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 shor...

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,...

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 archite...

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 kis...

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 hom...

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...

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 voi...

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