Another fabulous New Orleans Tangofest has come and gone. Over 120 people came together to celebrate social tango dancing at its best.
Friday night’s kick off event was the original show RED HOT TANGO, a dance revue based on the social dance history of tango. Cleverly interwoven with a sensual voice over with spot-on musical interludes and apropos tangos, valses and milongas, were examples of social tango dancing from the 1920’s until the present day.
Michael Serry and Julie Ann Stillman from Santa Barbara kicked off the dance numbers with a sassy milonga/candombe to Di Sarli’s La Mulateada. Next up from Troy, Michigan came Doug and Suzanne MacGeorge dancing a precious canyengue to Julio de Caro’s El Pillete.
Threading the influences of other social dances that formed the tango culminated in a spectacular social dance style fox trot by Mike Muscemi and Susaune Yee McKamey (New Orleans), who looked as if they jumped out of a 1930’s black and white movie onto the black and white dance floor.
Then came the guest teachers, Orlando Paiva, Jr. and Rebekah Abbey, who danced to Di Sarli’s Comme Il Faut, in a flawless example of elegance, bodies held close, feet never leaving the floor, their tango filled with smooth music.
Up next, hosts, event producers and master teachers Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart, showed us the moves that led to the way we socially dance tango now, an homage to Petroleo, executing giro after giro to Troilo’s Guapeando.
The holy trinity of tango dancing was rounded out by Doug and Suzanne dancing a crowd pleasing milonga to Canaro’s Milonga Criolla; Orlando and Rebekah charmed everyone with a vals danced to Pugliese’s Desde el Alma.
Michael and Julie Ann did a wonderful rendition of the 1950’s petitero, segueing into a number by Alberto and Valorie danced to D’Arienzo’s El Flete, illustrating the caquero’s discovery of the milonguero.
Then onto to modern times, with Michael and Julie dancing a tango to Che Tango Che by Gidon Kremer.
Next, Alberto and Valorie danced slow, close and sensual to Color Tango’s Tango A Pugliese.
As the tradition of tango hospitality dictates, guest teachers Orlando and Rebekah closed out the solo numbers dancing a breathtaking tango to Troilo’s Quejas De Bandoneon.
For the finale, each man chose a lady not his partner, to dance the finale – Tanturi’s Una Emocion, to show that in social dancing, it is not only possible but enjoyable to dance with anyone who chooses to dance with you. None of the dancers had ever danced with their chosen ladies, nor had the ladies previously danced with the men.
The costume changes were imaginative and quick! Each outfit conveyed a different era. There was a lot of charming stage business. Highlights included Valorie dressed as a man marching the other bigger guys around the floor. Also amusing was the cast of porteños watching an imaginary movie screen, where Fred Astaire was performing Top Hat – the porteños made a game attempt to imitate Fred’s elegance, with comical results.
The show was sold out, integrating the TangoFest participants along with the general public. Much excitement was in the air, and new tango dancers were being born that very moment!
After the show, a great milonga went on until the last dancers happily dragged themselves off to bed to look forward to two day’s worth of interesting classes. Gourmet sandwiches and fresh fruit and sweets were provided, for those who skipped dinner, or just needed a little boost to keep up with the constant flow of dancing.
Saturday and Sunday classes were flawless and fun. Each set of teachers challenged the dancers to improve their skill levels and understanding of the structure of the tango, thus enabling and empowering each of them to become a fully realized tango dancer. Two classrooms divided the dancers into a couples room or a singles room. The singles room actually had extra men! The level of dancing was on an even keel. Each class size was limited to no more than 36 persons, so that plenty of personal attention was given by both sets of teachers. Time was allotted for those wishing a private class.
Both dinners were so delicious. Saturday’s theme The Lady In Red brought out some fabulous red dresses on the ladies. Red feather boas and red beads were given to all, for just that added extra touch. No shows or announcements on this night so that all could dance socially to their heart’s content. Excellent state of the art dance floor and sound system (playing DJ Tangoman’s perfect compilations) kept everyone going well past 1 AM.
Sunday night is the highlight of the weekend. A student showcase happens. This idea came out of the dance halls of Buenos Aires, where you would often see a social dance couple take to the floor for a spot light dance to celebrate a milestone. It is done in the spirit of sharing your tango. It is a remarkable emotional love fest between the people watching and the dancers.
Anyone can volunteer to dance in the showcase. Some dancers may have taken their first steps in classes that weekend, and will come to center floor on Sunday night and receive tremendous support and encouragement. Seasoned dancers receive respect and appreciation. Social dancing improvised in the moment, in front of your peers, gives all an authentic experience and an exciting showcase.
This year in the true spirit of the tango, Linda from New Orleans and Tony from Phoenix stepped to the center for the first time ever (they hadn’t danced with each before) and shared the most connected and real and exquisite tango to Pugliese’s Nochero Soy. It felt as if everyone was a voyeur!
Others who generously danced that night: Fred and Beth (tango) from Nevada, Gordon and Laurie (vals) from Florida, Sabina and Eddie (vals) from New Orleans, Curtis and Laura (tango) from Florida, Julio and Denise (tango) from New Orleans, and soon to be a bride and groom in September, Alfonso and Anie (tango) from New Orleans.
Plenty of time was left to finish the very yummy Taste of New Orleans dinner (where it was heard that the best bread pudding ever was served!), and to dance until the last table was folded (going on 2 AM). Die hard dancers included Orlando, Rebekah, Patricia, Sabina, Erwin, Michael, Jessica, Denise, Julio, Todd, Marizabel, Doug, Suzanne, Alberto, Valorie, and too many others to name.
The Hotel Monaco is the most sexy and classy and comfortable place to stay. It is done up in the grand style of the 1940’s, which matches the tango so perfectly.
Every afternoon at 5 PM the wine reception (complimentary wine) was packed with chatty tango dancers. The plush terry cloth leopard bathrobes were sighted around the hotel on various tango dancers. Everybody really loves the luxury of the guest rooms for relaxing in between classes and events (local dancers got their own Locals Lounge in the form of one of the well appointed and spotless guest rooms).
The Cobalt (hotel) restaurant is so cozy, and the shrimp over grits was seen on many a dancer’s plate!
The staff at The Monaco is friendly and helpful. The same desk people, chamber maids, waiters, doormen and managers remain year after year and they remember us as much as we remember them. The Monaco is a pet friendly hotel and it is so cool to see the pretty pooches laying at the feet of their owners in the beautifully decorated public living rooms.
The Planet Tango Boutique was packed with lots of good stuff – the Planet Tango T-shirt design and poster were especially good this year; new Tara tango shoes were seen on many of the ladies, and Charles Gillam the famous folk artist did an incredible painted wood carving of Caminito that was snapped up by a lucky guy from Florida.
Lassiez le bon temps du tango rouler! It was one hell of a party! Excellent dancers, excellent teachers, excellent place – next year, be there or be nowhere.