VISUAL ARTS

Tango Por Dos at the Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London, WC2 (0171-314 8800) 16 Oct-2 Nov.
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The Independent Culture
"You can start learning tango at any age. When we dance on stage we do complicated steps but to dance socially it's not very difficult.'' So says Milena Plebs, whose company, Tango Por Dos, returns to London next week with a new extravaganza, staged by four couples and eight musicians.

Tango has always had a bit of an image problem. Originating in the slums of Buenos Aires, the dance was scorned by polite society. It wasn't until the tango became fashionable in 1920s Paris that the strange, intimate dance was taken up by the dancing public.

However, the craze for the tango passed. Younger dancers were taking up new rhythms. Tango, in Britain and the United States at least, was embalmed by the ballroom dancing movement. Deprived of its spontaneity, it emerged as International Tango, a very different dance from the one born in the slums of Brazil. ''It's very far from the tradition of tango," explains Plebs, "because in the Argentine tango, all the movements are in the legs; in the international tango the movements are in the arms. It's ridiculous, they learn a basic step and repeat it all the time. In the Argentine tango you are improvising all the time. The man leads the movement and the woman has to follow. When you go dancing socially you don't follow basic steps, you always improvise.''

There are currently dozens of tango classes on offer. People of all ages and abilities seem irresistibly drawn to the idea of spending their evenings with their foreheads pressed together and their lower extremities entwined. It certainly beats metalwork.

EYE ON TANGO

Hendon Dance Studio, London (0181-530 3820) Every 4th Saturday of the month, a two-hour lesson from the Argentine champion (pounds 6).

The Central School of Dance, Milton Keynes (01908 691008) Private lessons are available (pounds 8 per 30 minutes).

The Paul Alex School of Dancing, Watford (01923 223904) Two-hour beginners classes on Mondays and Thursdays (pounds 4 per person).

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