Two to Tango

29 Sep

tango pic

If you were wondering what it’s like to take a tango lesson in France, let me answer that question for you now: it is the same as taking a tango lesson in the U.S., except you most likely don’t have the vocabulary to say, “Sorry, I dance like a maimed hyena” to your dance partner.

Yes, this week, I took a tango lesson at my French town’s community center.

Here’s what I think about choreographed dancing:

When I was in middle school, a couple of “the moms” of my friend group decided we girls NEEDED to take a ballroom dancing class.

Pre-pubescent ballroom dance classes are basically just excuses for popular kids to dress up and touch each other, and for average Joes to show up to “casual dress” day wearing formal gaucho pants because they aren’t in-the-loop enough to get the “casual dress” memo…

In my utopian society, ballroom dance classes would not offer thirteen-year-old boys the opportunity to choose a dance partner from a wide array of diverse looking thirteen-year-old girls, with diverse fashion senses, and even more diverse hygiene habits. This practice must be made illegal. (Please support my NGO, “Save the Greasy Dancing Queens.”)

Not getting chosen by Nick L. Nick K. or Nick J. to share in some version of the Cha-Cha or the Merengue was social suicide, cloaked in a suburban mom’s dream of “cultural expansion.” It was also how I spent my Thursday nights for three years in a row.

Flash forward to today, and I am probably still scarred from that experience. It’s one thing to not get picked for dodgeball because I genuinely suck ass at that sport. But it is quite another to not get picked for a dance, when you’re wearing your most proper headband and you managed to look a total of one boy in the eye at school that week – who wants to be brought down from that high?

Also, until this week, I was under the impression that I have two left feet…not when liquor is involved, obviously. When drinks are flowing, I have two left feet AND two right feet – I am a dancing ANIMAL. But sober dancing never really seemed like my forte (see, I’m so culturally immersed here in France). I guess it’s hard to learn how to ballroom dance when your partner is picking his nose and flicking his findings in your direction. (I dare the cast of Dancing with the Stars to dance through an experience like that…)

When I was invited to participate in a French tango lesson, I knew I couldn’t say no – when you’ve recently moved to a new place and are friendless, it’s important to accept every opportunity for social interaction:

“Hey, lady, go pick up my dog’s shit!”

“Alright, sure! I am new to the neighborhood, after all!”

When I got to the tango lesson, the room was not full of young, athletic youths like I’d anticipated. No, the crowd was composed of more Jack Nicholsons and Dame Judy Denches than hot young things looking to swivel their hips.

Our teacher welcomed us and explained to us that Tango is about “giving and receiving information” with the body – the leader gives a message, and the receiver listens.

Reading my first partner’s body language – an older man with very stringy hair – was like trying to read War and Peace in pig Latin. I hoped that maybe he would switch from physical to verbal communication, but he mumbled so much that I couldn’t tell when he was talking versus when he was coughing. Neither physical nor verbal communication was really an option. So, I nodded and smiled and discreetly wandered away when given the option to change partners.

As luck would have it, my second partner was a woman about ten inches taller than me, and with the firm grip of a drill sergeant. You know how they say it takes two to tango? Well, this woman thought it took one and a lot of stern commands to tango. She really wanted to tango, and she wanted to tango well.

“NON!” she would say, if we started veering off in a direction that didn’t suit her fancy. This felt less like dancing and more like playing rugby.

By my third dance partner, I was a self-proclaimed Tango pro. My TOMS slid across the floor like an oiled seal slides across an oiled floor. I felt rhythmically attuned to the music, and I was ready for whatever my dance partner had to offer.

Lucky for me, my third dance partner was a natural at breathing heavily and sweating onto other people’s skin. But, what he lacked in pore control, he made up for with foot control. We tangoed for a solid two minutes! It was sensual. Just kidding. I avoided all eye contact because raising my eyes to meet his increased my chances of taking sweat to the mouth.

By the end of the class, I had successfully tangoed. I’d also successfully nodded and said, “Oui” in response to every comment anyone made to me…

Friends are like cheese: the best ones are aged, and making them requires buying them. Buying my way into a tango class for the elderly? C’est la vie.

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3 Responses to “Two to Tango”

  1. elizaberrie September 30, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    I danced with a guy who’s breath smelled like cigars. I wish I hadn’t said hello or anything that encouraged conversation. :{

    • sophpearl September 30, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

      Oh no! Yes, always go with silence 🙂

  2. castleclouds September 29, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

    Some of the ones I danced with immediately ran away from me once they said to change partners, so I had to dance with Anais twice. She’s a really good dancer though

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