Two very different nights of tango music

Here we are into our fifth day of the Sydney Salon Tango Festival - and I'm writing this for those who have missed out for one reason or another! It would take too long if I wrote about the classes - so I am concentrating on the milongas.
Tonight the Milonga will be held at the South Sydney Juniors club in Kingsford as it has been for the last two nights. A vast area never before used by the tango organisers of Sydney it is reminiscent of Club Sunderland (for those who've been there) with a lower roof - or an aircraft hanger! But it has a huge floor, a stage for the musicians and plenty of space for tables. The organisers have done a wonderful job of making the space work and mixing the tables of people from different parts of the world. And the food has been outstanding - for those who like to enjoy a little sustenance while dancing. In fact the food at last night's Gala Milonga was excellent - and plenty of it. Given that Sydney Festivals in the past (not organised by this group) have been renowned for their meanness when it comes to food or supper, I know that quite few folk were surprised and pleased.
The dance floor is a slightly strange shape - almost an L - which means that sometimes dancers end up in a dead end - and the line of dance which should be in at least 3 rows is haphazard at times - but Sydney is known for finding line of dance something incomprehensible.
Which brings me to the music. The DJ's on the first 3 nights were world-class. Just about all the tandas began with  'I want to get up and dance now' music (what has been described as 5-star music) and it created a fabulous vibe where the floor was always crowded.  On Friday night the Joaquín Amenábar quintet played with a passion and understanding of tango music for dancers that is rarely seen in Sydney milongas. Sadly last night it was not so wonderful.
The DJing too had much wanting. Not until after 11 was a Milonga tanda played!  and there was only 2 waltz tandas - maybe there were more in the hour from 1 to 2, but exhausted, I had left by then. Some of the tango would have sounded fabulous in a supper club or concert hall but it was definitely not dancing music. At one stage I was dancing with a teacher and even he commented that it was not easy to dance to! Last night there were 2 DJs, but I can't put it down to that as the first DJ has a huge amount of experience and frankly IMHO should know better! It was a real downer on what was otherwise a great night.
The Sydney Salon Tango Festival has a page on the DJs for the curious.
The highlight of the night was the performances by the visiting Maestros. Each couple danced three pieces beginning with Lorena and Fabián. Lorena, one-time partner of the late Osvaldo Zotto, is outstanding - her smooth elegant footwork something to be admired but never aspired to (realistically by me). Fabián too has a mastery that looks effortless. (There's an interview and video clip on TangoAustralia). Sebastián and Andrea Reyero are amazingly dexterous. Last year Sebastián's brother Gabriel danced with the fastest and cleverest footwork ever seen in Sydney. Then Javier and Andrea Missé performed with a softer elegance.
More performances to come for those yet to attend. I find it disappointing that these great dancers only arrive at the milongas when it comes time to perform (usually around midnight). The community would certainly appreciate their presence for longer - but this is no doubt how they do it in BA, so who am I to comment?

Comments

Anonymous said…
What the critcs are saying: PART I


The Festival offered 27 hours of dancing over 5 nights with performances by visiting Argentinean teachers, Australian teachers (Pedro y Sophia Alvarez; Jairo Rivera y Amy Teuchert, Fabian y Karina Conca and Jacquline Simpson y Anthony Miller) and sundry others; live music by Joaquín Amenábar and a scratch quartet on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; tango workshops with Argentinean tango teachers: Javier Rodríguez y Andrea Missé; Sebastián Missé y Andrea Reyero; Fabián Peralta y Lorena Ermocida, musicality workshops by Joaquín Amenábar and Canyengue workshops by the Lowrys from Brisbane.

The all up cost for the week-end was around $1,000 which included 5 milongas, 5 five workshops (Villa Urquiza style tango, men’s technique, vals, milongas II and III), accommodation, travel, food and parking or if you exclude workshop costs about $30 per hour of available dancing time.

The workshops were crowded (40+ people), gender balanced and no partner changing. As it turned out, I skipped Sebastion’s vals workshop, missed the milonga III workshop and decided against the Cangengue workshops. I got something significant out of each of the three I attended (two by Fabian and one by Javier). Both teachers are very good, in particular Fabian. Notably Fabian’s workshops started on time.

The milongas were held in three venues, the first or Welcome Milonga in the Russian club in Strathfield, a small, dark and dingy venue where we were seated well away from the dance floor behind a very large pillar. DJ Maxima Chang’s (Taiwan) selection of music was delightful. I didn’t dance with too many other than the home team, partly to scope the event, renew acquaintances and to get myself into a tango festival mood. It had been a big week. Mercifully, the teachers performed to only one song each, a taster, but enough to confirm that I had chosen the right workshops.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th milongas were held in South Sydney Juniors Rugby League Club on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (imaginatively called Milonga del Viernes, Gala Milonga y Milonga del Domingo) in what looked like the billiards and carpet bowls room, judging by the detritus left laying around. The gossip was that the organizers got the venue cheap through a friend of a friend but lacked the imagination to decorate it.

