Last weekend, from Oct 2-4, 2015, was the 6 Boulder Tango Festival, held at the Avalon Ballroom. The festival was put on by Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne, who are the master Tango dancers and teachers behind the Boulder Tango Studio. The main performance evening was Oct. 3, boasting performances by all four of the world class teaching couples that were part of the festival (they all taught workshops as well). I had no idea there is such a strong Argentine Tango presence in Boulder, CO, but since Gustavo and Giselle moved there, they have held an annual festival that brings people from all over the U.S. On Saturday night, I met a small group of tangueros (tango dancers) who had come from Cincinnati.
The evening began at 9pm with a milonga, which simply means a tango social. All the festival attendees, plus anyone else, could take a partner on to the dance floor to tango. By 10pm, the floor was full of couples. Thanks to an educational conversation with one of the tangueros from Cincinnati, I learned about the different “codes” that basically make the milonga work. There are three different rhythms in the Argentine Tango that allow the couples to do different things as they dance. There is the tango, the valts, and the milonga. Yes, that ‘milonga’ word means both the social and a type of rhythm. During the evening, each rhythm gets a set of three songs. These periods are called tondas, and between each tonda there is a cortina, which means curtain. The cortina is a few bars of very non-tango music, which signals the couples on the floor that the rhythm is about to change. This is also the time to change partners, if one wishes.
I could go on about other things I learned, but the real treat of the evening was watching the four master couples perform. One of my favorite things about the performances was that they were a total family affair. The whole festival was, really. Not only did Gustavo and Giselle dance, but Gustavo’s son, Federico Naveira danced with his partner, Sabrina Masso; Gustavo’s daughter, Ariadna Naveira, danced with her partner Fernando Sanchez; and finally, Mariano ‘Chicho’ Frúmboli, one of Gustavo’s old students who went on to do great things, danced with
his partner, Juana Sepúlveda. Each couple was absolutely stunning on the floor, though each was different. There were subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences in the way they held each other, their relationship to the music, how each partner’s body read each other and moved together, and the way their feet touched the floor.
First up was Federico and Sabrina. They were a joy to watch. They had such energy, such connection, and as much as they were firmly planted on the floor, they glided across it as though it was ice. One move this first couple did, had Federico actually lifting one of Sabrina’s feet up with one of his feet. In another, they were sort of walking together, but their footsteps happened in between each other’s walking feet. It appeared as though they were walking over each other, yet they both moved along together.
Next was Ariadna with her partner, Fernando. I think these two might have been my favorite couple of the night. There was something in the way they held each other, in their embrace, that was softer, closer, and somehow warmer than the others. And their feet, oh, so light on the ground, as though they could have kept going had it disappeared. Their spins really got me too. Fernando actually became the center of both of them. She seemed to maintain her own center, somehow, even though she was spinning. They also made pauses, stops, or breaths during each of their dances that allowed both the dancers and the audience to see the connection between their bodies, to feel it, even.
Gustavo and Giselle were amazing. Watching them dance was like listening in on the most beautiful conversation between two friends who have known each other forever. They were so on with each other, so connected and aware, that they could actually separate their bodies and then come back to the embrace without missing anything. Their relationship to the music, especially Gustavo’s, was supreme. To quote a friend of mine who came with me that night, “Gustavo actually animated the music.” He made, with his body, what the music was doing make sense.
And finally, there was Chicho and Juana. Now, Mariano ‘Chicho’ Frúmboli is big in the world of the ‘nuevo’ style of tango, and it showed when he danced with Juana. There were some different steps, different moves, than in the other performances. I wish I knew more about the steps, but suffice it to say, I saw more snazz and flare in the movements of this couple than the previous ones. They did multiple lifts and turns / sweeps where each of their feet were being kicked up between the others’ legs. In some ways, there was just a wee bit of funk in their tango. Who knows, maybe that’s part of the Tango nuevo.
It was a great evening of dance, and a most wonderful introduction into the world of tango dancing. There were tango shoes and clothes for sale, snacks and drinks, and tons of friendly faces. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give to the evening, both the milonga and the performances, is that I do believe I am now going to take some tango lessons!
Soma Feldmar: Soma Feldmar received her MFA from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School, and is now working on her PhD in English from SUNY Buffalo, with a focus on poetics. Other, her first book of poetry, was published in 2009 from Capilano University Editions (CUE Books). Soma’s work has also appeared in various online and print journals. Her doctoral dissertation is on poet Robin Blaser and how his work brings the poetic and the ethical together, remaining open to the other and the unknown. Originally from Vancouver, BC, Soma recently relocated to Denver, CO, after five and half years in Buffalo, NY. Overjoyed to be back in Colorado, she has started her own business, Seamoon Editing Services and joined the writing team of Presenting Denver. As a former ballet, jazz, and modern dance student, Soma looks forward to more opportunities to combine her love of dance and her love of writing.