April 5, 2005
Tango was once only found in the smoky dance salons of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where couples held each other close and walked together to the sounds of accordions and violins.
These days, the exotic dance has found a new popularity in the restaurants and coffeehouses of the East Valley.
Tango aficionados warn that the hobby can quickly become an obsession.
"You get so passionate about this dance; a lot of people just drop everything else," said Nerissa Sacks, a Scottsdale dance instructor.
Tango dancers attend monthly "milongas," or dance events, in seven East Valley locations. Lessons are available at dance studios in Gilbert, Scottsdale and Tempe, and another class is being offered this spring at Bally Total Fitness in Scottsdale.
Sacks and her dance partner, instructor Jeff Musgrove, spent the first part of their class Friday night teaching couples how to hold each other. The embrace creates a connection and, "that’s what we’re searching for in tango," Musgrove said.
The draw, say tango lovers, is the dance’s intimacy.
"Some people say it’s a sexual dance, but it’s not," said Steve Mumaw, a Scottsdale tango dancer. "It’s intimate. There’s a sweetness between the leader and the follower."
Most people have the wrong idea about tango, Sacks said.
"It’s a connection, it’s a conversation between the woman and the man — but after the dance, that’s it. They go their separate ways," she said.
Linguists believe the word "tango" has origins in African languages brought to Argentina during the slave trade. The word described a private space or circle that one needed permission to enter.
The dance itself was born in the tenements, brothels and bars of Buenos Aires near the turn of the century.
Sacks fell in love with tango when she took a vacation to Buenos Aires.
"It’s such a cultural phenomenon," Sacks said. "Its glory days were in the 1920s and ’30s and it is still alive in 2005. In a way, it’s a vintage dance."
Musgrove has participated in other types of dance, such as swing, but said he was turned off by the competition aspect that went along with them.
"Tango is more an inward dance. All I care about is my partner. I’m not so concerned with showing off to people," he said.
Milongas are good ways to meet people of all backgrounds and ages, Musgrove said, adding that his events typically bring in about 70 dancers.
"There’s no point in learning in the classroom if you are not going to dance it," Sacks said. "The social aspect is important — it always has been to tango."
Tango in Scottsdale
Where: Tapas Flavors of Spain restaurant, 7228 E. First Ave., Scottsdale When: First Tuesdays of each month Time: 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Mythos Greek Restaurant, 2515 N. Scottsdale Road, Wilshire Plaza When: Third Tuesday of each month Time: 7:30 p.m. to midnight
Where: Tutto Bene, 13901 N. 73rd St., Scottsdale When: First Saturday of each month Time: 7:30 p.m. to midnight
MATINEE MILONGA Where: Common Grounds Coffeehouse, 8658 E. Shea Blvd., Pima Crossing Shopping Center When: Every Sunday Time: 2 to 6 p.m.
PC Dance Academy, 3310 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale. (602) 708-0375 DancEnergy, 2401 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert. (480) 892-0662
Dance FX Studios, 4415 S. Rural Road, Tempe. (480) 968-6177 Bally Total Fitness, 8642 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale. (480) 596-1917