Milonga del Viernes felt like a dress rehearsal, in the sense that we were all getting used to the venue, both visitors and the organizers, with the main event the following night. My companions were saving their best frocks for the Gala. DJ Leonel Colque, an Argentinean living in Canada was excellent. Joaquin struggled manfully but failed to pull the quartet together. Some commented on the lack of preparation of the venue. Decorations consisted of table cloths and electronic candles (provided later in the evening). The lighting was difficult and not well managed but the floor was big, spacious and fast. The quality of performances by the Sydney teachers was variable.
Anonymous said…
PART II

The Gala Milonga had the works, poor speakers, bad acoustics, ear shattering feed back loops and DJ Pedro’s big lush sounds juxtaposed with Joaquin’s crusty tangos. Pedro missed some cut-ins from the live band while he was dancing rather than DJing. A red rose had been added to the table decorations. Pull up festival banners appeared on the side wall. There was a substantial supper, which included reheated frozen party pies. Desert was better.

There was a stream of inane announcements during the night (when the microphone worked) e.g. the maestros are on their way, the maestros have arrived, the maestros will perform soon….. And finally the maestros’ full performances started at 12.15pm, it was tedious, as were the Salsa tunes that Pedro played after them. I was surprised at the order of the performances, for me the best was Fabian who went first, then a very brash Sebastion, Javier’s subtly was lost by the time we got to him. In all, it meant that I was sitting out for an hour and it was hard to regain the tango momentum after that. I did enjoy Joaquin’s DJ stint with more of his crusty tangos.

Nevertheless, the Gala Milonga was better than Friday night.

For me the Festival began to gel at the Milonga del Domingo, when a number of things came together, less spectators and more people that wanted to dance, good DJing by Sydney tango teacher Fabian Conca, he read the mood of the evening and managed the transition to and from the live music very well and threw in a rock-n-roll tune after the performances to lift the mood. Not sure why we had to have more performances this time by visiting Hong Kong teachers. Great live music as the band found its groove, and less interruptions. I had a good time, danced with everyone I wanted to.

I wasn’t able to get to the farewell milonga at the Marrickville tennis courts.

I was struck by how well the Rhonda worked through-out the festival, and how courteous some people were when entering the dance floor.
Anonymous said…
PART III

Several hundred people came to the festival, including international guests from Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong and Aussies from Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Cairns.

Most of the notable Sydney tango teachers came to the milongas: Pedro and Sophia Alvarez, Anthony Miller and Jacqueline Simpson, Jairo Rivera y Amy Teuchert, Fabian y Karina Conca, Peter and Lisa, and Federico Mattiuzzi. Their support lent credibility to the event, but was somewhat undermined by the absence of their students.

Where were the Sydney people?
The most startling feature of the festival was the lack of Sydney people. There were so few of them. When I asked around I got some interesting answers ranging from; the organizers are outside the mainstream Sydney tango community; to the pricing was too high to compete with comparable milongas on that week-end. The Gala Milonga at $75 is a lot given that the wow factor of the main feature, the Maestro performances is largely lost on experienced tangueros. And the other milongas at $40 a throw is at the upper end of it.

The impact for me was a lack of soul, no anchor, no depth. It reminded me of going to the CITA festival in BsAs a number of years ago, which is almost exclusively attended by international people, as it is priced out of the reach of the locals. The festival had no distinct character of its own and therefore took on the many faces of the visitors, a disjointed and incoherent affair.

The rest of my party expressed similar views about the festival, it lacked soul or a distinct character, there was also a lack of polish to the milongas, a casualness towards the attendees and a sycophantic host.

A positive feature of the festival was Joaquín Amenábar and his throw together quartet playing three tandas at each of the main milongas (Fri, Sat and Sun). I saw him do this last year at the ‘Para los ninos’ festival in Brisbane. The quartet played the same bracket of music over three nights, getting progressively better with each performance as the band came together. It is delightful to dance to Joaquin’s bandoneon playing and hear the other musicians improve but also to know what music is coming, as it allowed me to line up who I wanted to dance each tanda with. A highlight was dancing to Oblivion.

I was surprised, and dismayed, that our host suggested that we should sit and listen to Joaquin play as a mark of respect rather than dancing, obviously not understanding that the highest respect we could give Joaquin was to dance to his music.

To sum up: Would I go again? Hmm probably, it is a rare and exciting opportunity to dance with a lot of different tangueras from around Australia and the Pacific region. I’m hopeful that with more experience the organizers will sort out the logistical problems of this one.
Well Anonymous what I can say except a Big Thank You. What a great critique of the event - and from an obvious non-Sydneysider. I don't agree with all your points, but it would be strange if I did. I am going to add more to this and create a new post.
Anonymous said…
"My thoughts exactly", after reading Angelina's and anonymous' articles (I can only relate them to the Friday and Saturday milongas as those were the only two I went to). However, as one of Tango Spirit's (Jacqueline & Anthony) students, I would like to clarify that the Tango Spirit's students were encouraged to attend the festival events. The resultant turnout was good too, a noticeable number of Tango Spirit students were at one of the workshops I myself attended, more than a long table full of us attended the milongas.

Unfortunately, being fairly new to Sydney, I could not identify 'who came from what school', therefore it too appeared to me that there's a lack of turnout from various Sydney tango schools.

Enjoyed reading the articles.

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