Montauk is known for many things: It’s famed eighteenth century lighthouse; the wild surf and board-bound conquerors of it at Ditch Planes; its vibrant fishing community, among just a few of the top attractions. But Tango? Unless we’re talking about a euphemism for wrestling in a big fish or getting your sea legs on a rocky boat, the famed Argentine dance doesn’t even scratch the top 100 notions of the End.
If Lewis Gross has his way, that’s all about to change.
From Friday, March 31st through Sunday, April 2nd, get ready for the first annual Montauk Tango Festival, a three-day, wholly immersive, heel-to-toe strut into the fun and finer points of the couples’ dance.
Lewis and his wife, Tracey Gardell, moved from Manhattan to Montauk back in 2001, and in 2005, opened the popular Gig Shack, now run by their chef son, Gray Gardell-Gross (whose brother, Arden, launched Southold’s Little Fish this past year). For Lewis, a holistic dentist whose practice is based in Manhattan, it was those early days of relocating his family from the city to Montauk after the September 11th attacks that lead him to the magic of the Unesco-designated dance.
“I was walking down Broadway feeling lonely after 9/11. My family were all in Montauk, but my business was still in Manhattan,” says Lewis. “I heard music wafting down from a window.” He followed the beautiful sounds to the second floor of the building, where he found the tango parlor, La Belle Epoque. “It was so beautiful!” he recalls. “The people were all glammed up and it was like springtime in there.”
From then on, he became a tango devotee, learning everything from the steps and songs to the best dancers. He even brought in a tango teacher to Gig Shack the first year they for a few weekends.
Since then, he’s been trying to get tango back to Montauk.
“Tango travels around the world! People go to all kinds of places for tango tourism—Vienna, St. Petersburg, and lots of events in the states,” he says. “I think Montauk is a great destination for it, too.”
The ticketed weekend will offer a line-up of top tango performers every day, beginner tango workshops, live music and lots of opportunity to tango the day and night away.
Tickets are available for tango lessons daily ($35) with teacher Jack Hanley at the South Edison (17 Edison St., Montauk, 631-668-4200), tango performances by some of the best dancers in the biz, like award-winning competitive dancers Carlos and Maureen Urrego, Renee Rouger, and Mariano Loguidice, among several others, for $40 to $75, which also includes a complimentary cocktail and hors d’oeuvre, or $415 gets you all-inclusive entry to the weekend’s worth of activities, including music from the Grammy winning band, the Pedro Giraudo Tango Quartet.
Local hotels Daunt’s Albatross and the Montauk Manor are offering special nightly deals during the weekend, too, to encourage the immersive tango spirit.
“It’s a great way to get a taste of tango,” says Lewis. “The beauty of tango is you can be dancing next to the most famous performer only 10 feet away. That’s the way it’s done. Tango is very intimate.”