Wednesday 28 September 2011

Festivalito Rural in Slovenia (review)

An encounter with friends on September 16-18, 2011

The event was organised by Alja Ferme and Saso Zivanovic, two young dancers from Slovenia with the help of some good friends. Not all of them are of the same nationality, but we call them the „Slovenian gang“. I am going to write more about Alja and Saso soon, as they will be presented as „European Milongueros“.
The Festivalito took place for the second time, this time being far more international than last year, when most of the participants were Slovenian or Italians. Italians can be considered as „locals“, Trieste and Udine not being more than 2 or 2,5 hours of drive from Celje. So please note: Slovenia is NOT situated in the far east of Europe and easily accessible by car, train or plane!

Celje is a smallish town set in a beautiful countryside on the foothills of the Alps. There seems to be a nice city centre, but we did not have the time to visit - as usual. We stayed in walking distance of the Festival locations: a youth centre and hostel, where the Milonguitas and the classes took place and Club Terazza on the top of a commercial building. They were in 3 Minutes walking distance and both not more than 5 Minutes walk from our hotel. This was perfect!
The Margaritas in Club Terazza are notable as well: Do not drink more than one or your axis will suffer severely.

There were three main Milongas and two afternoon Milonguitas. The Friday and Saturday Milongas went quite late - we always had to go before the end because of our classes on the following day. But as I heard, they stopped around 5 in the morning. Some of the class participants were thus in rather bad shape. ;-) The Sunday Milonga was set in the afternoon until after 8 p.m..

All DJs presented traditional music in Tandas and Cortinas. Why do I write that anyway? I will only review events, which sport the traditional musical setting. Unless it is a rant... ;-)
Ok, let‘s get to the DJ‘s: Alan Spotti (Italy), Theo Chatzipetros (Greece/Italy), Andreas Wichter (Germany/UK), Lampis Zalavras (Greece/USA) and Taskin Deniz (Turkey/Germany). The country before the slash refers to the country of origin, the one behind it to the place of residence. So, we‘ve had a quite international crew of DJs.
I have already described Theo‘s DJing in one of the last posts, and I cannot comment on Taskin‘s music, as I have never heard him DJ. This time, I did not either, as he was doing the welcome Milonguita on Friday. I did not visit it because I had to rest after travelling.
I did not visit the Saturday Milonguita, as we were teaching on Saturday afternoon, but I can tell, that Andreas prefers a rather energetic, rhythmical set of music. He will surely have played D‘Arienzo, Laurenz and Troilo, mixed with some lyrical elements like Di Sarli con Podesta or Rufino. But you‘ll have to ask someone else about his specific performance during the Festivalito Rural.
Alan Spotti! What can I say about him? He‘s one of the nicest guys and dancers in northern Italy and always a great pleasure to watch - especially when he‘s dancing in Flip-Flops! I‘ve heard him DJ several times and always liked his well balanced choice. But I cannot write so much about his job at the Rural, as I came very late and was super tired. I noticed, that people danced a lot and I remember Lynn telling me, that she liked the Friday Milonga most. So he‘s definitely done a very good job.
Lampis Zalavras DJed on the Despedida and played a calm, sweet selection of music - just the right choice for the last Milonga of a Festival. People were happy. We will have him for the Despedida on the FCA 2011 and I am very much looking forward to his music.

Saso and Alja‘s focus is on bringing social Tango in a close embrace to their friends. This is why they decided to combine teaching and dancing on this event. Many people show up for the Milongas only, but the classes were fully booked with each 15 couples.
We (Detlef & I) were teaching a series of intensive classes - 4,5 hours on Saturday and 3 hours on Sunday, focussing on the basics: quality of embrace, harmonic movement and musicality.
On Friday, we hosted a discussion about interaction at a Milonga and the traditional „guidelines“, covering the topics „entering“, „seating“, „invitation“, „dancing“. We had hoped for a controversial discussion with people speaking out against the Cabeceo, but this did not happen. (So were were a little naive imagining that there would be people who do NOT agree with our general philosophy.) The discussion was nevertheless lively, brought up a lot of interesting details and everyone agreed on the fact, that most of the „rules“ makes sense, if you adapt them sensibly to our modern European setting and do not just try to imitate the Argentines. And I will be very conscious about washing my hands after changing the shoes from now on... 

