Rachel Epstein, of Roslyn, took up the tango in her 80s as a way of reconnecting with her memories of growing up in France, where she hid from the Nazis. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara; File Footage

Ever since she was a young girl growing up in France, Rachel Epstein has loved music and dancing.

About a dozen years ago, Epstein, a Holocaust survivor, took up ballroom dancing. Five years later, she said she started learning tango.

“I love the tango dance and I love the tango music,” said Epstein, 92. “It puts you in a different world. When you dance, it’s very good for your body and it’s wonderful for your mind.”

Dressed in 5-inch heels, Epstein dances weekly on the parquet floor in the living room of her Roslyn home with her instructor, Eran Polat.

“So for one hour that I do every week, I’m forgetting about everything except dancing,” Epstein said.

Of all the partner dances, tango is the most natural and most expressive, said Polat, who also teaches group lessons through Argentine Tango Lovers of Long Island.

“It’s not just the drama behind tango,” Polat said. “It’s funny, it’s playful. It’s vulnerable, delicate yet powerful, strong and transformative.”

For anyone wishing to learn to tango, Polat recommended starting with weekly group lessons. They can then progress to private lessons if they are serious about mastering the dance.

“You can really learn the main components, and you can start going to milongas, which are tango socials. And then as you dance with different people, you get better,” Polat said.

The tango involves listening to both the music and to your partner’s cues: initiation, moving your weight from one foot to the other and breathing together when the music pauses.

“After a little while, it becomes so natural: You close your eyes and you just dance and just become in this high state,” Polat said.

Dancing the tango, Polat said, is very introspective.

“It shows you who you are, what kind of person you are,” Polat said. “What kind of feelings you have, what kinds of actions you take.”

Tango, Polat warned, can be addictive.

“You start going to milongas and then you go to festivals,” Polat said. “You take a bunch of workshops, seminars. Then, you go to tango marathons where you dance for a few days.”


For individual lessons, Polat charges $50 per half hour and $100 per hour. Group lessons through Argentine Tango Lovers of Long Island cost $25.


The Argentine Tango Lovers of Long Island holds group lessons on Tuesday evenings at Mirelle’s Restaurant, 170 Post Ave. in Westbury; and on Friday evenings at 375 Dance Studio, 375 Westbury Ave. in Carle Place. For more information, visit argentinetangolovers.com.


At milongas (dance socials), a DJ plays a tanda, a set of four songs during which a couple dances together, then a cortina (interlude), when a dancer has the option to move on to a new partner.

“How you get the partner, it’s not by asking, ‘Would you like to dance?’ It’s a gesture, with eye contact, called a ‘cabaceo,’ ” Polat said.


The basic tango steps, for the leading dancer, are: Step forward with your left foot; forward with your right, passing the left; forward with your left, passing the right; forward and to the right with your right foot; then bring left foot close to the right one. The dancer not leading follows the opposite steps, starting by stepping backward with their right foot.

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