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The Tango Room has its own Saturday night fever

The Sherman Oaks facility has become a magnet for accomplished dancers and aficionados of the traditional Argentine dance.

September 24, 2009|Nicole Santa Cruz

To step onto the dance floor at the Tango Room Dance Center in Sherman Oaks is to experience a little bit of Argentine night life.

Under the red lights and pulsing rhythm of the music, women in slit skirts and plunging necklines embrace their male dance partners chest-to-chest as they strut across the floor.

Dancers say the milonga, or tango event, called "El Encuentro" (The Encounter), is where the best of L.A. goes to dance traditional Argentine tango. The event has been going strong for 10 years and enjoys a global reputation as a magnet for bailarines, or very accomplished dancers.

Like many others, Fernando Abenoza fell in love with the precision and intimacy of the dance. The 68-year-old Glendale resident can be found there just about every Saturday night.

"There's more feeling than other places, and people dance more like the Argentinian tango," he said. "It's a beautiful connection."

The Saturday event sometimes runs until 5 a.m., a custom in Buenos Aires, birthplace of the tango, said Julie Friedgen, who co-owns the facility with Angel Echeverria and Alexis White. The dance can draw as many as 150 people.

"Sometimes we dance until the sun comes up," Friedgen said.

Guillermo De Fazio, 26, who is part of a popular Argentine-based tango duo with his brother, Los Hermanos Macana, described the Tango Room as "elegant and serious."

"It has its own personality," he said.

De Fazio said in a big city such as L.A., the Tango Room is a great place to meet people.

"People here, they need the contact, they need the love, they need to socialize," he said.

Dance partners Joslyn Valverde, 26, and David Crowder, 32, met while taking tango lessons in Irvine. But the couple, who dance about five times a week, were instantly hooked by the good food, company and dance at the Sherman Oaks venue.

"The crowd is a really good mix," Valverde said. "There's younger people who like to dance the tango nuevo like we do, [and] there's older people who like the traditional style."

The couple hasn't missed a Saturday in three months.

"It's the most beautiful dance, it's the most passionate dance," Crowder said, "and it's the sexiest."

Abenoza said dancing the tango makes him feel young again. "Tango for me is an expression of love. You don't stop loving because you get old; you get old because you stop loving."

The dance's biggest allure is its intimacy, said Emory Story, 47, a West L.A. Pilates instructor.

"It's subliminal," she said. "It's like this little mini-relationship that's three minutes long."

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nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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The Tango Room Dance Center

Where: 4346 Woodman Ave., Sherman Oaks

When: "El Encuentro" on Saturdays. Classes are 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., with the milonga from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. "Milonga X" is 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesdays

Price: Dancing, $10 to $18, depending on the event, with some including food. Classes are $15

Contact: (818) 981-6500; www.thetangoroom.com

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