TangoClub


Articles

Below are some tango-related articles written or found by us. Enjoy!

Understanding tango

Musicality in Tango [Robert Fromont, August 2008]
Tango Manners [Tine Herreman, 24 August 2007]
Tango Floor Craft and Social Etiquette [Homer and Cristina Ladas, 21 March 2012]

Reviews

Book review: The Golden Age of Tango by Horacio Ferrer [Stephan Resch, 20 January 2010]
Book review: Tango: The Art History of Love by Robert Farris Thompson [Stephan Resch, 8 January 2010]
Book review: The Meaning of Tango: The Story of the Argentinian Dance by Christine Denniston [Stephan Resch, 4 January 2010]
A tale of two festivals [Era Soukhin, 11 June 2008]

Health and science

How the Tango could save your relationship [Times Online, 17 September 2009]
Study: Tango will rid the blues [TVNZ, 17 April 2008]
Tango improves balance, mobility in patients with Parkinson's disease [Washington University in St. Louis Medical News Release, 30 January 2008]

Travel

Tango And Lambada Zouk: The Best Of The Buenos Aires Dance Scene [Matador Nights, 12 March 2008]
Dancers ensnared all over again by the sensual magic of the tango [New Zealand Herald, 19 November 2007]
Argentina: Let's tango [New Zealand Herald, 20 March 2007]

Personal perspective

A private tango lesson [Karen Phelps, 13 July 2011]
Tango addict: From tomboy to temptress [The Independent, 10 September 2008]
The revenge of the tango—a woman's narrative [Era Soukhin, 21 February 2008]


A Private Tango Lesson

guest narrative by Karen Phelps, 13 July 2011

Dancing Feet

It's a familiar scenario in the tango world, particularly for women. You pay to take a class but then spend half of it standing on the side lines because there are not enough partners to dance with. Or perhaps you go to milongas and have the same experience—simply not enough people (usually men!) to go around. For dedicated tango dancers the only way to really improve quickly is to take private lessons.

In Buenos Aires private tango lessons start at around 100 pesos (usually for a not-so-experienced teacher) up to 300 pesos per hour (for the big name teachers). Finding the right teacher is important. I decide to go on the recommendation of an Auckland friend called Esmeralda now living in Buenos Aires whose dancing I notice has really improved. I ring the teacher Nora Schvartz (who also happens to be Esmeralda's mother-in-law!) who tells me she recommends students take at least three private lessons. But if I do not like the first one then I only have to take a single lesson. The reason? Tango is a difficult dance. It requires at least three lessons to really notice some improvement and make progress.

I arrive at an apartment in downtown Palermo that Nora has converted to a dedicated dance studio. Nora, a diminutive lady who speaks English, French and Spanish, watches me dance with eagle eyes. Any delusions I had that I could dance are immediately deflated as she starts from the basics including walking. The walk is the most basic element of tango and also the most essential. It looks deceptively simple but many tango dancers will perfect their walk over a lifetime.

Lesson with Nora

Once Nora has corrected a few basic mistakes a young tango dancing lawyer called Matias dressed in a tight black t-shirt arrives—my dance partner. Nora has paired him up with me as it is easier to practice with a dancer who is around the same height. I also find out that Nora specially selects the dance partners using only the top young dancers in Buenos Aires. Matias for example was a recent top ten finalist in El Campeonato Metropolitano de Tango Salon—an important tango competition in Argentina. She does not let much go unnoticed correcting virtually every part of my body. By the end I am somewhat overwhelmed by all the things I have to work on. Nora tells me as many tourists do not have long to spend in Buenos Aires she prefers to correct everything she can. That way people can then return home and work on things in their own time.

For people who want to learn quickly private tango lessons are actually very good value. You could easily spend more taking group classes and not get the level of personalized teaching and feedback you receive in a single private lesson. Because tango is such a subtle dance between two people of weight transfer, balance, timing and following the man's lead even subtle corrections can make a huge difference to the flow of the dance. As I attend milongas later that week I already notice improvements. It may take time and practice but for me private lessons have been a good investment as well as a great way to get to the heart of Buenos Aires and the dance.

When looking for private lessons consider:

Karen experienced private tango lessons in Buenos Aires with Nora Schvartz.



