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STS 2014 (Personal) Review
Review of Sydney Tango Salon festival.

I attended 10 Workshops total but I only did 1 Vladimir/Stella and 2 Christian/Virginia...  So, mine focus was Gabriel/Analia workshops...
STS again great week end.  I had a serious Fun and Pain and Joy!

1) SOLO TANGO was the resounding success.

In my view, the most notable success this year was the SOLO TANGO Orchestra.
There was also added focus on the Music this year as three free history workshop on (6) Tango Orchestra was given.
For me, dancing to good live Tango music is probably the next best thing to actually dancing in milongas in BA.
Anyone who says 'It takes two to Tango' just does not know Tango.
It takes 3 to Tango...  Leader, follower AND (Good) Music.  
Gabriel Misse also extensively commented on Music this year. (He actually played music from his Lap top and he commented on the details.)

So, music - was a strong element in this year's STS and this was the success.

I noticed SOLO TANGO accidentally while viewing Youtube Tango videos and got seriously excited as these guys really play the essence of original orchestra arrangement so well - just by quartet.
So, I must say, it was a COUP that Sima got them to come down to far away Australia.
Each year I check Tango videos uploaded on Youtube and found SOLO TANGO playing countless number of major Tango festivals around the world.
These guys are super 'wanted' musicians. 
And we Got them!  
And As I expected - I got fantastic dancing!

Well Done Sima!

2) General organisation.

Several years' experience meant organisation was steady.
There was no booking card given this year but I did not feel I was inconvenienced by this.
I wonder though how a new visitor found location of Milongas etc.
Also, at 3 milongas, the night started for about 30min late. 
But this year, every milonga secured maximum running time of 8pm - 2am and I thought this was very good as what participants want is dancing.
Touch of colour theme, I thought, was also good idea.  

3) Table reservations.
I did not attend Sunday night milonga but as far as other nights went - about 80% of tables were reserved and half of them were probably reserved by local teachers (schools) 
Now - I shall write clearly : To those teachers who booked tables under school name - If that happened - please know your shame. 
This may be a repeated practice in local milongas...  
But at a special event as such as this one - this really is a equivalent of Corporate booking at sports event. 
Its a Business play.  And lead to factionalism and make me feel really embarrassed when interstate and overseas visitors shows up.... 
If teachers 'has to do' it...  both STS and teachers, please do it more discreetly.     And non teachers...  My honest view is this...  If you need to feel safe by sitting with your teacher ...  you may be not ready for social dancing?    And please also think about this sense of obligation your teachers may be feeling that if you depend on their protection then they find it very difficult to reject this expectations.  Try think about if you may should respect THEIR choice and their rights to be a dancer (social) themselves.
At STS milonga nights, I usually go really early - as much as possible at starting time - so that I can catch visiting dancers (from interstates and other countries -as they often turn up early also.) 
And - I walked into venue and found square piece of papers on almost all of tables...  

TANGO is about socialisation (by dancing).  Not about business.

I assume those who used school identity for reservation are those who do not appreciate this very basic concept of Tango. 
Please show SOME respect to maintain the value of social dancing.
I DO NOT DANCE WITH BUSINESS OR SCHOOLS OR TEACHERS.  I NEVER DANCE WITH A TEACHER...  If I dance someone a teacher - that simply means I dance with a dancer who happen to be a teacher - Full stop.
I dance with ladies - who may happen to be a doctor or a politician or accountant or Artist or someone's wife or cook or...   that is not important.

Bottom line was also...  some individual dancers flew in for the festival from other states and countries... without group representation... ended up pushed to sit at worst table that is EVEN IF they showed up at 8PM.
This is a disgraceful outcome. 
Unmarked tables were so few... and they are mostly at the end bits of floor space, as a lone dancer, I felt like I was B class dancers paid some kind of special concession price entry or something...) 
Putting this together with the fact that very limited number of local dancers anyway took part in the festival, I found this attitude really blind.

As I mentioned above,
I flew to Canberra on Sunday night and visited milonga there. 
(Canberra hosts Spring festival milongas over this October long week end and as I always participated STS as priority, I had missed Canberra milongas. 
So, I decided to squeeze in one night at Canberra this year.)

