Live Music Matters

Austin Music Map visits Esquina Tango's vibrant and diverse community of music and dance

Austin Music Map visits Esquina Tango's vibrant and diverse community of music and dance

Editor's Note: Austin Music Map is a documentary project that explores Austin's diverse music communities. Each week in December, CultureMap will showcase a new video from the project to celebrate the recent launch of this collaborative, community-focused initiative.

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Tucked away on Pedernales St. on the East Side is a small building whose vibrancy and diversity outshine its humble exterior.

Esquina Tango, founded in 2005, is Austin’s hub for tango culture. This culture extends far beyond the dance and music form’s Buenos Aires origins, sharing its roots with a diverse — and growing — community of Austinites.

The nonprofit organization’s mission is to create a “vibrant and diverse community in East Austin and beyond through performing arts and health,” a mission accomplished through live music, dance lessons and community activities, all in an approachable, community-minded setting.

“Tango is not an easy test… not everybody can understand tango,” says Gustavo Simplis, co-founder of Esquina Tango. And though the rhythm and dance may not be second nature to all, Esquina Tango has made the art form an accessible one to Austin, in turn establishing itself as a mainstay in Austin's unique cultural landscape.

“The tango community here in Austin is incredible. I’m so surprised that we have this in Austin,” says Paola Guerrero, general manager of Buenos Aires Café. “The diversity of people that live here, I think, embrace different art forms, both in the dance community and the art community in general."

This piece from the Austin Music Map explores the Austin Tango scene, as created and fostered by Simplis’ Esquina Tango. Delve into this East Side world of music and dance, through the eyes of the dancers, musicians and founders who make up its community.

Esquina Tango an idea that, Simplis believes, could exist in very few cities. An idea that exists in what he refers to as a “cosmopolitan” Austin. An Austin, he says, where “people are very open.” 

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Esquina Tango dancers. Photo by: Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon