WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – If you have ever wondered what it would be like to dance the Argentine Tango, then Lee Sager will gladly show you how. Sager is a specialist instructor in the art of Argentine tango. His advanced technique has earned him a position to teach this provocative dance across the world and even in Argentina, which is quite rare for an American.
Argentine tango originated in the 1880’s off the ports of Buenos Aires as immigrants from Europe and Africa filtered into the city. The fabled theory was that, after a grueling work day, these foreign men developed a special style of partner-dance in the lowbrow bars, which is now known worldwide as the tango.
Since this Argentine dance stemmed from the lower-class districts of Buenos Aires, it was initially frowned upon by the likes of high society. However, the sentiment and passion in the beginnings of the tango, coupled with the joy and release of stress, in regard to the strife of the immigrant, could not keep this recreation contained to just the ports of Buenos Aires.
In fact, the sons of the wealthy became immersed in this lifestyle and helped catapult this dance movement into international notoriety — bringing the culture to the elite. By the first decade of the 1900’s, this tango was an unstoppable hit in capitals of the world, such as London, Rome, New York and Paris.
These days, Lee Sager and his dance partner of a year, Chellee Fellows, have brought Argentine Tango to Monmouth University’s students and the surrounding community for the past three years. Sager is the founder of Tango Pantera, which he developed in 2007, and is based out of Middletown Arts Center. Tango Pantera is New Jersey’s largest establishment associated with the tango community.
Sager has studied under some of the world’s most noteworthy Argentine tango masters, with the likes of Carlos DeChey, Viviana Parra, and Mariano Pedernera. Some of Fellows’ masters were Julio Bassan, Manuela Rossi, and Juan Malizia.
Sager is an established Argentine tango dancer, teacher, producer and organizer. He arranges to have renowned dancers from all over the globe make guest appearances at designated venues like the Middletown Arts Center. He also has a hand in organizing Milongas, a special tango event, such as a performance at La Romeria Milonga located in Times Square.
He wanted to bring this exciting dance to a younger demographic, which is why he began an affiliation with Monmouth University and Ocean County College (OCC). The enrollment at OCC had a fair number of college students, at around 15 or so. With the inclement weather at the beginning of this spring semester, the enrollment at Monmouth’s tango classes dwindled from 25 to five (with no college students).
A married couple, Rich and Olga, are currently students with Sager at the Atlantic Club in Manasquan. Rich signed up for the lessons because he thought they would be interesting, and he will be enrolling in the next available lessons as he hopes to advance his skills.
Another participant, Lloyd, actually studied with Sager a couple of years back. When asked how he likes the class, he remarked happily, “I love it!”
The first six-week session ended on March 10. The next six week session will also be Mondays, immediately following Spring Break on March 24. Students get six classes for $40 ($60 for MU employees and for the $100 general public). There are two classes, one designated for beginners and the other for advanced students.
You can hear his brief retelling of the moments when this dance entered his life, the chance meeting with a special Argentine dancer when he visited the country, as well as a clip of his class as he instructs the students, in this video:
Video created by Bounlad Phengsom.