Tango dancers, aspiring tango dancers and music lovers alike should consider clearing their calendars for Memorial Day Weekend to enjoy nonstop Argentine tango inspiration for four days and nights at the 9th Philly Tango Fest. Convening over 600 dancers from throughout the country, as well as overseas, the Philly Tango Fest continues to grow into one of the biggest tango events in the United States. The most ambitious festival to date, this year’s lineup of 15 maestros (Argentine tango teachers & performers) includes some of the most sought-after in the world. The festival will also feature the debut of Típica Messiez, the only professional orquesta típica in the United States.
The Philly Tango Fest offers 34 workshops, including a four-class track for absolute beginners, an intensive musicality seminar for experienced dancers, and a seminar on tango notation. At night, milongas (social dances) feature fantastic DJs and incredible performances by the festival maestros. Two nights of live music start on Sunday, May 26, when the Típica Messiez makes its debut. All told the festival is in its way to packing the over 10,000 square foot Lithuanian Music Hall Association with dance, music, inspiration, and connection throughout Memorial Day weekend. The festival begins at 6 p.m. on Friday night, May 24, and continues past midnight on Monday, May 27.
The festival maestros will be led by Fabian Salas & Lola Diaz. In the 1990s when interest in Argentine tango had waned to the point that the dance had pretty much ceased to exist, Fabian Salas, alongside Gustavo Naveira, created a práctica, an informal tango event for exploration and experimentation, that became legendary. Most modern histories of tango concur that the seeds of tango’s rebirth, and the eventual renewal of interest in tango worldwide, were sewn in this event, which took place weekly for many years. Currently Salas partners with Lola Diaz and together they have successfully taught tango to thousands of students the world over. Salas created and still runs CITA (International Argentine Tango Congress), the first and longest-running tango festival, which takes place yearly in Buenos Aires. Salas and Diaz are also co-creators of the Premios Tango Awards, the tango version of the Oscars.
Adrian Veredice and Alejandra Hobert are dancers, choreographers, and masters of Argentine tango. When they started working together in 1998, they rapidly became one of the most recognized tango couples of our time. Their impressive performances with unparalleled expressiveness are received with enthusiasm in theaters and on stages worldwide. They have headlined many of the most acclaimed tango festivals worldwide over the past 15 years, in cities around the world. Since 2002, they have also been the principal teachers at CITA (mentioned above).
Rounding out the list of tango performers and teachers are: Cecilia Gonzalez, one of the most famous tangueras in the world, partnered with Jake Spatz, a wonderful teacher from DC; Ciko Tanik & Adam Hoopengardner, popular teachers from New York City; Agustin Venturino & Natalia Agüero, attentive and innovative teachers out of La Plata, Argentina; Robin Thomas, a legendary teacher and organizer from NYC, partnered with Kristin Balmer, who runs the beginner program at the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School; and Meredith Klein & Andres Amarilla, founders of the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School, the sponsor and organizer of the festival. Emiliano Messiez, director of the Típica Messiez, will also co-teach one tango workshop. Every festival maestro will perform during a milonga on one of the four nights. Please see the complete festival schedule for information about who performs when.
Among all of the exciting performances, social dances, workshops and more, the true highlight of this festival is the debut of the Orquesta Típica Messiez. Orquesta Típica refers to a band that plays popular music and has between 8 and 12 musicians. In Argentina & Uruguay, the term Orquesta Tipica is usually associated with tango music and comprised of a violin section, a bandoneon section (the signature tango instrument) and a rhythm section, including a piano and double bass. So highly regarded is pianist Emiliano Messiez, director of the Típica Messiez, that the orchestra has already received the sponsorship of the Consulate General of Argentina in New York, before having played a concert or made a recording!
