Where have all the good men gone? Not to Kreuzberg on a Saturday, that’s for sure.

Yeahhh, gritty urban decay, that’s what we were looking for! Sadly though, it’s not Kreuzberg so it’s not cool.

Admittedly the photo accompanying this post has woefully little to do with the subject of the post, but it’s not the kind of subject you can really take a photo of without getting people to sign release forms.

This Saturday my sweet and optimistic new flatmate brought me along to a taster session of tango-dancing at a dance school in Kreuzberg – although after three whole hours of tango it felt less like a taster and more like a socking great ladleful. I am always amazed when doing things like this (i.e. big open-to-the-public interest-specific activities) that they truly do bring genuine stereotypes out of the woodwork that you always spend a great deal of energy and thought in the minutes beforehand trying to convince yourself are just prejudices you have ingrained in your mind. A BBC woodland Springwatch event I volunteered at, for example, drew from far and wide men with vast bushy beards and dirty green polo shirts as if they’d been lured by the smell of the touch-a-falcon stall. And thus a tango course seemed to magically conjure armies of middle-aged women wearing a lot of kohl and loose, billowing bohemian clothing, jangly jewellery and hair swept up into an appropriately artistic wildness. 

Sadly, as I am afraid will probably always be the case for dance courses, its general appeal to people of the female persuasion means that there will always be hundreds of women at these things, and therefore the smattering of men stood around the huge room was also an unsurprising mix: a couple of boyfriends or husbands who were putting all their effort into not looking like they’d been dragged there (one admitted to me that he had been forced along as a birthday present from his girlfriend; now that’s a good one, almost as cruel as it is sneaky) and otherwise mostly awkward looking single men who were clearly not there to discover ‘the soul of El Tango’. And thus, these were the people I, as an awkward singleton myself, was resigned to be within close proximity of for the three hours that followed. Of the myriad women that were there of course none of us wanted to have to lead; however, the sheer quantity of us made that necessary, so I also danced with my fair share of dames, leading me to conclude that one of the subtlest strangest things I will ever do during my time here is be the ‘man’ leading a gargantuanly tall woman through a slow-dance. 

Our two teachers were softly-spoken, linen-clad people who were welcoming, sweet and utterly unsuitable for the job of teaching dancing, bar the ability in itself to dance tango. They stood in the middle of the group gently encouraging us through the steps for periods of little more than a few seconds at a time, before shoving us into pairs and awkwardly skipping over to their laptop to fling some tango song or other onto iTunes and make us dance for three minutes before beginning the whole process anew. When it came to learning the turn the exotic-sounding lady flipped her legs about with the kind of complexity that experts always claim is simple, and then once again made us all go off and do it as if we had learnt it to perfection just by watching slack-jawed. Shockingly no-one got it and the rest of the lesson was spent with the two teachers wandering around unable to believe or understand how we weren’t picking up this ‘easy’ manoeuvre. It was entertaining, without a doubt, but a dance of passion and red blood it was not; that said, I feel it is only appropriate now to end this post with a run-down of my five favourite dance partners of the day.

1. ‘La Fascista del Incompetente’. This was the first woman and first person I danced with. She was determined that we should do things JUST RIGHT and thus despite being urged to simply dance by feeling the intentions of the leader in their body motions, this stern woman in what appeared to be a Hallowe’en witch costume counted the steps at me like we were learning to march. When I attempted to lead her she deliberately did not follow my movements and barged back-first into all the other couples in the room, giving me withering looks presumably for not having wrenched her out of their way by brute force. 

2. ‘The Hypnotoad’. This poor specimen was even shorter than me and made up for it by being marvellously round, meaning that I was dancing with his spherical belly snuggled up against me like a hug from Kirby. He also had terrifyingly starey-glarey eyes which pierced the air in front of them and didn’t crack a single smile; in fact, his facial expression was stony when it didn’t show faint signs of disappointment at my equally appalling dancing.

3. ‘Engelbert Hummmmmmmperdinck’. A fairly normal asian dude who aggressively hummed a deep loud monotone constantly during the dance as if he was a hovercraft. Also not a good dancer.

4. ‘Dirty Dancing’. This woman kindly was volunteering to lead because she was already an expert follower. She was one of the standard floaty, smoky-eyed women with a wry smile and a disarming confidence which became ever more disarming the longer she pressed her ample breasts against me and thrust her face within millimetres of mine as if she were trying to genuinely seduce me with the power of dance. Sadly, I was too busy stumbling around like a baby llama to offer the appropriate response of wrapping one leg around hers and flinging my raven-black hair back.

5. ‘Patience on a monument’. This lady tolerated my every incompetence and tolerated the fact that I was almost half her height. She tolerated with a sweet smile my inability to do the turn, and my inability to lead her properly when it came for her to learn the turn. She tolerated my hogging the dance teacher while she stood awkwardly waiting for him to dance with her. She seemed somewhat melancholy and I wish I could have somehow danced her into a new and passionate way of life. Sadly, though, she left early like me and my flatmate, because there are just better things to do in life than hold hands with strangers on a Saturday teatime.

Rose T