Wednesday 27 April 2011

Festivalitos for Milongueros - the first review

In an earlier post I recommended a choice of events for Tangueros who want to cherish the embrace. These Festivalitos or Encuentros are developing all over Europe and are attracting a rapidly growing crowd. I would like to present the ones in which I am participating in 2011, either as teacher, organiser or just as a dancer. You cannot expect me to write a neutral report, as I am always emotionally involved, but I will not praise what is not worthy!

I would first like to describe the phenomenon of the Encuentro Milonguero itself. 

Encuentros are in some way comparable to the Tango-Marathons as events that focus on the social dance without long interruptions by shows or concerts. The emphasis of the Encuentros of course is on a more traditional Tango in a close embrace - you may call it Tango Milonguero or Tango de Salon, whatever you prefer. These events are not as strictly defined as the Marathons: some of them may include workshops or short demos, others are „dancing-only“. But they do have several aspects in common:

- Traditional DJing: The focus is on social dancing to the best traditional orchestras, so excellent DJs present their classical choice of music. Orchestras are usually not invited, which also helps to keep the prices reasonable.
- Traditional setting: Milonguero events use Tandas and Cortinas and cultivate the invitation by Cabeceo & Mirada. The rules of the social dancefloor are stressed upon to guarantee a maximum of dance quality.
- Limitation in size: Encuentros or Festivalitos want to create an intimate and friendly atmosphere. Therefore not more than 100-250 dancers are admitted. In the last year, attempts were being made to balance the number of men and women, but so far, not all of organisers succeed in being strict about it.
- No non-stop-dancing: Although Encuentros are very intensive, usually sporting 4-6 Milongas during a weekend, they do not go on non-stop. Some might say, that the reason lies in the weaker stamina of the Milongueros, but actually this form of organisation derives from a particular philosophy: Apart from allowing time to socialise, chat and eat out of the dance context, a Milonga with a well defined beginning and ending gives the opportunity DJ to build up a personal dramaturgy during the evening. There will be a slow warm-up-phase, a climax, an ending-phase and of course the sweet „Ultima Tanda“ you will want to share with one dear person. In my opinion, this also contributes to a positive „group-feeling“ as everyone will participate in these special moments.
- Mixed crowd: Although traditional Tango is said to attract the „old ones“, the participants of these Festivalitos nowadays are very divers and a lot of young people attend, happily sharing embraces with each other and the more aged Milongueros.
- Internationality: Only very few years ago, all these events were frequented mainly by local dancers, but most of them have developed into international Festivals with visitors from all over Europe or even from the USA. As it must be the case amongst the „Marathonians“, international groups of friends have formed over the last two or three years - dancers who meet one month in Crema and the next in Dartington. Very often, contacts are maintained with the aid of Facebook. 

Let me now present my first two Festivalitos of the year. 



This Festivalito was organised by FrAnTango Buenos Aires - Francesca Bertelli (New York) and her husband Antonio Martinez (Buenos Aires), who are now living in lovely Tuscany. Their aim is to cultivate Tango Milonguero in a region, where you can still find a lot of Tango Fantasia - big moves for athletic dancers. In my opinion, the first edition with around 180 visitors at the main Milonga was a great success. Taking into consideration that Antonio & Francesca only moved to Italy last summer, this achievement is even more formidable. It helped of course, that Francesca was born in Montecatini Terme and was able to activate lots of old „amici“ in the administration of the city and the thermal baths. 

There were four Milongas starting with an evening Milonga on Friday and ending with a Tango-Brunch on Sunday afternoon. Pre-booking was only needed for the Friday Milonga because of the limited space.

All four DJs presented traditional music in Tandas and Cortinas with different orientations: Al Porteño (Italy) concentrates on very rhythmical arrangements for typical Milongueros, with a high percentage of early 30‘s music. Andreas Wichter (UK/Germany) prefers Tandas of the epoca d‘oro, also with a slight emphasis on the rhythmical stuff. Unfortunately I could not attend to Antonio Martinez‘ DJing debut in Italy at the afternoon Milonga. Myself, I alternate rhythmical and melodical Tandas as a principle and will never play less than two Tandas of Di Sarli per Milonga (plus Calo, Fresedo, Garcia...) thus creating a more romantic ambiance for the Despedida. 

We (Detlef & I) were asked to give three workshops and do a small demo, but there was still some time to enjoy the Festival as well. There was no other teacher couple and our workshops sold out quickly. 

