Jun Yi / People of Tango. Photographed at Bissap Baobab in San Francisco, CA, 2017.
A phone message from dear friends alerted me to the milonga at a Senegalese restaurant in San Francisco. Though it was the first time I visited this venue, all the usual subjects were there. In every tango scene around the world, it is always like this: the venues change but the same crowd drifts from place to place. Tango Nomads. What the tango community lacks in size, it makes up for in passion and commitment.
At a typical milonga, whether in Buenos Aires or around the world, DJs are usually hidden from sight. They sit at a nondescript table, hovering over their laptops. Sometimes they are even tucked into a room next door with a window onto the dance floor; sometimes they are set up behind the bar, like at the now-defunct El Arranque. At El Beso, the DJs are elevated on a high platform but they are far out of sight, as if on overwatch.
But here at Bissap Baobab, being an African cultural center on other days, the DJ worked from an altar above the crowd, easily visible and a protagonist of the night. In her pink dress, Jun Yi worked away, her face illuminated by her laptop screen. She was dressed for dancing in a pink dress and heels, but her energy was focused on keeping the floor moving. She took her task seriously, pouring over and over her set lists.
Once in a while someone who knew her would approach her altar and invite her to dance, but always like Cinderella she would hurry back to her computer before the set ended.