Book review: The Golden Age of Tango by Horacio Ferrer

review by Stephan Resch, 20 January 2010

Book Cover: The Golden Age of Tango

The Golden Age of Tango
by Horacio Ferrer
Buenos Aires: Manrique Zago, 1998

There is something satisfying about picking up and flicking through an oversized coffee table book. Richly illustrated with masterful photography, garnished with digestible pieces of information, these types of books make it almost irrelevant whether you are admiring small luxury apartments, the paintings of Magritte or the history of tango, for that matter. Horacio Ferrer's The Golden Age of Tango is such a book. Whether you are interested in tango or not, it would grace any living room table with a touch of sophistication by merely lying there.

However, this compendium has more than just a beautiful cover. It was written by none less than Uruguayan poet Ferrer, who, amongst other achievements, was librettist for Astor Piazzolla, creating the lyrics for masterpieces such as "Maria de Buenos Aires" or "Balada para un loco." Few would be in a better position to write an "insider guide" about the golden age of tango. Ferrer decides for an interesting strategy to structure his narrative: as each new generation has made significant contributions to the development of tango over the last century, he dedicates a new chapter to every 15 years of tango development. As with all periodisation, there is something random about this allocation of timelines, but as a frame of reference, they work well. Within these larger chronological brackets, Ferrer zooms in on what he considers important changes, milestones or biographies. The anecdotal subchapters might focus on the collaboration between Carlos Gardel and the poet Contursi to create the first tango song, only meant for listening. They might discuss the changes in orchestral arrangements from the 1930s onwards, or highlight the contribution that female singers have made to the art form. Ferrer even goes beyond the focus of the book by adding chapters on the development of tango up to the present. No longer than three or four pages, those accounts are obviously meant as introductions only. But few books can rival the lush illustration, the beautiful reprint of original posters, record covers and rare archival photographs of tango royalty on display here. Reading Ferrer's book means wanting to find out more about the history of tango—and that should be the ultimate goal of any introduction.

The Golden Age of Tango, although being a history book, has a poetic soul, which is not surprising as its author is, well, a poet. Amongst some more descriptive passages, you will frequently find lyrical ponderings about the meaning of tango: "Tango creates an oblique bond with reality; obliquity appears also in its dancers' arms and legs; the catlike glances of its bandoneons which at night are oblique and so are the eyes of the Creole girl who lives in the oldest recesses of its soul." You either like this way of writing or you don't but there is no denying that one of the major currencies spent in tango is that of nostalgia. Without the wistful longing for the past or for a love lost, tango would not exist and as a writer of tango lyrics, Horacio Ferrer understands that poetry is inextricably linked with the sentiment that tango represents. Tango lyrics are interwoven throughout the book, wherever they encapsulate in a few words what the narrative is trying to explain. Occasionally, Ferrer is prone to some name-dropping and his list of famous tangos composed during each tango era will most likely appeal more to the advanced tanguero than the typical coffee table book reader. Yet, if these are the only criticisms, a reviewer can put forward, the book must be very good, mustn't it?

Ferrer's The Golden Age of Tango is as good an introduction as you can get on the subject. The balance between information and entertainment, between historical accuracy and a nostalgic visit of a time passed seems perfectly struck. Tango dancers of all levels will be happy to have this book in their collection and any cunning tanguero who is having yet another attempt at converting a non-tango friend to the habit, might just be successful with this (not so little) gift for the coffee table.

Rating: 5 / 5



Book review: Tango: The Art History of Love by Robert Farris Thompson

review by Stephan Resch, 8 January 2010

Book Cover: Tango: The Art History of Love

Tango: The Art History of Love
by Robert Farris Thompson
New York: Pantheon Books, 2005

Robert Farris Thompson's Tango: The Art History of Love is a heavyweight amongst tango books. Quite literally, at 360 pages full of information on the history of tango, there is an immediate sense that this book was written by someone who is serious about tango. Thompson, a Yale art history professor, weaves a tapestry of cultural references spanning from alfajores (an Argentine sweet) to traces of Arabic architecture found in Montevideo in his search for the roots of tango. The unstated aim of his research is to find evidence for something few people would associate with the dance: tango has its roots in Africa, or, more precisely, in Kongo.

