Tango Story: T as in Tango

Story by Adam Smolka

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In “Light as the Breeze”, Leonard Cohen worshiped his lover, whose charms ran from Alpha to Omega. When I first heard this song of obsessive desire, I thought “Bravo!”, that an old man could summon such passion. That was before I encountered Tango. I remembered Charlie who used to preside over grad student pool-parties in his hillside apartment overlooking the University. Back then he dated a sylph-like neuroscientist named Delta, to whom he sent hand-scripted love letters on creamy water-marked paper, sealed with red wax and stamped with a heraldic crest. We mocked this Echo of the past, and he’d say “When we’re old, the hey-dey in our blood stilled, we’ll cherish memories of our passions, those unforgettable dawns or a certain Foxtrot, as we amble through another round of Golf”.

The twin temptations of women and dance are reincarnated in the Indian hooded cobra swaying in hypnotic thrall to the fakir’s lute. Julieta embodied the hectic flush of first love, but our more mature infatuations reside in billions of Kilobytes of Facebook ephemera. Fittingly, ancient Romans passed through the portals of the psyche by praying to the goddess Lima, guardian of the threshold. In contrast, the entrance to the British Museum was guarded for years by a misogynistic tomcat named Mike who died soon after the third Mickey Mouse cartoon was released in November 1928 (sadly, no Oscar). Speaking of temptations, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in the B-flat minor key of mournful Tango songs evokes yearnings for the road less traveled. But I digress.

The theme of ambush by infatuation recalls General Wolfe’s inspired seizure of Quebec, even as three musket balls killed him. Romeo was equally fervid in pursuit of transcendence, like Bogard in his portrayal of greed in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”. And so we come to T as in Tango, that unlikely amalgam of schmaltzy Gypsy ditties, some steps and turns, and a man and a woman. Add the Uniform attributes of Tango (a proud masterful chest and stiletto heels), and the result is magical. Ignatio Quiroga likened Tango to chess, where opposites fuse to yield a Victor. Once, serving me Whisky at the Hotel Fakir, he addressed with X-ray acuity the allure of Tango to Yankees a world away from Argentina. “The Zulus defeated the British at Isandlwana, but were eventually enslaved in the gold-mines. The Gumboot dancers, progenitors of Tango, emerged from those mines…” At that moment, a lady sitting by the Aquitania poster caught my eye, and I missed the rest.

 

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