And one thing about the milonga in Canberra impressed me was this. 
When I arrived at the milonga (Italo Club), Organiser ticked my name on booking list then informed me my table is 'Table 12'. Then one of the volunteers lady took me by arm (by her arm) and guided me to the table.
As a single participant and arriving by a Taxi after dark... showing up alone and walking into a space I never had visited before... This escorting was a great welcome. 

I 'must' say - SYDNEY is rude even if that is unintensional.  From the way Canberra dancers organise themselves and also a brief experience I had in Melbourne... I have to admit, Sydney is definitely LESS cultured Tango scene.
We may have more famous dancers visiting and many more milongas held nightly...  but lack of social attitude is probably a fatal weakness about our Tango scene.

PLEASE though do not misunderstand here.
This is NOT STS's fault.
STS, in my view, has tried hard and trying hard. 
And this is not fault by those who showed up of course. 

It is Sydney dancers - including myself - are the ones failing.  
And of course those teachers who have to be teachers at social dancing. 
If teachers REALLY wants their students to be a good social dancers - show good example themselves by not playing teachers at social milonga.
Do more cabeseo and dance with strangers - and among themselves also.
(Sydney teachers stopped dancing with each other some years ago - and at that point I suspect their dancing probably has died already.)

Please understand - I have nothing against PEOPLE WHO ENJOY SITTING TOGETHER BOOK A TABLE and SIT TOGETHER.
Just that please think twice putting a Label (Business name) on Table.  (STS can probably put Table numbers and Reservation indication and let people know as they come in where the table they booked is instead of leaving a large square paper with name on and leave them on each table...)

4) Lack of Sydney dancers' participation now at 'Bizarre' level.

THE most disappointing thing about STS (and this is not new) is lack of participation by local (Sydney) dancers. 
For example, Friday night was seriously bizarre.  While great number of Sydney teachers were given spot lights of 'honor' to dance in front of maestros and all the international guests...
very few of the actual local dancers were there.  
As far as I could see, may be only 30% of the dancers that night were from Sydney.    

One point I heard often from other dancers is about Price. 
But is this 'real' point?
THE MOST popular Tango Orchestra in the world playing...  I just found this price issue was not really convincing.

For example, 
Friday Night Milonga was $50 (Early bird booking price was $45.)
Alternative Milonga many Sydney dancers went to was - Canberra's Tango in the Spring -  Single Milonga charge was $25.
Canberra one is attended by many non Sydney dancers thus there is a good value for Sydney dancers to visit there and enjoy dancing with new people.
But STS is the same. STS every year is attended by Intermediate and upwards level dancers from other cities and other countries.  
And STS had world class international live orchestra.
And of course, to be at one of the milongas in Canberra, there are costs for transport and accommodation. 

(By the way, I am NOT saying Canberra is less or better options.  I guess that is up to each dancer's taste. But price issue alone is not really convincing point to me.) 

So. WHY?
I think I know the real answer.
But that's not the point.  
The point is that great majority of local dancers are losing out TOTALLY and EVERY YEAR.  
AND I am concerned that this lack of local dancer participation may eventually seriously hurt the festival itself...

STS gets great number of dedicated high level dancers from interstates and overseas. 
And I am sure... part of their expectation for them is to dance with Sydney dancers... ?
But, there aren't many local dancers attending milongas!  
So... why should they come to Sydney? 
If same set of BA teachers attend another festival (Singapore or New Zealand or...), these non Sydney dancers may prefer other cities in the future?

To me - the bottom line is that dancers in Sydney is sooo totally ignorant that they do not understand one most important point.
That is - Sydney is extremely lucky to have Tango festival of current scale and teachers line up.   
Australia is geographically far away from many other dancing cities... 
The cost of traveling to Sydney is high - Air tickets for teachers and musicians are expensive. 
And ALL general costs in Sydney is very high.  Sydney is 2nd or 3rd most expensive city to live in the world at the moment... 

Now the teachers.
Gabriel Misse is one of the probably half dozen of absolutely top class group of professional Tango dacners who are 'alive' and still dancing today.
And he is probably the only very activly touring and teaching one.  
So, in reality he is probably the very top professional dancer anyone can get for festival of this kind today in the world.
But as far as I know - great majority of Sydney dancers even do not know who he is.
There is a Japanese saying - "Gold Coin for a Cat".  That is really what the situation is.
And local teachers' responsibility is major factor in this. 
They are all keen to stand next to maestros and take a photo together... 
But do they ever properly explain to local dancers about these great BA dancers?
The majority of those who attended the workshops at STS are intermediate dancers who have experience of visiting BA and done own researches and KNOWS why these teachers are exceptional.
Others remain kept in box of small box - which is definitely designed by those who do not want them to view the real landscape.

