"The main code of the tango is that you dance as you are feeling today," says Nina Pesochinsky, artistic director/instructor/performer of the Denver-based Tango Mujer Dance Company. "The same two people can dance the same song a thousand times, and they will have a thousand different dances. It's always improvised with no choreography. The dance really is created in the moment." An art form that emerged in Buenos Aires during the late 1800s, Argentina's romantic pastime still creates a deeply intense connection between two people -- often complete strangers. But with roughly 300 potentially interchangeable dance partners expected to converge upon the Fourth Annual Labor Day Tango Festival, Pesochinsky views this weekend's gathering -- which opens to the general public tonight about 9:30 p.m. -- as more of a conventional social affair than a pheromone-crazed mating ritual.
"It's a very conservative dance, in spite of its look," notes the St. Petersburg native. "The boundaries in tango are very strong. What was inappropriate fifty years ago in an Argentine form is still inappropriate today. Touching your partner on purpose below the solar plexus is not acceptable. There's no tummy-to-tummy contact. People connect with an embrace that is not sexual; it's a sensual embrace. And it lasts only as long as the music lasts."
A set of three consecutive dances, called a tanda, can glue a couple together for at least ten fiery, tango-filled minutes.
"Women like to be asked by men, naturally," Pesochinsky notes with the subtlety of Sadie Hawkins. "But when a woman gets anxious that's she's not going to dance, it's better if she sits down and asks a gentlemen with her eyes from across the room. And if they both nod their heads 'yes' or make a little gesture with the eyes, that is called cabeceo. Men are very polite creatures. They never, ever refuse a lady."
Tango enthusiasts -- be they beginner, intermediate, advanced or fanatic -- can test the waters themselves during professional workshops, practices and social-style milongas. After tonight's fiesta at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, the focus moves to the Doubletree Hotel, 3203 Quebec Street, tomorrow with a 7:30 p.m. showcase of Extasis, Denver's own orchestrated answer to tango master Astor Piazzolla; the festival reaches its boiling point Sunday evening at Cheesman Park Pavilion, where bailadores dressed to the nines can enjoy a picnic, then strut their stuff in the open air from dusk till dawn.
"To embrace and connect is a fundamental desire of every human being," says Pesochinsky. "It's a very healing thing."
Admission to the festival is $69 per day or $159 for the entire run. Call 303-388-2560 or log on to www.tango.org for details. -- John La Briola
Blues you can use
Despite the imagery set off by its bucolic Delta-inspired moniker, there's no need to arrive in overalls and bare feet for the Red Dirt Blues Festival, which runs from noon to 10 p.m. today at Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons. But do come fully prepared to take in the outdoor venue's fresh ambience and spectacular setting on the St. Vrain River, whose fishing and tubing opportunities are included in the concert package. And keep in mind that Red Dirt is no ordinary blues fest: Started five years ago by local entrepreneur Dale Katechis (whose Oskar Blues Grill & Brew has proven a Lyons mainstay in the six years it's served up microbrewed suds and national blues artists on Main Street), the event is unique in that it dives beneath the mainstream of contemporary blues music, bringing lesser-known but utterly authentic musicians to Colorado. Katechis credits Colorado Blues Society founder and Oskar Blues general manager Dave McIntyre ("We call him our on-site bluesologist," Katechis muses) for this year's classy lineup, which includes Big Jack Johnson, Mojo Buford, Hamilton Loomis, James Solberg, Junior Watson, Terry Evans, and Lil Porter & the Zydeco Hustlers. The fest is growing up in style, with the Lyons-based Planet Bluegrass joining forces with Katechis to produce a truly audience-friendly event.
Admission, which includes access to food and craft booths, is an easy-on-the-wallet $15; for info, call 303-823-0848 or log on to www. bluegrass.com. -- Susan Froyd
Itching for one more bangin' beach party this season? Then paddle over to the 1st Annual Boulder Rez Fest, today through Labor Day, and say a sweet rockin' adieu to summertime. Boogie down to three full days of main-stage music by the likes of Wendy Woo, Soul Thieves and Bop Skizzum, or get into the groove with a second-stage assortment of movers and shakers, including Bantaba World Dance & Music, Motion Underground and the McTaggart Irish Dancers. Carnival rides, food and art tents, the New Belgium Beer Gardens, daily hot-air balloon launches, volleyball tournaments, giant hand-decorated zucchini races for the kids and demonstrations by the CU Crew Rowing Regatta all add up to a weekend of wet and wild fun.
But what about the football? "We are so excited," says Meg Denbow, assistant director of Boulder Creek Events. "The Rocky Mountain Showdown Tailgate group will have big-screen TVs and beer for the people who want to watch the games. Even CSU fans are allowed."