The romance of tango

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Laura Tate poses with Argentine tango dance Orlando Paiva Jr. at the Brujo Tango Congress in Reno, Nev.

Every other week, on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as any other chance I get, I go dancing-tango. It’s a passion, an addiction really.

Salsa dancing used to be my passion. I’d go dancing five nights a week when I had the chance, and go to work the next day tired but elated, and then back home for a half hour nap before going out again, doing the 1, 2, 3, 4 … 5, 6, 7, 8, spinning, turning and moving those hips. Salsa dancing is exhilarating, a mixture of sensuality and playfulness.

Tango is a different sort of obsession.

Entering a room full of tango dancers, one doesn’t encounter the freewheeling noisy atmosphere of the salsa scene.

Everything is different, from the music, the dress, the style of dance, of course, and the comportment of those dancing and those just watching (some would say it’s too serious, but we tangueros have our fun).

In the salsa scene the wear consists of sexy, flashy, sometimes extravagant outfits. Tango is all about elegance. There are the casual dressers, but I don’t think they represent the true essence of tango. When a man dressed in a sharp suit and tie embraces a woman in a sleek, black dress with a slit up to the thigh, wearing 3-inch high heels, it looks not only elegant, but it represents a singular sex appeal not found elsewhere (at least I haven’t found it).

The music is mostly older, with many of the original songs written between the 1900s and the 1950s, and the lyrics are mostly about lost love, broken hearts and other sad or depressing matters. But tango music is beautiful. While a salsa tune will make me move, a tango song, even if I don’t understand the words, will cause introspection, and a feeling that truly is difficult to describe. Some would say it’s romantic. It is, but tango music is more than that, and perhaps it causes different emotions and moods for each person who listens and dances to tango.

What makes the tango even more romantic is the actual dancing, the embrace. Argentine tango dancer and teacher Orlando Paiva Jr., who carries on the legacy of his father, Orlando Paiva, with his smooth elegant style of dancing, says this is what is romantic to him-the close embrace with the woman.

“The music is an invitation for romance,” Paiva said, and the embrace, the connection of two people’s bodies, is what ultimately makes tango romantic.

Yes, to be taken into a man’s arms, and move with him almost as one across the floor, that’s the ideal romance.