Atango class is a schooling in suaveness. And while you might not be ready to clench a rose in your teeth and sweep other dancers off their feet after the first lesson, chances are you'll feel a bit more debonair than you did before.
Most any novice will talk about the dance's seductive appeal. "It's very passionate, sensual and graceful," said Steve Fleming, 26, after finishing his first tango class at the Market 5 Gallery with his girlfriend. But don't let tango instructor Murat Erdemsel, 30, hear you use such language.
"People should forget about the image. Tango is a close embrace. You get a very direct connection with people. It takes you into a meditation more than a sexual thing," he says.
Image aside, the lure of this Argentine couples' dance with long gliding steps and depth-defying dips is hard to deny. "Once you try it, you can't stop. It becomes an addiction," says Erdemsel.
What to expect: Instructors demonstrate moves and then everyone gives it a try during classes, which usually last an hour and take place before a milonga, or open dance session. If you are a two-left-feet kind of dancer, don't stay home to protect your ego. Because tango is such a difficult dance to learn, squashed toes are the norm -- and it's all part of the fun. "It takes a long time to relax, and then it becomes easy. After a year, you don't think about it anymore," Erdemsel says. That said, don't let the dance's difficulty discourage you -- you should start to get the hang of the tango after a lesson or two.
What to Bring: Comfortable shoes and an open mind. The first is obvious, but the second is just as necessary: People play dance-partner musical chairs, so it's not an activity for those wary of getting up close and personal with strangers. You end up zipping (or stumbling) across the floor with people of varying age, appearance and ability. Many dancers come with a partner, but it's perfectly acceptable to arrive solo.
Cost: Around $10.
Where to show off your smooth side:
A number of places in the area offer lessons for beginners with milongas afterward. A local tango dancing community group, Capital Tangueros (www.geocities.com/capitaltangueros), provides a calendar of tango events. Here are some to note:
Ascot Restaurant. This downtown restaurant dishes up American and Indian fare and offers tango lessons Tuesdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. A milonga follows. Lesson and milonga, $10. 1708 L St. NW. 202-296-7640.
Divino Lounge & Restaurant. This premiere weekly tango event is for intermediate dancers, so hold out until you've had some practice. Classes are Wednesdays, 8-9 p.m., with a milonga until midnight. $10. 7345B Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda. 240-497-0300.
Market 5 Gallery. On Thursdays, this Eastern Market art gallery building attracts both novice and experienced dancers. In nice weather, the milonga spills onto the sidewalk, where colorful lanterns hang overhead. Beginner's class, 7-8 p.m. Intermediate class, 8-9 p.m. Milonga, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Classes, $10 for one or both, $20 with milonga. Milonga, $12. Seventh Street and North Carolina Avenue SE. 240-372-5134.
Tysons Corner Center Sport & Health Club. On the second and last Fridays of every month, Joe Petrisko teaches beginning tango lessons at this Virginia fitness club from 8-9 p.m. for $10. A milonga follows, costing $5 for those who took the class and $10 for those who didn't. On Sundays, the club offers its own lessons from 3-5 p.m. and a practice session from 5-6 p.m. for $5-$20. 8209 Watson St., McLean. 703-288-1188.