Sunday, April 3, 2016

Legs

Somewhere along my tango journey, I picked up the notion that to have that real, authentic tango look (and dance), I got to have straight legs.

Which I didn't have.

Maybe I had OD'd on too many videos of glamourous young tango performers in sky high tango stilettos, kicking and foot flicking their way through brassy modern interpretations of 'Quejas de Bandoneon'.  Neck straight, back straight, legs straight, feet straight - and flying across the dance floor.  The golden standard. 

It was painful for me back then to look at the way I danced.  Crooked, bendy, with feet turned out just slightly less humourously than Charlie Chaplin's.  I strained to step straighter, using all my mental willpower (and hours of practice) to get those damn knees straight and feet together.  To no avail.  I had neither the genes nor the years of rockette/ballet practice.  And - Damn those karate classes.  Sensei made us practice for years, kicking imaginary butt without overextending our knees. 

It was too late.  Bendiness was ingrained; Tango elegance was forever out of my reach.

It got so bad I took to wearing long skirts to hide my crazy ugly bendy knees.  A expat Tanguera in Buenos Aires once asked me, why, sweetie, are you hiding your legs under those long skirts?  It's kind of matronly for a young person.  I flushed red to the top of my head.  My knees are bent, I whispered sadly.  Expat Tanguera nodded sagely and somewhat condescendingly.  Oh, poor dear, I understand.  Yes, you need good straight legs to look nice in Tango.  Practice more!  And off she went dancing (rather woodenly, in retrospect) with some random milonguero.  Well, at least she had some good straight legs.

Man Yung tried to console me.  "Look at Geraldine!  She doesn't have straight legs."

"What?  No way."  I took a look - ok, she was kind of bendy.  "Yeah, but she is a superstar.  She can pull anything off." I said.

"How about Adela and Elba and Susy and all your favourite milongueras?  Their legs aren't super robot straight either, and they look fantastic dancing.  Your legs aren't made from one straight bone from hip to ankle (you moron).  It is natural to bend."

 "You mean, I don't need Fembot legs to look great dancing Tango?"

Maybe there was a point in what he said.  But I wasn't completely convinced yet.

Osvaldo, god bless him, never said anything about my legs or knees or posture or whatever.  The only piece of advice he ever gave me about dancing was, "Pick up your feet", i.e. don't drag them like I was sweeping the floor with them when I was dancing.  He didn't have any tango advice for me really (ever), but he did think I was a wiseass.  He said one time to his daughters when we were having lunch together at his house, "Be really careful when you are talking with Irene.  She's a smart one with the devil in her!  She'll make a joke with what you say before you know it!"  And then he rolled his eyes while we all laughed.

What he did say to Man Yung was this:  "Don't walk like you are 'DANCING TANGO'.  Come on, relax."  And he would give his shoulders and arms a little shake and fling like he was trying to relax to show Man Yung what he was talking about.  "When you are dancing, walk like you are walking to the supermarket.  Like you were walking in the street.  Like you were taking a walk in the park with Irene."

And I bet there was never any doubt for Osvaldo that the woman with the most marvelous legs in the whole world was Coca.   He'd walk hand in hand with her anywhere and just being with her was the best thing in the entire universe.

I didn't get it right away.  Maybe there was never any need to "get it" in the first place.  But after dancing tango for twelve years and getting a bit older and wiser, I have become less conscious more accepting about my freakish just fine and dandy legs.  It's just something I realized one day - among other things.

The best look:  It may not necessarily be any of bombshell/vamp/virgin/beauty pageant contestant/model/Forever Tango Tanguera.  The best look to have is well rested.

The best outfit: It may not be any of fashion forward/trendy/classic/bohemian/couture.  The best outfit is clean, neat and appropriate to the occasion.

And the best legs for Tango: Whatever legs you have naturally!  Bendy or straight, doesn't matter so long they are yours. 

















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Alberto Dassieu

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