"And what were you doing? Didn't you dance?" I asked.
"Nah, I was communista and so enthralled with Chairman Mao, I scoffed at their decadent immoral Western style capitalist entertainments."
Besides, Man Yung would have looked pretty much out of place on the dance floor waving the little red book and wearing communista duds instead of wide-lapel polyester suits and bell bottom pants.
Man Yung as "Disco Mao"? Unlikely.
We were just in Hong Kong last week visiting relatives. Imagine our surprise when we found out that Man Yung's two younger brothers were also dance maniacs.
"Didn't you know?" said my sister-in-law, talking about my two brothers-in-law. "They were so gangsta' [I'm paraphrasing here - she didn't really say "gangsta'", but you get the idea]! They were always cutting the rug at all student parties in school! The Cha-Cha, the Rumba, the Twist - they knew how to dance everything!"
"And what were you doing while this was going on?" I asked Man Yung.
Man Yung was so stunned by the revelation that ALL his brothers were dancers it took him a few seconds to respond. "Oh.... I had moved out and was working already, so I didn't keep track of what my younger brothers were doing!"
Of course, Man Yung is now making up for lost time and dancing non-stop in all the milongas he attends. And instead of knowing how to dance all the different dances, he's been known to dance Tango to all different types of music.*
* More efficient and easier, I must say!
For all those of you out there who don't think that it is remarkable to have several dance geniuses in one family - heck, were we not astounded by the dancetastic groovaciousness of the Jackson Five at one point? - let me tell you, it is especially rare in Chinese families. Chinese people are, on the whole, so conservative and introverted it is impossible for them to respond in a meaningfully uninhibited way to any music with a beat. For example, no-one in Irene's paternal or maternal family can dance (no, no, Mom and Dad, despite all those Ballroom lessons, I don't think you can dance either - you have to get the lead and follow thing sorted out first!) No-one in the families of Irene's Chinese friends can dance. No-one in the families of Irene's Chinese friend's friends can dance. And so on. In fact, it is quite arguable that Irene is completely unable to dance, and she is going along with all of this just to be polite (while thinking about Wal-Mart).
Indeed, watching some Chinese men dance, you would think they were deliberately conforming to the non-dancing cliché and trying to do everything - you name it, "impressive figures", stiff unnatural "tango salon standardized" walking, "yummy embracing"*, "pretending" to be "_____________" i.e. trendy Mr. Tango Salon Superstar, etc. - everything that is, except moving to the compas.**
* What, you could actually do this? I tell you - yes you could - and it's one of the most creepy things I've come across in Tango, even creepier than face dancing!
** In the words of Hong Kong celebrity Food Critic Choi Lan: Of course there are exceptions. Some Chinese tangueros can forget all of the superficial surface things and just focus on the music. And - "The Chinese tangueras were all lovely dancers," said Man Yung.
We look forward to unearthing more evidence of dance DNA in Man Yung's family - maybe a great great great granduncle who was an expert at the Electric Slide and the Mash Potato?
Bruce Lee (!!!) dancing Cha Cha in an old Cantonese movie (watch him starting at around 0:30). For all of you who believe that you are stranded in the purgatory of "Chinese people can't dance" cliché - if Bruce Lee can dance to the compas, yes, you too can also dance to the compas! Just leave all that other stuff that is stopping you from really dancing behind!