Tango – a perfect venue to meet

The famed South American dance is one of the country’s most popular pastimes.

It’s nearly midnight on a balmy summer’s evening and, thanks to the latitude of the Finnish lake district, it’s nearly broad daylight outside. The wooden pavilion just north of Tampere is brimming with Finns of all shapes and sizes, striding about the dance floor, each holding a partner tightly and gazing impassively into the other’s eyes. Virpi, my tango instructor, compresses me against my assigned partner. “Stand clooooooose to her,” she booms.

Even though Finns are considered fairly reserved, they have a real facility for intimate physicality in public. Tango is one of the country’s most popular pastimes, and it offers the perfect venue for otherwise-sheepish Finns to meet, greet and court each other. As we pause for a moment on the dance floor, it occurs to me that perhaps to feel content and untroubled, Finns need to appreciate heartache and disquiet: to be truly happy, maybe one has to be unhappy first. I direct my gaze straight at my dance partner. We lock eyes, and I grasp her hand, then place one hand on her hip. And as the accordion plays its first slow, woeful notes, we begin to dance.