Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Seventh Lesson

Partners: Autocrat
Shoes: Tango shoes, 1.5" heel.
Injuries: Everything.

To preface this lesson, some tango ettiquette.

1) At a milonga, dances come in sets of three to five songs interrupted by brief snatches of unrelated music that allows people to change partners, get a drink of water, etc. Ettiquette dictates that partners dance at least one set together.

2) A woman should never refuse a man who asks for a dance. Ever. Apparently, if you go to Buenos Aires and refuse a gentleman, no one else will ask you to dance that night. So, kind of a big deal. (I have so many issues with this one, but we'll get to that later.)

Now. The seventh lesson.

The class itself isn't bad; Mina and I glide through the basics with a rotating series of partners that illustrates the vast divide between those who know what they are doing and those who do not. When you have someone who really knows what he's doing, you don't even have to know the move you're practicing because it's taken care of. If the guy doesn't know what he's doing, you're toast.

The teacher asks me to stay in the intermediate class because they need women (just like Lord of the Flies!), and so I get to go through another round of Ima Beginner, which is getting old. I either have to get better fast or stop informing people and just be like, "Man, your lead is terrible! Stop sucking!" The latter is more fun, but I suspect it would yield mixed results.

The move for the day is what sounds like a four-point turn but consists, in practice, of approximately eighty billion tiny steps taken in synchopation and including two instances of the man shoving his feet between the woman's feet. The teacher shows us twice, precise steps at five miles an hour.

"Understood? Excellent," she says.

My partner looks at me, and I spread my hands.

Once again, it's better with some partners than others, but I muddle through and can sort of manage the step by the end of class. My current partner tells me I should stay for the milonga, where all the incredible dancers come to practice and I can watch.

"Cool!" I say, because I can't see a setup. Good thing I'm a writer!

I watch for twenty minutes and realize that I have some serious work to do, because these guys are astounding. Just watching them is exhausting.

In the far corner, one tall young man is dancing very smoothly with a young lady that I assumed was his professional partner until I heard them talking later and figured out they had only just met. (I also know he likes Budweiser because it's "so throwback", which made me laugh hysterically. I am not ashamed; I know I have no inside voice. He should be ashamed for ruining the fantasy of the gorgeous milonguero with that bullshit about throwback beers.)

(I like long parentheticals.)

I look up because a classmate is nudging me and realize an older gentleman has his hand out.

"A dance?"

"Oh, no," I say. "I'm new. I'm just here to watch. Thank you, though!"

"Please. Dance."

"I started last week. I'm not comfortable. Thank you anyway."

"I insist."

I look around as if someone will save me. "Oh. I just...I really..."

At this point my classmate is looking at me like I've beat the man with a tennis racket, and while I'm trying to formulate a good excuse Autocrat pulls me onto the dance floor.

It's predictably awful; his lead is light without being decisive, and so I have no idea what he means me to do, since whenever I try to follow using a step that I know, it's inevitably the wrong thing and he wanted something complicated and beyond me. I look like I've never danced before. It was probably hysterical for the onlookers, in the same way it's hysterical watching a dog trying to get peanut butter off the roof of its mouth.

He asked me to dance between sets, so at the end of the first dance I steel myself for two more rounds of this disaster.

Instead, he claps me on the shoulder.

"Practice more!" he says with a dismissive laugh, and walks off the dance floor.

I'm stunned; this is the first time I've ever seen this happen to anyone. I catch the eye of the Budweiser dancer's partner, who looks mortified on my behalf, but then the music is starting and I walk off the dance floor as the couples start up again.

I really can't stress enough the ettiquette of the tango. For this to happen is the equivalent of a prom date pulling your dress down and then making out with your sister. Long after I force myself to sit back down and watch the other dancers as if nothing has happened, the dancers shoot me glances as they pass, wondering why I ever got up.

If I have learned one lesson from this, it is that I should rather fear the awkward dance than the awkward refusal.

If I have learned two lessons from this, it is that manners are dumb.

1 comment:

Jaq said...

Frankly, if I ever meet that guy, I'm going to gvie him a Glaswegian Kiss. Seriously.