Before you get all excited, this isn’t some steamy Beiruti version of the seminal Bertolucci film. It is, however, a post about tango.
If you’ve ever seen me on a dancefloor, you might be confused as to why I’m writing about anything involving dance. I usually shuffle around like a middle-aged man at a wedding, and occasionally bust out moves with names like The Handbrake, The Shark Attack and the Leg Pump. You can imagine the horror.
But about a year ago, I discovered the tango scene in Lebanon. Well, I say discovered, it was more a case of being bored to death about tango by one of my close friends who’s an enthusiast. He bored me sufficiently that I acquiesced to checking out a tango night. And it was mesmerizing.
I mean this wasn’t my first foray into the underground of dancing in Lebanon. I’d been to salsa nights in the activities room at Green Valley in Mansourieh, of all places. A sweaty room packed full of salsa dancers, none of whom smoke or drink. It’s like the salsa Olympics. And it has a certain escapist quality. You could be forgiven for thinking you’re in a sweaty room in Havana. So much so, that after having mustered up some Dutch courage, I improvised a few steps myself.
Going to my first tango night at Walimat Warde had that same escapist effect. Needless to say I didn’t even attempt to dance. Tango is an altogether different beast to anything I’d seen. It’s so meticulous and beautiful. I would never have dreamt of stepping out into the dancing crowd without a lesson or two. But sitting there and watching it, and letting my mind drift to somewhere altogether more exotic than a hotel bar in Hamra was priceless.
Since then, I’ve popped by to tango nights in St Georges Hotel and at Art Lounge. And I always have that same feeling. It’s also pretty interesting to see the community that has formed around it. My friend tells me that in 10 years, they’ve gone form a handful of people to 120.
Being a monumental geek, I decided to read up about tango. I found out some surprising things, like the Finns are so into tango that they have their own style. I also found out that Beirut is pretty big on the tango festival circuit. Which brings me neatly to the fact that the 3rd Beirut Tango Festival is starting soon.
This year, there are 300 participants from 35 countries. Which is pretty damn cool. The bit I’m looking forward to the most is the opening concert and show at Music Hall on April 27th. A chance to watch three world class couples, including festival organizer Mazen Kiwan and the Silencio Orchestra.
After the concert itself, there are a few days of milongas where these guys dance for hours and hours. I’ve never seen people sweat so much in my life. You’d think they were operating heavy machinery in the desert. But it’s really something that shouldn’t be missed. If you want to travel in April but don’t fancy getting on a plane, get a concert ticket and head down to Music Hall on the 27th.
For more information check out “Noche Del Tango Negro at Music Hall” on Facebook.