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Dance the night away

Greenway offers weekly tango lessons

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Dance the night away
Tango dancers on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Photo: Photo: Celina Colby)

When Hernan Brizuela and Anita Flejter moved to Boston to start their family, Brizuela was eager to bring some of his Argentinean heritage to the city. Flejter describes a bandstand in his native Buenos Aires where people dance tango to live music. In Spanish, a place or event where tango is danced is called a milonga.

“There’s a very large tango community in Boston,” says Flejter. “But there was no place to dance out in the open air.”

To remedy this, the couple partnered with the Rose Kennedy Greenway to put on “Tango in the Park,” where they perform and provide lessons every Saturday from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

By 7:30, the sun is starting to set in rich, golden tones. A crowd has gathered around the professional tango dancers who glide and dip on the brick square.

“We are working in Argentinean time,” Flajter says, smiling. “So the good dancers don’t come out until after seven.”

A little ways off, Brizuela stands in a circle of eager beginners, showing them the basic steps of the dance. An audience has gathered at the café tables surrounding the square. They tap their feet to the instrumental croons of the music and watch the dancers move in perfect unison.

The tango was developed in the 1880s in the lower-class districts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Much of the dance draws influences from the candomblé ceremonies of former slaves. In the early 20th century the dance and music spread to Europe and a tango craze ignited in Paris, London and Berlin. This wildfire trend gave the dance the romantic, sophisticated reputation it bears now.

Back on the Greenway, Boston has taken on the feeling of an authentic milonga. The environment is relaxed, the 2/4 rhythm of the music melting away the stress of urban life, much as it did for working people in Argentinean barrios in the 19th century.

“We have a lot of people come from the Boston tango community, and a lot of people who are dancing for the first time,” says Flajter.

Though married into the South American lifestyle, Flajter is from Poland and studied competitive ballroom dancing. For her, the tango is an interesting mix of technique and emotion. Both she and Brizuela are instructors at Ultimate Tango, a leading Argentine dance studio.

Every Saturday in August a guest instructor from the Boston dance community will be teaching. This opens guests up to a variety of possibilities to further their tango education. But even without participating in the lessons, the show paints a vivacious streak across the Boston skyline. And for a few hours, Bostonians can leave their troubles at the street and dance with the passion of the milonga.