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Two to tango

The essence of dancing the tango is to create a connection with your partner. There’s the embrace and the eye contact that can create a level of intimacy, however, to really get into sync with your partner, much like in life and love, there is no handy Arthur Murray footsteps to follow. Rather it is a readiness to improvise and surrender to the moment. 

“Tango is a paradox,” said Carol Bennett, one of the early members of Modesto Tango. “You’re maintaining a control of your body, when it comes to posture and balance but you’re surrendering everything else to your partner.”

For those who have fallen under the spell of Argentine tango, it can become an ever-elusive mission to try and master all the intricacies, but a passion for the dance is what keeps the aficionados returning, which is certainly true for the members of Modesto Tango.

For more than a decade now the members of Modesto Tango have been striving to share and pass along their love for the dance. 

A lifelong dancer, Mary Menz’s first introduction to the national dance of Argentina came on the silver screen when she saw a showing of “Tango.”

“I was immediately thinking that I needed to learn that dance,” Menz said. 

She got her opportunity later during a vacation at a Mexican resort where an Argentine instructor happened to be giving tango lessons.

“That’s where I had my first lesson,” said Menz, who is now an instructor herself. She, along with friend Pat Paul started taking tango lessons in Sacramento, before forming the local Modesto group.

The reasons people are drawn to learn tango are just as varied as the moves of the dance. Bennet enjoys it because she said it’s an opportunity for her to “get out of my own head and only think about the physicality of it.”

Steve Hibbard, a board member of Modesto Tango, had his introduction to tango through his friendship with Mary and thought at first he might like it just for the mere exercise benefit. Instead, he was drawn to the responsibility of being a leader. In tango, the roles are defined — the man will lead the dance and the woman will follow.

“If I’m dancing, then I’m in charge and I look through my tools and say this is how I’m going to do this and this is how I will move us here,” Hibbard said. “She’s following my lead, but I’m also reacting to her moves. It’s an exchange.”

The shutdown over the last year and a half interrupted Modesto Tango’s progress in teaching more people about the dance, but now they are headed back on track, Menz said. The class meets the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Each session usually has a guest instructor from the region who goes over a particular lesson before turning it over to the class to practice. The cost is $20 per person per class and there is an option for private lessons for $90. The classes are held at Studio V Pilates and Fitness at 4459 Spyres Way, suite A in Modesto. To sign up for a class or for more information call Mary Menz at (209) 522-1571.