An Argentine “friend” is due to visit. Eight years ago, he was a great inspiration to me.
Three years ago we met, and I thought we were well-matched on the dance floor.
Apparently he was well-matched with my guest-room.
Last year he saw fit to rave about the dancing of one of my friends, who has also been my student.
This year, he gives extravagant compliments to another such friend.
And when I suggest some milongas we might go to during his visit, answers cryptically “I’m coming to Berlin to dance with good dancers.”
This comment and its possible implications for his assessment of me (as he doesn’t clearly include me in that group), twist and burn inside me.
Is it my ochos? Is it my smile? My friends are skinnier and younger and more charming than me. Is it my dancing or my personality? Is it because I am a peer, and there is a threat there, which my friends do not pose?
Since this month is devoted to one of my new maxims: “Silence is Self-Violence”, I decide to ask him, straight up, if I am on his list of “good dancers”.
Now I am the kind of tanguera who never, under any circumstances or in any way, asks or pressures a man to dance with me. I am the kind of person who takes my own confidence in the dancing I do and what I create with my partner and doesn’t ask for confirmation.
Daring, this one or anyway first time, just rips open a box of pain. All the times I didn’t know. All the quiet self-assaults made in this forest of doubt.
Most of the torment can be organized around the following two questions:
“Why doesn’t he dance with me?”
“Why does he dance with me?”
This is the first time I’ve asked anyone to answer a question like this because tango is a culture of silence. Like drug dealers we have a visible conversation (that’s the dance) while making a handoff. We are making back-room deals for professional connections, sex, and a place to sleep, while we dance. This is ugly. No one wants to talk about it.
No one wants to admit the desperation that is electroplated to the pride and glamour of this life.
I try to tell myself that what I make is art, or pedagogy. But I fear that what we make at tango, is lies.