Tag Archives: dancing

27.5 Hours in Rosario, Part II

23 Jan

Waiting for the ferry back to the mainland

Rosario is one of the largest cities in Argentina, but with a smaller center you find the main concentration of the nightlife by the costanera (the river front). Juan told us a lot about the city and its culture. There’s been a lot of growth in the last 10 years, and we could see many new towers and others in the process of being constructed. Even with a river and the National Flag Monument, it’s a city which is hardly visited by foreign tourists. Rosarinos don’t understand why, but instead of feeling overlooked, they’re more than happy to show you around if you make it in. And trust me, if you’re looking for a nice trip out of Buenos Aires to a laid back city, Rosario is the perfect place. It’s cheaper, slower paced, and friendlier in general.

Flag Monument at Night

Juan led us to a pizza joint close to his house and we ate like kings for a relatively low price. Even though I wasn’t staying with him, he gave me a towel to shower up, set up the hammock for a much needed siesta before heading out at night, and gave me a clean shirt for going out in. Such hospitality makes me feel ashamed to have nothing to offer except my deepest gratitude and the promise to hopefully repay it some day.

Rocking slowly in the hammock with the heavenly breeze, the moon crept up to 12:30 am, and just as we bordered on napping too long and not going out, a Gilberto Gil cover of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” blasted from the speakers within the house. Rum and Coke was prepared as Diego, a friend of Juan’s showed up. Another incredibly friendly and engaging rosarino, Diego was also impressed by my Spanish and the fact that I knew of subtle cultural references. Again, living in a place for a year and a half has its benefits.

We decided to head to one of the clubs by the riverfront, but got there late and had to wait in line until 3 am when the bouncers told us there was no more room. Beautiful people were all around us and several other clubs offered a possibility to dance and stay out til dawn, so we headed over to a club frequented by mostly younger people, but likewise had a great time dancing until the horizon began to clear up. Getting dropped off at the hostel by Diego, we paused for a moment to see the sun rising by the Flag Memorial, capping off a great day and night.

The club at the costanera

I had to get up at 10 am to check out of the hostel, but walked around to Parque España to kill time and burned a bit more, eventually walking over half of the city to get to Juan’s place for lunch with the gang. My bus home was leaving at 4 pm, which was perfect to get back with ease before work tomorrow, but left me wanting more time in Rosario. The others had plans to kayak to an island and camp out for the night, but alas, I’m a working man. Andrea prepared a wonderful lunch of ñoquis, chicken and salad, and we ate well once again. I thought I’d have to walk to the hostel and then take a bus to quickly make it back in time, but Diego and another friend showed up and we all piled into the car. They drove me to the hostel to get my bag and then dropped me off at the bus terminal, sealing the deal on hospitality and what we say as “buena onda” or “good vibes”. The short time in Rosario couldn’t have been better, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I just wish I had more time there.

As the bus pulled out of town a smile broke across my face thinking about what a great trip it was, and it confirmed in my mind that I need to have travel in my life to be happy. It also reminded me that there are so many places and people outside of Buenos Aires worth knowing. I highly recommend a trip to Rosario, and urge you to spend enough time there to truly enjoy it.

Costanera

Out at Podestá Bar

11 Dec

Yesterday we went to celebrate my friend Vero’s birthday in Palermo. She looked for a bar where we could eat and later dance, but couldn’t find what she was looking for, so eventually she settled on Podestá Bar on Armenia 1740 (esq. Costa Rica). Vero’s birthday is important for me too because on that day last year she asked me to help her out with English, and from there our friendship really took off. Her friendship was the first solid one of its kind that I had with any Argentines, and it was a turning point for me in this country. The plan was to meet at the bar at 11 pm, so in good form I showed up lazily around midnight, knowing that getting there too early was pointless.

We stood outside the bar for about an hour on our own accord while waiting for the entire group to show up, but it was pleasant outside and I didn’t mind. Once we finally got inside, my initial reaction of the bar was that it wasn’t anything special. The music was too loud, it was too dark, and already crowded and stuffy. To me, it just seemed like any other dark bar in Latin America. The giant screen on the wall showed a documentary about Diego Maradona and later on switched to an Italian movie. We started in with our drinks at a table, but it was really too loud to talk and we wound up having to shout.

Eventually the bar filled up so much that going to the bathroom was a huge mission in itself. Sure, you might be able to make it through the crowd to the narrow entry leading to the bathrooms by the exit, but then you’d have to make your way back. Inevitably, you would pass by the bar and several tables on the side, meaning a cluster of people stood in your way. By 3 am the vibe got really good, however. The mostly American and English music was a popular choice and we began to dance in a circle, working on sweating out the vodka and Speed (energy drink).

