The pressure is on. Which tango festivals should I attend? My e-mail gets flooded every day with invitations. So does my Facebook page. Everybody I know has either lately been to one or is planning to go to one. Tango Festival in Istanbul, Tango Festival in Albuquerque, Tango Marathon in Boston, another Tango Marathon in San Francisco coming up next month, Montreal Loves Tango (well, missed that one!), and then the exotic Tango Festival in Puerto Rico, offering milongas on the beach! Last month Austin and Denver, and don’t forget to register for the one in San Diego on New Year’s Eve!
One of my long-time friends and favorite dance partners confided that he attends one festival per month. He has made a special arrangement with his employer to work overtime during three weeks of the month so he can take off during one week to travel to a tango festival. Since this eats quite a bit into his expense budget, he has found ways to travel cheaply: He stays at low-budget motels outside town and he offers his services as a taxi dancer for workshops where a shortage of leaders is a common problem.
Another dancer friend who is fairly new in the tango world told me that earlier this year she traveled all the way from rural New York State to the island of Kalamata, Greece, to attend a tango festival. – Kalamata, Greece! And then I just learned from a couple about a tango festival in Corsica that they had attended – Corsica?! Yes, they assure me, there is tango in Corsica, and a while ago they even started an annual tango festival! Since they have been actively dancing for a long time and are always up-to-date with the New York City tango scene, I trust their judgment absolutely.
Having listened to all these experiences, I’m getting the feeling that I’m missing a lot of tango fun. The times that I have attended tango festivals are rare. My first ever event was CITA in Buenos Aires. First there was the excitement of being surrounded by tango day and night. But then it quickly became tiring, to say the least, being on my feet all day and night (especially on high heels), learning and absorbing, dancing, chasing after the best partners, and still trying to look presentable after only four hours of sleep. After a week I felt like a train wreck.
Since then, the thought of planning for a festival, of deciding which workshops and which events to attend makes me feel stressed. So many great opportunities, all packed into a few days!
Never quite sure whether there will be a gender balance — meaning that having a dance partner will be guaranteed — makes me worry that a festival might be a waste of time and money. Why travel then when there is so much to do at home? With regret I keep checking my local tango calendar of events every week, knowing that I won’t be able to participate in most events, even at home. There is so much to do in my neck of the woods. Aside from our wonderful local teachers, regular classes, and milongas, there is always some visiting celebrity from Argentina passing through, offering an exciting new workshop. Lately, I’ve found myself passing on these events more and more for the sake of juggling a busy work schedule and everything else what makes up a life. So why then travel to a tango festival when there are more local events than I could attend?
Wouldn’t I be better off taking myself to a Caribbean beach and chill for a vacation? Or spending time in Europe, breathing history and art, indulging in culture and visiting family and childhood friends?
Still, with each announcement my heart starts beating faster; so much tango fun at places I would like to visit! My eyes start gleaming like the kid in the candy store. This past summer’s calendar was particularly busy, filled with tango festivals. At some point I figured it was time to stop being a festival bum. I decided to give it another try. Cautious as I am, I started on a small scale. Instead of booking a flight and taking myself to the tango festival in Puerto Rico (which sounded like all the best things in the world combined in one package: sun, beach, and tango!), I drove from my summer domicile on the East Coast to a relatively small festival in Vermont. With my partner in tow – who after so many years of tango seems a bit weary of chasing after every event – I was at least sure of not having to worry about an uneven gender balance. We set off on a Friday afternoon, driving through the beautiful countryside of Vermont, to arrive just in time for our first milonga at this small festival which had started two days earlier. The following day we took two workshops, had a blast meeting new and old friends, indulged in a lavish dinner and danced at the next milonga, only to discover on our last day that we had enjoyed ourselves so much we now wished we had arrived a day earlier!
The whole experience pretty much changed my opinion about avoiding tango festivals. As a result, I’ve concluded that I have to tailor attendance at a festival to my own needs and wishes. I don’t need to attend each and every workshop and be present at all times. I can tone it down according to what works for me. Personally that means a maximum stay of three days at a festival, no more than two workshops a day plus a milonga — but only every other night so I can get a good night’s rest in between. I love the socializing part, but I also need downtime, and the opportunity to do other things around town including some exploring on my own.
Having come to these conclusions, the pressure is off. I’m now busy scouting for the next tango festival — see you in San Diego maybe, at the end of the year!?