Two to tango in Edwards
Edwards CO, Colorado
EDWARDS, Colorado ” Whether a couple met on a dark dance floor or have been married for years, the Argentine tango is a communicative dance, testing the trust and devotion of a man and a woman.
That is why Colin Meiring started his first Argentine Tango class at Colorado Mountain College last week with an exercise in trust.
“Ok ladies, close your eyes,” he said as some of the students in the class giggled. “Now guys, lead your partner around the room. Don’t do the steps, just walk around. Ladies, your job is to follow, go with the flow. You might run into one another or try to fight it, but just let go.”
The Argentine tango might be the reason this group gathers together on Tuesday nights at Colorado Mountain College, but it’s not just about physical movement: it’s about bringing people together through an ancient and beautiful form of communication. The class is comprised of longtime couples who joined for a fun extra-curricular activity, as well as people who hadn’t met until they put their hands together to try those first few steps.
Marshal McNiven, a student in the class who is new to tango, called the experience “humbling.”
“We all have this shield up all of the time for things outside our comfort zone,” he said. “It’s very intimate, and kind of uncomfortable at first, touching someone you don’t know. But it’s a good feeling and a great way to get out that isn’t meeting your friends at a bar for happy hour.”
The type of tango being practiced in the CMC dance studio is not the same traditional tango seen on TV. Argentine tango has none of the showmanship ” dramatic arched backs and high kicks ” of its ballroom counterpart. It’s a social dance, made for dark, smoky Buenos Aires clubs. The steps are small and space-saving, keeping the dancers close to one another and preventing them from bumping into other couples.
“This is a postage-stamp dance,” Meiring said, demonstrating how to avoid accidents in the small studio. “I want you to be able to practice in your kitchen.”
The dance was originally performed between two men, Meiring said, and was a combat-like art form. The romantic aspect was introduced when the dance made its way to Uruguay where men and women of all socioeconomic classes danced together.
In part, tangos allure stems from the romance and powerfully charged physical contact involved. Meiring says that is part of the reason why the Argentine tango is a growing trend in pop culture today.
“It’s a great date,” he said. “It’s time to be together and close to one another. Dancing is just the by product.”
Fancy footwork and graceful strides aren’t all that the students will walk away with from Meiring’s class, however. He said there is a lot of psychology and subtle human interactions involved as well.
While the dance might seem chauvinistic and perpetuate traditional gender roles, there is a sense of modern empowerment involved. The woman, while required to surrender and follow the man’s lead, has the physical ability to keep her distance from her partner by pressing the heel of her hand into his shoulder to prevent him from invading her comfort zone.
There is also much to learn about non-verbal cues: For advanced partners, the woman is able to follow the man’s lead by reading a slight nod of his head or shift of his hand on her shoulder.
Back in the tango classroom, these subtleties don’t shine through after only an hour of practice, but it was easy to see how much more comfortable the students were by the end of class. As students retrieved their shoes and coats, they eagerly chatted about learning the next move or dancing with someone else come next class. Meiring said past students have organized trips to Denver to go tango dancing, and one group even traveled to Buenos Aires.
“There’s no better way to learn and immerse yourself in another culture,” he said.
To Meiring, whether someone is dancing in their living room, in the classroom, in a cramped club or on an international stage, there is much more than dancing at work.
“When two people move in unison, someone has to lead and someone has to follow,” he said. “It’s an exercise in basic human communication.”
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Tango classes like Colin Meiring’s are becoming increasingly popular as ballroom dancing itself has made its way from the TV screen to the main stream. In February, an Argentine Tango group called Tango Fire performed a very sensual and modern show at the Vilar Center. If you missed Tango Fire, look no further than the Vail International Dance Festival, which will feature traditional tango at the “Ballroom’s Best” event on Aug. 10 and an Argentine tango segment in the “Dance for $20.09” event on Aug. 4. Visit http://www.vaildance.org for more information.
Can’t wait that long? The Mercury Cafe in Denver can add a little spice to a Front Range trip. The Mercury hosts tango nights on Wednesdays and Fridays so you can learn the steps or show off your skills. Visit http://www.mercurycafe.com for more information.
Colorado Mountain College offers a plethora of dance classes. Classes slated for the summer semester include belly dance, tap dance, line dancing, two-step, salsa and hip hop. Visit http://www.coloradomtn.edu for more information.