Tango club helps students step up their game


Fanny Trang

Avi Taicher, a PhD candidate in computational and applied mathematics, and his dancing partner Nicole Shutter, a first year geosciences student, instruct the Argentine tango classes at the Texas Union every Mondays at 6 p.m. Tango is a great way to escape the stress of classes for a fun and energized environment.

Rene Castro

Skirts are swaying and hips are moving as the UT Argentine Tango Club kicks off its classes for the fall semester.

Held Monday evenings, the club gives students the opportunity to learn and practice this sensual and popular dance with other students in a relaxed environment. Whether it is to build coordination, get some exercise or meet new people, many students are catching what co-director Abraham Taicher calls “The Tango Bug.” Taicher was drawn to Argentine tango after a summer trip to Buenos Aires. “I wanted to try something cultural,” Taicher said. He became discouraged, however, when he came back to the States and found himself to be the youngest in his tango class. Taicher then found a group of students who already knew how to dance tango, and he picked up the hobby immediately. “I want to create the situation I found,” said Taicher on learning to dance with other students.

Rather than focusing on showmanship as in choreographed tango, or on competition as in ballroom tango, Argentine tango focuses more on connecting with one’s partner and improvisation while dancing. “The focus is not on [movement] vocabulary, but on connection. [Tango] allows you to express yourself in real time,” Taicher said. Students who attend one of the Tango Club’s meetings learn new skills for one hour of class and then utilize what they’ve learned for one hour of “practica.” Students don’t need to worry about bringing a partner since it is typical to dance with someone new for every “Tanda” — or set of songs. Shy types need not worry. Taicher said, “Most people that go are shy. A lot of them are engineering or science majors.” Since there is a structure of social etiquette that includes how to ask someone to dance and how to be gracious after the dance, those who may deal awkwardly with social situations will conquer the dance floor.

Austin is home to a very flourishing tango scene, with many “milongas,” tango parties, happening all across the city every day of the week. A list of all tango events happening in Austin can be found at tangoaustin.org. The UT Argentine Tango Club prepares students for the more formal milongas where, even though everyone is supportive, people are expected to know how to dance. ”The Tango club is working toward bridging the UT and Austin tango community,” said theatre and dance sophomore Laura Rogers. She has been dancing tango since she was 10. “My mom didn’t have a babysitter, so I went with her to her tango classes.” Another benefit to learning tango on campus is cost. Students and faculty only have to pay $25 dues for a semester of classes rather than paying upwards to $100 for the same amount of instruction.

Apart from exercise and enjoyment, tango is also a great way to manage stress. A study done by Rosa Pinniger of the University of New England in Australia found that Argentine tango is effective in treating depression and functions as a stress manager much like meditation. “In learning tango movements you have to focus your attention and be completely in the present moment,” Pinniger said. “If people can experience freedom from their negative thoughts for just the three minutes of a tango dance, they’ll realize that such freedom is possible.” With these kinds of benefits it is no wonder that some students put down their pencils and put on their dancing shoes when they need a break from their course work. “I love it, I can’t explain it any other way,” Rogers said. ”Once you get started, you get roped in and you can’t get out.”

The UT Argentine Tango Club meets every Monday at 6 p.m. for classes followed by “Practica” at 7 p.m. The first two classes of the semester are free and attending a class for the first time free anytime of the year. The membership fee for students and staff is $25 and the general public membership fee is $45 for the semester.