During the evening hours in PSB Baker Portico, you may have heard a violin, piano, bandoneón (basically a miniature accordion) or the voice of Carlos Gardel singing as dancers practiced their Argentine tango. But you probably didn’t stick around to watch.
This dance group that practices Thursdays in Baker Portico and Mondays at The Range is called Ithaca Tangueros. I knew this group existed, but I assumed the members would be too old or the lessons too slow for me to like it. Boy, was I wrong. Armed with my experience of only a handful of Argentine tango lessons, I confidently walked into an intermediate level class this weekend with my two-inch black heels and an open mind.
Joining Ithaca Tangueros this weekend was a pleasant break from what I’m used to. As an active member of Cornell DanceSport, I compete in Ballroom and Latin Dance, where we tango, but it is formal and theatrical — think of the scene in Take the Lead. Argentine tango, on the other hand, is primarily social and more flirtatious, with legs hooking around your partner, crossing each other and brushing along your partner’s thigh. It’s seen in films like Scent of a Woman, The Tango Bar and The Tango Lesson. Tatiana, a girl my age at the lesson, explained, “only if you search online for tango will you find it, but if you don’t know about tango in the first place, you’ll never know.” And that’s just the problem.
The first thing I noticed when joining the lesson were that there were more young people than I’m used to at such ballroom/tango dance events. I also heard so many different accents that, for a moment, it felt like I was in New York City or even Buenos Aires where the dance originated. The people immediately made me feel welcome and even asked me to dance before the lesson had begun. This multicultural community matched what I always look for at Cornell — people who appreciate each other and are open to sharing their culture. Now before I continue, if you have never heard of or seen Argentine tango, here’s how I would describe it. Suspenseful. Romantic. Dynamic. Relaxing. The closed position requires you to be head-to-head with your partner while you embrace them closely and dance. This can be shocking for some but quickly becomes a natural position that helps you move around the floor.
The 90 minute lesson was taught by guest instructors Robin Thomas and Natalia Rosado Cofresi, who periodically visit Ithaca to teach and host a monthly Nocturne “milonga” — that’s what Argentine tango socials are called. Robin has been dancing for almost 20 years and is well-known and respected as a major teacher and D.J. in the U.S. When not traveling for tango work, he is based in NYC, where he runs the monthly milonga and a weekly practica along with regular tango boot camps. Over the past decade, Robin has taught countless students as the tango instructor for Princeton, Yale and Columbia University. Robin and Natalia were approachable instructors who taught to my level and gave me individual feedback, including dancing with me and the others so that we’d catch on. We switched partners after every dance, which helped me meet all the people and learn the individual styles of each lead. Some women decided to lead and men followed so that they could understand the role of their partner.
In addition to Cornell Ballroom Club that runs Monday nights in Willard Straight Hall from 7 to 9 p.m., Bailemos Latin Dance Club and Salsa Pa’lante, Ithaca Tangueros is yet another hidden gem open to everyone in the Cornell and Ithaca community. There are myriad dance options at Cornell, but unfortunately, most of them require painful auditions, previous experience, or natural talent. Rather than suffer more stress than our academics already hurl on us, I urge you to relax with a welcoming, diverse family and meet new people who love dancing at Ithaca Tangueros. Not only do they offer beginner and intermediate/advanced lessons, but also private lessons, socials and weekly practices. For me, it was rewarding to just try out a new group that interested me and fit in like a puzzle piece.
You can join their listserve at TANGO-L@list.cornell.edu or find them on OrgSync to learn more. Or, if you’re more interested in learning ballroom dance, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ariadna Lubinus is a sophomore in the College of Engineering. She can be reached at email@example.com.