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It’s not tango music but the steps are there.  And this is probably my last post on the subject for a little while.  I’m hoping to find a milonga or two on my upcoming trips to The Big Easy and Tokyo. 

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desertXSmallI have been exiled in a nondating desert for the past several months now. Ever since my return from Italy, when I started writing a book and now my blog, it’s as if the love gods have decided do away with all distractions and keep me focussed.  I haven’t gone this long without at least some sort of male attention since the fifth grade when I stayed home from school for a week because of chicken pox.  It’s as if the gods are testing me.

Oh they tease me alright,  and they tempt me, and sometimes I even think they’re mocking me.  How do I know this?  Well I just spent a week in the most macho of cities, Buenos Aires, and not once did any man even try to hit on me – and this in a city famous for its Latin love connections.  It’s not that I am a wallflower or some sort of shrinking violet. On the contrary, I am a shameless flirt.  But nothing – nada, niente, not even a nibble – forget about any proposals – indecent or otherwise.

And so I continue to wander and write.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/MoreISO

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Ideal 017Dancing for me has been a real lifesaver lately.  It’s always been the perfect prescription for a broken heart.  Last year, Salsa could have saved me from feeling sorry for myself  and embarking on a long-term relationship with Ben and Jerry. But it didn’t;  it wasn’t enough to get me through my most  recent  relationship derailment.  Salsa is such a joyful dance but I was too sad to even attempt it.

When it comes to dwelling in sadness, Tango is just the thing.  The music, the lyrics, the longing: it was exactly what I needed.  During my week in BsAs, the sad strains of tango pulled me back from a trail of tears. I channeled all of my regrets and melancholy on to the dance floor.

My friends like to tease me about my passion for dancing. Like everything else in my life (including my love life) it’s an all-or-nothing deal.  “Soon,” they say, “we’ll be seeing you on Dancing with the Stars.”  Ha! If they only knew…

I am not a natural dancer.  I come by lots of other things naturally (languages, diplomacy and falling for the wrong men), but when God was giving out grace and coordination I must have been the last in line.  Whatever little talent dust was leftover in the cosmic gift bag and was sprinkled on me never made it past my neck.

So I have to work for every step.  And work I do.  When it comes to mastering a skill that is just slightly beyond me, the one thing that saves me is my stubbornness.  It’s an “I’ll Show You” attitude that allows me to shrug at my missteps, laugh at myself and try again and again and again.

Take, for example, my morning technique classes.  I practiced walking for five days.  How hard could it be, right?  You would think walking is an easy thing since we do it every day.  But let me tell you, it is not.  Walking in Tango requires deliberation, precision and balance, and I was as wobbly as a newborn colt.  After my first class I felt a bit dejected at not being able to master such a simple task.

Later that day, my first Tango dance lesson was only slightly better.  Since I was in Latin America, I was doing my best to channel that superstar of song, that mistress of movement, that diva of dance Shakira, but to no avail.  She’s right,  “hips don’t lie,” and mine were a dead give away.  Trying to master the contradictory movements of keeping your upper torso still while moving only your hips is nothing short of impossible – at least for me.

I was dreading my first milonga that evening at Nino Bien.  But since I had nowhere to go but up, I surprised both myself and my practice partners on the dance floor.  Every day the steps got a little easier as I became more confident.  By the end of the week and my last  Milonga at Confiteria Ideal (photo), I was dancing steps I never thought possible: the elegant walz, the fast paced milonga and, yes, even a little salsa.

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Milonga! El Besos

You can leave your hat on...The Tango Sharks were out in full force and let me tell you this is one time you won’t mind being bitten.

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Catherine La Rose with Cliver Gomez Araujo in Lo de CeliaLast night I stepped on some of the finest toes in Argentina!  This is Cliver Gomez who can make even this beginner look great.  Special thanks to Jantango who introduced me to Cliver and all of the milongueros at Lo de Celia.  It was an amazing experience. Thank you Janis!!!

 

*photo by jantango

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shoesSmallMy first stop on my trip was to the Tango shoe store, Comme Il Faut (loosely translated, it means as is necessary) to purchase a pair of dancing shoes.   And we all know how necessary shoes are to women. And if sexy shoes are necessary to women in general, the right Tango shoes are essential to women who dance.

The store, which is a combination of small showroom and stockroom, was full of women that afternoon.  Shoes of every color, texture, pattern and design were scattered all over the floor.  It reminded me of the shoe department of Nordstrom’s on a Saturday afternoon. The women didn’t know where to look first.

No sooner had one tried on and modeled a pair of two-tone gold and silver Greek style shoes then her attention was quickly diverted to her neighbour’s newly arrived boxes.  The sounds coming from that showroom were nothing short of orgasmic.

