Spanish classes learn to tango

By Julie Barzilay

“Now go up to your partner and give them a big birthday hug.”

So said Angel Echeverria, the Argentine tango teacher instructing Spanish teacher Roser Gelida’s second period Spanish IV class on April 17. Such an embrace makes for the perfect stance to grip one’s partner and tango the night away – or second period, anyway.

Years ago, Spanish teacher Margot Riemer danced her way into the arms of love when she met her husband at a 10-day Argentine tango workshop in Montreal.

Two weeks ago, Spanish IV students awkwardly embraced and glided across the floor of the dance studio or Feldman-Horn gallery in an attempt to mirror the “smooth, flexible dance” that Riemer is passionate about sharing with her students.

“The Tango Room Dance Center” tango instructors Angel and Julie Echeverria as well as Brian Nguyen demonstrated the ins and outs of the Argentine tango for one class period as Riemer and Spanish teacher Roser Gelida’s students donned high heels or formal shoes and grooved to Argentine tunes. These teachers hold regular classes at the studio in Sherman Oaks.

In the past, Riemer and Gelida used an instructional video and Riemer’s own expertise to teach a bit of tango when the tango came up in Chapter 6 of the class’s textbook. Students were often not as engaged with the video, and found the steps difficult to keep up with.

“In the classroom, the looks of horror were palpable,” Riemer laughed.

She said students always used to forget to bring proper footwear as well. It is much better with proper shoes on a smooth floor in a more formal setting, she feels.

“It’s one thing to read about it in a book or hear a teacher say something,” she said. “But to learn through dance – to lead and to follow – it is a connection with a culture you can’t make any other way.”