Watch the stars or learn the steps yourself this weekend in Prague
The music! The moves! Tango has an allure all its own, and its sensuality and mystery come to life this weekend at Tango Alchemie, an Argentine tango festival.
“Something happens with tango — it’s a multilayered exercise in the expansion of human potential,” says Jenne Magno, organizer of the event.
Heavy-sounding stuff, but, on the dance floor, tango fans tend to be more down-to-earth, a mixed bunch made up of all ages, cultures and backgrounds. It’s this cross-cultural aspect of the dance that Magno plans to emphasize.
“Communities form around tango,” she says. “They are made up of different people and generations, a particular universe that is created. It gives people energy, it’s joyful and opens possibilities that people didn’t know they had.”
Magno is also eager to dispel some of the myths about tango.
“Argentine tango is not the rose in the teeth, head-slashing, ballroom type of dance,” she says. “It’s a more natural, more intimate dance that has to do with the enjoyment of the dance.”
With tango growing as an international phenomenon, Magno has some specific goals in mind for a festival in the Golden City. “The sole purpose is for people all around the world to meet, enjoy Prague and be inspired by the dance,” she says. “We also want to connect local people to what’s happening.”
Magno herself has been dancing tango for nine years, and dates the tango community in Prague back to roughly 2000. She put on her first festival last year, and, even though it was only advertised for about six weeks, about 100 people attended the classes, nearly 300 came to the performances, and the participants included people from 24 different countries. The festival is sponsored by the nonprofit group Pramení o.p.s., in partnership with other tango organizers and the Embassy of Argentina in the Czech Republic. Magno hopes the festival will bolster the local group of dedicated dancers, as well as offer new opportunities to “tango tourists.”
“We are importing inspiration to the scene,” she says. “People from outside can come and get turned on by the atmosphere here and the specific flavor of Prague tango.”
And what is the flavor of Prague tango?
“To my mind, people who are dancing in Prague are such a varied group,” she says. “The sense of community and connectedness is very strong, and adds another dimension. Plus we have one of the most incredible cities in terms of venues and elegance.”
The city’s history also provided inspiration for the festival. “I believe tango is an exercise in perfect human alchemy,” Magno says. She likens the four stages of alchemy to the four stages of tango.
“Dissolution happens in the first moment of the dance, coming into contact with your partner; all things unnecessary to the moment should fall away,” she explains. “Purification is when the element is simplified — masculine and feminine become masculine and feminine. Unification is when there’s a real connection between the dancing couple: One doesn’t feel like there are two people. And transformation is the space where there’s attainment. By the time you are there, it’s not an explainable phenomenon.”
It’s this alchemical spark, combined with the elegance and enjoyment of the dance, that will be on display in venues throughout the city. The highlights will be the evening performances called milongas, the Argentine term for the places where people come together to dance tango. For that, the organizers have brought in an excellent lineup of both musicians and dancers.
“Color Tango from Buenos Aries is one of the most well-known and beloved orchestras,” says Magno. “They’ll be doing a seminar Thursday, when the orchestra will play and talk about the evolution of tango.”
Sin Rumbo, a well-regarded local tango group, will be playing Thursday evening. And anyone who wants to see how the professionals do it should check out the milongas Friday and Saturday evenings. “The show dancing is definitely worth it,” Magno says.
If all this tango talk has you itching to strap on your own dancing shoes, there are two classes for beginners, as well as more advanced sessions taught by instructors from around the globe. And there will be plenty of opportunities to tango once the festival is over. Magno says there are two milongas a week in Prague, and in the summer dance parties will be held on the weekends as well.
If you haven’t seen firsthand what all the excitement is about, Tango Alchemie offers a great chance to find out.
“Argentine tango has become an explosive phenomenon internationally,” Magno notes. “So there’s obviously something extremely appealing, and it’s worthwhile to come and check it out.”