Pat, a Sterling Heights software engineer, got into tango about three years ago. "I absolutely love to dance," he says, "and this is the perfect dance for me, because it's very creative, not stuck to patterns."
The men always lead in tango, Pat explains, and the women follow. But within that format, there's room for lots of variation and experimentation. While the steps are deceptively simple really just walking (men forward, women backward) the rhythms and patterns are completely improvised. The women add "embellishments," little movements of the shoulders or whatever leg is free, and both partners listen hard to the music. They may look like they're in the throes of intimacy, but these folks are concentrating. Pat concurs: "This isn't about sex. It's about dancing."
Hmm. I guess. Perhaps I'm imagining the charge I feel in the room. I spend a lot time watching the faces of the dancers, displaying what Avik calls "tango trance." The men look blankly ahead (they're the navigators, so they'd better be looking ahead), but many of the women close their eyes entirely, jaws slack and relaxed. "Look at her," Pat whispers to me as one couple glides past, "She looks like a little angel when she dances!" He's right, she does. I can't imagine ever looking that way in the arms of a stranger.