1- 3 February 2019  – the second edition of Zaragoza Tango-Marathon.  www.zaragozatangomaraton.com

My first travel in South Korea was short and I was quite busy with work. I didn’t really have time to wander around and only visited Seoul. The city is huge and even there, I stayed only in one area that my friends recommended – Hongdae. That’s why my first post on tango in Seoul only focused on one district of Seoul – Mapo-gu – where you can find o nada 1 and o nada 2. I had the opportunity to travel back to Korea and I came back to some of the milongas I knew. It was still great and my top 3 milongas in Mapo are Farol, Bulgeum and Alegre.

But this time I decided to give a chance to other milongas and I crossed the river. I explored Gangnam and I had good surprises there. I also traveled to more distant lands and cities. In fact, I will speak about Gangnam in Seoul and 2 other cities, Daejon (middle of the country) and Busan (South coast of the country).

It seems people like to dance in Gangnam because dancers are more open and social. As I don’t speak Korean, I didn’t feel a big difference and the dance experience was similar. Anyway, as in any big city, you find rilvary between the districts.

First, practical things to know if you also intend to explore the tango in Korea. 1/ Seoul is really big and going from one area to the other area will take a little less than 1 hour by metro. Forget about taking a taxi during the day, you will spend hours in the traffic but it will be a good solution to come back during the night. 2/ Going to Daejon by bus takes 2 hours and buses are quite comfortable. It is a good deal. 3/ To travel in Busan, take the KTX, express train, it will take you 2 hours and half to arrive to the beach.

Now, let’s have a look at my favorite milongas after crossing the river Han. I don’t have pictures of the milongas so I will just insert pictures of the super nice food I ate during the tipuri. Tipuri is some kind of after party where dancers are all going to the same restaurant after dancing. Sharing a drink with the dancers is a great moment and even if you don’t understand nothing about the chats, it is a good moment. It is still a tango blog and not a food blog but once again, korean food is great.

Gangnam – Luminoso (el tango on Monday)

Hyun Jung, alias Trees, organizes the milonga “Luminoso” in the studio el tango situated in Gangnam every Monday. This milonga was my first experience in the south part of the city and I really enjoyed the venue, the music and the atmosphere. I came back there every week finding back the good atmosphere and in particular the really good music: one week with DJ Chris Han, a korean DJ living in Australia and the next week DJ Nero from Seoul playing with records.

The venue of this milonga is bigger than the other one I visited before. It is a good point. Even when it is crowded you can breath around the dancefloor. The space is quite big but dancers behaves really good while dancing. A kind reminder of the rules is also placed near the change room. There is always special drink and food at the bar.

If you want to have an idea of the milonga in image, you can watch the video of Jinny about Luminoso at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmAqZUiaog0.

Trees not only organizes Luminoso on Monday but she organizes it also 3 others times in different venues during the week. Yes, 4 milongas per week… She is a serious professional and got the award of best organizer last year (a special interview from Jinny here again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvaJsQx8ZJk).

She is also supported with a super nice team. Frenchy who is always energetic and smiling at the bar (she didn’t speak French with me), Kim who will receive you well as he always try to take care of the guests and G-gun supporting before and after the milonga and also dancing when possible. There are more people in the team but I didn’t really had time to know them well. But when you come back to Luminoso, it is also for the smiling team.

Daejeon – Pong (o nada on Friday)

Jong-Bae, Yunsu and Dorothy take care of the milonga. They are very welcoming. They will be the first to offer you a drink and a tanda to throw you in the milonga. They give their good energy to the milonga and you can feel they want to offer a perfect night. When they don’t organize Pong milonga, you have big chances to meet them in Seoul or Busan.

Daejeon is a crossroad in South Korea and the good place to meet dancers from all the cities of the country (Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon….). Once per month is organized Pong milonga on Friday and little groups of dancers are coming from different cities. At the beginning, each group takes a table, forming like city tables, but quickly they dance all together and mix to chat and share drinks.

