Monday, July 31, 2006

Eighteenth Lesson

Last night's lesson was courtesy of the slightly portly, nasal gentleman who crushed my ribs, kept up a constant stream of (supremely unhelpful) advice, and then crowed triumphantly, "See what happens when you trust me? I've taught you ocho cortaaaaado!"

Uh, no you didn't.

When I tried to point out that my teacher had actually taken care of that, the gentleman in question shook a finger at me and said, "Ah, but this is because you TRUSTED me!"

"No I didn't," I said, a little repulsed at the idea of this guy thinking I trusted him. "I know the lead for the ocho cortado. I did what you led."

"And that's the dance!" he cried, waving his arms and grinning.

While in its most technical form this statement is true, "Doing what the man leads" is to tango as "Naked people touching" is to sex. While this element is crucial to the overall success of the venture, it hardly captures the full promise.

I should have known before he ever asked me; he sat down and chatted me up, and talked glowingly of his teacher, recalling their first meeting where the gentleman asked to be made into a great tango dancer, and the teacher replied, "I can make you a martini. I can't make you a great tango dancer."

"Just like the Buddhist legend," I said placidly, and he looked at me askance. (Smartass women have a tough time getting dances. I'm fine with this. He wants to be pressed against me for ten minutes, let him work for it.)

Still asked me to dance three times. Not three dances, three tandas. Normally this is about ten minutes. With him it was approximately 8,302 hours.

Later in the evening a tall gentleman approached me, held out a hand, and asked, "Care to dance?"

We were in an alcove a little off the main dance floor, so it was just the two of us and a wooden floor and music from another room, and I said, "Sure." (Forgot to tell him I was a beginner. No harm came of it, though, so he probably knew.)

We danced two songs. He didn't grope, mangle, overstep, or breathe funny, and when it was over I had a pleasant little buzz. Afterwards we did the introductions, and I checked more than once to make sure he and his boyfriend were planning to come again next week.

That's how you dance tango, thanks very much.


A designer had rented space at the milonga to show her stuff, and as I walked past to price a few things (I can make them better and I can make them for less) she pulled out a pair of palazzo pants.

"I saw you dancing, and these are your style," she said helpfully.

They weren't - they were chiffon and pleated, neither of which are in my vocabulary - but i was wearing gauchos, and could see where she'd made the leap, so I made a polite noise. Encouraged, she continued, "They're wonderful for a woman of your size."

Wow. Now, I'm five foot eight and a size ten. Granted, I shouldn't be wearing strapless tube dresses, but she was holding out a pair of pants that people's grandmothers wear on formal night on cruise ships.

"Excuse me?"

At my tone, she tried to backpedal. "Well, I mean - I mean, there are a lot of shapes, and of course the Argentinians are all so thin, and I mean, not all of us are tango dancers..."

I smiled politely. "I am a tango dancer," I said, "and you can put those pants back."

Why yes, I am going to the fabric store today. Why do you ask?


Actual lesson: I danced for nine hours yesterday, and by a certain point my feet hurt so much I couldn't keep my balance, so I did what anyone would do and took off my shoes. I danced barefoot for the last hour and a half, and let me tell you, nothing lengthens your backwards stride like knowing the lead has leather-soled shoes on.

Funny enough, my ocho cortados are better barefoot than with shoes.

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