(I need to apologies to visitor dancers who took part in STS...  about my bitching here.
I am sure you had great time regardless. )

5) 'Tango Orquestas for Dancers' presentation.

Free workshop/seminer was really good to attend. 
Presenter gave very well focused introduction to major orchestras.
I probably knew 90% of what was presented but I gained very valuable over-view.  
And I feel ALL dancers who are dancing more than 3-4 years really should attend this kind of presentation at least once. 
Problem about Sydney is that our local teachers have almost ZERO interest in introducing their students to Tango Music in proper sense. 
So, I appreciated STS' effort in this.

6) Line up of teachers.

I thought it was good that we had good variety this year... 
Age wise, experience wise, taste wise, three pairs had different feels.
I hope STS continue on this design.  

I love learning different angle of ideas on same aspect of dancing from different teachers.
Tango is made of universe of dancing innovations and traditions... bit like our body which is an assembly of countless number of cells.

7) Farewell Milonga night - the finish

I really like the way we ended the end of the final night. (Although I left just before the last moment)...

One criticism I had of STS (and other visiting BA teachers) had been that they tend to get drunk on the final night and started laughing so loud that breaks the flow of milonga - Tango dancing.

But Monday night there was a small surprise. 
Gabriel Misse did DJ after teachers final performance.
He connected his Lap top and played music.
And it was a great way to finish.

He played many of the music he commented during his workshops.  THE ONES HE LIKES A LOT.
And we had a great luck to dance to them.

Then in between each Tanda, he played whole piece of non Tango track and teachers danced non Tango music... many other dancers joined in as well...  great 'letting hair down'...  

It allowed BA teachers to relax and enjoy the moment...  At the same time, other dancers had great chance to dance to Gabriel's music and 'had go at' the dance he wanted to see.
He first played Tanturi's 


I guess - one thing STS has been trying to do and yet to make it happen and I know why its hard is... to get established currently and regularly operating DJ from Buenos Aires to DJ.
So this, I hope, continue to be the TARGET for the future.

Another wish list from me is (combination with above) for STS to set up ONE milonga night which is run in near total BA milonga format - EVEN including DJ music list...

* Starting at 10PM and finish at 4AM
* Table service for drinks and small food (try as close as what can be ordered in BA milonga.)
* Get BA DJ to play exactly same list of music this DJ played at BA milonga - song to song bases.
* Smaller tables similar to BA milonga.

And dancers are encouraged to seriously TRY - Cabeseo.

Well... That will be a great FUN for me. 

What I wrote is purely my personal view and I do not pretend I represent anyone else's view. 
Being aware of organiser's and volunteers' major effort to get STS up and going every year, I just thought the best I can respond to it is by commenting honest feedback.

I would like to show my gratitude for those who made it happen and those who also took part in it.
Looking forward to 2015!

-- 8/10/2014 12:36:43 AM: post edited by Isao Tango.

-- 8/10/2014 8:09:16 AM: post edited by Isao Tango.

-- 8/10/2014 1:16:01 PM: post edited by Isao Tango.

-- 8/10/2014 1:33:15 PM: post edited by Isao Tango.

-- 8/10/2014 9:56:33 PM: post edited by Isao Tango.

