Don't Postpone Joy
Queer Tango - Don’t Postpone Joy
After earning her undergraduate degree at the University of California San Diego, Katerina decided to take a summer trip to Paris.
After studying mathematics for four years, Katerina was ready to relax and enjoy Paris's excitement and romance.
Selecting a seat close to the Eiffel Tower was a perfect view on such a perfect Paris day.
As she began to focus, Katerina noticed that a crowd was gathering to the sound of music she was not familiar with. Deciding to walk over and take a glimpse at what she was missing, she discovered couples completely lost in each other’s arms and bodies as they were moving together like flowers dancing firmly in the wind. Pressed with their chests together, Katerina could feel their emotions as they danced past her.
“What is that,” she said to a total stranger.
“Argentine Tango,” was the answer spoken directly to her.
Holding each other’s bodies firmly while gripping each other’s hand, one swift move to the left as the other followed, with complete confidence as they moved together,
“I want to do that,” she said.
“They were completely lost in each other,” explained Katerina. “I’d never seen anything like that before.’
“They were all Tango dancing under the Eiffel Tower,” she said like she was reading from a movie script.
“I was totally captivated,” Katerina admitted.
“I wanted to learn to do that,” Katerina said with an excitement in her voice.
It would be six years before Katerina would revisit the idea of learning tango and find Madame Colette—a woman who would Tango into Katerina’s life.
“There’s still a lot of hetero norms in teaching Tango,” explained Katerina. “I found one class, and the instructor first put guys on one side and girls on the other. Guys lead, and girls follow. I wanted to lead,” Katerina said. “I knew that place wasn’t for me.”
With her first love as an artist, Madame Colette would paint by day and Tango at night.
Originally from western Canada, speaking in her beautiful French Canadian accent, I was captivated by every word Madame Colette said.
As a world-renowned Tango dancer and teacher, Madame Colette holds the US 2003 Tango Champion title.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with both Madame Colette and Madame Katerina and for them to share their love story exclusively for INCLUSIVE, the magazine.
Remember that “paint by day” comment, Colette Hebert has also traveled the world as a successful artist, selling her art to private collectors, galleries, and exhibitions. Follow her on Instagram @colette_hebert_galerie
“I’ve always been fascinated by the female shape. We don’t need to look in any other sphere for goddesses, for a form that embodies beauty and grace. Just look at a woman.” Colette Hebert
Taking a break from her professional dance partner, Madame Colette settled in San Diego twelve years ago, teaching Tango. “I came here and thought, why not. I got the phone call, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Seeing Madame Colette’s picture in an advertisement for Tango lessons, Katerina contacted Colette, asking if Colette could teach her how to lead.
“I saw her picture and said I want to dance with her,” laughed Katerina.
“So she asked me if I would teach her to lead, and I said why not,” Colette confirmed
Without any questions, Colette agreed.
With a private dance lesson now scheduled, Katerina was excited to find an instructor to teach her to lead, and it’s a woman!
March 31, 2018, 4:00 pm.
Walking outside the studio, Colette could see her new client approaching.
Excusing herself from her current client, Colette quickly walked out to greet Katerina.
“I walked up, and she walked out, and it was boom, instant. It was something, I didn’t know what it was, but it was something,” Katerina explained.
“She greeted me by name and welcomed me inside,” Katerina said.”And the buzz or wherever it was going on inside my head,” Katerina continued.
“As far as I’m concerned, I said this looks good,” smiled Colette. “In teaching the Argentine Tango, its embrace is very important, the abrazo! As soon as we embraced, I knew this was good,” Colette said.
“It was great chemistry. We both knew at this moment it just clicked,” Colette explained while Katerina nodded in agreement.
I asked Colette if she ever felt like that before, meeting a new client.
“When you're hugging someone, and it feels right, but you know you can’t love her; you don’t know her, not even her name, but it was different. It felt different hugging her; I could feel all her shapes and her forms,” Colette said, grinning while giving a wink to Katarina.
