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We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

After a tryout run in Chicago, 34 previews and 746 performances on Broadway, and a tour launch in Buffalo, “On Your Feet!” has finally opened in the place where Cuban-born music superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan made their dreams come true: Miami. At Friday’s red carpet opening at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, with the Estefans and their extended family in atte..

Whether the comedy is high or low, performer-writer Steve Martin has been making moviegoers, “Saturday Night Live” fans and theater lovers laugh for more than half a century – hard to believe it’s been that long, but he started early. Martin’s way with both cerebral jokes and physical comedy is abundantly on display in “The Underpants,” his 2002 adaptation of Carl Sternheim’s once-ban..

Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall” begins as a wary conversation between two strangers: Rick, a white male convict awaiting a likely death sentence, and Gloria, a black female historian and college professor. For 90 minutes, the two talk. She probes; he explains and justifies and slowly paints a picture of a man-made Seventh Circle of Hell. By the time the play ends, the audience ..

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ award-winning play “An Octoroon” layers an antebellum melodrama with 21st-century parlance and perspective. The result is an innovative play-within-a-play that skillfully reminds us of slavery’s horrible past and its ever-present legacy. Area Stage Company’s production, thoughtfully directed by John Rodaz, brings together a talented cast to ensure this melodra..

Even before the election that transformed billionaire reality TV star Donald J. Trump into the 45th president of the United States, playwright Robert Schenkkan was so disturbed by the candidate’s anti-immigrant rhetoric that he decided to respond. Not with a Tweet. Not with an opinion-page essay. The Pulitzer Prize winner spoke back to candidate Trump with a full-length play. “Building..

“Baño de Luna,” written and directed by Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and presented by Arca Images and the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, marks the debut of the Spanish-language version of “Bathing in Moonlight,” the original English production that debuted at the prestigious McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J., in 2016. Performed by a stellar cast in Spanish..

Rafael Nofal’s play “El tiempo de la mandarinas” (“Season for Tangerines”) tackles the very relevant and disturbing theme of human trafficking. Produced by Antiheroes Project, this moving play is in its last week at Artefactus Teatro, a well-purposed black box and gallery space in a smattering of warehouses in Kendall. Nofal’s text removes overt violence and male characters fr..

Joshua Harmon’s savagely funny “Bad Jews” is an emotional cage match set in a pricey Manhattan studio apartment. The combatants are Daphna Feygenbaum (Hannah Benitez), a soon-to-be Vassar grad who plans to move to Israel, marry a man no one in the family has met and become a rabbi, and her cousin Liam Haber (Joseph Paul Pino), a master’s degree candidate and atheist who intends to..

The play begins, as it must, with the velvet voice of Nat King Cole crooning “Mona Lisa.” After all, how many paintings inspire an Oscar-winning song? For that matter, how many masterpieces survive damage, theft and the rapacious covetousness of collectors for more than half a millennium? Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Gioconda,” popularly known as the Mona Lisa, is that inspi..

Cheerful, Mixed Gender Tango? Check Out Ray Sullivan’s ‘Tango Out’


Photo: Ray Sullivan and Luis Vivas; photo: Sergey Chernyaev.
Written by: Sean Erwin
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Miami Beach’s old city hall on a Thursday evening in June made a surreal set up for anyone familiar with tango’s broody scene -- a large cozy room full of cheerful, laughing, and smiling people warmly greeted with a big hug by the evening’s host and organizer of Tango Out, Ray Sullivan.
 
Sullivan makes sure his intrigued guests find a seat then adds, “You just missed the class tonight, but we conducted the lesson with all the followers blindfolded – so that the people who were doing the leading in the dance had to really focus on what they were doing. The lights just went out but most of us have been in the dark all night.”
 
Those accustomed to tango salons in most North American cities know that generally men do the leading and women follow, so another feature of the room also stands out – among the eight couples on the dance floor there is every gender mix imaginable: men leading women, women leading men, men leading men, women leading women. There is even one laughing trio where a man takes a crack at leading both a man and woman at the same time.
 
