BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — He could not resist the forbidden dance.
President Barack Obama wasn’t in Argentina for 24 hours before he found himself doing the tango Wednesday night.
It was a reluctant tango. The president and first lady Michelle Obama were attending a state dinner in the Argentine capital when they were pulled abruptly onto the dance floor on by a pair of dancers hired to provide the entertainment.
At first, the woman in the shimmering gold dress seemed to content to twirl with her partner, but then she made a beeline for the president and beckoned him to the floor.
“No, no,” Obama’s face seemed to say, as he declined her invitation not once but multiple times. But the dancer wasn’t to be deterred.
She got her way, and Obama was soon sashaying across the floor. Flawless it was not, but the president eventually caught on. By the time the music slowed to a halt, the two were in lockstep, arms high in the air as an audience of hundreds looked on.
Mrs. Obama got in on the action, too, twisting back and forth with the black-clad male dancer.
The unexpected moment came at the end of a candlelit state dinner that Argentine President Mauricio Macri hosted for the Obamas. It has been nearly 20 years since a U.S. president has made a formal state visit to Argentina.
Elegant, slow-moving and sensuous, the tango has its roots in Argentina’s capital, which hosts annual tango festivals. One of the most popular ballroom dances, it quickly spread from Buenos Aires to other parts of Latin America and beyond.
Toasting his host, Obama quoted Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges: “And now, I think that in this country, we have a certain right to hope.”
Obama is catching some flak at home for the display. After the deadly bombings in Brussels this week, critics have argued the president should have toned down his trip, which also included a stop in Cuba, where he attended a baseball game.
“That was a tremendous mistake. It’s fine to go to Argentina, you want to do the work, but you’ve got to be careful of these little photo ops or optics. Baseball games and tangos, that’s inconsistent with the seriousness of the day,” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday.
Obama said earlier Wednesday that he chose not to change his schedule because terrorists’ aim is to “strike fear in our societies,” and he would not let terrorists “have power over us.”