Arts and entertainment reporter attempts the tango | SteamboatToday.com

Arts and entertainment reporter attempts the tango

On Monday night Susan Ring and internationally renown instructor Pedro Amarfil demonstrate the tango for the class.

— I am in borrowed stiletto heels, I’ve never danced one step of tango in my life and I'm being called to the dance floor.

"Put your arms at shoulder length, facing me," the instructor, Pedro Amarfil, said as I was standing in the middle of Schmiggity's, unsure what would transpire within the next hour. "Now, close your eyes."

This instructor — a complete stranger — guided me around the Schmiggity's dance floor, firmly convincing me to trust each movement he made. And after a few minutes, I began to relax, and there was a moment, a brief moment, of connection.

If You Go…

What: Argentine Tango Lessons

When: 7 to 9 p.m. Monday Nights


Where: Schmiggity's, 821 Lincoln Ave.

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Cost: $20, includes one free drink.

For more information, call Susan at 970-846-3719

The tango, I was beginning to understand, is this beautifully addictive way to connect with total strangers. It's transformative. The pair become artists on the dance floor who create their own masterpiece, one based on a series of steps that derive from an initial format, but can be altered with a bit of personal flair.

"Tango, is floating," said Susan Ring, a Steamboat local who has been dancing tango the past seven months thanks to Amarfil's lessons. "When two people come together and can dance well together, you really do feel like you are flying. You forget any sense of time or that there is anybody else in the room, because you are totally connected to your partner in that moment."

This particular Argentine Tango class is taught by Amarfil, an internationally known Argentine Tango instructor who has danced most of his life and has the awards to prove it. He teaches tango all over the world, but for this summer, he is here in Steamboat Springs for the second time.

However, this is the first time his classes have been offered throughout the summer on a weekly basis. From 7 to 9 p.m Mondays at Schmiggity's, he leads a lesson followed by a "practica." Then, on Saturdays, there is a lesson from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Sundance studio, followed by a social hour.

"He breaks down the basics and explains the essence of tango and what it's all about better than anyone I have ever taken a lesson from or talked to about tango," Ring said.

The goal of bringing Amarfil here and offering the weekly classes is to to build a tango community with consistency. The hope, she explained, is to create a group that can come together a few times a week or month to practice, socialize and become a better dancer. After awhile, Ring said, tango becomes a community.

"I think that the more people get exposed to tango, the more there will be a lot of interest in the movement and the culture behind it," said Diane Nielsen, a Steamboat local who started taking tango lessons last winter. "It’s just a totally different style of dance. I love waltzing and ballroom dancing, but with this, I had never taken a dance lesson with my eyes closed. But that is a beautiful thing he teaches, so you learn to feel that contact and connection."

Born out of the barrios of Buenos Aires, the tango is a fusion of European immigrants and South American natives as a form of expression and communication. The culture of this dance involves a whole list of proper etiquette that can be observed at a milonga, an organized dance where all the best dancers in Buenos Aires can be found.

Throughout the lesson, we covered some of the major tango do's and don'ts, like how to navigate the dance floor. Guys and girls don't sit together unless they are on a date — that's just how it goes folks. Also, when you want to approach a potential dance partner, no words are spoken. None. I think we should take note. They ask with a mere glance or nod and of course, some kind of suave persuasion. Probably my favorite point was that, no matter what age, if you tango — truly tango, like expert level — you can plan on dancing all night, because everyone will want to be your tango partner.

Don't be fooled, just one tango lesson did not make me an expert. But, I quickly learned that the concept of the tango could be applied to life. It's about giving and taking control.

"It's about a partnership between two people who have to give themselves over to the dance and become one person," Ring said. "It's absolutely impacted my life and has made me trust a lot more and has made me speak my mind a whole lot more, because you have to work together."

As I went from partner to partner, mortified in how awful I was as a dance partner, I learned that it's not about comparing yourself to others and their ability; it's about making the tango your own dance and being in that moment with your dance partner. In that moment, nothing else is important.

Although I have a lot — I mean, a lot — of practice ahead of me, I cannot wait to strap on those heels and get back out to the dance floor.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

If You Go…

What: Argentine Tango Lessons

When: 7 to 9 p.m. Monday Nights


Where: Schmiggity’s, 821 Lincoln Ave.

Cost: $20, includes one free drink.

For more information, call Susan at 970-846-3719