“There is nobody good here to dance with...” I look over the dance floor with quiet disappointment. It is another busy Saturday night at the local tango studio. The floor is teeming with people, the air charged with that familiar electricity only tango music can incite. The smiling faces and the loving hugs deepen a feeling of guilt, “I should be enjoying myself” I think. But my mind is hell-bent on compiling a detailed list of technical imperfections and mistakes I am observing on the dance floor.
“I can’t wait to be in Buenos Aires.”
I am days away from making the epic journey, not certain if I am coming back. The depth of my hunger for tango has led me to give up my two dogs, sell my car, and buy a one-way ticket to the promise land. The birth place of tango, as I foresaw it, was populated by people who had mastered their ochos and fully realized their boleos. In my mind, it was a magical place that had all the things that were lacking in my present.
“There I will find what I am looking for even if I don’t really know what it is, I just know it will better than here.”
Fast forward some weeks and I am pinching myself as I sit in a crowded milonga in the famed city. I am mesmerized by absolutely everything around me - the men in the suits, the scantily clad women, the waves of laughter and exclamations in Spanish, the red of the walls, the warm yellow glow of the lights. I am also terrified, “what if nobody dances with me? What if I am not good enough? What if they speak Spanish to me and I don’t understand?” The intimidation deepens as I observe the dancers populating the floor. Masterful and confident to my eye, they move through space with the grace I hope to someday embody. “Will I ever be that good?”
My moment of reverie is interrupted by a newly-made friend. A beautiful woman in her 40s, she had moved to Buenos Aires years ago and was now a household presence at all of the best milongas. The moment I met her I wanted to be her.
“There is nobody good here to dance with...” she says with a sigh of disappointment.
“Wait... what? Didn’t I just say that recently?”
With disbelief I listen to her complain about the lack of musicality and the poor level of technique she is observing on the dance floor. She reminisces about other milongas, at other times, with other people...
How is this possible? This is where the grass is supposed to be at its greenest! But as I was to learn over the next months that I lived there, wishing for something different is a universal experience that has almost nothing to do with external factors. The place where I am not can always appear better than where I am. The grass might always appear greener over there, but greener or not, it’s still just grass.