Tangoing the Night Away

Karin Tovar scrolls down her music trying to pick out the perfect song. She could go with Raúl Berón or maybe Ángel Vargas, but she decides that the ideal song for today is Juan d’Arienzo “La Bruja.”

Once the music bounces off the mirrored walls, she greets the group of 15 people that stand before her eager to learn. Her teaching partner steps forward and greets the students. And the class begins.

Kavin Tovar and Alex Hartsell giving the students instructions on what to do next

Since 2015, weekly tango classes have been offered by GW tango in Mitchell Hall. The classes are free to  GW students, who have the choice between beginner and advanced classes.

The beginner class goes from 7:30 to 8:30 P.M., while the advanced class immediately follows and ends at 9:30 P.M.  

Students, Karin and Alex dancing

Tovar is a graduate student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. With the help of D.C.’s large tango community, she founded GW tango club during her first semester in the university.

“I remember my advisor saying ‘are you crazy? This is your first year and you are already creating this club! You don’t even remember your password’,” Tovar said.

About 4 people attended the Student Organization Fair with Tovar, and recruited students to join the club. At first only a few people showed up to classes every week, but over time the group grew.

Currently, there are 110 members. 

Alex and the students practicing how to walk in tango.

Alex Hartsell teaches with Tovar. He is programer at the Naval Research Lab, and began dancing tango after his girlfriend dragged him into it. 

“We needed something to do together. Tango just kind of came out of  hat,” Hartsell said. “I was expecting to be bored.”

Harsell is not affiliated with GW at all, but he learned about the classes after Tovar asked him if he could help her teach. 

Karin and Alex dancing before class starts

GW tango also offers more advanced dance seminars that are taught by professional dancers, and invites members to milongas, events around the city where people get together and dance tango.

Classes are usually very diverse. There are people from Asia, South America, North America and Europe.

Six students watching as Alex gives instructions on what skill they will practice next

“All kinds of people come to tango class,” Yuhang Xu, a regular student of the class, said. “It is kind of like a small United Nations here.”

There are several reasons why people are interested in tango. Some seem to be there because they are curios to learn,  love to dance, or, like Xu, find it as a way to relax. 

“It takes your mind of whatever you were working on during the day,” Xu said. “I had a pretty bad day today, but after two hours tango I think I will be refreshed.”

Yuhang Xu, Karin and three other students talking to each other after class

Tovar will graduate from GW this spring, and most of the club’s leadership are graduating except for three. Tovar plans to recruit at least three more people to make a total of six.

“We have not done the transition,” Tovar said. “I am a little bit nervous about that because I would like to do the transition sooner and see how they do and support them so it does not die.”

The final note ends from the song, the various couples around the floor separate and clap their hands thanking their teachers. Tovar looks down, smiles, and says one simple sentence: see you next week.


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