Friday, 10 March 2017

Tangling with tango

I have a guest on my blog this week: fellow Accent author Jennifer Macaire. Jennifer has been inspired by my posts about tango to tell us about her own experiences. Her husband was a professional polo player, so she had lots of opportunities to learn in Argentina. Unfortunately, she ended up in France with a less than satisfactory experience. 

Hello Tom! Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. I saw you liked tango, and I admit, I love it too. Once, I even got the chance to learn with a professional.

When I was six, my parents enrolled me in the local ballet school. They were fans of Alvin Ailey and Twyla Tharp; the American dance theater had come to our town and we'd been entranced ... so off I went, my expectations soaring. Reality is cruel. I couldn't tell my left from my right. Even when watching the teacher I'd raise the wrong arm, put the wrong foot forward, trip, and generally bumble about. When the time came for the annual show, we students lined up to get our tutus. My name was called. I dashed forward. Scarlet! - I wanted deep ruby red with a sparkle of sequins on the bodice. My heart pounded. My ballet teacher handed me a gray-green package. Surely there was a mistake? I tore it open. No. It was verdigris. I choked back tears and stumbled off to put it on. The show must go on. In the audience, my parents who had gotten there early, sat in the front row and craned their necks. Where was I? I was hidden behind the curtain in the far back. I could see the teacher, I could see the students, performing our pliés, jétés, and whateverétés - I could not see the audience from where I stood, and no one could see me. The teacher smiled happily. The ugly duckling was not going to ruin her show. After, my furious parents pulled me out of the school and I never attempted ballet again. But many, many years later, an Argentine neighbor organized a two-day tango class in our humble village.

Dancing the dream: Buenos Aires

I signed up. I'd been to Argentina several times, spent my honeymoon there, and had watched people dancing tango. It looked so mysterious and gliding, sexy and daring. Women were invited to wear high heels and skirts. I happily dressed and went to the town banquet hall, where twenty villagers stood in various postures of shyness. I joined the line and we were introduced to the teacher - a daunting elderly man with a military bearing and piercing dark eyes. He lined us up, showed us how to walk dragging our toes, turn, fling our legs out, and turn again. You can tell already, by my vocabulary, that I was not the best student. He paired us up, and the music started. basic steps at first, then twirls and whirls. He tapped me on the shoulder."No. Like this. Come here." He took my hand, placed my other hand on his shoulder, and we started to dance. After about two minutes he stopped. "You must learn submission. I am the man. I lead." We tried again. I let my body go all loose, tried to imagine my arms and legs were tied to his, and I couldn't move without following. I stepped on his foot. He stopped."Hopeless," he stated. "Next!" I moved to the back of the line. My tango days were over. I watched until the end. The next day, there was a show with professional dancers, and some of the more talented villagers. I applauded, and ate alfajores. There are some who are born to dance - and there is me. But tango bug stayed with me. I love the music, and I love watching it.

The nice thing about being a writer is having imagination and being able to write about doing something impossible. So, without further ado - I present Jennifer Macaire - tangoist exceptionnelle! The basic tango walk is 2 slow beats, two quick beats, and a slow beat. The quick beats are 1 beat of music. Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow. Three full walks forward, followed by a side step and lastly a drag step. I'm wearing high heels and a scarlet dress with sequins. My hair is pulled back in a chignon, and there is a red rose in it. I have ruby lipstick. In the crowd, Robert Downey Jr is watching and thinking he's going to ask me to star with him in his next film about a modern woman who is sent back in time to the early 1900's in Paris to spy on the Nazis - she's a dancer at a nightclub, and her name is Mata you can tell, I love time slip books!

 Alas! Jennifer’s experience is all too common, which is a shame, though it makes an excellent story. There are some terrible tango teachers around, but there are many very good ones as well. If you are interested in learning the dance, I can recommend teachers in London (and Berlin, Reykjavik, and Istanbul, for that matter). I’ve even been known to teach beginners myself. If you want advice on starting tango, feel free to email me on

Jennifer blogs at Her book, The Road to Alexander, is the first in a series of time-slip books. The second will be published by Accent this summer.

About the book: After winning a prestigious award, Ashley is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. What follows, after she awakes under the pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death and ever so much more.


  1. Thank you for your encouraging words! I will definitely try to tango again - and this time I'll start off wearing sneakers, lol.

  2. Only if they are dance trainers! You need slippy soles for all the sexy sliding you talked about.