A Travellerspoint blog

Dancing Tango in Hobart

Tuesday night, Australian-Italian Club, 77 Federal Street, North Hobart & Friday night, Mathers House, 108 Bathurst Street, Hobart

sunny 25 °C

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Apparently I was staying in a remote part of Hobart. The driver of the airport shuttle reluctantly agreed to drop me off, but said I'd have to get my return pick up from one of the hotels in the centre. We don't normally come out this way. The tour guide who picked me up two days later said it was the first time in his career that he'd picked anyone up from that place. Even the owners didn't want to stick around and I had to call them to find out how to get into my room.

It was dark, it was rainy and my backpack seemed to getting heavier by the second.

I followed the instructions I received via a text message and climbed up a kind of metal scaffolding to access my room which was on the top level.

Why had I chosen this place? Oh yes, because it was close to the milonga I was planning to go to on the night I arrived.

The Australian-Italian Club was only about 3 minutes walking distance away or I might not have had the courage to head out again. But I'm so glad I did. It more than made up for the slightly creepy accommodation.

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By the next morning, when I went back to photograph the venue of the previous night, Hobart was showing her sunny side.

Unfortunately, I missed the two classes which preceded the milonga because of the whole accessing the accommodation drama. The beginners' class was finishing up when I arrived and several students from the previous intermediate class were sitting at the tables which were set up on one side of the dance floor.

I was greeted by Jane, one of the organisers, who introduced me to some of the other dancers and immediately made me feel welcome. About 10-15 people stayed for the milonga. Women were in the majority, but all of them, myself included, still got plenty of dances. Hobartian tangueros, I was to learn, were both generous and gallant.

The music was mostly traditional, with some neotango, which I like listening to, although I hadn't really had the opportunity to dance to it until now (see here for some examples of neotango tandas). I really like Otros Aires so it was exciting and also a little challenging to dance to their music.

Back at the table, I asked about the tango scene in Hobart. When I checked this site, I had thought that I would be able to get to three or four tango events during my one week stay, but not all of that information was up to date. Monday and Tuesdays are the days for classes, with one weekly and two monthly milongas (see below under practical information for details). Luckily, I was going to be around for one of the monthly milongas that Friday night.

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Rainbow over Hobart, from the top of Mount Wellington

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Brekkie in the garden of The Pollen Tea Room, Battery Point

When I entered the Mathers House on Friday night, my first thought was uh-oh, three men and about ten women. There were less people than usual, I was told, probably due to the school holidays.

But the tangueros ensured that no tanguera was sitting on the sidelines for too long as they valiantly danced nearly every single tanda. Soon they were reinforced by two more leaders. We had a great night and the dancing went on until around midnight.

Thank you to everyone at Tuesday and Friday's milongas for the warm welcome and for letting me be part of your group. I had a great time and hope to see you the next time I come to Hobart!

What a pity I won't be around for the Hobart encuentro :-( Lots of special events including workshops, a milonga in the Town Hall and demonstrations from visiting teachers. Hobart will definitely be on my itinerary for future trips to this part of the world, so perhaps I will make it to one of the future encuentros!

If you're going to be in Hobart 23-25 October, you can check out the programme for the encuentro here.

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Practical information and recommendations for further reading: The milonga at the Australian-Italian tango club takes place every week except on public holidays and is usually preceded by lessons starting at 7:15pm. The milonga starts at 8:30pm and goes until about 10:30pm. Entry for the milonga is 12 AUD (16 AUD if you also do the lessons). It's about 20 minutes walking from the city centre.
The Friday milonga is organised monthly, entry costs 17 AUD for non members including snacks. Check the calendar for up to date information. Mathers House is just off Bathurst street, next to the Playhouse
A practica is organised on Monday evenings from 7-9pm by Tango Milonguero Tasmania, who are also the organisers of the Hobart encuentro. Details of their events can be found on their website.
Unfortunately Moonlight Tango, which until recently organised milongas in Hobart, has closed down, but you can still access their website and I would recommend you have a look at Brian's musings on White Ribbon day. A very thoughtful piece, relevant for any day of the year.

