Wednesday, July 25, 2007


You met him. His dancing made you swoon. You made him laugh, and he loved your embrace. And soon, you started doing a little mattress dancing. Against all milonga odds, both of you are STILL together. How do you do it?

I've asked several long-term, happily hooked-up couples recently their secret to keeping love alive in the milonga, a "den of scum and villainy" (any original Star Wars fans out there?) where, it just so happens, your little honeybun met you!

One rather flirty man, coupled still after 25 years, stated that whatever happens in the milonga STAYS in the milonga. His wife enjoys watching him dance with women who dance well and vice versa. He enjoys dancing because he can enjoy a fantasy for a few minutes with one of his favorite partners, but he makes it clear that things stay completely platonic, that there are boundaries he doesn't cross.

Another happily comprometido (hooked-up, involved) man explained that the milonga holds the same temptation as any other ambiance. True, I said, but any other ambiance wouldn't include my being in someone's embrace. Plus, I don't recall ever pressing my cheek and breasts against my male co-workers for 10-12 minutes. This is NOT like the real world, which makes the milonga all the more alluring. However, I agree that the temptation and opportunities exist everywhere you go. (On a few occasions, men have tried to pick me up in church, the most un-milonga place one could imagine.) The point is, "What do you do with this sexual tension?"

"You just play stupid," he replied. It's natural that one's instinctual, base animal nature should awaken (schwing!) when one is in the arms of someone attractive, smells good, dresses really nicely, dances like a dream, and...excuse me...let me take a quick cold shower...but after the song is over, so is the magic.

Part of what makes the milonga so attractive is that one can enjoy the fantasy without sacrificing reality. The trick is not having this space collapse into either side. Trying to prolong the fantasy by taking it off the dance floor is a dangerous proposition, as oftentimes, under florescent lights or in the daylight, your dance god may turn out to be from hell.

Every couple has its own implicit or explicit rules. Even couples who swap partners have boundaries, (not that I write from personal experience). For example, if one partner starts to feel uncomfortable, the deal is off. Rules, limits, boundaries: these help to provide a container for the relationship. They help the partners feel respected and relatively emotionally safe.

Even tango couples who have broken up have rules. Sometimes they split up their usual milongas. You take Canning on Sundays. I take El Beso on Tuesdays. It prevents any awkwardness one may feel while watching one's ex "trabajando" (literally, working, or on the prowl) at the milonga.

Some couples prefer to sit and dance together for the whole milonga. In this case, it would be a definite faux pas to look at the man for a dance. However, should you notice that both partners dance with other people , you can feel free to look at the man.

The TG and her male consort have established their own tango rules. We have the option of dancing with whomever we wish, however 1) no dancing with anyone for more than one tanda, except for each other; and 2) we can request an embargo on dances with a particular tango partner. Let me clarify that we are both rabid about our independence, but, the notion of independence within the context of a committed relationship needs to be a little more flexible. After all, you are supposed to be sharing a life with someone.

These rules we have established don't make either of us feel trapped or controlled. Quite the contrary, they prevent milonga drama from occurring and allows us the freedom to enjoy the milonga and the tango fantasy without having to "controlar" what the other person is doing with someone else. He knows I'm not trying to pick up every Tomás, Ricardo, or...uh...Harry whom I embrace, so he can fully enjoy being with his partners, and vice versa.

He likes to say that he enjoys dancing with other women, but, at the end of the night, he is picked up and taken home by the one he likes the most. In short, the tango and the milonga keep the flames o' desire a-burnin'. We get to seduce each other again.


Caroline said...

That's what I like about tango in the milongas - I have my few minutes of fantasy knowing that that is just what it is - a few minutes of escapism.
I have a friend who broke up with her tanguero boyfriend recently - the ensuing public dramas and fights at milongas is actually really uncomfortable for everyone who has to witness it, especially for me for I am friends with them both. I wish they would go to separate milongas for everyone's peace of mind.

La Tanguera said...

Oh, my... Tango relationships (and their aftermaths) can be so difficult...!!!

And, you know, the problem is, despite when we say that we won't get involved into one Tango relationship ever, we stumble over the same stone all over again...

Perhaps is that the Tango connection is so evasive and powerful, that when we find it we cannot escape its magic...

Tango Goddess said...

Tango magic is so intoxicating and sensual. One can't help but get sucked in. I know a few locals who, once their partners broke up with them, go on a long tango sabbatical (sp?) b/c they become so disenchanted with the whole tango scene. A dream, the phantasy of the tango romance has been destroyed by reality, thereby making it difficult to enjoy the tango the way she used to.

Tina said...

Mi Amor and I, when in Buenos Aires, dance only with each other if we go together (if we are in a group, we might also dance with people in our group). For those times when I really want to be available to dance with other men, I simply do not go to milongas with him. I go with a girlfriend. :-) Which is nice because then I dance with whomever I want, and I have a friend to help me pick apart people's fashion choices.

When we are in Seattle, we have rules similar to yours. Obviously no more than one tanda with the same person. We enjoy watching each other dance with good partners. We dance with each other more than with others, naturally, and we try to end the night together.