By Grant C. Dull
Kiss & Tango shook up the Tango world. At a time when Buenos Aires has never been hotter suddenly a book comes out exposing the inner workings of the tango world, the late-night milongas, the one on one private classes, the competition to be number one, the sex, the back-stabbing, you know, the good stuff. Often compared to The Bridget Jones Diary and Sex in the City, it is not only a hot, steamy read, but also an interesting look at the soul of the tango-addict and a glimpse at a part of the Argentine psyche. Looking for love in Buenos Aires while wanting to be a tango dancer seems like the most romantic thing on earth, though after reading the book you'll wonder if it's not the craziest.
Marina, we want to do a 1 year later interview. We've been wanting to do an interview with you for the longest time, since the book came out in fact, but we didn’t want to do another tell us about the book interview, that has been done. We want to find out what's going on now. Give us and your readers a glimpse into your world!
We know your life changed when you moved to Buenos Aires and decided to dedicate your time and energy to Tango, how did your life change when your book came out?
I wouldn’t say that there had been any dramatic change since the book came out. I know you would love to hear me say that I had found fame, fortune and its supposed by-product, happiness - but that would be a lie. The fame and fortune bit - not the happiness bit. That bit is true. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I think it’s true to say that the book has opened up new avenues for me, both professional and personal. When I wrote KISS & TANGO, I put myself out there warts and all, and as a result people from all walks of life and from all over the world now come knocking on my door - and know where to find me. For the most part readers, who have been touched by my story and want to share their thoughts, feelings and reactions with me. I find it incredibly rewarding to discover that so many people are able to relate to my experiences. Today I find myself connecting with strangers via the internet the way I used to connect with strangers on the dance-floor. That’s why I say that my life hasn’t really changed all that much: I’m still interacting with strangers, albeit in a slightly different context.
How has your life changed now 1 year later? Pre book - Post book, what is different, is anything the same?
For those of you who haven’t read the book, I don’t want to ruin the ending for you, so cover your eyes. For those of you who have, you may be interested to hear that I have come back to live in Buenos Aires. I came back in December of 2003, thinking it was going to be a three-week holiday. But the city worked its magic on me all over again, and to cut a long story short, I’m still here. As a matter of fact, I’ve even bought a flat, which is a pretty big change, though I’m not sure for the better, after living with builders for over a year! But the biggest change of all is that I am no longer looking for love in Buenos Aires… because I’ve found it. And he is nothing like any of the tango partners described in the book. For starters he doesn’t dance the tango. But even if he did, we would have a tough time dancing together, since he is 6 foot 8 (and I am still only 5 foot 2 much to the amusement of the passers-by who frequently point at us in the street). But he IS similar to some of my ex-partners in that he is ten years younger than me. I swear I didn’t do it on purpose. Why do I get the sense that you don’t believe me? Anyway, regardless of his height, his age, and the fact that he isn’t Argentine (it’s not that I didn’t try), he makes me very happy and that’s all you need to know. You can tell the others to open their eyes now.
You were recently referred to as the "Godmother of BA Expats." Comments? What do you think about the foreign explosion in BA?
I’ve been teased quite a bit because of it, believe me! It’s a bit of an over-statement, if you ask me, but flattering all the same. Unless it means that I’m Buenos Aires’ oldest expat, in which case it’s a little less flattering. I’ll opt to believe that all that is meant by this title is that I’ve been here since before the economic collapse in December 2001, and the subsequent devaluation of the peso, which has turned Argentina into a bargain for tourists and expats alike, and has lead to the aforementioned “foreign explosion”. How do I feel about it? Ambivalent, I suppose. More tourists from the States and Europe means more hard currency for Argentina, which is obviously a good thing. The devaluation has not only jump-started a new tourism-based economy, but has also helped Argentina become more competitive in terms of export. And let’s not forget what it has done for the wine industry. I make sure to remember that most evenings starting at around 8:00 pm. But on the other hand, I would be lying if I didn’t say I had a bit of a “proprietary” feeling about Buenos Aires. I do feel nostalgic for the days when taxi drivers looked at me agog because I spoke with a foreign accent. I used to feel special when I first moved here. Now, I’m a dime a dozen. Bummer!
You’ve lived in London, New York, Paris, Athens, among other places - why Buenos Aires? What is your relationship with Buenos Aires? Will you stay forever?
Buenos Aires has a special magic that invariably captivates people when they come here for the first time. In my particular case, it was the tango that first cast its spell on me. That was why I came back to live here. Then, with time, my love for the city grew for non-tango-related reasons as well. I love that it’s a culturally thriving city with lots of great restaurants, cafes, and bars. It’s true what they say: Buenos Aires comes alive at night. At the same time, it’s lovely to stroll around the city during the day, to enjoy its gorgeous architecture, parks and squares, and its even more gorgeous people. Yet in spite of the fact that Buenos Aires is a truly big city, it lacks the anonymity of most big cities. In many ways, it feels like a small town or a village. Its inhabitants (Porteños) are the warmest, friendliest, most outgoing people I have ever come across - though Argentines from other provinces will disagree: the way they see it, Porteños are a snooty an aggressive bunch, which goes to show how everything is relative. But after having lived in New York for almost five years, it was wonderful to land in a place where people actually looked at each other in the street (stared!), greeted each other, connected. In my opinion, this has to do with the fact that most Porteños have a large amount of Italian blood in them, which explains their special mix of warmth and charm.
And which also explains why they aren’t the world’s most reliable people - if there are any Argentines and/or Italians reading this, I’m fucked. The funny thing is that Argentines are the first to admit this about themselves. As for whether I’ll stay here forever, I’ve given up trying to look that far ahead. This is one of the most important lessons that Argentina has taught me. People here live in the present, and that’s why they are able to enjoy life more, in my opinion. So I try to emulate them. Actually, it’s not that hard to do: I find this laissez-faire attitude quite contagious!
What did you learn after your Tango adventures? Would you change anything you did if you had the chance? What is your relationship with tango now? Do you still dance?
No, I wouldn’t change a thing. Looking back on it now, tango was a grand passion. Or to put it another way: it was a fantastic roller-coaster ride - better than Magic Mountain! It filled me with the most intense feelings: sheer bliss when I was dancing, utter torture when I wasn’t. In other words, it was an addiction - a constant see-saw of ecstatic highs followed by crashing lows. It was wonderful/terrible while it lasted but in retrospect, I realize that it was not a sustainable love affair- not for me, at any rate. Now that I no longer dance regularly (occasionally I do make a foray back into the milonga - the tango circuit - and when I do, it feels just as wonderful as ever, but without that crazy urgency that I used to feel) anyway, as I was saying, now that I have gained some sort of perspective, I have come to appreciate that Tango’s greatest legacy is that it prepared me for the real thing, for TRUE LOVE, the kind that can last a lifetime.
What is next for you? Another book, a movie perhaps?
I see that the cat is out of the bag! A movie certainly is a possibility since 20th Century Fox has optioned KISS & TANGO. But I prefer not to say too much more at this stage since I am quite superstitious and I wouldn’t want to jinx it. Other than that, the book has recently come out in paperback across the US and is available at most good bookstores and at www.amazon.com, among other online retailers. You can also order the book through my website: www.kissandtango.com. Finally, I am happy to announce that the book is coming out in Greece this year. Also, I’ve recently signed a deal to publish the book in China. As my readers know, I am dying to get my ass over there, along with India and Africa. So to answer your question, I hope to spend some of the upcoming months traveling to some of the far-off destinations at the top of my list. “Follow your Bliss” I always say to my readers - and I fully intend to practice what I preach!