Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Alexa Trotta

“It was pure, unadulterated passion.” ~Marina Palmer’s first glimpse of the Tango, from her book, Kiss and Tango: Looking for love in Buenos Aires.

In a swanky milonga in the heart of Buenos Aires a young woman named Marina Palmer fell in love. Twirling feet and dipping and swaying bodies unfolded before her hungry eyes to reveal the sexiest dance in the world. In one night she had fallen in love with the embrace, the subsequent surrender and the heart fluttering seduction of the tango. She wanted more.

Palmer’s overwhelming passion and dedication for the tango is aptly conveyed in her book, Kiss and Tango: Looking for Love in Buenos Aires released in June 2005. The account of her experiences in both New York and Buenos Aires is a tale that will leave readers sweating and tingling with lust. The heart of the story truly lies with Palmer’s tireless determination to follow a dream some might perceive as unrealistic. But those who take the chance to read her story will discover a woman not bound by the restraints of an uninspiring advertising career but willing to venture well beyond its borders.

Born in New York City to a Greek mother and an American father, Palmer and her family moved to London when she was just three years old. She attended Cambridge University, and after graduation went with a boyfriend to Bulgaria and eventually to Hungary. Though the relationship didn’t work out, she stayed in Budapest for a year and a half finding work with an advertising agency. When a job opportunity in New York came her way, she decided it was time to pack her bags and head to the Big Apple.

There she settled into a routine life that would eventually crumble her spirit and leave her begging to be let out of such confinement. In Palmer’s mind she didn’t know exactly what she wanted, just that her humdrum job was leaving her dozing off at the desk and her social life was at a permanent halt. In 1997 she decided it was time for an escape. Without a second thought she accepted an invitation from her cousins who lived in Buenos Aires and once again boarded a plane. It was on this short vacation, meant only to be a quick reprieve from her melancholy days at the office, that Palmer felt her life change course. It was the year she met the tango.

* * * *

In a recent chat with Tango Diva, Palmer stopped her moving feet long enough to give us an inside peek into her dancing, her book and what she’s doing now.

Seriously, how often do you tango?

Well currently I dance only socially. I am no longer trying to fulfill that dream of becoming professional. Of course that first year that I was introduced to the tango I was dancing constantly. For seven days a week I’d wake up at 2PM and be out dancing until 7AM. I literally lived and breathed the tango.

Your feet must have killed you.

(laughs) You know dancing requires such self-sacrifice. I truly paid such a high price for my pleasure of dancing the tango day after day. Sometimes it felt like knives were continuously jabbing the balls of my feet. Yet I kept taking classes, going to milongas, it never stopped.

So you packed up your life in New York, hired a discount full service moving company and moved to Buenos Aires to study the tango. How did this newfound love go over with your family?

I wouldn’t say my parents were enthusiastic, but in the end they really helped to support me. I think when they saw me dancing they both began to understand my passion for the tango. I feel now that they are both very proud of me and it’s a very pleasant feeling knowing that your parents are rooting for you no matter what.

Why did you write this book?

I wrote it mainly for therapeutic reasons; it just spilled out of me like a geyser. In fact the book basically wrote itself. Once I’d figured out that I was ready to give up Tango dancing professionally, I had an epiphany: now that my tango story has ended, I can tell it from the beginning. Six months later, I looked up from my computer and a book was written.

In your book you dance with many different guys and none of them seem to work out. What made you keep trying to find the “one” for as long as you did?

Sometimes I think I’m like a crack addict. Tango is an addiction, it made me feel incredible, and I was prepared to put up with anything or anyone for that matter. I was constantly looking for my next high. Only now I realize that I could never have a tango partner that could fulfill my own needs.

Do you still think Argentine men are the sexiest men in the world?

I guess now that I’m dating a big hunky American, my attitudes have changed a bit. But I still think all Argentines are quite pleasant to look at.

You mention in your book that the tango thrives on ambiguity- can you elaborate on that?

The tango is really a three-minute love affair. It elicits such a strong feeling yet really it’s just a dance, so that at the end of a song, sometimes you just drop each other like socks and move onto the next person. With tango the attraction is real, the emotions are real–it’s like virtual sex. Your emotions run so strong, yet they’re so fleeting.

Anything you would have done differently when you look back in hindsight at all this?

I often wonder if I should have given up trying to dance professionally, but I really came to terms with the fact that I got as close to the dream as I could have. As a result, I’ve really accepted my whole experience for what it was, and all my mistakes contributed to this realization.

So after you gave up dancing professionally you moved to Greece, where the book was written. Where else have you traveled?

I’m very well traveled in the States and Europe. But I’m just dying to go to Africa and Asia and especially India. I’m a traveler by nature; I love to discover new cultures.

Where is home?

I guess Buenos Aires is my home base for now, though because of my heritage, I feel that it’s ok not to belong to just one place. London, New York, Greece and Buenos Aires have all been home at some point in my life and in a way I think they will always remain that way.

Any advice for the ladies out there?

I want my story to be a comfort to other women. My joy over the tango was contagious and for me it was the only way to feel alive. I would encourage other girls to follow their hearts and do what makes them happy. We’re always inventing excuses for ourselves, but somehow everyone finds a way to make things work out best for them.

One last, hard-hitting question.

Sure.

What is your favorite thing in your closet?

My black suede tango shoes. I’ve lived in them.

* * * *

Indeed Palmer has managed to balance not only her body but also her life in those tango shoes. Although she has given up dancing professionally, her story is an encouraging testament to personal willpower and courage. Through all of her trials and tribulations you remain hooked, sympathizing with her through frustrating dancing partners, and becoming seduced yourself while she melts in the arms of the great ones. The tango, as Palmer says, is a three-minute love affair. It is those moments she’s lived for, and it’s in those moments that her story unfolds.

Marina Palmer currently resides in Buenos Aires.

Kiss and Tango can be found on www.amazon.com as well as in bookstores across the country.

To learn more about Palmer and her book visit her website: www.kissandtango.com.

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