“I call myself an ‘American Tanguero’ because I am passionate about promoting the benefits of Argentine Tango in America. A ‘tanguero’ is a man who dances – or at least practices – tango. (The ladies are known as ‘tangueras.’)
I also add the distinction ‘American’ because I believe that Americans are more likely to embrace tango if they start with American music. I had a difficult time with tango because the practice sessions (practica) and social events (milongas) utilized classic Argentine music. I always respected their playlist – after all, tango is more than 100 years old and has a rich catalog of great music – but I often had a hard time finding the beat (and I claim to be a musician.) I’ve been spoiled, a little bit, by the strong drum and bass lines of American rock and country. As a bassist, I’ve had the opportunity to play with some great drummers, in a great rhythm section, and that’s what gets them out on the dance floor. That’s how you play for untrained dancers in bars; you can dance to a solid bass-drum combo even when you’re drunk. So, in this country, people expect the music to pretty much pick them up and bounce them around without a lot of thought, and without much of an internal clock. Classic tango tunes sometimes have very subtle beats, and if you’re trying to walk to that beat, many of us can’t find it; our internal clock is untrained and can’t stay in sync with the very subtle updates that we hear. Tango is hard enough to begin with, I thought…
I visit tango events around the country, and sometimes, they only play classic tango. They are preserving and promoting a rich heritage, yes, and that’s admirable – but that music goes right over the heads – or ears – of a broader American audience… and I’m convinced we’re all missing a great opportunity to promote and enjoy tango.
By dancing Argentine Tango to modern music, we can demonstrate that tango works with music that people like and know; music they already have danced to, maybe, with a bottle of beer in one hand and reaching for the sky with the other; they’re at ease with it because they know how it goes. I tango to current music whenever I get the chance, and people in that bar may see something they’ve never seen before; and on a good night, that might include a degree of smoothness, balance, connection, playfulness, a taste of sexuality, a little something new with an old song, above and beyond twerking and grinding. Between the three tango speeds – slow tango, milonga, and vols – there’s usually a tango option. If not, we fall back to East Coast Swing, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Foxtrot, or Waltz. Afterwards, I get to talk to people and explain that tango offers a new connection with your partner, allows you to connect quickly with other dancers, has genuine health benefits, provides practical benefits in daily life, and is particularly good for people with joint or arthritis issues. (I have arthritis in my hips, lower back, and neck, but I can tango for long periods of time because it is carefully-controlled, balanced, intentional walking at its most basic. Cha-Cha kills my hips. Tango, no problem, and I sincerely recommend tango for all the old folks like me.)
Tango beginners should be given the opportunity to dance to the greats, of course, and to know the rich history and traditions behind them. I would never advocate walking away from classic tango music, style, or techniques – but at the same time, we could make it a little easier for beginners to get started. It sure helped me, when I discovered that you can tango to the blues and popular music.
Alpena: The public is invited to Argentine Tango for beginners (along with the ballroom basics) in Alpena on Sunday nights. The lesson begins at 6 pm at the Bella Rose Studio, followed by a social dance. Click here
Boyne City: Classes are also available in Boyne City at Boyne Area Gymnastics on Wednesday nights at 7:30 pm. Click here
I am available for private or group lessons by appointment, in your home, or in an available studio space. As of January, 2018, Alpena preferred times would occur on Sunday or Monday. All other times, I’m available in the Boyne City area.
The lesson rate is $60 per hour, for a single (leader or follower), couple, or group. For a group of four, for example, each person would chip in $15. I’m generous with my time, and I’m going to do my best to get you going with some solid basics… and have enough fun to keep going with it.”
Daniel Donovan Farrow began studying ballroom dance in Boyne City, when Michael Seiler offered lessons at the Boyne Arts Collective. Many years later, he carries on the tradition of helping beginners to learn East Coast Swing, Foxtrot, Rumba, Cha Cha, and Waltz. His specialty is Argentine Tango; in addition to studying around the country, he has traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to study tango in its birthplace. In 2017, he founded the Houdini School of Music & Dance in a historic building in downtown Boyne City, Michigan.
Group lessons are currently available in Alpena, Michigan, at the Bella Rose Studio, every Sunday night at 6 pm, and at Boyne Area Gymnastics in Boyne City on Wednesday nights. Private and group lessons available in northern Michigan by appointment.