During the week of March 13 to 17, tango music and dance will take the Vineyard by storm, thanks to the combined forces of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) and the Yard. Together they are bringing us QuinTango, a world-renowned group of musicians and educators specializing in Argentine tango, and internationally renowned tango dancer and QuinTango’s dance master, Analía Centurión. The multi-layered plans for the entire week vibrate with energy and vivacity. There will be educational opportunities galore, given that education is essential to everyone involved.
QuinTango is a sextet of two violins, cello, bass, piano, and bandoneon (a type of concertina particularly popular in Argentina and Uruguay) that is dedicated to the performance of tango both in concert and dance. They are known for their “chamber tango” style that blends intimacy and bravado with passion and precision. Their website lets us in on what to expect: “This is tango like you’ve never imagined it: classical chops, jazz harmonies, and intimate arrangements are written for the group by outstanding composers in Buenos Aires. ‘Chamber tango’ is the result of this musical alchemy, a middle ground that draws in lovers of both classical and nonclassical music to experience the fullness of life — the stories, the culture, and the exhilaration of tango.”
Core to QuinTango are its residencies and outreach programming, which reflect the group’s strong support for arts education. They will be working with string teachers to teach, coach, and inspire Vineyard students in the All-Island Strings program. Amy Cato Wood, MVCMS board member, strings teacher at Edgartown School, and part of the All-Island Strings program, says: “QuinTango has a set curriculum that they sent us a few months ago. The kids have already been practicing, and they will be performing during QuinTango’s public concert as well.” QuinTango will also conduct two schoolwide assemblies, so a large swath of youth will be touched by the group. “We’ve also been working on ‘Twinkle Tango’ with the elementary school students, getting them ready to play with the group,” Wood adds. “They have been learning about tango’s origins, what the beat is, how it’s different from your standard Western curriculum, and that this music is truly of the Americas.”
Thanks to the Yard, adults can get into the groove during the two nights of public tango lessons by Centurión on Wednesday, March 15, and Thursday, March 16, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the MVRHS cafeteria. Centurión is an internationally celebrated tango dancer and master who started dancing the Argentine tango in 1995. Two years later she became a tango champion in the most prestigious youth competitions in the province of Buenos Aires, and has gone on to an illustrious international career.
The origins of this elaborate collaboration began when Wood met Joan Singer, QuinTango founder, a few years ago here on the Vineyard. After Singer spoke about QuinTango’s wonderful school programs, Wood says, “I approached Kim Baumhofer [MVCMS board president], and she took the idea and made it happen.” It was a natural for MVCMS, since it has implemented school residencies for several years with Quartet San Francisco.
The next step came organically. Yvonne Mendez, acting executive director at the Yard, explains, “Kim and Amy emailed me and said, We have a dancer connected to the residency program, and we would really like to have a dance component. It was easy for me to say yes. I had been thinking about what other programs we wanted to offer in our off-season.” As it turns out, patrons at the Yard had been asking why they weren’t offering tap or tango. Mendez continues, “It was opportune that it filled that need. In addition, we received a grant from the Barr Foundation to give us the ability to do some experimental programs and partnerships, off-season programming, and re-establish our in-school programs. So this was an opportunity to make a new partner, which I hope will be long-lasting.” She laughs, “It was the easiest thing I did.”
Mendez is also excited about the collaboration. “Centurión has an interest in gender and the female role in the tango. And QuinTango is a primarily female group of musicians,” Mendez explains. “That was the thing that stood out to me as well. There are lots of female instrumentalists who don’t see themselves reflected in performances.”
The week will end with QuinTango’s public concert at the MVRHS Performing Arts Center on Friday night, March 17, at 6 pm, with Centurión and Svetislav Vuletić as guest dancers. The performance is followed by a meet-the-artists reception and mini tango class, with one of Centurión’s students from Boston participating. Some of the students involved in the QuinTango residency will be performing as well. “This concert will showcase the side of artists that the public seldom sees — the mentoring side, both in dance and in music. The audience will see how musicians and dancers are made,” Singer says.
Mendez notes that she and Centurión were speaking, and felt it was important to have light refreshments at both the dance lessons and after the public performance because, Mendez says, “Part of the experience of tango is community — and community is usually linked to food.” Singer adds, “Mentoring is how we keep the music playing — it develops artists, it develops audiences, and it feeds our souls. If we can somehow take that idea and extend it to include the community so that when they come, they know they will be included in this process with a short lesson and a chance to dance — sounds very inclusive to me. It’s active art, engaging, and building community.”
For information about the free public QuinTango concert and post-performance community dance on March 17 at 6 pm, visit mvcms.org. Information about Analía Centurión’s tango lessons on March 15 and 16 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the MVRHS cafeteria is available at dancetheyard.org/tangoclasses2023. Registration is required. $20 suggested donation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the date you would like to attend and the number of people attending. For more information about QuinTango, see quintango.com.