Extra activities: 
There was a shoe sale (Francescas Tango Boutique), a dress sale (Pepitango) and a welcome dinner on Friday. And of course there was lots of time to visit the spas, the old village on the hill, eat an icecream in Montecatini Terme, even visit Florence or Lucca... The sun was shining all day and it was a perfect holiday - for those who did not work! ;-) 

The locations were chosen carefully and actually quite impressive. The Friday Milonga took place in a Restaurant/Theatre in picturesque Montecatini Alto. The Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon milongas were set in the a big hall of the Terme Tetuccio, that looks like Galadriels home in Lothlórien with it‘s tree-like wooden structures. Unfortunately, I did not attend the outdoors afternoon Milonga due to our classes. The floors were - as usually in Italy - tiles. Good enough to pivot, but quite hard of course. 
You can find a video with some impressions here

I was very much pleased to find a significant number of visitors from New York, France, Slovenia, Germany, the UK and Switzerland who mingled nicely with the local dancers, the majority of whom was from the Tuscan region. Unfortunately, some of the target audience did not show up because of a parallel event in northern Italy. I am sure, that next years event will attract more dancers from all over Italy as Antonio and Francesca grow a reputation as excellent hosts and real Milongueros. 

Francesca and Antonio are currently planning next years event which will have a similar formula on another date. We plan on going again, even if we will not be teaching! Let‘s keep our fingers crossed, that we do not have to work someplace else on the weekend.


YO SOY MILONGUERO - 3° Encuentro de Abrazos in Crema (April 23-25) 

The third edition of YSM was also our third visit in Crema, a small town near Milano in northern Italy. Crema on Easter weekend - the traditional YSM date - is kind of sleepy and relaxed. There is one pedestrian street with a couple of shops and restaurants, a small park and not much other stuff going on. That‘s why you can concentrate perfectly on the dancing. Although the crowd has changed over the years (see below), there are still enough „repeaters“ to make it feel like coming home. For me, it‘s a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. 

There were five Milongas starting with an afternoon Milonga on Saturday and ending with an afternoon Milonga on Monday. Pre-booking was necessary for all Milongas and all were sold out weeks before the event. 

The choice of DJs was typical for YSM: Enrico il Mali (the host, an excellent DJ, who will soon be giving his debut in the UK), Al Porteño (see above), Celine Deveze (France), Philippe Gonella (France) and Paolo Persiani (Italy). I preferred Enrico, Philippe and Celine who manage to create a very nicely balanced ambiance with a lot of „emozione“. 
Check out a video that was made during one of the afternoon Milongas.


Extra activities: 
Mangiare! There were four common meals in different restaurants. Although I did not find the choice of food particularly interesting, I always enjoy his part as it makes an emphasis on the socialising. Eating, drinking and chatting with friends is a big part of the Encuentro in Crema! 

All Milongas took place in the Hotel Ponte del Rialto, where we had also booked our spacious rooms. This was very convenient and I like the bright ambiance, but I have to admit, that the space is not ideal. Apart from the inevitable tile floor, there is just not enough place to seat all visitors appropriately at tables. In the first two years, two other locations had been used for the festival, but they were not available/ big enough anymore. The caring organisers Anna Albini and Enrico Malinverni are thinking about changing the location, so let‘s wait and see... 

Over the last three years, this Festival‘s population has changed a lot. It developed from a mostly local event with some French friends into an international Encuentro. The level of social dancing was high and I embraced some excellent dancers from all over Italy, France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Romania. There were furthermore visitors from Switzerland, Austria and Spain. What more can you ask for? 
Well... there was one thing: Enrico and Anna tried to equal the number of men and women but did not quite succeed. This did not bother me so much, as I do not have to dance non-stop and am quite picky as well, but some women were a little disappointed. I am confident, that next years event will be more evenly balanced. 

There will be a YSM4 on Easter 2012. And it‘s gonna be even better, I‘m sure. I certainly reserved the date in my calendar! 


Well... that‘s it for the moment. 

Next week, we will visit the first edition of the ABRAZOS - Encuentro Milonguero UK. I can already tell you, that the Milongas are sold out and most of the classes are full. We are expecting visitors from all over the UK and the continent. I‘m prepared for another great Festivalito for social dancers - although I will have to work a lot there...

Thursday 14 April 2011

Let's talk about sex!

... or the lack of it in Tango. 

Why? Because it‘s one of the most obvious and most avoided topics in our favourite pastime or profession. And because there seems to be a tiny spark of a psychologist in me after all. ;-) 

We‘ve all made up our minds! Contrary to the image displayed in Tango shows, bad movies or in the heads the uninformed, Tango is not a sexual or erotic dance. It is sensual - at the utmost! How often have I explained this to Non-Tangueros, in order to avoid their pitying or lecherous glances and remarks! And even amongst Tangueros, people tend to make it very clear, that they‘ve got nothing to do with the antiquated notion of Tango as the most erotic dance in the world. 

