Updated 6/5/00

El Firulete 
The Argentine Tango Magazine 
October 1997


The Tango Lesson

She walked into the club with the typical apprehension of a newcomer and with a body language that betrayed her efforts to make herself feel comfortable at the unknown milonga.

The hostess did not help the cause by looking inquisitive and unfriendly, like wondering why a good looking woman who nobody knew just walked in from the street and into the cliquish milonga. Nevertheless she paid her admission and walked around the floor to find a lonely chair at an empty table. She sat and proceeded to stare at the dancers who oblivious to her presence where going about the business of exercising their various levels of skills to the beat of a Tango.

Nearby the TangoMan stood by scanning the scene with his eyes looking to make contact with one of the many females who sat around the dance floor, some engaged in chit chat with their neighbors at the table, others staring at the floor or enthralled in some fantasy dream that kept their eyes focused into a foggy space they only knew it existed.

The time went by three minutes at a time with the sounds of Troilo, Pugliese, D'Arienzo. The room was lit enough for the ritual to take place. Man asking for the assurance that the woman wants to dance. Man trying to catch the eye, to invite discreetly to a dance. There is something magical about that moment when the eyes meet the eyes and a complex agreement is established between the man who asked and the woman who accepted. For those who lived the times when that was the only way to act, the enactment of the tradition brings nostalgic memories of conquests and defeats.

Briefly the lonely woman with the look of an outsider turned her head and caught the eyes of TangoMan who smiled and nodded. She drew a faint smile and turned her head back to staring at the dance floor. She never looked back. Did she understood that an invitation had been made? Was she only exchanging pleasant salutations? Had she come here to watch? Had she wanted to dance?

The TangoMan never found out because while he was on the dance floor, the lonely woman gathered her belongings, got up, walked out and left. How would she rationalize the evening? Would she go home and cry and feel the frustration of not being asked to dance? Would she join the women who forgo their opportunity to live the full experience of Tango dancing and decide she wants to lead?

The TangoMan will never know, and perhaps in some other community another woman will fall through the cracks of Tango ignorance or join the forces that decry tradition and good manners. As he continued to scan the room looking for another eye contact, many women continued with their conversations and distractions. How many dances would they miss? Why is it that the teaching of the Tango never covers the simple rituals that are built on a tradition that has brought together many men and women to the dance floor to engage in a consensual embrace that leads to exhilaration and enjoyment? Here, he thought, there was a lesson to be learned.

Alberto Paz
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