My Night of Tango in the Tiger’s Den


Published: April 3, 2008

Recently, I was invited to attend an event at the Princeton Club of New York with a friend to learn how to tango.  This presented a few problems: (1) I didn’t have a date, (2) I didn’t know how to tango and (3) I can’t dance.

Problem one was hardly an issue as single 20-somethings were bound to be in attendance.  Despite this assurance from my friend, I did not want to let things to chance so I asked a friend out, but was politely turned down.  If wearing heels is as difficult as I imagine, I wonder, how does one manage the remarkable feat of dancng in them?  I empathized with her hesitation and sympathized with her lack of any knowledge whatsoever about tango.  The frightful combination of wearing heels for a dance I knew nothing about would have been a deterrent for me also.

Another friend of mine is a professional ballroom dancer, but I wasn’t about to step on her toes all night.  Problem two was a reason for going. Problem three—that I can’t dance—only applies to modern dancing, as far as I know.  So, dateless, with no tango experience and with a worrisome history of failing miserably on the dance-floor firmly in my mind, I set off to the Club on West 43rd Street.

I was led into a den of Lions, Tigers, Bears, a Bobcat and probably a few Yalies.  As far as I know, I was the only Ram there: fresh meat. Yum. The small room provided for tango instruction was located in the cramped basement of the Club adjacent to the squash courts.  I pondered my lack of any knowledge whatsoever about the sport while reaching the conclusion that quite a few had taken dance lessons before. At least one of my friends was there and was just as confused and clueless as I was. Sharing a brief quizzical look of uncertainty, we took our suit jackets off and prepared for the onslaught.

Plunging into a sea of vibrant colors comfortably falling on well-proportioned figures, I dodged single attractive women in their early twenties wearing taffeta, stilettos and Chanel No. 5.  Conversation before the class delved into the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, Virginia Woolf and Jacques Barzun. As the only single man in the room, I barely made it to the far left corner with my pants and shirt still on. Ehm. I wish! If anyone reading this article knows where to find such a dance party, let me know! If anyone knows how to host a party like this: even better!

Until or unless someone steps forward or I find such an establishment or host it myself (Imagine that!), I fear I’m stuck with the reality of what I found: all partnered couples except for three single women in their thirties oogling me from across the room, and the wife of an MBA from one of the Ivies who made it a point to tell me she was spending the night at the Club—taking advantage of their posh overnight accommodations, and that her husband was out of town.

To my great surprise, Argentinean tango was not that difficult. In fact, it has provided me with a great conversation starter over the past week and had given me the opportunity to dance with a beautiful young lady in the subway just the other evening.

Forget that it took me an hour to figure out the steps. Forget that I was the youngest person there.  Forget that I was a bit overdressed and wearing cufflinks. What I couldn’t forget was that I was a Ram in a Tiger’s den learning something new with people who had developed incredible cognitive abilities and employed honed concentration skills.

The prominent question was “Was I ready to tango?” Not, was I “ready to Tanqueray?”

For those considering taking a date out to some place other than a bar, I suggest taking a dance class. Really. Bringing a date out somewhere different may very well ignite some sparks between the two of you.  You may find you actually can dance, as I did.  Granted, the prospect of taking another class outside of school seems absurd, but it was great fun.

The company may be a bit awkward, but, I’ve gotten used to women in their late 30s and 40s hitting on me and to many telling me I look like James Spader. It happens all the time. What doesn’t happen all the time is that there is a guy out there who is willing to try something different…be that guy, and in the great city of New York, the possibilities are endless.