The Tango Like You’ve Never Heard It Before

From Left: Carolyn Griffin, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Gregory, Lillian Gregory, Ayanna Gregory after a MetroStage performance. (Photo courtesy Carolyn Griffin)

Alexandria, VA – Everyone knows or knows of the tango, but when MetroStage and QuinTango joined artistic forces, the tango took on a whole new dimension.

A quintet (plus one) of classically trained musicians, QuinTango was founded in 1997 by Director Joan Singer with her pianist and bass player after a tour in Europe convinced them to incorporate tango into their classical sound.

Singer recounts, “We were invited by a young Dutchman in The Hague to attend a rehearsal of his tango band. We were completely seduced by the music. He was a generous soul, handing us a package of music and tapes—this was back in the day when we still listened to tapes—and when we got on the train for Italy the next morning, we spent two days listening to this music. We couldn’t wait to get home and play it. So we did, for two years, then recorded a CD. That’s when things took off.”

Following that musical epiphany, QuinTango exploded, receiving calls from the White House to perform at a State Dinner for the President of Argentina, touring internationally, and influencing countless listeners, including Carolyn Griffin, Producing Artistic Director of MetroStage, Alexandria’s professional theater.

“When Joan and her husband, Irwin, would come to see a show, they always had such great anticipation and enthusiasm for our live theatre productions,” Griffin explains. She and Singer had known each other through the local arts circuit in Alexandria. They were colleagues before they were friends, but they knew it was a match because of their similar commitment to the arts and work ethic.

“I looked at her,” says Singer, “and saw a kindred spirit. I volunteered for her one day and had so much admiration for what she did, the theater, and her incredible creativity. I knew we had something in common.”

Joan Singer (white shirt) with her QuinTango musicians. (Photo S. Alexandria Russell)

This common ground prompted Singer and Griffin to collaborate, using a Virginia Commission for the Arts Tour Directory grant that funds organizations to tour and perform outside of their hometowns. When shows began to return in 2021, the Virginia Commission for the Arts amended their touring grant requirements to allow virtual performances and performances closer to home. Singer saw an opportunity to transform their collaboration into something new and original.

Griffin immediately agreed. “Of course, I love QuinTango, so we decided to integrate the poetry and tango music and MetroStage actors in a virtual performance piece.” This required hours of rehearsing and recording, filming and editing, but the result was an exciting, original 50-minute masterpiece of Pablo Neruda’s poetry recited in both English and Spanish, combined with tango music, and filmed along the Potomac River (imagining it to be the Chilean coast). Actor Natascia Diaz read in English and director Stefan Sittig read in Spanish.

Griffin explains, “With its bilingual approach, and music by a Chilean poet, it is an exciting combination, reflecting the diverse actors and serving a potentially diverse audience. We were pleased when all of those moving parts came together to create a beautifully intricate whole.”

Poetry and Tango debuted in June 2021 as a virtual performance on YouTube. That performance video is available on YouTube with a link on MetroStage and QuinTango’s websites:,

Poetry and Tango was their first collaboration. Now they are on to a second, an immigration story about director/choreographer Stefan Sittig’s family from Uruguay. It will be an exciting performance piece with music and dance and an impactful, timely story about the immigration experience.

Stefan Sittig and Natascia Diaz performing for Poetry and Tango on the Potomac. (Photo courtesy Carolyn Griffin)

Both Griffin and Singer are excited to be working on a new project. “For me,” said Singer, “trust is the basis of a good partnership. The two of us trust each other to go however many extra miles are necessary to achieve the artistic excellence we both value. We proved that to each other with Poetry and Tango, a more demanding project than either of us envisioned. We can’t wait to see what lies in store for us this time.”

Expect to see this performance in the 2022-23 MetroStage season offerings. For QuinTango, their next CD will be released in spring 2022 on their website.

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