We are coming to the end of our lonely exile in South America. Last night we went with friends to a Tango Club.
“The trouble with tango,” an Argentine friend explained, “is that it is really not very popular with young people in Argentina. So, when people from North America come down here they always want to go to tango clubs. And they always say they want to go to ‘contemporary’ clubs…where the locals go. But the locals don’t go to tango clubs. The tango clubs are for tourists. It is like in your New Orleans. They have jazz clubs there. But I think that only tourists go to them. They are like museums.”
Our friend, Maria, took us to the best of the museums…a small place in a dicey neighborhood known as San Telmo. A handsome, middle-aged man dressed in a tuxedo greeted us at the door and opened it for us. On the inside, there were only about 20 tables…and a small stage. The area immediately in front of the stage had been cleared of tables.
We sat down at one of the tables closest to the stage. Other tables filled up. Still, only about half the tables were occupied. A few minutes later, the band took its place on stage and began to play.
Your editor is fond of tango music…and tango dancing too. As to the former, he doesn’t know much about it, but he likes to listen. As to the latter, he took lessons in Paris for several months…then, he gave up. “You northern Europeans may not be cut out for tango,” his teacher had told him, with a look of pity in her eye.
After the band had warmed up, a man with a toupee got up on stage. “Where are you from?” he asked each group of guests.
“From Mexico,” said one table. “From Switzerland,” said another. “Peru,” said another group.
“We’re from Los Estados Unidos,” your author replied, not wanting to get into the complicated details of it.
Each time, the host made some comment…sometimes the audience laughed. We might have laughed too if we had any idea what he was saying. But microphones and foreign languages don’t work well for us. We were only able to catch a few words.
Then, at about 11pm the show actually started. The band played…and played well. The musicians were all middle aged. Still, they had some life left in them. There were a couple of singers too – a man and a woman. They seemed to be from the Barbara Streisand school of musical expression. The woman, in particular, tried to get as much out of each song as possible…extruding each note as if it were a piece of wire…and then wrapping it around her neck until she practically choked. We couldn’t pick out the words, but we sensed that something awful had happened. She was carrying a torch as big as a California forest fire and she wasn’t about to let go of it.
After the singers had worn themselves out, the exhibition dancers appeared. The man had spiky hair, in the modern fashion, and a pin striped suit, in the tango fashion. The woman was very pretty, with a dancer’s outfit, a tight top and a skirt split up to the waist, decorated with sequins and sparklers. The music began. The couple held each other tightly…looked into each other eyes…and it was as if someone had fired the starting gun of a race. They were off! Legs flew…backs arched…shoulders and hips swivelled and swirled so violently, we were afraid body parts might fly off. It was very impressive.
When the exhibition was over, the music continued. Both dancers went around the room and asked customers if they’d like to try it.
How could we resist? We clutched the young woman in our best tango-school pose…we looked her in the eye. Her bare left leg flexed…and rose as if to stroke our right flank. So far, so good. And then… ‘Is this how you do it?’
All we can say is that we showed her some moves that she had never seen before.
Markets and Money