Tango Porteño is the newly found partnership between Skylar Windham, a young tango enthusiast, and Barbara Anne Bauer, a seasoned tanguera. The two strive to build an Argentine tango community on the Southern Oregon Coast.
“I started giving tango lessons in May this year, on the stone pavement in front of the Capella by the Sea in Azalea Park, and the response was overwhelming,” Windham said.
By the end of May, he met Bauer, another tango addict with a desire to bring the dance to the people. The result of their meeting has been their teaching regular classes from 5:30 to 7 p.m. every Friday.
“We intend to keep the beginner‘s course open for everyone, on a drop-in basis. We won’t be charging much for that class, just $5 per one-and-a-half hours, to keep it accessible for just about everyone,” Windham said.
Both teachers have a clear vision of where they want to go with their project.
“Brookings has a wonderful atmosphere, and with the port, it’s just the perfect setting for tango,” Bauer said. “Plus, Oregon already has a lot of tango inland, so we have a great opportunity to connect with other communities, invite them over, especially in the summer, when their places get too hot to dance, and we’ll experience a wide variety of different styles and dancers right here in our own town.”
Windham summarizes his objective simply, “When I returned from Argentina, I knew I didn’t want to live without tango. So I just had to make it happen here.”
Windham caught the tango fever while on a student exchange in the heartland of Argentina.
“A friend of mine took me to a milonga (a social dance event) one night, and all I knew after that was, ‘I must learn this,’” Windham said. “I spent seven days a week taking classes with all the wonderful maestros, and going to dances in the evening. My Spanish took care of itself.“
Bauer was introduced to tango in Hamburg, Germany.
“I had a friend who wanted to drag me to one of their social dances, a milonga, for a long, long time,” Bauer said. “But I was stubborn. I had hated ballroom lessons and, besides, I was managing, leading teams, so learning to follow just anyone was totally out of the question.”
But one night, she and her friend were marooned at a particularly grungy short-film-fest after-party, and that’s when Barbara’s friend brought up the milonga once more.
“I remember consenting casually, and thinking, ‘yeah, I’ll just drop her off and vanish.’ Boy, was I in for a surprise!”
Bauer spent all night gaping at the dancers.
“I couldn‘t figure out what they were doing, but they were obviously enjoying themselves very much,” Bauer said. “And I wanted that. I realized, I wanted that more than a lot of things I’d thought I wanted.”
Exactly what makes the Argentine tango so irresistible is hard to grasp from the outside, the instructors said. It often looks too erotic to be participating, and tango has been dubbed “the vertical expression of a horizontal desire” – that is, by outsiders.
Once inside the tango, it’s all about awareness, balance, precision, and polarity. It is more akin to martial arts than to merengue, the instructors explained.
Tango has an inner identity, without which its intensity would not be possible. Both dancers, leader and follower, are utterly concentrated, for they engage in a purely improvised movement, the instructors said. Both are completely aware of the other, of their own energy, of music, time and space. And then, magic happens. This inspired companionship lasts for about three minutes – as long as the song they’re dancing to lasts – and then they let go of each other, no questions asked, no offense taken, Windham and Bauer said, describing the dance.
Traditionally, two dancers will engage in a tanda of mutual dances – a tanda, being three to four pieces of music similar in taste and tempo. It is customary for the leaders to politely guide the followers to the place where they have picked them up, and then after a short pause, pick out a new dancer for the next tanda.
The tango derives much of its appeal from the long-held customs of switching partners all the time. It is an improvisational dance, so the dancer will profit immensely from not dancing all the time with a tried-and-true partner, who knows the pattern of steps by heart and anticipates them, the instructor said.
Dancing with all the different people who come to a milong creates a social environment, and gives the dancers all sorts of surprises, they said.
Developed in Buenos Aires around 1900, the tango has served thousands of immigrants to communicate with others, and to gain respect and self-appreciation. In that, it is modern, and American.
“Once you know how to tango, you‘re never far from a close embrace, no matter where in the world you are,” Bauer said. “Whether you’re in Germany, Italy, Japan, Argentina … or in Brookings.”
Windham added, “We believe Brookings has got what it takes to become a great tango town. We’ve got a lot of fun events in the pipeline, and we want everyone to drop by our beginner’s class and experience the Tango firsthand.”