When: March 19 – April 16, 2014.
(Dates subject to slight shift.)
Where: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Who: 7-10 students (ages 14-19) plus leaders Blake Boles and Cooper Westerkamp
How Much: $3500 includes professional dance instruction, housing, sightseeing, breakfasts, and dinners.
(International airfare, lunches, reciprocity fee, and optional Spanish classes not included.)
How Can I Fundraise For This Trip?
Arrival/Departure Airport: Miami
Application Status: Trip full with 8 students!
Prepare for a Close Embrace
Other Unschool Adventures trips have a wide focus. This trip has a single focus: tango.
For four straight weeks, we will eat, breathe, and sleep tango. By day, we’ll practice with top dance instructors in Buenos Aires, the birthplace and cultural center of Argentine Tango. By night, we’ll attend milongas (social tango dances) and practicas (practice dance sessions) that last until midnight and beyond. Then we’ll sleep, rinse, and repeat.
Our homebase for the month will be a set of private rented apartments in the heart of the city. With a space completely to ourselves, we’ll be able to dance, sleep, and relax whenever we feel like it.
When not dancing, we’ll explore the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, find great restaurants, drink great espresso, take optional Spanish lessons, make friends with local dancers, cook dinners for each other, make friends, goof around, and otherwise have a blast.
Sorry, did you have other plans for the spring? We just blew them out of the water.
Tango lesson, U.A. South America 2011
A Trip Six Years in the Making
In 2008, Blake and Cooper voyaged to Argentina as part of the first-ever Unschool Adventures trip. Our group spent two weeks in Buenos Aires working with a professional tango teacher recommended by Grace Llewellyn. None of us (students or leaders) had ever danced tango before—and it totally swept us off our feet. Everyone fell in love with the dance. Tango combined culture, physical challenge, and personal connection in a way we’d never experienced.
Since that first trip, we’ve had a serious itch to get back to Buenos Aires and focus exclusively on tango. Now, six years later, we’re scratching that itch.
How We’ll Dance
The kind of dance we’ll learn is Argentine Tango: a lead-and-follow partner dance that emphasizes deep connection, improvisation, and spontaneous navigation across the dance floor. It’s not the choreographed show tango that you may see in movies or postcards.
Personal connection is a fundamental part of Argentine Tango. The dance emphasizes a “close embrace” in which partners’ chests touch and no eye contact is made. All communication happens through the upper torso. Leads and follow share responsibility for making the dance work. (Sometimes you’ll feel like tango is like relationship therapy.)
Here’s an example of Argentine Tango from the Unschool Adventures Argentina 2012 trip:
And here are two professionals demonstrating what’s possible:
Four days a week, we’ll take group lessons from professional tango instructors that last one to two hours. (We’re currently researching a number of different potential teachers—look forward to specific names closer to departure date.)
Roughly three nights a week, we’ll find evening milongas and practicas, using the website Hoy Milonga and recommendations from our instructors and fellow dancers. We’ll focus on finding dances that are less formal and more appropriate for our younger age group. (Please note that, even at “younger” tango dances, most other dancers will be in their twenties or thirties. Follows should be prepared to be asked to dance with people of all ages. You can always say no.)
Q: How much previous experience do I need?
A: It’s okay to be a beginner. We’ll start from the absolute basics.
That being said, any previous experience in partner dancing (e.g. swing, blues, or especially tango) will work to your benefit. If you can take a few introductory partner dancing classes prior to the trip, more power to you.
Q: Should I be a lead or follow?
A: In traditional Argentine tango, men are the leader and women are the followers. But there is no formal restriction against men following and women leading, and increasingly you’ll see non-traditional dance couples on the dance floor. (In the milonga video above, keep an eye out for the female lead.) Additionally, it’s valuable practice for leads to try following, and vice-versa. In early Argentine Tango culture, in fact, all men were required to learn how to follow before they were allowed to lead.
When you apply to this trip, you’ll get the chance to note whether you’d like to lead or follow. As trip leaders, we don’t care who leads and follows—but we will aim to create a balance of leads and follows within our group (including the trip leaders) in order to better facilitate practice sessions.
Q: Will I need fancy clothes or special shoes?
A: Some of the milongas that we’ll attend in Buenos Aires will require formal dress; plan to bring at least two nice outfits. Basic tango shoes are flat-bottomed with slippery, non-marking soles; we’ll make specific brand recommendations on our packing list. Female dancers have the option of wearing heels. There are stores in Buenos Aires where you can obtain tango-specific shoes for $70-200; we’ll take a shopping adventure promptly after arriving for you to optionally purchase a pair.
Q: What if I’m terrible and no one wants to dance with me?
A: Don’t worry! This trip is not about becoming an incredible dancer; it’s about enjoying the learning process, immersing yourself in a new culture, and pushing yourself to try something new and challenging. As long as you keep trying, you’ll keep improving—and people will want to dance with you.
Students at a milonga, U.A. Argentina 2008
Spanish lessons (optional)
The Buenos Aires Tango trip is a great opportunity to improve your Español, and we’re offering a fun way to do it.
For students who are interested, Unschool Adventures will hire a local Spanish teacher to visit our apartments three afternoons each week and provide 2-hour small-group Spanish lessons. These lessons won’t interfere with other group activities. (Lesson fees, estimated at $120 total, will be passed directly to participants; please mark your preference for Spanish lessons when you apply.)
If you prefer to skip the language lessons and and focus exclusively on tango, that’s okay too. Trip leaders will help you to learn the key phrases you need to navigate the city.
Group dinner cooking
Most nights, our group will prepare a big dinner for ourselves using our apartment kitchen. You get to join this adventure by contributing to the shopping, food preparation, cooking, and cleanup. The best part: you get to choose the music while you’re in the kitchen.
Some of the places that we’ll explore together in Buenos Aires include:
- Recoleta cemetery—home of creepy, glorious mausoleums and the body of Eva “Evita” Perinea
- El Ateneo—a bookstore housed in a giant former theater
- Confiteria Las Violetas—the most gorgeous coffee & pastry shop in South America
- Palermo—a hip, upscale neighborhood with excellent clothing, food, and parks
- Puerto Madero—the city’s recently renovated oceanside hangout area
- San Telmo—home to a colorful and never-ending Sunday market
- The Casa Rosada (Argentina’s equivalent of the White House), Obelisko (sort of like the Washington Monument), and other classic B.A. sights
Students will also get the chance to explore Buenos Aires on their own in groups of three or more. (We will provide students with a cell phone capable of contacting trip leaders at any time.)
March 19: Meet in Miami. Fly together to Buenos Aires. Move into apartments.
March 21-April 15: Tango, sightseeing, optional Spanish lessons, spontaneous fun, repeat.
April 16: Move out of apartments. Fly together to Miami. Fly home.
(Pretty simple, right?)
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a high-immersion adventure in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires and the magical dance of Argentine Tango, this is the trip for you.
Napping in our Buenos Aires apartment, U.A. Argentina 2008
- Daily group meeting and check-in
- Unlimited wi-fi Internet access (bring a wi-fi enabled device)
- Do-it-yourself lunch: a great chance to explore the city in small groups
- Helping with group meal preparation and clean-up
- Free/unstructured time for exploration, photography, journaling, R&R, and spontaneous fun
Have More Questions?
Read our Frequently Asked Questions (especially the section regarding international trips) for more answers to common questions. If you have other questions, contact us via e-mail or phone. No question is too small.