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Katie Carroll: Learning how to tango

At the Karma Bar & Wine Lounge
EVALUNA

Upcoming Salsa Lesson

What: Free Salsa Lesson with Eva Luna

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27

Where: Karma Wine Bar & Lounge, 737 Lincoln Ave.

Donations gratefully accepted

— “Shall We Dance,” “Strictly Ballroom,” “Take the Lead” and “Mad Hot Ballroom.” What could you and Antonio Banderas, small schoolchildren and Richard Gere have in common? Salsa. And tango.

Stream or rent any of those DVDs on Netflix for inspiration, and then take your favorite dance partner down to the Karma Wine Bar & Lounge because every Friday night through the end of February, it’s tango time.

Curious about the dynamics of a group salsa-tango lesson as much as learning how to dance, I attended last week’s class. Karma’s staircase strategically splits the cellar into two parts — the bar area with high tops and the sofa lounge. I naturally had arrived early to fortify myself with cheese and tannins and watched the bartenders clear the high tops to the side at exactly 8 p.m. to make room for the dancing.



The lesson started a little after 8 p.m. — all the better for imbibing to rid yourself (or at least this writer) of any inhibitions. In fact, I wholeheartedly recommend the Conn Creek for your pre-dance glass – smooth and not too dry.

Eva Luna is the evening’s luminary and instructor. She is incredibly charismatic and talented, so even if you sat on the other side of the wine cellar and tried to hide out, it was impossible. Her energy, and of course, selected tango music, emanated throughout the entire bar. Some of that was the newcomers’ nervous energy, though, and Eva was well aware of it.



Eva started the tango lesson by putting the group in a circle, a welcoming environment for those who might have had the jitters or were sans partners. “It’s all about the steps,” she said, and had everyone practice on their own.

Last Friday night, it was pretty crowded, so as most people traded awkward grins and tried to avoid becoming human bumper cars, we all started to relax.  

After our warmup, I channeled my inner Jennifer Grey while we partnered up. By that I mean, Jennifer Grey post-watermelon, pre-lift.

Eva instructed us to keep our arms “rigid” to create a proper frame, and I could not help but be reminded of “This is your dance space. This is my dance space.” Eva and some of her star tango regulars cruised the room helping us neophytes navigate the steps — and let me emphasize, they were tiny steps in the packed space. Eva tactfully cut in on couples for a demo or two before pulling the group back together for the next crucial element of tango — a firm hand.

“Boys! You must push and pull the girls with your hand on their back. It is your job to lead the woman.” Eva’s instructions were clear — in a dance of romance, there is no room for equality politics.

After Eva interrupted me and my partner to show him how to artfully and gracefully guide me, we became so confident that I even closed my eyes for part of the tango. Surprisingly, we had only one tripping mishap (less than the rest of the night) and did not bump into a single other couple during my blind dancing experiment. Little did I know that tango is also a trust exercise.

Once most partners became confident with the tango, Eva switched to the salsa for the last third of the evening. It was open season on the dance floor then — people integrated their new tango steps with salsa, and those who perhaps did not “hydrate” enough got a few more rounds at the bar to revel in their new skills.

I did see that plenty of ladies went stag and had a blast with the gals, and there was a great mix of tourists and locals in the room. Of course, the tango is one of the most romantic dances in existence. Here’s one tip so you can cajole your favorite gentleman — Arnold Schwarzenegger knows how to tango, too.


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