It was with anticipation that I set off from London for the icy land of Finland. The renowned Frostbite Tango Festival was about to begin for the fifth year running and at last I was going to be there.
The program looked good from the outset. Not just good. Frankly, it looked outstanding. Each day’s agenda was packed, full to the brim, with beautiful and interesting venues to visit, performances, fashion shows, workshops, milongas during the day, milongas during the night and even then, milongas till dawn. There were clothes and shoe stalls at every venue, with cafes and cosy places to relax with friends ever nearby.
I shivered as I stepped off the plane. Not for the cold Nordic wind but for the expectation of four glorious days of tango. Tango… Tango! Surely this would be an affair to remember…
As the festival unfolded, each day presenting its own adventure in turn, I got to thinking… Ten years experience managing international events like this told me the reality and depth of strategic planning, budgeting and plain hard work, yes, the blood, sweat and tears that must be spent. There are hours of uncounted time and wholehearted effort, by a team of dedicated people, working together behind the scenes, that creates the experience you and I flippantly remember.
But… What makes a good festival? No. What makes a good festival great?
For me, you can spend all the money you like, work all the hours the day gives and plan for every tiny unexpected eventuality. In the end, when the curtains go back and the day presents itself, there are two things that form a yardstick of certainty. Did the experience touch the hearts of all who came and therein, will they return.
The warmth of the Finnish Tango Community’s welcome made this festival great. It was a genuine pleasure to visit Finland. There was always a smile and a guiding hand. I am reminded of those first dances, walking with new found friends through the night to the After Party venues and there, the lovely lady at the kiosk who smiled cheerfully, serving refreshments until the early hours. The ever-present leading hosts, Hernan Ohaco (Learn more) and Kaisa Saarinen, led the way with an energy and enthusiasm few can claim, keeping the spirit of the festival alive to the very last.
The first night brought us all together. There were humourous introductions to all the maestros and a chance to settle in. Hernan and Kaisa gave us the very best welcome with their admirable performance later in the evening.
With a ruddy smile I recall the slippery floor at the After Party each night that presented a challenge to even the best of us. Needless to say, there was little to dissuade the full house of Frostbite revelers. The order of the day was tango till dawn. And tango till dawn it was!
The White Masquerade on Friday was enormously good fun. It was great to see everyone’s enthusiasm in ‘joining in’. The pretty room, in central Helsinki was filled with masked white tangueros. It was a charmed night full of entertainment. A fully stocked bar, fresh water on tap and good service kept my glass moderately happy. This was the case at every venue. There was a fashion show for the elegant designer, Ostrobotnia Salon and finally, a moving performance by the first of the six visiting maestros, Corina Herrera & Pablo Rodriguez.
Saturday night brought with it the Gala Milonga at the historical Vanha Ylioppilastalo (Learn more) Truly this was the night of all nights. When does one ever dance in a place like this?
Magnificent arched windows ran full length, stretching three floors above clothed tables. Lights danced across the expansive floor while the extraordinary Tango Solo Orchestra (Learn More) from Russia filled the hall with all the passion that Tango is. I know I am not alone when I confess that my heart raced to the sounds of the Bandoneon player who made us remember and never forget.
Gathering together on the dancefloor, we watched with delight, the performances of the renowned Magdalena Guttierez & Horacio Godoy and later again, the talented, Noelia Barsi & Javier Rodriguez
There is no festival without the Tango DJ’s whose extensive knowledge of the music we know and love made every chance to dance a pleasure. A great many thanks to Punto y Branca, Victor Ariel Yuryevich, Horacio Godoy, Fernet, Papa Oso, Jenni Valli, La Bruja, Bernt Andreas Drange and last but by no means least, Antti Suniala for keeping the ronda alive with your constant care and personal touch.
We welcomed the spirited fun and prowess of visiting maestro’s Loukas Balokas & Georgia Proiskou who performed a tanda at the cosy and informal Farewell Milonga, Hotel Presidenti. Horacio Godoy’s DJ set on the last night raised a tall glass for the joy of what was to be, last dances.
Significantly, all the maestros danced a fun and informal ‘tanda in ronda’ for the crowd and I find myself returning to this homemade scratchy video the most. Our maestros were amongst us, dancing with us. That too, makes a tango festival really great.
The last tanda had played out and with it came voiced frustrations on the subject of Floorcraft with a capital F. It is true, the ronda was a little intense at the main events. Perhaps this is the case with any excitable crowd of multi-cultural dancers, and for that matter, of any dance genre…? The question I ask myself is not ‘who is responsible’ or, with resignation, ‘is this to be expected’. Rather, how can we each actively contribute towards making it better next year? I welcome the discussions taking place. It assures me that Frostbite lives by the sake of not only its local hosts, but a global community of tango dancers who love this festival and care about it enough to candidly confront the subject and search for a solution.
What do we say?
“Frostbite is an awesome event essentially organised and managed by volunteers of the Finland Tango Community with no pay, just love. The event is hugely popular with their neighbours from St Petersburg, Russia and Estonia, and is beautiful because of the beautiful milonga venues and after party dancing for 4 days till very early mornings” A Frostbite Tanguero
“Some claim that many Finnish may seem somewhat reserved, when they meet (let alone: dance with) strangers. At Frostbite this claim has proven to be pretty wrong. Most locals were instantly kind, friendly and welcoming. Certainly also lovely to dance with and to observe them dancing too” A Frostbite Tanguero
“Frostbite has a friendly and familiar atmosphere I love returning to every year” A Frostbite Tanguero
“It’s my second Frostbite and it was better than the first. I had a lot of fun and I think I will definitely come back next year” A Frostbite Tanguera
“The organisers did a great job at creating a very friendly and warm atmosphere; they helped the tangueros to really enjoy their experience. Would I return? Without hesitation!” A Frostbite Tanguera
“Starved of good dancers in my own city. I go to Frostbite to dance with the best Europe has to offer” A Frostbite Tanguero
SEE NEWS, PHOTOS AND VIDEOS!
TANGO CLUB: FROSTBITE
Hernan? Why Frostbite?
Why all this blood, sweat and tears? Why Helsinki, Finland?
“Because I want to give Finland the possibility to have a close encounter with top maestros and nights of milonga that they are not usually able to have. Because I love Tango and I want the people to have, once a year, the possibility to see something unusual” Hernan Ohaco
Indeed, Frostbite is a great tango festival. Even so, what I walk away with is the memory of the warm embrace from a little Finnish Tango Community who invite the world to come once a year and celebrate tango with them, for all that it is.
I don’t know about you, but… my heart was touched. Yes. I will return.
Published: 3 Mar 2015 @ 23:12
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