Posted: 10 Mar 2011 07:28 PM PST
What is tango to you?
a) neon crazy juice for the under eights, advertised by a man in orange body paint
b) the name of your local tanning salon
c) a large helping of leg spaghetti
If it’s ‘a’ or ‘b’, you haven’t left the UK. If it’s ‘c’, you’re an Ingles in Argentina, with the body of John Cleese and the head of Rab C Nesbitt, who wandered onto a dancefloor with nothing but a few episodes of Strictly Come Dancing for training.
Or, you’re us. We’ve been in Buenos Aires for six months now. In this time, we’ve taken in a good cross-section of the milongas (organised tango evenings where the locals gather to dance) this city has to offer, from La Viruta and La Catedral – still our favourite – at the younger, trendier end of the spectrum, to the more traditional La Confiteria Ideal and neighbourhoody Salon Canning. So in theory, tango should be more than a vague twitch in the third toe on my left foot. However, there are a few obstacles standing between us and tango greatness.
- Co-ordination. The first hurdle. Eye, meet arms. Arms, meet legs. James, thanks to his dedication on the football pitch, has a little more to offer in this department, but three seasons of goal-hanging for the OC 3rd XI does not make Carlos Tevez into Carlos Gardel.
- Walking backwards. There’s a huge amount of it for the lady. Without wing mirrors, this can be quite anxiety inducing and limiting to mobility. Imagine a slightly exasperated man in a supermarket pushing around a trolley with a broken wheel. That’s us.
- Footwear. Not flip-flops or Converse apparently, but steel toecaps or Heelys might help.
- Protocol. Forget ‘ here’s 10p to phone your mum…’, here, an invitation to dance is delivered in a series of winks and raised eyebrows that may well just be an unfortunate facial spasm. Or perhaps were directed at the lady next to you. You might both get up. Or ignore him and cause offence. The potential for embarrassment is endless.
- Strangers. Suddenly you’re playing body-odour Russian Roulette with lone men. Of course, most of the tangueros you’ll encounter are scrubbed and Brylcreemed until they’re actually emitting a faintly phosphorescent glow, but you don’t often know which is which until you’re past the point of no return. Which brings me to…
- Proximity issues. For us, this is the biggy. You see, tango is close. Cheek-to-cheek close. So, even if you’ve fitted your wing mirrors, reverse sensors and BO detectors, you’ve still got to spend five skin-on-skin minutes pressing cheeks with Señor or Señora Random.
By way of a disclaimer, and for all the millions of tango fans who might be reading, I’d also like to point out that tango, danced well – or even just passionately – is a beautiful thing. We hope to enjoy much more of it before leaving. But for now, we’ll stick to non-contact sports. Anyone for line-dancing?