BEIRUT: For the sixth year in a row, the city’s tango dancers and aficionados will be celebrating their favorite dance next week. Founded by dancer, choreographer and “Dancing with the Stars” jury member Mazen Kiwan, the weeklong Beirut International Tango Festival will start strutting its stuff Tuesday.Kiwan, who opened his own dance academy in 2013, is a leading light on the tango scene, having organized and participated in many platforms for the form, both in Lebanon and overseas.
The dance doyen says the number of tango aficionados has grown over the past several years, so it was only logical to stage BITF again, despite the country’s wobbly security situation.
Dance appears to be second nature to Lebanon’s citizens.
For 10 years running, Maqamat Dance Theater has staged its Beirut International Platform of Dance, BIPOD, which wraps up Sunday night with a performance of Ultima Vez and Wim Vandekeybus’ “What the Body Does Not Remember.”
In March, Dansfabrik, the contemporary dance festival in the French city of Brest, made Lebanon this year’s guest of honor, with “Beyrouth – Les Lucioles” ( Beirut – The Fireflies), a multidisciplinary program curated by Yalda Younes.
The Lebanon International Dance Festival was staged last month at Edde Sands and attracted large crowds.
Some might assume Lebanon’s love affair with tango commenced with the Lebanese iteration of the television show “Dancing with the Stars.” Kiwan would say this affection dated well before that.
Lebanon is home to a large number of salsa and tango dancers, who thrive in the smaller events around the country. Salsa events are scheduled all year long, with weekly parties at Gemmayzeh’s El Gardel and Sin al-Fil’s Nova Club, to name but a couple of venues.
BITF’s dance festivities will sidle across the main stage of Wadi Abu Jameel’s Music Hall with “La Vida es un Tango” (Life is a Tango), a two-night spectacular featuring a slate of tango talent that Kiwan describes as the best in the world.
Duos Horacio Godoy and Magdalena Gutierrez, Giampiero Cantone and Francesca Del Buono, Michalis Souvleris and Maria Kalogera, along with Mazen Kiwan and Yamila Ivonne will be accompanied by tango vocalist Sandra Rumolino and the Quinteto El Arrastre orchestra.
Over two nights, tango amateurs and other curious neophytes will be transported in the best known expression of Argentine popular culture.
Anyone eager to learn more about this passionate-looking dance form will be able to register for workshops that will be staged at the American University of Beirut May 1-4. Those who register will also be given an opportunity to practice their new moves at nightly milongas (tango nights), scheduled the St. Georges Yacht Club on those evenings.
In an effort to cater to guests in town just for this event, the Beirut International Tango Festival has also programmed a countrywide tour. The aim is to immerse foreign dancers within Lebanon’s coastal and mountain landscapes and the rich and varied culture found here.
Those eager to embrace the cosmopolitan community of tango are encouraged to seize the opportunity afforded by BITF.
The Beirut International Tango Festival will take place in various venues around Beirut from April 29 until May 6. For ticketing for “La Vida es un Tango,” please call 01-485-513.