Thompson's first chapters deal less with the history of tango but with its reception inside and outside of Buenos Aires: he explains why the singer Carlos Gardel is something of a patron saint to the citizens of the Argentine capital and how Hollywood used the imagery of tango to create meaning in its films—for many years—without taking the dance seriously. Thompson takes the reader through the rich tradition of tango lyrics, choosing examples which encapsulate the nostalgic tristesse, for which tango since Gardel has become renowned. In what constitutes the major part of the book, the author traces African influences in Argentine culture in general and particularly in dance and music. His research yields many astonishing, yet well documented results. He establishes links between the habanera and the milonga and shows convincingly, that many elements of canyengue, a predecessor of tango, are taken directly from Central African dances. As with salsa, which has clearly acknowledged its black roots, Thompson portrays tango as the result of converging, sometimes conflicting cultures in the melting pot that was late 19th century Buenos Aires.

The ethno-musical journey, which Thompson takes us on, is a fascinating one, but there is one problem. From the beginning, he seems out to prove that tango is, in essence, an African dance. A quick check on Thompsons academic résumé reveals, that his research specialty is indeed African art, music and anthropology. While all due credit must given to him for establishing these important links, there is also an irritating one-sidedness to the work. Frequently, he gets lost in details and discursive descriptions of Kongolese dance jargon and name-dropping sessions of (mostly black) influential singers, dancers or composers which will be useful only to fellow ethno-musicologists. Just like Christine Denniston's The Meaning of Tango, this book has serious identity issues. Had it been called The African Roots of Tango, such strong emphasis on one aspect of tango would have been appropriate, rather than exasperating.

Thompson is at his best, when he interweaves biographical anecdotes with sharp analyses of musical style and influences (cf. the chapters on Pugliese and Piazzolla). But even here the bias in his writing is obvious. In a book as exhaustive as his, important tango orchestras such as Caló, Lomuto and Donato do not even receive a mention. While he dedicates a mere page to Juan d'Arienzo who was hugely influential in the dance renaissance of the 1930s, he explores in great detail the African influences of Horacio Salgán, who is of little importance to anyone dancing tango socially today.

These criticisms change little about the fact that Tango: The Art History of Love is an impressive and original piece of research. It is not, however, an easy read and should neither be bought as an introduction to tango nor as light bedside entertainment. Thompson's style is full of enthusiasm about his subject, yet he fails to turn this into a consistently engaging narrative. While some passages are intriguing, others can be tolerated only by flicking to the next chapter—they are simply too packed with unnecessary details. For readers familiar with the basic history and iconography of tango, this book can be highly enlightening. Those who are new to the dance and want to enjoy some bite sized-tango nostalgia, should better buy Horacio Ferrer's The Golden Age of Tango.

Rating: 4 / 5



Book review: The Meaning of Tango: The Story of the Argentinian Dance by Christine Denniston

review by Stephan Resch, 4 January 2010

Book Cover: Meaning of Tango

The Meaning of Tango: The Story of the Argentinian Dance
by Christine Denniston
London: Portico Books, 2007

Related links:
Christine Denniston's website

Writing about a dance is a difficult task. You have physical expression on the one side, verbal expression on the other. Finding words that adequately convey the language of dance, therefore, has its pitfalls and certainly when one claims, as Christine Denniston does in her book, to explain the meaning of a dance as rich and complex as tango, there is great potential for failure. Denniston, a physicist turned tango teacher, is keenly aware of this and points out that her book is merely a record of her conversations with people who danced tango in Buenos Aires during the "Golden Age" of the dance, between the 1930s and the 1950s. Their memories and their interpretation of what tango was when they danced it serves as the research backbone of her book.

Denniston writes in a clear and uncluttered style, which makes the chapter on the history of tango, closely linked with male-dominated italo-hispanic immigration, an intriguing read. Tango flourished, because it was a socially accepted way to meet a woman and with so many men around, it was paramount to be a good leader in order to attract the attention of the other sex. Men practised with other men first in order to avoid looking like a beginner and would only appear on the dance floor once they had reached a level deemed high enough to make them a desirable dance partner for the women. Denniston points out the main milestones in the development of the dance, such as its short but important leap to fame in Europe just before World War I, which, upon its return to Argentina, made it palatable to middle class Argentinians, who had previously viewed it mainly as a working class pastime. She interweaves historical facts with occasional comments about the development of tango music, such as the evolution from the tango song of the 1920s, primarily aimed at listening, (that's why they don't play Carlos Gardel at milongas!) to tango made for the social dance floor.

