Tango Tales And Latin Soul

By Roxanne Roberts
Monday, July 25, 2005

The weather report: Hot and steamy. The party report: Hotter. Steamier.

We've entered the screwball season in Washington, that torrid time of year when the only rational thing to do is grab a cold drink and a hot date -- and then hope for the best. Three parties, three thermogenic tales.

Hot: When Marina Palmer falls in love, she falls. No commitment issues here. In 1999, after a visit to Argentina, she chucked her life as a single advertising executive in New York for life as a professional tango dancer.

"It was love at first sight," she said. "I identified with the passion I saw." Her just-published memoir, "Kiss and Tango: Looking for Love in Buenos Aires," is a sexy cross between Bridget Jones and Stella's groove, with fishnet stockings and a Spanish accent.

In November, the 36-year-old Palmer met 26-year-old Washingtonian Daniel Dickens, who does good works with the organization Help Argentina, and sparks flew. Daniel's parents, local hotel exec Mike Dickens and wife Denise , offered to host a welcome-to-Washington book party for the lively dancer-author. So it was that 100 friends and family gathered Wednesday at Zaytinya for drinks, books and checking out the girlfriend.

The author and her boyfriend, Daniel Dickens, Wednesday at Zaytinya.
The author and her boyfriend, Daniel Dickens, Wednesday at Zaytinya.(Larry Levin - For The Washington Post)
It's true: Opposites attract. He's 6 feet 8. She's 5-2. He's brunet. She's blond. She loves tango. He . . . doesn't.

"I hate it, in fact," he explained with a grin. "You have to learn a system of rules before you can express yourself, and that just doesn't appeal to me."

Not a deal-breaker, says Palmer. "It's really very serious," she said of her relationship. "As much as I love tango, it's allowed me to move on."

Hot stuff, indeed.

Hotter: July's Art Nights series at the Hirshhorn Museum ended on a high note Thursday with the free outdoor concert by Pucho Brown and his Latin Soul Brothers. The temperature hovered in the 90s; the humidity added that oh-so-attractive frizz to everyone's hair. And Pucho, aka Henry Lee Brown , is only Latin in spirit. ("I'm not Spanish," he explained before the show.)

Band member Bob Campbell hands 3-year-old Kendryek Wheeler a CD.
Band member Bob Campbell hands 3-year-old Kendryek Wheeler a CD.(Rebecca D'Angelo - For The Washington Post)
No problema. The audience of 150 included everything from tourists in Hawaiian shirts to tired moms with fussy babies and curious passersby. The performance by the New York soul and jazz combo kept them air-drumming, dancing and sweating to the beat.

Hottest: The air conditioning was spotty Friday night at the Argentine Embassy, so it was a good thing tango instructor Carina Losano wore a backless dress, which kept her cool and showed off her itty-bitty thong (causing every man in the place to fall in love with her). Losano and Daniel Arredondo were on hand to teach 150 members, donors and fans of the Choral Arts Society of Washington how to tango like natives.

"A real man wants to show off the partner," she explained (causing every woman to love her, too).

The chorus is leaving Friday for its first South American tour in its 40-year history, and Ambassador Jose Octavio Bordon hosted a farewell fundraiser complete with wine, food and tango lessons. "We're totally thrilled," said the chorus's executive director, Debra Kraft. During the 10-day trip, the group will perform at the historic Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires -- and try its hand (er, feet) at the sexy, complicated folk dance.

John Dugger watches as Carina Losano teaches his wife, Norma, how to tango.
John Dugger watches as Carina Losano teaches his wife, Norma, how to tango.(Rebecca D'Angelo - For The Washington Post)
"Can I tango? Hell, no!" laughed former board president Kandy Stroud, who's making her first trip to B.A. "I think I've stepped on everyone's feet in the room, including my own. This is hard ." Husband Frank nodded in agreement. "I've never felt clumsier in my life."

"Someone kicked me in the ankle," said board chair Betsy Holleman. "It's like a contact sport."

Okay -- most everyone was terrible, but not even a dance fender-bender could ruin this party.

"Suddenly, I felt a heel on my foot," said board member Anne Keiser , sporting a nasty gash. There was blood "and no glory. But I'll live."

Of course she will. They all will -- it's winter in South America.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company