The Danish tangoforeningen can be our example.
By P I E T E R V A N G E N D T . N L
For Cadena Magazine
This year I was at the Copenhagen Tango Festival for the third time. The festival is Wednesday until Sunday afternoon, a party for 600-700 guests from 20 different countries. Grand but cozy.
How is it possible that a large festival in Denmark can exist, while in the Netherlands festivals like Doble Ocho and Tangomagia have disappeared? I love Copenhagen and in the meanwhile I know quite some people. Next to the festival, this time I wanted to know more about the tangoforeningen, that supports this festival.
Would this tangoforeningen be something for the Netherlands?
During the day there are dancers all around the Kulturhuset, a large community center, next to a playground, in the middle of the city. In front of the door and in the spacious lobby tanguero’s gather to take part of the workshops, or to dance in the overcrowded and freely accessible Tango café.
In the evenings the big milonga’s and performances take place at the festively rigged Kedelhallen, industrial heritage in the distinguished Frederiksberg, twenty minutes from the centre by bike. Here on purpose coaches and lamps are dusty, to make the atmosphere informal.
On the opening night a ten headed Orquesta Tipica Cristal plays the music out of the Golden Era perfectly detailed as is was. Their own interpretation is modest. It is a marathon kind of festival, because from Thursday onwards you can dance 16 hours a day, on the music of renewed DJ’s like Guiseppe Caputo, who is in charge of the cool down milonga on Sunday. The maestro’s on this festival are not the least. Alejandra Montanan, is my favorite. She is the most leading follower that I know of.
In the Netherlands Doble Ocho and Tangomagia died because they were not subsidized anymore. But the self-supporting non-profit festival in Copenhagen has no problems, during it’s eleven years of existence. Tickets are not expensive. Co-founder Michael Hansen who started this festival with Lars Lomborg explains how this is possible: ‘The secret is our national tangoforeningen. This association supports this festival financially and with the organization. For the festival the attracted ten volunteers (without free tickets), assisted by another fifteen people, that come and help. That’s the way it goes here. We operatate without subsidy or sponsoring. Too much work. The formula and locations are the same every year now. We listen to feedback and refine every year. Mouth to mouth is our main publicity and it takes care that participants form sort of a family. We don’t have to grow.’
Mads Bruun Pedersen has been chairman of the Danish tangoforeningen during the past eight years. ‘Put three Danes in a room, and within an hour you have two associations. Working together is our culture. Eve the law helps: An association doesn’t need registration or approval. It doesn’t have to pay tax..’
Mads tells about the beginning of the association.: ‘A group of tanguero’s wanted to promote the tango for a bigger audience, to expand the tango scene.They got together and in 1998 the Danish tangoforeningen was founded. With 500 members that pay € 30,-/year, we can invite orchestra’s, organise free milonga’s and we can mean something for this festival.’
Sense of community
Tanguera Sinnne Smed, has been a member of the Danish tangoforeningen during fourteen years. She was so kind to host me during the festival. ‘Being a member of the tangoforeningen you get discount at several events. If you make good use of that, it pays back your membership. But it is the sense of community that makes you to become a member. I think this is typical Danish.’
Purpose of the tangoforeningen
Nelly Steffensen is the new chairman of the tangoforeningen. ‘We do much more than support this festival during the year. The purpose of our tangoforeningen is, together with volunteers, to promote the tango dance as well as music, make it accessible and support it.
We bring people that are interested together, promote tango concerts and organise introduction courses followed by a milonga in the subsidized Kulturhuset. We have practica’s on every sunday afternoon,. We do a lot to get newcomers. We also organise milonga’s for members as well as outdoor milonga’s in summertime. On the eleventh of december, birthday of Gardel, we organise the popular national Day of the Tango, just to mention something.
We have a good cooperation with the tango schools and milonga’s, as well as with the city of Copenhagen. ‘There are no national meetings of tango schools, but with seven active boardmembers we are a connecting factor. We ask as many different tango teachers and dj’s to take part in our activities, to make sure everybody can present themselves.’ Tangoforeningen also have a monthly newsletter and on our website there is a calendar of milonga´s and practica´s in Copenhagen aswell as our activities and background information about the tango.’ ‘The secret lies within our tangoforeningen’
Local Dutch initiatives
In our own country we see similar initiatives, though regional. Karen van der Stappen (is chairman of the Eindhoven non profit tango centre Scala. Could you compare Scala with the Danish tangoforeningen? ‘I think so. Scala does the same in a smaller scale. We attract external teachers to give regular tests and workshops. De website tangobrbant.nl coordinates regional tango activities. We invite orchestra’s and external dj’s. During cultural activities we are ready to contribute. Our PR group takes care we appear regularly in the press. Our 4D festival is the cherry on the cake. We are a platform in our regio and give promotion and support.’
A national initiative
Smoking on the sidewalk of tango school El Corte she and Eric Jorissen got the idea to organise a national meeting for tango professional, to connect them and look together at national promotion of the tango. ‘That meeting was held with almost fifty attendees in Nijmegen, in January 2015. A pile of idea’s came out and the readiness to do something with it. We will participate every year in the national dance week, we are starting a national tango weekend, we are working on a website and we have a plan to write down the Dutch tango history, just to mention a few.’
Karen would like to collect the forces nationally and to take care the tango keeps growing. ‘ Big festivals like Tangomagia and Doble Ocho give international exposure and are important for the promotion of the tango. How do we get back this big festivals, and how can we help each other to inspire new dancers?’
Professionals and tango lovers
The tangoforeningen in Danmark is being organized by tango lovers without personal interest. They are neutral and stand for initiatives. The are open to new idea’s. I ask Karen if that would be something for the Netherlands. ‘I believe there is much potential among the tango lovers. If we would mobilize them, we could do much more nationally. That would help everybody.’
The next meeting for professionals is planned in Utrecht at the beginning of 2016. I ask her what she thinks of a call-up for tango lovers that want to mean something for the tango world. She reacts with enthusiasm. ‘Well, yes! If there are people that report themselves, I woud gladly take care they will meet each other. The Danish tangoforeningen can be our source of inspiration.’