At La Confiteria Ideal where I learned to dance tango on my lunch breaks while working at the magazine, the practice sessions begin at noon and run till 3pm. At 3pm, the afternoon milonga or “matiné” begins, running till about 8pm most days. Some nights there is a milonga that begins at 10pm. And so it goes. Tango, it seems, never sleeps.

But La Confiteria Ideal is all about the afternoons.

In Buenos Aires, for those who crave the freedom of the night, there are many destinations where you can catch the dawn from the wrong side. But where the upstairs dance floor of La Confiteria Ideal comes into its own is in providing a haven for afternoon tango dancers. People like me who were escaping from offices and sacrificing lunch breaks to dance tango; tango tourists who could not wait another hour to start their day of dancing; and habitués who for age, long bus rides from home or for marital status preferred to dance during the afternoon hours.

After I myself had become a regular at the Ideal – getting in at half the price tourists were charged – a story appeared in the paper about an elderly man who died while dancing tango at La Confiteria Ideal.

Because it involved tango and an iconic dance hall – and there wasn’t much else happening that day – some young reporter was dispatched to ask a few questions. The people she spoke to told her that the man was a fixture at the small tables with their cigarette-scarred, rose-colored tablecloths, hanging out with his tango-loving buddies and dancing with the foreign women who went there to learn.

And this is the information that the newspaper printed in its story.

However in the following day’s paper, the man’s brother stepped forward to deny each of these facts. The story even ran with a photograph of the deceased man’s brother talking to reporters in front of his house. (I guess there still wasn’t much going on in the world – and what reporter doesn’t enjoy a good skirts-and-twerps story?)

The brother declared that his brother had never before been to La Confiteria Ideal but that on the fatal afternoon he was not feeling well and, passing the door, he went in for a glass of water. At which time he died on the upstairs dance floor.

But I knew different.

A dying man does not climb a flight of stairs to get a glass of water when there is a cafe, waiters and water waiting for him on the ground floor.

Though a regular at the milonga, the man had never confessed to his wife in all those years that he was going dancing when he said he was going to the barber shop, to play boules with his friends, or shooting the shit with other old fogies at that corner cafe. Anything but tango.

It was his last fib.

His dutiful brother, trying to avoid a post-mortem scandal, stepped forward to tell another story that may have fooled the man’s wife – though I doubt it – but certainly did not fool me.

We tango addicts can spot each other from a mile away.


By Kevin Carrel Footer – www.kevincarrelfooter.com

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