I’m watching these two lovely individuals lift each other with such affirmation and admiration that I find myself giggling with them.
Beginning her first lesson and taking the embrace position, Katerina explains how perfectly Colette fits into her arms.
“She fit, she perfectly fit into here,” hugging her chest.
“The buzz continued as the lesson went on, and I kept thinking to myself, there’s no way she is into women,” laughing as Katerina admitted judging Colette’s beautiful long red fingernails.
“I did all the stereotypical judgments,” laughed Katerina. “But I knew something was going on,” she continued.
“This was all new to me, she confirmed. I usually take a while to get to know and trust someone,” admitted Katerina, while Colette nodded in agreement.
“She was an extremely good student, so she learned a lot in her first lesson,” Colette said.
Katerina explained how Madame Colette began explaining how leading comes from your torso.
“She takes her hands and pushes them against my chest, explaining how all your intentions come from your torso,” laughed Katerina. “I was thinking, geez, is she European because that was pretty forward,” as she continued to laugh. “I didn’t know what to think,” they both continued laughing.
With clear instructions, Katerina completely respected Madame Colette's professionalism in teaching her. “You could tell she completely knew what she was doing,” Katerina added.
“In Tango, it’s about the embrace,” Colette confirmed.
Leaving that first lesson, Katerina was beaming!
Katerina was on cloud nine.
Excited to finally follow a lifelong dream of learning to Tango and to have found such a fabulous and lovely teacher with Madame Colette; she was beaming.
Trying not to think about how she was feeling, Katerina was excited about the possibility!
Quickly Madame Colette sent a test message to Katerina, thanking her for coming and saying she looked forward to their next Tango lesson and when that would be.
Trying not to read too much into it, Katerina tried to decide if all her students would get a “thank you” text message. “It felt different,” said Katerina.
Returning from Canada a few weeks later, Madame Colette notified Katerina that she had a gift for her. She would give it to her during her next class.
“It was a tiny little bottle of maple syrup,” Katerina said. “I was thinking she doesn’t bring gifts back for all her students,” Katerina said, laughing.
Testing her boundaries, it was Madame Colette’s birthday, and Katerina felt that a little surprise celebration was in order.
“Happy Birthday,” smiled Katerine holding two flute glasses and a bottle of Champaign.
“It was my classroom, and no one had done that before, brought champagne into my classroom, and everybody was looking, wondering what was going on,” laughed Colette.
There had been so many intentions between the both of them Katerina wanted to know if what she was feeling was real. Figuring it was the perfect moment to see if those flirting intentions would ignite a connection.
“It looked a little suspicious, no?” Colette suggested.
A local Theater was showing a historical play about Argentina. Madame Colette was hired to demonstrate the Argentine Tango while teaching a lesson to an audience. Needing a partner, Madame Collete asked Madame Katerina to be her assistant.
“Under one condition, you let me buy you a drink afterward,” Katerina negotiated.
Sitting next to Colette, Katerina felt a strong electric current. “I kept wanting to touch her and lean into her. I finally left, agreeing to meet her there,” Katerina said.
Katerina had chosen a Speakeasy in the Hillcrest District of San Diego. What was disguised as a Taco Shop, you had to find the refrigerator door to get inside a quiet, tucked away place to take a breath, relax, and begin to know each other.
Alone together at last, it was their first time together outside of their lessons.
“It was different. The hands kept touching the knees, and the conversation was slightly more personal,” Katerina explained with a big smile on her face.
The lights began to brighten as the speakeasy was beginning to close—a cue to start walking to the car. Walking Colette to her vehicle, Katerina was disturbed by the bright lights around them.
“It didn’t feel right; it wasn’t romantic,” Katerina explained.
“I could feel her frustration,” Colette said in an understanding voice.
Looking at Katerina, Colette said, “We don’t tell him the rest of the story, no?”
“We’re already there,” laughed Katerina.
