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Tara Fortier, left, and Nick Jones will be among instructors at the UTango Festival, which takes place Thursday through Sunday.

Last year Barbara Bagnasacco, a lawyer by day, organized the first UTango Festival in Salt Lake City.

The three-day event featured workshops, social dances, gatherings, rehearsals and performances in various venues throughout the city. It was such a success that Bagnasacco is doing it again. (See accompanying story for UTango Festival schedule.)

"We had a good turnout last year," said Bagnasacco during an interview. "This year, we're expecting more than 250 participants. It's exciting for us to be able to do something like this."

Contrary to what some people may expect, Salt Lake City has a large and passionate tango community, Bagnasacco said.

"In other cities across the nation, the Argentine tango communities have a tango festival," she said. "So, that's one of the reasons why we did it. The other reason was because I love the tango."

The true tango is an improvisational dance in which, if you are paying attention to your partner, wonderful things can happen, said tango enthusiast Susan Radtke. "It's the type of dance that works if you stay on your axis," said Radtke, who works as the community outreach adviser for Park City Academy. "It's not what you see on those shows like 'Dancing with the Stars,' although there is a ballroom tango that is much different."

She said the tango that she fell in love with eight years ago is pure magic. "I was living in Dallas, Texas, and participated in a three-week intensive workshop. We met in a a Catholic church gym and were instructed by two very good teachers."

Radtke had practiced martial arts for 30 years and decided it was time to change.

"The funny thing is the fact that the tango takes the same type of concentration that I used in karate, and I responded to the teacher very well."

When Radtke was thinking about moving to Utah two years ago, she immediately looked to see if there was an Argentine tango community. She was surprised to find one.

"If you are new to an area and want a good social network, the tango is where it's at," she said.

Bagnasacco said organizing the UTango Festival this year did have its challenges.

"One of the main concerns was scheduling the instructors," she said. "We had to make sure all our schedules met. And then we had to find some good venues for all the events. But we did it."

Tango instructors from around the world will help beginning, intermediate and advanced dancers in various workshops, Bagnasacco said.

"The TV shows that feature dance do bring attention to dances like the tango, and that's a good thing," Bagnasacco said. "But one must be cautious, because the tango that they dance on TV is different than what we do."

The instructors coming to Utah include Tomas Howlin, Felipe Martinez and Rosa Corisco, and Nick Jones and Tara Fortier.

"Tomas is originally from Argentina but lives in Montreal now," she said. "He is one of the most sought-after teachers today. He studied with the greatest dancers of all time, and we are very lucky to have him join us."

Martinez and Corisco have excellent technique, she said.

"They come to us from Spain. This will be the first time they'll be in Utah. They have a very fluid style and are very inspiring," she said.

Jones and Fortier are rising in popularity in the nuevo tango movement, which expands the tango style.

"Their style is more acrobatic," she said. "They dance Argentine tango and apply new concepts. To see them is to watch a couple try to fly."

Bagnasacco said Utah is lucky to have such a strong tango community.

"It is a great social connection, but also a way of life," she said. "I wanted to give tango dancers in Utah a gift to participate in a festival. We all share a high enthusiasm for the dance, and the most rewarding part of the tango is watching the connections.

Radtke agrees, especially because the tango changed her life.

"I'm getting married this summer, and I had met my fiance through tango," she said. "But the tango also teaches you concentration, focus and patience. Those attributes can be used in all aspects of life."

If you go

What: UTango Festival

Where: Various venues

When: Thursday through Sunday, times vary

Cost: Prices vary (register on the Web site below)

Web: www.utangofestival.com


E-mail: scott@desnews.com