The milonga venue is not so big but if you danced before in Seoul, you will not be surprised. The dance level is high but not competitive. The dancers travelling are doing it often, sometimes every week to various cities. They are well received and they bring a home feeling without being at home. It is very interesting as it is not always usual.

Just a little of history: Pong milonga takes place in “o nada”. If “o nada” reminds you something in Seoul, you should know that Daejeon didn’t copy Seoul. In fact, Daejeon was the first city with tango in South Korea with the creation of “o nada”. Later the owner of “o nada – Daejeon ” moved to Seoul and opened new tango places in the capital city.

Daejeon is a city with nice meat restaurants and the place to try the beef sashimi. Someone also told me that the main reason dancers are gathering in the city is the food, and not the tango. I think people come for both. Daejeon dancers dance, eat and drink a lot. Anyway, afterparty in Daejeon is something you will not forget.

Busan – Tango mio (studio with various milongas)

Busan has a tango marathon but the city also have a lot of milongas. Almost everyday if you include practice.  All the milongas are localized in Seomyeon, a super active district who live all night long. It fits well with tango. I visited 4 different milongas with 3 taking place in the studio Tango mio. Each milonga was different from a friendly and calm one on Friday to an animated one on Saturday. I also experienced the over crowded birthday milonga which is the rule for a great birthday party.

In any case, I had good feelings in all these milongas and I met a lot of dancers. And it was not only meeting the dancers to dance but also to know them a little better and chat. Busan gives this feeling of non capital city where people are less distant and more interested. Atmosphere is just more relaxed.

Venue and milonga are very similar with Seoul. Venue with good floor, air condition, changing room, etc. Every milonga with a free buffet and water. Just remember, alcohol can’t be sold and you have to bring your own. That’s why you will always see the dancers with beers can. Most of the DJ I heard where guest DJ from Seoul but the reason must be I visited the milongas during the week end.

Of course, on the pictures, you recognized fish sashimi. Busan has a lot of fish restaurant and you can’t miss the fresh sea food if you visit the city

If you want to discover more about the milongas in Korea, I invite you to visit the page of Jinny tv. You will find a lot of videos about the milongas there https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCXqR7enHJ8xnhualNh_Ug.

Get some ideas of what is happening at the Taboe Tango camp.

In 2016, 2 couples offered a nice event called “Las Perseidas”, a first and unique edition. In 2017, both couples came back with their personal events, Anna and Piotr revising the previous event with “Entre amigos” and Magda and Michal creating the “Sueno de Varsovia”. Here comes the famous question I heard several times “so, who is the winner ?”. And the winner is… me. Yes, me and the other dancers who got the chance to participate to both events and to get a double dose of polish marathons.

If you don’t know “Entre amigos”, you can check my previous comments on “Las perseidas”. The event was quite similar with new participants constituting a more close friends group. If you want to learn about “Sueno de Varsovia”, just continue to read this post and discover how from a seed in the mind of the organizers, we got a blooming flower before the summer ends.

Sometimes, we dance in palace or majestic buildings, sometimes in historic monuments, or it also happens we dance in forbidden places. With “Sueno de Varsovia” we didn’t dance in any kind of these settings. We danced in a romantic atmosphere entirely created from the organisators ideas by the creativity of  the “girl with flowers”, Izabela Kowalczyk. And I have to say, you can dance everywhere you want, it is nothing compared to a magical venue like this one. From scratch, the magic came mainly from the flowers all around the dancefloor. The whole room was a floral composition giving you the sadness of the sun disappearing while the autumn arrives, but also the hope that colors and glows will last a little bit more, until the end of your tanda.

Dancing in “Sueno” was the possibility to share your dreams and dance with them. After the registration, Magda collected the private wishes that will be projected anonymously on a wall all along the event. Until Sunday evening, I didn’t see mine. Until this moment, I was quite sceptical about the dream wall but also interested with all the serious, intimous or funny dreams. However, when my dream arrived at the same moment I was dancing with my Love, I understood the fabulous effect it can create. Today, I still wonder if there was someone hidden with instructions on each participants to select the best moment to put a dream on the wall or if it was just by chance. Let’s stay in a world of dreams and think there was a fairy somewhere.

