When tango cultures work it out

Me and C. This is the post I once longed to write, and it is the story of how Me and C. got from A to B.

In January 2008, A stood for Arguments concerning tango. I didn’t go into the times we yelled at each other about it, but I did raise the subject of our differing tango cultures right here, where I would like to draw your attention to point 5, which on Friday night at La Milonguita in Colegiales, accompanied by lots of smiles, winks and joy, finally became our position B:

…go to the Milonga together but ask to be seated separately, then both the woman and man are free to practice the ‘cabeceo’ as if solo, and will be able to dance with many partners as well as with each other during the evening…

Actually we went one better than that: C. arrived two hours before me, sat with the tangueros; I turned up when I was ready, fanned myself with the tangueras; we cabeceo-ed each other for our favourite music; we cabeceo-ed others; we shared a special bond of knowing that we were together, and yet free to dance with whom ever we pleased; we walked home down Avenida Cabildo, hand in hand and giggling like teenagers.

I suspect some of you will be wondering what the hell I am banging on about. When I lived in the UK and danced tango in the UK, I could never have imagined being a part of this little tale. I am sure that C. would not have imagined being a part of this little tale either. Neither of us could have envisaged we would ever even arrive arguing at starting point A, two tango souls from two tango cultures a chasm apart. Over a year ago, as it sunk in that there even was a position A, I was still getting my head around the possibilities offered up by position B, which seemed strange beyond belief.

In that same post back in January 2008 I also wrote:

…I can’t honestly imagine going as far as sitting separately…

and I couldn’t. My open minded British tango heart wanted to dance with C. and with strangers all in the same night. His Argentine tango heart was not keen. Plus the whole sitting separately thing just seemed odd to my British brain. I felt confused and couldn’t ever imagine us at position B. I decided to stop arguing and surrender to time, and the fact that with that time we would understand each others cultures a little better and find our own solution… Perhaps, I accepted, we will never arrive at B, and if we don’t it’s OK. I danced alone in the afternoons and that satisfied my need for tango with strangers, but at night, he came with me and my friends, or we did the couple thing. That was position A minus the Arguments.

  1. Between position A minus the Arguments and B a few things happened: In March 2008, I took C. to some Milongas in the UK and he saw that in Hampshire at least, we all sit together (well, actually on chairs around the walls, but that’s another story) and dance with each other: married or not, engaged or not, boyfriends or not, girlfriends or not… and hell, he adored the fact that he had ‘his chicas’ (as he still calls you wonderful girls to this day) asking him to dance! He also saw that we all go home with our own partners or to our own partners (on the whole, anyway).
  2. In November 2008, a fabulous visiting tanguera who sells Greta Flora tango shoes in Canada started taking me out at night when she was in town. We left C. at home, and to my surprise, instead of raising his eyebrows, he showed signs of being grateful (I am sure that as the months pass it must get rather boring being dragged out with every one of your girlfriend’s English speaking friends, especially when you have to get up early the next day and go install a gas system). When the tanguera left Buenos Aires, I started joining my other mates out on the town too. Not every night – no, no, no. Just now and again. I confess that at first it was a pretty weird feeling, sliding into bed at 5am and curling myself around a sleeping C. and in truth there was a slight feeling of morning after treading on eggshells, but before long we were in the groove of it. Nothing bad happened. We both saw that nothing bad happened. We relaxed.
  3. One night we did sit separately, at my suggestion, at Cachirulo. It was a disaster. We were so far apart in the crowd that we could barely cabeceo each other without standing up and signalling like crazed traffic policemen. That was the night I managed two tandas in five hours for a whole host of reasons. I know the photo in that post proves I was smiling as I danced merengue with C., but I’m not sure he was, and I honestly thought that it was probably the nail in the coffin in terms of us ever reaching position B.
  4. C. went off tango a bit. Work stuff, life stuff, years of tango… desire ebbs and flows. His ebbed for a while. I became more accustomed to girls nights out. Me off with friends suited us both, though I missed dancing with ‘mi amor’ mucho. Occasionally he joined us and he danced with my friends, but I saw his heart was not in tango as it once had been. Patience, I thought, Let the universe decide.

    Months passed.