Sullivan has been part of Miami’s dance scene for decades, as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. Asked about the motivation behind this new project, he responds: “Our tagline is, ‘Tango Out – Embrace Whoever You Want.’ That’s the point. If you want to dance with them, ask them, and if they agree then go to it. It’s hard to be in conflict with someone you’ve embraced. They become part of your clan – dance allows us to experience each other without words.”
 
The inspiration for Tango Out grew from an experience of discrimination. “Luis [Vivas] and I have been dancing together for 12 years. We would just go into the tango salons and dance. Then two years ago I saw an ad on a website about a tango event. The ad said tango can only be danced between a man and a woman.” At that moment, Sullivan and Vivas realized Miami needed a welcoming tango space for the LGBTQ community, and they were perfectly situated to make that happen.
 
But Sullivan saw LGBTQ as already an all-encompassing umbrella and wanted to go further. “We wanted to create a space where even traditional dancers who were heterosexual knew that they were also welcome. Our aim is to include and not exclude people.”
 
It’s working. Twenty people were there that summer Thursday evening, during off season.
 
Seated at the end of a row of young men dressed in what appears to be the evening’s regulation black t-shirt and black slacks, Felipe, a physician, explains the low pressure and congenial space keeps attracting him back since he started coming in March. “Everyone is really friendly and says hi. I’ve lived in Miami for 12 years and Tango Out has quickly become one of my favorite things to do in the city. I love that everyone dances with everyone.”
 
Thierry, an industrial designer with a Guy Fawkes beard and Harry Potter glasses, has attended Tango Out regularly for a year, and he often shows up to the Tango Out night Sullivan also holds at the restaurant, Panizza, on alternate Tuesdays.
 
“The crowd is so friendly and relaxed,” affirms Thierry, then adds: “It is wonderful to become more confident with your body and with the bodies of others – it is kind of like yoga in that you forget everything when you dance and you follow your inspiration and listen to your body and break the routine.”
 
The Tango Out project continues to expand. Sullivan and Vivas recently completed a workshop at Miami’s Pridelines and have taught at the Gaythering and the Astor Hotel on Miami Beach. They contributed a tango performance to the New World Symphony’s Pulse Points, where 200 artists honored the 49 people killed at the Pulse Orlando night club in 2016.
 
For Sullivan the synergies of the Tango Out project have even morphed into a potential book on how tango and social dance can heal communities. “Tango Out continues to open up this amazing space where I feel I can add to what is there. By 2018 we’d like to contribute to the Tango Queer tango circuit and host an international event. How could Miami not already have this? I ask myself this all the time.”
 
For classes: Alternate Tuesdays at Panizza Bistro, 1229 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach; and every Thursday at The Hub at the LGBT Visitor Center on Miami Beach, 1130 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach. For more information call 786-530-7876 or check out the Tango Out page on Facebook.

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About The writer

Sean Erwin is a writer and assistant professor of Philosophy at Barry University, with a focus on aesthetics and contemporary french philosophy.
Sean Erwin is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Barry University and received his Masters and Doctorate in Philosophy from Vanderbilt. He has presented and published on topics in political philosophy, Italian and French philosophy, and technology and performance studies. He currently serves as the senior editor of the Humanities and Technology Review.

Erwin is also a performance critic for Artburst, with performance previews and reviews appearing regularly there and in other South Florida publications. Artburst gives him the platform to critique the aesthetic principles he writes on as a professional philosopher through analysis of the concrete movements embodied by performers.

He is also an accomplished dancer and teacher in the Argentine Tango community. In 2000 he founded and served as editor of the Chicago webzine, Tango Noticias, a specialty dance periodical dedicated to examining Argentine Tango as a set of social practices rooted to the Southern cone’s history, politics, and culture.

Since his move to South Florida, he has both taught philosophy and served as a principal tango instructor for the Miami-based, Shimmy Club, a non-profit program that teaches Argentine Tango to vision-impaired teens. Through his involvement with the program, Erwin has been featured in articles and several news outlets including Univision, Telemundo, NBC News, KPFK Los Angeles, and the Miami Herald. For more information, see erwinsean.com.

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