I’ve just read one of those throwaway books (called Elegance) your friend picks up in a second hand bookshop and passes along. It seems appropriate for this trip as I survey faded elegance.
The trick however is to realise that it’s not faded.
As I watched the dance floor last night I considered these things: tango is a place for women to dress in finery and enjoy wearing clothes they might not wear in every day life; shoes are the thing for women, men discuss music more than women.
From the outside tango is a culture of many rules: it’s preferable that women change shoes in the bathroom, followers should wait to be asked, women should not hold the neck of the man (unless they have an intimate relationship), couples move in one way around the floor, thank each other for the dance..cabeceo…never teach on the dance floor. And many more.
It’s coming to Buenos Aires again that makes me see this for a little more than a game and more part of a culture and part of an elegance that some of us have eschewed.
When I attended school balls we took dance cards so that we knew who our next partner would be and this stopped any feelings of being left out and allowed the event to flow.
Tango in Buenos Aires is like that world. It’s a world where men open car doors, ensure you are ok, keep an eye out for you, offer you their arm, lead you gracefully around the floor. Where also people in general are kind to each other.
I used to see the etiquette of tango as rules to be learned because some of these ways of being elegant have gone from our lives. Like the young who (in both Buenos Aires and New Zealand) fail to offer seats to elderly, or passers-by who refuse to apologise for pushing by.
I like the tango world of etiquette and I enjoy the little niceties that make it so easy. But I’m still aspiring to elegance and do also find the relaxed ‘matey’ NZ mode has its charms.