A bit of Buenos Aires in the heart of Astoria
by Lisa A. Fraser
Feb 08, 2012 | 26698 views | 1 1 comments | 444 444 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dancer Mariana Fresno (right) leads the Astoria Tango Club every Sunday.
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As Valentine’s Day approaches, if you’re still stumped on what to do, why not get physically closer to your partner? No, it’s not what you think. We’re talking about a different kind of physical close – the kind that comes from dancing, to be more specific, tango dancing.

It seems like the perfect activity to go along with the special revved up love holiday. Filled with passion and intimacy, the dance is one that many could learn the basics to, while possibly learning a bit about each other in the process.

In the heart of Astoria, tango lovers and novices can experience a bit of Argentina while learning the dance in a noncompetitive, friendly atmosphere. The Astoria Tango Club, a relatively new club which got its start last November, offers easy, fun-filled lessons for couples, families and individuals in an intimate setting.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, as the lights went on and the music began its course, about two dozen people stepped in rhythm to the classic Buenos Aires sounds inside the Centro Espanol de Nueva York on Broadway and Steinway in Astoria.

Led by Mariana Fresno, a professional tango dancer by way of Buenos Aires, the dance lesson and practice happens every Sunday from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. followed by a dinner and wine.

The gathering of novice and advanced dancers, families and couples, is a journey through time and place, reminiscent of a time in Buenos Aires when families got together with friends to eat dinner, drink wine and dance in a simple setting.

“It reminds me of when I was living in Buenos Aires,” said Fresno, who has been a tango dancer for almost 20 years.

The large room – equipped with a stage and filled with tables and chairs for the after-class gathering – evokes a large ballroom feel that puts a dancer in the mood and mindset of a typical tango soiree.

“It’s an absolutely different setting than any other tango place in the city,” she said. “Most of the places are studios, they have a studio feel but here there is that friendly, restaurant feel.”

She noted that the club is actually one of the biggest rooms of tango places in New York because of the setting. “It’s not a city style, it’s a neighborhood style,” she said.

Many people who are part of the club are from Astoria, other parts of Queens, Manhattan and even New Jersey, like Margarita Shefson, the club’s communications person.

“It’s only about a half hour away, the same time it would take me to get to the city,” she said. “The atmosphere is so friendly and it’s great.”

“It’s good because many people here don’t even know it exists so when they find out they say, ‘oh I live just two blocks away,’” Fresno said.

The class is set up so that beginners and advanced dancers can work together. Every week beginners can attend without feeling like they missed out on a first lesson because Fresno often goes over the basic steps.

“We always start from the very beginning because there are always new people coming,” Fresno said.

The night always starts off with a class, a tango dance session, then dinner, drinks and mingling.

“It’s a very social club atmosphere, you get to make friends and meet people from the neighborhood,” she added.

Currently about 30 people are part of the group, and it is still building membership. The price to attend one class is $10 and group members don’t have to attend every week. Fresno urges residents to come out and try it one week.

“Tango is something that everybody could dance, even though it’s not so easy to learn,” Fresno said. “Everybody could dance it from children to elderly. And it attaches people to the culture from which it came.”

“The important part of the tango is that it’s a close dance, the embrace is the closest embrace in dancing,” she added. “It’s sensual and intimate but it’s subtle. I think that’s why a lot of people are attracted to it, you’re not moving that much compared to other dances but you’re still saying a lot.”

For more information on the Astoria Tango Club, visit thetangofactory.com.The club meets every Sunday at 6:00 p.m. at 41-01 Broadway.

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