by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal
The Virtual Tango Festival (VTF) was the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School’s response to the postponing of their 10th Anniversary Philly Tango Festival. The event, organized by Meredith Klein, the school’s director, has been held every Memorial Day Weekend, and this year’s virtual program was no different. A multitude of online events ran for four days on May 22-25, 2020. Activities included concerts, lectures, and classes ranging from meditation to different aspects of Tango technique. Fifty instructors from around the world broadcast via ZOOM from either their homes or local studios. It was an ambitious undertaking during the pandemic when dance studios are doing whatever they can to keep their dance communities connected while trying to bring in much-needed revenue.
The first lesson I attended was held on Friday. Octavio Fernandez and Carla Marano taught a tutorial on “Individual Technique for Followers and Leaders.” This was one of those times when ZOOM is not your friend. The hour-long class started 10 minutes late due to technical difficulties for Fernandez (he and Marano were teaching from different locations.) As he continued to work on resolving his audio/video problems, Marano jumped in and began working on walks that focused on the transfer of weight. We repeated the same pattern for the next 20 minutes while waiting for Fernandez. He eventually joined in and offered verbal directions while Marano continued with the demonstration. The class addressed musical and physical accents with changes in dynamics. Participants were to work on doing this on different counts of music, however, there was often no music provided to dance to. Between the technical delays, numerous stops and starts, and repetition of material with little development, the class never quite came together for me.
Saturday, I joined Monica Moya’s “Yoga for Tango Dancers.” The class included a nice variety of stretching exercises. All of the movements were done with a chair and focused on spinal rotations and hip openers. Moya demonstrated each position and gave clear modifications. Afterward, she watched the participants and gave specific corrections on alignment and posture. It would have reduced some confusion if she asked us to either mirror her or was clearer as to which side (right or left) to use but, otherwise, I enjoyed the practice. I found her approach to be supportive and encouraging.
I also signed on to a lecture by Andrei Andreev and Mitra Martin on “Nonviolent Communication Methods (NVC) as Applied to Tango.” NVC is designed to help individuals communicate more compassionately with themselves and others. The instructors seemed well-prepared and versed in NVC. Andreev provided situational prompts and attendees were asked to write down their responses and use the chatbox to share their thoughts. Martin requested that experiences shared during the practice remain confidential in order to create a “safe space.” The lecture had a natural flow to it and Andreev and Martin alternated back and forth smoothly. They asked for examples from personal situations involving Tango but the practice could be applied to any life experience.
The events I participated in had a good turnout and offered a positive alternative to the live festival. Kudos to festival organizer, Meredith Klein, for taking on such a massive virtual event in unchartered waters with great success.