria whose Cuban-like style was different enough and creative enough to be enjoyable.  He was spontaneous, he responded and played with rhythms and he was watched by many mamberos every time he ventured on the floor. 

There are no salsa congresses in Argentina (yet), but in Oct. there is a local event in Rosario (4 hours by bus from BA) where local salseros strut their stuff – worth attending.  I’m guessing as I found out about it too late to make the arrangements. All in all, Buenos Aires will not disappoint serious salsa fans.

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