When she takes the stage at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown Friday night to tango with the pros, Esther Caroline Deming will do so with only a couple of hours of preparation. She’s an avid ballroom dancer and belongs to the Martha’s Vineyard Ballroom Dancers. But the tango is not a typical part of her repertoire. Instead, Ms. Deming will get a crash course from a group of classic Argentinian tango dancers when they arrive on Island at 5 p.m. Friday evening. The performance starts at 8.
“I’ve been roped into participating, because one of the dancers can’t make it,” said Ms. Deming this week. Her ballroom dancing background and the fact that she will be dancing with a tango instructor should help. “I can follow. I’m a good follower in general,” she said.
She got the idea for the Vineyard Tango show at a friend’s birthday party in New York’s Greenwich Village. Marsha Rock had invited a tango band to perform, and while Ms. Deming was familiar with the traditional fox-trot and even the more exotic salsa, tango was like nothing she’d seen before. “I was just floored. My jaw dropped,” she said of the sexy, sultry style of dance. “The music, the style of dancing. It’s completely different from any other kind of couples dancing.”
Ms. Deming’s dream, at that point, was to figure out a way to get the tango dancers to the Island, just to see the magic again. A board member of the high school Minnesingers choral group, she thought an evening of song and dance would be a perfect summer fundraiser.
“We have a thirst for culture, Islanders,” said Ms. Deming. But for the most part, it has to be imported.
So a group of imports from New York city will take up residence in Ms. Deming’s home for a long weekend — and she’s left with just a few days to prepare for her tango debut and find a place to crash with her teenage daughters.
“They’re going to stay in my house,” she said, which was part of the deal for the five dancers and the Eternal Tango Orchestra, a three-piece orchestra led by the world-famous, Argentina-born bandoneón player Hector del Curto.
Admission to the show will be a $20 donation for the Minnesingers, who will put the money aside to help finance a trip to Prague next spring. Last year, the young singing troupe missed out on their chance to go to Europe; their flight plans were derailed by an Icelandic volcano eruption that cancelled flights across the Atlantic in mid-May.
But the only performers Friday night will be the tango dancers. The Minnesingers will be present only to help out with the event.
Ms. Deming expects the crowd to be just as blown away by tango as she was that day in the Village. “Part of the beauty and the fascination of the tango is that it’s unlike any other dance. It’s a conversation,” she said. The man initiates the moves, and the woman responds accordingly.
“It’s very passionate, very erotic,” said Ms. Deming. “I’m a descendent of the Puritans, so this is a real stretch for me,” she joked.
But she’s confident that all of her dance practice, leading up to now, will show through on the dance floor. “There are certain moves that are specific to Argentinian tango,” she said, so she’ll do her best to learn those and then fall back on her ability to follow. “It’s a real art. It’s a very physical thing.”