Denniston's chapters on the history of tango dance and music are so vivid and captivating probably because she is not writing an objective piece of academic research. The downside of this reliance on eye-witness accounts is its nostalgic glorification of the 1930s and the 1940s. To be sure, some of the greatest contributions to the dance and music were made at this time, but Denniston insists upon the presence of complete tango perfection which is difficult to believe. Her mantra "everything was better in the Golden Age" becomes repetitive and meaningless as she continues to bring to our attention, throughout the book, examples of choreographic mistakes and social no-nos which "would never have happened in the Golden Age." By the way, did I point out that people danced much better in the Golden Age?

The third chapter is largely dedicated to tango technique. Quite rightly, Denniston insists that without the proper technique it is impossible to find the unique and satisfying experience that tango can offer. As an experienced teacher she is well qualified to explain what creates the quality of movement and connection necessary for a rewarding dance. While she explains beautifully what tango is all about, the awkward diagrams, charts and photos are not helpful. It is not that they are wrong or misleading, they do make sense to the experienced dancer. But the experienced dancer does not need them and to the beginner they probably seem like reading hieroglyphics. Having just explained in the previous chapter for how many years a Golden Age dancer was coached by peers before venturing on the dance floor, it seems illogical to continue the book as a "teach yourself tango guide", as well written and well intentioned as it might be. It breaks the book into two parts and one wonders if the space could not have been better used to delve deeper into the history of the tango orchestras which are only briefly mentioned or the African origins of the dance which are hardly referred to. Also the development of tango since the Golden Age receives a very passing mention—one could have pointed out, for example, the advent of tango nuevo which brought a variety of new modes of expression and therefore meaning into tango. This would have contravened the wistful spirit of the book but its inclusion would have made the work fit its title better.

Denniston concludes with a useful glossary of tango jargon as well as practical tips for the aspiring tango dancer on clothes, shoes and music.

Overall, The Meaning of Tango provides a short but well-informed and readable introduction to the dance, although, given its focus, the title is somewhat misleading. "The Golden Age of Tango" would have been much more fitting representation of its content. It comes across as overly nostalgic and the apparent dual purpose of the book as a history and dance instruction manual makes it appear incoherent. This is a pity as Denniston clearly knows what she is talking about. Having said this, maybe the very concepts of meandering and discontinuity say something about the search for the meaning of tango.

Rating: 3.5 / 5



A tale of two festivals

by Era Soukhin, 11 June 2008

In the last two weeks we had the opportunity to attend two tango festivals—the first in Wellington, held in May, and the second in Sydney, held in June. Given the number of differences between them, I felt a review was warranted to describe to fellow dancers the ins and outs of both. It is based entirely on my opinion and I am not partial towards any of the organisers in particular.

First of all, I do appreciate the fact that the amount of work required to bring the teachers to either New Zealand or Australia is mammoth. It must be the first great headache of the organisers. The second is to organise the students—and is possibly an even worse headache. I do sympathise.

In order to get a clear eyed picture, let us first present the lay out of each festival:

Wellington

Dates

Started Friday May 23rd 2008, ran until Sunday May 25th, with a possibility of attending an immersion course in the week prior to the festival (but you had to take time off work for that).

Teachers

  1. Maria and Carlos Rivarola (Argentina)
  2. Gisella Galeassi and Gaspar Godoy (Argentina)
  3. Graciela Gonzalez (Argentina)
  4. Ana Andre and Fabio Robles (Argentina - Australia)
  5. Ivana Fleitas and Mauricio Cordoba (Argentina - Australia)
  6. Sophia and Pedro Alvarez (Argentina - Australia)

Cost

$NZ265 package included: 6 workshops, tango show on Saturday night, all evening milongas from Wed night to Sunday night, practica on Sunday.

What I liked

  • Full scale Tango show on Saturday night at the Michael Fowler Centre theatre
  • Credit card payment accepted over internet
  • Booking of specific workshops over internet
  • Indication whether workshops were closed (booked out) for leaders or followers on the website when booking
  • Official hotel (Copthorne)
  • Shuttle bus to workshop venue

What I didn't like

  • Workshop programme released a month late (i.e. after most people booked airfares... and missed some of the workshops they really wanted to get to b/c of that)
  • Help staff often unhelpful: e.g. "there is no vals class in this festival, we only do tango here", "open classes are NOT for beginners"—yeah right
  • Changing story re private lessons arrangements—administration costs = lesson cost (i.e. $NZ100 per hour +$NZ100 admin)
  • Only one pass combination of workshops and milongas (one for beginners, one for teachers and one for everyone else)
  • Some rooms had poor ventilation and no talcum powder for the floor that became sticky with condensation—easily solved by opening the door in the first place

Other bits and pieces

  • Overall friendly crowd + festive atmosphere despite atrocious weather (almost signature Welly)
  • Some teachers didn't swap the class around
  • Mostly even numbers of men and women thanks to well organised taxi dancers
  • Great evening milonga venues (especially Wellington Michael Fowler Centre)
  • Lots of people from Australia attending, which was great to see

Sydney

Dates

Started on Thursday June 5th 2008, ran until Sunday.

