Training a 'New Generation' to Tango

September 7, 2016
Justine Goode
view of feet of two people dancing

For those not especially familiar with the tango, the mention of this slow, sleek Argentinian dance likely evokes a few standard images: a rose clenched between teeth, a dark ballroom, a woman in a red dress (an image that has become even more iconic recently thanks to the Dancer Girl emoji). However, those who dance the tango frequently know that it is much more than the elaborate and dramatic routines performed on shows like Dancing With the Stars. According to Micaela Colleen Barrett and Alberto Ramos Cordero of the Cleveland Tango School, tango dancing fosters a community of dancers across the nation and the world, which is continually growing.

This month, Barrett and Cordero will host Tango @ Oberlin, teaching two, six-week sessions on campus—one for students and one for staff and faculty—so that members of the Oberlin community will have the opportunity to discover the beauty of the dance. The pair, who have been teaching tango in Cleveland for more than year, have made it their mission to train “a new generation of dancers” in the art, capitalizing on the fact that the dance is actually quite easy for beginners to learn. “Basically it’s super simple, especially at the beginning, and it’s just about learning how to move in space and move with a partner,” says Barrett. “There’s no tricks, there’s no big moves.”

Tango @ Oberlin was organized by staff and faculty members Kasia Karapuda, Maia Solovieva, Ana Cara, and Alysia Ramos. Karapuda, director of analytics in the Oberlin Investment Office, discovered tango around 2009 through an ExCo course. After a few years, the ExCo was discontinued, and Karapuda began dancing in Cleveland regularly. “There are few other dancers in the Oberlin area, and we wished we could bring it closer to the community,” she says.

With the opening of the Cleveland Tango School last year, the idea of bringing tango back to Oberlin’s campus suddenly became much more of a reality. “Alberto and Micaela came down [in the spring 2016 semester] and we had a free demo, and 20 to 30 students showed up,” says Karapuda. “After, we had a kind of business meeting — ‘How can we make this happen?’” It was important to all parties that the lessons be free and accessible to students, and eventually the group secured funding from several departments, including dance and Hispanic studies.

Because the dances can often be quite intimate, the organizers divided the event into two sessions in hopes that newcomers will feel more comfortable when surrounded by their peers. Free student sessions will be taught in Spanish House; non-students can register for sessions at the Dancer’s Studio in Oberlin. For those with limited tango or dancing experience who may be hesitant about stopping by, Barrett has some encouraging words. She explains the space is intended to make dancers feel safe: “When you get in there, you know you’re not really going to be disturbed, you’re going to learn about a lot of things,” she says. “The organizers have really tried to make it comfortable for people to come and express themselves, which is kind of unusual from the [tango events] we’ve found in other places. Not only that, it’s a place you can walk in and find people conversing and interacting and talking. It’s a haven where they can be themselves.”

Student sessions will be taught from 4:30-6pm Tuesdays in Spanish House; staff, faculty, and community can register for classes ($84 for six weeks) at the Dancer’s Studio at Oberlin, taught from 7-8pm Tuesdays.

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