By KATHARINA CAVANO
Lee Sager doesn’t just dance the tango, he is tango.
The man has a deep passion for the art of Argentine Tango and has brought it here to the Jersey Shore in the hopes to one-day make Asbury Park the center of the Jersey Shore Tango Community.
Sager is a survivor – six years after 9/11 and the destruction of both his Manhattan office and apartment, he returned home to Monmouth County. Then, nearly six years later his home in Sea Bright was moved into the river by Superstorm Sandy. This brought him to Asbury Park.
“The energy and vitality of this town was apparent right away and I knew I had to get into here. We have a lot of high hopes for Asbury,” he said.
Now, his new home is Asbury Park, and the new home to Tango Pantera – his tango company – where he teaches Argentine Tango to students from all over New Jersey, and hosts milongas or dances on the weekends.
Sager attributes two major factors that led him to tango, which is a ballroom dance created in Buenos Aires, Argentina. First, a break up that left him yearning for some thing physical in his life. Sager was raised an athlete with several brothers and even played football at Temple University.
“Besides the obvious things between a guy and a girl physically, they don’t do anything physical together, and that’s what I’m in to,” he said.
The second factor was a documentary on PBS that he happened upon one night channel surfing all about Argentine Tango. He took his first lesson 14 years ago and remembers that first day and his first teacher vividly.
“I was just addicted that first day and never stopped,” he said.
Sager has been teaching tango now for seven years and just celebrated his sixth year teaching here at the Jersey Shore at the beginning of September.
Tango Pantera (translated means panther) has no set home; Sager began teaching his classes with five students at the Middletown Arts Center, and since then, has expanded to Monmouth University, Ocean County Community College, and now Art629 – a gallery space on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park.
“In the grand scheme of things, now that I’ve seen this town [Asbury Park] and seen the boardwalk and the venues on the boardwalk…we really want to make this the center of tango at the Jersey Shore – that’s what I’m envisioning,” he said.
There’s still time to sign up for Sager’s beginner class held in Asbury Park and prospective dancers can register on his website. The classes are held every Wednesday evening for a month and cost $60 per person. Contrary to popular belief, no dance experience is necessary, in fact according to Sager it’s preferable to step into his tango class without any dance experience at all.