This marks the 5th, no… 6th… maybe 7th year I’ve attended ValenTango in Portland Oregon. I’m not really going to try and keep track, most of my first few years Tango Dancing is a bit blurry, maybe because I lacked a good camera at those times! But this marks another year, more photos with a newer camera body and lens, and plenty of dancing. Has this festival changed much over the past years? Where are all the photos?
ValenTango is quite a large festival, and has been going on for decades now. With over 1000 people who attend this festival every year, be it for the instructors, social dancing, DJs, the atmosphere, vendors, friends, or any other reason, there is a lot to love. The space in a large hotel, with plenty of lodging there or nearby, houses two large ballroom spaces to dance in, and 4+ class rooms with dance floors available, Milongas, Guided Practicas, Mixers, Live Music, Seminars, Food & Wine, and more. It has quite a bit for everyone.
There was a much better mix when it came to the vendors this year, which was a great surprise. You could get shoes, a new dress, a new suit, some jewelry, and more. Great to see a more even variety of everything that was presented without feeling like it was overrun by a single type. The space felt much better organized that previous years, even though everything felt the same, some minor tweaks did help the flow.
The main ballroom decor was wonderfully decorated as always, and the light levels and light colors make my photography a challenge (it’s pretty dim and pretty much always having a drastic color tint) but is very moody and enjoyable. The upstairs ballroom is much more plain, but the live flowers that rotate and some little decor is pleasant. The use of two dance floors, and sometimes two milongas at the same time with different style music does make this a highlight as always. When the main ballroom gets flooded around performance time, those who want to can go upstairs to some usually alternative music. The mood/music doesn’t leak between them and really is great.
There were a few things that stood out me this year. The first one was the quality of the dancers who attended. The past few years I noticed much more varying degrees of dancer levels and somewhat bad floorcraft/skill. This year I didn’t notice too much in terms of bad floorcraft, and didn’t get a bad dance the whole festival. This was something that was mentioned to me by others. There were two leads who I was told didn’t quite belong and were a little out of line, but they didn’t stay long as I didn’t notice them while I was dancing, or taking pictures. Would love to hear others opinion on this point!
The other point that stood out was the live music. I personally enjoyed the energy of the live music this year, but did find it a bit too punchy and overwhelming. I’m half deaf, so I can only imagine what may have felt. Then again, the dance floor was really loud with talk anyways, so I’m not sure if the audio levels were boosted to compensate and the base or something wasn’t peaking.
The performances were great fun as always. The mixers are usually my highlight as I dance with so many new people. The crazy part of the trip was actually the drive home. There was a big snow storm that came in on Sunday, I had to leave early and didn’t stay as long as I hoped. Left early, but still got caught in it. There was a crazy stretch of highway and a few towns that were buried in over 2 feet of snow, with power lines down, trees on the freeway causing complete closures. Was lucky to get a hotel for the few nights we couldn’t escape. Could have stayed for more dancing, but then would have been sleeping in the car instead. An adventure for sure!