Kamil and Louisette who are on their fourth year of learning beginning Tango, smiled slightly when i told them last Fall of my long-burning ambition to learn to dance the Tango before I die.
“God, we have been at this for years,” said Louisette. “We are known as the ‘Fighters’, by the other diehards who are also struggling to master this dance.”
“Luisette just won’t shut up and let me concentrate on doing the steps correctly,” retorted Kamil, a twinkle in his eyes. “She is forever correcting what I am doing. Leading is real man’s work and she should just let me go on about the whole business.”
“G, Carlos, our Dance master is constantly picking on us in class, and Kamil refuses to listen to him. Take my advice and start out learning the Tango with Robin. She’ll gently introduce you to this sport. Having Carlos as your first teacher might totally discourage you.”
Thus, from January to end of March I signed up for introductory lessons of Quickstep and Argentine Tango with Robin and sans dancing partner. My young gay man was busy taking a Museum Management course on the nights of that class and sent his regrets re: partnering creaky old me. No biggie, as there were skilled rent-a-man dancers on hand during class, each one of whom I thoroughly threw into confusion whenever they danced with me, mostly as a sort of last resort and pity.Often, I ghosted after couples dancing while trying to follow the woman partner’s step sequences. Frequently I ended up dancing into walls because of my intent concentration, and even tripped up couples to whom I had to profusely apologize for disrupting. The other students put up with me as the dotty older and hapless dancing student who might be better off leaving the dance scene and retire to a park bench to feed the birdies.
The Quickstep is fun and rhythmic, if a trifle athletic when a fast tempo of music must be followed. Skipping is not something I do these days of habit. The activity a bit short of the decorum required of a woman on the cusp of accepted seniority. The Tango on the other hand requires one to move with stealthy, slinky grace and some fancy footwork – definitely not my strong suit as I have balance issues and a fear of falling. Any poor man who parnered me I clung onto like a baby Lemur death gripped it’s mother. One fellow kept insisting i grab hold of his upper arm on the underside – really firmly – and he would prop me up withhout difficulty. I often wondered if he went home after class to treat arm bruises with some unguent while drinking a needed glass of good Scotch, or Grappa, or whatever it is they drink in Argentina to decompress after a sweaty bout of partnering a dotty zaftig “Dancing with the Dogs” wannabe. One crafty rent-a-man partner, a good friend’s boyfriend, patiently put me through the paces while Robin looked on fondly with a goofy grin on her face. She is the style of teacher who utilizes humour to correct students’ effort to master basics. On last Tango lesson, she drew me aside and said – “G, it is time for you to move onto Carlos L. as student. I think you have got the hang of the basics well.” Huge surpise to me!!!
So, over a week ago i darkened Carlos’ doorway at the P.P. Dance Studio, along with Kamil, Luisette, Annouschka and others from our beginners class with Robin. This was Kamil and Luisette’s 6th repeat of Level 1 -2 Tango, and they do dance it with great elegance, and in relative silence, except for when they tangle their feet.
Luisette whispered in my ear as we were lined up against a mirrored wall looking very much like prisoners about to be mowed down by a firing squad. “God, G, I’m so glad you’re here with us. maybe now Carlos will have someone else to pick on besides Kamil and me.”
Just like in any first dance class, the protocol is to scrawl our names onto a hunk of sticky label so the teacher can call us by a name other than ” Hey you!” when he is picking on us. Carlos walked by each of us and shook our hands, repeated our names, made welcoming noises in his cute Argentine accent. He squinted at my name tag and started to laugh. “You’re called Baby?” he sputtered.
“No, Gaby”, I said, offering by way of explanation, ” Kamil made up my nametag, he has awful printing skills.”
Carlos went up to the front and centre of our lineup and faced the opposite wall. “Warmup” he called tersely, and led us through a series of ballet warmup exercises, from head, neck, fingers, wrists, elbows shoulders, core, hip, knee, andkle and foot manouverings. We did plies, slink walks backward and forward in series, jazz walks, step combinations while facing Carlos’ eagle eye in the wall of mirrors in front of us. Let me tell you, this was not a pretty picture! Imagine if you will a scene from “Chorus Line” with professional dancers going through their paces in unison and with grace. Now, imagine a motley group of variously aged, dressed and physically conformed men and women, trying to keep pace with the drill, and doing so very badly. I can only guess this was also for Carlos’ benefit, as well as one of warm-up for us “dancers”. His keen eye was able to swiftly assess who had two left feet, or inability to follow instructions, or having strength or flexibility problems. Never mind our musicality, this he would soon find out when he had us try to move with music later.
Pity, the poor professional dancer of thirty some years, most of them as a ballet dancer, and then when he grew too old at 40 something to loft etherial women into the air without giving himself repeated injuries, only to then have to make his living patiently passing on his love of movement to adults, none of whom had a long standing dance background. And he is a very nice teacher, proper old-fashioned Argentine gentleman of about 50, with a soft bark, kindly black eyes and an almost boyish mien. He has a ‘fuzzy doorknob’ haircut of thick black stick straight hair – sort of like those little boys who have been taken to the barber’s by their dad to get their first, not too close military haircut, and which little heads I have hard time not fondling, being such a tactile sort as i am.
And, Don Carlos has the most amazing agile feet and slinky moves for a barrel chested middle aged man. And he is a dream to dance with, while he demonstrates in pair how to do things in correct form.
Move over Armando, my imaginary Latin Lover, with whom I dance the Tango solo on my carpeted Living room floor. You are toast, Querido! As long as Carlos refrains from barking at me during class, he has been co-opted as my imaginary Tango Dance partner.
Psst! I’ll never admit this to anyone else! I mean what would Carlos’ opera singing wife think of this depraved use of her husband?