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Tango and wine. They can go together. At least they did initially for me. It was the vintner I was dating at the time (my teacher in most things organic and viticultural for over two years) who shared my life-long passion for dance. I found the combination attractive, even irresistible you might say. Go out dancing on a regular basis, learn the art of sliding and swirling across the floor in the arms of your man, and pre (or post) class, taste, analyze and discuss the liquid(s) swirling in your glass over dinner.
Thus many a weekend day that I spent in the cellar alongside my vintner was capped off by a night out dancing and learning the tango.
My vintner and I have since parted ways (amicably I assure you), but my passion for tango as well as wine has been heated to the melting point.
A little known fact of current French culture and fashion is that Nîmes is becoming the tango capitol of France. No, it is not as large as Paris, and so will rarely compete at that level. However, for a city of the South over six schools of tango exist, numerous opportunities for long weekend and intensive workshops and if not nightly, frequent evening venues for dancing. Throughout the summer there are two evenings of bals en plein air on the beautifully renovated public squares in center-city Nîmes, one in Montpellier (but 30 minutes away) and one in Aubais (but 20 minutes away). Thus for the tango afficionado you can work all day, and dance all through the summer night, for minimal cost and at a minimal distance from your home.
Tango has really taken off over the past ten to fifteen years. In the beginning there was one school—El Angel—and many visiting masters of the art came for intensive workshops and week long courses. Those bitten by the bug didn’t hesitate to fly to Buenos Aires to be instructed in the center of the tango world.
And so we come to today. Numerous schools and an impressive group of skilled local dancers strutting their stuff week in and week out at the numerous venues in the region. We tangueras and tangueros keep clubs opening and thriving.
Beyond Nîmes, in Avignon where I live, there is Ilôt Tango, run by multi-lingual Liliane, a school of tango nuevo with classes twice weekly, pratiques and bals every Friday evening and intensive workshops monthly, with visiting guest teachers on a regular basis. By my kids’ school in Sorgues there’s another.
Perhaps high-heeled shoes, chic clothes, men in black and music from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s are just not your thing. But let me share with you one of the delights of this sensual art: the connections possible with strangers. And by this I do not mean a connection that has you going home together. Yes, it can be a pick up scene, but in general that is not the main reason people are dancing. You choose your dance partners by their dancing skills and their pleasantness. Sometimes there is chemistry—you click, ça colle—you find the guiding of your partner completely clear and graceful, he delights in how you play with your fleuritures, boléos and ganchos. And so you enjoy dancing, and you look forward to dancing with that person again the next week, or perhaps at a future bal, etc.
Tradition has it that you dance a full series with your partner, generally four songs. In this way you’ve the time to get to know the person’s style and to communicate on the dance floor. It is quite rude to depart early, and unless the dancer is simply impossible (he’s stubbed your elegantly painted big toe and you’re bleeding…) you dance till la courtina (intermission song) plays.
I confess, I did find my current beau on the dance floor. Let us say, we clicked and it’s quite a delight to be able to share this passion of mine with a man (as well as chat about kids, life, do dishes, etc.). But, it is not to see him that I go out dancing every Friday. It is to move joyously about the dance floor, la piste, allowing the cares of the world to disappear as I swirl, strut, glide. Ginger Rogers? Pourquoi pas!
Photo credits: photos provided by author.
Madeleine Vedel has written several stories for BonjourParis, which you can read by clicking on her name.
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