Re: STS 2014 (Personal) Review
Thankyou Isao for taking the time and making the effort to post such a revealing review. As I was away all weekend for the entire Canberra tango event, your review helped me assess my own decision to choose to attend Canberra's event over the STS event. 
Why did I go to Canberra?  I enjoy the excitement of preparing for a new experience that includes making the journey to a different destination, to be in a different environment, to enjoy a different approach to a social event, to meet different people, to organise myself differently, and  to expect the unexpected. 
Perhaps this is because I'm at the stage of my tango journey when I need to just dance and dance and dance. I'm not saying that I'm not interested in taking tango lessons or listening to good live music performances. But It is because I have now separated social dancing from taking lessons, from listening to live music, and  from watching professional performances. What I have in mind is, instead of putting so many aspects of tango in one basket in one interval of time, I'm making time in separate baskets, one basket for dancing, another for lessons, and another for professional performances - one basket for one period of time, so that I gain the most benefit by concentrating on one at a time. 
For me the STS approach, of combining social dancing with lessons with professional performances all in one event, goes contrary to my preference. Hence the choice was Canberra with its focus was on social dancing, where the social factor was just as important as the dancing. 
One other difference between the Canberra and the Sydney events has to do with table reservations. Like Isao I believe that  table allocation based on tango schools should be avoided. It is appalling to learn from Isao's review that  overseas/interstate visitors at an international event get poor table positions because the local schools have the better positions. At the Canberra event everyone was treated equally as a valued individual by seat allocation at mixed tables. No-one was differentiated by the tango school they were associated or not associated with.  I felt valued as a social individual because like everyone else I was allocated a seat at a table at each milonga where I had the opportunity to meet different people. So I felt included in the same manner as everyone at the milonga instead of being excluded on the basis of assoication or non-association with a tango school.
It is also remarkable that some Sydney milonga organisers remain indifferent to the results of the poll about table reservations (based on tango schools). All this said is a personal perspective from me. I am open to other's views.

Re: STS 2014 (Personal) Review
Hi June,

(You must have a software that alarm you when I make a post on this forum?  Impressive!) 

I totally respect your taste preferring against ALL in ONE type event.

Having said this, let me add one note about benefit of ALL in ONE.

As I mentioned I took 7 workshops of Gabriel and Analia this year and during these workshops, Gabriel commented on what he saw during milongas (STS).
Naturally, there were obvious ones - Dancers not trying Cabeceo...  Dancing laughing and giggling to a famous Tango song which is about deep tormented feeling...  Dancing from one Tanda to another - non stop - as if playing a sport or something...     

Then he made several comments about what he observed about social dancers technique.
And I was very surprised by the level of details he had observed.  

Typically BA teachers get seated together and they chat with each other occasionally glancing at socially dancing crowd.
And They DO watch.

But he was really detailed.
AND There I suddenly realised, he likely chose some of the moves he taught 'according to' what he saw in us a problem or weakness.

So, there was a feed back process...    Workshop to Social dance and Social dance back to workshop...  

And one of the issues he was most critical about was about the lack of connection between what we learn in workshops and how we dance at social dancing... 
He was frustrated and annoyed. 
He was commenting very basic and small matters which was very obvious...   
And He was RIGHT.  I was also one of those missed the mark I realised....  

So...  ALL in ONE has an element of making collaborative dedication to quality and values...  
Then again, I see also a value in just doing one at a time.  For example, Bundanoon will be exactly that and I am looking forward to that.   

As for Table issue...  Interstate and over seas dancers  did have some tables booked (for example, I think Melbourne group had one and of course usual Korean group couple right next to Maestros...)    But their table was not really booked for schools or for teachers and their students... 

I was intrigued by what Gabriel Misse spoke about in his workshops, I will post something about it under separate title when I can find time...   

Re: STS 2014 (Personal) Review
And I do not why but I can not EDIT my own post all of sudden so I shall attach following as unfinished EDIT on initial post.  

7) Farewell Milonga night - the finish

I really like the way we ended the end of the final night. (Although I left just before the last moment)...

One criticism I had of STS (and other visiting BA teachers) had been that they tend to get drunk on the final night and started laughing so loud that breaks the flow of milonga - Tango dancing.

But Monday night there was a small surprise. 
Gabriel Misse did DJ after teachers final performance.
He connected his Lap top and played music.
And it was a great way to finish.

He played many of the music he commented during his workshops.  THE ONES HE LIKES A LOT.
And we had a great luck to dance to them.

Then in between each Tanda, he played whole piece of non Tango track and teachers danced non Tango music... many other dancers joined in as well...  great 'letting hair down'...  

It allowed BA teachers to relax and enjoy the moment...  At the same time, other dancers had great chance to dance to Gabriel's music and 'had go at' the dance he wanted to see.
He first played Tanturi's '
El sueno del pibe'  A song about a son receives a letter from football club and break the news to his mother...   
He played Pugliese with several singers...  followed by Di Angelis and Malerba.
And of course, his favorite Di Sarli with Rufino... 

It was having great fun without formality.
But much more in line with meaning of the festival.  
It was really a great finish. 

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