Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hearing of the Heart

La Oreja takes my hands and gives them a tug so light I barely notice. The lightly tripping guitar of Espejo de mi vida trips from the stereo, and I am straining to see if Dark Eyes has come this time, and I have little patience for what takes me away.

La Oreja wants to show me who I am and brushes my cheek and laughs in the way she does, the sound welling up from her heart, turning to pure force and exploding like stars from her eyes.
'Yes?' I say, and she has my full attention.
She does not like Dark Eyes.
La Oreja makes a fist and puts the thumb side by her temple. She spirals the fist rapidly outward.
'This means dazzling,' she says...
And I am sinking into her large brown eyes.
'... but if you are just a little off, it means crazy.'
And then Dark Eyes walks in.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Riffs in the Key of Tango

The bounce from the flute of Eduardo Tami echoes the rough sweetness of so many nights in Buenos Aires where La Culebra smokes her thin cigars, the ones that show off her hands.

El Esquinazo plays brightly, but still La Culebra watches, and her tiny white teeth touch the end of the skinny cigar -- and bite.

Her satin dress shows curves, yet no one asks her to dance.

'That one,' says one man with a cock of his head. 'She is too ferocious.'

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ripping the Butterfly Cocoon

El Flaco asks La Mariposa to dance, but she looks at the face of her husband, and the storm that is there gives her answer.

She comes to the milonga week after week and sits with her hands in her lap on the outer fringe of the dance floor. Her silent husband is close. In the shadows they are hard to see. He does not dance. No one asks her to dance.

Later, we ask ourselves when it happened, but no one knows when La Mariposa begins to sit alone. Week after week, she comes away from the wall and the shadows, and her hands are no longer in her lap. Her fingers tap to the music. Men ask her to dance.

She wears an orange dress.

I sit beside her as Vida mia begins to play, and La Mariposa laughs.

A man comes across the floot, his intention obvious, and La Mariposa lights up. 'I had forgotten what it was like to like myself.'

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Dance of One Is None

La Luna is demanding. 'The colgadas are for the daring.' But on this day the balance between partners falters. La Luna, a world-class dancer, is patient, kind, encouraging - unrelenting.

El Flaco arrives to the lesson as it is ending, and he is impatient. He expects the floor to clear for the milonga that will be this night. He cannot control his eyes, and they roll to the ceiling.

I do not know my partner's name, and he does not ask mine, but as
Adiós Chantecler sighs into a pause, we fall back into the colgada and spin, spin, spin, my leg free, the trust total.

'All these moves are no good on the dance floor,' El Flaco mutters. 'They can never be done.' He is like this. Practical. Everything to a purpose. 'All this work. All this practice - for nothing.'

And I laugh to myself as I spin, and we both fall back into the safety of each other's weight.

The tango is not steps; it is trust.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Mirror of Sway

The colgadas are difficult to learn, and the balance of the forces between the man and woman as they move does not come. They stumble and fall apart.

'Ah, yes,' says La Luna and stops the practice to show. 'The woman follows the man, eh?, but the man also follows the woman.'

She calls for
music, and her partner settles them into place as the strains of the instruments fill the tiny milonga and take hold. The eyes of La Luna close in a patient ecstasy, and her arm molds itself to her partner's shoulders. As the body of La Luna sways, her partner echoes and opposes the movement in his own body. They are a perfect counterbalance.

They make each other antigravitational.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Sidewalk Memory of Cumparsita

It is late in this night of remembrance, and Dark Eyes commands the stereo. Only a few couples still dance in this early morning of tango, and their tastes delightedly devolve into the scratchy wavering of the Vieja cumparsita.

At the first notes, someone laughs at the abundant familiarity of the song. The dancers show off, and shadows of quick boleos and sweeping colgadas are thrown onto the walls of the tiny dim ballroom.

'This was the first song I ever danced to,' says Dark Eyes. 'Buenos Aires. The woman was generous. With her, I could do anything.' The song comes to its end ... también me dejó He sighs. 'Sometimes I am compelled to play this song.'

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Passing Life of the Abandoned Bandoneón

The yard sale is in the stony drive beside a trailer. The weeds are breaking through, and everything that was once inside the trailer is emptied onto the hard, bright gravel. Broken figures of courtiers, old license plates, dark clothes of wool, bits of paper, things with too many sequins crowd the card tables. Three old men sit under a tree, and in the only shade of a 90-degree day lies one object by itself.

The case is worn, and the ivory on the buttons is nearly worn away. The folds of its body are like parchment, but inside are still imprisoned the cries of so many La que murió en París.

The bandoneón is ignored by the people walking by, and the old men only say that they used to hear it late at night when everyone had gone to bed, and the old man who lived in the trailer used to get it out.

"He said playing it was like holding a woman in his arms - jumping, lively and noisy," says one of the men, and all three laugh.