Before the Storm
Hi, my name is Moneypenny
I couldn’t decide whether to go to class tonight or not, I’ve been here 2 weeks and I can’t seem to find my dancing feet (forgive the cliché). The last time I was here, it was instantaneous, the second my dance teacher took me in his arms and ‘made me dance’ I was hooked and because of him, I turned my 7-day stop-over into a three month life-changing stay. It didn’t matter that he was gay, it didn’t matter that I had to pay for his attention, I was in love, the way he just understood my body and what it needed.
“The dancer in you wants to come out, you’ve repressed her behind a computer for so long, she wants to come out now, it’s her turn”, he told me, and he was right. Because of him my entire life changed after our first tanda.
It’s Thursday, today’s class is a double class, I use to run to class, get there 15 mins before, insist that the class should be more than 2h30 and yet tonight I can barely make up my mind to go. It’s going to rain and I don’t feel like putting on a happy face or answering anyone’s questions, “Why are you back? For how long? Wow you don’t need to work?”… but still I should go.
I arrive just as class is about to start, everyone is too busy getting ready to notice me so I quietly go to my ‘usual’ seat to get my shoes on, I struggle with the strap, it was as if even my shoes didn’t want to dance that night. Finally I get my shoes on and get up, I look around the room and give a friendly smile, I’m just happy I don’t have to talk to anyone and then I see a familiar smile.
‘Good evening Miss Moneypenny.’
“Mr Bond!! You’re here! You’re about the only person I can tolerate to see tonight”. Bond and I met last year when I was here, he was generous enough to ask me to dance at my first milonga, Maldita Milonga - one of my all time favourites, He explained the embrace, the 4 tango tanda, the cabazeo… We hugged, it felt nice.
“Shall we dance?’”
We start to dance, my body feels stiff and out of balance. Tonight I can’t decipher his lead, but he’s patient with me, and as D’Arienzo takes us back in time and walks us through the struggles of lost loves in Buenos Aires, our bodies begin to dance in unison once again, our connection is slowly re-established, like softness in the air.
Then suddenly the music stops and everything starts to shake. We see a flash of light and thunder so loud I thought the entire place would collapse; and then rain… .The storm was just beginning.
Last time we met Moneypenny seemed a little distant. There was something on her mind that she was not sharing. A part of her youthful exuberance had momentarily faded.
When I arrive at Thursday class she is already there, in her usual position on the bench, changing into her tango shoes. Her eyes look strained, she seems to struggle with a strap, and I can tell something is amiss.
“Hi Moneypenny”, I greet, jovially. She struggles a smile but rises for a hug. Hugs are something that just happens in Buenos Aires. Man, woman, known, or just met - a hug replaces the hand-shake, banishing formality with a tenderer cultural innocence.
A first tanda of Orquestra D’Arienzo blares from the speakers sufficient to wake hot and tired students of tango. D’Arienzo, with his quick, sharp, rhythmical beat is a sure way to start a class. I nod towards Moneypenny and she tilts her head. It is the code for tango - the offer and the acceptance of a contract to dance, avoiding embarrassment of refusal. With the cabeceo - the look, you either receive a mirada in reply or you look elsewhere.
Initially, there is a slight stiffness in her movement, but as we dance a warm-up tanda Moneypenny’s mood seems to soften. Tango does this. It creates a ‘bubble of consciousness’ into which dancers recede from the troubles of the world. It has always been so, since early immigrants left European ships and migrated to find or share a room in the arrivals-barios of La Boca, Barracas and Constitution. Their tough lives needed an escape, and tango provided precisely that freedom.
There is no rule to ‘the bubble’. It can be shared - or private. The tango embrace is inclusive, but your personal bubble of feeling can remain private. You dance together, feeling the music, leading, following, coordinating movement and sharing a silence in separate bubbles. On other, special occasions, following the embrace, you both enter the same bubble and share the immediacy and intimacy of the moment.
Today Moneypenny is in her own bubble, the focus of her consciousness removed. In the mirrors I see that my paternal concern furrows my brow. I am just about to speak when there is a huge explosion above us. It is as if something has landed on the roof. Lights flicker and dim. Suddenly the patio beyond the studio doors is awash with rain. The moment for enquiry has gone, replaced by the downpour and the prospect of a journey home through the storm.
What did I have to lose really? I had made no real plans, I just bought the ticket, threw a few things in my backpack and ran away....
Moneypenny I take the note, start to walk towards San Telmo while trying to make sense of what I had just seen. Was this a secret...
Mr Bond I flash a smile towards Nancy the waitress, and without a word she arrives with a second champagne glass for Moneypenny, who...