Just over five years ago, Michael moved to Napa and became seriously addicted to tango. He began taking classes in Yountville but in order to dance at a real milonga he had to travel further – to the Belrose in San Rafael.
“The best way to do this without succumbing to the terror of asking a stranger to dance was to car pool with other members of the Yountville class,” says Michael. “One afternoon I was introduced to a charming, sophisticated, elegant Russian woman named Margaret, and we discovered that she also was from Napa. Life is full of serendipity.”
Initially Michael was reluctant to cabaceo the lovely tanguera, thinking she was a more experienced dancer. But, eventually, after much internal debate, he worked up the nerve to ask her to share a tanda with him.
“I was completely embarrassed and thrilled at the same time,” he admits. “She didn’t seem too offended by my leading, so I invited her again a little later.” Soon, the two began dancing more often and commuting to various milongas, first with small groups and occasionally just with each other.
“Danger — the romantic kind — lurked in these long drives back and forth,” Michael recalls. These interludes allowed them to get to know each better, sharing life adventures and discovering mutual interests as they drove. “Margaret went to university in Moscow where ballet, opera and theater were all very available and top quality, and I conducted musical theater, once aspired to conduct opera and was a symphony orchestra manager at one time,” Michael explains.
The time spent alone together in the car became more engaging and more exciting. “Neither of us was aware of our growing desire for the other until one night, when I walked Margaret to her front door after dancing. She kissed my cheek, almost melting me in my shoes,” says Michael. “Totally unexpected and searingly hot, this simple gesture led me to admit that I had been wanting to touch her hand in the car but was afraid to scare her off.”
During their commutes Margaret wasn’t thinking about a relationship. “I thought he was a very nice man and I enjoyed his company. I liked not having to drive by myself at night.” Things began to progress more rapidly after Michael took Margaret to dinner to celebrate her birthday at Skates in Berkeley, then to a milonga in Oakland – their first real date.
“Since then, we have danced at my best friend’s wedding in Colorado, in the lobby of several hotels, Yountville and Cabo San Lucas included, at wineries, the de Young museum, outdoors at the Legion of Honor, and on stage in Alma del Tango’s production Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story in San Anselmo.”
When he knew she was the one
For Michael, the most romantic night of all was early in the relationship. “With a full moon and fog rolling over the ridge in Sausalito, we danced to live music by Seth Asarnow and Marcello Puig, alone on the tiniest of dance floors at Cafe Divino. I knew at that point she was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”
Margaret agrees, “it was extremely romantic. Afterward we drove along the Bay and I realized it but didn’t say anything. Tango is a very passionate dance. Some day we won’t be able to go tango dancing, but in the beginning, tango did its part.”
“None of this would have been possible without our very strong, mutual obsession for tango,” says Michael. “Our next big tango adventure will be a trip to visit Margaret’s daughter in Paris. Any suggestions for great places to tango?