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I am in recovery from the NeoTangoRave 2019, the ninth year (my fifth) of “no-budget audio-visual neotango marathon” organized by Volker Marschhausen, “Tanguerilla”, in Bremen DE. In recovery not from the usual causes of sore feet and lack of sleep, but because the experience is so precious that every year it’s harder to let it slip through my toes. Not because of the music. Saturday afternoon … My partner freezes and I feel him move his head. I look up too. There’s a foot flying through the air. We both smile and watch, he moves us to be sure the foot has space to complete its arc. This is a place where the response to lane changes and the intersections of couples is smiling, and inviting. Wordlessly, we tell each other:

PLEASE, express yourself!

… Do you need more space?

I wrote about this aspect of the NTR when I first realized it a few years ago, in post I called “No Crash Trance“.

• • •

This year I observed something else. 2019 seems to be my personal Year of the Organizer, meaning the year –or the first year– of giving due praise and gratitude to tango organizers like Volker and his team. As I’ve started to say, Argentines did not get tango out of Buenos Aires. They did not build communities and events so we can all go dancing anytime we want Everywhere. And most of the people who did that work did not get paid. Even when organizers do get paid, most of their hours are unbilled and uncounted. Organizers are not celebrated as Champions. But they should be. Their vision, commitment, risk, and labor is why we have a global tango community and diverse delicious events in which to meet and get lost together.

• • •

In 2018, I stayed to the end of end of the Neo Tango Rave, and I saw something beautiful … The dismantling of the “screens”, the cloth panels which had embraced us with color and light. I was so moved by the beauty of this moment, that I dove into it.

This year, I decided I wanted to participate in the dismantling. And take more photos. So I took the camera to the floor among the projectors’ suitcases and the ladders and waited for the fabric to fall.

When it did, I picked up an edge. And a woman I didn’t know picked up another edge. And we backed away from one another. We didn’t speak, and it was too far. We felt the fabric become taut. We searched for the corners. We folded. We turned and folded again. She led the direction of turn. And again. We shook the wrinkles out. Then we walked toward one another, reached up to match the ends together. I backed away, my arms sliding down the long loop, stabilizing the many slippery folds until I found the inside edge, then returning to her waiting arms.

We didn’t need to speak. We of so many languages and cultures had done this ritual for longer than we had danced, with our mothers and grandmothers and every lover we’d ever touched. A ritual as deeply connecting as any embrace, and any dance we will ever do.

When I picked up my edge of the third panel, a man came. He had refused my mirada, but he danced with me the folding. We did it like tangueros, full of dignity and attention.

Waiting for the largest screen to fall, I wondered at how effectively everyone worked, untrained volunteers. At the base of every ladder a dancer stood guard of an unknown beloved. Others ordered an avalanche of clamps and electrical cables released from the rigging. The soundtrack to our folding and winding was the birdsong of the kitchen crew washing all the teacups.

We tucked the precious white fabric into long black bags whose shape evoked a solemnity, an endingness. I could not have been the one to zip those bags. I stood back.

The 10 HD projectors and their fibre optic cables were packed into a battery of red suitcases.

A handsome man wearing an elegant vest swept the floor. I thought “Now THAT is a tanguero.”

Because whatever tango was when it emerged 100 years ago, and whatever it has meant and means in Buenos Aires, for most of us, tango is about community. And it is not constituted of songs or steps, but of generosity of spirit which makes us feel at home and sustains us through the emotions of life.

This event makes visible what is real about the global tango scene, stripped of egos and elitisms who in this dark room have nowhere to show themselves.

It is a space opened and closed and sustained by a community. It is a space in which everyone dazzles when the VJs’ lights play on their bodies. It is a time when we expand our skills as the DJs’ waves simultaneously inspire and demand more of us. It is a space where we stay together through heartbreaks and redemption, ever-deepening our reverence and wonder for this form, for one another, and for our own unfolding artistry.

Thank you, once again to Volker and Team NTR 2019.

Photos Tanguerilla and TangoForge

If you want to participate in the NeoTangoRave 2020, be aware that registration fills promptly in the first hour of availability so you must take careful note of the registration dates (January/February for the June 2020 rave) and process. Dated and details are announced in the fb group and on the website.

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