Spanish class is good and today I start my 8 hours of tango lessons. What I wasn't counting on was the fact that it would just be me, the teacher and 8 intensive hours of dancing....AWKWARD!...
He reminds me of an old (and when I say old I mean OLD...) ex called Laurence. A forty year old director who I went out with for 10 months when I was 24 and who lied about his age compulsively going from 32 to 35 to 37 to 39 in the space of the ten months i was with him.
Learning tango is like learning a new language without words. The man leads and the woman follows and takes her lead from the energy and connection with the man. Its communicated silently from the pressure in the hold – sent down the mans' arms and into the womans hands and arms.
I think – this dance will be good for me.
Because I speak no Spanish yet and Daniel the teacher has very little English we communicate in French just to confuse matters...
He doesn't teach steps in a routine as tango is an improvised dance. Instead we begin to dance straight away and he works on trying to correct my frame which I find incredibly difficult. Its the opposite of other Latin American dances which are all in the hips. One should keep the weight grounded in the feet whilst extending the top frame, leaning into the man and supporting everything from the core.
Open your back, Support Your Core, Long steps, Weight in your feet, Open your shoulders, Close your Core, Long Steps, Weight in your feet becomes his mantra. He leads and shows me cues for different steps such as leading me into Ochos...when the woman twists her whole body left and right, stepping in a figure of 8 movement.
Apparently I have a tendency to not support my core and constantly lean back and away from the man. That – I think is a metaphor for MY LIFE and relationships!
Every now and then he stops to pour boiling water onto his mate pot. Mate is a traditional drink similar to green tea that is drunk religiously in Uruguay and Argentina. Its a rather time consuming effort of stacking up a little cauldron with tea leaves and sugar (if desired) then pouring over hot water from a kettle or flask and sucking up the liquid through a silver straw. At first on the streets of Uruguay I think it is just an old remant sold on market stalls for tourists – however people still stroll down the streets and loaf in the parks holding onto their little mate cauldrons and Daniel is no exception.
That evening – and is if I havent had enough tango I discover a tango teacher that has got in touch via couchsurfing and is teaching at a Cafe Notable nearby.
There are around 60 Cafe Notables in Buenos Aires and have been selected and singled out as contributing to the national culture and identity either through their architecture or because they have enjoyed the patronage of some important politicians or artists along the way. I go along to watch his lesson at La Confitera Ideal – a gorgeous elegantly faded Parisian tea room on Suipacha filled with little lined covered tables.
Fabian is another couchsurfer who has decided to shave 5 years of his age and hasn't been entirely honest with the profile photo. He joins me for a coffee and we share a plate of pastries filled with (what else) dulce de leche and then I make my way home. I have no desire to join the class or milonga- I'm tangoed out. 2 hours of private lessons a day is intense.
The next day i've received an email from Fabian- “ I would like to see you again, let me know if you would too..” I don't reply. The following day and i've received another email “I really want to see you again, I don't know why, just let me know...”
I explain i'm already seeing someone in B.A and it wouldn't feel right....
“ You have a beautiful energy...” Daniel the Tango teacher informs me on day 2. Tango is all about the energy communicated between a man and a woman. However I cant help feeling he's not talking about the dancing any more....
“ I want to...how you say...Kiss you?” He says hopefully. “alright?”
“errrrr NO!” I scream.
As my professional poker playing friend - the Duffmeister General will tell you, I do NOT have a poker face – in fact I have the opposite whatever that may be and cannot conceal my obvious shock and disgust. Artem from "Strictly Come Dancing" he ain't.
And i'm pissed off. I am British after all and therefore really quite repressed – we aren't known for our flamboyant displays of affection and being in touch with our passionate sexual side .Just being in a room with a man i've only known for 2 days and being held close in an intimate dance is difficult. I'm trying to open up, loosen up and now he's asking to kiss me!! He's speaking in a mixture of French, Spanish and English. I'm still not quite sure whether or not he's hitting on me or speaking about something else but I leave already formulating the complaints letter in my head.
That night I go to a tango class that he is teaching in his studio followed by a Milonga. I suppose its good practice dancing with different men although constantly having my feet trodden on by sixty year olds who then reprimand me for not knowing “the steps” is becomig inreasingly annoying.
"This is my place, I own it and live here” Daniel informs me. I have a feeling he's trying to impress and that I didn't misunderstand after all.
Anyhow Nico comes to meet me and I duck out around 10.30 to go get something to eat with him. We end up having a Bondiola – pork steak sandwhich with relishes in bread from a stall near Puerto Madero then haed back to San Telmo for a drink.
San Telmo is filled with artists, musicians and antiques at the regular Feria (fair) on sundays but away from the tourists and the tango dancers its still a wonderfully atmospheric place for a drink. We go to a cafe on the corner of the main square Plaza Dorrego (Plaza Dorrego cafe) that's touristy in the day but empty tonight. Its an old timeless little bar with graffiti etched old wooden tables, shelves stacked with dusty bottles and surly bar staff. It has character by the bucket load. We drink Malbec (what else.)
I try and practice the Spanish i've learnt so far, I concentrate hard on making my voice try and sound nice and not massacre the language with my hard edged english vowels. Nico looks at me.
"Are you planning on setting up a phone line beause you sound a little like a porn star....?"
OK so maybe overdoing it slightly on the sexy spanish accent. Another day he tells me I sound like Hitler so you know...i like the to run the gamut.
We go outside, filled with cheap but great red wine and kiss on the door steps to the cafe. Fairy lights string the trees that surround the square and I can't help thinking to myself “ God I love my life...It's fucking great!”