I miss the thrill of hooking a favourite guy with the merest glance; I dream of melting into a familiar chest; I need the moment just before the tanda ends, when I never want to leave his arms. Ah, the passion for tango has not left me, you see. No indeed.
I wish that tonight at the milonga, some of my most-desired regulars will be there. My favourite boys always sit in the same seats, and lately I’ve noticed how when one of the seats stays empty, I feel a little pang of sadness. I’ve been asking myself why. What is it about those particular guys that makes me want them more than the others? What makes them the milongueros I love?
I have a theory that the milongueros I love the most of all, share a secret. And, it is the secret of how to obtain the gift. The gift is unbelievably precious, is given by women in the tango embrace, and once tasted by a man, cannot be resisted: it will keep him dancing tango, in pursuit of bliss, until the day he dies.
What is the gift? If you dance tango, you’ll probably know what I mean, or maybe you will by the time you’ve finished reading this post. Let me describe the 6 classic bliss-seeking behaviours of all the milongueros I love the most: various combinations of these things guarantee that I will give the gift to them, and these guys know it, the clever devils.
- The mystery. He’s that tiny bit aloof. I know him; we dance together every week, maybe one or two tandas. But, he often makes me wait a while for his cabeceo. And, although once we are dancing, he might chat to me between the tangos (like most Argentines do), his first cabeceo in my direction will probably bear no hint of a smile, and sometimes neither will the moment before the embrace, when we stand facing each other on the dance floor. He plays the seductive ‘tango-strangers game’, you see. And, he does it knowingly, because he is a master in the art of tango foreplay; he knows I’m longing for his embrace, and he’s holding every hint of warmth back for the bliss of the hug.
- The hug. Others may love the tango embrace. I am a hug girl. I want to snuggle in. I want to feel him shift to fit me, and I want him to let me shift to fit him. When it’s perfect, I call this meeting ‘the melt’, and after it’s done, we are one. I remember one of the first lessons I had with an Argentine, long ago. He made me dance with my arms around his neck. Hug me, he said, and then, No, I mean really hug me. I’m British, was a beginner and was definitely most comfortable in an open hold: I blushed bright red and giggled too much. But, I hugged him anyway. He was probably my first tango crush. Why? Easy. He let me fold into him, breathe with him, become one with him — sometimes I describe it as ‘getting into him’ because I just can’t say it a better way. If you’ve seen the movie Avatar, just think of the thrill of the tails fusing. In tango, unless this fusion (for want of a better word) happens, for me, there will be something missing. If you dance with me, and your embrace offers me the possibility of the hug, then for the three minutes of the tango that follows, I will be completely and utterly yours. But, for the most exquisite execution, the hug requires the pause.
- The pause. This is obvious isn’t it? If I am to feel his heart beat, he must give me a moment to find it. If I am to breathe with him, then I need time to tune in. When the guy gives me space to adjust to him before we move an inch, he’s telling me that I am worth finding and that so is he. He’s telling me that he is unafraid to be discovered — exciting, no? He’s also prolonging that foreplay I mentioned earlier, and it’s tantalising. With the achingly lingering drag of the pause, he is also letting me know (so that I’m smiling inside, even before we dance a step) that he understands the art of perhaps the most crucial behaviour of all, the slow reveal.
- The slow reveal. The first time I dance with someone new, this is what seals the deal for me. If he’s been dancing a while and he still hasn’t mastered this one, I probably won’t want to dance with him again. If he has mastered it, in short, he knows how to listen. To me. He starts simple and he finds out what I can do. He listens to my body, my degree of relaxation, my level of confidence, my ability, and then, he makes me feel like a Goddess — regardless of what I might appear to be able to offer him. As he works out who I am, and feels me relax in his arms, he gradually reveals his dance, his ability, his character, his little musical tricks and treats; as he does so, I can’t help smiling. It’s like his soul starts chatting to me, or loving me, or soothing me, or celebrating me, or calming me… depending on the music, his mood (and mine), and on how I respond to every tiny thing he does. He knows there will never be a moment when I don’t understand what he asks of me, because he only ever dances what he knows I can handle, and if he is really clever, what he knows I desire. He never allows me to feel that I made a mistake, he is far too wise. The smart milonguero knows that the slow reveal can get him straight to the soft heart of the gift, fast, and so it would never occur to him not to use it. He knows it is the certain route to tango gold. It is also part of the courtesy.