We did a short demo on the Saturday Milonga and Detlef got a very special parting gift: a vintage iron! He will hold it in honour and was pleased, that they did not choose the other option: a vacuum cleaner. (Facebook friends will understand the meaning of these gifts.) But I have to scold our friends: Why did Detlef receive a gift and me not? He? (OMG what have I done, now I will receive dumb-bells or running gear next year...) As for out demo itself: Most of you will know, that Detlef does never know the music in advance and I choose it for us. This time, I asked my friends on Facebook and Andreas came up with „El Morochito“ by Rodriguez. So Detlef was lucky, because he‘s a big fan of Rodriguez. He was not so lucky with my choice for the second Tango, as I picked „Pampero“ by Fresedo. Normally, we do not dance Fresedo together, as we‘ve got different ideas about the interpretation of this orchestra. But this Tango was quite non-ambiguous, so we did not embarrass ourselves. The last dance was „Lirio Blanco“ by Canaro. I just love those slow Valses!

Extra activities:
Well... you could of course have visited the countryside or Celje.... but I do not think, that anyone spend time outside of the Festival venues. This was purely dancing. So, extra activities: recovering from dancing!
But I should not forget the art exhibition in the youth centre: Giancarlo Pastonchi, an Italian dancer and professional photographer presented a choice of his Tango works. He was also participating in the Festival and made a very nice movie with impressions from the Festivalito. (See below.)

I already mentioned the fact, that the crowd was much more international than last year. Apart from the Slovenian and Italian dancers, there were visitors from Austria, Australia, Germany, the UK and the USA. Age-wise this is a younger event, mostly people from 30 to their early 40‘s, but you could find all age groups. The level of social dancing was quite high and everyone enjoyed the close embrace.
For me, this was one of the few events in the year, where I am invited to teach and dance amongst close friends. Some of my favourite dancers were there as well. I am sorry, that I could not dance with them more - being too exhausted from teaching. But I will surely not forget sitting on the roof terrace on a sunny Sunday after class, looking onto the hills and mountains that surround Celje, drinking a Margarita or two and chatting with Theo, Philippe, Francesco, Deborah and other friends. It felt like home!

There will be a 2012 edition with the same concept, teachers (us) and locations in 2012. Do already note the date: September 7-9, next year.
I have to add, that this is a small event, and will stay one. In order to guarantee the quality, Saso and Alja want to keep it intimate with no more than 100 visitors on the Saturday Milonga. Most vistors are planning to participate in 2012, so you‘ll have to book very early to get one of the last free spots. We are looking forward to another great event with friends!

And now: enjoy Giancarlo's video of the Festivalito Rural 2011:

Monday 26 September 2011

Sentadas, Montadas and Ganchos for Beginners

This is one of the posts, with which I will attract the enmity of colleagues and consumers alike, as I am about to break an „unwritten law“ of the Tango community: Do not criticise a a fellow teacher! A couple of moths ago, I complained about the lamentable dance-quality on dancefloors as a result of the teaching of „non-social elements“. I then just spoke in general terms, not mentioning any teacher in particular. (Have a look at my earlier post.) But now, an event of Facebook made my hair stand up and my blood boil. 

A few days ago, a friend drew my attention to this announcement of workshops in Florence. They are being held by one of the most famous Tango-couples, now living and teaching in Italy. She is believed to be the best female Tango dancer in the world. I will not comment on that, but please judge for yourself, if these class contents are fit for beginning and intermediate Tango dancers or social Tango of all levels: 

a) Sentadas con salida en catena 
b) Montadas y ganchos 
c) Sacadas en el giro (see comment below)
d) Movimientos de calidad en el Vals, Tango y Milonga (see comment below)
e) Sacada doble con ganchos 

Are they making fun of the clients? Do they really believe, that a random bunch of Florentine dancers - some of them surely over 50 and the majority of the group in mediocre physical shape - will be able to execute such movements correctly and nicely? Or is this a mistake in labelling and the classes are really meant for very advanced young dancers wanting to perform professionally? 


