Who Ever Heard of Ukrainian Tango?

By Kyle Walker / Originally published February 26, 2017 in the New York Transatlantic
Produced by Kyle Walker and Stephanie Sugars

It isn’t every day that you learn about another form of a musical style you’ve been playing for twenty years. But Evan Orman, one third of the musical trio Ensemble Extasis, had just that experience earlier this year.

“I knew there were Finnish tangos,” Orman said. “I knew there were Japanese tangos. I had no idea there were Ukrainian tangos, until recently, until we had to arrange some for this concert.”

Yes, you read that right. Ukrainian tangos.

Last Saturday night, Feb. 4, Orman and his partners, Claude Sim and Michael Tilley, played a concert of Argentine and Ukrainian tangos at the Ukrainian Institute of America’s uptown headquarters. The concert is the latest entry in the Institute’s “Music at the Institute” series, directed by Solomiya Ivakhiv.

Well over a hundred people turned out to hear Ensemble Extasis—many more than had been expected. An hour before the concert began, only the north room of the second floor was prepared for guests. Forty-five minutes later Institute staff were pulling out extra tables and chairs, filling the second floor landing. By show time, it was hard to move through the sea of spectators, some conversing in Ukrainian, others in English.

The instantly recognizable flavor of tango seemed strangely at home in the Ukrainian Institute’s 79th Street mansion. Now decorated throughout with modern art, the mansion was the pre-Depression home of Henry Sinclair, the founder of Sinclair Oil.1

The next concert for “Music at the Institute” will take place on February 25 at 7:30 PM at 2 East 79th Street.

  1. The Isaac D. Fletcher Mansion—79th Street and 5th Avenue,” Daytonian in Manhattan, Thursday, April 8, 2010.