One of my first memories of my sweetheart was back when he was married and performing with his then wife. Both of them were wonderful tango dancers, they even had a studio and taught classes. They incorporated tango into their pole performances and they were sooo hot.
Naturally when we got together I was eager to learn how to tango and was a little surprised with the speed in which he shut that conversation down.
“It will take you two years to get good at it and you should probably learn from someone else.”
Wow. Okay. I guess it’s like learning how to drive, you don’t want your partner to teach you. Then Covid happened and any kind of group lesson was out and, to be honest, I let it go because he was so clearly not into it. I knew that it was his “thing” with his ex and he might want to put that part of his life behind him. It didn’t come up for a couple of years.
Now it’s 2022 and a lot has changed between the two of us. Our relationship has deepened and he has done a lot of healing from his past marriage and it seems that he has disentangled the dance from the person and is ready to dance again. Plus, he loves Argentina, he used to go two weeks out of each year and he would dance the entire time, it was a beautiful part of his life and he wants to go there again … to Buenos Aires and tango.
He deejays for milongas (tango social dances) and asked me if I wanted to join him. There’s a class at the beginning of the dance and I can learn there. Why not?
The milonga was more fun than I had expected, despite having never danced. Everyone was so nice and there were plenty of leads willing to guide me around the dance floor. I think an experienced lead actually spends more time following and adjusting to their novice partner, making them feel capable and comfortable. It was nice.
Since then we have started dancing at home. It’s usually just a song or two, and we dance to contemporary music, not the traditional music that I have a hard time relating to. I figure that will come with time. Right now my sweetheart is keeping me engaged and comfortable, but he’s also teaching me how to follow.
I’m not great at following. I’m a control freak and in a perfect world I would have quietly taken so many classes on my own that I would come to him the first time as a near expert. It is a terribly vulnerable place for me to be in when I dance with him. I fear being rejected because I’m not good enough so I want to know exactly what is expected of me, I would love to have the whole thing choreographed out so I can memorize the steps, but that’s not what tango social dance is … performances are a different story.
I am always slipping my feet under his, trying to anticipate his next move without actually feeling it, trying to lead. It is anxiety provoking but also wonderful when I start to feel it and flow with him. I close my eyes and let him lead me around the room, knowing that it is his responsibility to guide me and keep me safe. It’s quite lovely.
When I watched tango socials in the past I didn’t really get it. They aren’t like showy performances. It looks like two people, dancing very close, eyes downcast and faces almost in a quiet reverie. It’s personal and doesn’t let anyone else in. To be honest, it looked kind of boring, the footwork oddly intricate and prescribed. Now I’m seeing that it is a silent conversation between the two dancers. I observed that it is like contact improv, but with lots and lots of rules.
Now we are dancing together and I get the moving metaphor, it is a relationship. It is one partner (not always the man) taking the lead and the other trusting, at least in the beginning it seems. I’ve seen him dance with experienced partners and it becomes more of a conversation between the two and the funny little kicks and wraps of the feet and legs are a form of gentle sparring.
I’m really happy we are doing this. It’s a regular part of our evenings now, a quick dance break. He told me I will love the culture and the opportunity to dress up and go dancing in an elegant ballroom. I do love that idea. And I am happy he wants to teach me and appears to be okay with the fact that I am a rank beginner.
I can’t and may never dance as well as his ex, obviously, and that’s okay. He doesn’t love me because I came to him knowing how to tango, but wants to teach me and bring me into a part of his world that was off-limits.