I ARRIVED TO the beginner-level lesson put on by the University of Ottawa Tango Club 10 minutes early, hoping to watch a bit of the intermediate students’ lesson. Swaying to the music while I watched pairs spin together around the University Centre terminus, I was a little intimidated and a lot excited for my first-ever dance lesson, and getting to know more about the club bringing tango to the U of O.
Catherine Galiano-Lavalleé, former president of the club, explains how she started the U of O tango club two years ago.
“Before me, nobody knew there was a tango club [that practised] here at [the U of O]. About two years ago, I first saw there was a poster up on one of the boards in Tabaret and I was pretty much the only student there,” she says. “[The instructors] weren’t from the U of O, so [they] couldn’t make it anoffical club. I [stuck] with the club and during the summer they asked if I wanted to become one of the executives so that’s how I became president.”
After promoting the club on campus and getting more students involved, Galiano-Lavalleé was able to earn official club status.
New students are invited to enjoy the fun atmosphere and work to toward a more advanced level of dance.
“What people can expect from the club is that there’s always that great environment,” she says. “We have a beginner [group] and an intermediate group for those who’ve already been taking classes.”
We gathered in a circle for the beginner class, where the instructor gave a brief history of the Argentine tango before proceeding to teach us some of the foundations of the dance. Being a novice dancer, I expected to learn and memorize a set choreography, but was pleasantly surprised when the main focus of the lesson was how to communicate with your partner through dance.
That’s one of the top reasons why Adèle Brazeau-Feeley, current president of the club, got involved.
“It’s a great way for people to socialize but also gain confidence because you have to dance with somebody else,” she says. “[With tango], I have to communicate with the other person, so I think that’s good—that it’s not just with words, it’s with the body as well.”
Michael Lopez, who just graduated from the U of O with a degree in economics, continues to participate in the tango lessons.
“I‘ve just really enjoyed it,” he says. “I’m a fairly musical person, but without this I don’t really have any other sort of outlet for dancing—nothing this structured. So it’s nice, nothing else provides this for me.”
The only issue for him?
“We do have the, less occasional [experience of] guys dancing with guys [because] we’ve had an unfortunate shortage of women.”
When the lesson ended, I had learned a lot and laughed just as much. The club invites all students and alumni for a heavily discounted price, and community members are welcome to participate as well.
“All students are welcome,” says Galiano-Lavalleé. “Tango is more than just a dance. It becomes a part of you and it’s something you can dance at whatever age, wherever you go; it never loses style.
“Pretty much anybody can learn how to dance tango, [and] in the end you really have to feel it.”
Full-time students pay $15 a semester for weekly tango lessons, and included in the price is admission to weekly milongas where the Ottawa tango community gathers on Friday nights at the Chinese Canadian Heritage Centre (397 Kent St.). Students who want more info can check out the club’s Facebook page by searching University of Ottawa Tango Club.