A CASE OF VUJA DE
Labor Day Weekend in the year of the tango 2001, people in search of a unique and special tango experience, traveled to Reno, Nevada, from all over the United States, invited to spend a long weekend at a magical setting with world class teachers, international stage performers, an
authentic Sexteto Tipico orchestra, and the kindest and most gracious dancers around. They were in for a major treat, and somehow they became part of the spontaneous outburst of an unusual phenomenon known as vuja de, the distinct feeling that something that just happened, had never happened before.
As Tango weeks and weekends go, the practice of gathering once a year to meet professional dancers and other dancers from around the country, started in 1991 when the Dance Department of Stanford University organized the first Tango Week at its campus in Palo Alto, California.
Within five years, there was enough of a confusion about what constituted authentic Tango dancing, and who were or were not qualified to teach it, that “me too” Tango week organizers began to sprout up around the country.
Then in 1997 the Dance Department of Stanford University abruptly ended the Stanford Tango Week program, citing the need to focus their resources to a wider variety of dance disciplines. By then, the tango week business had met with an abundant supply of talent as more displaced show
dancers affected by the precarious state of the Argentine economy, provided a large pool for organizers to choose from.
It behooves that a society, that is built on the principles of free markets and open competition, would provide so many opportunities for tango teachers and dancers to practice the trade. It is also true that in the impatient pursuit of a Happy Meal, people can become jaded at the prospect of a five-star sit down dinner at a friend’s home.
When the time came to begin planning the fifth edition of our Labor Day Weekend Tango Getaway, we knew we wanted the equivalent of a four-course dinner, at a five-star location featuring the top chefs around. It was partly selfishness. We had enjoyed the previous four years, as the project, that started as a glorified workshop for some friends in need, turned into a very special annual event from its very inception on Labor Day Weekend 1997. Along the way, non-flattering imitations have failed to pass beyond copycat status much in the same way as something that comes out of a copier can’t match the original look and feel that comes out of a laser printer.
We have never forgotten learning to have fun with Gloria and Eduardo in 1995, and having Pablo and Beatriz at our former home in California one year later. So we went to work to bring them back to the USA, and invited all our friends to share the feast. For those who came, it was vuja de like it never happened before.
This year’s Sunday’s theme menu was Mardi Gras, and the lavish buffet table featured, not coincidentally, New Orleans cuisine: red beans and rice, jambalaya, blackened red fish and pecan stuffing
Just before the show, second line music filled the ballroom. Donning beads around their necks, dressed in festive colorful attire, the entire ballroom became an impromptu second line parade around the tables and the dance floor.
Second line New Orleans style
It is flattering and pleasant to receive the instant feedback from everyone who attends the Planet Tango Labor Day Weekend Tango Getaway. Somehow it seems that we work very hard for that sincere congratulation, for that smile of satisfaction from everybody on their way in and out
of the classes, dinners and milongas.
We have learned through many years of experience, that respect in this business is earned one dancer at a time, and we look forward every year for the renewed encounter with those who return time after time, and for that first impression for those who venture out to Reno for the first time.
Out of respect for the individuality of each participant, we have kept an original and very simple format aimed to facilitate the easiness of attitude adjustment, as weary tangueros from all over the country make their way into the Crystal Ballroom on Friday night.
After an informal social milonga Friday evening, the scheduled program of classes get underway Saturday morning, and it repeats Sunday and Monday mornings.
Three spacious and comfortable rooms each housed a group of approximately thirty dancers, and the schedule called for all three teaching couples to visit each room three times during the entire weekend. This original arrangement has been a trademark of the Labor Day Tango Getaway since its inception, and it has received rave reviews from almost everyone attending, the principle being one of respect for all teachers and the other participants.
The balanced quality of instruction offered at the Labor Day Tango Getaway takes precedence over any teacher’s ego (some measure their success by the number of people who follow them around), and the occasional star struck cholulo who insists on following a particular teacher around. The foremost objective is to allow everyone to have the same amount of instruction and exposure to every teacher. An overwhelming majority of returning participants attest to the success of the method employed to expose everyone to the very best balanced and comprehensive learning experience.
By the time the first dressed-to-kill couples begin to make their way into the Carson Ballroom, many months of planning have been logged by Valorie Hart in preparation for this special evening. Shortly after the first day’s classes end, Valorie swiftly moved into her role as a gifted event planner and supervised the transformation of the Carson Ballroom into a chic 1940’s cabaret. Table centerpieces featured miniature replicas of the street lampposts so characteristic of the early Spanish influence in Buenos Aires, and coincidentally New Orleans. Each table got the personal touch of a photo of a poet or musician of the Golden Years. Later Eduardo would complain that dancers never get the same kind of recognition. Valorie, ignoring the rudeness of the outburst, quickly retorted, OK, che, dame tu picture.
A succulent buffet, the music of D’Arienzo, Tanturi, Calo, Pugliese, Troilo and Di Sarli and the original setting of the dance floor, had already conspired to create an atmosphere of intense dancing and joyful camaraderie. How else, if not through tango, strangers from extreme points across the country, can extend their arms around each other in sheer jubilation, and give themselves up sensually to the alluring music from another era, which by the magic of their dance, has come alive and everlasting. When Miguel Arrabal and the members of the Sexteto Tipico Arrabal opened the first of many sets to come, with the theme of the evening, Milongueando en el cuarenta, the whole audience’s mood was kicked up several notches. A pregnant silence followed the ending of the song until one by one, the majority of loving tango dancers, realized that they had just danced for the very first time to the authentic sound of the orchestras that played for other loving tango dancers of the Golden Years. A thunderous ovation rewarded with genuine appreciation the live classical rendition they had just danced to.
The highlight of the evening was the much waited Exhibition by the Masters. The show had variety, punch, personality, and a grand finale that brought the house down with cheers of approval. The evening grew late and the dancing continued into the enchanted night. Tomorrow would be another day.
Exhibition by the Masters
THE STUDENTS SHOWCASE
Sunday evening is one of the most anticipated experiences particularly for the majority of returning participants. For the newcomers is a unique and memorable Tango Fest highlighted by the active participation of the dancers attending the Labor Day Weekend Tango Getaway.
The second day of classes had ended and once again Valorie morphed into a busy butterfly assisted by Billie, Carlota, Joe, Alberto Gonzalez, Enriqueta and the competent staff of the Reno Hilton catering department. Their mission this time was to prepare for this special evening, without any doubt, Valorie‘s favorite.
The table centerpieces were now showered with beads flown especially from the home of the Mardi Gras. The replicas of the street lamppost had been personalized with miniature French Quarter style street signs bearing the Planet Tango legend on them.
This year’s Sunday’s theme menu was Mardi Gras, and the lavish buffet table featured, not coincidentally, New Orleans cuisine: red beans and rice, jambalaya, blackened red fish and pecan stuffing.
The night’s main attraction, besides dancing to a live typical sextet orchestra for the second night in a row, was the Student showcase, an exclusive act that brought all participants to center stage. Since Friday, Valorie had been asking anybody who wanted to participate to let her know. By show time, eight couples had volunteered, and the anticipation grew as the moment approached.
There was a surprise though, and just before the show, Mardi Gras music filled the ballroom. Donning beads around their necks, dressed in festive colorful attire, the entire ballroom became an impromptu second line parade around the tables and the dance floor.
Finally, the moment arrived. One by one, the eight couples who had chosen to participate put on a memorable show, while the audience of their peers and teachers cheered and celebrated every move, every display of creativity on the dance floor.
The students showcase, part 1
The students showcase, part 2