Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Language of the Fan: Tango Edition
Fan that reputedly belonged to Marie Antoinette, purchased by Queen Victoria; from Britain's Royal Collection.

In the French royal court, in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, so I am told, there developed an elaborate system of communication, coded in the ways in which a lady moved or positioned her fan. For example:

Carrying in the left hand, open: Come and talk to me

Carrying in the right hand, in front of the face: Follow me

Carrying in the left hand, in front of the face: Desirous for acquaintance

Clasping the hands under the open fan: Forgive me, I pray you

Cover the left ear with the open fan: Do not betray our secret
(Source: Fabulously French: The Secret Language of Antique Hand Fans)
The message here is, perhaps, rather less subtle. (From Sofia Coppola's 2006 Marie Antoinette.)

Having carried a folding fan to tango for several years, I've noticed that I've begun to develop my own coded language of the fan. It goes something like this...

Quick, delicate fanning, movement in the wrist: Goodness, tango can be quite warm exercise, can't it?

Big, sweeping fanning, movement from the elbow: Just finished a tanda of milonga, and I'm sweating like a sinner in church! (As they say.) For your own comfort, you may want to wait to ask me to dance.

Fully open fan raised to cover lower half of face may be an attempt to disguise any of the following reactions with an aura of mystery and allure:

-- Frown
-- Inappropriate smile
-- Yawn
-- Gasp
-- Indigestion (Shouldn't have eaten that spicy curry for dinner! *Urp*)

Tapping closed fan against free hand in rhythm to tango music, especially while tapping foot in rhythm with bass: Somebody please ask me to dance, already!

Folding and unfolding fan, in rhythm with non-tango music: Boy, this electronica song just goes on for miles, doesn't it?

Quickly tapping fan between finger and thumb, out of rhythm with music: I really need to work at learning not to fidget so much.

Putting fan back in purse before midnight: There is nothing for me here; I'm cutting my losses and going home to spend some quality time with my good friends Ben and Jerry.

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