Years ago, I dated a girl who was intensely into tango. Our relationship was a vicious power struggle so, in an effort to spite her, I refused to dance.
I’m not a horrible monster, though, so I would accompany her to various tango events, or milongas as they are called. I was always surprised at how erotic and passionate they are; seeing good dancers tango is pretty much the closest you can come to watching porn in public. From a spectator’s point of view, it appears that trust and an intimate knowledge of one’s partner is key. However, I’ve heard the best dancers can sync with just about anyone.
Now that I’m making a conscious effort to experience new things, I figured it was a good time to get into tango, so I traveled to the weekly milonga at El Meson. I had phoned my spooky friend Matt earlier in the day to demand he and his camera join me. Besides, Matt has taken a few tango lessons, and I thought he could show me some moves. Sadly, I was mistaken. He offered no help beyond the ability to feel sorry for himself and push a camera button.
I was almost positive I had heard there would be a dance lesson at the beginning of the night. No such luck, which was extremely disappointing. Not only will you be sad to know there won’t be a photo of me learning to dance, but attendee Keren Abrams gave me disheartening news.
“Tango can definitely be improvised, but it’s not really a dance you can fake,” she said. “You need to know the basic steps or you’ll look stupid.”
This information was verified as I watched countless talented dancers move perfectly with the music. Though faint, the music fit seamlessly with the aura of the room. Beautiful vintage tango songs wafted to the dance floor amid the distinct air of high-school-dance weirdness. I’ve always hoped talking to women would get easier with age. I also thought dance skills would help, but I noticed more than a few nervous older dudes eagerly hoping to dance but perhaps a little too nervous to ask.
Like them, I spent the better part of an hour attempting to muster the courage to ask any of the beautiful women for an impromptu dance lesson, but was quickly dissuaded by a moment of total bullshit. After asking the staff (who are totally amazing and friendly, by the way) for permission to snap a few photos, my spooky friend and photographer Matt pressed the shutter button once. He was promptly accosted by some humorless and angry dancers. Taking themselves far too seriously, several people in a row rudely chastised him for using the camera flash.
Upon explaining that we were there for SFR and simply wished to learn about and promote the event, we were met with nothing but animosity and discourteousness. It struck me that these people probably hated fun and had long ago decided they were somehow changing the world for the better through dance. I would have understood had these dancers been performing a show instead of attending a public event at a fucking bar on a weeknight, but there was no excuse for them treating us with such contempt.
Suddenly, my desire to learn the dance flew out the window, and my desperation not to be lumped in with the kinds of total assholes who think their ability to dance puts them on par with Nobel Prize-winners set in. I wish I could recommend this event, but unless you’re willing to take yourself way too seriously, it may not be for you. Beyond the excellent music and wonderful staff at El Meson, the weekly milonga simply doesn’t offer much to anyone hoping to breach the scene.
In other words: Take lessons, get way too serious about dancing and lose your sense of humanity before giving the weekly milonga a shot.
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