The tango you see in glitzy television dance competitions is not what you'd see in Buenos Aires.
And that’s why Gem Duras put together The Connecticut Tango Festival -- to promote the sense of community one would feel doing the dance in Argentina.
Duras endorses authentic Argentine tango enjoyed socially in Buenos Aires.
“What we see on TV, of course, is geared towards creating a show and more ‘appeal to the visuals’ but the goal here is to create a community,” Duras said.
Duras teaches a “tango boot camp for beginners” class in his studio at the Milford Arts Council as part of the festival.
To stress tango’s social aspect, Duras encouraged dancers to switch through partners—even if they came with someone like a husband or wife.
And that makes for some interesting pairings because of the close proximity to which the partners are expected to dance. After all, the foundation of the tango dance is the cheek-to-cheek embrace.
“If I was to dance with you, it would be how you held me, how you moved, how you heard the music and how I responded to you doing that,” said another tango instructor, Dale Ellison. “A lot of it’s internal, so it’s not just a matter of memorizing steps, it’s a matter of feeling the whole environment.”
Ellison helped Duras teach the class. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina and one of her pupils, Aisha Bennett, also made the trip from South Carolina for the tango fest. While Bennett acknowledged that these dancers should respect their partner’s space, Bennett did say that the beginners were getting along well.
“There’s no, like, wall in between,” Bennett said. “Everyone is really comfortable with one another and we’re actually switching around the room quite easily, so it’s been great.”
Ruth Kaplan lives in New York’s Westchester County. It’s not yet about her emotional connection with her partner—she’s more invigorated by the fact that she can keep up.
“I am challenged to be able to follow,” Kaplan said. “I just feel a tremendous challenge that I can do it.”
In this boot camp, the aspiring tango dancers learn the basic eight-step count and then they get to supplement that with turns and kicks.
For Kaplan, she was hoping to improve upon her skills because of a big trip that’s coming up.
“I did Argentine tango a while ago and stopped, so I really missed it,” Kaplan said. “I’m returning and I’m so excited that I’ll even be going on a trip to dance in Buenos Aires, so I’m really excited about that.”
The beginners won’t learn everything right away—it’ll take time. But, when it comes to learning true Argentine tango, it’s important to make the time. That’s what helps dancers develop social and emotional connections with their partners.
Besides what’s happening in Milford, The Connecticut Tango Festival is going on in three other towns until July 22.