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Buenos Aires -- Her Love Affair With the Tango

 

Schvitz never showered...

After this frightening lecture, Claudia paired us up with partners. I was paired with a tall, stern-looking, German ex-pat who I furtively named 'Schvitz' because he arrived to class directly from work without stopping at home for a shower. Schvitz insisted on dancing cheek-to-cheek, which, considering our difference in height meant my cheek to his armpit. Unfortunately, my German cohort had not caught on to the subtlety of the dance.

'Turn to the left,' he urged me in an aggravated tone.

'But you are pushing me to the right,' I contested, too polite to point out that Schvitz had never advanced to an intermediate course despite having taken eight months of intensive dance classes.  


I head to the milongas...

For a woman, tango is about more than following your partner. It's about being able to understand his interpretation of the music through non-verbal cues. I knew I was not going to find what I was looking for in Claudia's studio, so it didn't take me long to cut class to head for the milongas. A milonga is a dancing den; it can be held virtually anywhere: a bar, a community center, even outdoors. Drinks are usually served, but the main event is always the dance. The atmosphere ranges from chic to casual and one can witness expert dancers of all ages. What counts here are your dancing skills, though I tried desperately to compensate with heels that got progressively higher.

At first, my luck was not much better than at Claudia's studio. My nerves caused me to fumble and step on the toes of my unsuspecting partners. They all seemed annoyed. One even abandoned me on the dance floor. Until my last evening, that is.

I was taking in my last bit of tango music and ambiance when a handsome, dark-haired man of about thirty made eye contact and nodded from a distance. I nodded back and we met on the dance floor.

I arched my back and fell in love...

He put his glasses in his back pocket and held me close. We started swaying back and forth to the music, barely moving at all. He alternated the pace, from standing still to performing fast, leg movements. I didn't step on his toes once. After a couple of hours, we were sweaty, tired and drained; but we persisted. I executed movements that Claudia would have never guessed I was ready for. I learned to flick my leg sensually between his legs. I learned to arch my back and be dipped. I learned to add in my own freestyle embellishments.

I later found out Paulo was a tango photographer; he spent his time interpreting the dance visually. So I suppose I should not have been surprised that his dancing was so fluent and his interpretation of the music so smooth. The truth is, all it takes is one good leader to show you what the dance is about. And Paulo did that for me. In fact, with the loud music in the background and my elementary Spanish, I can't even be sure that was his name -- but I suppose that's irrelevant to the lessons he taught me. My love affair was not with him, it was, after all, with the tango.  

Women's words on dance...

Dance is the hidden language of the soul.
(Martha Graham, New York Times, 1985)

The truest expression of a people
is in its dances and its music.
(Agnes de Mille, New York Times, 1975)

Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery.
(Martha Graham, New York Times, 1985)

Dancers are both athletes and artists.
(Margot Fontteyn, A Dancer's World, 1979)

Every dance is a kind of fever chart,
a graph of the heart.
(Martha Graham, Blood Memory, 1991)

Dancing is like bank robbery.
It takes split-second timing.
(Twyla Tharp, Ms., 1976)  

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