Teachers

  1. Joaquin Abenabar (Argentina)
  2. Aurora Lubiz and Hugo Daniel (Argentina)
  3. Cecilia Gonzalez and Donato Juares (Argentina)
  4. The Macana Brothers (Argentina)

Cost

  • $A270 for 6 workshops
  • $A140 for all the milongas

i.e total $A410 for the combination that compared with Wellington most closely + 20% to convert to NZD

What I liked

  • Various combinations of workshops for different passes
  • Personalised programme printed for all participants in pack
  • Maps of workshop venues + milonga venues—came in very handy to guide taxi drivers into unknown territory!
  • All enquiries handled by a single organiser (could be a minus as well when you think about all the stuff that needs to be sorted...)
  • Musicality workshops great hit
  • The ready availability of taxi dancers was clearly a priority for the organisers from the start—my partner was asked if he could help in the spare time right at the point of booking i.e. three months in advance

What I didn't like

  • No credit card facilities
  • No possibility to book workshops on the website directly
  • Location, location, location—both for day and evening events... you really needed a car + street knowledge re: parking availability
  • No official hotel (given above, no point anyway as everything was very scattered)
  • No transport suggestions—especially for a city with such a great public transport network
  • Just about always at least 3-4 women more than men—less taxi dancers than in Wellington, although there were some
  • Private lessons difficult to arrange

Other bits and pieces

  • Overall seemed less friendly than Wellington
  • The weather didn't help
  • Most milongas finished at midnight
  • Milonga locations... more on that later

We are not residents of either city—in other words, flights and accommodation costs were additional in our case. The weather was horrid in both, but despite that, Wellington mood was "absolutely positively Wellington" whereas Sydney was a bit more of an elbow town and your enjoyment or otherwise of the festival depended on whether you knew anyone. People in classes seemed generally nice though in both festivals.

To start with, booking: as already mentioned, Wellington was entirely web-based. We didn't need to contact organisers beforehand personally. Apparently private lessons seemed to be a bit of a hassle to organise—more from the point of view of changing stories + being up in the air until last minute.

Compared to that, booking for Sydney was a bit more... well, last century. Unless you lived in Australia, booking was via a bank cheque (when was the last time you needed one of those?)—I suppose at least it wasn't telegraph based. The website itself was a visual challenge: all events rolled into one as you scrolled down the endless list. To actually book, you had to physically write an email to the organiser listing all the workshops you wanted in that email. You were encouraged to book your milongas early even though it was a separate package (and how do you know which milongas you'd go to 3 months in advance? Especially if you weren't planning to attend all of them). Private lessons were even more difficult to discuss, let alone arrange, beforehand. Once you got there though, it was luck of the draw as to whether you found out about private lesson possibility, let alone booked one.

Costs: Once you convert the money into NZD, taking into account the bank cheque fee, Sydney was double the money, with less choice of teachers and no show. And once you read the bit about venues, you'd really wonder.

Teachers:

Wellington: Fabio and Ana were a hit again in Wellington—very talented teachers. Maria and Carlos' classes were very quickly booked out and were thus full + they didn't swap partners at all. Gisela and Gaspar's classes were also bursting at the seams—which meant they couldn't devote much time per couple. Ivana and Mauricio's classes were fun as well from what we heard. Sophia and Pedro, while charming, took a very long time to get the whole class up to scratch with the basics, but then very quickly try and teach one step right at the end. Graciela Gonzalez group classes come nowhere near that holy grail of tango: the private lesson.

Sydney: Cecilia and Donato did the usual: here is the step, this is how it's done, here is the technique—cleanly done, perhaps a little dispassionate but effective and clear nonetheless. Macanas brothers are stunning performers, but unfortunately little can be said about their degree of professionalism. They were the ones that were 1h15min late into the workshop, with no decent excuse on arrival and no executive decision from the organisers re: how to get around this fiasco until long after the lesson—democracy in this situation does not work—every student will have an opinion.