    Out of the blue, a week ago, C. announced to me that he wanted to start dancing again and that he was thinking that he needed to dance with a variety of women: This summer I want to dance with ‘mis chicas’ in Inglaterra and I don’t want to be out of practice, he said.

    Honestly, you girls from Southampton and its surrounds who are reading this in England, he said that!

    If I had been sitting on one, I probably would have fallen off my chair. Bloody hell! wonders never cease! I thought, but I said calmly, Great, mi amor, that’s great. Where will you go?

    He chose La Milonguita: local, friendly, familiar. I suggested turning up later. Let’s experiment, I said to him in a Barbie moment of enthusiasm, Maybe it’ll be fun. He was in such an upbeat mood, longing to dance, his passion for tango back. Yes, he said, Let’s do it!

    And so, last Friday, we arrived, unexpectedly, gently and easily at position B.

    …sitting separately at the Milonga…

    OK, there were some odd aspects to B: we couldn’t share a meal at the same table; we could only chat between tangos in a tanda (possibly for the first time I was truly grateful for those pauses in dancing); we had to make sure we cabeceo-ed each other fast and/or avoid everyone else for our favourite music; I had a Bugger, why isn’t he looking at me for the vals? moment.

    There were some wonderful aspects to B too: as I watched him, smart and proud, hair slicked back, sipping his cortado in his front row seat, I loved him more than ever; as the milonga thinned out, we danced more tandas together – we’d had our taste of strangers and it was reassuring to slip into each other’s arms; as I danced the last tanda with him, I was overwhelmed by the thought that gifting another person freedom, encourages love.

    So here we are in April 2009, at B. And basically we got there by taking the Argument out of A and letting time do the rest. Rather exciting isn’t it, when you stop trying to force something and hand it over… hey, the universe can even manage to work a few miracles with tango, two diverse tango cultures, a Porteño and an Inglesa!

    Of course I am well aware that position B is really only the beginning.

    And I can’t help wondering what the next installment in this little tale will be. Mmmmmmmm… think I’ll leave that to the universe too.

    Meanwhile I’m off to Maldita Milonga with a friend 😉


    18 Replies to “When tango cultures work it out”

      1. Hi Cindy

        Nice to have a happy ending/beginning/step on the road isn’t it?
        Love and tango perhaps always potentially tricky.
        Love, tango, and Argentine man, an English woman, the BsAs milonga codigos… a bit of a minefield!!!
        Ah well somehow we are managing to pick our way around the mines 😉

        Thanks so much for commenting. It means alot.


    1. I love your story of a to b via c.

      I have found it is important to heed the ebb and flow of energy in any relationship. Be it with a person, with a dance, with a musical instrument, if I try to push beyond the limits of the needs of the moment my efforts tend to diminish rather than augment.

      It is wonderful to hear how you two are finding some ‘me time’ whilst obviously caring for each other very much. Our chicas here in Hampshire eagerly await Cs return as our chicos await yours.

      Meanwhile my bando and I are working on our next piece to play for you next time you are at Bramshaw.


      1. Oh Steve, how gorgeous that sounds: A to B via C. Love it! And so true…

        Am so excited to come back to Bramshaw. Is there a Tea dance the first weekend in August (when I’m pretty certain we can be there) or failing that the first weekend in September (though that is the night we leave!)… I will check the calendar on TangoUK.

        To hear you play your bandoneon again will be an absolute joy as will it be to dance with the UK boys.
        So excited – and oh it’s lovely that this time I will really appreciate EVERYTHING about England, a lengthy time abroad (however much you love it) teaches you what is beautiful in the place you have left 🙂


    2. Small steps, small steps (some of them backwards, of course) and suddenly you’re on the other side of the dancefloor. Well done to both of you for getting there.

      All love,

      Jo x

    3. Sally, It is very sweet to think of C wanting to keep his dance sharp for his chicas back in England.
      This was a touching post on a subject I mull over at length…couples and tango, tango and couples. A very interesting topic.
      We are enjoying having our Tina here too,

      1. Hi Elizabeth

        My journey through this topic has been the biggest challenge that I have faced in my two years here. Love for an Argentine, passion for tango, BsAs tango codigos, BsAs venues of differing character, Argentine culture vs British culture re men/women/relationships, visiting foreigners who bring their cultures with them… all weave a complex web for me to navigate.
        Plus to compound things I have often felt embarrassed to explain to my foreign visitors (in case they think I am losing my independence) why I do x or y and not z: and I’m afraid that people have often looked at me blankly when I have tried…
        Somehow though, I’ve managed to write the series of posts over time on this topic, and I’m glad that I have because one day another foreign woman will come here and have to negotiate all this stuff, and maybe she will read these posts and know that she is not going crazy… and that things can work out with patience.

