There seems to be an ongoing parade of visiting, nomadic Argentinean and Colombian tango dancers in New York these days.
They set out from home for a few months at a time with suitcases in hand, filled with dance shoes, sparkly outfits and pomade.
We are graced with their expert technique and they do their best to impart the essence of Argentine tango as they see it and dance it. Hot off the stages and dance floors of Buenos Aires and Manizales.
They usually come in pairs: Leandro & Laila, Alejandro & Cyrena, Gustavo & María, Gabriel & Analía and so on.
At Triangulo (my dance studio) there was room enough on the dance floor for a parade of one. Our traveling tangoist was Carlos Paredes.
He was small in stature, limited in English and muy grande in personality.
Carlos began class with a sensational proclamation; DANCE STEPS DO NOT MATTER! He asked that we not imitate him and he implored us to play and create our own tango. But without steps, then what with?
While we were recovering from the shock, he began strutting around the room while passionately espousing his 3 rules of tango: Relax! Have Fun! Love Your Partner!
With the deftness of a speed-dater he sashayed up to every woman and asked if she would be his girlfriend. He wasted no time, got right to the heart of the matter and said: “I laaahve you! Do you laaahve mi?”
And that is how I became girlfriend number 7 of 15.
Though we were befuddled by his teach-no-steps method, he did emphasize that without the core fundamentals of walking and balance, dance figures and patterns mattered little.
And to demonstrate further, he invited girlfriend # 3 (or was it # 5?) to walk with him in close embrace. He would periodically let go of her to see if she was maintaining her own axis, that imaginary line about which the body rotates. In other words checking to see that she was not falling over.
He said: “Don’t need me, don’t need me, don’t need me too much because I have many, many girlfriends.”
That’s why I love this dance so much. There is a life lesson at every media vuelta (a half turn used to change direction), even when you weren’t looking for yet another life lesson.
The Argentine tango from all outward appearances; women leaning on men, its lead-follow structure and its strict rules of dance floor courtship (men asking women), one would think that we ladies are hopelessly dependent.
But it is crucial that we possess our own balance, our independence. For without it, this dance of interdependence is impossible.
At a milonga recently a friend complained to me about the dances he had just danced. About how the women could not maintain their balance and used him as a prop to perform their own dance. That in turn inhibited him from leading and he was exhausted by it and not happy. And as we know, a happy lead is a happy follow.
After he recovered and we danced a set he told me that he was able to create our harmonious dances because of me. That because I was on axis he had the freedom to improvise so that we could dance. Together.
And so after an evening of relaxing, having fun and laaahving my partner(s) it was time to call it a night and hang up my red suede t-straps.
As I was sitting there with one shoe off and contemplating my axis, I was asked to dance. This may be the best invitation I’ve received thus far. He said: “If you put your other shoe on, I promise you that you won’t regret it.”
And I didn’t.
Copyright © 2013 Nancy Green