Monday, November 24, 2008

It's not too late :: El Fandango de Tango

The Fandango, as we call it here in Austin, starts on Wednesday with the first classes and milonga. It's not too late to book a flight and a room. Drive on in if you are close enough. Although in Texas, that's a loaded statement. Nothing's close in Texas.

Los "maestros" are:

Fabian Salas y Maria Paz Giorgi
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

The topics of the classes are not announced until the morning of the day of the classes. The DJ's for the milongas are not announced in advance either. You find out when you get there. It's one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive festivals in the U.S. $589 for the full, unlimited pass. $159 for the "all milonga" pass (seven milongas), $119 if you skip the Thanksgiving brunch milonga (six milongas). Plus, there's no 'a la carte' class pricing, only full day passes. You could ski all four mountains in Aspen, rent skis, have lunch and drink apres ski at Ajax Tavern for less. Ricardo won't like that I am being negative, but it's a festival that really discriminates against local dancers (especially our UT student contingent), and sometimes the truth hurts. But, he's been doing it for 10 years now, and I'm sure he knows what works for him.

The hotel/venue is a nice one - the Omni Hotel Southpark - 5 minutes away. I had a luxurious delusion at one point of getting a suite, and having a "hospitality suite", sort of like a green room that all festivals are sorely lacking. It's an extravagance I can't justify right now. My recent move and then the long road trip set me back about four or five festivals, including airfare and hotel. Or two festivals in Europe, or three trips to Buenos Aires. Or one Nikon D-3 body. Oh well. We do what we gotta do.

This festival has a "ballroomy" undertone to it. At least that's what I felt last year. I understand that the organizer Ricardo comes from the ballroom world, and I hear that the event organization and pricing structure is similar to what you might encounter for a ballroom dance event.

That being said, I had some really good dances last year, one or two amazing dances, reconnected with old friends, and made some new ones. I'm looking forward to seeing friends from Dallas and Houston. My Phoenix cohorts can't make it though. Bummer.


Anonymous said...

I'm curious how you managed to ask people to dance at Fandango. Heard it is huge space filled with lots of people sitting around all over the place. You can't do it via eye contact. Any tips?

Alex said...

Night vision binoculars and morse code with a flashlight.

Another idea is a t-shirt emblazoned front and back "For a good time, call 555-1212".

It is next to impossible to cabaceo from one side of the ballroom to the other. I typically sit over on the right with my back to the wall (it's a Texas thing). I scope followers out on the dance floor as best I can, and then make note of where they are sitting. I have a little map and number the tables, then I use a numerical ranking system 6 through 10. I'm kidding, I'm kidding!

I do try to make mental note of where different followers are sitting, and then try to intercept during the cortina. I'm kinda weird about this - it doesn't seem proper to approach her right on the edge of the dance floor, or even after she has just sat down. I try to give her a minute, or at least a few seconds, but often lose out to other leads who are more aggressive in their invitations.

Some of the better followers never leave the dance floor, because they/their leads don't follow the codigo/tradition of clearing the dance floor during the cortina. If they do end a tanda with a leader, they will likely get intercepted on the dance floor by another overzealous lead. To me, it's all about being/playing fair and sharing the best followers. Not 'hogging' in other words.

So, in my cruising the back row (along the wall where the exit doors are), to scope things out on the other side of the room, I make a lot of eye contact, stop and chat, say hi, use the 'water cooler move', or just generally lurk/loiter/wander aimlessly (but don't "stalk") any technique like that - to lay the ground work for future invites. You might call it guerrilla cabeceo or search and destroy - not a good word - let's say 'recon' missions.

Very often these shenanigans on my part end up in an invite along the way and I'll end up on the dance floor, without ever making it back to my table much.

But, cabeceo while sitting is next to impossible, except for the people in your immediate vicinity. I'm also at a disadvantage (as many are), in that I'm behind most of the followers (with my back to the wall ya know?). I once made the mistake of tapping a woman on the shoulder from behind to ask her to dance - she was sitting in the singles/followers row of seats facing the dance floor - let's just say it was not a good idea.

So, there's a lot of verbal inviting, but it's based on preliminary 'recon' cabeceo while walking around.

Also, I'll try to strike up conversations with women out in the lobby - looking at shoes or clothes or whatever - just to break the ice. Then it's easier to say "Let's dance later - I'll look for you..." or something like that.

It's also easier if you are taking the classes, then you will 'know' or at least recognize women you may have danced with in class.

Lastly, I know more followers this time around, so the ice has already been broken with many more women, making it a given that I will invite them to dance.

The most important tip I can offer is not to ask a woman to dance unless you've seen her dance. It's not always possible, but I try to stick to this as much as I can.

Hope this helps.