The art gallery at Columbia's Slayton House will be transformed April 9 into a smoky Argentine cafe and bar complete with live tango music and professional dancers.
The reception and performance officially kick off an exhibition of collages by Columbia artist Estela Rotondaro that celebrates the popular Argentine dance. The Embassy of Argentina is sponsoring the show.
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Rotondaro began making her colorful collages as a way of celebrating her hometown -- and as a way of indulging her passion for the tango.
After years of relative obscurity, tango, the ballroom dance that evolved in the late 1800s in the lower-class districts of Buenos Aires, has found phenomenal success in Argentina, Japan, Europe and the United States.
The tango revival has invaded cinema, theater and popular music, and has spawned a global legion of fanatics who study the difficult dance steps with their partners.
Growing up in Buenos Aires, Rotondaro said listening to tango music was "only something the old people did. We danced to everything except the tango."
The Argentines "are crazy for the tango now," said Rotondaro, who returns to her native land at least twice a year for two or three weeks at a time. "Before, there were only one or two shows. Now there are 50 or more in the parlors around town. I really enjoy it now. In a way, it's very modern, even though it's an old dance."
Rotondaro's interest in collage work about the tango grew after her husband, Ruben Rotondaro, began photographing the sensual dancers in Buenos Aires. He returned to Columbia with more than 200 images from the tango dance halls.
Estela, who has exhibited her collages in galleries around Washington and Baltimore, paints textured paper, then attaches the photos of the entwined dancers to the mix.
Slayton House Gallery director Bernice Kish said the tango exhibit will provide something different for Columbia audiences.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Kish said. "My tango experience is from 20 years ago, and I've never seen it except on television."
Over the years, Slayton House has offered classes in various Latin dance styles. The tango classes have been popular, Kish said.
April's exhibition will also feature the pastel and watercolor works of Juta Lutz, who lives in Germany. Her 21 pieces of artwork look at Jewish customs and ceremonies in Germany.
A few years ago, Lutz exhibited in a group show in Washington, where Kish saw her work. Her work has also been shown in Maryland and Germany.
Both exhibits will be on display from today until April 29 at Slayton House Gallery in Wilde Lake Village Center. An opening reception featuring music and tango dancers will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. April 9. Information: 410-730-3987.