Second year abroad in France while in graduate school, this time in Lyon. For the past several years, I have a vague notion that I want to dance, again, and an even vaguer notion that this will be partner dancing. I have never done partner dancing, nor do I know what partner dancing looks like. I just really like the idea of dancing with a partner. Little do I know that soon I’ll become obsessed with tango. Right now, though, the partner dance idea sounds pretty good, and suddenly becomes much more real when I take a short trip back to Paris for a very long weekend...

First obligatory trip to Comme il faut, Recoleta, Buenos Aires, 2008

Everyone is talking about these shoes and my desire needs to be satiated. I too need them, even if my wide foot needs a bit more support. Whatever. What I really want is one of those silky shoe bags I’ve seen tangueras bring to milongas. Not even the shoes themselves, but a bag: a long narrow pink satin rectangle sewn down the center, two pockets (one for each shoe) held together by a black ribbon that tangueras let dangle from their hands, like a purse, as they enter the milonga. Now of course the...

After many years of working on this paper on and off, I'm thrilled to soon see it published in Mosaic, an interdisciplinary journal of literary and critical theory. Originally, it was part of a dissertation chapter focused on Descartes. I was later inspired to weave in a more contemporary critical analysis, this after the opportunity of working with an international group of artists and thinkers drawn to the theory and practice of emerging art creations. I realized that this was, in part, what I was getting at in this paper. But it took another several years, a sab...

Over the years I will be drawn to many other dance halls and milongas, where the spaces are never quite the same: a grand dance hall from another era; a dimly-lit bar; an old-timey ballroom in Seattle; a run down warehouse space in an industrialized section of Montreal; a nightclub; a dance school; a yoga studio; an old church converted into an art space; a gazebo in a park; a friend's living room. In these milongas, the spaces are never quite the same: As it happens in so many different sub-cultures, whatever the architectural setting, the milonga organizes itself...

Eight years after I start dancing, when as a tango dancer I finally make my first trip down to Buenos Aires, I already know some of the dance hall milongas by name. For several years now, in the post-class night cap across the street from our dance studio in Portland, Maine, the more experienced dancers often wax poetically and nostalgically on these famous places. Dance deities, reigning supreme in this abstract world of Buenos Aires’s milongas, each name evoking its own reserve of signs: a rich kid of Niño Bien, the kiss at El Beso, elegance at Salon Canning, and...

Fall 2001: I discovered tango almost by accident, in Lyon, France, in the midst of a welcome second year of studies abroad after spending one year in Paris. When I first moved to the city of lights, finding a home took a while. August in Paris, and everything is all but shut down. My life seemed to be in a continuous state of quest. No place to call my own, staying with family, friends, chasing apartment leads throughout the city, lining down staircases with fifty other students hoping that this apartment would become home, yearning for my home as I stared into the...

Argentine tango is, what I like to call, a narrative dance: it moves forward, counterclockwise, in the line of dance, moving around an invisible center, a force that seems to structure the dance and its codes. People dance tango anywhere: a living room, a street corner, an outdoor gazebo, the beach, even an airline terminal.

But wherever it is danced, it moves in that counterclockwise system, inexorably around this absent center. What is this absent center? What keeps drawing us back to that place, to that space? And when we stop, what keeps us away?

That space where...

He stands there still
After all these years,
With aches and pains, 
His tears, sapped out,
Old weathered limbs, 
Mossy yearnings
Carved in his heart.

He witnessed Old Man John tend his sheep
Grazing through the spring-lit meadow
While John's dog chased off the fox.
He saw John's daughter fight off their neighbor's son
One night after a slow love song.
He saw her give in, one morning, after dawn
As the sun began to warm the night's cool breath
He saw tear drops swelling on the grassy field
Behind the grove by John's old barn.

One day, he heard her cry out
He wante...

Et le Soleil,

éreinté par le vacarme
de la cité
disparu soudainement
derrière l’ombre
d’un ortolan.

Et le Soleil

tellement accablé 
par cette cité
disparu pour plus d’un an
sans savoir sa destinée.

Il a voyagé aux Indes.
Il a vu la Grèce antique.
Il se peut même qu’il ait déjeuné sur l’herbe
avoisinant un centre aéronautique.

Il a vécu plus de quatre billion
trois cent soixante sept
nouvelles vies.

A cette heure-ci
de notre point de vue
que je ne sache
il ne reviendra plus.

© 2016 Laura Balladur, All Rights Reserved

For several years, I had been working on the semiotics of tango, something I thought of calling, in reference to Roland Barthes, Tango Mythologies. The idea *was* to interpret the various elements that make up tango: cabaceo (exchange of glances), milonga space, music, lead-follow, shoes and fetishism, nostalgia, history. I wrote a lot, submitted several chapters to an editor, who liked one, but felt the other two a bit too memoir-like. Hmmph. ​

She was right. With a bit of distance, I didn't care much for my voice. So I went back to the drawing board, whi...

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