Reflection on the Wales’ 2nd International Tango Festival with Added Blues

Published December 7th 2019
Author: Chris

The Welsh International Tango Festival is over for another year, so we would like to take some time to reflect on the event and gather our thoughts together to see what worked, what didn’t and what can be improved on so our next festival (or any other of our events) will be even better. To make it clear this is written by Chris of Urban Tango Nights if you are wondering who I’m referring to when I say I, us and we.

For our 2nd edition of Wales’ International Tango Festival we wanted it to be bigger and better than the 1st edition that was held in 2018. Of course, the definition of bigger and better can vary from person to person. So, lets start with some quantifiable figures. In 2018 we had 90 people attend the festival, this year we had 109. In 2018 we had 5 teachers teaching a total of 8 workshops, this year we had 11 teachers teaching 16 workshops. This year we had 3 live music acts whereas in our previous edition we only had 1. Finally, this year we doubled the number of the days of the festival from 2 to 4.

Part of the Wales’ International Tango Festival is to promote the Welsh Tango scene and for this year we sent out invitations to all local tango clubs to be part of the festival. We were lucky enough that Sue & Sian of the Ardour Academy in Cardiff took us up on our offer and agreed to teach two workshops in the course of the festival. Their first, Introduction to Tango, kicked off the festival on the Friday night, although I was unable to take part in the workshop due to organising commitments, the reviews we have had have been excellent.

The evening then progressed into a 2 room Welcome Milonga with Nick Jones DJing the Traditional Room while Wayne Rozier took charge of the Nuevo/Alt Room. As a club we are not a fan of two room set ups as we feel that separating people on music taste isn’t conducive to making an inclusive event that brings people together. So we decided to use the Taliesin Create which is an open plan space that allowed us to create areas for the Traditional Room and Nuevo Room with a seating area in between. This arrangement allowed everyone to come together and socialise and move freely between the two music areas, which is exactly what we wanted. However, we did have some issues with sound bleeding between the two areas and the mix of sound in the seating area. With this in mind we are not sure if we are going to try something different for next years festival, or just tweak the format in other events over the coming year to improve the sound quality. As far as the feedback we have had, everyone loved the music from both DJs and the overall atmosphere.

On the Saturday we started at midday with a Tangosteopathy workshop from Diana Cruz & Karin Gerhardt who had flown in especially from Germany to teach it. Once again, I was busy setting up another room so did not attend the workshop myself. But once again the feedback we have had from those who did attend said they hadn’t known what to expect but it was excellent and very helpful.

At 1:15 myself and Alison taught our first workshop of the Festival covering a boleo colgada calesita idea. This workshop was not designed to be a technical breakdown but more a chance to warm up and get everyone interacting and dancing ready for the rest of the workshops over the weekend. So we decided to use taxi system to teach the workshop and it seemed to work very well and helped everyone to break the ice especially if they had arrived on the Saturday and were unable to attend the Friday session.

What followed was again a first for us, six workshops in pairs of two, so two workshops running at the same time on different topics and in different buildings. We were lucky that the weather was good for people moving between the buildings and everyone found their way. These workshops included two by Eduardo on cross system and rebounds, a workshop on Blues by Basil & Mandy the Island Dance Wizards, Milonga with Sue & Sian, and Introduction to Canyengue by us while Nick & Diana taught composition switching. We had timetabled the workshops so that there was always a beginner workshop running so that everyone had a workshop suitable for their level. Finally, another workshop I missed, this time because I was washing the tea cups, was a workshop by Nick & Diana on Ganchos. Once again, the feedback we have had has been amazing, with everyone commenting on the quality of the teaching, the variety of the workshop and how much that they have learnt.

The Saturday concluded with a Ball with myself DJing, and 2 live music sets with Cabaret Tango, as well as performances from Nick & Diana, plus a hot vegan friendly buffet prepared and served by Goggi’s Cuisine. Everyone has told us how much they enjoyed the music choices whether it was from the DJing or the band as well as being awestruck by the performances. One thing we did have an issue with was the sound quality from the speaker I was using. For our previous events my set up has been adequate however for this size of event it was starting to be stretched to its limit and at times sounded thin, therefore we are now looking into upgrading our sound system. I could fill a book with all the comments about the food, but to save space everyone thought it was incredible, not only tasty and nutritious but also suitable for all dietary needs. Goggi’s catered for us last year and many of those who attended were asking in the run up if they were catering again, they were and didn’t disappoint, if anything (if it’s possible) it was even better than the 2018 edition. This was a comment that we had a lot over the weekend, people were surprised and very pleased that we catered for vegans and gluten free with many saying that often they attend events then can’t eat any of the food provided. Alison’s homemade gluten free, vegan cookies and Coconut Polenta & Lime Drizzle cake also went down incredibly well.

On Sunday we decided to start with an idea that we borrowed from Anna of Neo Tango in Bristol, a breakfast. Once again we tried to cater for all dietary needs and people seemed very grateful for it. The breakfast was they followed by a Pilates class from a tango view by Helen Hedworth which was accompanied with live guitar music from Chris Rogers. Again, from the feedback, everyone who did the class found it very relaxing and said that it really set them up for another day of dancing. They also found the combination of movement class with live music unique and very complimentary.

The Sunday continued with more workshops, 2 Fusion workshops from UTN and the Island Dance Wizards covering Tango fused with Modern Jive and Blues, while Nick & Diana taught a 2 hour 8 couple exclusive

workshop. Like the other workshops everyone had a great time and enjoyed the content and the teaching.

After a 30 minute lunch break filled with cheese, crackers, bread and fruit, Mirek Salmon give a lecture on the life of Astor Piazzolla before joining Tango Calor band mates Daan and Carola to play a concert of selected Piazzolla’s works. We didn’t know how this would go down as we have not heard of another tango festival have a lecture and concert, however the feedback suggests that it was a huge success with many commenting on how insightful the talk was and that they learnt a lot, and how nice it was to have a concert in the middle of the afternoon where they could just sit and relax without having to worry about dancing.

The Sunday concluded with our chillout milonga with 2 live sets from Tango Calor and some DJing from myself. Once again, we had great comments on the music selection, the quality of the musicianship and the general atmosphere.

This year we included the Monday in the Festival starting with a breakfast in Zinco Lounge in Swansea City Centre for those who had stayed over in Swansea, and woke up in time, followed by our two usual classes. Having done 3 days straight and starting to feel the effects of lack of sleep we used the classes to catch up with our regulars, find out which workshops they attended and what they had learnt and then finished in the pub with hot chocolates.

So that is a summary of the Wales’ Second International Tango Festival with Added Blues. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that came, all our teachers, caterers and musicians, without you this would not have been possible. In the few days after the festival, we have had so many lovely comments and messages which has really kept us on a high and makes us feel really appreciated. In a general summing up, everyone loved the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of the festival, the range of workshops and expert and experienced teachers, the wide range of music whether from the DJs or bands, as well as being impressed with the organising with personal touches and attention to detail such as the Xmas cards and goody bags as well as the range of food that was catered for all.

We do ask one favour; can you please tell your friends of this festival and how much you enjoyed it. Once again, many thanks for attending the Welsh International Festival and we look forward to seeing you all again next year and hopefully at other events before this.

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