Walking in embrace: Woodstock Tango celebrates tenth anniversary

Josefina Sgaglione  & Julio Bassan at Woodstock Tango

Josefina Sgaglione & Julio Bassan at Woodstock Tango

“When everything goes right, when everything is in place, tango can take you to places where ordinary dances cannot,” says Ilene Marder, founder of Woodstock Tango, the primary outpost for tangueros in the Hudson Valley. “Some people call it ‘the tango zone,’ some call it ‘tango bliss,’ but it is like any creative, artistic activity that you’re focusing on and concentrating on where you can get completely lost in it. Sometimes when I’ve finished a dance with a partner, I feel like I’ve taken a journey.”

And the tango that Marder refers to is Argentine tango as danced in the clubs of Buenos Aires. “It is not Dancing with the Stars or ballroom tango or staged tango,” she says. “It’s not about fancy steps and dancing for an audience; it’s about connection, musicality and walking in embrace to some of the most beautiful music in the world.”

Woodstock Tango, founded by Marder in 2003, will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a gala holiday milonga (tango social dance) on Saturday, December 28 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Mountain View Studio in Woodstock, featuring live music for dancing with the Eduardo Parra Quartet, one of New York City’s most popular tango dance bands. The group includes Kingston resident Eduardo Parra on vocals and Argentineans Laura Vilche on bandoneon, Guillermo Vaisman on piano and John DeCesare on bass.

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While some in the tango world prefer to dance to recorded music, Marder says, “The Eduardo Parra Quartet have a strong reputation for playing dance music. In tango, the way the music is played is very important. You don’t just play one song after another; there’s a set format, and there are certain songs that you play and a way that you play them.”

Between sets, Marder will deejay (as la Rubia del Norte, her alter ego), offering classic tango complemented by Latin and swing dance breaks. Since founding Woodstock Tango, Marder has added professional deejay work to her résumé – not only in the Hudson Valley but also at the tango clubs of New York City, along with engagements in Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto and Buenos Aires, where she is one of the few non-Argentinean deejays to be invited to play in the tango clubs of the birthplace of tango. And in recent years, she has branched out from exclusively tango to Latin music dance parties that include blues, soul, swing and world pop, like the events that she regularly hosts at New World Home Cooking in Saugerties.

The Woodstock Tango tenth anniversary milonga on Saturday will also include the Mina Tango Boutique, offering top-quality tango shoes and accessories to try on and purchase, as well as door prizes, food and beverage, including wine.

“If you’ve ever wondered about tango, about how real people dance tango, this is a great opportunity,” Marder says. “It’s very collegial and friendly; the whole room will be full of people who are there because they love tango.”

Admission to the event costs $20, which includes a one-hour Tango Essentials class for beginners taught by Marder at 8 p.m.

So what can the complete beginner expect from the lesson? “You will learn posture, connection and walking in embrace with a partner to the music,” Marder says. The best tango dancers have the best walks, she explains, and learning to walk in embrace, intensely focused on one’s partner, is fundamental. “Learning tango isn’t like learning cha-cha, with steps; it’s not choreographed. It’s more like learning a language where the teacher can give you words, sentences, phrases, but the conversation is between the two people dancing, and you make the conversation on the spot – just like you do when you’re talking to someone.”

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