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August 6, 2009

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Tango the night away in Pudong

A passion for South America's most famous dance led one ballroom dancer to open a bar and restaurant dedicated to it in Pudong, Sam Riley reports. Pudong New Area is known more as a place to do business than as somewhere to kick up your heels and dance.

But it is home to a bar and restaurant the owner claims to be China's only one dedicated to all things tango.

Tango Bang first opened its doors in 2006 and is a bar, restaurant and dance studio all in one.

Its owner, Charles Qiu, was a mild-mannered textile trader before he discovered the passion and precision of tango while living in Taipei.

Qiu has long ago abandoned the suit and tie world of business and looks like he has just walked off a Buenos Aires dancefloor with his unbuttoned shirt and long ponytail.

A ballroom dancer for 10 years, he was so taken by tango he did eventually decide to go to Argentina to study, and became a trained instructor.

The passion also spilled over when he met his wife-to-be, Vivian Yeh, on the tango floors of Taipei.

Love story

Qiu likes to joke that "it took two to tango" and when his wife was posted to Shanghai in 2006 he ditched textiles and took up his new career, opening the bar and dance studio.

During the day, Yeh works for brewing giant Budweiser helping with its advertising and marketing but at weekends and at night Vivian helps with classes and the club's tango events.

"Vivian and I met in a tango class, so it is a bit of a love story and we both love to dance," he says. "Part of the reason we opened this bar is so we can dance whenever and wherever we want."

With its Argentinian-themed interior and free introductory classes, tango has a foothold in Shanghai, with Tango Bang now having more than 300 students.

Despite tango's reputation as being technically demanding, Qiu says beginners can quickly pick up enough technique to enjoy themselves.

"If you can walk, you can tango, it's that simple and it is true," he says. "There is a forward, a back and a side step and this is enough to get people started so they can grab a partner and enjoy the dance."

During the week Tango Bang holds practice sessions from 9am to 11:30am from Monday to Thursday and on Saturday from 3pm to 6pm.

The practice sessions are free to Tango Bang students. The couple also hold classes catering for beginner, intermediate and advanced dancers.

One of the bar's most popular events is its Milonga, which means a place where people meet to tango.

There are free beginners Milonga meetings every weekday from 8pm to 10pm and then a general, more organized Milonga for all levels of dancers from 9pm to 2am on Friday and Saturday.

It costs 80 yuan (US$11.72) for non-members and 70 yuan for members, including a complimentary drink, a helpful accessory for novice dancers, according to Qiu, who says a little vino helps even those born with two left feet find their inner tango. "Drinking some wine helps, you can relax yourself, maybe you won't be nervous so you can dance naturally," says Qiu.

For those looking to relax themselves and channel the tango spirit, Tango Bang offers a range of cocktails named after tango dance steps such as the "Sacada" and the citrus and lime "Crusada" (40 yuan to 50 yuan).

Its menu offers a range of hearty, simple Western-style meals such as pizza and pasta from 40 yuan to 60 yuan and during the day it has lunchtime pasta specials for 30 yuan.

Every three months the bar also hosts tango experts from overseas and next month a couple from Argentina will conduct six days of workshops, demonstrations and classes.

Qiu says it takes a beginner about two months of lessons to gain some level of proficiency, but the nightly Milonga classes provide a good opportunity to learn from more advanced students in a relaxed social setting.

A six-hour group of lessons costs 500 yuan and eight-hour blocks of intermediate and advanced lessons cost from between 860 yuan and 1,000 yuan.

Address: 545 Pudong Ave, near Dongfang Rd

Tel: 5877-1881



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