As always, comments on anything covered in this post are very welcome. I arrived back in the homeland yesterday afternoon, after a month of travelling, eight milongas, two practicas and seven hours of classes. Now that I have regular access to a functioning computer, I'll be updating the blog in the coming days and weeks with photos and tales of my travels.
Click on subscribe if you don't want to miss my upcoming posts on dancing tango in Melbourne and Singapore!

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Posted by tangueratravels 10:42 Archived in Australia Tagged australia tasmania tango dancing hobart nightlife milonga Comments (0)

Tango come rain, hail or shine

Wednesday night, Bar Cleveland, Surrey Hills & Friday night, City Tattersalls Club, Sydney

rain 12 °C

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That blue sky is deceptive...

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Sydney was to go shopping.

For warm clothes.

The changeable early Spring weather reminds me a bit of home and not in a good way. After a week in the Northern Territory I have to say that day time temperatures of 12 °C come as a bit of a shock.

So it took a lot of willpower to head out to my first Sydney milonga on a cold, wet Wednesday night.

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Blogging the old fashioned way. Scribbling in a notebook, pretending to be a writer. But mostly I just eat cake.

I arrived nearly an hour after the milonga was due to start, mainly because I got lost on the walk from Central Station.

But when I entered the upstairs room at Bar Cleveland everyone was standing around the dance floor, their attention focused on one of the teachers, who was enthusiastically explaining and demonstrating the playful elements of Di Sarli's music.

As I found out later from the organisers, there had been a last minute change to the usual event, as there were two teachers visiting from Buenos Aires. They were just finishing a workshop on musicality and this was to be followed by a guided practica and then a milonga. I wished I'd checked their website before heading out. The workshop looked like it would have been fun.

Still, I will have another chance, as the teachers were Daniel Nacucchio and Cristina Sosa and I will be taking one of their classes at the Singapore Tango Festival.

The event was hosted by Tango Synergy and I had a good chat with two of the organisers, Jean and Karen. Other than that, I mostly observed the guided practica from the side of the dance floor.

Daniel and Cristina are beautiful dancers and I enjoyed having a preview of the Singapore class, watching them guide and give tips. Instead of a cortina, the tandas were marked by Daniel ringing a bell to give some explanations on different kinds of walking, posture or a particular figure.

There were definitely more women than men, as is often the case, but my impression was that people preferred to dance with those they knew. It reminded me of the milongas back home, where I was only asked to dance after I had there a few times, and sometimes then only when I had first been out on the dance floor with a friend. There were also a lot more people at this event than the ones I previously attended in Darwin and Bangkok. No doubt this was also due to the visiting maestros,

Just when I thought I would be leaving the first tango event of my trip without dancing a single tanda, I was asked to dance by another female dancer who was learning to lead. This is something I'd like to do in the future, I just feel that I still have a lot of work to do in the following role, although this article argues that even learning some of the basic leader technique can also help with the following. The lady I was dancing with confirmed that since she has started to lead, her following has really improved. Maybe I will try a few beginner lessons as a leader when I am back home...

I stayed for the first hour of the milonga which followed the practica and I did get to dance another tanda before I left.

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Two nights later, I went to the Friday night Milonga Fuego, hosted by Tango Spirit which took place at City Tattersalls Club.

This is a beautiful venue with a large dance floor, high ceilings and is located within the building of one of Sydney's oldest social clubs which also houses restaurants, an amusement arcade and fitness centres. The room where the milonga takes place is on the second level, on the right as you come up the stairs. There are small tables around the dance floor which reminded me of some of the milongas in Buenos Aires.

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I arrived about 20 minutes after the milonga was due to start. A few people were already there but no one was dancing yet. I thought with less people, I might stand a better chance of getting a dance, but here I also felt that people preferred to dance with those that they knew. It started to get busier as of about 10pm and it was then that I was invited to dance a couple of times.

Two milongas gave me a brief glimpse at the Sydney tango scene, but I'll definitely plan in more dancing time for the next visit. Taking classes would also have been a good way to get to know people and I would have done that if I'd had more time. Teachers seem to be flexible here about students just joining for a couple of classes and this is what I'm planning to do during my next stop in Hobart.

