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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice. Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hun..

Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

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: ..

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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About the Writer

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