As I walk carefully around the familiar small upstairs room, shutters closed against the street, the heavy bags we all carry (with tango heels, leading shoes, make-up, a change of clothes for the milonga) rest on the floor clustered around the sofa at one end, like little dogs waiting for their owners outside a supermarket. The Snake Charmer’s favourite orchestra, Biagi, fills the small space with its mosquito-buzz violins and its hiccupy off-beats. Bunnyrabbit is in my embrace, her head very slightly bowed, as always, so that her forehead touches my cheek and her long smooth black hair tickles my skin slightly. Our breasts and bellies meet pleasingly, our bodies forming a kind of reverse infinity symbol where they touch. She feels, suddenly, very like me. My mind skips over the differences as irrelevant. We seem to weigh a similar number of kilos, bone and fat and muscle poured into similar moulds, like two muffins from the same pan. And then I feel it. We are one four-legged animal. As I walk, I imagine that my own feet are two hind paws and hers two front paws. Or is it vice versa? I don’t know. Front and back are strangely confused in the topsy turvey world of tango in which walking backwards with closed eyes is as common, as safe, as sensible as walking forwards with a wide open gaze. As I hold her, I try to incorporate her weight with mine, to feel us as one organism, one animal. And as I walk I try to feel soft pads of toes, feet walking, her feet, as much as mine. For a moment, I lose her, my front paws skittering away, sliding off balance — and I feel like a new-born colt, like a Great Dane on an icy path, not quite able to coordinate my four limbs with each other. And then I feel it again. Front paws, back paws. Front paws, back paws. I’m not walking alone, holding her, expecting her to follow. And nor am I hunched over her, I note with pleasure, as we pass the mirror. I’m not focusing on trying to find coordination with her, on trying to communicate an impulse to her, on trying to make her move. I just keep my weight low, my focus on our single double tummy, our feet making contact with the floor.
When we change partners, I am concerned. My new follower is a waif-like ballet dancer, a tiny thin column. I am one and a half times her body width. Will we be a very asymmetrical animal, a badly-put-together pantomime horse? But in the embrace the differences in mass and volume seem to disappear. Our bodies touch from breast to tummy and I feel us becoming one animal again. An animal padding softly on four feet.