Ask Arlene…Are Tango Festivals Really Necessary?

Are tango festivals a learning experience or just a prostitution of the dance?

In my experience it’s just a commercial feeding frenzy which lovers of the dance have to endure!!

It includes:

1. Shipped in professionals charging exorbitant prices for their so called ‘master classes’. (Get real – seriously who can ever do these moves anyway without looking like Laurel & Hardy ?)

2. Showoff and over choreographed Performances which only interrupt the social dancing. (Come on……Its sooooo boring – we’ve seen it a million times before!)

3. Excessively overcrowded floors caused by the bussing in of tango fanz from the 4 corners of the UK and beyond…… – now no one can move and you are in serious danger of being impaled by a Commie heel.

4. Hello mag style of photo shoots for posing tango stars (and starlets)

Are all these encrustations just an asset or a distraction from the purity of the dance?

Fatty Arbuckle

Dear Fatty Arbuckle,

You have made some interesting and pertinent points about Tango Festivals.

I have mixed feelings about Tango Festivals.

I am not usually interested in the workshops on offer, but then I am generally not keen on workshops, period.  I do know that there are those who love doing workshops.  If there are enough people willing to go to them and pay their money, well, that is their choice.  People can make their own decisions.  Who am I to stand in their way?  It is relative to the individual to decide if something is overpriced.  There is always something to be gained from going to a workshop, even if it is to learn never to go back to a particular teacher or do a workshop again.

I used to love it when visiting teachers would do a demonstration.  Being inexperienced at the time, I would be very impressed with the acrobatics being performed.  I now get bored with the acrobatics even though I find it very impressive that there are women that can kick the back of their own heads.  Not something to try on the Milonga floor.  I now prefer to see teachers perform improvised dances – to show us how beautiful the dance can be in a realistic environment.  That is truly inspirational and I have been lucky to see people dance this way.

What I do love about the Tango Festivals is going to the Milongas.  I love the fact that there are so many people that I haven’t seen before and for me that means I have an opportunity to dance with new people and perhaps get That Tango Feeling that is so elusive these days.

I am not happy when the dance floor is overcrowded in any instance, let alone at a Tango Festival.  It wouldn’t be so bad if people didn’t try to dance large.  We end up with people dancing so many different styles on the same floor and it inevitably causes problems.  I usually end up sitting out when the floor gets too bad, but then I always have someone to talk to and I watch the people and listen to the music.

I had a great time at the last Tango Festival I went to.  I met a lot of new people, made some new friends, had some great dances and witnessed some very beautiful and entertaining performances.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deby
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 13:47:04

    In the beginning tango festivals served a purpose. Not everyone could go to Buenos Aires. Even when you did, it was not easy to find teachers and none of them spoke English. The first festivals (Stanford Tango Week in California) brought good teachers and people were there to translate.

    Now a days it is just another way for everyone to make money. It is sad. If you think your local community suffers from tango festivals it is even worse here in Buenos Aires. It seems every week a group of “Name Brands” and Not really Name Brands” have organized a festival to suck the money out of the foreigners.

    I agree with you Arlene. Tango danced as it should be, with improvisation, from the heart, is tango.

  2. Tango Totty
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 18:12:01

    Hi Fatty A!

    My sentiments Exactly! For me the dates of the London Extravaganza are to be dreaded. For me its a few days where I definitely wont be doing any tango – more like tidying my sock drawer. I totally refuse to pay those over-inflated milonga prices for the privilege of dancing in an overflowing room wiv a beginner from Leeds cos you cant see anyone else you know – and then you can only just manage to shuffle round the room like a sack of s***. Wot a NIGHTMARE!!!!!

    And what exactly is it wiv the red carpet photo shoots – How vain can you be?????

    But the very worst thing is when they drag out those overchoreographed performers with the compulsory high kicks, jumps and all the technical wizardry. Why do they always look like they are trying just a bit too hard !!!! – TANGO FESTIVAL ORGANISERS – Get this straight – We do not want to see anyone who is not on the level of Geraldine Rojas, Javier Rodriguez, Andrea Misse, Pablo Rodriguez, Ney Melo etc. Anyone else – DON’T BOTHER !!!! Like you Arlene I want to see high class improvised performances by the likes of Pablo Rodriguez and Noelia Hurtado who look effortless but amazing doing very little – just dancing tango – to the music, from the heart!

  3. Mr Walker
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 21:01:54

    The London Extravaganza, well for me i shall be going and like last year i will be with friends and if i’m lucky i might make some new one’s, at the very least i will enjoy catching with old friends people watching and listening to some excellent tango music…..And if i’m really lucky afew wonderful dances…..Now that i’ve thought about it thats what i do every weekend….But without the fancy title….

  4. Steve Morrall
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 21:49:01

    We have a ‘lite’ version of a festival at Bramshaw called the Tango Tangk. I am not sure if festival is the right name but to answer the subject of this thread, I’ll go with calling it a festival.