Now, let’s be more practical and see if you’re getting your money’s worth. For this, I will let my guest “Cookie Monster” give her opinion on the event:

My first impression at the venue was a warm welcoming at the entrance, Magda and Michal were welcoming each single guest. They were calm, smiling and ready for their guests, like real hosts. That gives a very nice feeling, I felt like home.

Then the bracelet – the most original and extraodrinary souvenir ever. I wanted to take more than one, each of them had a different flower or a plant inside, all handmade, real masterpieces. It took me a while to choose my favourite.

Then the welcoming warming up drink, 4 or 5 different tastes to try, each one strong and delicious.

The venue. From an enormous space of the exhibition hall they made a cosy multipurpose space.

a wall from a glass covered with a curtain of fresh summer flowers, sunflowers,
colourful lights everywhere else,
comfortable spots with tables and chairs – to eat, talk, watch dancing couples,
a corner with food and drinks,
a darker corner with a DJ, dancers’ dreams and deckchairs with blankets to relax or to take a nap,
a good sound system and a nice dance floor…

This first impression stayed with me till the end of the marathon.

From a practical point of view:

with the food provided I didn’t have to leave the venue and I wasn’t hungry, there was enough food for everybody and it was very tasty!
coffee machine available for free to prepare a proper espresso – that doesn’t happen often at the marathons to get a good coffee included (congratulations for the genius idea),
a glass of a good wine (red and white) served during the night time (grateful for this idea also),
it was clean, everything was in order, in a very elegant way, I felt well served,
there was a big cloakroom and a place to change shoes,
the toilets were very well-equipped, you could find there everything that you could have imagined to be necessary during marathon, even a hairdryer which was a multipurpose tool 😉

Back to the initial review.

From the dance point of view, “Sueno” could get the award of the best navigation of the year 2017. I remember just one soft contact with a dancer which finished with a respectful salutation. The good navigation is maybe related to the good level of dance or the space offered (but space can also creates chaos). The dance floor was big enough to give space to everyone and you could notice lines on the floor. You can think “it is to help leaders with the ronda” but the lines were just the bonds between the parts of the built floor. A nice floor by the way. There was the classical downtime during the event (before/after dinner) and some tables could be difficult to approach for the newcomers in an event with a good mix of countries but where East countries took an important place (Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Baltic…). On this last comment, it is maybe my personal feeling as I recognized more people from  the East.

The DJ selection proposed several of my favorites DJ with differences of identities for a nice cocktail. To complain, I could say it was a selection with no risk taking. Nice set so from Alexandra Kotelnitskaya, Ewa Zbrzeska, Ines Tabajara and Olga Agapova. I stayed during the sets of Jenni Valli and Daniel Rossi who got the evenings but as I really like their completely different styles, it was a must. Too bad few dancers stayed at this time and preferred to go to rest.

For the afterparty beginning on midnight, I was surprised so many participants came back for Marcin Blazejewski (great music also). But a lot of people planned to leave the city on Monday and not at the end of Sunday as it happens most of the time. “Sueno de Varsovia” is a marathon which offer you the possibility to have good moments from the beginning until the end.

Thank you Tatyana (Matveyeva) for sharing your pictures and the atmosphere of the event.

The Big Pop Tango Marathon 2017 (11th – 13th August) was the first edition of the marathon of John, Stephanie, Paris, Helen and Andrea. Maybe you already met them somewhere in Europe as dancers or DJs. They are not newcomers. It was in fact a surprise that they waited so long before organizing something. I think it is just because they wanted to be sure to offer something nice.

There are so many options to travel during summer that it can be strange to choose Manchester in place of the sea and the South. I was appealed by the insurance of a good organisation and by the promotion which had a style all of her own. When you see the details, you can already guess organizers are fully involved. Even in this situation, it was a surprise to feel a wonderful armosphere, even better than expected. Speaking with friends after the event, we all had the feeling that we received more than what was on the paper.

