Cats ‘tangoed’ up

Kelley Hungerford. The Linfield Activities Board takes students all across Portland to experience exotic cuisines at events such as the Taste of Greece and the Taste of Morocco. But now LAB is bringing a bite of Argentina to Linfield with a little taste of tango.
Argentine tango instructors Eric Lindgren and Rebecca Rorick Smith will teach a three-week series of the dance. The first session met Oct. 1.
Originally from McMinnville, Smith said she contacted last year’s LAB HOP chair about teaching at Linfield. Smith and Lindgren taught a similar tango series last spring.
“Last year was really successful and a lot of fun, and we just want to keep offering it to the students,” Smith said.
Junior Lauren Funtanilla, LAB cultural events chair, said that tango fits better as a cultural event than a HOP event, so she included it in her budget for this year.
“I actually never personally worked with Rebecca, but I heard that she was really good and worked well with the students,” she said.
Funtanilla said she anticipates plenty of involvement in the lessons. In fact, she changed the time from 7 p.m. to 7:30 because she received e-mails from freshmen who were concerned that the tango events conflicted with their Colloquium classes.
The tango series is also structured a bit differently this year.
In the spring, Smith and Lindgren had only an hour to teach. Now, they have two: the first for a lesson, the second for open practice.
“My partner and I really love working with college-aged students,” Smith said. “It’s something that we particularly enjoy because of the freshness of the age group and also their learning curves.”
Smith has another connection with college students: She picked up the dance when she was in school.
“I saw a demo with some teachers at the University of Oregon, and I just knew right away that it was a dance I wanted to do,” she said.
Since her 1999 encounter, Smith has taught in locations across the Northwest and the world, including India, England and Canada. She also has been to Argentina to perfect her tango technique.
Lindgren moved to Buenos Aires shortly after his introduction to tango and studied there for a year. He has taught in New York and Rhode Island since then and has visited Buenos Aires sporadically since he left.
The two have been teaching together since 1999.
The Linfield lessons will cover tango and social dance fundamentals, such as how to ask people to dance and the concept of connection.Connection is key to dancing because it’s how dancers communicate witch each other.
“In Argentine tango, everything is improv, so you start learning how to communicate to improv,” Smith said.
One of the most magical and complex aspects about tango, she said, is the lack of a basic step. This makes connection and form essential to the dance.
“There’s a lot of physics in the form,” Smith said, adding that she and Lindgren will be teaching open-embrace connection and have students rotate partners throughout the lesson to familiarize them with a social-dance setting.
Smith, who also teaches with Lindgren at Portland State University and area high schools, said the goal is to make students feel comfortable with the dance so that they will become involved in Portland’s large tango dance scene.
“The population of young people in tango communities in Oregon is really high, which is really exciting because it’s growing so much,” she said. “There’s no other social dance form that captures so much passion and intensity.”
Smith said this intensity allows for great emotional range
“It can be very raw, and it can be very subtle, and it’s really a very versatile, expressive medium for people,” she said. “It’s very powerful. It has a lot of potency and connection, and it’s very beautiful and very captivating to watch.”
But Lindgren said students shouldn’t be nervous about learning the dance.
“I actually think tango draws in a lot of shy boys,” he said. “In tango, you can distract yourself a little bit with the learning process. I know a lot of people who start dancing because they were social recluses.”
Lindgren adds that because dance isn’t verbally communicated, stumbling through small talk isn’t usually a problem.
“You get a sense of the potential and the social interaction in a dance context that you don’t get every day,” Smith said. “It’s really unique and a blast.”
Lindgren and Smith will return Oct. 8 and 15 to teach more tango. Grab your dancing shoes and meet them at 7:30 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room in the Ted Wilson Gymnasium.

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