Late at night, when I'm in a particularly active R.E.M. cycle you can almost guarantee that you will find me dancing the tango in my soul, behind my eyelids. I must have a connection to the sultry dance from a past life. In these dreams I am as fluid as hot coffee and as alluring as the sweetest chocolate. Tango speaks to me.
I'd also never attempted it in real life. David, who calls himself a "circus bear attempting to balance on a ball" when it comes to dancing, was surely not going to indulge me in my fantasy of learning to tango during our stay in Buenos Aires. At least not as my partner.
But my circus bear can be full of surprises. He not only was willing to give the steamy steps a try, he found a place that would teach us, feed us, put on a show for us, and even let us stay the night. A tango hotel.
The Complejo Tango (Tango Complex) almost seemed to good to be true. The kindly lady at check-in allowed us to take possession of our room early and, weary from our overnight flight from Lima, we went right to bed for a big, fat nap. In our groggy state, we didn't notice much until we awoke.
We found ourselves completely submerged in tango.
The halls of Complejo Tango are the backstage,
this scene took place right outside of our hotel room door!
Our room had classic posters from the heyday of the dance in Buenos Aires, back in the 30s and 40s, and a bookshelf stocked with all sorts of manuals and histories. Just as their website had promised, the place "breathes tango in every corner."
My favorite corner, a sunny nook with a red velvet chair, had me imagining a wistful little girl. Her mother, a dancer in the tango show, would leave the girl in the secluded nook at night to keep out of the way. By day, she would look out of the big window, watch out over noisy, busy Buenos Aires and dream of her turn to dance the tango.
Feeling a kinship with my imaginary little girl, I decided to step into her dancing shoes and fully live the hotel. My first stop, lessons in the studio downstairs.
Circus Bear was wearing his sheepish grin, feeling he was headed toward great embarrassment. I told him he could have extra time to play on his unicycle if he promised not to grumble and growl. He bounded for the stairs.
Our instructor, Sebastian, was amazing. He moved flawlessly from Spanish to English as he taught our small group how to perform basic steps and achieve the perfect "tango face."
The latter was difficult, as Sebastian was not only an incredible dancer, but quite the comedian. Circus Bear loved it, laughter relaxes him. In turn, it was good for me, as in order to properly dance the tango, Circus Bear needed to have his paws all over me.
After lessons, it was time to get gussied up for the show. A few doors down from our room, the orchestra was warming up. Feeling extra coordinated, I practiced my new steps to their music whilst doing my hair and make up. It really hurts when you poke your left eye with a mascara wand, by the way.
Once my eye stopped twitching, we headed down to the showroom. We were served wine and a delicious dinner at our stageside table while the music continued to play throughout.
It was fun to look up at the orchestra and count windows to figure out where our room was.
Sated, we were ready for the evening's entertainment.
The show played out in five acts, starting with tango's innocent beginnings and finishing up with the more mature dance that it has become today.
Sitting so close to the stage allowed us to watch as the dancers acted the pieces. And since we just recently learned to put on our tango faces, we were hoping to pick up a tip or two.
The program was fantastic, full of color and movement, both sweet and sexy - all of the elements of tango showcased.
That night, my dreams of tango were more tangible. More vibrant, more alive.
Morning brought more surprises, breakfast was served on a balcony in the showroom. I tiptoed down our black-and-white tiled hallway and found myself alone in the empty space.
Choosing a cup of thick, strong coffee, a media luna (a sugared crescent-type roll) and some dolce de leche, I sat high above the stage next to an ornate railing looking down on the dining tables already set for the next show. My not-a-morning-person eyes still saw magic everywhere.
That evening, after running around Buenos Aires and stuffing ourselves full of meat (more on that later), Circus Bear and I decided to retire to our room.
I sat in the red velvet chair trying to listen to the show going on outside my door as my imaginary little girl might. I soon learned that the girl was a bit more mischievous than I had initially imagined. I had promised myself to fully live the hotel, so I followed her lead and snuck out of my room.
Being extra careful not to get in the way, I sat on staircases, leaned over balconies and peeked around doors, watching the dancers as they gracefully moved through the darkened hallways.
What I discovered was the soul of the place, the heart that fed the hot blood into the dance. I understood my imaginary girl's longing to become a part of it all. Together, we watched our dreams come to life just outside the door of our room.
After that night Circus Bear and I did something we never do - vagabond GypsyNesters that we are - we stayed at our tango hotel for a full week.