The last time I was at an afternoon milonga in Buenos Aires, I made eye contact with an old man across the dance floor. It was already very crowded. I smiled; he tipped his head; I nodded once as a signal, part of the protocol, indicating that I wanted to dance the next tanda, a set of 3-4 dances. He walked towards me and I could see that he was short and frail and looked as if he had a slight limp. He came to the table where I was seated and I stood up, facing him.

We waited for the music to start and after a few measures he began the embrace, a firm hand with closed fingers bracing by back. He pulled me in until we connected in the mid-torso region of our bodies. With his left hand raising slowly, he invited my right hand and lifted it to shoulder level, our elbows slightly bent. My left arm reached around the back of his neck to rest on his left shoulder. I was aware of his breathing, as he gently rocked me, shifting my weight from one foot to the other in readiness. I could sense his intention and then we began to dance as if on a track, moving counterclockwise on the floor. The room full of people disappeared and my concentration rested on the connection with this old milonguero. He was steady and accomplished. There was no hesitation, no indication of shaky balance on his part. He was in complete control and I felt secure and protected in his embrace.

This man was TANGO. He was all of Argentina and its history throughout his lifetime. I was dancing with him at all ages, his history, his memories of every passion and every loss, every shattered dream. He was 20, 35, 50, whatever age he was at his last birthday. Perhaps 80, maybe more. He was my first lover, my first heartbreak, the man who left me before our final dance, the one whose heart I broke; and the promise of a new love. It was totally sensuous. When the music ended he escorted me back to my table. We stood and looked at each other briefly. His eyes were beautiful. He touched my cheek with the edge of his hand and whispered “preciosa”. I just smiled and he walked away.

Sylvia Horwitz, photographer

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