A long, long time ago in my mother's village we danced the wild tango! During the summer months there was always a religious festival and on Saturday nights one could always find a village with yet another religious festival with an evening dance, sometimes just the tango and sometimes also the waltz, rumba, samba and mambo.
When the heavy rhythm of a tango commenced the people would scream: Tango! Tango! And everyone rushed to the wooden platform that was intentionally erected in the village square, that was flanked by multicolored lights and that was crowned with a bonfire that seemed to swallow the sky.
To suggest to these people of a time now largely lost that they should take a lesson to teach them to dance was as absurd as asking them to take lessons on how to eat the magnificent roasted meats and drink the moonshine that was freely available at all the festivals. These people were born with the dance in their blood. Everyone danced without prejudice from age 4 to age 90.
These were villages that had known great poverty and even starvation, they had endured every plague including the plague of the Nazis and when they came to the dance they used the dance to purge all the sorrow and to embrace the great joy of the wild dance.
There was no permission needed; one approached the partner without words and stood in front of them and extended the hand and there was rarely a refusal.
I was a teenage girl and I remember one partner in particular. He was a stout man with beaming eyes who was at least a foot shorter than me. I remember him because he tossed me violently, with great force, so great a force that I could not break from him. We danced from 9 at night to 5 in the morning, till the dawn broke the sky and this was the custom with everyone.
We never spoke or exchanged names, but of course I remember his intense gaze since it became my focal point and all the world faded other than his eyes. I was challenged to maintain form, to shape the circuitry of space with perfection, to add the elegance to the extreme edge that his rhythmic inertia commanded. It was my job to punctuate this force with elaborate precision.
Here there were no judgments and no clichÃ©s. Who was dominant or submissive and who led or who followed was not in the least important. There were no leaders or followers and no one crashed with any other dancer. It was a sublime synergy and the only leader was the music, the fire, and the blazing starry sky. It was a return to the primal and a complete state of surrender by all the dancers, young, and old male and female.
These dancers all moved rapidly around what seemed an endless center. They merged with their partners and with all the partners. There was an instinct, a prescience of motion evoked; it was the mass rapid motion that drove them, called them, the rhythm forced them to obey, everyone was mesmerized, it was one great unit spiraling through time/space.
I remember most my mother who at one of the dances broke free of her partner and stole the Barrett of another man and performed a soliloquy of dance in perfect time arriving back to her partner without hesitance or the missing of a second. My mother loved the dance above all else and she has won many ribbons during the Second World War.
This is what I miss the most, as there is not such dancing here in NYC. Of course I know that there are tangos but the dancers are so choreographed, so feigned, so forced, so pale and bloodless, and so alien to my original experience that they are an atrocity to me.