Seriously, I am convinced that all teachers, especially those who are believed to be the „ambassadors“ of Tango, bear responsibility for how Tango is danced in the Milongas. Over the last years, a broad understanding was formed within the Tango communities, no matter which style they prefer: Most people will nowadays agree on the assertion, that stage Tango elements should be no part of the teaching for social dancers and that an excellent technical basis is required to attempt more complex or even athletic movements. If kicking and jumping is to have a comeback in beginners and intermediate classes - then we are really doomed!

Additional comment after discussion:
I did not want to critisise ALL classes - I just wrote down the whole list of contents as they were presented in the announcement. Quality Movements may be a nice class - if they do not just show steps. And Sacadas in turns are an appropriate content for advanced dancers. So, 2 out of 5 might be ok. But is this good enough?

Thursday 1 September 2011

Tango del Mar in Romania (review with a short digression)

Those who read my blog on a regular basis, may imagine, that I was looking very much forward to this event. And although we almost never combine work with sightseeing, in this special case we arrived a couple of days earlier to enjoy the magnificent and variable landscape or Romania. This is why I cannot stop myself and must give you a short report of our crazy tour from the Walachian plains, over the Transsilvanian mountains to the seaside of the Dobrudscha. 

A journey into a new and very old land:
We arrived on Sunday evening after a whole month of non-stop-intensive-seminars and spend two days visiting Bucharest, a city of immense contrasts: the imposing monuments of communism and newly build or renovated palaces of commerce amongst ruins or desolate apartment houses. I cannot say that we liked it very much, but I will not forget the impressions either. On our third day, we drove over Curtea de Arges to climb the 1480 steps to the castle Poenaru in the Carpathian mountains. I have never been so sweaty and exhausted in my whole life! But it was worth seeing the dark foresty mountains tower over the Arges valley. And to imagine... but well, that is another story.... 
Next stage went over the Transfagaras road to Sibiu in Transsilvania. Although I was rather worried to break our rented car on that never ending winded path with enormous holes in the ground, I was so much impressed by the view, that I do not regret our choice. I have surely never been so high up a mountain and the views were perfectly stunning. 
We got late to Sibiu (Hermannstadt) a nicely renovated city with beautiful renaissance and baroque architecture. The epitome of picturesque. Had it not been so immensely hot! And we only had a few hours on the next day before we had to drive back to Bucharest, where our lovely new friend Oana would pick us up and drive us to the Black Sea. All these places went by so fast. I cannot believe, that we‘ve actually done this... 
We finally arrived at the hotel, tired and hungry as a traveller in earlier times may have been but all of this was so amazing. I have to come back with much, much more time! 

In the meanwhile, let me talk some Tango and finally review the: 

Tango del Mar - Encuentro de Abrazos (August 26-28, 2011) 

The event was organised by Ionut Fiscu and Ramona Budui, two young dancers from Constanta in Romania. Both have started teaching quite early in their Tango life and seem to have a very methodical approach. Which is why they have chosen us after having „tested“ our classes in Italy this January. We were at first a bit reluctant to accept the offer as we had planned our holiday for 2011 during that period - but then finally accepted. Ionut managed to convince us to be „ambassadors“ of close embrace in a country where Tango Nuevo and open Tango de Salon seems to be pre-dominant. We did not regret our decision! :-) 

The Encuentro took place in the Hotel Central in Mamaia, the seaside resort near Constanta at the Black Sea. You could actually see the sea from the open-air dancefloor and a steady breeze was keeping us cool during hot dances. 
The dancefloor was set at the pool and outside restaurant, so you could have even taken a short swim during Milongas. We restrained ourselves, but had lovely meals with grilled meat, fish and salad at the beginning of the Milongas. 
The hotel itself was simple but perfectly functional - and what more can you ask, then to jump out of bed directly into the sea or to the Milonga! Ideal! 