    Is it necessary? It was born out of the need to gather enough tango dancers together in the same place to afford attending maestros. From the point of view of economics – yes it is necessary.

    The Tangks hosts maestros that we believe are world class teachers. I will make a distinction between world class dancers and world class teachers – they are invariably not the same thing.

    As part of the educational ethos of the Tangk, WE set the low price of private lessons so that they are affordable by as many people as possible.

    The festival provides a carefully considered mix of group workshops, practice time, relaxed, shared meals that encourage the sharing of ideas, and evening milongas so that participants have the best chance of getting dance tuition from the ‘head to the foot’ and then enjoy sharing the space with our vibrant community for three nightly milongas.

    We invite maestros who have the energy, generosity of spirit and pedagogic process to not only deliver superb workshop but also immerse themselves in the whole weekend, sharing the space with us.

    We ask visiting maestros to demonstrate what they have been teaching. Beautiful, considered and completely improvised tango. No acrobatics….

    This, I believe, is a festival that is really necessary.

    Our 100% sell out of the last 23 Tangks has confirms this.


  5. El Chupacabra
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 01:37:40

    I’ve seen VHS videos of Takis’ London International Tango Festivals – they were prominent before the Negracha-led ones became big. They weren’t big, showy and intent on grabbing your money. They were simple, and simply about the dance with some amazing dances.. look at some of the names and photos;

    grab a video if you can – you get such a range of dances – from stage tango to very earthy humble yet powerful dances too.

    Its the difference between Strictly Come Dancing, and the old Come Dancing. One has glitz, noise and PR, the other just has the real dance.

  6. Angelina
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 01:55:16

    Having been to a few festivals I can see both sides… but you don’t realise how lucky you are to be able to have this debate! Think of us antipodeans who are so far away from everyone else, even the Argentinians who live in the same hemisphere, and who have such restrictive visa requirements, that getting just one couple here to do workshops (and perform) is a coup. We do have a festival once a year in Australia, but it has problems. New Zealanders fare better with 2 festivals a year that are well-organised and popular – they’ve even had Javier and Andrea!

  7. voice of reason
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 01:56:32

    Dear Mr Arbuckle (or can I call you Fatty?)

    As a man of modest means it appalls me to waste money on the over inflated prices at festivals. I can waste my money elsewhere on things like drinking gambling and chasing loose women. None of these fantastic past times run the risk of impailment by commie (unless you pay extra), I for one shall be following fiscal prudence and tightening my belt. Haven’t these greedy capitalists heard of the credit crunch?

  8. Tango Totty
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 02:08:15

    Dear Arlene

    Do you think that we should have a dress code at the festival milongas ? Perhaps this could be the standard for London all the time.

    While looking round one of the milongas last week, I noticed that while most of the women are reasonably well dressed, some people (men) look like they’ve just finished their Big Issue round – and that even goes so far as one of the milonga organisers!!!!!! – U know who u R and no you dont need a wooly hat indoors in a really hot room!!!! And what about that bloke with straggly grey hair who regularly comes in dressed in cycling shorts and ankle socks and shoes – Does he think hes still in the boy scouts?

    Anyway if the men all dressed up in smart jackets and ties dont you think it would help to create more of a Buenos Aires feel in London? At least we could pretend theyre real milongeros like we did at the Argentine Embassy in October on Diego Maradona’s birthday!!! As friend of mine once said its all smoke and mirrors!!!!

    LOL Totty

  9. Nick
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 12:11:20

    A comment to Totty’s comment. How people dress is a matter of culture. In Britain nobody cares how people are dressed while in Italy, where I am from, people cares probably too much. In Italy they look at how you are dressed and if you don’t dress properly it can become very embarassing. If a man went to an Italian milonga dressed as the bloke that Totty mentions, he could not be able to touch any woman for the entire night. Here we are in Britain, the culture is different and I think that a dress code for every milongas would not be acceptable. However, I agree that a more formal occasion such as a grand ball should have a dress code.

  10. Tango Totty
    Mar 09, 2009 @ 12:50:17

    Oh if only the English men could look just a little bit more italianate!!!! Never mind. I agree that a dress code is not required for every milonga like Tuesday night’s wine bar would not really merit it! But I think that in the larger milongas on Friday and Saturday nights if all the men were suited and booted, it would help to create a more ambient atmosphere and may help to compensate for the low level of dancing. Who knows, perhaps if the men had to make a bit more effort, they might take the dance itself a bit more seriously and we might end up with some better leaders in London!!

  11. ChrisJJ
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 12:46:38

    Arlene wrote:
    > Are Tango Festivals Really Necessary?

    Tango festival are necessary for the livelyhood of the tango workers that contribute!

    Deby wrote:
    > “The first festivals (Stanford Tango Week in California)…”.

    Stanford Tango Weeks were only the first festivals in the USA. Festivals in Europe predated them by many years. E.g. Les Tangofolies in Switzerland, which started in 1994 and is still running.

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