- The courtesy. He treats me like the precious jewel that he knows I long to be. From the moment he first looks my way, he has eyes for no-one else. He makes certain there are no cabeceo cock ups and that I am not stranded on the dance floor without a partner (and I help him by staying in my seat until there can be no doubt). He keeps me out of danger at all times; if there is even a hint of a collision, he checks I am OK. He asks me if I’m comfortable between tangos. He knows I might be disorientated at the end of the tanda (a direct consequence of having given him the gift), and he always escorts me back to my table. He tells me that dancing with me was a pleasure, because it was. If he’s an especially crafty character he also delivers the punch line (and leaves me smiling, for a bonus point).
- The punch line. Him: How long is a tango? Me: Um, about three minutes? Him, almost whispering, so that I have to lean in a bit and his mouth breathes close to my ear: Let me tell you something. For three minutes you are in my arms, and you are completely and utterly mine, no? Me, laughing, but feeling like the most irresistible tango dancer on the planet: Tenés razon (You’re right, but said with the tone of You might just have a point there, you wicked old tango wizard you!). OK guys, I’ll be honest, you’ll probably only be able to pull this sort of thing off if you can do it without sounding like you say it to everyone, even if you do. A few of my boys can deliver these entertaining (and I admit it, slightly smarmy) lines as if they have heaven on their tongues, and they know that I will love them for that final smile they put on my face. With these remarks they are saying, You’re a beautiful woman. Or they might choose to compliment my dance as a safer option: my musicality, my walk, my lightness in their arms. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about annoying, phoney remarks here. I know when the compliment is genuine, even when it’s delivered in Castellano, and so will most women.
You might be wondering how I presume to know about the intoxicating nature of the gift. After all, I’m not a male milonguero, am I? And I’ve never danced a tango leading a woman in my arms either. No. But the proof of the gift‘s existence is in the sparkle in the eyes of my guys, when they reluctantly pull away from me, as the final notes of music die. They cannot hide the truth from me. I know their bliss exists, and that the gift of it comes from me (though, oh so masterfully conjured by them).
I’m becoming fascinated by the behaviours that prove to me that the milongueros I love know the secret to getting exactly what they long for in their tango — something that I am absolutely certain includes the captured heart and soul and longing of the woman in their arms, the gift itself.
Now, I’m doing a spot of research on the matter, for a future project, and I need your help. Even if you’ve never commented here before, go on, be brave!
Tango dancing guys reading this, have you experienced the gift that I speak of, for yourselves? Do you understand the secret to getting it and would your behaviour show me that you do?
Tango dancing girls, do you know when you have given the gift? And what, in your favourite dance partners, ensures that you can — any of the behaviours I’ve listed above ring luscious-sounding bells?
I’d love to hear what you think. And if your tango dancing friends would be interested to read and comment too, please pass on the link to this post, with my love from Buenos Aires: you can use the Share/Save button, below, to wing the link around the globe: blog it, Twitter it, Facebook it, email it, tango-forum it, help it fly far and wide. I’d love as many of your thoughts as possible, and when I’ve got a few of them, I’ll write something more on the subject if I can, in The milongueros I love - The Gift (Part 2). Thank you, my friends with generous hearts and great connections. Gracias.
And, in the interests of passing on good things myself, in case you want a little more inspiration before you comment… in a synchronistic twist (so marvellously common in my life these days), my attention this morning was drawn to this wonderful post, by Mari at My Tango Diaries. Cool.
Meanwhile, all this talk of milongueros, secrets and gifts is too much damn foreplay, even for me.
I can hold back no longer. What time does La Milonga de Los Consagrados start? Look out boys, here I come.