Christy Byers has been dancing Argentine tango for almost 20 years and has been ballroom dancing for even longer. With her passion for tango and because Louisville is near many U.S. cities, she founded the Louisville Tango Festival in 2016. Now, gearing up for its fourth year this weekend, the festival will draw around 300 dancers to Louisville for workshops, lessons and milongas — essentially tango dancing parties. The festival includes three days of all things tango with international performers, instructors, DJs and live music. Every evening are all-night dance parties for you to “milonga til you can nolonga,” and on Saturday, dress in your best 1920s attire for a Great Gatsby Milonga. During the rest of the year, you can still find Byers hitting dance floors or instructing tango students. She cofounded the Louisville Argentine Tango Society with dance partner Andy Blair, and at Blair’s Ballroom, the group has foundation classes for beginners every Monday. “Because it is a walking dance, it is really not that hard,” Byers said. “It’s a very social dance. It’s more about moving to the music and connecting with someone.”
LEO: How were you introduced to tango?
Christy Byers: I’ve been a ballroom dancer and teacher for many years. Nineteen years ago, I went to Argentina with my dance partner, Andy Blair from Blair’s Ballroom. We had gone to other countries like Spain to see paso doble [a fast-paced ballroom dance based on a Latin American style of marching] and Vienna to see the Viennese waltz. When I saw how tango was danced, I fell in love with it. We have been teaching Argentine tango for 19 years exactly how they teach it in Buenos Aires. My partner and I have gone to Argentina over 45 times. That is where we learn and from where we brought it back.
What was it about Argentine tango that initially drew you to it?
It is very creative, and it is to the music and the feeling. It is the only dance I’ve been able to get a dance trance. I’m not saying I don’t love all styles of dance, but Argentine tango feels different.
The festival is about the Argentine style of tango. What makes it different from others?
Ballroom dancing is like a GMO [genetically modified organism]. I have traveled to many places to see the real dances, and what ballroom does is codify it, change it and make it a little bit different. The hold is different. The feeling is different. Argentine tango is a very connection-based dance, and when I first went to Argentina, they immediately knew I was a ballroom dancer.
For someone new to tango, what opportunities do they have to participate in the festival?
We have a beginner’s track the whole weekend so they can totally immerse themselves in tango. We have two dance floors at night to make them feel more comfortable if they do not want to get on the big floor. Also, we are offering a free dance lesson to the public on Saturday night from 8 to 9:30 p.m. •