Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tango Lessons

I really love to dance, but I don't do it often. In fact, I used to dance more in high school at my most awkward and heaviest. However, my adult life didn't lend itself to much dancing. I'd suffered a handful of heartbreaks. I'd been exposed to negative men who filled me full of nonsense about my looks. I'd been cheated on. After that, I basically tore up my dance card.

However, what I've come to understand about dance is that it doesn't really go away. It's always there waiting in the wings. Maybe you tap your foot to a rhythm. Maybe you do it at home while cleaning the house and no one's watching. Maybe you watch and admire and wait your turn because the world is filled with wallflowers.

Well, about a month ago, my boyfriend and I were gallery sitting. My boyfriend belongs to an art cooperative. He is one of a dozen or so artists who showcase their work in the gallery. They pay a membership fee which grants them the opportunity to have a show once or twice a year. They can sell their work without a pesky gallery owner getting a commission. They are in control.

Being a gallery docent is boring stuff. You hang out in the little office space for a 4-hour stint. If anyone comes in, you greet them, answer questions if they have them, and tally the number of people who come in on a Saturday night (a whopping 5...). To pass the time, I read notes tacked to bulletin boards, the local newspaper, and a stack of old art magazines. I looked at the current art hanging in the gallery multiple times. But then there was nothing to do.

Well, in the space between the gallery and a nearby restaurant is a long hallway where a local dance studio teaches TANGO lessons. On other occasions, I'd seen the miniature troup there giving lessons. The hallway swells with Parisian type music--the kind that sounds crackling and hollow and straight off a record needle.

I went over to the side door and watched MESMERIZED as the instructors taught tango for FREE to whoever asked for it. I was so caught up that I didn't even notice one of the instructors who had noticed me. I heard, "Do you dance?"

I mumbled and waved his attention away. I was just watching, I said. He stared straight through me. That was not the correct answer. He shook his head and grabbed my hand. For a split second, I worried that my boyfriend might be jealous of some dashing Latin dance instructor, but then I remembered this was an older, shorter black man who seemed almost grandfatherly if grandfathers tangoed.

The man walked me through basic steps and then guided me around the hallway 3 times. My job was basically to keep eye contact while backing up with the appropriate foot. That was difficult. I worried about how I looked to others. I worried about what this man might think of my soft body. I worried about bumbling steps. Inner talk threatened to drown out the beautiful music.

He said, "Want to learn one more step?" By then my heart was beating fast. Why, I wondered, would I put myself through more torture? Why embarrass myself in front of my boyfriend, who had been watching the whole time?

"Yes," I found myself saying.

The instructor showed me this sexy move where you thrust your right leg out and it crosses behind to the left. The foot barely has a chance to make contact with the floor before the left leg thrusts out and crosses behind the right. It's aggressive, violent even, and lightning quick. And the whole motion elongates you and makes you feel sleek. It's a stretch felt below the waist. And it's sexy. I blushed and laughed out loud.

I thanked the man. He gave me his card and said to come join them any Saturday night for FREE lessons. I couldn't help asking why they were free. He smiled and said, "Some things should be free." I returned to my boyfriend who had watched the entire time. I said, "Oh god! How stupid did I look? I totally botched the whole thing, right?" My boyfriend told me it was actually quite the opposite, that I looked like a natural and totally sexy.

It's not that he was lying. I think he saw a giving in to the music. I think he saw the backbone of nervousness give way to a different type of stiffness: the intentional battle of limbs during this war between two people which is inherent to the tango. I think he saw a floating away of all doubt in the name of pure joy. And THAT is sexy. And best of all, it was FREE


  1. Gorgeous. It wasn't free, though. It cost the exertion of your courage. Very worthy purchase, if you ask me. :D xo

  2. Glad u didn't let the inner talk drown out the beautiful music. Proud of u! Tell me u're going back 4 more...

  3. This is such an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing - and keep dancing!

  4. This is a powerful post. So glad you gave in to the music. Your Saturday night dance instructor has such a great attitude towards life- looking forward to hearing about more of your dancing!

  5. i am so glad you went for it! what a great story. i love your blog!

  6. I’m glad to hear you finally came back to dancing. Dancing can really give one of the purest kinds of pleasure. So, did you continue the ‘tango lessons’? ;] You’re already comfortable with the man, and I think that will make him the best instructor for you.