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Monday, October 29, 2007

The Tango Angels of Venice

A lot of the tango blogs I read talk about Tango Angels. We all have one or wish we had one or remember one fondly. I'll admit it's a topic I like dissertations on: certainly I have been wondering where mine have disappeared to recently. But I don't recall anything written lately where anyone has talked about being a Tango Angel. Maybe it's hard to tell when you've done it.

Well, I can say now that I have been a Tango Angel. As much as I'll remember the times that someone's taken me under his wing and shown me the stars while dancing, I also now know that I've done that same thing for someone else. As Nuit has talked about the little box where she puts her happy tango memories, I'll be sure to put this little story in mine...

Just so you know, Venice is not a destination for tango. I think we assumed, being tourists, that if the tango scene in Venice was not large, at least it might attract some other visitors, like ourselves, to the local dances. In San Francisco, it's very common to meet people on holiday or on business who attend the local milongas and have a great time dancing with the locals. I've had some exceptional dances with partners who I'll probably never see again, as they were just passing through town. *snif*

And Tina, our in-house Italy/Tango expert, was a great help in getting us the information we needed about the tango scene in Venice and the surrounding cities. (By the way, you should read her other blog about Italy. It made me want to be an expat before I even got there!)

We were so excited to see that the first local milonga was literally down the street (canal) from us, on Sunday night. Perfect timing as we would have recovered from jet lag by then and would be raring to go. I think all of us had dreams that we would dance for hours and the best part would be that we only had a two-minute walk back to our apartment, so if our feet were killing us--hey, no problem! We're already home!

So close, yet so far. Both literally and figuratively. We actually got lost trying to find the place, which was incredible in that the address was so close to us. But Venice can be labyrinthian and its system of addressing buildings is a total mystery. The fact that people actually get mail delivered to them is somewhat miraculous. We stomped around, looking in vain for the address, saying "It's got to be around here somewhere!" and then finally stopping into a nearby restaurant where the only English-speaking employee gave us partial directions. Had she not been successful, we were on the verge of throwing in the towel and ordering some linguine. We were definitely all dressed up with no place to go.

But it turned out that we had passed the place (through no fault of our own, it was behind us and hidden around a corner) and when we saw the little paper sign that spelled "TANGO" pasted to the wall, our spirits revived. We got excited again. Our first milonga in VENICE!

And then our hopes were dashed. Again.

The "milonga" was in a small room, with maybe about 12-14 people in attendance. We looked worriedly at two of the men who were so inept as to be very likely sources of bodily harm to us. And they were the young ones. All of the other men there were in their late 50s, at least, with partners and attire to match. Picture the following: my little hottie Korean girlfriends, me in my new semi-Goth, semi-French Can Can poufy skirt, and all of us in our favorite Comme Il Fauts. We certainly did stick out like sore thumbs.

The people looked at us like we had come from another planet. Needless to say, out-of-towners do not visit this milonga, and really none of the people there spoke much English, so it was difficult to even explain why we were there. It kind of felt like we were crashing their little local party. I guess we were. I certainly got the impression that some of the women were not really too thrilled that we dropped by.

Ms. Tango Hours and Ms. Nuit weren't even taking off their coats--that's how on the fence they were about staying. But there was one guy dancing who looked okay. I watched him with his partner and it looked like he would work out. Then someone put on Caceres' Tango Negro, which for me is like giving catnip to a kitty, so out came my red shoes. I tried to cabaceo the guy, but he didn't get it. I didn't want to miss the whole damn song, so I figured Screw it, and went over and asked him to dance. He looked surprised, but at least he didn't say no. And we danced for most of the song, and it was fun.

Then they put on a regular tango. The guy, Franco, said to me, in slightly broken English, that he thought I was like a Ferrari, and that I should be gentle with him as he wasn't sure he could handle me. I had to laugh at that. Comparing me to a Ferrari--now that has to be the most Italian compliment of all! We danced for one more song and I realized then that not only did they not cabaceo (maybe there's no need when it's the same five women every week) but they also didn't have tandas and cortinas. You got one dance and then the guy moved on to someone else. Even at a tiny milonga there are more women than men! Gads. I had to hand it to the guys though. They stayed loyal to the local women, who were for the most part, really bad dancers.

Anyway, we stayed for a while, and the girls were good sports and felt a bit abused by one gent who insisted on correcting their form while dancing (their form is fine, trust me) instead of realizing that these cuties were gifts from the Almighty in their little tango world that night.

So we left after about 30 minutes, went back to the restaurant where the English-speaking waitress worked, and ordered some yummy seafood pasta. After the pasta, somehow I convinced the girls to go back to the dance, just for the last hour, and see if it had gotten better. My hope was that maybe someone better had turned up late. You never know, right? We had nothing to lose.

They looked like they were closing up shop. Most of the people had left. Franco was still there, and two of the other guys who weren't too bad, and they were really happy to see us. The one fellow who was putting on his coat to leave took it off again, and escorted us back into the room. And then it was the San Francisco/Venice milonga.

The guys took turns dj'ing and dancing with us. And for more than just one song. For lots of songs. At midnight, when the milonga was supposed to have ended at 11:30, someone played La Cumparsita, so I figured that was it, but then they kept playing more music. They really did not want us to leave. Finally we were the ones who had to put our coats on so the dance would stop.

One of the women there, the best dancer of the ladies, did not speak English but did speak French. She was highly complimentary to all of us and said we were beautiful dancers. She told us about a milonga the next night in San Marco that would be better for us. Better dancers, she explained. As we were leaving, one of the men repeatedly mentioned that there was another milonga coming up on that Wednesday, and to please come back.


