The Memory of Entrancement

We filed through the door, glittering in our finery but seeming indecently pale compared to the tanned and coffee shades of those around us. A group of pasty strangers in amongst the figures of nightlife.

Foreign in a foreign land, we followed the waiter, not having known where to go without him. He glided over the floor and through the dense crowd of tables and chairs, a labyrinth formed for the herd of people spewing through the doors.
Glasses and plates glittered on the tables, melding into the white pristine tablecloth creating the cutlery for a feast fit for a king.

We sat at the table as others chattered easily around us; their voices flowed around us forming the wave of sound crashing around the walls and tinkling the china. They sounded as if they were yelling, angry for some reason in the immaculate surrounding. I wondered what they found not meeting to their taste, and I nearly asked before I caught myself.
This was what conversation was like, the louder the better, their strange accents gliding over words we had found too difficult to pronounce in such a strange tongue.
I sat in silence, observing the movement of bodies around me, too shy to try and join their conversation, mistakes came quickly and easily to me it seemed.
Our guide, my host mother, tried to strike up conversation but as intimidated as I was she was met with little extensions of chat.

The food was brought and consumed as was the custom, louder and louder the volume of talk grew, cheering and pleasant in its own booming way.
Dessert was brought following and as soon as the glass of ice cream had touched the spotless table cloth the lights dimmed and my surroundings darkened, startling me quite a lot. No one else seemed phased by this light change and their talk had diminished considerable.
A spotlight came on, hitting the stage and illuminated a scantily clad woman and a smartly dressed man. The music started and I was left in a swirl of colour, sound and movement.

Glorious and captivating, the dancer twirled striking rapid unique poses as they stepped nimbly around her partner. Both their moves were so precise I could have sworn their heartbeats were synchronised with the relentless jazzy beat of the music.
I sat in my chair, hypnotised by their dives and flourishes, barely taking time to blink in case I my eyes missed something fantastic and amazing.
The Tango. Or “él tango” as the locals called it.
I had tried to learn but through my clumsy attempts, reduced the captivating dance to a matter of jumbled steps and numbers. This combination intertwined together resembled a jerky chicken dance.
Not something I was aiming for.
Watching as I did now I realised I would never be able to achieve this strong success of movement in two classes, no matter how well they were led or how well I tried.
It would take years of practise to gain this fine art.

“¡Baile excelante!”
You didn’t need to be a genius to understand what the man next to me had said and I shared his sentiment, yes, it was excellent dancing.
With a flourish it ended, the music coming to a slow but steady stop.
Applause broke out. Whistles pierced the air and the dancers made their way to the front of the stage, high on the approval of the audience.
I looked around watching reactions to the music. Mixed reasons for applause it seemed, some clapped with tears in their eyes while others just tapped their finger tips together, looking a little bored but none the less giving the dancers what they wanted and had worked for.

I clapped along with them, feeling the amazement of the performance run through my fingers as it ran through the hands clapping all around me.
The dancers bowed again and again, their dresses shimmering in the dull lighting and stirring the mist from the smoke machine.

I wished I could dance like them and in the sparkling eyes around me I saw I was not alone in this desire. I could see their imaginations taking leaps and glides dressed in sparkling crystal dresses or nimbly turning around a dance floor supporting the weight of another person dressed in a regal tuxedo.
Finally the clapping and bowing stopped and chattering of excitement and squeals of chairs being pushed back filled their place. A dull comparison.

We stood, our group in our own bubble of excitement chattered, forgetting for a moment and speaking rapidly in English before we remembered ourselves and a disapproving look from our teachers. A talk diminished slightly but transformed into slow broken sentences of Spanish, but we made sense to each other, pausing every so often to ask a word or explain an absent verb and it’s variations to someone.

Filing out in a controlled chaos and spilling onto the street the teachers hurriedly counted us, remembering our Spanish names and identities to make the job easier.
Through these identities we created we could become something in a different country, something that melded with the environment and included us in the culture. Our other names belonged to a far away country where our loved ones sat and read black and white emails of our adventures.

As a group we looked after each other, calling out a mixture of different names we now associated with, some Spanish and occasionally English.
Maybe it was to stop us from forgetting where we had to go back.
“What did you think?” one of our teachers asked us, sifting through our faces still mentally marking off a list of names she was responsible for.
“I loved it!”
“I want to see more!”
Variations were called out, positive words straining in our minds to be remembered in the accepted language each person wanting their own part.
The teacher paused, considering our thoughts.
“I did not like it,” she said, “it was tango but it was not original, no passion, no seductive moments. It was too fast, too much an act of gymnastics. It was good skills however.”
With a flick of her wrist she dismissed the topic and led the group off, all following like sheep through the unknown city.

I looked back at the audience. I had liked it, the twists and turns were enchanting. It brought my imagination to life presenting different dreams and desires.
I stepped forward, looking back for a moment and catching a glimpse of glitter out of the corner of my eye, the dancers had come out to mix with the appreciative audience.
One dancer, dressed in a blood red dress raised her hand half way to me, smiling in goodbye and for that moment I pictured myself in her costume, dancing her steps and being spun so gracefully by her skilled partner. Being able to dance the tango every night and adored by fans just by dancing the national dance.

But I was just a small person in amongst a crowd, feeling included by applause but segregated by criticism.

I raised my hand in return and her teeth flashed in a smile, almost seeming to sparkle pure white in contrast to her deep crimson dress.
I followed my group away from the bright lights of La Riviera Plate (translated: the Silver River) and into the night, a bitter taste in my mouth but the memory of entrancement.

The Memory of Entrancement


Hazelbrook, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Surviving Arhgentina and experiencing the culture. Just a bit of creative writing in reflection to my experience of the beautiful depth of tradition.

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