Tango in the Rocky Mountains

An Interview with Dvora Kanegis


Dvora Kanegis owns and runs Casa Tango in Salida, Colorado with her husband Steve Keefer. A little town of 5,000, Salida is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There, Dvora and Steve set up their own tango studio six years ago. This interview is part of Where Dance Is, a series of interviews with dance artists working in rural places.

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How did you come to open Casa Tango in Salida, Colorado?

Steve and I were living in the Boulder/Denver area. My daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren live in Salida, so we regularly came to visit. It’s a three-hour drive over a beautiful mountain pass, and whenever we came over the pass, we would breathe a sigh of relief. We were awed by the beauty of this area, and started imagining what it would be like to live here. The first thing that came up for us was: There’s no tango. Then we decided we could create the tango scene, even though there wasn’t one.

I’ve been dancing tango for about 18 years, and Steve has been dancing for about 12. I did swing dance before. One day, I went to a swing class and said to my partner, “This is so much fun!” And he responded, “Yeah, but tango…” I went to a tango class out of curiosity, and when I heard the music, I was hooked. It just touches me so deeply. I met my husband dancing tango.

We started thinking about moving to Salida and buying a property we could transform into a studio. The realtor we were working with showed us a place just outside of town that was an old dance hall built at the turn of the century. It was a disaster, but we bought it that day. Over two years, we renovated it. The dream became real six years ago. When we moved in, we had an event right away. People came from Denver and surrounding areas. It was small—there were about 30 people—but it was delicious.

After that, we started advertising in Salida and teaching classes. We have had classes with as many as 20 or as few as three, but we just continue. Our little community ebbs and flows.

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How would you characterize the general dance scene in Salida?

It’s an amazingly varied and vibrant dance community. There’s salsa and swing, as well as a studio with children to adult classes in hip hop, ballet, tap, etc. There are probably five or six dance studios in this tiny little town.

What does your current dance practice look like?

We do a series of three classes every month. Each class is an hour once a week, and then we do a practica once a week. Half of the building is our home, and the other half is the dance studio, so Steve and I often just go in and dance. It’s like our living room. It’s a large space with a terrific wood dance floor. It was the only thing we didn’t change when we renovated the building.

Our big event every year is in the middle of July. We have a tango encuentro that attracts about 65 people from all over the country. Our locals get to dance with people from everywhere. The level is generally intermediate and advanced.

Our vision when we built the place was to have smaller events where people could dance and eat together, developing community. We built our kitchen with this in mind. We have a potluck barbecue at our big event, and we host earlier milongas than are typical in cities so people can get to bed in order to enjoy the area.

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What are the challenges of running a tango studio in Salida?

The challenge is numbers. At the same time, we get to know each other very well, and our students get individual attention. Another downside is when we want to tango with more advanced dancers, we have to travel or bring them in. The town is very tiny, so the fact we sometimes have 20 students in a class is phenomenal.

We go down to Santa Fe monthly to Two Moon Tango’s milonga, and often we bring our students with us so they can mix and get exposed.

What do you perceive is Casa Tango’s impact?

Our impact on the greater tango community is to show it’s possible to combine dance with the beauty of the great outdoors. You don’t have to go to a smoggy city to get great dance. For the community here in Salida, I think it’s a growing fascination with this form of dance. So many people never even knew it existed. We have a public radio station here, and I DJ a tango show once a week for an hour. It’s another way of sharing my love of tango music and culture with the community.

What really fascinates Steve and I about the milonguero style is it’s a private internal conversation between two people, and it is a dance form you can do as long as you can walk. It actually keeps people walking longer. Our students range in age from their 30s to 70s. Milonguero style definitely appeals to more mature dancers, not just because it doesn’t require tremendous physical strength, but because it is subtler and contemplative. It isn’t about flash. It’s about deep understanding and communication. It takes a level of trust in yourself and others because it is so personal and intimate.

Any other thoughts?

It is truly an honor to have a studio in Salida and to be able to teach and share tango. When students come, I feel gratitude for their trust. I receive as much as I give.

2016 D&S

Dvora and her husband Steve


To learn more, visit www.casatangosalida.com.