Dance teacher Shahin Medghalchi explains that the heart of Argentine tango is in its embrace. With a proper embrace, the two dance partners form a carpa (tent) and the world melts away.
Medghalchi has taught private lessons in Taos for the past eight years, and is now opening her own Taos studio. In addition, Medghalchi will be hosting a series of milongas (public tango dances) at her studio and in the community.
Thursday (Feb. 22) from 7-10 p.m. Medghalchi invites her dance students from all over northern New Mexico to come to Taos for a milonga. Music for the dance will be provided by Alejandro Ziegler Tango Quartet, an accomplished group of musicians from Argentina. It's all happening at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west.
Medghalchi has studied the art of dance since the age of five and tango since the mid-1990s. She said she studied tango because "I found the dance intriguing, soulful, mysterious. The connection that comes in tango is very profound. When you hold someone in your arms and move with that someone, the other world doesn't exist.... It's the most psychological and passionate dance in my opinion."
The history of tango goes back to the 1800s, explained Medghalchi, referring to a piece written by Susan August Brown, titled "Argentine Tango: A Brief History." Brown is a tango teacher from Texas and her essay can be found at tejastango.com/tango_history.html.
In her essay, Brown discusses how tango developed in the mid-1800s when African people were brought to Argentina as slaves. The word "tango" was used to mean the place where Africans came together to dance. The tango, as it is known today, came from mixing Argentine milonga music (a fast polka) and the rhythms of Africa in the poor barrios of Buenos Aires.
"Although high society looked down upon the activities in the barrios, well-heeled sons of the porteño oligarchy were not averse to slumming," wrote Brown. "Eventually, everyone found out about the tango and, by the beginning of the 20th century, the tango, as both a dance and as an embryonic form of popular music, had established a firm foothold in the fast-expanding city of its birth."
From there, Brown says, tango spread internationally in the early 1900s when the sons of rich Argentine families traveled to Paris and shared the dance. After experiencing a Golden Era in the 1930s, Brown says tango went underground during the rock-and-roll era until the mid-1980s when the stage show, "Tango Argentino," opened in Paris, and inspired a revival of tango across the world.
Medghalchi identified three types of tango: international, American and Argentine. However, she says the mother of them all is Argentine tango.
"The staged tango is different than salon or social floor dancing. Social floor dancing is more restricted and internal. The big steps are made for the stage, for the show. Social floor dancing is for connecting with partners of any gender," said Medghalchi. "On the social floor, there shouldn't be any showing off. Dancing in that embrace makes two people become one in harmony and movement. It's all about energy."
According to her website, thetangohousesf.com, Medghalchi's area of expertise is social floor technique, "teaching people to enjoy dancing at milongas while maintaining a harmonious flow with other couples on the floor."
"This includes creativity, interpretation of the music, connection to one's center, one's partner, and to the music. Her approach facilitates confidence in and enjoyment of tango dancing," the website statement continues. "She brings elegance to tango and encourages the students to follow the same path. Extremely detail-oriented, her lessons are engaging and technical."
Medghalchi runs the Tango House of Santa Fe, which has received the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Best of Santa Fe awards for dance instruction. For more information about Medghalchi's classes, workshops and milongas, visit thetangohousesf.com.
The Alejandro Ziegler Tango Quartet was formed in 2008 in Argentina. The quartet plays regularly in Buenos Aires and has toured extensively in Europe and North America.
"Tango music is natural to me," Ziegler told Tempo. "Being born and raised in Buenos Aires, where I still live, is of course a big part of the inspiration as this music represents the city where I come from and its culture."
Ziegler said he has performed many times in Albuquerque, but this will be his first time coming to Taos.
"We will be presenting a new CD that's called 'Live Around the World,' that was recorded while touring different countries both in Europe and North America and reflects the ambience of the milongas in Buenos Aires," said Ziegler.
The quartet is inspired by the golden age of tango orchestras and tries to strike a balance between a traditional sound and contemporary expression of the unique musical style. For more information on the Alejandro Ziegler Tango Quartet, visit zieglertango.com/en.
Tickets for the concert and milonga are $10. For more information, call (575) 758-1900 or visit taosmesabrewing.com.