NEW BRITAIN - A subculture that exists largely underground emerged in full force this weekend.
Many may not be aware of it, but Connecticut has a vibrant tango community. Those who are part of it joined other dance enthusiasts from across the world for the Alegria Mini-Tango Festival Friday through Sunday in New Britain.
Festival hostess was Muna Swairjo, president of the Hartford Argentine Tango Society, who owns The Garage Dance Studio on East Street.
“The tango scene in this state is not new, but it is underground,” Swairjo said at the Back Nine Tavern at Stanley Golf Course Sunday, where most of the festival events took place.
Classes were held in the tavern’s ballroom and in her dance studio during the daytime, while all three nights featured glamorous parties that lasted well into the early morning hours.
“It was full and beautiful,” Swairjo said of the second annual event. “It exceeded expectations.”
Her special guests were four famed tango instructors from Buenos Aires, Argentina, who taught tango classes and led social dances, also called milongas.
Analia Centurion joined dance partner Jermias Fors at the forefront of the festivities.
“This is my first experience at this festival,” Centurion said. “It’s a beautiful festival and a beautiful community.”
Her lessons were sprinkled with insight into Argentinean culture, soaked up by students and visitors alike.
“I love that people from other countries are interested in my culture,” she pointed out. “I teach not only the dance, also my country and history.”
The pair performed in elegant formal attire Saturday night to the sounds of the Tango Quartet from New York City. Over 130 visitors watched intently, many later joining the couple on the dance floor.
“I love the music and the improvisational qualities of tango,” Avon resident Prudence Sloane said. “There’s nothing like dancing to a live band. It’s fabulous.”
Her friend, Carolyn Broadaway, came from Albany, N.Y., to take part.
“I enjoyed getting to know this community,” Broadaway said. “This event has brought people from all different areas together. It’s always fun to dance with new people.”
Returning for the second year were dance instructors Oscar Casas and Jesica Arfenoni, a world champion. The Boston Tango Orchestra provided Friday night’s live entertainment.
“We’re very happy to bring such high caliber artists to our town,” Swairjo said. “We love to share the richness of this culture. It really puts us on the map. It’s also a good opportunity to show the public something rare.”
Two other tango festivals were going on in Philadelphia and Boston over the Memorial Day weekend. Some participants made it both and New Britain, alternating driving for hours with dancing for hours.
“The majority of tango dancers in New England all know each other,” Swairjo explained. “Tango really makes you meet a lot of people. You end up with lots of tango friends.”
People of all ages could be seen taking part in the weekend’s activities. This wide-ranging appeal is unique to tango, according to Swairjo.
“It’s ageless,” she explained. “It is the only dance that grows with you. You can still be doing tango when you’re 90 years old.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.