Born in the late 1800s in the streets and brothels of Buenos Aires, it is a dance once coined ‘the vertical expression of a horizontal desire.’
The Argentine Tango was created at a time when there were 10 men for every woman in the South American capital. The men would dance with the men until they mastered their skills, and only then could they ask a woman for a dance.
But from the 1950s until the 1980s, a military dictatorship forced this once popular dance underground. It’s only been through recent generations that it has experienced a renaissance.
And now, Dancing for Dessert in Langley is offering locals the chance to learn this challenging, yet rewarding Latin dance.
On Monday evenings, husband and wife team Bobbi and Patricia Lusic are teaching Argentine Tango lessons for all levels of dancers, ranging from beginner to advanced.
This is the first time that the dance studio — which specializes in ballroom and Latin dance lessons — has offered a comprehensive program in this style.
“It’s different than a lot of other ballroom dances where you want to shine outwards — tango is inwards,” Bobbi said.
“The best tango literally comes from the heart, it’s not from the mind.”
Bobbi began learning tango in 2000 after seeing the show Forever Tango. Although he had danced a variety of dances since his childhood, it was the emotional style that captured him.
“Once I heard the music it touched me right in the heart, right from the start, and I loved the music and interpreting it in a partnership,” he said.
“It’s like a real time artistic expression with another person.”
Patricia also has a background in dance, learning tap, jazz, ballet and musical theatre as a child. She first came across the Argentine Tango in 2005, after signing up for a salsa class with a friend.
“We showed up at the salsa class and while I was filling out the paperwork, through this big glass window I could see a tango class taking place, and it was Bobbi teaching the tango class,” she said.
“And the more I watched, the more I knew that was the dance I wanted to do. And so by the next week, I had joined the tango class. I kept salsa going for a while, too, but it eventually fell by the wayside.”
Not long after, Patricia, who worked in public relations, began training with Bobbi as a show partner, and offered to interview him for a tango article she was writing.
“I asked Bobbi if I could take him for coffee, just 15 minutes so he could be my interview piece on tango. He agreed, and about two hours later we discovered that we actually had a lot more in common than just tango, and our dance partnership started to grow into a life partnership. I’m the only student he’s ever married,” she laughed.
“Or dated actually,” Bobbi chimed in.
Both Bobbi and Patricia agree, the Argentine Tango is not for the faint of heart. It is a difficult dance to learn and can take years to perfect.
“I danced ballroom prior to tango, and it was more about knowing the patterns,” Patricia said.
“I could back lead my partner if they needed help and I could keep them on the music. With tango, I had to let go of all my back leading, I had to listen to my partner, I had to listen to the music and I had to stop anticipating what I thought was going to happen.
“So it’s a dance that puts me in the moment, in real time. I can’t think about what just happened, I can’t think about what’s happening next, I can only think about what’s happening now. And if I do that, and I can get into that — what I call a Zen place — then you experience the zone and there’s this real time communication with your partner.”
Although the Argentine Tango is no longer associated with the Red Light District, there are rules and etiquettes from that era that remain.
“They were things that were developed to stop people from being killed in knife fights in Argentina. You don’t want to invite the wrong girl, you don’t want to be turned down, you don’t want to be embarrassed in front of your friends,” Patricia said.
To tell someone you’re available to dance, for example, you must hold your head up, eyes up, and scan the room. You then must make eye contact with the person you want to dance with to confirm that they, too, are available.
Dancers are also not allowed to go into a tango embrace until the music starts playing.
“And that has its roots way back as well because once tango moved out of the Red Light into the middle class of Buenos Aires, a lot of the young ladies were coming to the dances with chaperons, and the chaperons were close by. So standing in an embrace when there’s no music to dance to, was awkward and the chaperons wouldn’t have that,” Bobbi said.
And eye-contact with your dancing partner is “basically forbidden.”
“It’s considered an intrusion of your personal space. You’re letting someone into an embrace, who in most cases is not your lover, you might not even know the name of that person,” Bobbi said.
While the Argentine Tango classes are new to Dancing for Dessert, they are not new to the Vancouver scene.
Argentine Tango social dances, known as Milongas, are held almost every night of the week in Metro Vancouver, and there are around 1,000 active dancers.
“It’s a seduction, really, and some people just can’t resist it, whereas others might totally be annoyed by it. We say it is a ‘Tango Bug’ because if it gets to the right person, it’s irresistible, you just fall for it,” Bobbi said.
The group lessons were launched on Feb. 27, but new dancers are welcome to join at any time.
“We’re really excited to have Bobbi and Patricia here, I think it’s just a great fit and there hasn’t been an opportunity like this for Langley ever, I don’t think,” said Andrew McIntosh, owner of Dancing for Dessert.
For more information on the dance lessons, contact Dancing for Dessert at 604-881-1234 or visit their website dancingfordessert.ca. The studio is located at #3 20279 97 Ave.
More on Bobbi and Patricia is available at tangobug.com.