After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Friday, July 27, 2007


You tango with the devil all night long, rise With the sun and sing the Lord’s song.
You’re on your way to an early grave

Keep dancing with that poison and you’ll
Find your way
---by the sister of a young heroin addict


My name is Cherie and I’m a Tango Addict. It could be worse-- nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, gambling, heroin? But still I spend time and money I don’t have chasing down a possible high anywhere in the world. When it’s good, it’s so very good that I want more, I need it again. I want it now! And if I don’t get it, withdrawal begins to set in and I get desperate, make poor choices.

But where is it? A certain partner, certain music, dance hall, vibe, ambiance, mood? How to get it again? Maybe in San Francisco this weekend. Maybe in New York. Maybe in Buenos Aires. And, off I go, credit card receipts trailing behind me. After all, endorphins are chemical, a drug. It’s easier to buy a fix of illegal substances than to go to Tango Heaven. It’s elusive, ephemeral, often just ahead, you know it, the next time, place, partner. And the hope of another glimpse of paradise for five minutes drives me to do things I shouldn’t.

Once you become a tango addict, it's really life-altering… It changes your social life 3,000 percent… —Al Gates

They see the tango, and they are goners.—The Denver Post

All clothes must be tango-able. Web search: cheap tickets to Buenos Aires. New email address: tangoaddict. Yes, I am past denial. I have an addiction.—Laura Shin

I signed up for a full docket of lessons with local and visiting instructors. I began collecting Argentine tango music and then constructed a dance studio in my basement with red walls and ceiling. Once I did that I couldn't stop. There was no way out.
—Pat Patton

The Dark Side can begin when tango becomes an addiction instead of a pastime. When people begin staying home from work so they have more energy to dance at night, buying only shoes and clothes they can dance in, only traveling to places where there is tango, giving up old friends who don’t understand, exhausting their resources. We tell jokes and email about Tango Addicts’ 12 Step Program parodies and being Tango Junkies, but it’s more serious than funny.

We obsess about why we don’t dance as much as we want to, become irrational, self critical and consider radical measures like plastic surgery. We will sleep with men so that they dance with us (men dance with women so that they will sleep with them.) (“Would I have danced more if I had worn a different/shorter/tighter/sexier outfit? Would I have danced more if I had sat on the other side instead of where I sat? Would I have danced more if I had sat alone instead of with other women?”)

Our CD collections become entirely Argentinian, the only theater we attend is exported shows like Tango Argentino and Forever Tango, and suddenly the decor in our houses changes to tango posters and empty rooms with hardwood floors.

Our friendship with other tango dancers is tenuous, depending on who dances the most and the resulting jealousy (among women) or who dances with the youngest and prettiest (among the men) so especially in small tango communities, the big competition for partners works against long lasting genuine friendships.

Whereas it might be possible for the women to gather together in support of those swept to the Dark Side by men with motives, unfortunately, in tango, it’s every woman for herself. If I as a woman and follower, get invited to dance often by the best tangueros, suddenly my girlfriends no longer feel the same about me. If the instructor repeatedly selects me to demonstrate with, the other women in the class may gossip that it’s for other reasons than my dance skills.

The Dark Side is always there, lurking in the shadowy corners of Belle Epoque ballrooms, waiting for us to grow older or desperate to dance. A junkie can’t quit without pain. When the withdrawal starts, the restless unease, nervous anxiety and panic--we who are addicted to tango do what we must to get relief. And in the process, sometimes go to Paradise.

This is the way the tango is danced, a tango like a flower. Feeling in the face the blood that raises with each beat, while the arm like a serpent coils around the waist that is about to break. Mixing the breath, closing the eyes to hear better, as the violins speak to the bandoneon... A tango like a flower.
The rest... the rest it does not matter.


Elizabeth said...

Cherie, this is good, a really it's not funny sometimes for me. I would quit tango, seriously, if I could. It has robbed me of some other important things in life. and really I want to think of it as "just dancing." Ha....

Cherie said...

Elizabeth, it's natural and part of your tango growth. If you never get addicted, you'll always just be an aficionada. Over time it tends to settle down, but look, in the meantime you have so many new friends and new shoes!

Elizabeth said...

Ah yes, friends, and shoes, not to mention some beautiful clothes...

Seriously though, Cherie, I appreciate that I can settle down, and even today feel much calmer. I will share this good karma when I see that crazy look in someone's eye, and they are wondering how they got so deep into such a crazy thing.

Part of it is just that the music, the energy of the past which is still so powerful, the songs, and poetry, and of course the feeling of the dance, (so rare for me at my place,) is so compelling.

Thanks, I hope we meet someday. E