It was a big day for tango aficionados when Pope Francis was elected in March. The new pope had danced tango as a young man in his native Argentina.
“In the 24 hours after he was named pope, I have friends all over North American who have tango studios who were interviewed on TV,” says Meredith Klein, director of the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School. “Apparently in [Pope Francis'] youth, before he took his calling and joined the church, he danced tango to some extent. He enjoyed the faster milonga, which calls for more sprightly dancing.”
You never know — a future pope might just be in the ranks of the third annual Philadelphia International Tango Festival, which takes place Friday through May 27 at the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School in Fishtown, the festival’s sponsor, and the Ruba Club in Northern Liberties.
“We dance late into the night and then we start again the next morning with workshops for all levels, from beginners on up,” says Klein, who studied tango in Argentina and opened the Philly school in 2008.
With all that dancing, don’t you need a rest now and then?
“Argentine tango is a social dance based on walking,” Klein says. “Walking is the bottom line. It’s a dance you can dance for many hours and still dance. It’s not like you’re jumping around and you get very tired in an hour.”
Tango has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity worldwide since the restoration of democracy in Argentina in the 1980s, Klein says. She expects about 500 dancers at the festival, with everyone from tango experts from Argentina, the birthplace of the dance in the 1890s, to beginners partaking in the fest’s Absolute Beginner track.
Most events accept at-the-door registration.
“People are coming to Philadelphia from all over the United States,” Klein says. “The tango community has been growing enormously over the last five years.”
If you go
Philadelphia International Tango Festival
Ruba Club, 414 Green St.
Philadelphia Argentine Tango School, 2030 Frankford Ave.
$15 to $260