Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Working Tanguera

It's 5pm and I'd already started planning my outfit for tonight's milonga. This started with the shoes.... I stared at my brand new pair of CiFs for a while, a dusty blue print on velvet with silver stiletto heels. They are truly my most treasured pair but they're also the most difficult to work with. I had a hard time finding a single piece of clothing with the same shade of blue in it. My bedroom looked like a war zone. I found something at last.... after trying on 7 outfits... but ended up changing back into the little black number I initially had on. Ugh! Guess I'll have to wear my trusty black strappy Neotangos again.

After I finished with my "NTO" (Non Tango Obligations) for this evening, I rushed over to the milonga because that’s when the night really begins. I always walk in with a little bit of nervous anticipation....wondering who will be there. The door opens and I immediately spotted Lou, who goes to every milonga and seem to know everybody and every body's business. So I always make it a point to chat him up. He gave me the low down on Who’s who… Which guy is there to pick up women and which ones use their tango skills to prey on beginners....etc, etc. He knew their occupations, marital status, how long they've been dancing and which milongas they frequented.

I was waiting in line for the restroom when I bumped into someone I'd met at my very first practica. He looked familiar but I'd forgotten his name... but hey I never forget a face. I also never forget a man's scent, his distinct combination of sweat and cologne, his breath and most definitely if he has BO. This man was a saint; spending over an hour going over the basics with me on that very frustrating day. I was excited of course to show him how much my skills have improved in the past 3 months. I vow to always be kind to those who have helped me along this journey ... no matter how good of a dancer I become. The men always tell me about the women who stop dancing with them, once they feel they are too good. I understand the logic to want to dance with more advance leaders to improve your own dancing but we have to keep in mind, first and foremost, we are human beings before we are tango dancers. So let's help keep the dance floor a happier friendlier place!

The Saturday night milonga is usually good at this studio but it seems tonight was little chaotic. Many leaders were not respecting the line of dance. It was a free for all.... like finding parking on a Sunday afternoon at the mall... ha! you snooze, you loose! I started to imagine what it'd look like if the men wore blinkers on their backs.... signaling their next moves. How funny would that be?

Time seems to fly in tango land.... a few dance partners later and it's time to say Adios. I did some calculations; I dance on average 3 hours a night....lets say a tanda averages at 12 minutes, take away the performance/announcements plus resting every third tanda, this will leave me with the probability of 11 different partners a night….. But since I normally dance 2 tandas with a few friends... this actually leave with me with 3 - 4 new dance partners a night. OK.. I officially need to be commited ... who does tango math at 4am? Well the good thing is I no longer need to wear a watch to milongas, since I discovered that my feet have a built in clock; Automatic shut down after 180 minutes of usage. I can usually tell the system is shutting down when someone asks me to dance and I respond with a Yes, but it takes me a little more effort to get my ass off my seat. Then I am forced to say, "So sorry, perhaps just one song?" I’d go through this scenario several times, before finally heading out the door in my dance shoes, because I am too damn tired to change out of them. What can I say... it's just another night at work for this tanguera!


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"Un taxi... por favor!"

On my trip to Buenos Aires with my "ex" (read previous post), I knew I wasn't going to get asked to dance if we walked into a Milonga together and I, unfortunately, was not brave enough to travel alone not knowing very much Spanish. I'd remembered that one of the recommended dance instructors on my list also moonlights as a taxi dancer. Brilliant! It sounded like the perfect solution, I would get a lesson and a personal guide for the night. When I called Eduardo, he sounded frantic and explained that he was in the middle of an interview. He invited me to join him and some people at a milonga the following night and promised he would dance with me, and only me, for the entire evening. So I figured... why not? All I wanted to do was dance anyway. "Bueno! I pick you up in a taxi at 11:00pm!”, he said before hanging up.

