Three is the magic number

Clubbing – Three is the magic number

‘I always take three pairs of shoes and three dresses’

 Suffering from the winter blues? For many, Argentine tango seems to be the perfect remedy, reports Colin van Heezik.

 To many, a ‘three minute romance’ might sound like woeful underperformance. But to tango-lovers, the phrase is redolent of classic songs by the likes of Juan D’Arienzo (‘El Rey del Compas’) or Carlos Di Sarli (‘El Señor del Tango’). And it’s not just wizened old coffin-dodgers who dance to the sounds of the bandoneón; the youngsters like a twirl too.  From 26 to 30 December, Amsterdam will be full of youthful ‘Tangueros’ for the twelfth international tango festival, Tangomagia. And regardless of your nationality, the only language you need to know is the Argentine national dance.

‘You can communicate immediately and even share a feeling. That’s the magic of tango,’ says Marijke de Vries, director of Tangomagia. ‘It’s a very international community. Tangueros are like nomads who travel from festival to festival. In July, for instance, they meet on a beach in Spain during the Sitges festival. In December, the same people come to Amsterdam.’

Tangomagia is one of the world’s biggest tango festivals, each year selling around 5,000 tickets. During the five days of the festival, attendees (amateurs, semi-professionals and maestros) will dance in fancy locations such as Hotel Arena or Stadsschouwburg. They’ll do a workshop in the morning, practice during the afternoon, then dress up for the nightly dance, the ‘milonga’, which starts around ten in the evening and goes on until four in the morning. After that, most of them will move on to the after party at the local Academia de Tango near Leidseplein, and continue to dance until seven ’o clock.

‘Tangomagia is a little crazy,’ Inge Boemer, a ‘tanguera’ from Amsterdam admits. ‘You dance day and night, you just can’t stop. I always take three pairs of shoes and three dresses, because you sweat and your feet start to hurt. I also take lots of deodorant, patches and foot cream. When I dance, I don’t feel the pain in my feet. But after the festival I need a week to recover. It is exhausting, but great.’

A typical festival night includes shows by the best dancers from across Argentina and a performance by an ensemble from Buenos Aires. De Vries always tries to do something new. ‘This year we invited Electrico Ardor,’ De Vries says. ‘It’s a very creative tango fusion orchestra, coming to Europe for the first time. They will play in the Rabozaal on 27 December. Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes, a world-renowned duo, will dance that night. I expect it to be the highlight of the festival.’

Tangomagia may seem like an event for the real aficionados, but it’s also very welcoming to beginners, with workshops for dancers who have yet to find their perfect stride. And if you do feel a bit clumsy on the dance floor, relax, watch the maestros and listen to the music. Then decide if you’re ready to sacrifice your sleep, your money and your feet for the magic of tango. Either way, enjoy some three minute romances.

Tangomagia 2009, Twelfth International Tango Festival Amsterdam, (tangomagia.com/675 1440), 26-30 December, various locations, prices vary.

Several dance schools in Amsterdam offer tango classes for the uninitiated.

Academia de Tango Studio Korte Leidse, Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 12 (775 4957/academiadetango.nl)
Tango Argentino Amsterdam Plantage Salon, Plantage Muidergracht 155 (695 5448/tangoalma.nl)

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