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Tango Lovers

This text was written for and published in the Doble Ocho newspaper 2012.
By Thomas Rieser.


Tango Lovers of the World

Festivals are the high times of tango. In concentrated form one experiences how tango argentino is expressed and lived today: through the teachers who are invited, the orchestras that play, the DJ's who contribute, and the people who attend. The organizers often wish to attract a certain crowd, and thus choose to create a specific ambiance for their guests. It is much like the painted picture, one can interpret the image and put it in reference with others.

In essence, there are two ways of organizing a successful festival. One of which is the “Here it is!”-method. It uses the best recipes from the unpublished and not yet written ‘Ultimate Tango-Organizers Cookbook’, following the central ideas of how a tango festival is to be organized. Experience in hosting big events is not mandatory, though it notably helps. A very strong will, good connections, and a hefty budget are mandatory. The other way is the “What does it want to be?”-method. The follower of this path is not interested in recipes, but rather in inventing new ones. A very specific interest, a lot of trust and heart, and a grown circle of close and committed friends are necessary for this kind of creation.

I respect –but am not personally at home in—the “Here it is!”-world. I am an accidental festival organizer. My problem is, that when I see an interesting construction site I start building. My first festival grew out of a leisurly walk with Ismael Ludman in the fall of 2006. We exchanged rather random ideas and dreams about tango and about life in general. There was no immediate result or conclusion from our talk, so it took Ismael by surprise when I invited him a few weeks later to be part of a new summer-in-the-city tango event that followed some of the basic ideas of our shared walk. The first Berlin Tango High took place in August 2007. This festival puts strong focus on “hands-on”-teaching: on teachers who participate actively in a direct and practical way. They should be accessible and feel that they can learn just as much as their students from the time spent together. Another focus of equal importance is the inclusion of the local tango scene. It is not my desire to bring a festival to Berlin, but rather–so to say- Berlin to a festival. A number of the ‘High-Nights’ are held at regular milongas; local DJ’s, teachers and dancers are included. And last but not least, I imported an idea from San Francisco to Berlin: the Tango “Hit & Run”. We dance in public places and run when the police come. It’s a lot of fun, even though the running part has only happened once, as Berlin’s officials are pretty relaxed and open-minded. These actions are unforgettable highlights. The scenery in which we dance, the usually positively touched bystanders, the tingling feeling of doing something not quite legal, it all results in an excited openness on behalf of all dancers. Those shared moments reveal the beautiful ability of tango to connect strangers.

The Tango High is now in its ninth edition. One question that I have come to ask myself every year is: “What does it want to be?”. Every year I feel slighlty overwhelmed by how difficult this question is. I want the festival to feel like a journey worthwhile taking. Where you feel you have changed while traveling. An experience for both the participants and the artists who are present. With time, structures have changed, the local scene has traveled, new ideas and fashions have evolved: all influencing the answer to such a question, if not the question itself. Where does the tango-traveler want to go and what does she wish to do? 

Throughout the years I have met like-minded spirits. We share our interest in moving those thouhts together. Our common interest is to move us and the tango scene positively. The local-homegrown grew into a global-homegrown. There is a flourishing community of tango lovers around the world. People who seek more than those unmatchable 2.5 minute-moments of a perfect dance. They strive after something beyond the dance, connections that continue beyond the dance floor. There is something in the tango that feels much like an unopened treasure chest. And I am under the impression that these tango lovers have found a key.

It is a very exciting tango-moment we are living in.