Destinations, South America

It takes TWO to tango

April 27, 2009 • By

I’m learning very quickly that dancing is a way of life in Latin America but maybe just not my way of life.  My Spanish school attended a SALSA lesson which turned into a night of drinking when no on could figure out Adelante – Atras – Izquierda – Derecha. The basic steps seemed simple enough forward, backward to the left to the right.  It’s very possible I just don’t have rhythm or skill to master these steps but I’m continuing to get out there and try try try.  Our salsa experience ended at a disco bar that resembled a warehouse complete with three floors of dancing.  It reminded me of how people described NYC in the 80s.  Upon entrance, we walked through metal detectors and then checked our bags.  The people jammed the dance floor and I thought for a work night it was surprisingly packed at 11:30 pm.

Apparently, the place just started heating up.  Locals go to a leisurely dinner right from work and then head to the clubs.  Men were dressed in business attire sans jacket but did sport the loosened tie look.  The women wore fancy tops, dresses and 5 inch heels.  Everyone seemed to be dancing on the bottom floor, while the upper floors catered to people with table/bottle service.  There were tons of small groups socializing and drinking Champagne.  I don’t think Argentinians even need booze to dance the salsa and tango.  These locals CAN work it.  It’s not about pump and grind American style dancing either it’s all about hips, moves and smooth lines.  The party seemed to last all night but when William (my classmate) got wasted and I attempted babysitting it was time to leave at 2 am.   Ahh the life of a Portero(local Argentinean).

I finally started my “for beginners” tango lessons and I’m having a total blast.  It’s definitely much harder than it looks and being comfortable with my partner is an advantage.  I’ve had two group lessons and one private.  Frankly, it has taken me that long to master six steps.  Every now and then I have to bust out laughing especially when my teacher waves her finger at me saying, “WOMEN DO NOT LEAD–NO MUJERES.”  I tried explaining to her that I am aggressive and like to lead in Spanish and yep she thinks I am nuts.  When I am with beginner dancers like myself, I definitely start pushing them around.  I can’t help it.  A few times I have danced with William and I push him but it’s OK because that usually means he will step on me and the instructor will come yelling.  After four hours, we finally got a “mejor” from the drill sargent.

The tango is a very sensual dance.  I am twisting and turning in between my partner Pablo’s legs and half the time, he spends untwisting me.  I learned a hook the other night and it was great fun.  My biggest hurdle is trying to convince myself to just slide.  It wouldn’t hurt if I had a bit more flexibility which leads me to my biggest problem.  In Spanish, flexion means to BEND not to stretch. Note to self: When the instructor says hook that means bend, when he says flexion that means bend, when he says estira that means flex.  Ugh!  There are too many things to remember.  Since I envision myself sticking with the tango and getting much better, I am going to invest in a darling pair of tango shoes.  I will be dancing the tango in some old-fashioned roaring 20s type of place with my swanky shoes and fancy dress before I leave Argentina.  If that takes two years, then I guess I’ll have to stay.  It’s OK Joyce. Don’t panic.  It’s only a 14-hour flight from Chicago.  Dancing the tango is also great exercise. My glute muscles killed on Saturday.  I’m sure it has something to do with stretching my legs in positions they don’t usually go.

Despite being a bit sore from tango, I paid for the gym and intend to use it.  The classes don’t even start at my gym until 11 am, which I am realizing might be a good thing as I went to a movie Friday night and didn’t get home until 2:30 am.  Can you imagine going to a 1:15 am showing of your favorite movie?  It’s NOT normal (for me).  Anyway, I decided to take the noon kickboxing class.  I haven’t done a ton of cardio in the last few months so I was a bit nervous how my body would respond. Let’s just say in the first 30 seconds of the class with the song, Total Eclipse of the Heart, blaring more rapidly than I ever thought it could be played I was beginning to understand several things:  I probably should not have blown off the doctors appointment; if I took this class 3 days a week I too would be anorexic; I was the largest woman in the room; I really needed a towel because I was soaking wet; this might be my final day on earth.  Willing my body to move forward, I somehow finished the class.  It was worth it.  The cool-down routine was none other than the SALSA.  Here I could test out my steps.  I quickly moved to the back of the room so it would be easier to follow and then it became clear to me.  The entire room had unbelievable hip action.  I’m thinking maybe people in the US could benefit from learning the salsa and tango at birth rather than learning how to reach for the remote control.  OUCH!