Part 1 – I focus on my feelings after ValenTango.
Part 2 & 3 – A detailed breakdown of my experience at ValenTango.

ValenTango is quite a ride… not just the whole weekend always moving, dancing, having a good time, but quite literally a ride. It’s a good 4 to 5 hours drive from home, and like any drive, it never goes as planned. This year I ended up missing out on the Wednesday night opening Milonga. I didn’t want to skip out of my volunteer teaching of a local beginner tango class for a festival. I knew I most likely missed some of my favorite local dancers, many of whom prefer the opening Milonga because it’s at a usual dance location and vibe. I’ve enjoyed the Opening night but missed it this year.  Which made me slightly sad, but glad to be volunteering in my local community!

I didn’t leave Thursday night after my volunteering, instead opted to leave the next day… planned for late morning, but instead was delayed by a few hours and didn’t leave until around 3ish. This unfortunately left me missing all of Thursday and a few of the Friday early Milongas and the Mixer. I opted instead to relax, get settled in with family , get changed, have some food, then make it to the Friday night Milonga. Staying with family in a spare room has usually been my go to while traveling to Portland for Tango. Being able to stay and visit (not as much as I’d like) without the added cost of a hotel, makes ValenTango and the Portland Tango scene very appealing for me.

Friday Night Milonga!

Even though I’ve been to ValenTango the previous 2 years straight, I have a habit on the first evening of any festival or event I attend with Tango.  I don’t dance… or rather I dance scarcely. I Spent this first night this way.  I wasn’t over dressed since this wasn’t the Saturday Grande Ball, or Sunday Closing Milonga, but more casual. Part of me loves dressing up, jacket, slacks, and all, but a nice shirt, and nice jeans, khaki’s, or something more relaxed for an earlier Milonga is quite a bit more appealing.

ValenTango 2016 Friday Night Milonga

Why do I dance so rarely?  I end up watching, A LOT! I like to get a feel to how the space is being navigated, where the lanes are, where the energy is from people and the room around, and to evaluate how I’m feeling and getting comfortable so I can participate where I’ll be happy. I most likely got about a dozen Tandas throughout the whole night… that’s from 9pm to 2AM. Most were from some familiar faces, but a few wonderful ones from completely new people (who I’m still in contact with).

I’ve found I’m picky, especially on the first night.  What am I picky about though isn’t quite what many people would think.  I am picky about the music, but the music is wonderful! The women and partners were all wonderful, it wasn’t a matter on the skill I saw, and I love dancing with all ages, sizes, and ethnicity. What I’m picky about it energy and how someone carries themselves.  I just drove up, trying to get settled in, and the first thing I don’t want it someone with way more energy and excitement throwing me around, nor am I looking for someone who is super deep yet or feels like it might be hanging on me.  There’s a good mixture of energy of wanting to dance, and wanting the type of dance I can provide.

I turned down dances… passed over glances that were obviously my way, because things didn’t quite mesh with my mood and energy. Was I this picky the rest of the festival, not at all, and even that night, the right music changed my mood a few times. With the mood changes thanks to the music, it brought me more energy and I danced with others I wouldn’t have at all an hour or two prior.

I made some wonderful connections, the performances had some minor music hiccups, which weren’t repeated the next two nights, and the night ended wonderfully. Beautiful women, a not super crowded floor, some actual better floorcraft by most of the dancers, made that evening much more enjoyable.  There was at most 3 leads that would cut in and out of lanes, but they weren’t too dangerous (they continued to do so throughout the festival).  Friday night there weren’t as many people, and as such, it felt like there were less people cutting onto the dance floor backing up the flow of the dance.  There were indeed, and it’s a big pet peeve of mine (make sure you’re being let in, and not cutting in and endangering others/causing collisions), but due to the numbers it didn’t feel like it.  Or maybe it was because I didn’t dance that much…

