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Professor travels to China with tango performance group



Professor Alfredo Minetti grew up with tango music.

It was the music that constantly played on the record players in Uruguay and Argentina where he was raised.

Now, as both a musician and anthropologist, Minetti is traveling in China and touring with a creative group called This is Tango Now.

Composed of six dancers, four musicians and a light designer, the group is now performing stage tango shows in about 30 different cities in China.

They all convened in Boston for their final practice and traveled to China on Dec. 7.

But their show isn’t the typical tango performance, Minetti said.

The group focuses on presenting a narrative and performs what Minetti calls tango theater.

“As an anthropologist, I am interested in narratives with some kind of social relevance,” Minetti said. “We want to entertain but want to deal with a particular issue, a particular message.”

That commitment to a narrative is what drew Chinese agents to book the group in various venues around the country.

After traveling extensively within the United States, China is the group’s first stop abroad.

“I really hope the Chinese audience will understand the power of tango in terms of being a great platform to tell stories, to entertain but really to make people think,” Minetti said.

Although the group wants to provide entertainment, they also want to provide something with content that people can take something from, he added.

Tango itself is something people can learn from. It’s a global phenomenon that grabs people’s attention, Minetti said.

Tango began in Argentina and Uruguay around the 1890s from a large group of immigrants.

The dance and music quickly spread to Europe and is now performed and danced worldwide.

“You have to wonder what it is about tango that creates that kind of passion,” Minetti said. “I think it’s a really complex answer, and there’s not one single answer that accounts for tango around the world.”

In Bloomington alone, there are multiple tango groups, the largest of which is the Bloomington Argentine Tango Organization.

The group was founded in 2006 by Amaury de Sigueira, who moved to Bloomington in 2005.

Founding the group, he said, was his way of giving back to the Bloomington community and sharing something he loved.

De Sigueira doesn’t consider himself to be an instructor but instead just an experienced dancer.

When the group meets twice a week, he offers tips and tries to help the dancers with difficulties they might be having.

“I found over the years that the framework of instructor-student doesn’t really help much,” he said.

Tango doesn’t have any structured steps, so there is nothing de Sigueira can teach the beginners in the class, he said.

“Argentine tango is more like an afternoon tea,” he said. “You don’t go there to dance. You go there to listen to the music, drink some wine and talk with friends. If you like the song that is playing, you dance.”

Learning tango is all about learning how to let go and move with a partner to the tempo and rhythm of the music, he said.

Argentina and other South American countries have tango milongas all over the city. This cultural tradition has ingrained tango into the culture.

In Bloomington, the community has been receptive to tango dancing more than some other communities in the area, de Sigueira said.

“There’s a lot of curiosity to try something new,” he said. “The people here are phenomenal. They’re so open, interesting and willing to look at a different art form and appreciate.”

In countries such as the United States and China, people are taught that being vulnerable is a negative thing, Minetti said.

In tango, embracing a stranger and sharing emotions with them is a way for people to experience vulnerability and one of the main attractions to the dance.

“When you let go and share that with someone, it can be frightening, but many people are rewarded from that,” Minetti said.

Taking This is Tango Now to a country such as China is a way to keep the tango community alive around the world.

“Tango creates a new emotional landscape,” Minetti said. “Being vulnerable leads to other things — relating to people, being more compassionate. It helps establish a more emotional and rational connection that normally you don’t when you’re holding back too much.”

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