Utica couple wins U.S. Stage Tango Championship

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 19, 2016


UTICA — Amanda Accica, 24, and Daniel Moreno, 23, of Utica, who were married in February, swept the competition at the U.S. Argentine Tango Championship in San Francisco, California, March 24-28.

They won first place in the U.S. Stage Tango Championship, one of two official categories sanctioned by the Tango Buenos Aires Festival and Dance World Cup, and automatically qualified for the World Cup semifinals in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this August.

Andrea Monti, director of the U.S. Argentine Tango Championship and Festival, said approximately 500-600 couples qualify for the World Cup, 70-100 couples make it to the semifinals and 35-40 couples compete in the finals.

Monti said Accica and Moreno won first place because they had great original choreography, attitude, energy and musicality. She said they also danced a true Argentine tango — other couples lost points for incorporating too many other styles of dance, such as ballroom.

“Their use of music and how they interpreted different parts in the song, and their connection, was most important,” Monti said. “Even though you could see that connection in other couples, this is why they won.”

The couple met three years ago at Argentine Tango Detroit, a studio in Utica owned by Accica’s mother, Lori Burton-Kassin. Accica and Moreno are both instructors with the studio and have been dancing since they were young, but only as partners for the last year.

Accica grew up influenced by her mother’s passion for dance, and Moreno, originally from Mexico, has been dancing the tango with his family since he was a teenager.

“I started dancing when I was 14,” Moreno said. “My dad showed me some steps, but I didn’t get into it full-time like I am now until I was 18.”

When he found out that he and Accica had won the U.S. Stage Tango Championship, he said he got emotional thinking about how far he had come since growing up in a rural mountain town in Mexico.

“I just started to cry,” he said.

Last year, Accica said, she and Moreno had only been dancing together for a few weeks when they competed in the U.S. Argentine Tango Championship and qualified for the World Cup in Argentina.

She said they made it to the top 100 at the World Cup last year and were the highest-placing couple from the U.S.

“Since then, we’ve been teaching, practicing, traveling and trying to make a name for ourselves,” Accica said. “Our goal this year is to be in the top 50 and again be the top U.S. couple. We’re from the U.S. and a lot of Argentine tango dancers will be ahead.”

She said the experience in Buenos Aires last year was amazing and that it was an honor to be competing with such talented, high-profile dancers in a high-energy environment.

“It was incredible to see them (win the U.S. championship this year),” Burton-Kassin said. “I think it was one of the best days of my life, because I devoted my whole life to dance.”