Aurora and Hugo were our absolute favourites, together with Joaquin (whose musicality classes are brilliant and were it not for clashes with other workshops, I would have done the full set of musicality classes), these three are incredibly passionate about teaching good tango technique. The honesty of that passion is deeply humbling. This was the greatest advantage of Sydney, being able to meet these three excellent teachers.

Location: The workshops in Wellington were held at a performing arts centre—all under one roof, no need to change in and out of dance shoes in between lessons as you just hopped from one room to the next, central area with stalls selling wares, including tango shoes. If you didn't live in one of the motels next door, the shuttle bus delivered you there from the official hotel and if you really wanted to brave the weather, the place was a 30min stroll from central Wellington. All evening events were either in Wellington city centre or at the workshop venue—i.e. transport was never an issue and all locations had an air of festivity and grandeur about them, especially the Michael Fowler Centre.

Sydney workshops were in the University of New South Wales... in three different parts of UNSW—i.e. if your workshop ran late, you'd be late to your next one, by the time you change your shoes, put on all your clothes and run across a busy road and delve deep within the other half of the university. On one of the occasions the participants had to clear desks and chairs and sweep the floor before the start of the class—yay!—lucky the teachers were 1h 15min late into that 1h 30min workshop.

Evening locations were scattered around Sydney, also in three parts—all three required taxies—for a city with a great transport network you couldn't do better to find four different corners with no decent transport. Except for Petersham Hall (a milonga that cost $85 per head if you managed not to book—and if you didn't, dinner was not guaranteed), the venues were somewhat lacklustre. Marrickville was a tennis club building—with the standard set of brown looking carpet and gaming machines in the bar room—the dance floor was ok, but overall the ambience was that of a school fair rather than a grown up milonga—ok for a weekly dance, but not at $40 a head. Exchange Hotel venue was better in ambience, but was strangely set up with most people having to sit in the back room unable to watch the dancers, while the dance floor was far too small even when only half the people attended—the best part was the fact that the entrance was between the back room and the main dance floor—so most people coming in from the rain were creating a great swathe of wet floor that the dancers had to cross on the way to the dance floor, getting their shoes wet in the process and then getting stuck to the floor. Ventilation was poor in both: the former turned off the air conditioning, the latter bolted all the windows shut.

The only saving grace for Sydney evening venues was the fact the teachers did a great set of performances and the music was fantastic.

Atmosphere: While Welly had an egalitarian feel about it—anyone could dance with anyone and that was that; in Sydney, dancers divided into two groups: beginners and advanced—with seemingly no intermediate group. There was a degree of arrogance on the dance floor—starting with people displaying their entire nuevo repertoire, including ganchos in the middle of a very crowded dance floor and ending with the fact that unless you were single, hot-looking female or you knew Sydney milongeros personally, there was no chance in hell of getting a dance with the Sydney-siders—they would not even look your way... in some cases quite obviously deliberately. The non-Sydney-siders were a welcome relief... However, I can dance with my other half in Auckland or Wellington and I don't have to drag halfway across Sydney to dance with him. Obviously his life, in that sense, was easier as there were, as always, 50% more women than men.

In summary, quite obviously I prefer Wellington for all the reasons above. While there were some nice touches (like personalised arrival packs), had it not been for Aurora, Hugo and Joaquin, I would have said that Sydney was a complete waste of time (and money). It seemed as if the organisers forgot the big picture a bit and focused on the small details (nice, but missed the point)—at the end of the day, if the festival is "International" and "Australian", then accessibility of all venues by visitors to Sydney should be a priority. Appropriateness of venues would be the next big detail.

Both organisers would to well to sort out the festival policy on private lessons well in advance and stick to it, ideally with specific slots available for booking over the internet on the 'first-come-first-served' basis.

I would recommend checking the evening venues in Sydney on the map in future, prior to booking, if it's not near you, don't bother going—go to only one e.g. first or last, depending on your flights and enjoy the rest of the nights going to bed on time (you'll be tired anyway). Unless you know them or you've talked to someone who knows the teachers beforehand (we did, that's why we booked most of our lessons with Aurora and Hugo), don't bother going all the way across the Tasman just for the festival, unless your tickets are with air-points and your accommodation is free, or you're over in Sydney for other reasons anyway.

