Friday, 28 November 2008

El Beso

It's dark, and the sun should be up: I look out in the gloom and see the red tiles of the balcony shining. Rain, steady but gentle, washing away the dust, pollution and heat of the last few days. I open the laptop, my portal on the world, and find news of flash flooding in southern Brazil, but that must be 800km away.

So I went to El Beso, not expecting or even looking for a dance. Reassuring, and interesting too. Yes, the guys and the girls sit separately and get together for a dance. But it's very much a social evening. Drinks and a bit of food: the guys want to sit and chat with each other, and so do the ladies. By 1.30 it's thinning out, and only dancing couples are left. It'll probably go on for another hour or two. El Beso is small, it's a large room rather than a dance hall, with a warm, friendly feeling. Everyone knows everyone else, more or less. So my aim of coming here to dance whole nights away might not happen happen at El Beso, because tango here is part of a social event. People come to meet up and chat, and dance too. For a good evening here you need decent Spanish, and it helps to be a competent dancer. At least up until 1.30, when I left.

A few dancers stood out by their simple ease in moving, particularly their smooth turns, sweeping partners through gyros. Three older guys, two fairly heavily built, had that effortless dignity and energy that really stood out. & they were sought out by younger partners, who had effortless skills to match. But nothing ostentatious. One of the three older guys in fact was notably slow in moving round the floor: he just seemed to pick his way through the music in a different way. Apart from that, most couples looked good without looking as if they were totally part of the music. ' can we know/The dancer from the dance?' wrote WB Yeats, which seemed to apply to just a few couples. One couple had some new stuff, but it was fitted well into the close-hold, relaxed, dignified feel of dancing, and was noticed and approved by a couple of guys standing near me.

I didn't count the number of couples: the floor didn't look crowded but I know it was crowded enough to seem crowded when you're on it, and require constant attention to space and movement. I saw two couples bump and laugh it off, as you do among friends. & I didn't look for or get a dance; I felt as if in some kind of auction, where catching someone's eye by mistake means a public dance with someone with 20 years' experience when I've only got four. So I sat at the bar and drank a bottle of water and watched. I left around 11.30 and walked back. A warm evening, whole families strolling around, young kids in twos and threes, teenagers, all very unthreatening, lively and gentle. & inevitably, everywhere, the 'cartoneras', who move in on the rubbish of the day, sort through it, divide it into huge bundles and take it away. Recycling.

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