Eliot Circular

Tangled up in Tango

Tango master Alex Krebs ’99 eyes a semiquaver at Tango Institute. Photo by Heidi Hoffman

By Claire Sykes

Fanning themselves with their programs in a standing-room-only Eliot Hall chapel, the audience was transported straight to the barrios of Buenos Aires as the violins, basses, bandoneones, and piano plunged into a sultry tango beat.

The nine players kicked off the grand finale of the Tango Music Institute, held at Reed in June 23–30, 2013. For the next two hours, 53 musicians of varying experience and combinations showcased what they’d learned that week under the tutelage of four of the world’s preeminent tango musicians. Bassist Pablo Aslan, pianist Octavio Brunetti, and bandoneonist Julian Hasse, all Argentine-born, and U.S. violinist Nick Danielson capped the evening with virtuosic romps that lifted the applauding crowd to its feet, stomping for an encore. Many in the crowd refused to sit back down until they’d tangoed well past midnight at the milonga that followed in the student union, led by musician and dancer Alex Krebs ’99.

You can thank Prof. Morgan Luker [music 2010–] for making it all happen. An ethnomusicologist and leading scholar on contemporary tango, he dreamed up the institute three years ago. “I’m grateful for Reed being so supportive of music I’m really passionate about, for which there are zero formal educational opportunities in North America,” he says. The institute is the first of its kind in the nation.

Aslan, the institute’s lead instructor, helped Luker develop the daily tango classes, workshops, rehearsals, jam sessions, lectures, and films. “People had their minds blown,” Luker says. “They learned more here in a week than they would in 10 years on their own.” Participants hailed from 15 states, Canada, and the U.K. 

Portland boasts an active tango community, and the institute “builds on that synergy, while connecting Reed to the community,” Luker says. His longterm goal?  “To make the Reed Tango Music Institute a point of reference for everyone involved in tango in the U.S. and beyond.” 

Look for the return of the Tango Institute at Reed in June 2014.