        Thank you so much for commenting and letting me know that this is a topic to which you can relate. It means a lot.

        C. never forgets ‘his chicas’ in England. Gosh I hope they remember him! 😉
        Please give Tina a big hug from me.


    4. Hi Sal
      When in BsAs I can never bring myself to sit away from Viv.
      Her inability to speak the language also makes it difficult.
      I love the Argentine way but I think in this small thing the British way is best.
      I sympathise with your frustration, many times a good milonga has come on and Viv has been with someone else.
      There are Milongas now where the men will ask a woman to dance even when they are with someone, though they are few and likewise the men who will ask are also few.
      In the end we find it best to go with a group of freinds, at least this way Viv is comfortable.

      Bob’s last blog post..Gratitude

      1. Hi Bob,

        I understand all that you say.
        Each couple sure has to find what works for them.

        And I must agree that in this matter when C. and I were in Britain together all these complications melted away… we just mucked in, mingled as you do, and danced with everyone. It was so stress free! And he LOVED it!

        I suppose being here permanently means that I have hoped to get to a point – this point really – where Me and C. can have the widest range of options to pick from depending on what we need from our tango on any particular night (bearing in mind that we are not out that many nights): sometimes we may go out separately to separate milongas; sometimes we may go to the same milonga but sit separately; sometimes we may sit with a group of friends and dance among the friends or with a few other folk if we know them; sometimes we’ll go together, sit together and just dance together.
        The only thing we don’t really do (and not sure it would work for us, but won’t rule anything out) is sit together just the two of us, but him wander off to walk the room and invite others leaving me at the table to be invited by others… the only time that sort of might happen is if a friend shows up and one of us dances with the friend, but actually in that scenario I’m a bit careful regarding invitations from total strangers if I’m left sitting at the table… on my out with him nights, I feel I’m out with him.
        In fact it can be a bit awkward if someone (a stranger) approaches us if we are sitting as a couple on our own table to invite me… it has happened with the occasional foreigner in the less traditional venues. Really, I’d rather guys didn’t do that because I will probably end up saying ‘Thank you but no, sorry, I’m with my boyfriend tonight.’

        Oh gosh it sure can all be a bit complicated – but we’ve come a long way and I’m proud that we have got this far! It’s definitely the two totally different tango cultures that made it so sticky. But with time has come understanding, trust and the willingness to experiment with the possibilities offered by the Buenos Aires tango scene and the complexities of its etiquettes, with happy hearts.


    5. If I may say so, it wasn’t just letting time do the rest… Barbie needed to be there too, to chirp in with “let’s experiment” at the right moment. Don’t forget Barbie in your thanks for getting from A to B! 🙂

    6. Me and Javi started at point B (as we met in point B, in Cachirulo) and our challenge was trying to make it to point A! Ha.

      I loved this story, and I love that picture of you two – nice to see your smiling faces. Miss you both!

      Tina’s last blog post..Mountains

      1. Ha!
        Oh Tina – that made me smile, with a kind of realisation that when we were at A, I sometimes got so cross about the bit that wasn’t B, that I forgot the beauty of some of the love stuff in A that made B difficult at the time.

        Bloody Hell!

        I miss you too. Every time I walk past La Giralda I remember our chats.
        Delighted to see your got your PP de Italia.


    7. Point “B” sounds so lovely. If E. were keen on dancing I would have loved to have watched him interact with the ladies on the dancefloor.

      Maybe this is bad, but we usually aren’t jealous of each other at all.

      I love the idea of Carlos’ “chicas”! 😀

      Still Life in South America’s last blog post..Parque Nacional El Morado

      1. Hi Still Life
        Point B was lovely and I’m so happy we found it.
        I am happy too that you guys are generous with each other. I am certain that when we gift freedom, we encourage love.
        I cannot wait to see C. dancing with his English chicas!

        Hug to you in Chile, and hope it is not getting too chilly… 😉


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