A gracefully rendered memoir of a woman seeking post-divorce healing through tango.
The tango first evolved in late-19th-century Argentina, spreading to clubs in Europe and the United States in the years leading up to World War I. Known for its fiery drama and stylistic flair, the complexity and emotive breadth of authentic tango has been diluted by simplistic Hollywood numbers and, more recently, TV dance competitions. Finn (editor: Mexico in Mind, 2006, etc.) conveys an abiding veneration for tango, from its rich historical origins and romantic vocabulary to the nuanced precision in gestures and footwork. With chapters named for the structural elements of tango—El Abrazo, La Sacada, El Boleo, etc.—the author bluntly recounts the unraveling of her marriage, along with the machinations of dating, elegantly drawing metaphorical lines between challenging dance maneuvers and the phases of relationships. “These fixed patterns,” writes the author, “set to melodies and harmonies, give order in the chaos of emotions. Patterns are what we follow to find the source, and in tango, the source is why a person chooses this dance.” Other tango-based journals, such as Marina Palmer’s Kiss and Tango: Looking for Love in Buenos Aires (2005), are more provocative; Finn’s narrative remains rooted in inner growth and sociological observation than stockings and stilettos. Despite refreshingly candid analyses of her choices and a vivid cast of friends and dance partners, the author’s sardonic wit is sometimes eclipsed by cumbersome reiterations of the finer technical points of tango. Nonetheless, from the public tango milongas in New York to her immersion in the Buenos Aires tango community after the 2001 economic crisis spawned a renewed interest in the dance, her devotion to the art is obvious.
Mixing equal parts personal-growth story, social commentary and Tango 101, Finn demystifies the illustrious world of tango with wry yet reverent insight.