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2023 New Zealand Tango Festival

Guest Essay:       

Jan Sheeley of Seattle

A beautiful blend of learning and milongas.

Busy Milonga

Thinking about taking an overseas tango adventure?

Let me recommend an experience of a lifetime, the New Zealand Tango Festival.

This mid-year festival is hosted by the city of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand on the southern tip of the north island and situated on beautiful Oriental Bay.

I first learned about the festival back in December of 2019 and was booked for the following 2020, but alas COVID presented and canceled my plans.

Fun times visiting with a great friend (left), Christine Sampson, and the author, Jan Sheeley (right)

So, as country borders opened and festivals began again, 2023 became an option for me. It was not just the idea of discovering a new country and their tango passions but spending time with old tango friends who had moved to New Zealand and rekindling kinship.

The festival itself was so well organized with the classes and first night Milonga located in the 
Te Whaea – National Dance and Drama Center, a beautiful facility with plenty of space and perfect floors for dance. Entry was fast and seamless with a mandatory wristband.

Before the class started

But, in case you did not sign up for all the classes, there was an ongoing Milonga in the main hall most of every day, but especially during the break periods and lunchtime. Can I say that was a fabulous idea!

Opening night milonga

Along with that extra effort, the staff team made sure all the classes were perfectly matched, follow and lead before the start of each class. Can I say that in itself was a huge bonus!

I wanted to change a class during the festival, and although I could have completed it online, the staff team quickly looked up what could be done and helped me with what I needed.

One of the other facility features that was convenient was a food stand with hot and cold food during the day and alcoholic beverages in the evening.

Lunchtime Milonga

Many Milongas were held around the festival.
I arrived on a Wednesday at lunchtime and was whisked away to the first Milonga on that same night.

Official Festival media

Thursday presented a lunchtime Milonga called the Fringe, located in the CBD (Central Business District) right in the downtown waterfront, in a charming bar. Food, beverages, and tango. What could be better!

Wellington is a beautiful city full of heritage and culture. You can visit the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, right on the waterfront, which is full of the Maori history, or take a local ferry to visit the other side of the bay.

And if you want to spend a little more time in a car hop over to the wine country for a tase of the beautiful Pino Noir red wines! The CBD (Central Business District) is so close and filled with a multitude of restaurants and bars. 

Wine tasting

I can’t say enough about the wonderful time I had, the friendliness of the people, especially the leads. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff to make the whole festival the best experience I could ever have. This is one festival going on my “going again” list.

On the bay

Travel notes: 

Getting to New Zealand and Wellington from the USA.
Many airlines can get you to Wellington, I came from Seattle and chose Quantas through Sydney.

You need visas to enter both Australia (even as a pass through) and New Zealand, which are easy to obtain online but know they are necessary for entry and stay.

Overall cost – for me from the USA the full price including all the classes was about $250 so very reasonable.

All prices for the events, accommodation, and classes are posted in NZ dollars. 

Super Instructors:
And yes, there were fabulous teachers, both local and international. There were special imersion courses before and after the festival for those wanting deep and personal instruction. These classes fill fast – if they are of interested, make sure you sign up early.

For a full view of all the teachers, hotel accommodation, and festival events, visit the website

All local milongas in Wellington could be found on this website

Jan Sheeley (center) with good friends Christine Sampson (right)
and Jamie Steele (left)

Thank you, Jan, for all the information and for sharing your tango adventure. It was so nice to read about other tango events in the world, I hope you enjoy this new feature on

Thank you for reading.

Abrazo y besitos , Ruth

Published by ruthoffen

Created by, Ruth Offen the founder/director of WaterWorks Gallery, a gallery opened in 1985 to showcase contemporary artists and jewelers that live and work in the Pacific Northwest. After 37 years, I have decided to spend more time enjoying life by dancing tango all over the world, traveling, continuing to develop my photography. Over many decades of amassing a personal art collection, now the process of downsizing is becoming a reality. How do we have more with less? Staying true to the motto, unencumbered by our possessions and not burdening our children with our stuff. This next process will take patience and courage. On the road to happiness. Its' the journey that counts!

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