This clip, “Milonga,” comes from Carlos Saura’s film Tango.
As much as I love salsa—I took about a year and a half of lessons–I think it prepared me for taking tango. Salsa taught me partner work, of appreciating what a good lead feels like and learning to become a good follower. More importantly, it imparted the idea of every touch, of bodily contact while dancing, isn’t always inherently sexual, an invitation to fuck right afterwards. (And racist stereotypes about Latin dancing being so “exotically hot” get twisted into this.) I think we in the US get that notion confused in our exploitative, mushily erotic society, where every touch is perceived as sexually charged yet suspect–due to, among other influences, homophobia, soap operas, rom-coms, romance novels, porn, puritanism, rape culture, and music videos–that some folks fail to understand the in-between physical contact, which is where quite a bit of partner dancing rests, especially if someone is learning how to dance in a duo for the first time in a studio setting.
What I love about this clip is the utter joy between the couple and the community of dancers. Of course, one can easily side-eye to the older (cis) man choosing the young (cis) woman—one of the movie’s subplots is how the director Saura (playing some meta version of himself) goes after a younger woman in the cast after his live-in partner dumps him. What I get from this scene, though, is the joy of an experienced dancer giving a novice confidence and passing on to the younger generation surrounding them the physical knowledge of tango, which, according to my teacher, is really a communal dance. Like salsa.