Last tango in Washington
Every photographer knows that serendipity doesn't announce its arrival in advance; if and when it occurs, you better have your camera with you, or the moment will be lost. In my case, it occurred just before 8 PM the other night, when my taxi deposited me back at my downtown Washington hotel after a rather frustrating and inconclusive effort at photographing elsewhere (the results of which may or may not appear on Flickr at some point in the future).

I heard music behind me, out in a square on Pennsylvania Avenue known as "Freedom Plaza," and turned to see what it was. Tango music was coming from a couple of speakers that had been set up, and people were dancing out on the square, in the soft dusk that was falling over the city. I strolled across the street to see what was going on, and was stunned by the simplicity and the beauty of the scene: a few dozen people dancing the intricate coda and rhythm of the tango, with Pennsylvania Avenue behind them, and the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop to it all.

I knew nothing about the individuals photographed here, and I know even less about the tango. But I could see that it was a tight-knit community, and that they took their dancing very seriously. What struck me most was the diversity of the community: young and old, tall and short, handsome and beautiful mixing with the not-so-handsome and not-so-beautiful, and various races and ethnic backgrounds. I eventually spoke to one of the dancers, who told me that, over the years, several of the people in the group had danced in various other parts of Washington; but they've been coming here, she said, to 14th Street and Pennyslvania Avenue, for at least 10 years. And I imagine they'll keep coming for many years into the future.

I sat quietly in one place; I would like to have moved around, to photograph people from different angles and perspectives. But I didn't want to bother them, didn't want to interfere with the magical aura they were creating. All I could do was wait for them to whirl and flow and glide past me, and then do my best to capture what I was seeing. I took about 225 photos before it got too dark to continue -- and many of the pictures were shot at ISO 3200 and a very slow speed, so they may be a little soft and noisy. But about a third of them were keepers; and that's what you'll see in this album.

By the way, when I gave up photographing and went back to my hotel, I spent another hour eating a quiet dinner in the restaurant. And when I went back up to my room at 9:45, I discovered that my room, on the 7th floor, faced out over the square ... and they were all still out there, in the dark, still dancing. As the narrator said at the very end of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, "... and some people dance."
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