Fresh start. Fresh stories.
And it is January 2021. Here we are almost 9 months into this quarantine pandemic. WAHOOO!
Have you ever wondered…about Tango Festivals and how they got started?
We all love Tango for various reasons. On this page I will publish a new story about an individual or couple that I have met in the Tango world thru either a tango festival, milonga or as a teacher. After an interview, I will publish their story. If you have people you are curious about let me know.
From Portland, Oregon – Clay Nelson
Valentango – Tango Festival
As a woman who dances tango, one of my favorite American Festivals is The Portland Valentango, held in conjunction with Valentine’s day. This festival is one of North America’s largest and longest running Tango Festivals.
Who is the creator of Valentango Tango Festival and how did it start?
Clay Nelson, founder of this Valentango Tango Festival and Burning Tango – His story
I know Clay Nelson from his Valentango festivals and newsletters and as an unassuming man who enjoys being behind the scenes. I took a leap of faith and contacted him about writing a story about him and Valentango tango. Festival He was a bit reticent at first, but then wholeheartedly got into the interview process.
How Clay came to Tango
Clay came to Argentine tango as many people used to … through Ballroom dancing. At one point in time dancing was an activity taught in the public school system. This was Clay’s first dance experience. He and another guy were the only ones in their high school class to volunteer to attend the dance classes, and because of this Clay was immersed in the adult class. Clay was hooked. The first dance he learned was Foxtrot.
After enjoying the high school classes, Clay went to his local Arthur Murray dance studio to learn more dances. With more lessons, he decides he wanted to be an instructor. At the school in 6 weeks, he was taught all the current ballroom dances. He taught at Arthur Murray while an undergrad at U of Illinois. This is where he first encountered American Tango [Aka Gringo Tango]. After all this was the 1960s.
Time in Buenos Aires
It was a few years later, upon a visit to Buenos Aires, with his Argentinean girlfriend at the time that he saw a Tango Show. As he says he was struck buy it but did not connect.
While living in Texas in the 80’s as a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A & M he had the chance to see a touring Tango Argentina touring show.
Again, he liked it, but again felt no connection.
He continued to teach
During all these times, he continued to teach at the local Arthur Murray studio. Attending a party, a woman from Argentina who danced Argentinean Tango was paired up with Clay because he too danced Tango. Only they never connected because Clay danced American Tango. In fact they tripped over each other and almost fell—how embarrassing! This was quite a shock to Clay.
In Texas, he eventually took a sabbatical from the university for personal reasons and returned to Portland.
Fast forward to the early 90’s when the first Argentine Tango Workshop happened at Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon. Clay took the workshop and fell in love with Tango. For many years, Clay ran his own successful dance studio called Clays’ Dance studio. As he danced more Tango, he felt an affinity for the dance unlike any he had felt for the ballroom dances he was teaching.
Continues to teach, but
By the mid 90’s Clay continued to teach but he decided to turn over all of his other ballroom dance classes to other instructors and focus entirely on Argentine Tango. And the funny thing was that once he decided to do this, initially Clay could not understand why the ballroom community did not take to Argentine Tango, instead preferring to stick with American Tango
As we chatted, we talked about these two types of tango, the dancers associated with each group create very different communities.
“In American Tango, the lead and follow are together in a very stylized hold that is very much separate from each other. In most Argentine Tango, the lead and follow are dancing in a close embrace. Each type of dancer is different in movement. In ballroom, one dances to look good for your audience and to make the follow look good. In Argentine Tango one dances with your partner and to make the follow feel good”.
But I digress, Clay started to host dances in the old and renown, Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Sunday nights.
Earlier, the Crystal ballroom was sold to the McMenamin brothers. There was an uproar over this as the dancing community thought the building was going to be torn down [ It was the largest spring floor west of the Mississippi]. As it happened Clay presented to the McMenamin’s a signed petition from the community about not tearing the place down as it had such a storied history. The McMenamins decided to restore the dance hall to its former glory and use the place as a live music venue and on Sunday nights would offer dance classes. Clay was offered this opportunity and was asked to teach Argentine Tango.
At this point, a local orchestra wanted to play argentine tango music. Same time, Clay knew of another Argentinean Tango orchestra that was touring the northwest. He invited them to join the other orchestra at the Crystal Ballroom. Then another idea occurred to him. With the live music to have a performance of Argentine Tango. He knew some other teachers and he invited teachers from San Francisco and Seattle to perform the dance and to teach classes. All this was scheduled to happen on Sunday night at the Crystal Ballroom with some overlap onto Monday night. Approximately 600 people showed up for classes that night. Cliff continued to teach, and They were taught the basic walk and the cross. The year was 1998.
October Tango Festivals
This event eventually morphed into October Tango in the fall as not to compete with Valentango which happens in February. Then in 1999, after having a conversation with Alex Krebs [Portland] about the need for an event in February. Valentango was born. The first year it attracted 300 people. The last year Valentango it was held due to quarantine was 2020 over 700 people attended.
And sometimes special moments occur, that we treasure for a long time. This one happened at one of those early Valentango festivals, Clay shared the following story. It was at one of those early festivals, when a guy approached him to say,” Clay, thank you so much for doing this festival, it is the BEST weekend in my Life”.
Now in the middle of quarantine, these words continue to bring joy to Clay’s heart for all the years of Valentango festivals he has done.
As we were finishing up out video call, Clay and I shared a few points on tango.
