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...


Francesca Bertelli said...

Great reviews! I can only attest for the festivalito in montecatini, as I did not go to Crema, but all is very accurate and insightful.

Thanks for sharing your impressions and comments.

And now on to Abrazos!!

Case Roole said...

I wonder about one thing: why the emphasis on an equal number of men and women?

This sounds like an optimal arrangement, but in practice it is not.

More women dance with women than men dance with men, but I think that doesn't have much of an effect.

Much more important is that women are more likely to say "I'd rather not dance than dance with you."

My point is not moral, but factual. If men are more willing to dance with women than women are to dance with men than it would be right to have more women than men.

Melina Sedo said...

@ CR:
You are indeed right, that men tend to dance more than women, who make more pauses. So, if there is a slight majority of women, this is usually not a problem.

But: A lot of events sport a vast majority of women and women have to sit much, much longer than they planned to do, whereas men have the free choice.

I can e.g. remember the first Les Cigales Encuentro in France. There was a majority of around 70 women - on an event with a little more than 200 people in total. You can imagine, that women were likely to sit all the time, although the men literally "worked their asses off". It was really unpleasant and I started hiding in corners to not be invited and give some of my far-travelled female friends with less good contacts a better chance!

And: Although women sometimes learn the leading role, they often do it only to balance the majority of women - not because they really want to - sad as it sounds! On a typical Milonguero event most women will even prefer to sit instead of dancing with another women. On the last event in Crema, there were ONE women who was also leading, not more. And I danced ONE Tanda in the leading role. That can really not help balancing a majority of women, no?
If you go to Tango Marathons or local Milongas you will of course see many more women dancing with each other, but not in these events. This is why I was not using the term "balance of leaders and followers" deliberately by the way.

So: equal numbers of men and women are in my opinion one of the most important factors to secure the success of such an event.

Have a nice day,


Francesca Bertelli said...

I agree with Melina that the leaders/followers' ratio is very important to the success of this kind of events. Nobody wants to travel to a tango event and sit around most of the time.

And it is possible to achieve if you require pre-registration and deal with a limited number of participants.

Andreas said...

I greatly enjoyed both events, and I also expect both to be even better next year! Congratulations to Antonio and Francesca for a very strong first showing, and to Enrico and Anna for an event that keeps growing stronger.
We shall see about the even numbers game at Abrazos next weekend - we have more than 150 people there, and only 4 more women than men. No rest for the women!

Patrick said...

A majority of 70 women on an event with 200 dancers? So, let's say...140 women and 70 men. 20 Tandas on every evening....hey, where is the problem? Sometimes I wish I could dance even 50 percent of all tandas...

Let me ask a question which maybe shows something else: Francesca, with how many new dancers (means: You didn't know them until they cabeceo you) did you dance in montecatini? Im guess the answer is zero, and it's funny that most of the woman proclaiming "leaders/followers ratio is important" usually only dance with men they already know since 1887.

Andreas said...

Patrick, don't blame the women if you don't get as many dances as you want.
You seem to like skewed ratios just so *you* get dances at the expense of the women.
There is an easy way to get all the dances you want: dance well.
To come back to my last comment: numbers of men vs women at Abrazos were almost exactly even, and it seemed to work perfectly for (almost) everybody.

Claudita said...

The ratio at 'Abrazos' totally worked for me!!! And I danced more with people I hadn't ever met before than with men I did know...and that was lovely.

Sometimes I need a bit of 'familiarity' as well, so thanks to the 3 guys who I did know quite well for providing me with it. Beautiful event with beautiful dancers!!! :-)

Patrick said...

Andreas, "get all the dances you want" is not Tango -- it is power. I'm just a little tangoblogger and a bloody beginner (and my written english is bad, but my french is even worse...), so I never have to think about if a woman just dances with me because of my status. But don't worry, usually I get many wonderfull dances.

Like Case said in his comment, formal ratio and the reality on the cabeceofloor is not the same. There is a theory which says that 20 percent of the man have sex with 80 percent of the woman. I don't know if that is true, and I have no clue how to interpret this, but sometimes I feel that something very similar is going on at the milongas.

Very often a bunch of good dancers are standing around, trying to make cabeceos -- and many women are sitting and resting. No blame, but please stop this "woman don't get dances if the ratio is skewed". Usualle they do, if they use the cabeceo actively.

Oh, and for the dancing skills: Yeah, it helps a lot, and the reception in 2011 is much better than it was in 2008 on my first festival. But dancing skills are not everything. I often travel to milongas where nobody knows me. And I am very glad that some woman are willing to start with a man they have never seeing dancing before. I really love these tangueras, but they are a minority.