Promoting Argentine Tango in the Knoxville Area
KATS: A History
By Joy Meece
Knoxville was introduced to Argentine Tango not so long ago. In late 2003, KATS was simply a small group of Argentine Tango enthusiasts under the instructions of Sheila Rhodes.
Sheila instructing at tango class (2005)
Sheila was very dedicated to her goal of developing a not-for-profit Argentine Tango group in Knoxville. She invited Jeanne Dole to be her assistant, since Jeanne was one of the most promising students at the time. Sheila fronted all the cost herself, taking a big risk with no organization to back her up financially. She paid the floor fee at Dance Dimensions and charged a lesson fee, although many a night she came to meet a class to find only a couple students, or at times, none. She also created and maintained the first tango website in Knoxville.
Without Sheila there probably would have been no KATS. It was her love of the dance and energy that brought together the few people in the area who had caught the tango fever–-namely, Les and Jeanne Dole and Bill and Connie Healy, who became main contributors.
Les and Jeanne Dole (2005)
In 2005, when Sheila left tango, she was successful in convincing Les and Jeanne to take the leadership and assume the role as primary instructors. The Doles purchased Sheila’s website, converting it into the official KATS’ site, and were successful public relations representatives who built interest both from Knoxville and Oak Ridge.
Some of the other early participants were Georgi Schmitt, Richard Pierce, Cathy Thaler, Peiling Wagh, Fernando Reboredo, Claudia Segovia, and Theresa Ivey, who assisted in organizing an improved system of group communication.
By 2006, the group became motivated to create a more structured club—officers and dues—in order to budget for planned activities. It was in 2006 that the Knoxville Argentine Tango Society (KATS) was created and the Charter Board was elected, with Les Dole, president, and Jean Dole, vice president/treasurer. Georgi Schmitt was treasurer for a short time.
The best dancers took turns sharing styles and teaching the others tango moves. This spirited group frequently drove out of state to workshops in Atlanta and Asheville to develop their knowledge of this complex, sensuous dance. Over the years practicas and milongas were scheduled at various locations here in Knoxville—the YWCA, Cha Cha’s restaurant, Dance Dimensions, the Square Dance Center (Flynn Center), Regas Restaurant, Holiday Inn, and even at the Doles’s and Healy’s residences on occasion.
Connie and Bill Healy (2013)
The Doles moved KATS back to Dance Dimensions, continuing weekly lessons and practicas. The primary instructors were the Doles and Healys, who shared the floor teaching both advanced and beginners’ lessons at opposite ends of the room. Workshops were scheduled and out-of-state instructors were invited to expand members’ skill levels.
In 2008, KATS elected charter members Connie and Bill Healy as their president and vice president, respectively. The Healys continued the Dole tradition of inviting experienced KATS’ members to occasionally teach classes.
During the three years Connie and Bill were in office, many excellent local workshops were offered and KATS continued to dance at several different venues, ending with the current location at the Square Dance Center (Flynn Center), in hopes of continuing to attract more members and to lower club costs. Free dances were held at the Holiday Inn and at the popular Regas Restaurant in downtown Knoxville. As of 2013, they continue to be the backbone of KATS, offering free classes from beginning to a more advanced level, actively searching for what will grow tango in Knoxville, and adding to KATS’ enjoyment of the dance.
Some of the many renowned instructors invited to Knoxville for these higher-level workshops were Karen Jaffe (Asheville) and Harby Gonzalez (Columbia, S.C.), who were the first, followed by Georgi Schmitt (local) and Rick Harris (Asheville), Rhonda and Manuel Patino (Atlanta), Oscar Madagaran and Georgina Vargas (Buenos Aires), Clint Rauscher, Shelley Brooks, Lena Hryboc, Edie Crowder, and Kevin Mason (Atlanta), Nelson Avila (Buenos Aires), and Madalyn Klein (New York City), Felipe Martinez and Ayano (San Francisco), Angel Montero and April Parker (Atlanta), Gabriela Condrea (Seattle), Geoffré Dominessy (Philadelphia), as well as Marcelo "El Chino" Gutierrez (Buenos Aires), Tate di Chiazza (Buenos Aires), and Tomas Howlin (Buenos Aires/Canada).
KATS is a civic-minded, not-for-profit social club. Since its inception, members have supported the Knoxville community and performed for many non-profit organizations. For several years the club has join in the Knoxville Annual HoLa Festival, Pellissippi State Community College’s National Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, the YWCA’s Big Read, the University of Tennessee’s International events, and others. KATS is especially proud to have organized a fundraiser for our military troops, which brought together the ballroom and tango dance communities.
KATS welcomes you to share our love of Argentine Tango and to join KATS on Facebook.
KATS Board History
2006-2008 Charter Board:
Jean Dole/VP & Treasurer
Juan Luis Jurat Fuentes/President
Juan Luis Jurat Fuentes/VP
Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes/Co-Treasurer
Lauren Whitnah/Vice President
Melody Watts/Social Media Coordinator
2018 - 2019
Emily Grazier / President
Melody Watts/ Vice President
Melody Watts/Social Media Coordinator
Knoxville Argentine Tango Society