Lastly, organising a festival is a headache, be it in Sydney or Wellington, some things will turn out well, others will turn out badly. This is a clear eyed view of an unbiased participant, meant as a source of information for others rather than as slamming criticism of either event. It is great to see that people are undertaking the thankless task of organising. I'd say Wellington mostly got it right and I hope that they are not finding that they made a loss at the end of it all. Sydney has potential, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Like many dancers, I look forward to experiencing it.



The revenge of the tango—a woman's narrative

by Era Soukhin, 21 February 2008

I fell in love with Argentine tango on my twentieth birthday. I distinctly remember the moment: sitting in an armchair, snuggled in my mother's Scottish rug, with my grandmother and my sister's cat for company. It was a perfect, snowy New Year's eve deep in the dachas of Moscow region and we were all watching television. There was a documentary on new movements in music and one of the features was Gotan Project's new album, La Revancha del Tango. Something in the music spoke to me and evoked feelings I could not possibly describe at the time. I did not know why I was so attracted to the seemingly jarring, incomprehensible sequences.

Let me paint you a picture of myself at the time: a bookish, but often bossy, undergrad, who recently finished an all-girls' school, doing a project in France during Pacific summer holidays, and, at that particular moment, taking a Christmas break at 'home' (one of many) with grandma. In short, hardly tango material. And yet that strange music suddenly was me, as if I have always known it.

A couple of weeks later, while browsing through CDs in a supermarket in France, I stumbled on La Revancha del Tango—it was lying out of alphabetical order, it was not what I was looking for and it cost more than I could afford to pay for it, but that disturbing, primal feeling returned again and out came the reserve credit card.

A month later, I was back in Auckland, falling for a guy who was crazy about salsa and not at all interested in tango. Since I did not dance and salsa was fun, tango was forgotten and salsa took over. It taught me to be a dancer: to have a conversation without words, to play and tease, to interpret another's movements in my own way and watch their reaction, to continue unflinching after stubbing my toes and heaps of other useful things. Was there something missing in all this?—Perhaps, except I didn't think so at the time.

One or two years into my relationship with the handsome salsero, he happened to listen to La Revancha del Tango in my car by accident. He hadn't heard it before, but he seemed intrigued, and later asked for a copy. I distinctly remember that moment too. It was as if a knot within me, that I did not know existed, was untied. Here was someone, whom I respected and admired, and he liked my strange music—he understood what it meant to me. It was a far cry from the moment when I heard it first. That bookish girl had changed into a crazed creature, who was known for routinely sleeping through her morning lectures because she danced her toes off the night before. La Revancha del Tango lived up to its name however and unsettled me again by offering something else: his insight into my soul—a wish that I didn't know I had made.

It took another year or two, before the handsome salsero decided he'd like to try Argentine tango. It was as hard as building an intimate relationship. At first we didn't get the point of tango—we seemed to learn steps upon steps and none of it made sense, both consciously and within. Then we went to a teacher who taught us the logic and, at the same time, the feeling of the dance. We struggled again—this time for a different reason—I looked up to my handsome salsero to be the guide he always was in salsa, I needed that conversation of two bodies, but it seemed that only I did the talking. I was frustrated as I found dancing with other men more enjoyable and that seemed wrong. I wanted to look up to him, sense his rhythm and move with him, wordlessly but in complete understanding. Yet he was just starting to learn this art and all my desires for our dancing were just too overwhelming. I wished for the transcendental, but I was getting the mundane.

I moved to another town. My grandma died, my sister went to live in another country and took her cat with her. My parents refurbished my grandmother's house and I don't know what became of the Scottish rug nor the old armchair. The tangible, the people and the objects associated with my love at first "listen" with tango faded away and so the memory of that moment became more poignant and almost stinging. The relationship survived the distance though and my handsome salsero continued learning tango in my absence. When I returned and life began to recover its normal pace, it struck me one evening that I no longer thought of him as a salsero, but as a milonguero. La Revancha del Tango played its part again—a capricious muse, it wanted my absence to create what I sought all these years: the intensity of emotional charge, the graceful interplay of movements, the security of the embrace of the man I love and the wordless conversation threaded with understanding. This dance is the narrative of life and so this story, like many countless others, continues, punctuated by milongas and practicas, and paragraphed by the new twists of la revancha del tango.