A BRIEF HISTORY OF
TANGO IN HONG KONG
In late-1994, Ann Decortis, a Belgian girl working for Medecins Sans Frontiers was posted to Hong Kong. Ann had learned the Argentina Tango in Belgium and had visited Buenos Aires. However, upon her arrival in Hong Kong, she was dismayed to learn that there was no one else in Hong Kong who could dance Tango.
In a desperate attempt to remedy the matter, Ann invited her dance instructors to teach some classes. And so it was, in the summer of 1995, that Pablo Inza and Gladys Fernandez arrived to introduce the Argentina Tango to the people of Hong Kong.
Because of other teaching commitments in Europe Pablo and Gladys could only stay for a short period but it was sufficient to arouse the interest of enough people to ensure return visits. Until their final visit in November 1996 Pablo and Gladys visited Hong Kong four times, teaching Tango to a growing number of Tango-lovers. Between these visits efforts were made to maintain interest and Ann arranged the first Tango social nights (i.e. milongas) in the Cossack Bar, then located in the basement of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Central.
Ann left Hong Kong in 1996 and, in the same year, Pablo and Gladys separated with Pablo returning to Buenos Aires and Gladys moving to Italy. Gladys made one solo visit to Hong Kong in late-1996; however, no further visits were then planned.
In December 1996 Keith and Sunshine gave their first Argentina Tango performance at a Christmas party for senior citizens in a Cheung Sha Wan community hall. More performances followed, often free of charge in order to promote Tango, and sometimes as part of their Ballroom and Latin American dance shows. However, social Tango in Hong Kong had declined and appeared doomed without a new input of energy.
Fortunately, this arrived in the form of Frederic Lichtenstein who arrived in Hong Kong in early-1997. Frederic had learned the Argentina Tango in his home country of France and, like Ann Decortis, was dismayed to find no one in Hong Kong dancing Tango. Frederic turned to the internet to find fellow Tango-lovers and soon contacted some of the former students of Pablo and Gladys, including Keith and Sunshine. In mid-1997, together with his partner, Beatrice Remy, Frederic started to host weekly Tango gatherings in the living room of his Happy Valley apartment. Later, this transferred to the larger living room of Philippe, where it stayed until Philippe’s transfer to Beijing in mid-1998.
Also in mid-1997, Keith and Sunshine started to teach their first Tango classes at Paul Bishop's Academy of Dance in Times Square, Causeway Bay and, in January/February 1998, they visited Buenos Aires for the first of their ten visits to the heart and soul of Tango. Here they received intensive training and, upon their return to Hong Kong, they performed more and more Tango Shows. In June 1998, following Philippe’s departure and the temporary cessation of Frederic’s weekly Tango gatherings, they formed the Hong Kong Tango Academy and their intermittent Tango classes became a permanent fixture in Hong Kong's dance calendar. For the first time Hong Kong had professional-standard Tango instruction on a regular weekly basis.
Following the closure of Paul Bishop's Academy in late-1998, Keith and Sunshine's classes and practicas moved to the nearby Scott’s Dancing School [later re-named the GMS Academy of Dance] where they remained until the end of 2002. At this time the Hong Kong Tango Academy was able to open its own beautiful school at 22/F Great Smart Tower, 230 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai. Tango Nights are held every Friday with lessons for beginners and improvers and often include lessons in Milonga and Tango Vals.
To further promote the Argentina Tango, in the autumn of 1998, Keith and Sunshine started teaching fixed-length Tango courses at the Hong Kong Arts Centre and in the spring of 1999 courses commenced at the prestigious Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. These courses proved to be very successful and many of today’s active Tango dancers have learned the fundamentals of Tango at these courses. In addition, Keith and Sunshine made attempts to introduce Tango at more commercial centres such as Bar City in Tsim Sha Tsui and at Al Corso and La Placita Bar/Restaurants in Causeway Bay. However, while these were successful on a short-term basis, there remained insufficient interest to support a long-term commercial venture.
In the meantime, in early-1999, Frederic and Beatrice resurrected their informal Tango gatherings and formed TangoTang, the Hong Kong Tango Club, with practicas every Thursday at Amnesia in Hollywood Road. With increased support this venue quickly became too small and TangoTang moved to the Helena May Dance School in Garden Road, Central where it remains, every Tuesday until this day today. TangoTang also re-introduced imported Tango teachers and performers to greatly enrich the Tango scene in Hong Kong and to raise the standard of social Tango to new levels.
Frederic and Beatrice left Hong Kong in mid-2002 but, with a newly elected committee, TangoTang continues to flourish and grow.
With two centres of Tango in Hong Kong – at the Hong Kong Tango Academy for tuition and milongas and at TangoTang for practicas and milongas, the future of Tango in Hong Kong appears secure.
Final Note: This 'history' was last updated in 2003. Since that time, the Tango community in Hong Kong has continued to grow. Other organisers now arrange practicas and milongas and other dancers have commenced teaching classes including, we're proud to say, at least 7 former students of the Hong Kong Tango Academy. It is now almost possible to attend a Tango event - classes, practica or milonga - on a daily basis in Hong Kong. Full details are generally given on the TangoTang website at www.tangotang.com