A bullying wind is throwing its weight about. Somewhere deep in the lawns of bending grass and leaning shrubbery of St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, a sound is leaking. From the entrance it is inaudable as the breeze hisses, but as the centre draws nearer with every step, so does the emergence of a rising low drone wearing a bandoneon’s wheeze. Each note drips in to the air, swelling with proximity to a slight pour, then a gush and finally, as the bandstand reveals itself, the music becomes a swirling torrent, driving a swarm of tango dancers as they are locked together, lost in their tornado of emotion and passion.
In Galway, the air is sweating. A little away, but no so far, thunder is lacing its boots. The creeping clouds have, now, covered all exits. The birds know the drill and have made off to the trees. For a few minutes, as the sky filters the light, there’s a scurrying lull…. Then it breaks: lightening whips the city; Thunder’s orchestra explodes and the bloated clouds burst and flush the city’s dust and wrappers in to the gutters. But while windows get closed, televisions get plugged out, washing is hurried in off the line and children hide their heads in their mother’s bosom, oblivious to it all are the people in The Rowing Club on Woodquay. Indoors, the milonga of Caminos de Tango has it’s own storm raging. The violins, cellos and voices magnetizing couples in the tango embrace.
In Cork’s Patrick Street the sun reigns. Beamish stout is too thick to wash away a drouth. The 7pm angle of the orange hints at light cardigans and jumpers. Before the black wanders in and puts the street lamps to work, the bars will profit from the sun’s charity as thirsts gets toppled and the tipsy tease will beckon some to stay longer and be slowly hoodwinked by drunk’s lure. In Ireland, sun can be a rare occasion, and like all things happy, it must be celebrated. As the sun is hoisted up in to the summer morning, the appeal of the right to shed threads and proffer skin is sending people in to their closets for the sleeveless, the shorts, the shades and the sandals.
In Penrose Wharf, the warmth of the atmosphere announces to everyone they are in intimate company – the imported ritual from hotter latin climates of friends greeting each other with a kiss on both cheeks; the playfulness in requesting a dance using the eyes instead of words. These are all part of the tango experience each is ensconced in after the sun drifts off to light another world. But as the day cools, the emotional temperature rises. The invisible glow created by two people embraced in tango is greater than that of the sun.
Tiplets of rain persistently tap the ground until they beat out a puddle. Rain is Ireland’s greatest resource! The people of the island have become so used to it that some even say “why bother with an umbrella, sure, you never, really, get wet”. And so the rain, were it a medical condition, it would not be a disease, rather just an minor ailment. It may be present more often than is necessary but it is not an obstacle. Ireland, as much as it boasts a spectacular outdoors – a photogenic patchwork of floral landscapes, chrome lakes , rock tempered coasts, and country roads no wider than a good milking cow – the people, helped by the clouds’ dissent, have evolved a life of togetherness indoors. Pubs, parish halls, restaurants, people on their ceili (visiting friends in their homes), and dance venues. As the rain polishes the cities’ roofs, in Belfast’s West Social Club on a Thursday night, Argentinean tenors and sopranos pour words of loss, love and longing into the room where tangeuros and tangueras flow in a sweep akin to the sheets of rain driven by the wind that are at play outside. Togetherness creates the umbrella under which the huddle is formed. In twos the couples float off around the room in a unity of joy, herded by the orchestral teeming of tango music.
In Kilkenny, Waterford and Limerick, the sun takes shelter, allowing the sky to besmirch the earth with a light diffused through a blanket of gray. The people and the buildings gather up their shadows as dusk’s promise of a blue and pink curtain falling on the evening fade. But while the gray has de-saturated the day, night will soon dissolve it. And for a select few who itch for the night, scant regards are paid to its packaging. Tango dancers know that the music at the milonga will paint rainbows of sound in their salons, where the light is dimmed to increase the mystique and allure for the world’s most passionate dance.
Martin McGhee 2011