The slight, shy leader in front of me had started tango lessons a few months before, dabbled in it a bit, and with many other dances, but within the last month decided to get serious about tango. That night he was attending his first milonga.
I was happy to see him return to tango. When I met him in a class a couple of months prior to that, I was struck by his warmth and gentleness. So when he asked me to dance, I accepted, and told him how happy I was that he was coming out to the milongas. He smiled warmly and embraced me with such tenderness that I was momentarily too surprised to move. Had I mistaken him for someone else? Had we danced socially before and I just didn't remember? Nope - this was the same leader I remembered from the class.
We changed weight for a moment and I decided to risk startling him (which happens sometimes with new leaders), and hold him like we'd been dancing for ages. He embraced me back with the same sense of affection and, most startlingly, relief.
With that, we were off. He walked softly, a little hesitantly, with some rock steps and an ocho cortado or two. The cruzada was still a little bit of a challenge and he took extra time to make sure I was where he thought I was before exiting the step. (I appreciated that.) He tried leading back ochos but when he would have needed to open the embrace to make that work, he adjusted, changed weight and pulled me back in front of him, continuing his walk. I smiled against his cheek, and he smiled back, and patted my back lightly - almost absentmindedly.
Between songs he said, "I tried other things [dances], listened to other music. But this," he pointed to the speakers on the wall, "this is what makes me feel like dancing. It's so beautiful. I had to come back."
With that, he returned me to his chest and hugging him back, I whispered in his ear, "I am so glad to hear it."
I felt like the Grinch at the end of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" - my heart grew three sizes that day.
I sat down later with my friend and asked if she had danced with Mr. Shy, and she answered enthusiastically, "Oh yes! That man is going to go far!" At that, we both giggled and watched him circle around the dance floor, smiling.
Now I look for him at every milonga (and I'm not the only one).