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Carvalho had always liked dancing, but this style, when one is completely in sync with his or her partner as they improvise steps, was new to her. A week after she started taking lessons, she decided to attend the milonga on New Year’s Eve. While she was standing on the edge of the dance floor, she locked eyes with a man across the room. They had known each other for a while, so he asked her to dance. She figured she could learn a thing or two from him.
A week later, they were not only dancing together, but dating, too.
“Argentine tango is complete improvisation, a lot like life,” said Carvalho, a 57-year-old Adams Morgan resident. “You have to be aware of and attune to your partner.”
In addition to the weekly Thursday classes and the holiday parties, milongas are also hosted every first Saturday night of the month, paired with a lesson.
On the most recent Saturday night class, Spatz stood in the middle of 15 couples, demonstrating what some were doing wrong.
“Ladies, you are doing a fantastically good job,” he said. “Guys ... well, look at the guy in front of you, and let that determine what you do.”
The group laughed as the music started. Spatz walked around, helping people adjust to the unfamiliar steps.
“Once you start focusing your partner, the rest of it comes together,” he said.
Later, he explained that this relationship between the people dancing is what makes Argentine tango different.
“In North America, if you want rhythm, you could just do swing,” Spatz said. “If you’re going for passion or energy, there’s always salsa. There are so many other kinds of dance that use contemporary music. ... Tango takes dedication, and I think tango has a way of finding the people who really need it.”
Spatz does have advice for those who want to take up the dance: Keep dancing. Go to the monthly milongas. Take what you’ve learned in class and apply it.
McElroy doesn’t have that problem. He dances often because he thinks tango is about much more than the steps and the music. It’s about intimacy.
“It’s seductive, it’s promiscuous,” he said as he watched a beginner’s lesson take place in front of him. “It’s like falling in love with the person you’re dancing with, and then falling in love again when you take someone else in your arms. You might fall in love four or five times in one evening.”
He really does believe this. After all, he met his girlfriend and tango partner at a milonga. They take private classes weekly.
At one lesson a couple of weeks ago, he arrived before she did, practicing with the instructors.
When she walked in, dressed in a black tank top and skirt, he looked up from the floor and their eyes met.
It was Carvalho, the woman who met her boyfriend at the New Year’s Eve milonga. He’s the man who decided to teach her a few steps. He’s the reason she dances.