- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

Sunday evening’s “hot” milonga — tango party — at the Argentine Embassy was easily a match for the season’s weather.

It also shot down the notion that anyone who is anybody has left town. Those who did missed hearing Argentine Ambassador Jose Octavio Bordon, in full voice, entertain guests, accompanied by one of the world’s leading tango dance orchestras, Roberto Alvarez’s Orquesta Color Tango.

Mr. Bordon’s spontaneous offering followed a performance in Lisner Auditorium featuring 12 of the world’s top professional tango dancers, whose crowd-pleasing show, called “I Tango,” was full of athleticism and artistry.

The stylish, seductive Latin dance, which began in Buenos Aires’ slums and soon became an international craze, has enjoyed cycles of popularity over the years and clearly is having a resurgence.

“You can find tango every night in Washington,” said one enthusiastic patron with a paid ticket for both the show and after-party hosted by Mr. Bordon. “It’s a community, a fraternity of sorts. Where else do you have the opportunity to hold a woman close for three minutes, and then you are free? It feels like a dream compared to disco.”

Another man said he is taking tango lessons as a way of courting a woman who has told him the dance is her passion.

Nobody on the scene was more fired up about tango than British-born Jo Elmaleh-Fish, a businessman (said to be “in oil”) and former competitive ballroom dancer whose Vermont-based Argentine Tango Society sponsors the annual Stowe TangoFest.

As underwriter for the event, which included 12 young New York dancers who starred in the documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom,” he understandably had been nervous about ticket sales, given Washington’s reputation as both hot and dead in midsummer. Just 200 tickets had been sold the Tuesday before and then things, well, really heated up: The house was full.

“People were skeptical about how we could get anyone out on July 29 in Washington. I was amazed,” Mr. Elmaleh-Fish said, gazing at party guests grateful for a cool drink and a taste of Argentina’s famed red malbec wine.

An eager proselytizer, Mr. Fish spoke of having a “conversion” when he discovered tango 10 years ago. “A neuroscientist at McGill University has done a study that shows tango dancing is more beneficial for the brain than diet and health,” he said, citing work published last year that pointed up advantages of mastering the intricate, paired dance steps for mental and physical agility as well as social relations in an aging population.

Among those cheering on performers with a standing ovation were social regulars Mary and Mandy Ourisman (she being the newly named but not yet confirmed U.S. ambassador to Barbados), Moroccan Ambassador Aziz Mekouar and wife Maria Felice, Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta and wife Leila, Argentine-born Maximo Flugelman and wife Sedi, Philip and Nina Pillsbury, John and JoAnne Mason and Bill Nitze (who nicely timed that day’s flight from France to make the show).

Stay tuned. A tango festival is planned for three nights at Lisner Auditorium in mid-September.

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