High Rise Tango
A Skyscraper Studded Backdrop
This is my 4th or perhaps even 5th visit to Hong Kong – I have lost track. All but one of those trips was for business during a pre-tango era so my experience this time has been so very different on many levels. Arriving from Shanghai, also offered a new perspective.
The twenty-seventh floor is officially my highest milonga to date. Not bad going for a Monday night in the big city! I was in awe as I stepped into Mezcalitos, a new venue being trialled by one of the organizers in Hong Kong. The swish bar with arresting views of the vertical cityscape is the quintessence of Hong Kong as I remember it – glitzy and modern. Tango events call for the grandeur of iconic venues from Town Halls to historic hotels and even town piazzas, but this was unique. Floor to ceiling windows offered an elevated perspective of downtown streets I had pounded just that morning as an eager sightseer.
The vibe was more informal than a typical milonga, but far from casual. It strikes me that a venue such as this in a city such as Hong Kong could so easily attract a pretentious crowd, yet it doesn’t. Tango keeps it real! Entry is gratis so a glass of Moet to kick start the evening was not entirely out of place.
The concrete floor, while suited to a modern minimalist décor, is not pivot friendly and the flow was forced into a lopsided rotunda but that didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm.
The day before we had popped into the Sunday High Tea milonga, housed in a dance studio. It was also well attended and there was a notable imbalance of numbers – unusually in favour of followers! A number of elegant postures and unexpectedly tall silhouettes graced the floor. A steady and determined stream of cabaceos didn’t allow time to watch the floor and make my mental shortlist of prospective tandas. That’s far from a complaint!
A more traditional style and pleasing etiquette dominate the floor. Hong Kong’s ‘best DJ’ - so I was told - did not disappoint as she spun the more familiar orchestral tunes.
My experience of tango in Hong Kong was brief but memorable. Overall, the banter is welcoming and genuine. The crowd is friendly and etiquette-conscious leaders don’t hesitate to make their mirada clear. As a vibrant commercial centre, Hong Kong is home to many expats too so the crowd, though predominantly Hong Kongese, is quite multi cultural. The two milongas we attended were a good mix of locals and European expats.
A hop skip and jump from the mainland, Hong Kong is a stark contrast from the neighbouring Chinese capital cities. Not so much the skyscraper-studded skyline and the plethora of shopping centres, but the people. Perhaps Hong Kong’s autonomous administration and the remnants of British rule have rubbed off on its people who are markedly more globally minded, friendly and sophisticated than their more traditional Chinese neighbours. Coming from Mainland China I’m grateful for the smiles, the acknowledgement and the eye contact that is in unfathomable short supply on the streets of Shanghai. It’s good to know that I’m not invisible after all!
Getting around Hong Kong is fun and easy; the MTR is modern, well signposted and uber clean. The trams are a more squashed, albeit an authentically, local alternative. We unknowingly boarded without the correct change and met the generosity of an older local lady who paid for us rejecting our attempts to reimburse her. The ferry crossing to Kowloon is relaxing and a feast for the eyes with dazzling modern high-rises adorning the harbour fronts.
Back to the city’s main attraction – shopping! There’s really no escape from the sheer overwhelm of choice thrust at tourists and residents alike- phew, talk about suffocating! You are likely to end up overspending or not shopping at all.
A food ‘safari’, while not recommended for the tango-conscious waistline, is arguably a good distraction from the shopping. We were spoilt for choice with an array of quality options, from street side dumplings to the trendy inventive cuisines boasting magnificent views. Tokyo Lima, a Peruvian Japanese was a winner and clearly not just with us – the restaurant was a buzz with activity on a Sunday night.
Feeling disconcerted and needing an escape from the frenzy of this densely populated city just 2 days into a 3-day trip I dubiously scaled The Peak for the promise of some tranquillity. It turned out to be a treat worth fighting the tourists for. Stunning vistas flank a pathway through subtropical lichen-rich forest, which keeps the temperature that bit cooler. The pulsing city is in sight but far enough to allow a breath of much needed fresh air and some time for reflection.
I’m told that the September Hong Kong Marathon is gaining traction and welcomes some of the best regional dancers.
Tango Highlight: The friendly Hong Kongese. Meeting old and making new tango connections. Healthy balance of numbers and overall standard of dancing.
City Highlight: Food, food and more food! The characterful backstreets that crisscross the bustling main streets create a vibrant and diverse pulse fusing the new with the traditional world.
More on Hong Kong Tango: Visit: http://milonga.hk/argentine_tango/