I heard one loud woman complain to the young sales assistant that she “wasn’t being shown shoes like those,” and she pointed to the woman across the room who was trying on a polka dotted 1940s style model.  Good grief, I thought we’re going to have to write an 11th commandment, “Thou shall not covet they neighbours shoes.”  The sales assistant patiently explained that there were more models available in smaller sizes than her large size 8. Good for you, honey! I thought. The loud woman said no more.

I opened my first box of shoes, a combination of suede green open toe and black backed shoes that closed with a black satin ribbon across the ankle. They were exquisite. And then I took one look at the four-inch stiletto heel, a shiny patent leather green, and I said to the sales assistant, “You’ve got to be kidding!  You expect me to dance in these?”

Dance? I couldn’t stand up in them let alone imagine myself dancing Tango.  I  said a silent prayer of thanks that I had remembered to pack my much more sensible salsa shoes with the two-and-a-half-inch square heel.  At the very least I could fall back on those well-worn dance shoes.

The sales assistant gave me an amused  “but of course” look and a little nod of encouragement.  “Probar” she said, which I think means try.  Oh what the heck, I thought. I had come this far and I at least owed to myself to try them on.  They weren’t uncomfortable so much as they were unfamiliar.  Hmm maybe, just maybe I could do this.

After an hour of trial and retrial of about two dozen different styles (too much choice confuses me) , I settled on a smart pair of black and red leather shoes in a three-and-a-half-inch heel.  I went for the “smaller” size. They didn’t look at that much smaller but psychologically speaking it helped get over the height hurdle in my head.

Later that afternoon when I wore them to a practise session I was surprised at how comfortable they were.  The height and the angle of the shoe positioned me on my toes, metatarsals to be exact, which are exactly where you are supposed to be when you dance tango.  I could feel an improvement in my posture and movement.  In my head I heard music, not tango music, but the words to a song I had loved as a teenager, Leo Sayer´s, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”And they did.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Fitzer

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AvatarIt’s funny how it’s the simple things these days that give me the most pleasure.  That’s not to say that I won’t appreciate the week I will be spending in BsAs.  It will be my own personal version of Eat, Dance, Sleep.  The intensive Tango tour that I booked last month via the Internet promised to look after every detail.

For once, I thought,  I will allow myself to be spoiled without the residual feelings of guilt that normally accompanies anything I do that either feels or looks the least bit selfish on the surface. So I ask myself, is it selfishness or self-preservation?  The answer to that question is: enough of the guilt already. Oy vey!

A steady diet of international business travel had finally taken its toll;  I practically ran to the airport to make the trip. That in itself is an amazing thing because normally I don’t get on a plane unless I’m paid to do so.  But I am so bone tired in body and soul that the only way I knew to catch my breath was to get away unencumbered.

And I was able to do that with a little help from my friends in our IT Department. Funny, it is only in retrospect just two days later that I now realize how much I appreciate those IT guys taking their time with my laptop and not turning it around in time for this trip.  Their missing the FedEx cutoff for my shipment would normally have had me narrowing my eyes and sending short breaths out of my nostrils.  However, this time I took a deep breath shrugged my shoulders, let it go and got myself gone.

Locals, when they hear about my tour, tell me I’ve paid too much. And it’s probably true. But for someone who had no resources on the ground before she arrived, it was the best I could do. And so rather than fret about it I am revelling  in the fact that for the first time in years I am on a vacation that I didn’t have to plan.  I’m not the social director; I didn’t have to choose the restaurants, the sites or the milongas.  All I had to do was show up.

I am used to orchestrating my own departures, arrivals, accommodations and transport in-between.  I am used to schlepping luggage, running for shuttles, fighting with stubborn ticket vending machines and dealing with surly information desk people.  (Sometimes I am tempted to ask them if they enjoy their job, but then I if you ever saw me in route you’d probably wonder the same thing.) This time when I arrived at the gate in BsAs there was a sign with my name on it.  Attached to that sign was the smiling face of a young woman who was there to escort me to my hotel.

What a treat.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve landed at an overseas airport and wished for just such a sign on the other side of the arrivals gate.  Actually I can tell you the number of times – it’s every time.  But it has never happened.

What happens is that I square my shoulders, take a deep breath and cross the threshold into a teaming throng of people waiting for friends, associates, clients and loved ones.  I steel myself to run the gauntlet of arriving ditherers and guppies.  Guppies, my own classification, are people who stand blocking the exit with their mouths opening and closing, while we the weary pile up behind them, as they try and get their bearings and I try and get into the rhythm of a long road trip ahead.   This is how every trip begins.

Well almost every trip.

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