That tango needs to be danced in close embrace when dancing. Open embrace is good for learning or practicing new steps.
Clay & his Buenos Aires tango experience
Over the years, Clay has travelled to Buenos Aires over a dozen times just to dance Argentine Tango. He says each trip provides new learning opportunities. On a recent trip, sitting at a table of with several other seasoned milongeros strangers, and not knowing very much Spanish, they conveyed to him the need to show respect to your partner by how you embrace each other and how proper etiquette means you should escort your follow back to her seat at the place you first invited her to dance by sending her a cabeceo.
This is Argentine Tango!
24, January 2021
If you have been in Buenos Aires ort countless other cities and wanting to know where to dance Tango or Tango Festivals or Milongas, you download Hoy Milonga. This is the story of how Hoy Milonga – Tango App got to be.
From Buenos Aires – Hector Villar
In the not-so-distant past days of Tango in Buenos Aires when you wanted to know what milonga to attend. It was simple. Look it up on this wonderful Tango app Hoy Milonga for IOS or Droid or on the website www.hoy-milonga.com
While in quarantine, I wondered story of its creation. So, here is the story.
This Tango app was created in 2012 by Hector Villar. Hector an Argentinean living in Paris at the time who needed a programming job to stay in France. Years before Hector had given up his profession as a system engineer and was needing to study up on new technologies to get current and get a job.
So, it occurred to Hector to develop an iPhone application that would list all the milongas in Paris and Buenos Aires. In the end he did not look for a job, he says, I liked the project so much that I kept developing it, and that’s how Hoy Milonga, the tango app was born.
Hoy Milonga is not just an Tango application for the phone: it is an online platform with information for lovers of this musical genre, especially for those who want to dance to it.
Users always appreciate the super updated information on milongas. And they do not understand how Hoy Milonga is capable of doing it, because the data changes continuously and frequently”, says Héctor.
Currently the app is available in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Berlin and Nordrhein, Westfalia. Each site is managed by local people. In addition, Hoy Milonga, the Tango app is localized in the languages of each place. We grant a license, which is free as long as the curator of the site does it for non-profit purposes.
And here we are in Late Quarantine in Buenos Aires, and Hector wrote saying there will be a new version of Hoy Milonga, Tango app available in January 2021 containing new features and tango information…
Now here is hoping that there will be a return to embrace at a milonga!!! So we will need Hoy Milonga to consult as to where we want to go Tango dancing.
From Seattle – Jan Sheeley
My First Trip to Buenos Aires
Love and tango in Buenos Aires
My very first trip to Buenos Aires yes, I’m so excited and it is so hot and muggy in the airport waiting for a ride to the city. Crazy drivers but no worries my heart is thumping thinking about what may await in my first milonga.
Fast unpack and ready for my first encounter. At the door to the milonga you would never imagine the joy. Dusty wooden stairs and I can hear the music. Very small bathroom but shoe etiquette needs to be met, never enter with outside shoes!
Beso del Sol the first milonga, champagne yes, good seat, eh not so great but right now it feels like the soul of tango is in my grasp. The energy washes over me, the cabeceo needs all my attention. A new face, and I get the invitation. I am on the floor, in the arms of a local and we just connect. Eyes closed the music and movement entwine. I am captured, my heart is captured can you hear my body singing?
There is respect, an outsider must wait, obey the ritual but the rewards are amazing. The welcome, the atmosphere of the dance hall, the vitality of the dancers and the sheer delight of knowing you have entered the sacred world of tango at the milonga.
No words can describe the feeling, the utter rapture. My first milonga glow encasing my entire body. Taxi home. Sleep a little and be ready for the next adventure and embrace
From Germany – DJ SHAHRAM
Why I Love to DJ?
What made me become a tango DJ? Of course: the love of the dance, and the music. But the most important motivation and challenge at same time, is to make dancers at a milonga happy. As DJ you are responsible for the energy and mood in the milonga. It is somehow a creative job, I think.
It’s like, as you would invite some nice friends to cook for them. You would look for ingredients in good quality, superb spices and herbs and maybe some surprising flavors. Et voilà. Sure: It’s possible that some of them at the milonga are maybe not happy with your creation, but at lastly it’s your job the show the passion and true proficiency that is within you at each milonga.
To be a DJ is to make people happy
As a DJ it’s such a wonderful feeling to create and see the smiles lighting up the faces of the dancers. It’s great, when the dancers come to you after Cumparsita at the end of the milonga and say: “We came with a triste and sad mood to the milonga and going home now satisfied, bright and happy”.
And in my opinion, the best thing what can happens to you as DJ; here a short story: Once I played a Vals-Tanda in the Milonga Vida-Mía in Cologne (Germany). The dance floor was very crowded, but sweet and not hectic. All the dancers were in such a flow and happiness that I feel, I’m dancing, turning and flying with all of them at the same time. It’s just amazing, incredible.
What made me become a tango DJ? The love to people and tangolovers. But lastly: It’s not about the DJ, but about the dancers at the milonga.
Who I am?
· Were I am from: I was born in Iran, living in Germany for more than 35 years
· What’s my profession: Journalist & language teacher
· What I love (1): Travelling, hiking, sport, cooking, art, books & of course music
· What I love (2): Curious open mind people, who don’t think just in categories and stereotypes
· What I love in tango (dance): Embrace, energy, flow & musicality
Contact email Shahram via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
He spins music on Instagram at instagram.com/dj_shahram