By Ashley Glazebrook
The small, bright room echoes with the hurried sweep of feet, lively music and crucial instructions. Dancing couples tentatively swirl by, laughing at their stumbles and missteps, slowly yet effectively learning the art of Argentinean tango on a warm Sunday afternoon.
Students don’t have to travel far to successfully learn authentic tango. They can join Tangroupe, UC Santa Cruz’s premiere tango club and team.
Tangroupe started as a common interest among a few talented individuals. Led by co-founders Brett Griswold, club president and UCSC fourth-year, and Jennifer Small, club vice president and UCSC graduate student, Tangroupe quickly became a multifaceted success.
“All the tango dancers joined forces and came together in one group, and we all met each other and started networking and this is it,” Griswold said.
Griswold is referring to the award-winning dance team, the community-serving performance group and the overwhelmingly popular club, all of which represent Tangroupe.
Club members attend two-hour lessons every Sunday afternoon, and when members become competent with the different techniques, they are invited to try out for the competition team or to join the performance group.
The performance group focuses on community service projects, and the team is composed of the most experienced dancers, who compete in quarterly competitions on behalf of UCSC.
“It’s usually the most dedicated people who will take time out of their normal schedules to go and spend an entire day in another city to do a three-minute dance,” Small said.
The team and performance group will often practice until 2 a.m. for upcoming events, finding refuge rehearsal space in the Earth & Marine Sciences building when the multipurpose room closes.
“We had these things that we liked to nickname ‘marathon practices,’” said third-year Nicole Simons, club secretary and competitive dancer, “because we were there for about four to five hours just running the routine, over and over and over again, nitpicking the smallest detail, like bringing your ankles together or pointing your toe. Just those small things that really make all the difference in a performance.”
Despite the amount of time the team requires, the hard work and tireless dedication pays off. In its debut competition last year, the UC Berkeley Ballroom Classic, UCSC effortlessly beat Harvard, Stanford, Cal Poly and Berkeley and took first place.
Tangroupe also performed at the Regents Advisers meeting last year, an honor bestowed upon the most promising performance group on the hosting campus.
As for combining culture and society, Tangroupe plans on visiting different high schools to perform “A History of Tango,” a combination of dance and narrative routine that provides a history of tango while demonstrating various styles.
Last year Tangroupe gave a performance, hosted a banquet and offered lessons to help raise money for hospitals in Argentina.
The club also participated in the National Dance Week Festival in downtown Santa Cruz.
Tango members said they use their talent to entertain society while promoting charity.
“We try to do as much community service as we can,” Griswold said. “We try to go
out into the community and educate.”