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If You Can Walk, You Can Tango by Roseanney Liu

26 I SAN PEDRO TODAY I JANUARY 2016

Annie Appel and Silvia Askenazi at the front entrance to Tango San Pedro on 6th Street. (photo: John Mattera)

“Have a love affair in 3 minutes, “ says Silvia Askenazi. Thus the co-proprietor and lead instructor of Tango San Pedro describes what this social dance is about – an intimate series of movements that are technical yet offer room for improvisation and creativity; a brief few minutes during which partners give in to the music and bare their souls. Often thought of as a sensual Latin dance, many don’t realize just how technical tango is, with several variations of “basic steps” that only highly consistent practicas can enable a beginner to master. Allowing trust and continual negotiation of steps to flow between partners are also implicit in this dance. “It’s a constant conversation [between the partners],” expands Askenazi’s business partner and studio co-proprietor Annie Appel. “A misconception is the woman is an object that does whatever the male partner commands, but it’s not that way… it’s more of a dialogue, a collaboration.” A native of Argentina who, in 2005, wanted to dedicate more time to the dance and become more than a tango aficionado, Askenazi notes other preconceived notions about this revered art form. “The rose in the mouth thing… that’s something people dancing [authentic] tango just don’t do. There’s also the misconception that, for tango, one needs to dress in high heels with a flashy, high-slit dress. That’s not a mandatory thing either.” Housed in Gallery 381 on 6th Street in downtown San Pedro, Askenazi and Appel’s studio has been sharing the passion and community of tango with locals as well as those that travel from other parts of L.A. since 2009. Appel’s promotional and marketing savvy has even brought customers from other countries who got wind of Tango San Pedro being

one of the best venues in L.A. for lessons and milongas porteñas (dance gatherings from the port) – monthly Third Saturday soirees featuring wine, food, and those who share an affection for the “dance of love.” “In our tango community, we do things together and we often make plans to attend other milongas together,” shares Askenazi, who has trained and performed in many L.A. venues. One of the students, Bruce, is a commercial photographer whose 6’2” frame and a year’s worth of tango lessons under his belt were quite forgiving of my two left feet during a Monday evening class for beginners. “My girlfriend and I came here a year ago to take a first lesson. She didn’t care for it so much. I decided to stick with it and now I love it,” says Bruce, admitting the irony behind his aloof persona falling in love with a social dance. “I appreciate the structure [in tango], which is helpful for beginners.” Bruce agrees with what the studio proprietors say about the best tango students – that they are dedicated to practice, to learning, to the humanity that tango brings. Uniquely situated in Gallery 381, which was established in 2000 by Appel who has a photography and documentary filmmaking background, Tango San Pedro offers those coming to the Monday beginner and Tuesday intermediate classes and the milonga porteñas a visual feast, too. An exhibit featuring 80-year-old Santa Cruz resident Wilfred Sarr’s paintings depicting tango dancers opened on the First Thursday Art Walk last month and will show through January and February. “Where else can you tango and enjoy beautiful artwork as you dance and socialize?” quips Appel, who has also taught and coordinated her photography students’ debut at the

San Pedro Today - January 2016  

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