The tantalising dance of the tango originated in Argentina and today is synonymous with the country’s sultry culture and passionate traditions. Summer Davis ditched the hiking boots for a day and stepped up for the tango a la porteno challenge…
“I was booked for a tango lesson in Buenos Aires and wanted to learn the dance properly. Thanks to local advice, I made my way into one of the city’s famous shoe stores to shop like a dancing queen – slipping into, twirling around and posing in pair after pair of gorgeous leather dance shoes. Which ones would be appropriate for my neophyte shimmying?
Blinded by beauty and vanity, I dealt out the 150 pesos (about forty-five dollars) for a set of shiny, strappy black four-inch heels. Perfect, I simmered in satisfaction, unconcerned with the breaking of my backpacker budget and consoled by the elegantly embossed felt bag into which my shoes were placed. These heels would make major improvements in my moves.
Ready to impress, my friend and I taxied to the address we’d been given – a nondescript door off a cobblestone side street. Inside, tango wafted through the high-ceilinged hall, hung around the enormous gilded mirrors and seeped into the scuffed hardwood floors. We were inaugurated into true Buenos Aires porteno culture.
Unbalanced and suffering in my arched stilettos, I slid around the room to the instructor’s commands, nearly toppling over twice. How was anyone ever to tango properly in such treacherous and ungraceful shoes? My thighs and feet screamed from soreness, sighing relief only upon my turn with the instructor.
Aha! You must lean on your partner to stabilize yourself! The high heels allow him to turn and slide you around effortlessly while relying on his sturdy frame (and flat shoes) to prevent you from falling. Relieved to have made this discovery, I blamed my dancing discomfort on my not having a partner.
After the class, I noticed the permanently arched Barbie-doll feet and thick veined calves of our young female instructor, who’d been tangoing since she was six. I unstrapped their shackles and my feet cried. Hobbling away, I regretted purchasing such professional heels for my novice attempts at sexy, slithery tango and promised myself I’d shop smarter on my next visit to that elegant, romantic shoe shop downtown. But I still smile each time I spy these shoes in my wardrobe and am whirled back to my wonderful memories of tango a la porteno!”
* photo by Carol Piper – Intrepid Photography Competition