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.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Scent of a Man

It's almost summer in Buenos Aires, and I'm reminded of an old diary entry:

To dance Argentine tango properly is difficult for many Americans because there must be a deep embrace. And a woman pressing her breasts against the chest of a perfect stranger, and combining her breath with his as their faces melt together in the perspiration of the dance, is just not too Puritan, our American tradition. Americans want their space, godammit.

So while a couple is in this deep, intimate embrace on the public dance floor, all sensuous antennae are working overtime; in tango you must really listen to the music, you feel your partner, and you inhale each other. the only sense a woman doesn't use is that of sight. Most of the time, if the tango experience is a good one, the woman's eyes are closed. She's in a trance.

After several dances with the same partners, you begin to recognize their scent. Take Alberto from Argentina for example. Young, tall, bronze, perfect white teeth, broad shoulders, the only man I ever met who can successfully carry off gold chains under his shirt. He wears so much Tuscany cologne that the next morning I can still smell it on my skin, and I get a rush.

Sasha was born in the Ukraine, lived in Italy for a while until he could arrange his immigration papers to the United States. Like most European men, he doesn't use deodorant. It's been very hot here in L.A. this summer, and when I dance with Sasha, so very close, I can smell his underarm odor. And I like it.

Then there are some Americans I dance with, held far enough away that it's possible to see their faces and talk--but talking is forbidden in tango. All of your attention needs to be on the senses, and listening is to hear the music, not a conversation. Most of the time with these partners, I don't smell anything, and I don't feel anything.

So there it is, my own personal gross generalizations: I have found that Latino men invariable smell delicious, European men have BO in hot weather, and Americans are sense-free.

And the truth is, if the man is sexy and appealing to me, and a wonderful dancer, I don't give a darn. But perhaps it is true for me, that emanating from an otherwise attractive man, some scent is more sensuous than none.

(Images by Maggie Taylor.)


NYC Tango Pilgrim said...


How about the scent of an Asian?

And the "deep embrace...
coming her breath with his as their faces melt together in the perspiration of the dance..." is the reason I am coming to BsAs.

See you in ten days...


La Nuit Blanche said...

i'm trying to quit smoking. it's so hard... but i'd rather smell like BO than cigarettes.


tangocherie said...

Hey TP,
As long as you're not a smoker!

You're right, Nuit; BO is "better" than cigarette smoke! I can't tell you what a difference the no smoking laws have made to me here in BsAs!

La Nuit Blanche said...

chere cherie,

an argentine friend told me the other day that he no longer needs to carry around eye drops to the milongas. he says that before the anti-smoking law, his eyes used to get red from the smoke... and he would look like a red-eyed vampire.



tangocherie said...

Worse than looking like a red-eyed vampire, I would often have to run out of the milonga to breathe!

I never had asthma before I moved here. Now I have to carry around an inhaler (as wekk as eye drops!)

Now I'm so sensitized by the pollution that it doesn't take much for me to have an attack. I take Benadryl around the clock.

But I am sooooo thankful that there is no more smoking inside!!!

tonya said...

Haha, I couldn't stop laughing at your first paragraph! At my first studio, I took a few months of Argentine tango, and when I started the teachers were all American. Suddenly the Americans started leaving and the owner hired a bunch of Argentinians. They thought we were nuts, that we were inhumane and completely lacking in compassion because of our lack of the close embrace! "What's wrong with you people, it's a human being," I remember my favorite teacher, Beatrice, crying out at one point. We just weren't used to it and the American teachers understood and let us get away with it. But not the Argentinians!

tangobaby said...

I think when we finally encounter close embrace in the dance, we (Americans) realize what we've been missing all this time and didn't know it.

I am so surprised that BA's anti-smoking laws are actually working. The only downside of my trip last time was the terrible bronchitis I got from the smoke. I'm sure after a while your body does get used to it, but I'm glad they're trying. It will be much easier and healthier for everyone.