Las Vegas Tango 2003
Close to 300 people, including nearly 30 from our own Chicago tango community, registered for the 4th Las Vegas Tango Festival this past Labor Day weekend, Aug. 29th Sept. 1st, held at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. There’s not much to be said about Las Vegas that hasn’t been said already so, suffice it to say that if there ever was a place to be designated as party central, this is as festive as it gets.
The event has been held annually at the Riviera Hotel for the last 4 years. Although this venue certainly has been adequate, the hotel seemed dated compared to the more opulent hotels that have sprung up in the last decade or so in the Las Vegas area. Interestingly enough, it was announced early on that this would be the last festival to be held in this hotel. Apparently a deal is in the works for a new venue; the organizers are promising a better place in 2004.
As expected, there was a cornucopia of classes offered for different levels of dancers including your usual tango basics, follower’s technique, musicality, social folk dancing, etc… These were held in 3 sizable classrooms aptly named Buenos Aires, Gardel and Tango Mio. There were 14 Argentine masters headed by among others, Eduardo and Gloria Arquimbau, Nito and Elba Garcia and Carlos Gavito. In addition, there were 8 exceedingly competent American teachers. During the 3-day weekend approximately 45 classes were available starting at about 11:30 a.m. on the first day up until a little over an hour before the milongas. Classes lasted an hour and 15 minutes each. These were well attended, numbering well over 100 students in some classes.
Unlike previous years, where the activities were held at the hotel’s convention center on the 1st floor, this year the milongas were held at the penthouse of the Monaco Towers. The view of the city from this vantage point was simply spectacular. Many of us who were registered at the Riviera stayed in this building. It was very convenient to stay in the same building as the milongas, especially during the all-night Saturday milonga (that lasted until 5:00 a.m.). Conceivably, one could just hop on the elevator to their room and take a quick nap between tandas!
On the night of the first milonga, the show featured Marizabel Arango and Todd Martin from San Diego who did a jaw-dropping candombe number. The main show, however, was at the Saturday formal milonga where all the masters/faculty showed off their individual styles. They were all simply delightful. Not surprisingly, the Arquimbaus brought the house to their feet with their amazing, authentic, and rhythmic movements. Even people who’ve seen them many times before said this was their most stupendous performance, with age-defying contortions!
The accompanying live music from the fabulous Real Tango trio was electrifying. Most people agreed that they played the most danceable live Argentine tango music anyone had every heard. The trio took turns with recorded music manned by different DJ’s for each of the 3 milongas. It’s quite a sight seeing a room full of people dancing to magnificent music, all with a different interpretation of it, yet moving harmoniously. The city lights illuminating from beyond further stirred the exhilarating mood in the ballroom.
One of the organizers, in his opening remarks, apologized for the "problems in the past," and said they definitely were working on "improving for the future." If there is a discussion on improving the Las Vegas Tango Festival, then the registration process has to be mentioned. One couple was charged for the wrong programs/classes and yet another had to register twice because the first registration couldn’t be found anywhere. Although these problems were eventually resolved, itcertainly was a hassle to correct them.
All things considered, this 3-day affair was a success and one can only imagine the hard work, time and energy spent in coordinating an occasion of this size. And for their feat, hats off to the festival’s organizers namely: Marcos Questas (also an instructor who probably will be coming to Chicago in 2004 with WindyCityTango, Inc.), Hugo Latorre and Christy Cote.
Of the more than 2-dozen of us tango aficionados from the Chicago area who attended, half were repeat attendees. One of the "virgin" festival attendees already has signed up for another out-of-town tango weekend. And, many of the "veterans" - who alternately relish and grimace with the movements and theories instructed by some of the masters are booking their next tango trip.
It’s great to be with people, all from the same hometown, reveling in another city, promoting camaraderie and best of all dancing with tangueros from all over the U.S. What with all the whirlwind activities surrounding this event, we had the universal tanguero feeling of going home exhausted, but alas sated until notes of the next milonga or festival reaches our ear, hearts and toes.
Overall, a most enjoyable tango experience.