I love the Connect Tango Festival and all the magic it brings! Also I must disclose I have helped put it together the past few years as a volunteer. I might be a bit biased in how much I enjoy this festival and everything it stands for, but at the same time, there is a lot here that you do not get anywhere else. Sure I don’t have to worry about travel or where to stay during this festival like I do at others, but even if I did, I would definitely attend! Not without faults, nothing is ever perfect, but there is a quality and connection you get here that you don’t at other festivals I’ve attended.
What Connect is About!
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the goal of the Connect Tango Festival is to make connections, not just socially, but in your dance, in yourself, with everyone, with the music. You aren’t here to show off your moves, learn a sequence, try a combination, attend many classes on many different topics. No, you come here to experience the joy of being together with people and dance to where you are comfortable with you partner.
Only two classes each day, four in total, focusing on different elements of connection, from touch, words, visual, musical, spiritual, and anyway you are open to experiencing. Exercises by yourself, slowing down and feeling what your body or your partners body is doing in the movement, seeing and feeling reactions to many different energies.
This can almost seem like a spiritual retreat, which is more of how this festival is, a retreat of tango bliss. Options for yoga, a lounge area for seating and relaxing, a massage a friend area in addition to professional massage. Even some snacks and food, a little personalized welcome package, the giant selection of bread and spread at the Toast Bar, themed decorations, and tango dancing the weekend away.
The friendliness of everyone, both locals and travelers really brings out how welcoming this festival is to everyone. The charm of Ashland also really brings the feeling of being somewhere cozy and welcoming, makes the whole festival feel like the getaway vacation you always wanted, filled with tango. The only problem it is only for the long holiday weekend. Ashland also holds the Festival of Lights, with a little parade, lighting of all the lights in the historic downtown and Shakespeare area which draws it’s own large crowd.
The Connect Tango Festival has many things going for it, some pretty special that many others do not include. Most festivals I’ve been to, you might have a cake or similar available as a thank you, or even food to purchase at the venues restaurant. Connect doesn’t have a cake (might change in the future), but does provide a Toast Bar, with breads and spreads for you to pick and choose for most of the festival. New this past year, there was also quite a bit of a full snack bar, of not just chocolates and treats, but actual hot food you could turn into a meal! Some people actually ate their dinner at the Festival, all included, no additional charge!
Outside of what was offered during the normal festival dancing hours mentioned above, Connect also provided a group brunch, also included! Being hosted at our second venue where the late night Milonga was had, there was food, drink, and good company for two of the mornings! So you had the option of having a nice little breakfast with those you connected with during the festival!
In the mornings prior to the awesome Connect brunch, there was Yoga offered at the main venue for those who wake at the early hour. I personally was sleeping as I was helping with clean up and such, as well as dancing til the early morning, I chose to skip out, but I’ve heard it went well, and is nice to have that option! With coffee, tea, hot water, hot cocoa mix, and everything else in the lounge area where the Toast Bar is, Connect really has most of what you might need at the venues to keep people together. There are amazing options for food and relaxation, plenty of trails to hike or bike, shops in the historic downtown Ashland, but you can almost stay at the Festival for most of it. There are breaks around dinnertime to go out and enjoy, so you don’t feel you’re missing out on everything Ashland has to offer or feel you have to miss out on part of the dancing to check out the rest of the town.
An added bonus was had this past year, and not even advertised, was the fact there was some live music! Now it is a smaller scale festival, and the music wasn’t for too long. The fact the musicians were all from different areas and only first practiced together the day beforehand was impressive. One of our local dancers also happened to be a music teacher and was part of the group.
What can be improved?
This post isn’t completely full of praise over this festival, there is critique over a few things. One of the issues that we’ve had with this festival, which is still being worked on in the issue with the funnel of dancers, both on and off the dance floor. With the addition of the lounge in the back, we hoped it would help out a bit, but a majority of traffic still comes from one direction. This issue does happen with other festivals, and I’ve yet to hear a good solution.
Others may want more class options, or private times with teachers, but not a compliant of mine nor is it the focus. The quality of dancers was pretty amazing as well! Not saying there weren’t beginners, but with how to the festival is focused, I saw many smiles across all dance levels. There were some people who might need better floorcraft or able to better respect the cabeceo, but compared to bigger festivals I’ve attended, it’s much more respectable.
Otherwise gender balance is always an issue, you can only do you best to keep things equal, and depending on which milonga or class you attended, it can shift. At the end, it was pretty even. Personally I wish there was an easy system for me to let other know, you can ask me to dance! Might be taking pictures, but happy to dance as well, and I’m really happy to dance with anyone. Dancing with new people is something I absolutely love, and I don’t mind those who come up and ask me directly to dance. Might respond next tanda, due to my energy, the music, or something, and rarely will I directly refuse unless we’ve already danced a few tandas so far and I’m trying to dance with as many new people as possible. This will rarely be the case though.
Connect Tango Festival 2017 has been an amazing experience from all fronts. Looking forward to more in the future!