Posts Tagged ‘stories’

Redhead (pre-milonga)

As I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly I noticed there was a train I could take leaving in 2 minutes. I did not even think of saying proper goodbyes to the other researchers, I just ran to platform 5 and boarded one of the first coaches. It was packed: Friday after half five heading to London. People sat at improvised spots at the ends of most coaches, but I kept on walking through its corridors and got a seat within 2 minutes of the train’s departure.

I just sat there for a little while, resting from the long day of travel and meetings and then made my way to the restaurant wagon to get a sandwich, water and a flapjack, so I would be ‘properly’ fed before I got back to London for the milonga. I was lucky to board that train and find a seat, but there was no way I would get to Holborn at 7:30pm for the musicality workshop. I got back to my seat and caught the girls I was sharing my train table with discussing very pressing maters:

– He said you wash your hair and then apply a good amount of those anti-dandruff shampoos to it, right? Make a good lather and leave it on for about 20 minutes before you rinse. With a few washes the dye is gone.

– Cool. Are you doing it?

– Yeah, most definitely. I really hate my hair this dark.

– Sorry to interrupt, I said, but your hair looks lovely!

– Oh, thanks.  It’s just a bit too dark!

– Well, it looks great to me, but I know what you mean. I dyed mine last week and I don’t recognise myself as a redhead.

a bit too rock n'roll

– Seriously? It looks great on you.

– Yeah, it does, said the other girl.

– Too rock n’roll for me I guess.

We went on sharing our likes and dislikes for the results for a while, but then the girls had to get ready for their party in London: they went to the loo and changed into cute little dresses and started doing their make up on our table. I did not have much to do as I was keeping my work outfit – nicely fitting caramel trousers combined with a white top with some lacework that had been strategically hidden under an ivory cardigan during the day, but would become partially visible under a burgundy shrug I was planning to wear for the milonga – and, as for make-up, I had to go neutral. Having bright mahogany hair did not allow much colour or intensity due to the risk of being taken for a clown. So, my effort to join in consisted of a little bit of brown mascara and a neutral, peachy coloured, lip plumping lipstick, which, disappointedly, did not sting at all. We wished one another a good night out as we stepped out of the train and I hastily made my way to the tube.

It was well after 8 when I arrived at the milonga. As I was going to pay, I asked the always smiley door man, Doug, if I was too late to make it to the workshop. Doug’s smile was a sign of hope and trouble:

– You came in time for it, young lady, they’re still checking the sound.

– Yay!

– It should be starting soon, said the man who was talking to him.

Doug’s responsive looks failed to portray the same optimism, as he raised his eyebrows and kept his gaze low with a slight and doubtful turn of face towards the other man. I followed the words rather than the face and, without losing a minute, changed to heels, dropped my stuff at the unattended, but safe, cloakroom and made my way towards the main dance hall, when the man who was chatting to Doug stopped me:

– I like your hair.

– Oh, thanks. It comes from a bottle, I said resenting the colour.

– What?, the men said in unison with puzzled faces.

– It’s a red dye; it’s naturally blonde, dark blonde.

– How come you dyed your hair being naturally blonde? Said Doug, positively perplexed.

Good question, I thought, but said nothing. For Christ’s sake weren’t men supposed to have no interest over such things? How could I begin to explain I had recently felt a change would do me good after a nerve-racking period that had culminated with a Ph.D. examination and a subsequent encounter with Fabián.

– Do you know how many people dye their hair blonde?, he insisted, while the guy who had originally liked my hair did not say a word in my defence.

– Mousy blonde, not very bright; I said awkwardly and left to the main dance hall.

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This last weekend Narcotango played in São Paulo in a special milonga, which turned out to be my first in Brazil and in almost 2 years.  I was very impressed and moved by the live show, even if not so much by the milonga as, contrary to my previous experiences, people seemed to be dancing within their own groups. So, although I had a chance to dance, I also felt like I was lurking for some time,  which suited both the sociologist in me and my injured foot.

picture by Pierre Andrews

If I am honest, however, my professional affiliation had very little to do with my enjoyment as an observer; watching couples do the tango provides some entertainment that can be akin to first hand access to hot gossip: bodies that seek one another with passion; strangers that take a little too long to break the embraces tango allows them to experience; expectant ladies that wait for a dance while reluctant leaders hang about without ever asking for one; bodies that stall in disagreement as to where that dance is taking them…  Even without feeling it myself, I could recognise the presence of the strange tango witchcraft that transports dancers in and out of relationships and, as a wicked genie, grants them 3 mistakes.

When Tina told me of the 3 tango mistakes I thought of them as one’s allowed share of it and, even though I could immediately recognise myself as a survivor of a devastating one, I took it lightly.  Enticed by live tango in a lively milonga, this new piece of information produced excitement rather than caution.  I smiled at Tina and said maybe I was ready for my second mistake, and went on exchanging glances with the tall, dashing Argentinean and soon forgot I had ever heard of anything but pleasure together with the word tango.  It was just thinking in retrospect that Tina’s shared knowledge hit me as prophetic.

During narcotango’s concert, I looked at people around me, wondered how far they had got on their mistakes and considered making an effort to pass on my knowledge, but I could not see much use in doing so…  I knew all too well that having heard about the 3 mistakes hadn’t stopped me from making them.  The problem, as it frequently is the case, is that it is hindsight that allows unsuccessful actions and choices to be reinterpreted as mistakes and, when it comes to tango, it is fair to expect those choices to be fairly tainted by somewhat narcotic effects.

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3 tangos

Three tangos, três tangos, tres tangos… is about a journey that involves tango – the music, the dance and the drama; longing, love and loss.  A journey still in the making, the search for that third element that closes it, brings the idea of completion and wholeness to the story.  It is about making mistakes, mixing tango with love and living the corresponding highs and lows of the process.  It is fiction and reality mixed together, contaminating one another and becoming inseparable, a third thing.

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