Big pop marathon takes place in Manchester but not exactly in the city center. The marathon is organized in the suburb, in Altrincham. This city is not far from the airport and has everything of the little british town with a little center with bars, restaurants and fish and chips and long streets with typical houses and gardens (as you can imagine in UK). In August, it was a good moment to wander in the streets. Not so far, I was really pleased to visit Dunham massey hall, a parc with a castle and a lot of dears. But let’s come back to the tango.

One special characteristic of the event – there was two venues, a wedding house for day and evening milongas, and the ballroom of a football club for the night milongas. English rules explain this situation as most of the places have to close after midnight (same rule as for the pubs). The wedding house offer a big dancefloor and a lot of space to relax, have a snack, drink, etc. The place was nice and relaxing with polo players in the garden. The organizers took care of the air and talk powder as it was getting warm really fast. The night place was smaller and simpler but with a long bar and space all around to sit with tables. In fact, I found the dancefloor better in this second place. The two places were located in the same area so it was not too hard to leave one to join the other. For the accomodation, the best option is to select your hotel just between both, so you just have 10 minutes walking to each places.

The best point of the event was the participant selection. The mix of well knowns and open unknows created a good vibration. Dancers came from all around Europe and I think it was not so easy to attract dancers in a non-capital city. The other international event I went in UK was mainly composed of dancers from UK. In this configuration, you feel quickly the group of dancers by cities or closed friendship. In Manchester, you could clearly see the support of the community with a number of friends and also organizers. I recognized several groups of dancers that usually bring a positive energy to an event. There was also people from UK and the biggest group was of course from London. Usually, Manchester dancers are travelling to London but this time, it was the turn of London’s dancers to travel to Manchester. Just between ourselves, I heard a lot of bad comments about London’s dancers before the event and I didn’t understand why after meeting directly these dancers in Manchester.

You will not be surprise if I tell you the bad point of the event was the food during the days and the evenings. “Yeah, French people speaking about food in UK, what a surprise…”. The catering was organized by the wedding house and it was not tasty at all. The worse was the staff, unpleasant and stubborn. Before the end of the event, the organizers were already considering to change for a restaurant near by in case they decide to go for a next edition. But note, there was also food at night, a home-made buffet. And this one was pretty good. People arriving for the night milonga were pleased to have extra food to fill up the bellies before dancing until dawn.

I had only good mood with the music but I didn’t expect less from John is a DJ and will really take care of the music. Arriving late on Friday night, I skipped the first milongas and missed Juliana Thutlwa music. A lost opportunity for the music but it seems I escaped the first part of the marathon where people are all gathering and still trying to fit in the event. Sets of Jens Dörr and Mary Meriu Wu were the best (I would say it was nice to listen again to Jens but it was even nicer to discover Mary), also with the banana duo of Dark Oh and John at night. Night milongas ended too early. There was still quite a good number of dancers when they had to close on Saturday. I skipped also Benedicte as I decided to rest but I listen to her selection frequently in Bruxelles. The afternoon with La Ros offers nice tandas but with an end I really dislike (overspeed and strange music). She gave me at this moment an emotional rollercoaster and in place of finishing the marathon in the best way, I just sat. I was really sad after a good Sunday afternoon.

When I read back the text, I think I described the variety of emotions that offered the Big PoP. The review is sometimes sharp but just because the Big Pop 2017 was one of the best first edition of a marathon. I forgot to speak about the team who did a great job all over the event. From the welcoming moment to the end, they were present and supporting.

Thanks to Jonathan Penny and Irina Zoueva for the pictures. You can find the full albums here:

Part 1 – https://www.facebook.com/irina.zoueva/media_set?set=a.10155178125708171.1073741915.598048170&type=3

Part 2 – https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.penny.351/media_set?set=a.1526410370757440.1073741892.100001654746409&type=3

Part 3 – https://www.facebook.com/irina.zoueva/media_set?set=a.10155192129263171.1073741916.598048170&type=3

Before I had the chance to visit Seoul, I heard only good comments about the tango there. My friends travellers told me “Local milongas are nice”, “Guys are dancing so well… I am in love” or even “Seoul is the Buenos Aires of Asia”. It is always hard to know if people are giving you this feedback because they are just coming from a nice trip and it is also hard to guess if I would enjoy the experience in the same way. However one week in Seoul made my mind.

