Saturday 21 December 2019

Festivalitos & Encuentros Milongueros 2020 + Historical Notes

I really did not want to do this again, but so many people keep asking for my recommendations for milonguero events.

First, let me (again) summarise my criteria for festivalitos or encuentros milongueros.

These events
1. require participants to pre-register for the whole event,
2. use role- or gender-balance to ensure that everyone gets to dance, 
3. have a duration of 3+ days and separate milongas,
4. use traditional music in tandas & with cortinas,
5. encourage cabeceo & mirada,
6. encourage dancers to leave the dance-floor after one tanda to find a new partner,
7. encourage the use of close embrace,
8. encourage a civilised ronda, by supporting the "codigos milongueros para la pista",
9. Festivalitos will offer some classes that focus on social tango and there might be a short demo. There will nevertheless be no live-music or extended shows. We could called them Encuentros+. 
Please note that neither separate seating nor exclusivity (personal invitation) are necessary requirements of milonguero events. Some have it, others not.

These days, I am facing numerous problems when trying to put together my list of recommendations:

- The number of milonguero-events has multiplied and I have no chance of visiting even a fraction of them. (Please remember that my weekends are mostly reserved for work.)
- Quite a few of the new events do not guarantee the same quality standards that I am used to. 
- Because of the huge competition, even established organisers start admitting dancers who do not have the necessary skills to participate at such events. Often the floor craft is far from ideal.
- It is getting harder and harder to motivate men to commit. Very often this results in a large "surplus" of following women. One solution to this problem is to abandon the gender-based booking format and have dancers register by leader, follower and double-role dancers. We and some other organisers do so and by that achieve a perfect balance of leaders and followers. But at many encuentros, women are frustrated because they have to sit much more than anticipated.
- Some of my favourite or long-lasting events have died: Abrazos in Devon, the Festivalito Rural in Slovenia and Yo Soy Milonguero in Crema are no more. Ex-St.Julien will make its last appearance in 2020. 
- In general, the "milonguero" events are changing its character. There is a e.g. tendency to not visit all milongas of an event and the borders between marathons and encuentros are getting blurry. 

All in all: I feel that an era is coming to its end. Change is good, but I am a little sad and disoriented. Where will I meet my friends in future? In earlier years, such encounters could even get a little boring, because you would always meet the same people. But because there is such a huge choice of potentially nice parties, it is now hard to gather them all in one place. 

And there is another issue that has presented itself to me in 2019:

This year, I have visited 10 Encuentros/Festivalitos Milongueros and danced more than 500 tandas (not all at encuentros), approximately 1/3 of them leading. My experiences with changing roles differed a lot. At some events, I managed to lead almost 50% of the tandas, at others only very few. Whether I get dances as a leader, depends on a complex set of factors: seating arrangements, lighting, size of the event, openness leading women and many more. Also: Because I have for many years only lead in classes, I am not yet "on the radar" of followers, who love dancing with the (quite numerous) leading ladies in the milonguero community. 
For me, the events that work best are smaller encuentros or festivalitos that actively encourage double-role dancing and that do not have separate seating. For all who are interested in dancing both roles or the gender-atypical role at milonguero events, please contact me for for recommendations.

The following overview is far from complete. I will exclusively present events, that are either well-established or organised by milongueros who have regularly been participating in encuentros for many years. You need street-cred to fill up such a meeting with committed milongueros and experience to create the right ambiance! 
Private events will not have a link. I nevertheless list them because the information is valuable for the coordination amongst organisers. But also because you always could contact the hosts and express interest. Just because you do not have an invite now, does not mean that you won't receive one in the future. Be bold!

So, here goes:

EVENTS, that I will definitely attend:

  • Encuentro +, Newport News VA, USA, June 9-14 EDIT: Postponed to June, 10-13, 2021
  • Pequeña - Festivalito Milonguero (Tangokombinat), Saarbrücken, Germany, June 19-21 EDIT: Postponed to June, 18-20, 2021
  • Clermontito, near Clermont-Ferrand, France, June 26-28 
  • Embrace Norway - Festivalito Milonguero, Lillehammer, Norway - July 3-5
  • FCA (Tangokombinat), Saarbrücken, Germany, Oktober 9-11 


  • Garua, Ireland, June 26-28 / I would have loved to go, but unfortunately, cloning does not yet work properly and Clermontito was faster with their info.
  • JusTango, Bruxelles, Belgium, August 7-9 
  • There might be a new edition of our friends Armin + Elena's Festivalito Milonguero New Year Tango in Saarbrücken, Germany. This event has already taken place in 2019, so it is actually not new, but because it was planned very late and people could register for single milongas, it had not been added to last year's list. Let's see how they handle it next year.

EVENTS that I have visited in the past:

  • La Colmena, Copenhagen, Denmark - April 17-19
  • Rendez-Vous Milonguero, (formerly SJMM), France, May 1-3 / This will be the last edition of a lovely event.
  • Whisky.Tango.Foxtrott?!, Linlithgow, Scotland, May 22-24 / My favourite event in 2018. Unfortunately we cannot go in 2020.
  • Les Cigales, France, May 21-24 
  • Ensueños, Porto, Lisbon, October
  • TangoAGoGo, Lago di maggiore, Italy, October 
  • Tres Besos, Basel, Switzerland, November 5-8
  • Te quiero Lisboa, Lisbon. Portugal, November
  • Roma Milonguera, near Rome, Italy, November
  • Abrazame, Barcelona, Spain, December (marathon-encuentro mixer) / At this year's edition, I danced incredible 47 tandas. Next year, we won't go, because of our USA tour.

I might to go to 1-2 of those towards the end of the year. I am hoping for Tres Besos that I had to cancel because of illness in 2019. Or maybe Roma Milonguera. 

EVENTS that I have not yet visited, but that get good feedback:  

I would like to add a few historical notes:
The were of course always (well, from the 80s on) milongas and tango festivals and shortly after the turn of the century the first tango marathons were initiated. But the idea of full-weekend events for milongueros is quite new, because it took many years for the so-called "traditional" communities outside of Argentina to develop. (Read this post.) 
The first encuentro-like event was the Raduno Milonguero in Impruneta, Italy. In the beginning, the attendees were purely Italian and I actually don't know if it was always over an entire weekend. In its later course, the event grew to be very international. This meeting gave inspiration to encuentros, but ended in 2013 after 9 editions.
Our FCA (Festivalito con Amigos) is now the longest running international weekender for milongueros in Europe. It started as a festivalito milonguero with workshops and a demo in 2008, but has been an encuentro since 2011. We nevertheless preserved a short demo of two milonguero couples until recently, because we believe that social tango needs inspiration and engagement for the community should be honoured. 2020 will be its 13th edition.
Les Cigales in France and Yo Soy Milonguero in Italy (the latter discontinued) started in 2009, one year after the FCA. These two events were pure encuentros from the beginning without classes or a demo.
But please note, that all the events mentioned above in their early years looked quite different from what we are used today. Neither event had a balanced number of participants and YSM still admitted dancers per single milonga, like we also did until 2010. Even the original Raduno Milonguero opened the Sunday milonga for the general public without balance or having to book the full event. 
It took some years until the above listed criteria were well established. 

So. This is it for today. I might add the exact dates for some events later, but only if I am actively informed about them. 

I wish you lots of fine dances in 2020.