The 9th Annual Fandango de Tango Festival [Austin, Texas] started yesterday. The maestros/teachers are Fabian Salas y Carolina del Rivero, Julio Balmaceda y Corina de la Rosa, Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi, Diego di Falco y Carolina Zokalski, Nito y Elba Garcia, Alex Krebs y Luciana Valle, Pablo Pugliese y Noel Strazza.
I will very likely not be taking any classes. There is no "a al carte" pricing - classes are only available in one day blocks of three. The other irritation is that the class topics are not announced until the start time of the first class of the day. So, I would have to show up at the hotel [I'm staying with family in Austin.] each day, take a look at the class topics for the day, and decide if these are classes I would like to take, not knowing what the classes are for the next two or three days. Funky scenario. Anyway, I've already taken workshops with all of the "headliners" except for Alex & Pablo. I have enough new material rolling around in my head just from my recent Buenos Aires intensivo with Gustavo y Giselle to last me for the rest of my tango life.
It would have been nice to do the full festival pass, as I usually do, but it's just not in the cards for me this time.
So, I met a friend who is in town for the festival for dinner last night. We went to a really good little Mexican restaurant near the hotel. We talked mostly about the Paso Fino horse breed - he had been to a breeder earlier in the day.
The milonga was held in the same ballrooms the classes were. Four smaller ballrooms -open up the dividers and the milonga is then held in the resulting large ballroom. Except that there are three separate dance floors - two smaller ones on the ends, and a large one in the middle. The small ones have round tables set up on them. The main dance floor has tables set up along one edge. This makes the main dance floor about 30 or 40 feet by 60 feet. Because the classes ran late - the milonga started late. There was a large crowd hanging out in the hotel bar - eating, drinking and socializing. It seemed like we were there for an hour or forty-five minutes.
I didn't take my boots off - on purpose. My lower back has been bothering me the past three days - I wanted to take it easy - not dance - save my back for the "big nights" and just observe for a while and collect "intel" on potential followers.
And what did I observe, you might ask? I would say there were 60-80 dancers in the room. There were only one or two followers who caught my eye. There were only one or two couples dancing at the advanced level (or actually beginning advanced). In general, the level of dancing across the entire room was somewhat "low". Not what I am used to seeing in Denver, or even at the Atlanta Festival. But this only the first night. More dancers will be coming in the next three nights.
Several couples were obviously trying to work out class material on the floor. One couple even appeared to be arguing in the far corner. Others were less obvious about it, but at least they were doing in the context of "the dance". Most were enjoying the evening it seemed, with minor hiccups in getting used to new partners. The room was about 50-50 in terms of open/salon vs. close/milonguero styles.
There was a couple that reminded me of "trailer trash tango"...really tacky ornate "stirrup" type (thanks for Francis R for the correct word!) fishnet stockings...really tacky overtly floral dress...Wrangler jeans on the guy...but they were having fun, so who cares, right? She was throwing front and back boleos all over the place - none were led. There appeared to be lots and lots of unled follower embellishments going on - not a good sign.
The floor only cleared about 50% during the cortinas - not a good sign for the single leader. The cortina - at least leaving the dance floor during the cortina - was designed - in my view - to 'mix it up" and enable cabeceo, enable partner changing for the next tanda. If the leaders are hogging the best followers, and don't allow them to step off the dance floor and get "cabeceo'd", then it's what I would call, at best, "not good".
The music was good - thank GOD! The cortina song was a little namby pamby. And short! Now that I think of it, it was only five, maybe ten seconds long - not long enough to clear the floor, do a little cabeceo, and get back on the floor. When I DJ, my cortinas are at least 25 to 30 seconds - sometimes longer. Short cortinas are for practicas.
I'm guessing the vast majority this first night, the night before Thanksgiving Day, are local Austin folks, and other Texas folks from Houston, San Antone, Dallas - and a few out of towners. There were a few from Atlanta there.
The best followers were dancing with their husbands - hopefully that will change tonight - if not, I will have to become a usurper - and ignore the lamentations of the husbands. No, that's not my style, but I will have to figure out a polite way to accomplish the separation. Sadly, there's no real opportunity for cabeceo.
One last thought...I got a "ballroomy" feel for some reason...a feeling that a lot of the dancers were converts from ballroom...just an energy thing...strange...
Then there was the salsa tanda...one hour into the milonga...salsa? I like a little salsa with my chips, just as much as the next guy, but this is supposed to be a TANGO festival, isn't it?
The salsa tanda is when I got up and left...just before midnight.
Addendum::Beginning followers...."knees together"...stepping and looking like you have been horseback riding all day...not a good thing...