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Scent of A Woman Wednesday, 24 May 2017 print

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You might be surprised to learn how I came to dance tango.

It was down to Scent of A Woman. A 1992 Hollywood film with one short, sentimental tango scene.

It’s kind of funny now to think that I wouldn’t be dancing tango if it wasn’t for a Hollywood film. Me, who is always complaining about how Hollywood, and the mainstream media, misrepresent and parody tango.

I remember loving the film when it came out in the cinema. And I vividly remember the scene in which Al Pacino - a blind war veteran - dances tango with a beautiful stranger.

But in fact that wasn’t the actual moment I discovered tango. It should have been but it wasn’t. It simply didn’t occur to me that I could learn to dance tango and I carried on with my life as usual.

However, in another cinema, on another day, it inspired my future brother-in-law to try tango and it was through him I came to my first tango class. (Thank you Daniel!)

Returning to the film over 20 years later, I prepared myself to be under-whelmed by the tango scene which had indirectly changed my life forever.

And yes, it has to be said that the tango itself is only a sketchy representation of what the real dance should look like. My brother-in-law was determined to dance “like Al Pacino” but to my more experienced eyes, it appeared that Al Pacino had had nothing more than a few basic classes in Argentine tango before the film.

However, the sentiment of the film was as beautiful to me as it was back in the 1990’s. And if I look beyond the steps and style, what the scene says about tango still strikes a chord with me.

It tells me that tango is about stepping onto the dance floor with a complete stranger and dancing without any pre-planned steps. And it tells me that it is about sharing a few short but unforgettable moments with another human being. Whether I have anything in common with that other human or would otherwise have had any contact with them.

And these wonderful words from the film are still pearls of wisdom for any student of tango. And yes, I do occasionally quote them in my classes!

“No mistakes in the tango, darling, not like life. It’s simple. That’s what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, just tango on.” - Al Pacino (as Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade)

And the film has clearly made a long-lasting impact on popular culture. In our experience, "Por Una Cabeza" is by far the most popular song choice for the couples we coach for their wedding dance.

So yes, I am happy that it was this scene from Scent of A Woman that led me to the crazy course my life has taken. For me, it is in its own way, a beautiful representation of what tango is about.

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