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Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

Yes, it does take two to tango.

But it takes several twosomes if you want to open an entire center dedicated to the continuing revival of the sexy and exotic dance born in Argentina at the end of the 19th century.

And more and more novices are walking through the doors of the Eugene Tango Center to get their first tantalizing taste, if you will, of the tango, as they watch more experienced tandems dip and take long gliding steps across the floor.

Tango is back. Tango is hot. From here to Portland, from Portland to Poughkeepsie, tango is all the rage.

Greg Bryant, who opened the tango center on West Broadway last August, estimates about 2,000 folks have come through the center's doors.

"People are constantly coming by and looking in the windows and just walking in," said Bryant, a self-employed computer programmer and a 1977 graduate of South Eugene High School who discovered tango himself about 18 months ago.

He and his wife, Olga Volchkova, a classically trained painter, took lessons from local tango instructor Greg Estes at the University of Oregon.

The couple began dancing at the UO's EMU Ballroom and the Vets Club on Willamette Street, and Bryant was struck by just how much tango was happening in Eugene.

It occurred to him that city needed a non-profit tango center where people could take lessons, local instructors could make a living teaching their passion, and people could tango all night long.

The center holds $5 introductory lessons every Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. and local tango bands such as Mood Area 52 and Evan Griffiths' Tango Combo play afterward.

With the help of volunteers, the inside of the building was remodeled with a European feel complete with tiny tables that resemble a Parisian cafe and old couches for socializing. Bryant said volunteers also helped create the best dance floor in town - using a new ballroom/ballet performance foam laid over solid red oak - with donated materials.

The center is located in the 75-year-old building that started as the Eugene daily farmer's market in 1929, and Bryant also hopes it helps spark a downtown revitalization. A simple, large white sign with "tango" in black letters greets you from the street.

"If we can create a community center around something as obscure as Argentine tango, the possibilities downtown are endless," Bryant said.

The tango was born in the immigrant slums and brothels of Buenos Aires toward the end of the 19th century. It spread to Europe, became all the rage in Paris and was glamorized by Hollywood and silent film star Rudolph Valentino shortly after World War I. Americans first laughed at it, then tamed it somewhat as it spread throughout ballrooms in the 1920s.

It was even banned in certain American cities, including Portland, Bryant said, because of its perceived seedy nature.

A worldwide revival began in the early 1980s, thanks to a stage show, "Tango Argentino," that toured worldwide.

Only Argentine tango is taught and danced at the center. It relies on improvisation, as opposed to ballroom tango, which is based on learned steps, said Alex Krebs, a 26-year-old tango phenom who taught Friday's introductory lesson before playing all night with his band, Conjunto Berretin, which includes several members of the Oregon Symphony, including acclaimed Northwest jazz pianist Tom Grant.

"Part of the mystique in (Argentine) tango is that the leader and the follower's feet don't necessarily mirror each other," said Mark Roberts of Eugene, one of the volunteers who help lay the center's floor and a teacher of swing dance at his own dance studio, Rhythm & Funk, on West 11th Avenue.

The tango is all about connecting with your partner, Bryant said.

"The upper body is where we connect," Krebs told the 24 couples who came to his class Friday.

"The upper body is always warm and fuzzy and smooth," he said, eliciting a gentle laugh from the group.

Many who were at the center Friday said that discovering the tango is akin to finding a new love.

They said it's intoxicating, almost addictive.

"One cannot live or sleep without tango," Eugene's Evelyn Marcel said.

Bill Griffiths, Evan's father and a math instructor at Lane Community College, discovered the dance three years ago when his son, now 23, encouraged him to try.

"I was not a dancer at all," Bill Griffiths said. "It's great. It's a chance to be really creative."

Like many who find tango, Evan Griffiths has ventured to its birthplace, Buenos Aires, where the dance still lives and breathes in every corner of the city, he said.

"It's just a kick," Bryant said of tango. "It's a very sweet thing."


What: Portland's Carrie Whipple, who makes them for tango superstars, will show you how to create your own pattern for a pair of comfortable, wide-flared tango pants

When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. today

Where: Eugene Tango Center, 194 W. Broadway

Cost: $10

Bring: A pair of pants that already fit you, paper, pencils, scissors, pins


When: 8 tonight

Where: Eugene Tango Center, 194 W. Broadway

Cost: $5 - with dancing until

1 a.m. with local tango band Mood Area 52


Alex Krebs of Portland, one of the top tango dancers in the country, teaches a beginning tango class at the Eugene Tango Center.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; A downtown dance center is attracting aficionados and beginners alike
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 27, 2004
Next Article:Personal beacons help guide rescuers.

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