30 Jun 2007
One of the problems with being part of an ex pat community is that people leave. Thrown together through mutual interests or even just the need to survive in a large city, friendships flourish quickly creating dependencies, both social and emotional. And with Lee, that is how our friendship started. Meeting at a restaurant event organised by American ex pats in Av Armenia, Palermo, our conversation over dinner immediately revealed our common preoccupation with tango. Lee was an expert. Watching her dance later at Club Italiano Belgrano was like watching oil move over water, smooth, seamless and very sexy. Men watched with admiration, and women with envy.
Tuesday night was Lee's leaving party. Her recent stay of three months had come to an end, as had her two years break from Sydney, Australia. Ian from Perth gave over his apartment in Av Uruguay for a select evening of conversation and fun with Lee, Dolly, Alma and me. Each of us followed Lee's lead and brought a course for the meal. As a truly independent male with culinary skills, I brought a selection of wild cakes and a litre mixture of exotic ice cream from one of the ice cream parlours which are dotted liberally around the city! And, as the wine and the lights slipped down, the table was pulled back and we danced; slow Nuevo tango . This is clearly how memories are made. For a moment there was an overwhelming sense of loss at Lee's imminent departure. And then, almost without warning, suddenly the mood changed.
Alma, Ian's partner had been fairly silent at dinner. Perhaps because her native language was Spanish (coming from Mexico), and possibly due to her natural reserve. She listened carefully and smiled, exchanging occasional loving glances with Ian. But now, she returned to the room. Gone were the black trousers and flat shoes, together with the band that had tied her hair. Here was a woman dressed to kill! And that was clearly her mission. The clue was her Flamenco dress which she held aloft with her left hand. Her jet black now hair tumbled about her face before she swept it back and stepped onto the floor. With gun-shot rhythm: one two, one two three, four five six, seven eight....making incredible patterns of ten beats, her feet moved with a speed that swirled her skirts and sent her hair flying. She was alight; in the dance, and in the eyes!
On the few occasions I have seen Flamenco danced before, the dancers have circled each other, creating visual delight, but concealing the hot, sensual intimacy that Alma created as she danced for us. Here, due to closeness and her passionate gaze, we were pulled into a new world of dance. Gone the measured steps of tango; this was pure fire and danger! Talking later, Alma told of the male dancers who compete and exhibit, describing their total testeronic beauty and strength that takes the breath away and totally seduces all of the women who watch. She described the rhythms, the way in which the dance is lead by the outside aspect of the leader's inside arm, and the turns which signal to the Flamenco guitarist that the dance is to change. As transforming as the mood of the evening, was the way in which Alma changed as she danced. From silence to drama, from reticence to explosion, from reserve to penetrating passion.
Today, Lee used her last ten pesos of credit on her Argentine mobile phone to call me from the airport. For the last time, her name would light up on my phone as it would reflect the smile on my face. As her credit ran out mid sentence I felt like a ship that had passed from radio contact. She was returning home. My direction was still forwards as I left Av Sarmiento to make my way back to Corrientes, carried on the high, but slightly lonely swell of life in Buenos Aires.