It’s nearly summer and the heat was intense, but eventually people started to leave and it helped a bit. In the end, the bar came away with a win for me, but in general I would have to say that there are probably better places you can go in Palermo. The one thing that I noticed, however, is that there didn’t seem to be too many foreigners in there, so if you’re looking for an authentic night out (if that’s really possible in Palermo Soho) you could check out Podestá Bar.

Podestá Bar, Armenia 1740 (esq. Costa Rica)

Hooray for Random 3-Day Weekends!

21 Nov

This weekend is special because we are smack dab in the middle of spring and have the luxury of a three day weekend. Just a few weeks ago the government surprised us with a surplus of holidays for the upcoming year, and on Monday we’ll be celebrating the Day of Sovereignty. No one really seems to be totally sure of what this holiday exactly means or celebrates, but it has something to do with the navies of France and/or England sailing up the Parana River in the 19th century without permission. If I’m not mistaken, Argentina was mad and said, “Ohhh, what’s a-mattah you? This is our country, you can’t just sail your yacht through our backyard.” And apparently war was avoided because they respected Argentina’s right to sovereignty.

No one I’ve talked to really cares about the little details, but you will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t want an extra day off in the best part of the year. It’s hot but not overbearingly hot like it will be in just a couple of weeks. Even the humidity has been fairly low recently, and upon going out for a run at dusk, you’ll find that the humidity is low, the breeze is perfect, there’s still light by 7:45 pm, and everyone is just in a general good mood. Spring always brings out the best in people.

I was thinking of going to Tigre today, and it would have been beautiful for it, but in the end went with laziness after an all-night salsa party with my new Peruvian friends once again in the neighborhood of Paternal. For the first time I feel I was invited to a legitimate and traditional parilla (barbecue). Not just a restaurant, work function, or picnic. With the birthday girls father, the men gathered on the roof of the house and surrounded the grill with low-heat charcoal, bullshitting over some drinks in the dark. Just a single light bulb illuminated the grill with the choripan (sausage) and meat. The full moon was so bright and stars were out that we probably didn’t even need the light bulb. It was the first time I’ve seen the stars since going to Chile and being in the countryside.

That’s the kind of parilla I’d imagined for a long time but struggled to find. Some kind of old dirty fire pit pieced together on an aluminum roof with years of experience rather than a pretty face. But the experience in the case of a parilla is the pretty face. Empanadas filled in the gap, of course, and we danced salsa long into the night. As I was leaving I thanked the father for the asado and he told me, “This was nothing, just a snack. You have to come back when I have a real asado.” I’m already salivating.

 

Volley-Soccer and Peruvian Salsafest

7 Nov

Yesterday I spent the day hanging out with a new buddy named Brian from Texas. Brian lives in Palermo Hollywood and his Peruvian roommate Antonio invited us to a salsa party at his friends’ house for later in the day. To kill some time in the afternoon we walked to the neighborhood of Chacarita, which is to the west of Palermo. I’d never really been there before, but there’s not much of a reason to go there unless you know someone. The Chacarita Cemetery is huge and a lesser-known tourist attraction, especially underneath the level of the Recoleta Cemetery, so we were going to check it out.

By the wall of the cemetery we noticed a large crowd gathered watching a game. On a volleyball court there were two guys per team playing, but not in the traditional way. Not using any hands, these guys were only using their legs, chests and heads to hit the ball over. I’d never seen anything like it, and their skill was impressive. It almost seemed like they were working together as one team, simply trying to keep the volley going, and just when it looked like the ball had gotten to far away they were able to pull it back it and keep it going.

The crowd was all men in their 20s to 40s, and everyone was drinking either mate or beer. Instead of using a volleyball they had a soccer ball, and though the game is different, it reminded me of the intense games of Ecuavolley that groups of men would play and watch in Ecuador. I had to wonder about how they got to the point where soccer and volleyball were no longer interesting, and the light bulb went off to combine the two. I could have stayed watching for a while but we went to see the cemetery, though it was already closed.

