Photo Credit: Libertinus
I have been incubating this post for a while. Whenever I tried to express my feelings about tango in a blog entry, I felt that my descriptions were inadequate. I had to leave Buenos Aires and return in order to distance myself and see the situation clearly.
Filed under Argentina, Tango
Photo Credit: Celeste
Happy Halloween everyone!
I’ve tried to remain a mysterious shadow behind this blog since its birth. Readers must surely ask, “Who is this person behind Buenos Aires?” I’ll tell you: she’s a thirty something, North American, Midwestern [section redacted].
Ricki of Diet, Dessert, and Dogs posted a “Six Random Things About Me” post in early October and tagged bloggers who might be game. Ricki used to be an English professor, and she can write. Well, it’s about time I divulged something about myself; although each time I try to write about myself, I think, “Don’t you want to hear about Buenos Aires?”
Six Random Things about the writer:
Photo Credit: Zabara_Tango
This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he
An excerpt from the poem “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich.
Around three years ago, I learned how to scuba dive. I’m not a natural, and I haven’t returned for a couple of years now. The hardest part about diving was the moment my face and mask went under the water; I had to resist the natural urge to buck against breathing underwater and surface.
It’s really a form of meditation to stay under water and reserve the air in the tank. I had to learn how to breath slowly and disassociate my fears from reality. I coaxed my brain into believing that breathing under water was natural. Slowly I pressed the air out of my jacket and descended with my gauge clutched in my left fist, in love with the ocean and deeply terrified all at once.
Photo Credits: Andrea Balducci
To me, one of the most appealing things about tango is that it is accessible across social levels and includes all types of people, from lawyers to taxi drivers. It’s a working class dance, initially cultivated by mariners and immigrants who missed their homelands and wanted to experience an embrace–to remember loves left behind, lost loves, or the hope of future loves.
On the dance floor, everyone starts at an even stature until his or her dance skills are displayed.
Tango has also taught me more courtesy and empathy. The dance hall can be a community. Hosts regularly greet their guests who come to dance and send them off with hearty goodbyes and kisses on their cheeks. Milongueros greet familiar dancers as they enter the hall. Codigos are set to protect a dancer’s wishes and pride. Regular milongueros greet elderly dancers with the utmost reverence.
The moments I miss a step or catch my partner’s foot, he usually takes the blame: “No, no, it was my fault.”
I am developing my steps, technical abilities, the weight with which to balance my feet, and the way my knees need to brush as I walk. The pleasantries and courtesies have taught me how to be a more thoughtful person as well.
My second tango experience didn’t go quite as smoothly as the first. I still love the dance, but my first rejection on the dance floor smarts.
I have to tell you–tango is not easy to wing. While some men may be patient with beginners, most dancers want to dance with a woman of their caliber. I can understand this. I would too. With the right dancer, though, I can usually find the rhythm and improvise a bit, as long as my partner doesn’t try to turn the dance floor into a lesson.
At the beginning of this night, I saw a young man at the table next to me raise an eyebrow–an invitation to dance. He looked to be in his early twenties with stiff, gelled hair, a starched lavender shirt, and pungent musk cologne.
When he locked me in the tango embrace, I noticed that he had a tight, forceful way of dancing.
I did not think I would be so lucky to tango while in Buenos Aires.
Tonight, I visited La Viruta with V. and another barrio amiga. The bar appears a dance hall for beginners, but it was probably the best place for me to learn. I can dance salsa, merengue, swing, waltz, and foxtrot. I had confided to Deby that I wondered if I was ready for the tango without experience. She responded skeptically. It may seem easy, but lessons are essential.
At La Viruta, classes start at 10:30 p.m. The first partner I had, Raphael, was a good dancer–very strict and concentrated. He counted each step in spanish, declaring, “cinco y seis” at the end of each pattern. My second partner was a weak lead. I had no idea where my steps were placed. He knocked me into other couples, and I might as well have been dancing with a broom. There was no sentiment. He called the female instructor over for help as if I were the problem. She kindly told me not to lead. Well, this wouldn’t be a problem if he were a stronger partner. Continue reading