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It Takes Two to Tango

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Ask me what I miss most in life, and I will have to say that it’s dance. I miss dancing more than I could perhaps even miss a person, because it was always just that much a part of my life.

It began, of course, with ballet at school, which, to my great credit, I used and followed through on until I was in my late twenties and then quit, for good reason, though that’s for me to know, not you. My school was closing down and the relocation would be simply too far for me to travel, and the other ballet school cost twice as much money which at the time I didn’t have and frankly don’t know whether or not I would have it now.

I also took tap, and drove my family nuts with my tap shoes, kicking up a storm on the kitchen tile or out in the back “garden” cement (there was no grass in our garden in Tottenham; I’m not even sure it even qualifies as a garden as much as an “out-back” where you have a shed and a few old bikes and set of fireworks on Guy Fawkes night. That was about right – it was more some cement staging ground than garden, which suited me fine, for I could practice dance out there as long as I wanted, or until the grown-ups got really tired of me. I also used to dance on top of my grandfather’s feet, gently placing each tap shoe on his big work boots while he carried me atop his feet, waltzing and whirling about the room.

I danced in nightclubs as soon as I could sneak in; at about age fifteen I managed to swindle my way into of-age clubs. It’s all make-up and attitude and besides, I never went to drink, I went only to dance, and though the dance had no name or real form, there were certain rules that applied and certain moves that were common and I mastered them all until I became so good that one evening, I was lifted high to the top of a speaker at Palladium and danced before thousands of people.

I was fifteen, a regular Lolita with my Bonne Bell lip smacker and clothes that were far too adult for me, and yet here I was dancing in front of all of these people. I didn’t have stage fright nor did I swing the other way – think I was so great or so much better. All it did was confirm what I already knew – that I could dance and that I always would.

More recently, I took tango lessons with my husband, who swore he could never dance and yet he did, and he did so elegantly. He may have been a couple of beats ahead at times, but who isn’t when they’re learning? In so many ways he was the perfect partner and who better to tango with than your lover, for although he is my husband, he will always be my lover first.

The tango is such a dance of passion – the clinging woman, the refusals and rebuttals she must make. How she must be practically or literally dragged across the floor. How her leg is held high by his hand, such that she is almost doing the splits. How the man spins her around so firmly. How their eyes never meet until that one critical moment, and then they look away again. The dance is all tension and then sway. Tension, sway. Tension, sway. It is almost as if the passion is just too much to bear. That the dance is one of tension is because the relationship is tense – either because it is early and there is still the buzz of infatuation or because it is later and those rivers run so deeply.

The tango was originally a dance of the lower-classes, of immigrants who had set port (though now it has come to symbolize high culture, this was not originally the case.) The dance has its roots in Buenos Aries of the 1880s, I’m told, where immigrants from all of over the world landed and docked headed for the “portenos” where they could drink and find company and maybe even someone from their own country. Out of all of this grew a culturally mixed dance called the tango, a dance of love and passion, but also of frustration and sorrow and sometimes, unrequited love.

The tango remains one of the most emotionally complex dances that there is. There are also variations on the tango, although most people follow a common step and between variations the step remains the same, certain personal or cultural flourishes are often added.

These days, work calls too often and I find I have less and less time for dance as the demands of daily life and work take over. I still get in a quick ballet step here and there, and lord knows I am content to dance in my kitchen and dance with my husband, who is always willing, and in whose arms I can rest safely and who doesn’t even mind if I stand barefooted on his shoes while he whirls me about the room in the perfect tango, always so personalized, always so passionate and every last bit of it him and me, and while I know many women who have told me that they find this dance a degrading one (and I do see their point, though I disagree), I see an entirely different dynamic, and perhaps a less politically correct one.

I see a dance in which yes, I am subordinate to my lover, but he too is subordinate to me. We are then communicating vessels, he dependent on me and me dependent on him. They may not mean it this way, but it really does “take two to tango.” He must rely on my moves as I must rely on his, our weights literally pushing against each other, each of us holding the other up in some way or at some point. But what can I say – I’m a sucker for romance because when he takes his hand and firmly puts it around my waist, spinning me around on my t-strap shoes such that I am facing him, and then he turns that beautiful roman profile to the side, and I look over his shoulder, I fall in love all over again. Every time.

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About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti

  • Nicely said. Wonderful image of you suddenly finding yourself dancing at the club in front of thousands of people after having slipped in illegally.

    It seems that the tango provokes more writing than virtually any other dance and so often its about the sublimated violence, control, and revolution in its roots being held in perfect tension by the discipline and rhythm it demands. It makes me want to rewatch Mad Hot Ballroom again, which sadly as close as I ever get to dancing myself.

  • Hi Chance – thanks, and yes, i had to slip in illegally but they all knew me at the door, so it was never a problem….

    you’re right about the Tango – i think because it has so much real history and is unexpected, not what you’d think in terms of history… I never saw Mad Hot Ballroom —- and you know, it’s never too late to dance. You still have the time if you want to. I know i still dance and will for as long as i can … 🙂

    Thanks or reading…

  • Beautifully written Sadi, it made me both laugh and cry. Dancing the Tango in Buenos Aires (or pretty much anywhere) is right up the top of my things I have to do before I die list.

  • When I dance Argentine tango, I don’t feel suppressed violence. Perhaps suppressed sensuality and sexuality, but not violence or dominance-subordinance.

    I think of two people creating something in a brief, transcient moment.

    And I will tango tonight.

  • I’m always euphoric when I find someone else that loves a sharp, emotive tango. I love ballroom & this has always been my very favorite dance.

  • thanks all: the tango is complicated (mostly i speak to Tigress about the emotions) – i didn’t ascribe those emotions of passion, sorrow, subordination etc they have been there for years and were assigned by the Working Class immigrants to the ports of Buenos Aires. To me though,, the Tango can be whatever you want it to be and no two people will dance the tango alike, as you’ll do tonight, as i’ll do soon as well and that too will be different. We make it our own, we take it into and unto ourselves and redefine it every time.

    That’s the best part of all — thx. Tigress and thanks all for ringing in — i’m glad you found this.

    dance on,


  • Hi Trinket – keep dancing; it is different with everyone, but sharp is the right word… i’m glad to know other dancers here… 🙂 I almost didn’t post this… you all make me really glad that i did. —

    et, Tango!


  • I mentioned this entry to my fellow dance partners. They said they do believe there is a pattern of dominance and submission but it has to do more with my dominating personality. LOL.

    I guess it brings out the faux Latina in me.

  • I think that if you have the perfect piece of music with capable dancers the result alternates between strong & delicately sensual. Piazzola’s “Oblivion” is my very favorite piece for a Tango.

  • Hi Tigress, you crack me up… you actually checked up on me, so i’m glad i did my research.

    Hi Trinket – Astor Piazzola is incredible. I have a whole CD of his tangos and we use them to practice in the kitchen, though lately my husband and i are arguing a bit about the right steps (i’m righ, he’s wrong, of course 😉

  • As anyone knows in Argentine tango, it’s always the leader’s fault.