Tango, a latin dance form where the pauses… are as important as the movement is something I only know from the movies, (I recommend “Asasination Tango” with Robert Duval), but it’s not something you come across here in Allandale. So when I learned that Laura Pelligrino, a tango dancer, teacher, and professional musician was moving into the neighborhood I had to satisfy my curiosity. Laura and her dance partner Ector Gutierrez added interest to the Allandale Masquerade Ball by performing two dances. We visited last week where I was able to learn more about what it takes to tango.
How would you characterize tango as a dance form?
First off, it is a socially improvised dance with no real “basic”. I often compare learning it to a foreign language. You learn vocabulary, good technique, some phrases will be common but ultimately , with some proficiency you will put it together yourself in whatever way you choose to best express yourself. Every time you dance, and every partner you dance with makes it different. Its highly analytical, and extremely expressive. In D.C. there was a very large number of NASA scientists and people in quantitative jobs from the
World Bank that danced Tango. Its not an easy dance but is very consuming as a result and how good you get and how fast really ultimately depends on how much time you give it.
How did you get into Tango?
I had just moved to Baltimore to start a new job. I didn’t know anyone and one of the first nights I was there I rented some foreign films. I have traveled a number of places, and speak French, Spanish and some Italian so it’s not unusual for me to pick up a foreign film. In this case, I rented a movie that had a tango scene in it and it really caught my attention. I immediately researched places to take lessons in Baltimore and 17 of the first 21 nights I danced Tango.
Where do you find Tango in a City?
It is something that is usually under the radar but like everything else these days you can easily hook up with tango groups on the Internet. You will find who and where lessons are being offered, a calendar of tango events, and information about upcoming Milongas (tango dance events). In Austin there is the upcoming Fandango de Tango festival that will take place over the Thanksgiving holidays and will include classes, Milongas and performances by a number of tango experts.
Where in the United States is Tango most popular?
I would say New York, San Francisco and Portland. Believe it or not Portland has one of the highest per capita concentrations of tango dancers in the country.
What about Austin?
I’m guessing there are around 100 or 120 people that dance Tango in Austin and about the same number in Houston. Here in Austin, every Friday there is a Practica at UT’s Student Union and a Milonga once a month. You’ll also find Tango events at La Copa and Lamberts. Glover Gill’s Tango Orchestra plays most Thursdays at Lamberts.
Where do you find Tango Lessons in Austin?
I teach both private and group lessons. I rent space at a couple of places in town: Nia Space on South Congress and at Casa de Luz on Toomey Rd. Esquina de Tango on the east side is another popular place
for classes. Group lessons are typically $10 to $15. Private lessons are $65.
I know you’ve lived in Austin off and on. How is it you ended back here?
I consider Austin home as I am a UT graduate and have spent more time here than anywhere else in particular. After leaving the full-time job that took me to Baltimore I returned to playing live music for about a year before ultimately deciding to sell my house and get right to the heart of Tango in Buenos Aires. Ten days before I left the country I was approached by a producer about making a record. I had already sold
my house to leave. The result was the producer came to Buenos Aires to initiate recording and I made 2 trips to New York. In the end, Austin, the city where I played music full time in the early 90’s and where I had the strongest musical ties, made the most sense. It’s also the only city in the U.S. I truly miss when I’m away – that and TexMex.
I know you are just now moving into your house here in Allandale. How did you end up in Allandale?
Allandale was central. It was a beautiful old Austin neighborhood with big trees and nice yards and I had known it a very long time. It seemed the right place.
Welcome Laura to the neighborhood. If you’re interested in finding out more about Tango in Austin, you can email her at: laurapellegrino [Email address: laurapellegrino #AT# earthlink.net - replace #AT# with @ ].