There were three Milongas, two late Milongas from 22.00 until dawn on Friday and Saturday and the Despedida on Sunday, that started earlier and went until 0.30. People showed up rather late and our hosts explained, that this was the custom in Romania.

All DJs presented traditional music in Tandas and Cortinas. 
The opening Milonga was DJ‘d by Ramona Budui. I was still suffering from sore muscles (the 1480 steps!), so I chatted most of the time and left the Milonga early - unfortunately during a Tanda of beautiful Di Sarli with Pomar... Maybe I should have stayed longer. Ramona definitely made a choice of perfectly danceable music - apart from one Fresedo Tanda, that started rather hollywoodesk-dramatic and ended up being very sweet - too late as I had already refused an invitation. Oh... and then I forgot to mention, that Ramona of course played her signature Vals: "Ramona" by Biagi. Almost nobody does this nowadays - but I love that song! 
On Saturday evening, Theo "El Greco" Chatzipetros was DJing. He is residing in Italy and a well known DJ at the traditional Milongas or Encuentros all over southern Europe. He DJs regularly at the Milonga in Impruneta near Florence - a must-go for all Milongueros. Theo is one of my favourite DJs and confirmed his reputation by playing the most beautiful choice of Tangos - lyrical and rhythmic music in a harmonic balance. I stayed until 4 in the morning and heard the rest of the music (until 7 a.m.) from my bed. Which actually annoyed me in the end, as I wanted to sleep very badly, but this was not Theo‘s fault. Next time, I‘ll get a room facing to the other side. Detlef stayed until the end and we both were pretty knackered the next day! 
The Despedida was DJ‘d by Philippe Gonella, whom I have already mentioned repeatedly, both as a dancer and DJ. I was very much surprised by his unusual choice of highly dramatic music, sporting Tandas by very late D‘Arienzo (Este es el rey - a no-go!) and Varela. He usually plays much older stuff.... I will ask him about it! 

We (Detlef & I) were teaching only 4 classes, as we had decided to not work so much as usual - wanting to make up for our „lost“ holiday. I additionally did a class on „music and musical design“ for DJs and dancers. All classes were fully booked by a young and very active crowd. It was fun working with such spirited dancers! 
The workshops took place in a Salsa studio downtown Constanta, which was quite a drive. Next year they plan to have the classes on-site as well. 

We did a demo on the Saturday Milonga which was very well received. It found it nevertheless a challenge to built a good connection to partner and audience with the strong wind distracting me. I actually felt leading impulses by the wind, but then I am most-likely crazy... 

Extra activities: 
That‘s obvious, insn‘t it? Beach time! You may also visit Constanta but most people spent the days sunbathing, swimming and resting. 

Although the majority of the dancers were young people from Romania, there were some „travellers“ as well: Germans, Italians, Swiss and I think also some Turkish dancers. The attendance was a little lower than expected, but the ambiance made up for that. All people were very friendly, open and eager to embrace Tango and the world. Just as it should be! People were actually enthusiastic and one dancer from Italy remarked: Tango, the sea, the lights... this must be heaven! 
I was personally pleased to meet Philippe, his partner Renata, Theo and a another nice dancer from Italy, Massimiliano. We also made some great new acquaintances, not to forget our hosts Ramona and Ionut. So we were lucky to work and dance amongst friends! 

There will be a second edition next year in June, 8-10. Most likely, it will take place in the same hotel, but they will change the location of the dancefloor slightly - nearer to the covered area of the restaurant in order to get out of the windy zone and create a more intimate ambiance. 
We have already been invited to teach again and will do some more hours, probably with a fixed group of dancers. So there will be no option to book single classes - this assures an intensified learning and working experience. 
I am confident that the number of participants for the Milongas will increase as the word spreads about this lovely first Encuentro de Abrazos in Romania!