“Yes, you’re going to tell me the rest of the story or lie,” I didn’t care. I was hooked on this story.
Katerina immediately texted Colette to explain that it didn't feel right and wasn’t romantic enough.
Understanding, Colette said she would be in touch later in the week.
Pause - I love the fact Katerina felt it wasn’t romantic enough. Katerina is saying that Colette deserved more than what was going on for such a special moment. I agree!
Receiving an email invite from Madame Colette requesting that Madame Katerina join her after class for some tapas, wine, and love was exactly what Katerina was hoping for.
With great anticipation and excitement, Katerina was anxious to get through the class and asked Madame Colette where she would like to meet.
“Oh, just follow me,” Madame Colette said as she walked towards her car.
Expecting a restaurant, Katerina was shocked as she followed Madame Colette into a hotel parking lot.
“Any walls I thought we had just got knocked down,” laughed Katerina.
“She is more closed up and needs to open up more to people,” Colette explained. “I wanted her to open up more,” Colette said while grinning ear to ear.
“I’m the one who is usually in charge,” laughed Katerina
Still thinking there may be a restaurant inside the hotel, Katerina is shocked as Colette leads her to a hotel room door.
“But you followed her,” I asked Katerina, “What were you thinking?
“The mind was saying one thing, and I was thinking another,” laughed Katerina.
Opening the door, Katerina could see that someone had put much effort into creating something special and beautiful.
With the glow of candlelight, Katerina could see the tapas beautifully displayed; eating such a beautiful culinary display would be difficult.
Finding the wine with her eyes, she knew it would be a perfect wine for a perfect evening.
Completely frozen, Katerina didn’t know what to think or do.
“But you liked it, “ I asked her.
“Yes, very much,” Katarina confirmed.
I asked Colette if she thought she had won at that moment.
“It was not like trying to win a prize, but it was like I wanted to go where I wanted to go,” she said, ensuring I understood.
“So you won, you won her heart,” I said as we laughed.
“She was frozen, and I had to shake her a bit and get her to open,” Colette explained. “Like she said, she is a hard person to know. Once I got her open, then it was good,” Colette continued. “It was a win-win for the both of us,” Katerina nodded in agreement.
That was five years ago, and today you can find Madame Colette with paintbrushes in her hands once again.
“Thanks to her,” Colette admitted, pointing at Katerina.
“I still am a Tango instructor and teach, but I paint more now than I did before her,” Colette said, nodding at Katerina.
Winning the 2003 US Tango Championships catapulted Colette and her dance partner’s Tango careers. From Barcelona, New York, and Miami, Colette loved living “like a gypsy,” as she called it. “It’s what split us up dancing. He was from the Everglades area of Florida and wanted to stare at the sky, and I wanted to voom, voom,voom,” laughed Colette.
Traveling the world as the US Tango Champions left little time for Madame’s first love of painting.
Since meeting Madame Katerina, Madame Colette has found fresh love holding her brushes again.
Amazing how love moves all of us, especially an artist!
I’m excited to see what Madame Colette creates because I know how she is inspired!
Recently chosen to exhibit at The Studio Door, an art gallery in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, Madame Colette is humbled and excited to continue sharing her art with the world.
Years ago, a young woman stood beneath the Eiffel Tower, filled with a deep desire she could feel pulsing within her. Today, that same woman, Katerina, is not just a passionate learner but an artist of Tango, inspiring countless others who see a reflection of their own dreams in her.
Curious, I asked Katerina why it took so long to follow her dream of learning to tango. She responded with a quote she admires from Edie Windsor: “Don’t Postpone, Joy.”
Through her journey into the dance, she discovered more than just steps; she found her greatest love, Colette. Observing them, the depth of their connection—both as humans and through the dance—is unmistakably joyful.
To delve deeper into the enchanting world of Madame Colette and Madame Katerina's Tango journey, follow them on Instagram @tangolibertad.