The words “tango” and “Massachusetts Institute of Technology” may not come to mind when playing word associations.
Nevertheless, the MIT Argentine Tango Club does exist and it strives to promote tango culture in all of Cambridge — including the Tuesday night milongas at the Zeitgeist Gallery spearheaded by MIT tango instructor Simonida Cekovic-Vuletic. The word milonga is Spanish for “tango dance party” and also for a type of tango danced to a lighter, happier music.
Beginning in February, Cekovic-Vuletic decided to hold these tango dance parties every other Tuesday in a form that would be neither dance exposition nor class. The Zeigeist’s small but culturally focused forum provided the perfect space.
“Zeitgeist is a charming place with a salon atmosphere,” she said as she watched the dancers in the darkened room.
Indeed, the atmosphere is dark and intimate, with warm colors in the background from the local art on display. The men and women pair off onto the dance floor, taking their places as the music begins. They twirl suddenly and deliberately, as if connected by the same impulse, before pausing slowly — their upper bodies poised and close while their legs continue an intricate exchange of elegant foot play. They continue on, many couples with their eyes closed, feet lightly following the beat of the accordion music reverberating through the floorboards. The song ends and a cortina, or nontango song, plays. The dancers break apart to exchange partners.
The participants vary in skill. A few are professional dancers looking for a way to spend their Tuesday night; others are former students of Cekovic-Vuletic looking to practice what they learned in her class. And others are simply tango enthusiasts happy to meet others who share their passion. “Tango is not just a dance, it’s a culture,” said David Black, a professional dancer, before selecting a partner to take to the dance floor.
“What makes tango so compelling,” Cekovic-Vuletic said, “is that it is a form of language. There’s a feeling of conversation and dialogue in the dance.”
True to that statement, the only words exchanged here were off of the dance floor; the dancers used their bodies to converse and their words to discuss upcoming tango events.
“Everybody says that tango is the vertical expression for horizontal desire, but it’s not about that. It’s more about that instinct of improvisation that occurs between leading and following in the dance. It’s that connection and a sequence of instincts that inspire movement and molds the body into a dynamic instrument for art,” said Wendy Coleman, a former student of Cekovic-Vuletic and the MIT Argentine Tango Club’s public relations representative.
It’s all about tango, and all are invited to join.