My friends and family all know that my pipe dream is to someday compete on Dancing With the Stars. I don’t really have any interest in becoming famous, so, if I’m plotting my path to the show, my only option is to become a professional dancer. Seems Feasible! For real though, if Chad Johnson could so gracefully transition from the football field to the dance floor in season 10, there is hope for me… right?
So, when my boyfriend pointed out a flyer advertising a free, introductory Argentine Tango class in Northside, I really had no option but to take the first step toward turning my dancing dreams into a reality.
When the big day arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement. Maybe my pipe dream wasn’t just a dream, after all! (Spoiler, it’s still just a pipe dream.) The class was held in a small, warmly-lit studio in Northside. As we entered the room, we were greeted by our four instructors for the evening, and the timid smiles of our classmates. I breathed a sigh of relief as it appeared that most people were also first-timers.
During the first part of the class, we exchaged introductions with roughly 30 other students of varying ages, backgrounds, levels of dance experience, and height! (Yes, height - I was admittedly a little concerned about my ability to tango given my 5’1” frame, but my height was no issue at all.) Not everyone came with a dancing partner, and we rotated partners throughout the evening.
Before we started dancing, one of the instructors made sure to clarify - I kid you not - “This is NOT like the tango that you see on Dancing With the Stars.” While I highly considered walking out of the class right then and there, I am really glad that I stayed.
Throughout the class, we learned that the Argentine Tango is a very social dance. It begins with a warm, intimate embrace between partners, and it is based upon walking and pausing to the beat of the music. The dance can be very simple and beautiful when danced with musicality, but can quickly become more complex as experienced dancers are able to build upon this foundation.
One partner, typically the male if dancing in a male/female duo, will lead the dance. The other partner must continually adapt in order to seamlessly follow the leader’s movements. I was very glad that everyone was dancing in their socks during the class; there would have been a lot of injured toes, if not!
The intimacy and artistry of the tango can be felt even as a beginner, and the learning environment of Northside Tango reflected the mood of the dance.
After class, I spoke with Michael Wizer, one of our instructors and the founder of Tango Northside. Quick side note, Michael was actually my partner for one song during the class that night. While we were positioned in our embrace, but before we started dancing (“before” is the key word here,) Michael asked me, “Are you a dancer?” … Ya’ll, my heart skipped a beat. For about half a second I was seeing stars and the mirror ball trophy right before my very own eyes, however that question was quickly followed by, “You have the dancer headband!” Ah, that made much more sense. If Michael would have waited a few more seconds before asking me that question, once we began dancing together, he would have had his answer. But hey, at least I looked the part. That's 50% of the battle, right?
Besides teaching Tango, Michael is a Clinical Health Psychologist, which is what originally brought him to Cincinnati about 27 years ago. He was completing an internship at Children’s Hospital when the Argentine Tango scene first took root here in the city. At first thought, it may seem that his career and tango have no correlation, however, Michael explained to me that the two are actually beautifully intertwined.
Michael spent some time serving as a clinical director of research, in which he says he began to delve into research centered on quality of life. He was already teaching tango at this time, but it was here that he began to truly understand the value that the dance provided. Michael went on to explain how much better and how much healthier in many facets it is to go dancing after dinner instead of sitting down on the couch to watch television for the evening. Not only are you getting physical exercise, but the social interaction that the dance provides is unmatched.
There are books written and studies done on the depreciation of social activities in American society - we can see this all around us today, especially with the amount of technology sitting at our fingertips. On a personal level, I can definitely understand how it becomes easy to fall into this trap during these cold, winter months. When I come home from work, there are days when stepping foot outside of my apartment again after settling in for the evening seems downright self destructive. When I do leave the warmth of my apartment for something active such as an Argentine Tango class, I am always, always glad that I did.
Dancing Argentine Tango fits seamlessly into a healthy lifestyle. The dance integrates quality, attention, and relaxation. The beautiful music that is played stimulates the brain, and we are able to experience physical fitness and intimate social interaction on a level that many of us don’t experience in a day-to-day setting. As someone who has been dancing for years, Michael says that his love and appreciation of the dance continues to enrich and to grow as the years go by and as his experience with the dance continues to mature.
I may not be prepared to make my debut on Dancing With the Stars, but I did leave my class at Tango Northside feeling a litle healthier and a little happier. If you’re interested in seeing what it’s all about (which you absolutely should be,) sign up for the next Discover Argentine Tango: Build Your Foundation class session here. The next introductory session begins on March 5th, and if you register before March 1st, the class fee is only $5! (...and keep your eyes peeled, because Tango Northside offers free intro classes three times per year!)
If you are an experienced dancer, Tango for Milongueros may be for you, or check out their Third-Friday Milonga on February 15th. Private lessons are also offered here.