Tango’s magic and mystery can return as easily as it faded away.
Tonight I danced with the best dancer of my life. I’ll call him Mr. Anti-cliche.
I admired him last night. Then tonight I complimented him at Milonga Popular.
Which has moved upstairs to a larger, but no less problematic room. Especially problematic for the cabeceo, which was not working for me. I picked out my 4 marks, but couldn’t get anywhere near them, without feeling like a streetwalker. And couldn’t get rye contact from my seating pocket to theirs.
So I sat and talked to A1, who I’m always grateful to see. And drank three glasses of water.
And then A1 left and I was alone. And about to get up and walk out. No one apparently had noticed my pretty Milonguera feet when I danced with Useful Basic Dancer.
And then miraculously Mark2 showed up at my side. And danced not one but two -and the “last two”- tandas with me. After which Mark4 appeared by my side, and didn’t speak English and didn’t know those were the last tandas.
Milonga Popular has this routine where they end the Milonga at 130. Then they play some videos of golden age tango orquestas, to which you are welcome to dance. Then they offer everyone a free drink (make it yourself from bottles of vodka and fruit juice left standing on the bar) and then they play 30+ minutes of disco music. They play it until everyone is drunk enough to get up and dance (or leave) and then they play it a little longer, and then they go back to tango music. This I knew.
When I let the last person I knew leave without me, I wasn’t sure I would dance again. I knew it was hope, not clarity, that kept me there. I knew it would be better to take care of my ego, to put Marks2 and 4 in pocket and call it a victory.
But I was drunk and I stayed.
Not knowing that in Milonga2 the cortinas are rock-and-roll and they play the whole song. And the New Victorians, drunk and disco-loose, find their bodies again. They’re not doing the grandparents dance anymore.
But I didn’t know that yet. I just knew that there was some breathing room. Mark3 asked me to dance and waited for me to put my shoes back on.
This turned out to be the dance I’d been waiting for all last summer. “You have a lot of power” he said. It was the dance of Club Fulgor in 2010, demanding, diverse, precise, built on a powerful double axis giro, going all kinds of places. “Oh, I forgot about colgadas”, he said. But he had learned them well; they were flawless.
We danced two tandas, interrupted by the cortina song which was Eminem or some such hip hop. Not knowing it would be played to the end, we didn’t dance it. We stood, increasingly agape, watching Mark1 dance with his girlfriend. It was fucking sublime creative fluid fabulousness full of revel’s back sacadas, wierd ganchos, soltadas. No two steps you’d ever seen danced in sequence before. The dance I’ve been building, but danced like birds in the air.
Mark3 and I went back to work on the past dance of the future, an abandoned prototype, still compelling.
The tanda ended, Mark1 on our heels and when Mark3 stepped away from me I was face-to-face with Mark1 who u ceremoniously put out his hand.
Now I had admired him in his pleated trousers and floral evening shirt. But he had changed to baggy cords and a tshirt, and now I had seen him really dance, I was in awe. Me?
We started to Prince’s Purple Rain, as I’d that were the most normal thing in the world. The next song was something traditional and he made the transition without a flutter, using the same massive vocabulary.
Even I was challenged by his avoidance of cliches. His improvisation was everything I imagine it could be and more. Without a doubt the best dance of my life. And he ended it with what he could muster in English. “Great dancer.” squeezing my hand and looking me in the eyes to make sure I got his meaning, he repeated it. “Great dancer.”