Five milongas in five nights. I think I danced more in the past 5 days than I have in the past year - not counting my eleven days in Buenos Aires last April.
Based on my overall "milonga only" experience, I am not sure that I would come back. I had more "fun" than I think I ever have at past milongas...but...
The DJ'ing was not at 100% and it should be - should definitely be - at the "festival" level. I sat out a good part of the time - all under the same DJ.
OVERALL LEVEL OF DANCERS:: 60%
Another reason is the overall level of dancing - I would say that over 50 percent of the dancers there were at the beginner level - perhaps "advanced" beginner. The beginning leaders were evidenced mostly by floorcraft (or lack thereof) and by general bad form.
Some of the followers I danced with had difficulty with a subtle lead to the cross, no mastery of the ocho cortado, bounced at times during the walk, and got confused when I was walking in crossed feet and automatically switched their feet into normal walk. I would call these women beginners.
THE BALLROOM EFFECT:: 60%
This is just my personal opinion - but I got the feeling a substantial number of the attendees were ballroom people. I would say in the range of 20-30%. I base this on a number of factors - dress being one (I was embarrassed for a few women) - shoes being another - style of dance - skill level of lead and follow. Teaching on the floor. The biggest issue or symptom would be the lack of floorcraft and navigation skills amongst the leaders. Others complained of this so it's not just me.
The big piece of evidence was the roar of the crowd and long and loud applause after Fernanda & Guillermo's performance. Granted, they are technically skilled dancers - pros - magnificent dancers. But, the performance was too Vegas-y, too ballroom-y, too glitter-y, too sequin-y, too showy, too fantasia-y, too much unlike-y what Argentine Tango represents to me. And they got the hugest applause of all. That spells b-a-l-l-r-o-o-m to me.
I think the ballroom people get bored with the ballroom scene, and the Argentine Tango community is something of a novelty for them. Don't get me wrong - I'm happy to have them convert - or add it as one of the many dances they dance. Someone has to dance all those other dances - just not me.
I think it's great for them to come over to AT. I would just expect that they make attempts to develop proper form, the proper lead (nothing at all like a ballroom lead), avail themselves of the vast knowledgebase (Google) of codigos, floorcraft, and the traditions of AT.
CLASSES & TEACHERS & PRICING:: 90%
The only reason I give 10% off is because there was no "a la carte" class pricing. You had to buy a one day pass - all classes & the milonga. What about the working single mom? What if she could only arrange to attend one or two classes during the entire weekend? I supppose it might be by design - to keep the classes less crowded -but still rake in the income needed. This was the 9th Annual Fandango - I'm sure Ricardo has figured out the numbers by now.
Overall, this is one of the more pricey festivals. I heard other complaints throughout the weekend.
The teachers were great. Even though it didn't take any classes - I have taken workshops with all of them except Alex Krebs and Pablo Pugliese. They are all top notch, even if they aren't exactly estilo milonguero.
Oh, and not announcing the class topics until the morning of the classes - big fugaboo to me. This happened the first couple of days I think. Then they had the schedule for the next day available the night before. With no a la carte pricing, I suppose it didn't matter. Kudos to the upcoming Houston Tango Festival - they had postcards there - already printed with the class topics.
FINAL ANALYSIS:: 85%
Keep in mind these are my own personal opinions, based on my own "milonga only" experiences as a leader. I didn't do any of the classes.
This definitely not a "milonguero" "close embrace" "tango tipica" festival. Not like Denver at least. If I lived in Austin (or in Texas) I might go again next year, but if you are spending big bucks to fly in and stay in the hotel, your dollars might be better spent - yield a better return - on a different festival.
Good but not great. But I still had some great dances, and lots of fun.