Practical information: As mentioned above, the Wednesday event is normally organised as a milonga which goes from 20:00- 23:30. I paid 13 AUD for the guided practica and milonga, but entry to the regular milonga is 8 AUD. If you are a member of Tango Synergy (40AUD/year), entry costs 5 AUD.
Bar Cleveland is on the corner of Cleveland and Bourke Street. It's about 20 minutes walking from Central Station. If you don't get lost...
Milonga Fuego takes place the second Saturday and fourth Friday of the month. You can check the date of the next milonga here. I paid 20 AUD entry for the Friday night milonga. The City Tattersalls Club is at 204 Pitt Street, a short walk from Town Hall.
A calendar of tango events in Sydney is available here. Make sure to click on the link to the event you want to attend, which will usually provide the link to the organiser's website. Always check the website in case of last minute changes.

Do you have tips for newcomers to the Sydney tango scene? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

After all that complaining about the weather, Sydney showed her sunny side today, so we spent the day at this beautiful, secluded beach in the Sydney Harbour National Park. Can you guess which one it is?

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Posted by tangueratravels 01:06 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney tango dancing nightlife milonga singapore_tango_festival practica di_sarli Comments (1)

Tango at the Top End

Monday night, Malak Community Hall, 13 Malak Crescent, Darwin

sunny 30 °C
View Bangkok to Singapore via Australia on tangueratravels's travel map.

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"This is number 13," the taxi driver insisted as I stared dubiously at the building from which no light was emerging.

He very kindly agreed to wait while I went to investigate. The first door I came to was locked. I went around the corner to the next door and looked inside. No dance floor, no tango music, but what seemed to be an office. Luckily there was still someone there and to my relief, he knew what I was talking about when I asked him about a tango event in the vicinity. He pointed me in the direction of the Community Hall which was within walking distance, but the taxi driver insisted on dropping me off.

When I arrived, the practica had just started. The confusion in finding the venue meant that I was a few minutes late and the group of about 15 people were gathered on the left side of the room behind the two teachers. I was greeted by Kelly, one of the teachers, and invited to join the group once I was ready.

We started off with some warm up exercises, first doing individual work to improve balance before going on to practice pivots. After the warm up, we moved on to practice the giro in pairs. This is a figure I consistently manage to get wrong. Would I finally get the hang of it in Darwin?

After that, there was less instruction and the event started to feel more like a milonga. The evening I was there, the other dancers seemed to all know each other and the ones I spoke to had been dancing for at least several years.

The people I met were really friendly and while we were dancing, we talked about tango and I also got some tips for the rest of my trip. As I had suspected, there are no longer regular tango events organised in Alice Springs, which was to be my next stop. But I did get some useful information from Chris, the other teacher, on where to find information about tango events in Sydney and Melbourne.

I had been hoping to attend some practica during my trip and so I was really excited that I managed to get to one during my short stay in Darwin. I really liked the exercises at the beginning and it was nice to practice in such a relaxed atmosphere.

Thank you to Kelly, Chris and all the other dancers at last Monday's practica for welcoming me into your group - great to meet you all, I had a lovely time!

Northern Tango is the only organiser of tango events in the Northern Territory. Apart from the Monday night practica, they also organise a weekly class on Thursdays and a monthly milonga on the last Friday of the month from 8-11pm.

Practical information: Entrance to the practica is 5 AUD. Malak Community Hall is about a 20 minute drive from Darwin city centre. There is a bus service, but it takes more than an hour and requires a couple of changes. If you want to try that you can find information about the bus routes here If, like me, you find yourself at Malak Community Square, just walk around the corner past the football pitch and turn left at the end of the road. The Community Hall is on your left. Taxi fare is about 35 AUD from the centre out to Malak.
Northern Tango also has a group on Facebook, which you can find here.


Like this post and/or want to share your experience of dancing tango while travelling? Make me very happy and leave me a comment below ;-)

Update: I have had the opportunity to practice the giro since Darwin and I think I am a bit better... thanks again guys!