 

Just to be clear, I didn’t visit all the milongas of the city. I stayed in Hongkik University area where you can find everyday a milonga in two different spaces (o nada 1 and o nada 2). If the venues remain the same, different organizers take care of the milonga every day. I danced in 2 different spaces but in 5 different milongas. You can also milongas in other part of the city every day but my agenda didn’t let me time to discover more.

 

If I had to describe the tango in Seoul in one sentence, I could say it is delicious like a red bean Doughnut. The fundamental rules are respected for the best and the addition of the local flavour make it even better. Mixing tastes from two completely different part of the world give at the end one of the best combination possible. The good part of the tango is you can abuse of the tandas without getting fat…

 

“Local milongas are nice” – Yes.

 

The milongas I visited all take place in the basement of the buildings, hidden underground as the karoake clubs and some bars. You only hear the music when you arrive close to the door downstairs. Venues are not really big but you find all you need: changing room for women, wardrobe, toilets, a good wooden floor and places to sit on little tables all around the dancefloor… Even in this small spaces, at least 4 speakers surrounds the room and give a good quality of sound. You always get a free ticket for drink and water is free. You have sometimes some extra food. I would say everything is good for the material aspect of the milonga.

 

There are more men than women in most of the milongas (just one milonga with more women). People are mixing and dance one tanda then change. Cabeceu is quite easy. You see quickly if someone want to dance the tanda or not. You can see in the milonga that people are super connected with a bunch of smartphone on the tables. If women are on their phones, you can skip. If they are not, it is already an invitation. As venues are not huge, you can also easily invite from one side of the room to the other side. All these elements give a good energy to the milonga. If you add good DJ – yes, never had to complain at the music during the week – and good embraces, it is perfect. About the DJ, I heard people complain quickly when they don’t like the music… With all this, you are in good conditions to have a good milonga.

 

Every milonga, dancers came to me to speak and welcome me. I can’t tell if it is because I was clearly a foreigner or if they cheers all the newcomers. Anyway, it is a nice habit and it is the moment you can discover names you would never put on Koreans – Juan, Hasard, Tino… This little extra makes the milonga even more welcoming and nice to spend the night.

 

“Guys are dancing so well” – Yes.

 

I can’t speak about embraces of men as I can do it with the women. However, there is two points that make me think my friend is right when she is speaking about dancers of Seoul – musicality and navigation. When I was not dancing, I was really pleased to watch men dancing. This observation concerns not only a sample of the dancers in the milonga but the majority. They don’t try to overdo or show off, they just share the song with the partner. It is really nice to be able to connect what I see with what I hear. Another important point is the respect of the ronda and the other dancers. If I take out 2 hours of a milonga overcrowded with soft contact because of the space, I can count on my hand how many times I had contact with other couples. As the ronda is well respected, it is really easy to relax and just focus on your partner and the music. I found in local milonga this feeling I have in marathon when people move all together and have the same flow.

 

“Seoul is the Buenos Aires of Asia” – Maybe.

 

From the tango point of view, I have really no idea. I also don’t know other cities in Asia to make the comparison. I am just sure that passion for tango is in the city. Seoul offers also some extra as Buenos Aires. The first one coming to my mind is the possibility to get some food or drink after the milonga. All around you can find a 24h kimchi or soup restaurant. The second one will be the travellers arriving for the week end. Dancers travel from other cities and from Japan during the week end to join Seoul milongas.

 

Legend: In the milonga, men and women are dressing well as a french expresso. It is very similar to Poland or Russia on this point.

