I wonder if dancing tango in Buenos Aires is akin to doing yoga in India. Here in Vancouver, in the west in general, it's largely stripped of the spiritual element – you need look no further than Lululemon and it's Ayn Rand-loving owner to see that. But how could you do yoga in India and not be infused with the spirituality of it? Well, at least that's what I imagine. How will tango in Buenos Aires be different? I think tango is danced best when it's harbouring a certain sadness. I've often received the strongest compliments for my dancing when I have been at my saddest. You close your eyes, and the world falls away, and there's only you and your partner and the music; and your steps are animated by melody and melancholy. And in those moments it really DOES feel like two lonely souls mitigating that loneliness through the dance's embrace. I love those moments, and yet, paradoxically, only truly possible when tinged with sorrow or regret.
Argentina has been through so much as a nation. It's hard to separate tango from the history of Argentina's sorrows. I've seen the men, in documentaries, talk about this connection with tango, and its history, and I've heard that some older men cry and sing along to the classic Argentine tango music. And it's with some of this that I come to Argentine tango music. And it's with some of this that I come to Argentina. It's' been a good year overall, but one also filled with sorrow and loss, and a beauty that felt so close, and yet just beyond my fingertips, and I've been looking forward to dancing in Argentina with those emotions running in my veins; but then on Monday I was stopped in my tracks.
I finally got around to looking through my Alma Mater's quarterly magazine and learned of the death, back in February , of cancer, of one of my closest friends in university, with whom I co-edited the paper (The Picaro) in my final year there: Suellen Murray. How could that be? Suellen Murray was well and truly one of the good ones, whose brilliant wit and wry observations were wise beyond her years, and I was lucky to be her friend. And I remember the day she asked me if I would co-edit the newspaper with her, and I was so moved because I was so unsure of myself and so often felt lost in the world, and then I was crying and packing and hoping I could focus enough not to forget something basic, like my money. I've thought of her often over the years and always thought, “that reunion will come.” I'd look her up when I'm back in Nova Scotia, but I didn't, and now, I can't, and I can hardly fathom that her brilliance and friendship is one more thing beyond my realm. It was hard to finish packing on Monday, as I cried and tried to concentrate on not forgetting things, while not forgetting her.
It was Suellen I was thinking of on my first night of tango last night at El Beso. Tough to get dances in the packed room, and an unknown quantity. But at the end of the night, as the crowd thinned, I managed to catch the eye of an elegant woman from the city, grew up four blocks from here and was at this milonga because she couldn't go to her regular place (“quebre con un caballero”) and we embraced and danced with all the feeling I would expect from here, the last dance of the night.
I hope for fun, and lightness and laughter, which are all deeply in my nature, during my time here. But I've also come here as a kind of mourning. I know this sounds odd, but it's a mourning that has to to with honouring the things there are in my life – in the world – that have been lost. Personally, I can't think of a better place for it.
Lalo Espejo is a writer, monologist and political satirist whose work has appeared on CBC radio, campuses across Canada. He has also taught writing and presentation skills at career colleges in Vancouver. email@example.com