2AM came too soon, and I had some wonderful dances. Many smiles, good connections, conversations, beautiful music, and more. The last Tanda was great, and somehow managed to dance with the best dressed gal of the evening.  Found out it was her only night at the festival, and that’s why she was all dressed in red, white, ribbons, themed heart stockings, lace, and cute shoes. She even wanted a picture, so we tried to do a little pose, didn’t turn out great, but worked. I’m sure it is out on social media somewhere.  That concluded my Friday… a short drive and a restful night brings me to…

Saturday – The Early and the Analog…

Sleeping is the main reason why I don’t go to classes, that and the fact I’m a night owl and love dancing and being out until 1AM or so. Even got a late start to my day and was delayed in getting to the analog Milonga on time. That’s right, an ALL ANALOG MILONGA which was fabulous! Had lunch prior in the hotel bar/restaurant, which was really quite good, and didn’t want to rush straight to the dancing. Had some good conversations, a relaxing meal, then off I went to check out the awesomeness that is the All Analog Milonga.

ValenTango 2016 Upstairs Dance SPace

Arriving at the Milonga, I’m greeted by some wonderful people at the desk, one being from back home.  It’s nice to see friends helping out and having a good time, so it’s always a great treat. I pay, as I chose to go a la cart this year due to schedules (which turned out to be wise with how much I missed), and am greeted with a nice not too crowded floor.  The first couple sets of classes still weren’t out, so the bigger influx of dancers have yet to arrive.

For an All Analog Milonga, I was very happy.  Tandas were a little different with their organization and timing, but I can’t blame the DJ or anything.  The flow was really wonderful in my opinion, from both a dancer perspective and a DJ perspective. Even the Cortinas were analog, albeit there were some spaces of silence with some records and slight technical difficulties towards the beginning, by the end everything was worked through. Tandas were not traditionally set, but the flow felt just as natural.  There were some I could have swore was 5 tango songs, then a milonga, then 4 tango songs, then a vals, and visa versa.  It worked, volumes were great! I could go on about the music and the DJ for quite a while, but then this might never stop.

Dancing on this second floor upstairs reminded me of the past years. Quickly became used to the flow, the dancers, and the more casual feeling.  It lends itself to more openness and energy in this space, both in terms of number of people, and lighting. I danced with some locals who I’ve been in contact with, really enjoyed my time and that we got a chance to dance. Always a few favorites, some old, some newer just from some Tandas at a previous festival only months prior. Many new people, most really wonderful, only a couple spectacular, some from the night before. This year, like last year, I dance with a new gal, and she introduces me to her friend, and they are both amazing dancers. I guess I’m lucky, I spent quite a bit of time with them throughout the festival and it’s a magical connection and friends who I’m still in contact with even now. I always seem to find someone I resonate with at every festival, sometimes a few, these are people who years later, we still chat, dance when paths cross, and who I’d consider friends. Doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s something I feel very fortunate happens to me. Magic that is Tango!

After the All Analog Milonga, there was a break, which I used to go to an early dinner with a friend from the past few years.  We had a great time chatting, catching up, flirting, trying to find food that worked for us both (Indian food).  We had a few Tandas prior and even later, which are always magical, but it’s a rare treat to spend time with those you see maybe once a year. I suggest always reaching out those you connect with, it really makes festivals feel warm.

The Saturday Matinee Milonga felt familiar.  It’s hard to follow something unique like the All Analog Milonga and also being the one before the Grande Ball. I had wonderful dances, good friends, new people.  Nothing really to stand out from this, which is PERFECT!  Why?  Because that means I enjoyed the music and flow, it was well structured, music was nice, and it filled its purpose. It was exactly what I want out of a Milonga.  Felt like home, comfortable and enjoyable. As much as I wish to speak volumes about it, the fact I’m not actually makes me happy, because it made me happy and that speaks volumes.  Some of the best Milongas, are those that feel natural, and that is what the Matinee Milonga did.

Part 1 – With Love… Afterthoughts of ValenTango 2016
Part 3 – Grande Ball & Beyond – Final breakdown