Artist profile: It’s always tango time for Rebecca Niemier

Rebecca Niemier hosts a tango dance and concert Aug. 2 at The Majestic.
Rebecca Niemier hosts a tango dance and concert Aug. 2 at The Majestic. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Tango dancer Rebecca Niemier says she has been waiting quite some time to host Ben Thomas and his tango trio in Bellingham, and finally, on Saturday, Aug. 2, the Seattle ensemble plays for a dance and concert at The Majestic.

For people new to tango, there will be a free lesson at 5:30 p.m.

Here’s more about Niemier and her love of dance. For details about what she does, go to tangolife.biz.

Question: Where did you grow up?

Answer: Back when optimism was in vogue, my parents moved from Chicago to Los Angeles for my father’s engineering career in the aerospace industry. Like many, they began their family in the suburbs, which were pushing out the orange groves of the San Fernando Valley. Unlike many, we spent weekends sailing to Catalina Island, and then two years circumnavigating the South Pacific on a 36-foot sloop with my parents and two younger brothers when I was 14. The native dances and music were especially alluring to a young woman!

Q: And later?

A: I read a lot on that trip, which probably influenced my choice of a journalism diploma from Cal State Long Beach. Mostly I used that training for the creative business and marketing writing when my ex-husband and I founded and ran Ocean Kayak, which we relocated to Bellingham in 1988. We sold the business in 1997, and each went on to various other careers.

Q: When did you become captivated by tango?

A: I did not dance for 20 years, except for the hokeypokey with my two kids once my adulthood really set in. I’m living proof that we can learn new things! I had such fun with jazz, modern and Polynesian dances as a teen, and I wanted to get back to that place of joy and juice in my life. In 2003, I took up belly dancing, which is a fabulous way to get your body in touch with the exotic, and the magic of music and motion.

But, frankly, there were no boys there, so after two years I decided to try Argentine tango. And here was a place where men were honored, and striving to perfect their art of leading a woman smoothly and deeply through incredible music like I had never heard. Women were celebrated for their beautiful contributions to the dance, and in such an intimate embrace, all parties put on their very best social skills, like ladies and gentlemen. All I could say was, “more please.”

I became addicted, traveling all over to learn from the best instructors I could find. I began teaching tango very soon, bringing the knowledge home to my friends in Bellingham. That was 10 years ago, and I still want more!

Q: For those who already take dance lessons (ballroom, swing, salsa), but have not tried tango, what can you say to encourage them to explore tango?

A: Many say that other partner dancers are the gateway drug to Argentine tango. I was learning various ballroom and Latin dances during my first two years of tango. They are fun, social, pretty easy to learn, and usually more of a cardiovascular workout. People who get hooked on tango become intrigued by the unique and interpretive possibilities in the dance, the joy of moving heart to heart with another compassionate human, the high respect within the community, the study of a cultural art form, the possibility to travel nearly anywhere to dance tango and meet new dance friends, and the “tango high” when a dance goes so very well.

Q: What’s the tango community like in Bellingham?

A: The Bellingham tango community is well known in the Pacific Northwest for being welcoming to new dancers. Many feel intimidated to start any dance, but rest assured, the local tango dancers will put everyone at ease, chatting, dancing, and sharing stories. Many of us travel together to tango events in Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., and farther to share our passion.

Q: Where can people dance tango in Bellingham?

A: On the first Sunday of each month I host a tango dance called TangoLife Milonga at The Majestic, and we average 75 dancers from all over the Pacific Northwest. At the event on Aug. 2 featuring music by Seattle’s Ben Thomas Tango Trio, Ben will talk a bit about his instrument, the bandoneon, and some history of tango music. Live music and dance are fleeting and ephemeral arts, so each event is an entirely unique experience to behold.

Q: What occupies your time when you aren’t dancing?

A: When I’m not dancing, I am dreaming of my next dance, or teaching tango students four days per week, or updating my website, or preparing for my next milonga. That’s why my business name is Rebecca’s TangoLife, and tango dancers from all over the country know that there is great tango in Bellingham. Tango fosters compassion, empathy and community, and it’s my mission and my current social contribution.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Read her columns at bellinghamherald.com/behind-the-scenes.

Argentine Tango Concert and Dance

When: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2 (free lesson at 5:30 p.m, music at 6:30).

Where: The Majestic, 1027 N. Forest St.

Details: Priority seating is by email to Rebzebb@msn.com, or call 360-739-0685.

Cost: Tickets at the door, $17.