'Turkey Tango'

The Ashland Tango Festival will offer Argentine Tango classes and dances for all levels over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Twenty-seven workshops and seven milongas (tango social dances) are happening at six different locations around town from Nov. 27 through Nov 30. For a complete schedule see www.claysdancestudio.com.

In addition to the workshops, dancers of all levels are welcome at the evening milongas, where watching the advanced dancers and enjoying the elegant atmosphere is half the fun.

Friday and Saturday nights there are absolute beginner lessons from 8 to 9 p.m., followed by dancing until 1 a.m. at the Ashland Community Center, 59 Winburn Way. Workshops cost $20 and admission to the milonga is $10.

Saturday night is The Gran Milonga at The Grove, 1195 E. Main St. Admission is $15 and includes performances by all the visiting instructors at 10:30 p.m.

This is the third Ashland Thanksgiving Tango Festival (also known as "Turkey Tango") organized by Clay Nelson and the Ashland Tango Community. Clay has been running tango festivals for 14 years, including biannual festivals in Portland.

"Clay has a huge amount of experience producing very successful festivals," said Samarra Burnett, local dancer and instructor. "His events are very well run, affordable, and attract world-class dancers and teachers. We are very lucky to have Clay live here in Ashland and produce this with us"

Beginners are encouraged to attend the lesson before the milongas, and try their moves on the dance floor early in the evening.

"The later it gets the more the floor fills up with experienced dancers," Burnett said. "When the dancing is good the whole room of couples begins to dance together as a whole. It's not orchestrated, it just happens, kind of like an elegant storm. It's better for everyone, then, if new dancers just watch. And its well worth watching."

She adds that beginners should not be intimidated by the glamour or complexity of tango.

"The beauty of tango is not just about style, it's not something you 'put on.' Learning to dance tango is learning to express something real in your core, physically and emotionally," she said. "It is a very deep and beautiful dance. It can become very complex, but the heart of tango is just walking in a close embrace with another person. This is something you can learn the first night. Then, you can spend a lifetime exploring, deepening and elaborating on this."

For more information about the Ashland Tango Festival or ongoing tango classes and events, contact Samarra Burnett at halfwild@hotmail.com or call 488-1926.

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