2014 Festival Highlights:
- Venue: The event was held at the Dance Institute in Austin. Workshops took place in the three of the four dance studio’s. A wall dividing the studio’s was removed for the performances and milongas. This created a nice open space. More than one person commented that the dance floor was excellent. The Sunday milonga was held at Esquina Tango with optional dancing under the stars.
- Organization: The Austin Spring Tango Festival is organized by the Austin Tango Society. Most classes started on time and the schedule was clearly available on the window of each studio entrance. The website was very professional and it was easy to locate information. There were 9 performances on Saturday, and all performances were done by the instructors. Vance Rightmore (The festival coordinator for the first nine years of the event) gave opening comments, thank-you’s, and introduced the performers. The performances were well paced with not a lot of fluff.
- Saturday Masters shows featuring Claudia Codega & Esteban Moreno (Argentina), Lucila Cionci & Rodrigo “Joe” Corbata (Argentina), and Jesica Arfenoni & Maximiliano Crstiani (you guessed it, Argentina).
- Lucila & Joe gave a very lively and theatrical Saturday performance and were the crowd favorites of the night.
- The Sunday Milonga which featured dancing under the stars at EsquinaTonga.
The Austin Spring Tango Festival is an annual event located in Austin, Texas. It was held at the Dance Institute in northwest Austin for the fourth consecutive year. This year the festival celebrated it’s 10th anniversary and for the first time was organized by the non-profit Austin Tango Society. Vance Rightmire had been the organizer for the prior nine years, but decided to enlist the help of the Austin tango community due to the significant amount of planning time required. Thus the Austin Tango Society was born. Tango enthusiast Monza Lui was a welcome influence in helping Vance find alternatives to keeping the festival alive.
Monza had the intriguing idea to turn the festival into a non-profit. We got the ball rolling and found some board members. The community got behind me. I really feel more relaxed this year. I may be a figure head in some respects, but I don’t feel like its all my festival anymore. I feel like I’m part of a bigger thing, and that makes me feel great.
Vance (pictured, left) initially became interested in tango thanks, in part, to the movie Scent Of A Woman starring Al Pacino. The movie was recommended by a young lady and her boyfriend that Vance and his late wife (who unfortunately passed three years ago) met at a bed and breakfast in Pennsylvania. The young woman, unbeknownst to Vance, was actually English actress Gabrielle Anwar.
Gabrielle told them that she had danced tango with Al Pacino in the movie, and that they should give the dance a try. About seven years later (in 1999) they began their journey into tango and it quickly became entrenched in their lives. They traveled to several events including tango festivals in Argentina.
It was a passion that developed fast and is never going to cool for me. There are times that I dance Argentine Tango six nights a week here in Austin. I’m going down to Argentina in May with six other people that I convinced to go down with me and dance some more!
The Austin Spring Tango Festival was born due to a lack of tango events in (you guessed it) the spring! There were other formal tango events in Austin periodically at other times of the year, including the fall Fandango De Tango which has since moved to Dallas, but none in the spring. The first edition was a weekend workshop and had about 35 people in attendance. The workshop blossomed into a full fledged festival and this year approximately 300 dancers attended. Dancers arrived from over the world including participants from Switzerland and Hungary.
The festival was spread over three days and featured 18 workshops and four milongas. The Saturday milonga was not for the weary as it lasted until 6am. I did not make it that far into the night, but it was reported that there were still approximately 30-35 tango addicts remaining until the end! The lighting could have been a bit better for the performances, but overall it was a great time.
This year also featured an impressive list of instructors including the current Tango Salon World Champions, Jesica Arfenoni & Maximiliano Cristiani. Vance looks for high quality teachers, with elegant movements, and experience. He also understands the need to keep the event new and fun for the attendees.
A lot of festivals, year after year, have the same routines with the same people. I like to bring in couples for two years, if they’re quality, and its great if they can put out new material every year. It’s also important that they consider everyone equal in their classes regardless of their experience. Give them all the same respect and something to work with.
Veteran Argentine Tango instructors Claudia Codega & Esteban Moreno were the exception to the normal festival imposed ‘term limit’, and taught for a third consecutive year. Both from Argentina, they met in Buenos Aires in 1990. They began taking dance lessons together and before long partnered to become instructors. They enjoy the atmosphere of the festival which is one of the reasons they keep coming back. They echoed Vance’s sentiments about respect amongst the dancers.
Everyone is very friendly. This is our third time here and we have made a lot of tango friends. One of my favorite moments of the year is the asado (Argentine barbeque) on Sunday! I’m looking forward to that.
Claudia. The students are really available. They listen to us and don’t put any distance there. This is not always the case at other places. They are very respectful and appreciate what you tell them. Also, it’s nice that people are willing to speak Spanish here! That makes it a lot more comfortable for us and makes us feel closer to them.
The Austin Tango Society currently has three board members (pictured below, Vance, Cindy Mason and David Boucher) and Vance feels that both the non-profit staff and the event itself will continue to grow. He emphasized the community ownership of the festival that’s being fostered.
Just because you can’t afford to come to the festival doesn’t mean that you can’t attend. You can volunteer and work, and you get to attend. No one is turned away as long as you can give of your time, and help us move it forward.
Asked what he thought about the future of the Austin Spring Tango Festival, Vance replied…
The sky is the limit!