2013 Festival Highlights:
- Venue. The event was held at the luxurious Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas. Workshops and performances were held in three of the hotels spacious ballrooms.
- Organization. The Fandango is organized and directed by Ricardo Moncada. Classes started on time and schedules were available in both paper printouts and on LED screens on the ballroom doors. The website was easy to navigate and each day Ricardo posted the current days schedule on the Fandango de Tango Facebook events page. Shows started and ended according to schedule. There were 15 shows on Saturday, and all performances were done by the instructors. It was a lot of fun and very well done.
- Saturday “Masters Shows” featuring Lola Diaz & Fabian Salas (Argentina), Carlos Barrionuevo & Mayte Valdes, Fernanda Ghi & Guillermo Merlo (Argentina), Pablo Pugliese & Noel Strazza (Argentina), and George & Jairelbhi Furlong (Dallas).
- Fernanda & Guillermo incorporated a funny skit into their last performance that was particularly entertaining. Guillermo played the part of a nervous man attempting to work up the nerve to ask a mysterious woman (Fernanda) to dance.With the lights dimmed, the couple used pre-recorded voice-overs to convey their thoughts and held flashlights below their faces to indicate who was speaking…giving the skit a light-hearted, mysterious effect.
- A special presentation of Nina Del Tango. The 25-minute narrative film featured Fandango instructors Carlos Barrionuevo and Mayte Valdes.
The Fandango De Tango is an annual Argentine Tango event held in Dallas, Texas. Fandango is a Spanish word that means “lively dance” or “party”. This year the five day ‘party” celebrated its 15th anniversary and took place at the luxurious and spacious Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas.
The word that immediately came to mind while covering the event was “class”. From the free tea and coffee, to the LED screens next to the ballroom doors that presented the class schedules, to the Saturday semi-formal milonga, every aspect of the Fandango was classy without being pretentious. It had an air of maturity and organization that other dance festivals sometimes lack. The event is organized by veteran dance instructor and promoter, Ricardo Moncada, and it has evolved quite a bit since its humble beginnings in Austin, Texas.
Ricardo was born in a small, south Texas town called Eagle Pass. He attended the University of Texas, and his initial foray into dance was inspired by a young lady on the UT dance team who invited him to join the club. The hobby turned into a passion and he conquered several styles of dance from ballroom to swing. He opened his own dance studio in 1987, but he still had yet to learn tango.
His journey into tango began on a trip to Argentina in 1996, and he learned under the expert tutelage of dance instructors Mingo and Esther Pugliese.
In the late 90s Ricardo recognized that there was a lack of argentine tango instructors in Austin, or even tango events in Texas and the surrounding states. So in 1999 he teamed up with fellow argentine dance instructors Luciana Valle and Fabian Salas to organize the Fandango. The first Fandango de Tango was held in his dance studio in Austin, Texas, with about 60 students, mostly local, in attendance. Under the leadership of Ricardo, and the help of his event assistants such as Shari Black, the Fandango has grown substantially and moved to Dallas in 2012.
Ricardo explained that the longevity of the Fandango is due not only to sound business decisions, but from good artistic decisions as well.
“I think the secret is having the right instructors. I don’t have to monitor them or wonder if they’re doing a good job. I have people who I respect and they respect me. They know I want to run an on time event, so they come ready to work.”
The instructors not only must have a professional attitude, but a humble one as well.
“The world of dance has a lot of prima donnas in every style of dance. I don’t want to work with prima donnas. I want to work with people who are really good, but don’t have an attitude when they’re not dancing. I want to work with people I could be friends with.”
He also noted that having the right mix of social dancing time and instruction is key as some participants only attend the night socials, and are just looking for a fun place to dance. With 40+ workshops and five milongas there was plenty of dancing to be had. The milongas each night lasted well in to the morning, including the Saturday milonga which went until 5am. He wants all the dancers to have fun no matter their motivation for attending.
“I want them to be tired, but energized. Physically they may have some aches, but in their heart they are fulfilled. Hopefully they are tired because they danced a lot, but that they had fun and will be ready to do it again next year.”
The Fandango featured several world-reknowned argentine tango instructors including former world tango champions Guillermo Merlo & Fernanda Ghi. Fabian Salas, who has taught at every Fandango, is a prime example of the quality of teachers. He is a jolly, genuinely nice man who personifies the persona that Ricardo looks for in instructors. His dance partner is Lola Diaz and he loves teaching at the event each year.
“The company is great. There are some students and teachers that we only see once a year. We both tour a lot and sometimes we don’t get to see each other. It’s like a family reunion.”
The Fandango has undergone major change through the years, and Ricardo’s personal life has changed along with it. He has gotten married and had four children since the inception of the event. Ricardo echoed Fabian’s family sentiment and his favorite Fandango moments have revolved around integrating his children into the event. He, along with the other instructors with kids, have affectionately dubbed their little ones, “Tango Tots”.
Ricardo is proud of the event and how it has developed since the first event at his dance studio. And judging from the packed house at the milonga on Saturday night, the Fandango de Tango will survive another 15 years…leaving plenty of time for another generation of “Tango Tots” to sprout and carry the event into the future.