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  • Endre Farkas

Tango & Us at the Armoury


C got up early to go to work. She tuned in CBC Daybreak to get the news, traffic, weather and bitch about the decline of the CBC.

I slept. I woke. She told me that they were talking about a tango festival in Montreal. CBC was giving away tickets to a free class and a show on Saturday night. She called and got the tickets.

“Why?” I asked.

“It would be fun,” she said. “You have to pick up the tickets between 9:30 and 4:00.

“Why me?”

“Because I work.”

She left and I went back to sleep.

I got there and the tickets weren’t waiting as promised. The receptionist had to call the people at Daybreak. I waited. Finally someone brought the tickets.

“Mr. Fazekas?”

“No. That’s the guy you have on for science and technology.”

“Oh, well, at least we know that you listen to our shows.”

I vaguely remembered someone telling me that tango was a dance associated with the underworld and originated in the whorehouses of Argentina. Researched it.

“In the late 1800’s, millions of European immigrants arrived on the shores of the Rio de la Plata in South America, in the two port cities of Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Most of them were Italian and Spanish, and the vast majority were single young men looking to make their fortunes in America.

They brought their music: the sweet sounds of the violin, the driving flamenco guitar, the strange mournful wail of the bandoneon – and their dances: the waltz, the mazurka, the polka – and mixed them with the Argentine folk music and dance, with the Cuban habanera, with the African candombe rhythms from the freed slaves’ street parties.

With very few women around, many of these young men found themselves looking for excitement in the bordello districts of the burgeoning port cities. The tango dance arose in these seedy waterfront areas from this turbulent mix, becoming a “mating dance” between barmaids and their customers in shady nightclubs.

Shunned by the upper and middle classes in Argentina, it nevertheless became a sleazy fixture of urban nightlife in Buenos Aires. Young men in neighbourhood gangs would practice the steps with each other in order to become skilled enough to win the attentions of a woman. A beginner would often dance the follower’s part for six months to a year before being shown how to lead.” (Wikipedia)


We decided to dress for the occasion. We wore black. I even wore a vest and tie.

The show was in an armoury. We were greeted by two polite soldiers in camouflage fatigues. We had to go through security. We had to sign in. Talked with one of the soldiers.

“Does that really camouflage you?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Doesn’t look like leafy camouflage.”

“No sir, it’s pixilation camouflage,”


“So that drones won’t be able to see you.”

The ticket taker told us that the classes were held that afternoon. Tonight would only be the show. C cursed the CBC.

It was a good show. The music was fine and the dancers were elegant. Tango struck me as a formal form of eroticism. The men had an elegant machismo. They were erect and sharp as a switchblade. The women were also very elegant. They seemed to have an exaggerated curve in their spine. Their dresses were very form fitting. Accentuated their curves. Very politically incorrect.

They held each other very close, a breath apart. Their upper part hardly moved. It was all in the legs and feet. The women’s feet were beautifully sculpted and seemed so much longer because of the stiletto heels they were wearing. If you got out of line, they could probably mortally stab you.

The movements were forceful, graceful and intricate. The way the feet slipped, glided, entwined and untwined and the way women’s legs wound and unwound around the men’s legs, was evocative. “Mating dance.”

I wondered how such a formal form came out of the poor neighbourhood.

“As Argentina became very wealthy around the turn of the century, the sons of rich families would often look for adventure and excitement in the rougher parts of town, and learned the tango as part of their escapades. Some of these young men of privilege would show off the tango as a treat for their friends on their sojourns to Paris, then the cultural capital of the world. The Parisians were shocked and titillated by this raw, sensuous dance. This led to a “tango craze” that swept all of Europe, and reached America in the years just prior to World War I.” (Wikipedia)

I suspect it got “formalized” somewhere and sometime around then and there.

We signed out and came home to our own private tango tangle.

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