Later on we got to the Peruvian salsa party in the neighborhood of Paternal, which is kind of out there off the main loop. Immediately we were welcomed in like members of the family, given food and drinks. It was mostly Peruvians from Lima, but an interesting mix with small children running around and some serious dancing going on in the attic-turned into dance studio with blasting music. I’ve realized that if I learned how to dance salsa in Ecuador after a year of practice, the year without practice in Argentina has almost undone the lessons. It took me a couple of songs to get back into a rhythm, but even then I still couldn’t keep up with the Peruvians.

In the end, a few hours of blasting salsa and cumbia was enough for us, but we were invited back anytime for private lessons, so maybe one day we’ll take them up on it. After two years in Latin America, the unquestioning hospitality of latinos is still amazing to me. Immediately you are a friend, invited into the house, offered food and drinks, and hugged. It’s a warm feeling which everyone should get to experience.

Fuerza Bruta in Buenos Aires

14 Aug

Fuerza Bruta, running man

In the center of the Villa Villa Room a man is running in place on a giant treadmill. He’s attached to a cable in case he loses his step, but he seems sure of himself and keeps walking, dodging white plastic deck furniture and other pedestrians—people who are seemingly attached to the treadmill and pop up from underneath, get in his way, and just as quickly as they entered, fall flat off of the track. The music is booming and percussion is in a world of its own when the man starts to run flat out, his tie bouncing around on his beating chest. And then without warning a loud gunshot rings through the packed room and everyone jumps. The man drops dead, the spotlight still fixed on his lifeless body. But a moment later he gets up, checks his wounds on the now blood-soaked dress shirt, and begins to walk again.

This madness, this depth of script and powerful acting, combined with the eardrum rupturing beats, is Fuerza Bruta (Brute Force) in a nutshell. The show has been appearing at the Recoleta Cultural Center in Buenos Aires since March, but will have its final show on August 22 before moving on to the next location. It has already run with success in Chicago, Mexico, and soon New York, and has continued to thrill Tuesdays through Sundays for Porteños and visitors alike. I had only heard of it recently, but after getting a brief description and understanding that its one of those incredible shows which people always describe by saying “you have to see it,” I knew that it was worth spending a little cash.

Bang!

After work with Vero and her roommates Cris and Pauli, we met up for a quick round of mate and then ran off to Recoleta, barely making it in time for the show. I tried to head to the bathroom before it started but got denied as the doors closed and the lights went out. There would be no heading in or out for the next hour. Fuerza Bruta was like something I’ve never seen before—there are no seats, and the crowd stands around while occasionally being ordered by the crew to move out of the way so the stage can shift.

By chance we wound up in one of the worst spots in a back corner, but for those who go in the future, I’d recommend getting as central as you can. The running man begins the show in the middle of the room, but once he’s been shot dead a couple of times and broken through some cardboard walls, the rest of the actors come out. It becomes part Cirque du Soleil, part Stomp, and for a while you have dancers running on the side of the walls or people in a cage, destroying the set and interacting with the viewers, who don’t know whether they should be scared or dance along. But everyone is wearing crescent moon smiles and slowly but surely the room turns into a dance club, with a rave atmosphere.

Big rig truck horns blare and mist is shot through the air, which would be nothing less than refreshing if it were summer, but it’s the middle of winter and those of us worrying about our declining health stand off to the side a bit, watching those who are probably on LSD or ecstasy get soaked in the middle of the floor. They’re the ones who are getting the most out of the show, as it appears to have been created by stoners, for stoners. You spend the whole time looking up so that after a while your neck feels detached and as if your body is lightweight.

Suspended swimming pool above the crowd

A giant plastic pool is hovering over the crowd and we suddenly become aware of the half naked girls swimming above us. You can’t really call it anything other than artistic swimming, and they’re literally dancing with the water, making it follow them as the pool drops and rises in elevation, eventually coming in arms reach for the crowd. The girls start doing violent belly flops, and though it looks like it hurts, I can only think that it’s got to be the most enjoyable job on the planet at this moment.

Just as quickly as it started, the show comes to an end and leaves me wishing it was a weekend night, now that my energy is up and the dancing groove has been tapped. But alas, it’s a Thursday night in the middle of the winter, and I feel a cold coming on, so we call it a night. The show is only in Buenos Aires for another week, but the thrill of the act will stay with me for long after that.

Where: Villa Villa Room, Recoleta Cultural Center, Junin 1930, right next to the Recoleta Cemetery

Price: The price goes up every day, meaning on Tuesday it costs $50 ARG, Wednesday $55, Thursday $60, etc.

When: Shows are Tuesday through Sunday, at 9 pm every night except Sunday, when it plays at 5 pm. The act will end in Buenos Aires on August 22.