Towards the end of my tango class on Tuesday, I was attempting a tricky leg-sweeping move with the Silver Fox when a pair of strong hands grabbed my waist and swept me clean away. It was my Argentine Neuroscientist. We embraced warmly; we hadn’t seen each other for two weeks. ‘Where have you been?’ I cried. ‘My friend is here from Buenos Aires. I’ve had to reduce my tango hours.’ ‘Goodness, what a terrible burden’, I sympathized. ‘How long will she be staying?’ He smiled and winked, ‘He’s here a long time, until mid March.’ The idea of not dancing together for a month was unbearable. He must have sensed my woe because he looked into my eyes and said, ‘It’s not so bad. Let’s see what we can do.’ I suddenly felt horribly guilty; I’d been so busy kissing my frog lately that I had completely neglected my Latin Prince.
Having decided that I may have been a bit hasty putting all my eggs into the one (French) basket, I have now resumed my scheme of diligent tango practice and improvement. By the time the Neuroscientist’s no-mark friend has buggered off back to Buenos Aires, I am sure to be able to wow him with my eight-point pivot. Inevitably, with myself as my partner, I am making slow progress. After a frustrating morning stepping on my own toes, I almost relented yesterday and agreed to Pervy P’s proposition of private tuition. PP is my tango classmate and my English language student. For some time now he has been offering to ‘emphasize’ my ‘charming steps in tango’. (He also routinely pats my knee under the table and tells me I am ‘very preeety’, which no doubt violates a teacher-student code of conduct.) Luckily, just before I’d committed myself to some hands on teaching with him, I received a message: ‘We didn’t dance together much recently. I can help you work on your steps if you like.’ It was my prince! He had come for me and I hadn’t even had to leave a shoe. We agreed to rendezvous that very night.
As soon as I got home, I cleaned my flat like a demon. It had to look like it belonged to the type of girl who a brain doctor could, one day, marry. I particularly wanted the bathroom to look nice. As it takes several days to psyche myself up to mop, I had to hope that the dimmed lighting would disguise the dirt on the tiles. I also managed to squeeze in a phone call to my mother. She asked my dad, who was obviously somewhere in the background, if he thought ‘working on my steps’ was, in fact, a euphemism. I hoped so. My father declined to comment either way.
When the Neuroscientist arrived, he requested that we dance by candlelight. There was a tension in the air. Although it was not unpleasant, my instinct was to giggle. To lighten the mood I suppose. The Neuroscientist was having none of it though; we were here to work. With him in the role of the maverick dancer and me playing the frustrated student desperate to impress, my DIRTY DANCING fantasies were fast becoming a reality. ‘You should read your partner like a hummingbird’, he instructed, gazing into my eyes. I wasn’t entirely sure how one could ‘read a hummingbird’, but I accepted that this was the closest I was going to get to Johnny’s ‘It’s a feeling; a heartbeat’, and tried to look suitably mesmerized. After dancing to the same slow song several times, our embrace was so close our foreheads were touching. The music stopped and he lingered, perhaps mulling over how appropriate it would be to steal a kiss. I pulled away coquettishly and we took a breather.
‘In Argentina,’ he explained over his glass of rosé, ‘most people turn to tango after a heartbreak. It is as if a tragedy triggers a connection with the dance, a need for it or a longing.’ He began to talk wistfully about Buenos Aires. Through his eyes, it became the most beautiful and bohemian city in the world, full of poor but passionate artists and actors, musicians and dancers. I studied him as he spoke: he had the potential to be a man of the people. I imagined our life together: doing our good work in the shantytowns by day and dancing our tragic tango in the milongas at night. Forget Baby; I wanted to be the next Eva Peron.
Around 2am there was a bang on the door. A man in a towel dressing gown was mumbling something about shoes on the floor. My Latin Prince called the neighbour a name in Spanish that implied he wasn’t getting enough sex. His frustration was understandable; with the mood ruined, his own amorous intentions would have to be put on hold. I couldn’t imagine anyone ever complained about the noise Eva’s stilettos made when she danced. Of course, she had lived in the coolest city in the world. I lived in France.