Cueca is the national dance of Chile. For several weeks of every year,
leading up to the eighteenth of September, you will hear the music and
find Chileans dancing everywhere - in parks, in city squares, on
beachfront promenades -
The story of the Cueca is the courting ritual of the rooster and the hen. The gentleman, his lady on his arm, leads her in a promenade around the dancing ground. As the music swells, she spins loose. Handkerchief in her upraised hand, she flutters and flirts, looking everywhere but at the gentleman who preens and stamps, bobs and swoops, circling her with a fusillade of intricate footwork, until at last, as the music comes to a close, he kneels on one leg before her on the ground, with the lady's foot planted firmly and triumphantly upon his raised knee.
I would love to dance the Cueca. Just once. I’d curtsy to the bowing dancer who extends his hand to me, and then promenade arm in arm back and forth, back and forth as Cueca dancers do. And then I’d execute the most graceful steps of a perfect Cueca leaving the crowd in awe. Except that the Cueca is more a series of awkward little hops with a great deal of spirited stamping and hardly graceful.
Every Dieciocho the big supermarkets put on a folklore show with Cueca dancers. After showing how it should be done in the first number, the dancers choose a new partner from the spectators. This is where I speedily slither away into the crowd.
My 71 year-old brother was recently married in London. It was a big wedding with all the trimmings and the reception held in Lincoln’s Inn Old Hall. Old like from 1485.
“I think we’ll do a Tango for the wedding dance, I’ve bought a video. How hard can it be?” he said. I wondered about this because my brother can’t even dance the Hokey Pokey.
He watched the video with his fiancée and I could see he was looking worried. It wasn’t the T-A- N G O type of ballroom dance, but the real Argentine Tango, all be it a basic one. I left him watching it for the 38th time.
I really wish I could dance the Tango. Gliding around the dance floor, following the indisputable lead of the absolutely confident male. It’s not an ‘equal opportunity’ dance. You follow your partner without counting steps in your head. You listen and watch for the signal – a nudge with the shoulder, a tightening of the arm a lead in the small of the back. The perfect synchronization of two minds and bodies. Nothing you could learn from a video.
Oh, how I wish I could dance the Cueca and the Tango.