Let‘s have a look at some typical opinions and statements. 

There are for example the ones who prefer to dance in an open or flexible embrace - often dancers of a younger generation. They focus on the possibilities of the movement and the music. I‘ve heard heard quite a few snide remarks coming from this group, like: „Dancing in a close embrace is for the old and unattractive ones. You know, those who do not find a partner in real life and use Tango as a replacement for sex or as a hunting ground. We do not need that.“ 


Those who cherish the close embrace might answer: „These young ones! They‘re afraid of real relationships and nearness. They hide behind complex movements in order to avoid intimacy. We experience a real connection, but will of course not try to exploit it. It will only last for a Tanda and then it‘s over! We would never, ever... We‘re sophisticated and spiritual beings, not Salseros, who only dance in order to pick up a man/woman. We do not need that.“ 

So, what all these people want to tell us, is that they will not use Tango to make sexual or romantic advances to another person. Everyone who dances in a close embrace with someone he/she finds attractive will know, that this is not the whole truth and that the dance itself can become very sexy. But if you restrict this activity to a set of four Tangos and restrain yourself from taking it any further, this will definitively have consequences. 

Because, if you take into account that: 
- a lot of Tangueros are singles,
- Tango is their major or only pastime - the only place where they could find a partner,
- and that they spend most of their nights dancing, coming home exhausted physically and mentally...
... the question imposes upon one: Are those people ever going to find a partner for life or the night? They must all be celibate! 

And let‘s have a look at those, who do have a steady relationship: They will not show their affection during a Milonga out of fear of not being invited by someone else, they will spend lots of communicative energy to embrace strangers all night, they come home late and exhausted... How much energy will they have left to connect to their partner, in whatever way? 

So what, Tangueros in general don‘t have sex and Tango is their substitute for it? 

At first glance, scientific research seems to back up this idea. In the context of my psychological thesis („Sex-roles in Argentine Tango“ - now please think Sandra Bem and not Naughty Nurses) - I interviewed 170 German Tango dancers. The majority of them (100 persons) were single. Now, this was in 2001 to 2003 and I‘d probably develop a totally different questionnaire nowadays - but nevertheless some of the results are interesting:
68,3 % of the respondents associate Tango with passion and erotics.
80,5 % of the respondents see Tango as an opportunity to experience physical nearness to other people.
56,7 % of the respondents see Tango as an opportunity to be near to a man/woman in a non-committing way.
But only 14,2 % of them comprehend Tango as an opportunity to find a partner. 

So again: people make connections, rather important ones to opposite-sex partners in Tango, but they will not take it any further and go home solo. But why is that so? 

There are several explanations, that I‘ve heard over the years:
- Most Tangueros have relational issues or are just too shy.
- They are afraid of loosing a particular person as a dance partner.
- They are afraid of endangering their standing as a Tanguero by getting a reputation as a slut or a womaniser.
- Tango itself is a sanctuary. You do not desecrate it by profane actions. 

Well... I don‘t know.... I don‘t believe in all of that. Not even in the results of my studies. When I look around, I see many people finding partners for life or having love affairs in Tango. Very often, they just don‘t tell, which is a little strange for me, because I used to move in circles, where people talked openly about their sexuality or at least did not try to repress this primal need. But if you take Tango seriously, sex seems to be a taboo. 

And now I come to the point, where I want to introduce Argentina as a „good“ example, because there, Tango is a normal part of everyday life. People go there to have fun with their spouses, they bring their family, eat, chat and yes, use the environment to find a partner for the night or for life. Sure, they will abide to rules of discretion, if they still want to dance with other people, so they won‘t leave the Milonga with their lover or sit with a partner - but apart from that, it‘s no secret, that Milongueros and Milongueras use the Milongas as a „hunting ground“. And why should they not? 

We‘re all confident grown-ups and if we don‘t want to accept a polite invitation, we just say no, don‘t we? 

(Note for the over-zealous: This is not a post to encourage transgressive behaviour in the dance or "sexy" Milongas. I‘m discussing an interesting phenomenon from an analytic perspective and making a small leap into the question of a „natural“ attitude towards Tango. That's all!)

Post inbetween posts 6 - End of pause

I've been inactive for a couple of weeks. Due to work, studying, sewing, running and a lot of other activities I did not find the time to post on my blog.
I was also lacking the inspiration for a meaningful article. I know, that some bloggers use it as a kind of journal where they note random thoughts or scraps of ideas, things they find on the net... That's very fine, but I do that on Facebook already and wanna keep the blog for longer posts.
But do not worry: I'm back and my next post will surely lead to another lively discussion. 
It's about sex.