Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Portland Valentango 2008

Another amazing tango festival, many of you have heard me rave. So here's the unfolding of events:

It started, essentially, by having one of THE most stressful days at work ever after reviewing the worst planset I've ever seen in my career, which was about to be finalized and stamped. After sorting all of that out I blasted off at 3pm in a total rush to catch the 4:20 flight to Seattle. Get on the plane hoping dearly that it would be on time so I could sneak onto the 9pm flight to Portland, rather than waiting for my scheduled 11pm flight. The plane did indeed land in time, and I barely make the 9pm flight, landing in Portland at 9:30, over 2 hours ahead of schedule and stoked that I get 2 more hours of dancing in. Blasted off with the rental car to the milonga completely stoked, albeit without having eaten anything for dinner.

At the milonga, I began the fun process of saying hello to tango friends I haven't seen in a long time and found a partner to warm up with. Oof, definitely rusty, but that's what the first night of a festival is all about. Danced until 2am to mediocre music on a poor sound system, but still had a good time.

Friday I woke up pretty late, ran some Portland errands, met some friends, talked and finally arranged to have dinner with J, Felipe & Dave, and told J he blew it 'cause all the women backed out of the invitation at the last minute. So we drive to SW Portland to this upscale italian restaurant, and I found out Michael worked in the wine industry for 12 years. That meant I was drinking on this night, a rare event. He selected a $35 bottle of excellent red wine and we proceed to get so carried away and loud talking about tango that I thought we would get booted from the restaurant - it was hilarious! Then we blasted off to the Friday milonga, stoked that my friend Shorey was DJing.

The milonga rocked and I was feeling much better than Thursday night. Had my best set ever with Caroline and danced with a lot of favorite tango friends. There were over 540 people in attendance that night and the room was packed like sardines, but it didn't phase me. It was a great night and I left higher than a kite. As usual, at every festival there's a surprise connection and here it was with Mila from San Diego who I barely know. Funny moment: At one point I ended the song by placing the last step such that it put her perfectly in a corner of the room, just barely missing the walls on both sides, a mischievious trick I like to play because when they open their eyes they usually freak from being so close to the walls. Not so with Mila, she just opened her eyes, glanced around, looked at me, and didn't even flinch at all. But another friend Jenna didn't recognize me and thought some jerk was taking advantage of a woman in the corner and she came after me....of course she was shocked when she realized it was harmless mischief but it was cute how concerned she was!

Saturday I don't recall much, it is kind of a blur but I had a good time at the Grand Ball, then we went to eat after midnight with a fun group of friends, then to the late night milonga which was in a poor location that I hate. Once again Mila proved to be a stable, enjoyable partner amongst the storm of high expectations and low results due to poor navigation and a worthless venue.

So after dancing until 6am and getting to bed around 7:30am, I got up around 2pm to get ready to DJ my gig at 4pm. I ate quickly, gabbed with my hosts Gene & Laurel plus their other visitors, worked on my music a bit, and blasted off to do the sound check. I had already communicated my specifications to the sound engineer miltiple times and was confident I'd have what I wanted for a sound system, a huge relief after all the poor sound at the other milongas. When I arrived and started the sound check, something wasn't quite right so I paced the room stone-faced while friends tried in vane to get my attention - for me, this is serious business. Finally I decided the bottom end was too fat on one side and sure enough, the EQ was up 12db at 25 hz on one channel, a real oversight. With that corrected and a few other minor tweaks the system sounded great. With full confidence in the sound I proceeded to put on a very good show that made everyone happy. Here's what it looked like:

Once the work was over we went for Vietnamese food (a fond tradition with my core tango friends), then the normal evening milonga. Here is where the magic started to happen. I was on big time and had some amazing dances, really feeling the floor and connecting deeply with each partner, including some that have been challenging to dance with in the past and some who I've never danced with before (Agape, Ciela, Carol...). Then we walked across the street to the late-nite milonga at Imago Theatre, which was amazing - the best venue ever, with awesome lighting, a chill laid-back seating arrangement, great floor, and a superb sound system. I walked in the door to the sound of my favorite orchestra (Di Sarli's 50's instrumentals), and there was Veronique, putting on her shoes, looking at me as I walked in. I couldn't get my shoes on fast enough and we danced several awesome sets totally dialed in. I was in heaven. Felipe kept commenting with his wild-eyed look, "Dan is having a blast tonight!" The night just went on and on like that - the crowds had thinned out so that a high concentration of incredibly talented hard-core dancers (guys and gals both) were there putting on quite a show. The atmosphere was really upbeat and relaxed. Somewhere towards the end I finally got a milonga set with Mila and once again we danced several sets which totally rocked. Then FINALLY I danced with Shorey for the final set and a half or so and one of the most amazing nights of dancing for me finished up at 6am again. We were all too wound up and hungry to sleep so we went to breakfast at 7am and I got to bed at 8:30am. Whew!

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