The Portland Oregon Tango scene has been something I haven’t been involved in much. A 5 hour drive from home, makes it hard to stop in. Especially with such a good Tango community at home, and some even along the drive. I’ve gotten a chance for a few festivals in the past, some weekends, but always few and far in-between. This week I’ve been up in Portland, not for Tango directly, but making extra time to make sure to check out some of the more normal crowd in Portland.
This past Wednesday was making my way from home to Portland… Always running late, not leaving until almost 3 in the afternoon with a 4.5 hour drive ahead of me. Reaching out to some friends, seeing what is happening, checking out the Portland Tango website, and just overall reaching out to those I’ve met over the years. Planning on attending the Wednesday Alt Tango, as Alt music when it comes to tango is always an adventure (usually enjoyable). You also usually get a different crowd, quite often with higher energy, and after a long drive, sounded like fun. There was an earlier class that started at 7:30 this Wednesday, but with my timing, didn’t end up making it. Went for a drink before hand with a friend (who is the inspiration for the trip), then headed to the Norse Hall for some dancing.
Alt Tango at Norse Hall!
Since I’ve visited Portland before, didn’t fall into my usual “watch for most of the night” habit when I’m in a new space. Instead I was with a friend, just had drinks, and the music was moving. Before talk about dancing begins though, the dance space at Norse Hall needs a good mention. I’ve personally loved Norse Hall for a long time. Always have had a wonderful feel, the sign out front, if dancing is happening, the different spaces for dancing, and overall vibe.
You enter a nice entrance, and the first thing you see is the main dance hall. On Wednesdays there is swing dancing in the main hall, with Tango upstairs, so bypassing the first instinct of jumping in for some swing (dabbled here and there in swing and salsa) and made our way upstairs for the Wednesday Alt Tango. I’ve been upstairs for a few events in the past, it’s a nice space, but doesn’t have the charm that is the main hall downstairs.
Quick little greeting and payment at the top of the stairs, and headed into the mens area for hanging my jacket and changing shoes. I see some familiar faces as I enter the main hall, but I already had the lady on my arm for the first Tanda of our night. The music struck me as fun and energetic, and for an Alt Tango night, the Tanda composition and flow of the Milonga wasn’t standard. Seemed to change in tempo quite a bit inside the Tandas as well as between sets. The later the night went, the more inconsistent the music became.
I must say, it does throw you for a loop dancing to some more electronic dubstep, then it changed to a more acoustic guitar mellow track in the same Tanda. With the energy of the night it was nice to have a little more variety, but still really makes a full Tanda feel foreign with who you’re dancing with. There were some nice covers I hadn’t heard of a few songs, so I’ll be looking for those versions in the next few days.
With the space being upstairs, and the energy in the room, it was very hot and humid. I sweat when I dance, especially with more alt music and all the energy going around. Trying to carry towels, and frequently head to a rest room to wipe myself off. So the change of the tempo helped me in that regard, even if it made some dances feel quite odd.
There is a lot that could have changed to help… and since I DJ as well, I seem to focus more on the music and how the vibe is personally. There are good aspects to the music, and I enjoyed myself. The Wednesday Alt usually rotates DJs and has more traveling DJs that come in, and they also have some more inspiring DJs that are trying to bring their own flare into the Portland Tango scene. Your mileage will vary, and try new people, listen to new and different music. Even if things don’t quite vibe with you, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you like and some good surprises. This is coming from someone who likes to find new things. I have some friends who don’t like going someplace unless it’s perfect as their tango evenings are limited and they can’t afford to go and risk one of your few spare evenings for something that might not work or feel right.
With Wednesday night over, a little different, some hit and miss, very warm and hot room, I had a great time. Now it is Thursday, and there is more Tango to be had at the Norse Hall for their Traditional night in the main dance hall. More updates to come!