They say it takes two to tango, but then it takes two for most other ballroom dances!  Tango is T in the NATO phonetic alphabet of course, and if you didn’t know that is my theme for the A to Z Challenge, well – thanks for finding me before the end of the month!

TangoThere’s a fabulous piece of music, popular on the UK’s commercial classical music station (Classic fm), called Libertango, by Astor Piazzolla.  They describe it thus:

Piazzolla is undoubtedly the master of the Tango, and his ‘Libertango’ (a portmanteau that incorporates ‘Libertad’ and ‘Tango’) is one of the most performed of his works. Spicy rhythms and a fiendish melody have kept this one at the forefront of modern Tango, with countless brilliant interpretations to explore.

Listening to it on the radio in the morning almost gets me dancing around my kitchen.  But as it takes two to tango, I’ve invited my friend and co-minion in Damyanti’s AtoZ Challenge team, Guilie Castillo-Oriard, to tell you all about her tango experience.  Take it away Guilie!

My Grandmother’s Tango

When I moved to Curaçao ten years ago, I was surprised to see so many people dancing–salsa, merengue, something called bachata that I’d never heard of. And the friends I was making, especially the Dutch ones, were very surprised that I couldn’t dance any of this.

People don’t dance in Mexico. Some cumbia, maybe–if you’re lucky. And I couldn’t even dance that. The only thing I could dance back then was swing–and who dances that nowadays?–and the tango. Not that I told anyone. Who’d want to know, first, and second, who’d want, or be able to, dance it?

Guilie's grandmother
Guilie’s grandmother

I learned to tango in my grandmother’s kitchen. She and my grandfather used to perform exhibition tango back in the 40’s, the heyday of this Argentinian dance in Mexico, when it was still considered risqué and avant-garde, and not a relic.

My grandparents divorced the year my mother got married. Through some quirk of the divorce settlement, instead of selling the land they owned, or one of them buying out the other, they split the property in half and became next-door neighbors–which they were until my grandfather died.

They were only separated by a three-meter-high wall and, perhaps more powerfully, all the resentment built over forty-five years of marriage, but, physical proximity notwithstanding, they never saw each other again. Not once.

And so, among the pans of steaming rice and clay pots of delicately scented stews, my cousin–two years older–and I learned the basic steps of the tango amid riveting stories of what, for us, was a different era. And along with the steps, perhaps less obviously, we learned about the fragility of love, the cancer of resentment, the price of betrayal.

The tango is a passionate dance. Not just sexually passionate, but emotionally, too. It makes sense that I learned it from someone who lived an epic love story–with the heartbreak to match.

Would you like to see the tango in action?  Here’s a video from my tango instructor friend here in Curaçao.

About Guilie Castillo-Oriard

Guilie Castillo OriardGuilie is a Mexican writer currently exiled in the island of Curaçao. She misses Mexican food and Mexican amabilidad, but the beaches and cultural diversity of the Caribbean are fair exchange.  She’s currently editing her first novel, and participating in an awesome year-long project with Pure Slush Books, 2014: A Year In Stories ( She blogs at Life In Dogs ( about dog rescuing and at Quiet Laughter ( about everything else.

Guilie’s portrait by Claudia Sanches of Wow Wedding Details (

T for Tango – it takes two?
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17 thoughts on “T for Tango – it takes two?

  • 23 April, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Hmmm. I’m surprised you said people don’t dance in Mexico. Every time I go to Mexico, people are dancing – a lot. Also, once I went to a party in Mexico, and a couple was dancing the Tango.

    Precious Monsters

    • 23 April, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      I’ll let Guilie respond to that, Jolie. Thanks for visiting 🙂

    • 23 April, 2014 at 7:59 pm

      I’m pretty sure things have changed now–salsa, after all, has become the Dance of the World, and in recent visits to Mexico I’ve seen plenty of (quite good) dancers. But at the time (and place, and social strata) I was growing up, people didn’t dance. The social strata thing is significant; Mexico is complex like that 🙂

      Thanks for the visit!

  • 23 April, 2014 at 8:22 am

    I really only know the Tango from Strictly Come Dancing (known in many countries that use the format as Dancing with the Stars). We certainly didn’t go anywhere near it in the dancing lessons we took in the village a few years ago. It’s a great dance to watch the experts do, though.

    • 23 April, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Much the same as me, there, Keith! I love how dramatic it is, though.

    • 23 April, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      I agree! Danced by professionals it’s gorgeous. In Grandma’s kitchen it was… well, hilarious 😀

  • 23 April, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    I could dance the tango at one time. Both my parents loved to dance and my Dad taught me, first standing on his feet, then on my own.

    • 23 April, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      That’s a beautiful memory, Noelle 🙂 I danced with my dad standing on his feet, too (but it wasn’t the tango 😀 ). Thanks for the visit!

  • 23 April, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Aw, Dads and their feet! I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel when I see the next generation doing that too!

  • 23 April, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for the invitation to your blog, Jemima. Writing this post brought back lovely memories 🙂

    • 23 April, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      I’m so glad, Guilie. I could just see you grandmother in her kitchen in your words. 🙂 She was very beautiful.

  • 23 April, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Since I am a Dancing With The Stars fan I know all about the Tango but then i knew it even when i was a kid since I loved the old musicals. Even if that was their rendtion of a tango the dance is so beautiful. I love the Argentine Tango better than the Ballroom Tango as i don’t like the head movements in the latter. It is so sensual and classy and passionate. I would love to go to a concert to see the professionals dance this. One of my favourite music pieces is the “Blue Tango”.

    • 23 April, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      A tango fan! You know, Birgit, I think the tango might be on its way to a revival, much like salsa had a decade ago. Would be cool–but I’ll have to go to lessons again; I think I’ve forgotten everything but three steps 😀

      Thanks for the visit!

  • 23 April, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Enjoyable post bout Tango as an art form and expression of dance deriving joy to the soul. I would love to try some day. Congrats Gullie and Jemima for this one:0

  • 24 April, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Guilie, now I know where you get your stunning looks from. The story of your grandparents would make such an epic novel– I for one, want to know more about them.

    • 24 April, 2014 at 10:49 am

      I agree, Damyanti. In fact, most of our grandparents would have stunning stories to tell, if only we asked them. 🙂

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