The Típica Messiez will play original tango arrangements by Messiez plus classics from Osvaldo Pugliese, Aníbal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli and many other famous tango orchestras. Based on Maestro Messiez’s many performances in Philadelphia with smaller groups, we know that the Típica Messiez will bring energy, rhythm, great arrangements, and a range of dynamics to keep dancers on their feet all night long. The tango music community is so excited about the birth of this orchestra that two professional musicians from Buenos Aires are flying to New York City to be part of its debut.
Musicians of Típica Messiez:
Raúl Jaurena, bandoneon (Uruguay)
Javier Sanchez, bandoneon (Argentina)
Rodolfo Zanetti, bandoneon (Argentina)
Leandro Ragusa, bandoneon (Argentina)
Sami Merdinian, violin (Argentina)
Sumire Hirotsuru, violin (Japan)
Gemma Scalia, violin (Argentina)
Nastasja Vojnović, violin (Serbia)
Pablo Lanougere, double bass (Argentina)
Emiliano Messiez, piano, founder & musical director (Argentina)
The debut of the Típica Messiez will be streamed live to tango dancers and tango lovers around the world by USALA Media, a non-partisan media center founded in 2017 with the goal of becoming a culturally inclusive one-stop media hub, bringing Latino issues and concerns to the forefront. USALA’s mission is to provide an independent media hub where community members can hear their own voices—where their values, interests, and the issues important to them come to life. Philly Tango Fest director Meredith Klein has offered a weekly radio show on USALA, Tango Stories, featuring interviews and music, since the launch of USALA radio on July 4, 2018.
An improvised social dance, Argentine tango essentially consists of walking while hugging. Despite what you might think from watching some popular TV programs, tango is not about what you can see from the outside (like passionate expressions, high kicks, or dips). Rather, it’s about the communication between two dancers in the moment and with the music, and further, how this communication makes it possible to move seamlessly around a dance floor occupied by 100 or more other couples. Because the heart of tango is walking, it is accessible to dancers of all ages and abilities. Indeed, our students range in age from 15 to 84. Learning the tango does not require any prior experience with dance; most members of our community started their dance journey as adults, with Argentine tango. Tango-curious folks should consider buying the “Beginner Pass,” which includes four absolute-beginner workshops, a tango technique workshop (choice of leader or follower), and entrance to all of the milongas. The live music and performances take place during the milongas each night, so new dancers will get a big dose of inspiration, along with excellent instruction.
The entire festival will take place at the Lithuanian Music Hall Association (2715 E. Allegheny Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19134) in Port Richmond, conveniently located one block from the Allegheny Ave exit off I-95. The Lithuanian Music Hall was built in 1907 and is still maintained by the local Lithuanian-American community. The 10,000 square foot space includes a 5,500 square foot ballroom, where workshops and nightly milongas will be held, and a banquet hall, where we will hold concurrent workshops. An additional space, the Club Room, will host a variety of free program activities. The lobby of the LMHA will be transformed into a pop-up boutique, offering a variety of exquisite tango shoes and clothes for men and women. Vendors will include Debut Tango (Argentina), La Mina Tango Boutique(NYC), Atelier Vertex (San Francisco), and Sur tango shoes.
The Philadelphia Argentine Tango School (PATS), which sponsors and organizes the Philly Tango Fest, has been bringing tango and Argentine culture to Philadelphia and its surrounding area since 2008. In addition to offering group and private lessons, PATS offers weekly milongas in our own studio in Fishtown, monthly milongas at beautiful off-site locations, performances, talks on tango history, and other special events. We have organized or participated in events at almost every major landmark in Philadelphia: the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, LOVE Park, the Union League, the Swann Memorial Fountain, City Hall, the Free Library of Philadelphia (main branch) and the Kimmel Center, among many others. A standout highlight was performing (along with 26 of our students) at Independence Hall during the World Meeting of Families (2015), shortly before Pope Francis took the stage to give his speech on immigration and multiculturalism. This is the ninth festival organized by PATS.
Complete information and registration can be found on the festival website. Online registration is open through May 20 at midnight. After that, payment for individual events will be available at the door only. Attendees should check the website to see which events have sold out if they plan to pay at the door.