Tango connects refugee woman

They say it takes two to tango.

Argentinian Tango masters Lis Dorin and Alberto Barsellini in action. Picture: Simon Bennett

Argentinian Tango masters Lis Dorin and Alberto Barsellini in action. Picture: Simon Bennett

Well at STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors), more than 20 are taking to the dance floor – and loving it.

Multiple award-winning Argentinian tango masters, Lis y Beto have connected with STARTTS to offer Tango lessons to refugees in the Spanish, Chaledean, Assyrian and Iraqi local community groups before they return to the World Championships in Argentina next month.

On Friday, Argentinian Tango masters Lis Dorin and Alberto Barsellini visited Carramar to teach the benefits of tango to mature aged (55– 84 years) Arabic speaking refugee women of the RAHATT (Reconnection And Healing after Trauma and Transition) group.

Mr Barsellini said there were physical and mental benefits of tango.

“Tango involves having a deep connection with your partner and being able to connect with someone that doesn't even speak the same language as you,” he said.

Tango involves having a deep connection with your partner and being able to connect with someone that doesn't even speak the same language as you.

Alberto Barsellini

“That means tango becomes a language beyond culture. It’s a very good brain exercise and it’s good for the heart as a mild exercise.”

One of the participants Fahema Hrmz, of Fairfield came to Australia in 2011 from Iraq.

Speaking through an interpreter she said she worked in the theatre back home but had no dance experience. 

“STAARTS helped me a lot and I like all the activities,” she said.

Co facilitator of RAHATT Pearl Fernandes said singing and dancing were important for older woman who were often “neglected”.

“It’s a way to connect them back to their culture,” she said.

“Part of their grief was losing their culture and losing their normal way of life and things they enjoyed so we started provided different activities including singing and dancing.

“Singing is a therapeutic activity and singing songs from their culture is a way to communicate with the next generation – not just hip-hop but traditional songs.” 

The RAHATT group meets every Friday with a regular group of 20 ladies who are mostly indirectly victims of the violence and human rights violation following the conflicts in Iraq.

Alberto shares his wisdom with the class.

Alberto shares his wisdom with the class.

It began as a clinical group to talk about the pain and grief that were going through after ISIS invaded North Iraq.

It has developed to include different activities – including Friday’s Tango lesson. 

Lis y Beto were invited to work together with STARTTS for this pilot as part of several activities and events to mark a year long celebration of the organisations 30th anniversary.

Fahema Hrmz, of Fairfield learning to tango.

Fahema Hrmz, of Fairfield learning to tango.

Barsellini, who only learnt tango at the age of 38 years, also delivered a free workshop to the Spanish Womens' Choir Group.

"Tango is a social dance which involves huge mental involvement,” he said. "You have to be completely present in the moment.”

So what’s the secret to being a good tango dancer?

“Tango is a symmetrical dance and about communicating with your partner and interpreting the movements. So learning the steps and being able to speak clearly with your body is crucial,” Mr Barsellini said.

STARTTS organises groups of refugees with similar backgrounds to come together to participate in joint activities, learn new skills and information and talk over problems they might be facing.