A Holiday for Dancing: The Philadelphia International Tango Festival

Dancers: Javier Antar & Kara Wenham Photo by Gotham Fotografia

Dancers: Javier Antar & Kara Wenham
Photo by Gotham Fotografia

by Chrysta Brown for The Dance Journal

Have you made plans for Memorial Day yet?  Maybe you’re thinking of a day trip to the shore, a backyard barbecue, or just taking a day off.   Here’s a suggestion: How about a little dancing?  Philadelphia based tango dancer, Meredith Klein, wants you to make tango a  new holiday tradition by coming to The Philadelphia International Tango Festival.

Tango is a social dance with roots in Argentina and Uruguay.   When asked about what draws her to this particular dance form, Klein said that she was attracted to the improvisational nature of tango. “Sometimes you don’t even know what foot you’re going to start on.”    Tango is about connecting with people, spaces, and music in completely natural and spontaneous ways.  Travel appeals to tango dancers and this can lead to instances in which two partners do not even speak the same language.  “The only talking that happens is through this shared language of tango.” Klein explained.  “You have to be completely in the moment.”

2014 marks the fourth year for the Philadelphia International Tango Festival and Klein has been working all year to make it bigger and better than before.  For the first time, the festival will be split between the Ruba Club and the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School, which Klein directs. The festival will host four world renowned tango couples who will be teaching over thirty workshops and performing at social dance events.  Among these instructors is Silvina Valz.  Her performance in the film Fermin received great reviews at the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

The Tango Festival is almost like a family reunion for tango dancers.  It is highly anticipated not only by the Philadelphia community, but tango enthusiasts all over the world.  The festival is expecting dancers from twenty different states and five countries.  While the global training and knowledge of other attendees can seem intimidating there is room for people with no experience at all.  This year’s festival will include an Absolute Beginner Track.  The workshop will be taught by Adam Hoopengardner & Ciko Tanik.  Klein describes the two instructors as funny and charismatic, but most of all excellent teachers.

But what is Memorial Day weekend without a party?  Imagine spending every night of the holiday weekend under a glowing canopy of lights surrounded by tango music and dancers from different countries, skill levels, and backgrounds.  Each evening will conclude with  social dancing at the Ruba Club, which presents a fun opportunity to practice the techniques from the workshops and make new friends.  Most of all, it is a literal chance to dance the night away.

There’s a gorgeous venue, a wide range of classes with talented instructors, and advanced dancers available to partner so don’t have to be afraid of going by yourself.   “I want people to walk away with the amazing possibilities of dancing tango,” Klein dreams.  While a barbecue might be nice, The Philadelphia Tango Festival just might spark something that you’ll want to do for much longer than a weekend.

The Philadelphia International Tango Festival takes place   May 23-26, 2014.  The Ruba Club is located at 414 Green Street, and the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School is located at 2030 Frankford Ave.  Passes will not be available at the door so pre-registration is required.  Visit http://philadelphiatangofestival.com/registration.html for pricing options and more information.