May 24, 2012

tango del barrio dance studio

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photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                michael and julie

     Tango of the Neighborhood.  Tango Del Barrio.  If you whisper it to yourself enough, it becomes a lyric, or perhaps even a song, itself. is a song.  It is its own melody...a lilting, fluid whistle from a solitary man strolling through an empty, scarcely lit alley in the heart of the night.  There is a soft rain and the bricks from the roadway are like shiny shapes of glass.  The rain drops seem to pepper them in time with his tune, a dance unto its own.  The man inhales the last of his cigarette, drops it, and opens a door, unmarked.  Violin, piano, and a gentle blue light spill into the canyon of the alleyway.  The dark, looming structures of the night expand, momentarily.  The man exhales, glances quickly back, and steps inside, smoke, now blue, trailing and intertwining with the mist of the rain.  It lingers too long in the still air.  The door closes with a jarring thud.  The sounds, the light, the smoke, they disappear in an instant.  You are left alone, watching, as it does, and the faintest indication of perfume, or is it wine, rises to your nostrils.  

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                    tango del barrio

     You imagine what's next.  The man has removed his hat and his wet overcoat.  A woman in black watches, her lips slightly parted and ruby red, her black hair tied with an azure, silk scarf.  He knifes his way through the crowd to her and using only their eyes and small smiles they enter into an intimate, understood contract.  He holds her and draws her to him, chests stirring, slowly rotating to the music of the room and to the music of their bodies.  The voids of their individual forms are filled with each other; in the curve of his neck and shoulder, her cheek; in the pit of the back of his knee, her calf...the seam of her black stocking shifting as muscles contract and relax...a beating heart.  He lunges forward, collapsing her body backward, gently under his, a perfect hunter.  She acquiesces and hangs in motionless suspension, the small of her back balanced perfectly on his outstretched thigh, now perpendicular to the floor.  Her face looks up at his, his, down to hers. Her arms reach back in sublime submission.  The slit of her dress slithers open, up the length of her thigh, and the garment traces light patterns on the floor below, as they pause in this moment of conquest, in this moment of communion.  

photo by steve metz                                                                        michael and julie

     Argentine Tango grew up in the streets of Buenos Aires, beginning in the late nineteenth century.  A prevailing theme and technique of the dance is the idea of communication through embrace.  The level of intimacy of the dance is the decision of the couple, but they must maintain a strong connection along the length of their embracing arms.  This channel of energy, muscle, and heat is the entry point into the graceful symmetry and unison of tango.     

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                    tango del barrio

     Despite its origins as a social dance, and contrary to other dances of the genre, the tango is not a step by step dance, but rather an improvisation, concocted by the lead and, spontaneously agreed upon by the partner.  In this way, every tango dance can be unique; an expression of a moment in time from two distinct souls.  

     Ingredients (combine to taste)
     caminar walk
     giros turns
     sacadas displacements
     cruce cross
     ochos figure eights
     llevadas de pie moving foot by foot
     ganchos leg hooks
     contragiros reverse turns
     quebradas breaks  

photo by steve metz                                                                         michael and julie

     The seed for our very own, revered Argentine Tango studio, Tango Del Barrio, was planted over twenty years ago, when founder Michael W., still a psychology graduate student at the time, stumbled upon the vintage dance scene in Clifton.  He realized that, despite having been labeled "vintage," Argentine Tango was very much thriving: a living tradition.  Michael's love for tango would necessitate the need for a sort of dual life; psychologist by day, dance student, and later, instructor by night.  This duality would flow from Cincinnati, to Pittsburgh, to New York City, and back to Cincinnati again, where Michael would eventually land, permanently.  Tango Del Barrio, the studio, would evolve over the next several years, finding a permanent home in Northside, where it shares a beautiful and inviting space with Yoga Ah.  Michael's partner in life, as well as dance, Julie, a graphic designer by day, has also become intimately involved in the studio over the past six years.  The operation has grown to such an extent that it has recently been granted not-for-profit status, and it now includes a board of directors.  This move has allowed Michael and Julie to step away from the center of operations, but to continue to contribute deeply through instruction. 

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                   tango del barrio

       I have always had a deep appreciation for the arts and I have my own personal awareness of what makes life good, Michael tells me.  The arts are such an important part of a person having a full and meaningful life.  In those words, we find the connection for Michael...between the mind he studies and the movements he teaches. Expression is well being, even when whispered, or when spoken without words at all.  This is why we dance in dimly lit rooms.  This is why we draw in coffee shops or paint in basements.  This is why we strum stringed instruments when there is no one there to hear.  This is why we sit for hours in the quiet of the morning, waiting for one perfect moment of sunlight combined with chance, to photograph a Kingfisher perched in a tree.  We have a need to articulate something for which we have no words, or, for which words should not exist.  This makes us human.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                michael and julie

     A different aspect of a person is present in tango, Michael and Julie tell me.  You don't have to talk in order to be close to people here.  We living beings, we were communicating before we had words to use.  In your life, you have looked into the eyes of something living and understood something about it.  You have touched the fur of a living animal and felt a truth or an honesty which you couldn't explain.  You have watched as a pair of white swans drifted along the surface of a glass-still pond in absolute silence and symmetry, and you have recognized something of yourself in them.  That part of you...the same part which may have stirred a little as you read this, is a dancer.

Tango Del Barrio offers tango lessons and community dance for all levels.  See the links below for more information.

Tango Del Barrio

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                    tango del barrio


  1. Replies
    1. Some of the best Argentine Tango pictures I have seen not from BA, the cover shot is GREAT! So good I wish I could say I had taken it.

  2. If you can walk... you can dance tango!

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