 

Now, my own comment on Seoul “Women are good dancers”. I can’t count the number of good first dances I had in one week. Ok, all my dances were first dances but anyway… I found what I really like in tango, the connection with the partner and the connection with the music. If you are really interesred with more details, you can ask me directly. For my best experience, “Bulgeum” (“Thanks god it is Friday” in Korean) was the warmest milonga (the good solution to spend a really good Friday night, welcoming, good atmosphere, dance, birthdays…) and for the best dance experience (taking into consideration the music and the flow of tandas), it was “Farol”.

 

We never know if the first impression is the real one. Now I am just waiting for another trip to check if everything was real.

Last September, I decided to have a little trip to Romania to participate to the birthday party of the school “tango timisoara”. The travel was quite an adventure as I didn’t book the best option to flight. Even with hours of travel, it was worth it. First time in this event, first time in this country, I barely knew 5 people. However it was surprisingly easy to get in the mood. The other day I was writing about tango8 where I go regularly and the feeling to be at home. Even if I was for the first time in Timisoara, I had the same feeling.

 

First, for those who know nothing about Timisoara, like me few months before the events, Timisoara is a little city at the crossing of the Romanian, Serbian and Hungarian border. To reach the city, you can flight to Bucarest then Timisoara or flight to Budapest then take a shuttle. I took this option after leaving my work on Friday and that’s why I arrived late for the beginning of the marathon. It is a nice city. The centre at 10 minutes walking from the event is full of old squares and buildings which allow a nice walk around during the day. If you wait for the night, numerous ravens gather to stand on the top of a building near the cathedral.

 

Anivertango takes place in a bar called Ambasada mixing factory and art place styles. Ambasada offers good coffees and has a little garden which was the perfect place to take the brunch and chill out. With the nice weather and temperatures around 25 degrees, you could spend all your weekend under the shadows of the tree chatting and listening to the music. In case you want to dance, you can go to the first floor of the building where is the dancefloor, with air conditioning and big windows to let the sun enter. The venue doesn’t give you the impression to be here for a marathon. You have more a holiday feeling which is quite nice and really convenient to get in touch with people.

 

Only girls composed the DJ team with Naoko, Karolina Tkaczuk, Vera Tinkova, Anca Madroane, Monica Șuteu and Gabriela Manea. I already heard everybody except Vera which was a discovery. From what I heard I would say a marathon 100% women DJ can easily be a success. Arriving super late on Friday, I missed Naoko and Karolina. Vera, Anca and Monica had good sets on Saturday with a good balance of style. Gabriela played on Sunday with an interruption of 20-30 minutes with an unexpected storm crushing trees and everything standing outside. She didn’t play hurricane maybe to avoid to annoyed more the divinities. But the song would have been perfect for the moment. I forgot, in fact, there was a guy, José Almar, playing for the afterparty in a very dynamic style.

 

I never travelled to Romania so I got the role of the stranger in the middle of groups of friends. A lot of confirmed dancers came from Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and several cities of Romania speaking languages I don’t understand. I like to hear incomprehensible discussions (but don’t worry people speak English…). Anyway, I danced a lot. There was maybe around 150 participants. Cabeceu was easy in the room due to the reasonable size and people receptive. The navigation was pretty good and it was a good surprise. Finally, I was also surprised to have nice tandas with local people and a last dance with a beginner from Timisoara. I am convinced they have good teachers there.

 

If I could gave an award for the best homemade food, I will give it this year to Victor Popescu for his brunch, his selection of products and his spicy sauce. The food was mainly inspired by Italy with delicious cheeses and vegetables. Everything fresh and tasty. I don’t know if it is usual in Romania but you have there a chef to discover. Sorana Greucean completed the buffet all kind of sweets.

 

A little detail, the food come in addition of the marathon fee. The whole package marathon + food (brunch/dinner/food all over the event) costed 90€ which is a quite reasonable price if you compare the quality/quantity of the food with other marathon today.
Thanks to Maria Tirtea / Momentango for the pictures. A lot of pics of nice food and tasty embraces are missing. You can find the full album at the following link : https://www.facebook.com/pg/MomentTango/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2023065674579083