By Mira Barakat
July 13, 2018 – The moment has arrived: Tango Con*Fusión’s first performance ever in Europe! After a season of preparation at home in San Anselmo, California; a successful fundraising campaign raising over $24,000 to send all eight company dancers abroad; and a two-and-a-half-hour dress rehearsal at Bebop, the Friday night venue for the Berlin Queer Tango Festival, we enter the dance hall and are greeted with enthusiastic applause from the audience.
The first piece, set to Canaro’s upbeat El Chamuyo, highlights Tango Con*Fusión co-directors Debbie Goodwin and Christy Coté, founding member Pier Voulkos and Carolina Rozensztroch, all four women dressed smartly in 1930’s vintage men’s suits and fedora hats. In this comedic piece, the dancers impersonate the milongueros – traditional male tango dancers from Buenos Aires. In the context of the queer festival, women performing in suits takes on a new light and is received with supportive cheers and laughter by the crowd.
In the second, danced to Trio Garufa’s rendition of the vals Palomita Blanca, Debbie Goodwin is joined by Rose Vierling and Jasmine Worrell, both dressed in elegant black tango dresses. In this mesmerizing choreography, the three dancers interweave between partnering and one dancer soloing and dancing all three together.
Mira Barakat and Mila Salazar, also dressed in black tango dresses, join the others on the floor for the final – Forever Tango’s dramatic version of Derecho Viejo. The four women in suits dance on one side of the hall and the four women in dresses, completed by colorful sparkly shoes, created by Costume Doyenne Pier Voulkos as a tribute to the queer festival, dance in a striking unison on the other side.
The opportunity for all eight of our company members to perform together in front of a crowd of hundreds of dancers who love and support what we do was a tour highlight for all of us. We could not thank our host enough, the generous Astrid Weiske, organizer of the Berlin Queer Tango Festival who invited us to her festival – the impetus for our tour.
During the festival weekend, Tango Con*Fusión also offered four workshops which focused on Trading Places, creative ways to exchange the lead and follow roles while dancing. Tango Con*Fusión has developed 10 signature exchanges, which we teach regularly in classes and workshops (the Trading Places instructional DVD can now be purchased online!)
The participants of the festival were a wonderful group for us to teach, because so many of them already lead and follow and are interested in what we have to offer. We find that teaching lead-follow exchange helps to foster a human connection through the dance, as dancers can communicate regardless of gender and which role or roles they choose to dance.
Sunday afternoon at the end of the festival, we had a company meeting, taking advantage of having all eight dancers in the same place to share our inspirations and hopes for the coming season – and perhaps future tours! It must be mentioned, that our two youngest members were also present – Rose and Mila traveled to Germany with us with their eight-month old daughters! At the end of the meeting we said goodbye to Rose and Isabella, and to Mila and Paloma, who would not be continuing to Barcelona and Sitges.
Monday morning, bags packed, we headed to Berlin Tegel airport ready for the next segment of our tour: Barcelona. We had a performance scheduled that very night at a milonga and a class and performance scheduled for the following night. When we arrived at the gate, we learned that the flight would be approximately two hours late. No problem! Practical planning ensued: we wouldn’t have time to check in at our Airbnb but we’d go straight to the milonga.
After awhile, the flight was further delayed: we might not have time to rehearse at the venue before our performance that night. Again, no problem! We took advantage of the smooth airport floor and ran our pieces next to the gate, humming the music out loud to stay together.
Watch our Airport Rehearsal
As the hours stretched on, it became clear we would not make our gig that night. Eventually, after waiting 10 hours for an ever-later flight, it, too, was cancelled. We were returned, defeated, in buses to pick up our luggage. A flurry of logistical activity followed that night and continued the next morning at our hastily booked hotel, as we worked together to make a new plan. There was no feasible way to get to Barcelona on Tuesday either, and eventually we booked tickets for Wednesday and submitted our claims for reimbursement.
Many hours of hassle, but a good team building exercise! Sadly, we missed both of our gigs in Barcelona – what a disappointment! But the organizers were understanding and assured that they would gladly welcome us next time.
Two days later, we finally arrived in Sitges, a picturesque coastal town 40 minutes south of Barcelona, where we joined the Sitges International Tango Festival. We had decided to attend this festival as the last leg of our tour as an opportunity to rejuvenate and train together as a company. After checking into our apartment, we headed to the first tango gathering on the beach; these were held every day during the festival.
We weren’t quite sure that pivoting on rough sand was our cup of tango, though dancing through the water certainly did feel refreshing!”
Along with the nightly milongas in beautiful outdoor venues, the workshops that we took at the festival were the highlight of this part of the trip. What a treat to take classes together, all leading and following each other. Learning new techniques and sequences was inspiring, and it was a great opportunity to improve as a company. As often happens in tango, some of the technique offered by the teachers was not exactly the same as how we dance or teach ourselves, which offered us a chance to delve deeper and increase our understanding of the dance.
After the Sunday night milonga we packed our bags and headed back to the Barcelona airport. Luckily no more flights were cancelled, and the trip home was uneventful.
We would like to thank our amazing community of supporters who helped make this tour possible – with all of its highlights, mishaps, and growth along the way.