Two years ago, when Fabian Salas first talked to me about a tango congress in Buenos Aires ("BA"), it made all the sense in the world. Congresses were being held all over the world; BA, as the birthplace of tango, should certainly have one too - it was long overdue. But it seemed a daunting task because it HAD to be done RIGHT, or else! Well, I'm here to say that Fabian and Gustavo Naveira, the organizers of CosmoTango, did a most excellent job of presenting the first of many BA tango weeks.
In early-'98, I heard from Fabian that it was a GO. Shortly thereafter, Vadim in Maryland posted a most attractive and informative web site, and he was always very responsive to inquiries and helpful with information. Personally, I believe his behind-the-scenes contribution was invaluable to the success of the congress. He continued to work even during the week itself! Thank you, Vadim.
Right! Now I'm in BA and registering at Club Espanol on Bernardo Irigoyen. Club Espanol is a breathtaking landmark building from before the turn of the century, if my estimation is correct. It is made of pink marble, wrought iron and lovely woods throughout. The marble is ornately carved with lovely figures and has a living flesh tone to it. If only it could speak - so many hands have caressed it over the ages. I added my prints to it too and took lovely pictures for my scrapbook. Beautiful statues, paintings and murals adorn the halls and rooms; ornate chandeliers, gilt touches throughout and golden elevator cages complete the scenario. There are three huge "salons" where many of the classes and all of the milongas were held. Luckily for me, it was around the corner from my hotel, the ever-popular Hotel Uruguay. The Club also has a restaurant and bar which serves the most generous drinks I've ever seen. I asked for a shot of vodka and got a tumbler glass full of the stuff - it outlasted me!
A staff of pretty, English-speaking girls calmly and competently register attendees and provide excellent assistance all week. Professional and very attractive color brochures (with terrific photos), schedules, laminated registration cards/passes are distributed. In addition, t-shirts, shoulder and shoe bags, pins, key chains and posters, all with the handsome logo, are being sold. The artist of the poster art (and a terrific dancer), Guillermo Alio, is on-site all week with an exhibition of his work.
The only other location (there were six) I had classes at was Centro Region Leonesa, another turn-of-the-century building with beautiful interiors, a very large, wood floor to accommodate hundreds. This site also houses the Nino Bien milonga, which is always jam-packed. Other locations included Salon Augusteo, Club Belgrano, La Casa de San Telmo and Galeria del Tango Argentino. All but one were centrally located and so it was easy enough to get from one class to another if an attendee had not scheduled all of one day's classes in one location, as I did.
Four 1.5-hour classes in six categories were held in each location every day with a half-hour in between classes; classes went from 1:00 to 8:30 p.m. and interpreters were provided Thus, one had choices of 24 classes each day, each of which was limited to 40 people, so a total of 240 people was the limit. However, some of the more popular classes had 70-80 folks in attendance, so there were more than 240 people who attended the congress and certainly even more than that at the milongas. Fortunately, the very large salons were able to accommodate them all. Twenty-six top-rank teachers instructed: Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas, Omar Vega, Pupy Castello, Olga Besio, Cecilia Gonzalez, Graciela Gonzalez, Giselle Anne, Osvaldo Zotto & Lorena Ermocida, Nito & Elba, Guillermina & Roberto Reis, Carlos & Alicia, Chicho & Claudia, Julio Balmaceda & Corina, Rodolfo & Maria Cieri, Facundo & Kely, Tete & Silvia. I noticed a couple of teachers feeling frustration in their "advanced" class because most of the students were not actually advanced. However, classes went very well with some instructors allowing filming during class. All presented, and allowed filming of, an exhibition at the end of class in review of the material taught. To their credit, everyone was scrupulously on time in beginning and ending the classes. Thursday was an off day - Thank God! Our feet were hot and swollen, what with classes all day and milongas 'til 6:00 a.m., but everyone was full of excitement, and the atmosphere was palpably expectant.
We were not disappointed in any respect. Not only were the classes excellent, but the milongas offered exhibitions by local teachers AND live music. In particular, Los Reyes del Tango, after playing at opening night to a great ovation, were asked to play the balance of the week, to our extreme delight - what a great orchestra! Break music offered salsa, swing (which is very popular) and even a couple of foxtrots! The bar served giant drinks and a few food choices. Two big shows also thrilled us - one at the Pablo Picasso Theatre where four couples performed over and over to standing ovations. Then, the coup de grace, the legendary Sexteto Mayor not only played but also entertained us with amusing anecdotes - a piece of history! A grand show on the final night of the congress featured the remaining teachers in exhibiting their skill and prowess. Wow, what a week!!
It was also gratifying that many local folks attended classes and/or milongas and to have the congress and our presence acknowledged at local milongas. The event was also covered by the press; the organizers thought of everything.
Most attendees were Americans with a healthy representation of Europeans and people from Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Japan, etc. The staff and crew were all very professional and friendly; planning and organization were top-notch; an Evaluation Questionnaire (which is also accessible on the CosmoTango web site: http://cosmotango.com) was even offered at the end of the week! This will ensure an even better congress next year - if that's possible.
Most hearty and sincere congratulations to Gustavo, Fabian, and an excellent staff and crew. We look forward to future CosmoTango events!