There’s a new tango in town.
On the first Sunday afternoon of every month, and every Wednesday, you’ll find tango novices and veterans sharing their passion and flair at Blackhawk Plaza in Danville. They come from all around the East Bay, Silicon Valley and the Peninsula, to be carried away by the dance. Argentine tango to be precise.
That’s because word travels fast in tango circles. The tango nation is a growing one, and the Bay Area is no exception. Some call San Francisco the tango capital, after Buenos Aires. There’s no question that this is tango territory.
From Danville to Palo Alto, Burlingame to Redwood City, San Leandro to Fremont, Santa Cruz to Berkeley and beyond, a growing array of tango classes, private lessons, and performances draw tango enthusiasts to churches, dance studios, retail centers like Blackhawk Plaza and hotels like the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa in Berkeley.
Whether you are a beginner or an accomplished dancer, there’s a tango class tailored to every skill level. Try the weekly introductory classes at Blackhawk Plaza for beginners every Wednesday evening or bring a tango admirer with you and join other talented tango enthusiasts on the Sunday soirees in the rotunda.
On the Peninsula, head to Redwood City every Tuesday to get your tango fix at the Veterans Memorial Center. Learn tango fundamentals on Tuesday nights at the First Baptist Church in Palo Alto.
The mastermind of the burgeoning local tango community in Danville is instructor and longtime Danville resident Carlin Ghahraman. Tango is in his blood. Ghahraman remembers his parents listening to tango music at their home in Paris when he was young. Ever since he’s been taking and giving lessons, and frequenting tango clubs in the Bay Area. An accountant with a masters degree in business, Ghahraman found his way to tango here through the Bay Area Tango Association, when president Stuart Schmukler of Burlingame befriended him and later encouraged him to launch a local club here.
The Blackhawk Tango Club was born. Now dozens of people relax in the Blackhawk Plaza rotunda, taking in the tango, and listen to the popular Redwood Tango Ensemble, an East Bay group which also performs at Alberto’s in Mountain View, the Boogie Woogie Ballroom in Foster City, and the Redwood Café in Cotati, among others.
"Dance is for creative people,” Ghahraman says. “You learn patterns and they become sentences and you match it with the music and it becomes like magic... You don't need money, wealth… in three minutes you are in a different world.”
On a recent Sunday, Catherine McGowan, who lives in Mountain View and came to tango with Ghahraman, took a break from the dance floor. “Carlin is a great dancer. He put tango on the map here,” she said.
“Tango embraces us,” said Michael Wheeler, who hails from Santa Cruz where he works as a DJ, dances, teaches tango and confesses to being hooked. “It is all about the connection, the people we share the dance floor and world with.”
The first tango event in Blackhawk was on March 4, 2012. Rodney Worth, Executive Chef and owner of Danville’s The Peasant & The Pear and Prickly Pear Cantina and the Little Pear in Blackhawk Plaza, gave Ghahraman a room to hold free weekly classes for beginners. Soon word spread, with a little help from a Facebook page, a couple of meet-ups and a website. The Blackhawk Tango Club was born.
“Blackhawk Plaza was thrilled to partner with Bay Area Tango Association and Carlin Ghahraman on the monthly Blackhawk Milonga (Party) and weekly lessons,” said Betsey Penson, the General Manager and Marketing Director of Blackhawk Plaza. “Response to events at Blackhawk Plaza is always strong, with our guests demonstrating their desire for experiences and activities. With Blackhawk Tango, we are able to provide all of that with a little culture in the mix as well. Based on the success of tango, we may even add salsa to our calendar next year.“
Since then he’s added more classes, live music by the talented Redwood Tango Ensemble, DJ Emilio Flores, as interest has grown. In August Ghahraman and his devoted cadre of Blackhawk Plaza-bound tango lovers celebrated the half year mark with a cake. What does Ghahraman love about tango?
"Everything," said Ghahraman, who is Persian and has lived in Danville for more than a decade. "There is always something new to learn."
The next classes are Nov. 4, with a beginner's class at 2 p.m., followed by an intermediate class and Milonga from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Tango anyone?