The next night, we got all dressed up again for the milonga we had heard about from the French-speaking Italian woman. It was really more of a practica than a milonga. Franco was there. This time he was different. And better.

He cabaceoed me from across the room. When I met him in the middle of the floor, he gave me a hug. "Just like in Buenos Aires, right?" he said. I asked him if he had ever been to BsAs, and he said, Oh no. No no no.

We danced a number of tandas that night, and each one was better than the one before it. At the end of the last song, he gave me such a squeeze and kissed my cheek hard, a big smooch. I could feel how happy he was, like giddy happy. He said, "I love you! I would dance with you forever!"

And that's when I knew I had been a Tango Angel.

Ciao, Franco.


La Nuit Blanche October 30, 2007 at 7:24 AM  

so that was his name -- franco! he was sweet to me too, and said the most amazing thing any leader has ever said to me, and i am treasuring it.

i wish franco were here in new york. he is not the best dancer in the world, but i would dance with him any day!

tangobaby -- you inspired me to stay that first night. you were also the reason i went back with you to the basketball court practica, the night we got the gelato. you are truly an angel... i would say more on the subject here, but i to want to save it for me own venetian postings, hehe.

Anonymous October 30, 2007 at 7:53 AM  

Don't you just LOVE being an angel? Most of the time you don't even need words. When they won't let go of you between tandas, or when they have this goofy, blissed out, dazed smile, you know you've "angeled" someone :-)

tangobaby October 30, 2007 at 10:02 AM  

Oh Nuit! I'm so glad! I can't wait to hear your story, too.

Franco was sweet and kind and steady: in my mind a perfect type of leader. His heart was truly in it.

I would have loved to dance with Franco again. Or even to have said goodbye. That was why I wanted to go back to the basketball court again that night. He was the one who told me about it in the first place. I thought he was going to be there, but perhaps it was the language barrier and I didn't understand. Oh well, bittersweet endings in tango happen all the time, right?

At least now we can hope that we gave him some lovely tango memories that he will keep for a long time.


tangobaby October 30, 2007 at 10:06 AM  

Hi Johanna,

I think this was the first time I was sure I had "angeled" someone. (I like that word!) I guess it's happened before, now that I think about it, but perhaps because he was so exuberant and happy that it made it more special on this occasion.

It was a very pure expression of happiness, and that's not something you encounter every day.

NYC Tango Junkie October 30, 2007 at 10:51 AM  


Once in a group class, the female teacher told the leaders: " Think of dancing with the ladies like driving a Ferrari, not a pick up truck..."

I am glad the Italian got it better than the American.



tangobaby October 30, 2007 at 11:18 AM  

Hi TJ,

I guess I'd much rather be a Ferrari than a pick-up truck! (Actually, I aspire to be a 1950 Jaguar XK120 convertible.) Classic styling with nice curves.


The Italian guy was sweet and a little shy when he said it, so that made his comment even better.

When are you going to BA? I am seriously coming out to NY to have dim sum with you.


NYC Tango Junkie October 30, 2007 at 12:28 PM  


From what i learned, the 1950 Jaguar XK120 suites you just fine. :)

I am away in BsAs from Nov.22 to Dec.3. And seriously hope that we can all go out to dim sum in NY.



Anonymous October 30, 2007 at 12:38 PM  

That is a great and very moving post. Thank you for sharing it.

(Though I have heard the Ferrari analogy in many a class, I would much prefer to dance with an XK120.)


tangobaby October 30, 2007 at 3:09 PM  


What has Naughty Nuit been telling you?!

Of course I will not come to NY unless you are in town. Meeting you will be a top priority!


tangobaby October 30, 2007 at 3:19 PM  

hi b,

Thank you, as always, for your kind reply. I'm glad you liked the post...it was a moment that tells its own story effortlessly.

Promise you'll let me know if we'll ever be dancing in the same place so I can get the Jag tuned up.


NYC Tango Junkie October 30, 2007 at 6:00 PM  


What goes on Venice stays in Venice.
I have heard nothing but admiration.

So look forward to having dim sum with two beautiful ladies and dance to a pristine XK120 and a fire red Ferrari.



La Nuit Blanche October 31, 2007 at 7:13 AM  

hey! what am i?? a big-wheel?? :-P

tangobaby, you better tell me you bought your ticket by now. it's already been four days since we got back, you bad girl.


daniele October 31, 2007 at 7:16 AM  

dear Tangobaby

if you will come back to venice

I invite you to visit us


our asociation has 100 members and some angels


studio wellspring October 31, 2007 at 9:27 AM  

i heart your stories of venice. such an incredible time you had. angels, art, gondolas & tango. what a divine combination.

tangobaby October 31, 2007 at 1:12 PM  


What is a big wheel? Is that good? Do you want to be a big wheel? I've never heard that before.


tangobaby October 31, 2007 at 1:15 PM  


I will try to come to NY as soon as:

1. I am brave enough to see what my credit card balance is
2. I don't throw up when I see my credit card balance
3. Prepare my boss in advance so he doesn't think he's going to die without me.

That's all! Then I can come and play.


tangobaby October 31, 2007 at 1:22 PM  

Dear Daniele,

I knew there were some tango angels in Venice! I just wasn't sure where to find them. Now that I know you are one, and you know the other tango angels, I will surely be back.

Venice is such a uniquely beautiful place. And the people were so kind to me. I know I will be visit again someday. I still have more stories and pictures to share of Venice.

Do you know the man I danced with--Franco? He has wavy, grey hair and wears glasses. If so, please tell him that the American girl from San Francisco with dark hair and blue eyes sends him a big hug and kiss!


tangobaby October 31, 2007 at 1:24 PM  

And Daniele, thank you for reading my blog. That makes me very happy!