My "ex" decided to meet up with a friend and left me waiting for Eduardo by myself. It was 10:50pm and I was starting to get nervous realizing I was in another country...and in just ten minutes, I would be going to a milonga outside the city with a complete stranger. Different scenarios played out in my head...kidnapped, raped, murdered and dumped in an alley! I grabbed my Spanish phrase book and scrambled to memorize the chapter on Emergencies. Eduardo text me at 11:20pm..."Sorry, leaving now... be there una momento!" Ugh! The anticipation was torturous. The buzzer startled me when it finally rang at 12:15am (note that's 11pm for Portenos). I grabbed my purse and a brand new pair of Comme Il Fauts and ran downstairs to greet him. I was blinded by bright lights when I opened the front door. Lights, Camera, Action! A camera crew of three and a man in his 40's with olive skin, wearing a dark suit and a bright smile. I squinted as he kissed me on both cheeks. I kept smiling, while my mind went to battle. "Run for your life... Who the heck are these people? No, stay! This could be interesting. Damn! I wished the electrical converter I brought with me worked, I could have used the blow dryer today! Why, ohh why, do these things always happen to me???" Eduardo gave me his arm then escorted me into the taxi. Taxi driver drove half way down the block, and then reversed back up the street to pick up one of the camera guys. Inside the taxi, with the camera rolling, Eduardo spoke of many things; the history of tango, pointing out landmarks as we drove past them, his thriving taxi dancing business with 80 + employees all well versed in all forms of dance and language to accommodate the influx of tourists. He also talked about the philosophy behind his teachings of Tango Sensodinamia: A shared movement technique in tango, complemented with concepts from different approaches to bodily movement disciplines blah blah blah... yeah ok, my mind started to wander but I did manage to sustain the look of enthusiasm on my face. When the camera stopped rolling, Eduardo explained that German TV were doing a special documentary on taxi dancers in Buenos Aires and thanked me for my participation.

Forty minutes later, we arrived at the Milonga, north of the city. Eduardo introduced me to everyone at our table... a mix of friends, taxi dancers and students. He wasted no time and invited me to dance as soon as we sat down. His lead was gentle and the embrace was comfortable... the DJ was playing one of my favorite songs; Bahia Blanco by Di Sarli... ahhh! finally! I closed my eyes and started to ascend into tango heaven. Lets just say, I quickly fell back to earth when I felt the heat of the spotlight on my face again. Apparently they wanted some dancing footage; close ups of my face, and then panning to our feet. Eduardo tried leading some fancy steps... I fumbled... Ugh! now the whole place was staring at us. At the end of the tanda, he escorted me back to the table. He sat with his arms around me... making me feel... oh so special, ordering me drinks while we talked about our love of tango. I came to the conclusion that there's little difference between taxi-dancers and escorts. They are both there to create a magical evening for the single traveler and I intended to make full use of my purchase!

One of the ladies at our table was celebrating her birthday and asked if she could borrow Eduardo for a dance. I felt an unfamiliar sense of entitlement. Accepting my ownership of Eduardo (well, at least of his feet for the evening), I said, "Sure, happy birthday! One of the taxi dancers gave me the cabeceo from across the table. I accepted. Robert, conveniently, also a taxi driver, was an overweight man in his 50's but a very enthusiastic dancer. His lead was strong and clear; he danced with impeccable musicality. When we finally broke from our embrace, my dress was soaked in his sweat. He didn't speak a word of English, but we laughed heartily after each dance, relishing in the sheer exhilaration of feeling completely in tune with each other. Ahhh! Tango... the universal language of love!

When I returned to our table, I overheard a conversation between two women. "Isn't it strange to have your boyfriend rented out for the night?”, one woman said to another. That's when I realized Eduardo had brought his girlfriend and she had been sitting at the far end of the table watching him the whole evening. Being my usual empathetic self, I walked over to her and introduced myself, reassured her that I had no plans to take her boyfriend home. By then it was 3:30am, and I was physically and mentally exhausted from the chain of events. So I thanked and paid Eduardo for the fun filled evening and then walked up to the hostess stand "Un Taxi... por favor!"