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View from Bicentennial Park, Darwin

Posted by tangueratravels 18:35 Archived in Australia Tagged australia tango dancing darwin northern territory practicing Comments (0)

You’re never too tired to tango

Friday night, Dream Hotel, 11th floor, Bangkok


View Bangkok to Singapore via Australia on tangueratravels's travel map.

My first full day in Bangkok and I spent it walking, boating and tuk-tuking through the heat, the downpours, the crowds and the chaos of this fascinating city.

In true first-time tourist style, I also fell for a minor scam, but that is, perhaps, a story for another day.

I got back to my hotel around 6pm, weary, legs aching, headache starting. Was I coming down with something? Maybe a quiet night in after all…

But wait.

Wasn’t there something about dancing tango during this (and all future trips)? Isn’t that why I started this blog in the first place? Didn’t I choose this specific hotel due to its proximity to the local Friday night milonga?

Exactly. Enough of the wimpy excuses.

A shower and several cups of Thai tea later and I was ready for my first Bangkok milonga.

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Three Horse Tea - great for reviving tired tangueras

I arrived at the Dream Hotel and proceeded as advised to the 11th floor, full of anticipation. Would there be many people there? What if no one asked me to dance? Would I even remember how to dance in all the excitement?

The elevator doors opened. I saw a pool, behind it a bar, where I was greeted by the friendly staff. I looked to the room behind them to see how many tangueros and tangueras there were.

There were none.

Something I hadn’t even considered. What if no one shows up?

One of the bar staff assured me that the organiser would be along shortly. And indeed, after a few minutes, others started to arrive. There were dancers from Armenia, England, Korea, Brazil, Ireland, Spain, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and even a maestro from Argentina.

I know this because unlike any milonga I have been to before; most of the people who arrived introduced themselves. A few, like me, were just passing through Bangkok but many were regulars from the expat community.

Before the dancing started, those who wanted could have some of the buffet dinner. Sitting chatting with some of the other dancers was a great ice breaker and also a distraction for me. I was still worrying about whether I might have forgotten how to dance.

An hour or so later and I was relieved to find out that I had not. In fact, I found that I was not focusing so much on wondering if I was doing something wrong. I think that I make the most mistakes in tango when I think too much about what I am supposed to be doing.

The evening I was there, it was a fairly even ratio of men to women, with a few women also dancing the role of leader. We were about 20 people all in all, and there was plenty of space on the dance floor, which is always nice. I had kind, patient dance partners with a good sense of humour which made for a very relaxed and enjoyable evening and a great start to my trip.

I’m so glad that I didn’t let those wimpy excuses stop me from going out on Friday night. Like many other times I have “forced” myself to go out for a milonga, I found myself coming home with more energy than when I left:-)

Thank you to Suk and to everyone at last Friday’s milonga for welcoming me into your group. I had a great time and I hope to visit Bangkok again, next time for a longer stay!

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Practical information: This milonga takes place every Friday from 7:30 – 11:00pm. Entrance costs 350 THB, which includes the buffet dinner and a soft drink. The Dream Hotel is off Sukhimvit Road, close to Asoke or Nana BTS station.

There are also milongas in Bangkok on Saturdays and Sundays. The Sunday milonga is preceded by a free class. The organiser of the Sunday milonga also has a group on meet up, which you can find here.

Have you danced tango in Bangkok? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

PS This post is coming out very late due to a number of technical fiascoes which may deserve a post of their own. I'm now in Sydney for the next week or so, looking forward to discovering the tango scene here and relaxing after a lot of travelling. Stay tuned for my account of dancing in Darwin in the coming days!

Posted by tangueratravels 02:52 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok tango dancing milonga nightife Comments (0)

Who is the travelling tanguera?

Starting this year, I pledge to pack my tango shoes when I travel and make heading out to experience the local tango scene an integral part of my trip. And then I'll write about how I got on here...

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In some ways, it is easier for me to head out to a milonga by myself when I’m travelling. After all, if I make a fool of myself, I’m most likely not going to see these people again...

In this blog I will write about my experience of attempting to dance tango in the places I travel. I’ll be starting off with a trip where I’m planning to dance in at least 6 different cities over a month: Bangkok, Darwin, Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne and finishing with the Singapore International Tango Festival.

