Until Sunday night, Carlos and I had not been out dancing together for two weeks. The last time was to Salon Canning with English friends where we only danced one tanda of vals. That night he didn’t like the music, and the floor was packed: I danced a few tandas, to say goodbye, with my ‘dream dancer of Hampshire’, but that was it. It was a fine night to talk over Buenos Aires with my friends, but not a memorable one for tango.
Why haven’t we been out since? Well to be honest we’ve had other things on our minds: his work, and a horrible set back over him getting his passport renewed… it could take months, and it is now looking highly likely that I will be spending my time in England without him. We’ve felt a bit sad, a bit low, and neither of us have had the ‘ganas’ (desire) to get out of the house in the middle of the night. Sometimes I guess it goes like that… the ups and downs of life, and so of tango. On Sunday we had a big talk and faced up to the reality of the passport situation. We agreed that we only have a few weeks left before my scheduled departure date, and that we must enjoy the time we have. We decided to dance again. So, we went to sleep at 6pm and set the alarm for 2am… just like old times.
Getting out of bed in the middle of the night is not the easiest thing in the world to do when you are out of practice and I struggled, even though I’d slept for 6 hours. Carlos was up before me, putting on a white shirt and eating the remains of dinner. I managed to nibble a banana for energy, and eventually we were both dressed, our shoe bags in our hands, stepping out into the gorgeous warm air of the Buenos Aires night. It was 2.45am. We decided to take a cab for speed: La Viruta closes at 4.30am on Sundays.
Immediately we were in the taxi we started smiling and laughing. And we both noticed the change. It was as if we were back in the groove, in the land of colour and of the living. We were like two excited children. We noticed the pretty, understated Christmas lights on Avenida Santa Fe. We drove up Thames and passed cafes with every pavement table full of people eating and drinking. ‘You would honestly think it was 3 in the afternoon,’ I said. I still marvel at and adore this characteristic of Buenos Aires. I would never see that in Southampton, England, where we’d have all been tucked up in our beds for the whole night, hours before.
The cab dropped us on the corner of ‘Armenia y Cabrera’ and we walked the half a block to Club Armenia. We squeezed hands as we approached and heard the music. Nothing quite grabs my heart like the drifting sounds of tangos in the street outside a tango club. Carlos said, ‘The best tandas are the late ones.’ I felt my excitement rise. I was longing to dance. I was longing to dance with him.
There was no ‘entrada’ to pay (at that hour) and we headed down the stairs towards the darkness. La Viruta was exactly as I had hoped it would be: many people had already gone, tables were emptying, there was room to dance. Yep, the place looked a mess: empty bottles and glasses everywhere, tablecloths askew, but I love it like that: worn in, comfortable, relaxed… ours. We drank a coffee to wake ourselves up, changed our shoes, and I waited. He ate a lomo sandwich. I waited. I waited until he stood. Then, I followed.
I felt the tension and sadness dissolve out of him as he took me in his arms, and I felt it drain out of me. His body whispered. My body listened. I heard his breath, I found his heartbeat. We began to dance.
Within minutes he was transformed. He was absolutely back to his ‘Argentine’ best. Every time a new tango started he almost cried out, ‘Oh este me gusta! Oh este… hermoso!’ and he would start to tell me a little of the subject, make me listen to the ‘letras’ (lyrics)… orange blossom, a longed for return to Buenos Aires, a woman lying to her lover. He played with the music, had fun with his feet, sang in my ear. He made every tango his, and I followed. I only wanted to surrender completely into his joy, and to give him mine in return. As tangos ended we stayed stuck together for a few seconds, not wanting to let go. Often when we did pull apart we were laughing, or raising our eyebrows at the intensity, or just smiling with our eyes. Occasionally he placed my right hand on his shoulder and we danced the tango in a tender hug rather than in the ‘tango embrace’. I kept my eyes closed and to me, we were the only couple on the floor. We danced with our hearts, our bodies and our souls touching. We did not stop until the last notes of La Cumparsita faded, and we were left, me slightly shell shocked and my leg muscles aching, standing in the bright lights of the night’s end.
As we walked out into the birdsong of the dawn chorus, we were still wrapped around each other. We wandered, as if we had all the time in the world, towards Scalibrini Ortiz to catch the bus home. We were smiling. Nothing in our lives had altered, and yet for a few hours at least everything had changed. We talked quietly of how to dance together in La Viruta is to remember our history, our love story. It is to forget the trials and trivia of every day life. It is to remind ourselves that no matter what happens we still have each other, we have beautiful music, we have a place were we can go and dance in the middle of the night when we are troubled, when we cannot, or do not want to sleep.
On Sunday night for an hour and a half we forgot that it takes at least 40 working days to renew an argentine passport. We forgot that we are powerless over government systems. We forgot that life does not always deal us the hand we want. For the time that we danced we only knew beauty and we were at peace. We promised ourselves that we will not wait so long next time, we will return to La Viruta on Wednesday night, we will dance, and we will know that by doing so, even if only temporarily, we really can change our world.