My Perfect Tanda

Midway through the perfect tanda with the perfect partner (the joy of dj-ing is making playlists with specific people in mind and knowing when those tandas are coming up), I may have noticed that my dress had twisted free of modesty, revealing the horribly ill-fitting bra that did not match... I may have realized that it would only get worse and could become scandalous if unattended... but there was no way I was breaking the cozy little spell of music-breath-embrace. Not to scratch my face. Not to cough. Not to wipe sweat from our shared brow. No, if there had been a fire, I would have stayed in frame and let him dance me through a window if need be, just so long as the music still played or could play. We were in a trance, absorbing lord knows what hypnotic suggestions and only the cortina could break it smoothly.

It was an alternative set. Our venue attracts folks of all stripes and listening preferences and we try to please them all a bit. So when I dj here, I don't strictly stay with any one format. I do love traditional tango. I am particularly enamored of Angel D'Agostino, Rodriguez, Lomuto, Calo and Fulvio Salamanca at the moment. Ienjoy the fact that they are familiar but not too familiar in the way that some of the stock standards can become when djs with limited budgets stick to the utter classics. Usually this means a handful of traditional tandas of varying rhythmic and tonal distinctions working into one or two tandas of something modern and dramatic, into maybe an electronic set, and finally something never contemplated by our theoretical founding fathers of tango.

This set, to me, breathes. It has an implacable organic quality that is slow and surging, but only under the surface. We talk about the rhythm as a pulse often enough without really imagining our heats beating and lungs expanding only through will of the music, but here the connection is palpable. The pulse courses with the syrupy sapor of morphine as the heart beats against its slowing effects in a muted effort to avoid the inevitable succumbing.

In present tense, as it can only be described: My partner holds me, his body like a light mist encompassing and absorbing me until our molecules are indistinct. The pressure is compression and release, but so elastic that it comes and goes through my body like the moon pulling the tide. We share the same lungs and they expand and contract with the music's heavy respiration. Radiance, by Bruce Cockburn - echoes into space and we dance into the silence with our stillness, breathing together, blending into each other, and vibrating to the memories of final cords. The next song begins - Vuelvo al Sur, by Medialuna Tango Project - and he whispers "nice" almost indistinctly while I shrug with him the faint strain of goosebumps running through our singular nervous system. As it fades into the stillness, I smile, knowing that El Cielo Sabra, by Cirque de Soleil is yet to come. It has the haunting quality of the previous two, but builds into a rapturous crescendo before ebbing into that same eerie and pregnant stillness. We rise to these points, building speed as we land in perfectly rubato pauses. Our dancing hovers on crest of each note, never quite alighting and never quite leaving. The moves aren't terribly complicated - giros, volcadas and the softest of ganchos predominate - but it doesn't matter. They evolve and adapt to the music as well as we and each sequence has a new timbre, danced in a new key as the music inhales and exhales.

When the music faded again, the cortina interjected itself between our mutual physiology. Although I wish it could go on forever, three was the right number for this set. Each song built into the next. Each one was already a five minute contemplation of motion and obsession. And nothing follows Cielo Sabra in my mind. I had originally thought of adding an extra song, but a perfect tanda must be balanced ... between the songs and between our own human abilities of concentration and connection. Connection builds through the first two songs and is strongest near the end, which is why we have the tanda format in the first place. But there is a point of diminishing marginal connections, and it's best to leave it lingering at the strongest point

Cortina literally means "curtain," which is terribly apt. As dancers feel themselves awakening from their mutual dream, it's as if the little chunk of non-tango music is opening a window and letting in the light; letting our private moment become public again as we resume seeing and being seen. As we pull away from that center, we hold on just a little longer and a little tighter, falling from a dance embrace into a bear hug. I don't hear my cohost asking me if that was the last song. It wasn't - I think the cumparsita is still fair warning and it lets me follow a regular one with one of my off-genre ones... this time a mambo cumparsita. I think of my cumparsitas as something akin to the half hour spent sitting on the couch sipping coffee. It's the buffer between the dream and the day, as the brain comes down from the heady drugs our bodies produce in reaction to that much touch. But I would never have danced that last cumparsita with my perfect tanda partner. We had had our perfect tanda leading into our perfect dance and perfect ending, after all.

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