But before I pack my bags, I’d like to start with how I got here.

I love tango, but I don't consider myself to be an advanced dancer and I hope this will encourage others to venture out to a milonga (ie social events where tango is danced) sooner rather than later. So if you've been taking tango classes and have been hesitating about the next step - dancing socially, here is how I got started…


The first milonga: feeling the fear and dancing on to the other side

I danced my first tango in a Greek restaurant in the south of Germany. I was taking classes after seeing Argentine tango at the city festival that year. I'd love to write that I've never looked back and have been dancing ever since. Alas, no.
Although I loved the dance, the music, and the idea of being able to dance tango, I didn’t really make any progress and it would take many, many years (12 to be exact) before I started dancing on a regular basis.

Why did it take so long?

There was always an excuse for stopping. Frustration at the lack of progress. Too busy. No dance partner. Moving and finding my way in a new city (this happened quite a bit during those 12 years).

So what changed?

I found a steady(ish) job in a city with a lively tango scene.

I found incredibly patient teachers here in this place I have called home for the past few years. And for their class I didn’t actually need a dance partner!

And finally ...

I took the plunge and went to a milonga.

This took a fair bit of overcoming taking into account that:

1. I was (and still am) in the early stages of learning – a little over a year since I started dancing regularly

2. I was afraid of making an idiot of myself in public (note how I am blogging anonymously ;-)

3. The tango scene can be, at least from my own experience, a bit of a closed society, which can be a little intimidating for newcomers.

Although on the last point I have learned that it is worthwhile to persevere. Some milongas actively welcome newcomers, while at others I felt like I was gate crashing a private party. I’m lucky enough to live in a city where milongas are organised regularly, but how to take the first step and actually go to a milonga when you’re starting out? Here are a few things which I found helpful:

8 Tips to get you to go (back) to a milonga

1. Read about tango culture so that you know what to expect. This article by Howard Fox provides a good overview and some useful advice for your first milonga. Don’t start going to milongas if you haven’t at least taken a beginners course in tango. I’m not saying you have to be a highly accomplished dancer – I certainly wasn’t and still am not – but you need to master the basics.

2. See if there are any practica organised in your city before you go to a milonga. These are usually more informal than milongas and often guided by a teacher. Kind of an intermediate step between classes and going to a milonga. If you can't find one, try suggesting one to your teachers.

3. Don't go alone to your first milonga. If you don't have a dance partner, see if there is someone in your dance class who might be interested in joining. You could even ask a non dancing friend if they would be interested to join - they can enjoy the music, have a drink and provide some moral support.

4. Check social networking sites like meetup and couchsurfing
for tango groups. There are none in your area? Then do what I did and start your own! This is how I met people outside my dance class and discovered that I'm not the only person who is learning tango and doesn't feel confident about going alone to milongas. You might even get a mixed group of leaders and followers and be able to dance with each other.

5. Go at the start of the event, as more experienced dancers tend to arrive later in the evening.
Check if there are any afternoon milongas at the weekend. These also tend to be less frequented in the early part of the afternoon. I've also noticed that milongas during the summer holidays are also less crowded.

6. You've made the decision to improve and practise your tango so dress the part. Treat yourself to a pair of tango shoes. I know it increased my motivation to no end :-)

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7. Give it a try - get yourself to your nearest milonga, or if you can’t find one or don’t feel comfortable going to your first milonga in your home town, why not give it a try during your next trip? The following website is a good resource for getting an idea of local milongas and practicas around the world.

And most importantly…

8. Don't be discouraged by a negative experience
like someone criticising your dancing or simply the fact that no one asks you to dance the whole evening. Unfortunately some forget that they too were once beginners and feel the need to lecture a newcomer, making them feel that they do not have the right to be on the dance floor until they have reached a certain level. As someone who has on the receiving end of this kind of behaviour during my very first milonga, I can tell you: it gets better and these kind of people are luckily in the minority.

What was your first milonga like? What tips do you have for someone who is starting out? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

TT

Posted by tangueratravels 03:11 Comments (0)

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