Washington DC, August 25-31, 2016
This is a summary of our visit to Washington DC to dance tango and do touristy stuff. Really, we had heard DC was not a friendly environment but we found different. However, to be fair, we are getting a snapshot of the community. Personally, I think we are really good at inserting events with a positive friendly attitude, wherever we go. Folks appreciate this.
Class and dance information can be found on: https://sites.google.com/site/dctangocalendar/
I did many videos of milongas. These can be found on: https://www.facebook.com/groups/augustatangoclub/photos/?filter=videos
Arrival: Caught up to the DC rush hour traffic about 5:00 pm – Holy Cow! Took 1.45 hours to travel the short distance to our Air B&B in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.
Parking: Observation, don’t bring a car! Parking spaces near our Air BnB are rare to non existent, plus you need to feed the meter every 2-4 hours during the day or risk being towed. Found a parking garage. More about getting around at the end.
Milonga #1 Thursday night, August 25: East Market – We got there just after the lesson. Went over to greet Jose Ortiz and meet one of the organizers Jake Spatz. He gave me good advice about seating. There were a lot of young, excellent dancers there as well as some “mature” dancers. As things went on, it kind of reminded me of Saturday night at a major festival with a lot of “status” dancing. A lot of dancers were already set on who they were going to dance with. Still Diane danced a lot more than me. I got “blown-off” a couple of times but after watching one lady dance, I was glad she did. Really being new to a crowd you have to understand and work your way into the crowd. Still it was an excellent venue. DJ was excellent (Ramu Pyeddy’s wife; I didn’t know that but will meet her Monday).
Milonga #2: Friday night, August 26: Milonga El Yeite with Eddy Hernandez. He is just starting out in this studio but it was still very nice. Seating setup well. Eddy is very friendly with everyone. He inserted a ton of energy. We found a fun friendly crowd. Again it confirms my belief that the organizer sets the tone for the event. Friendly organizers will attract friendly dancers.
Dance #3 & 4 Saturday afternoon August 27: MLK Jr. Library Practica 2:30-5:00. It took us a while to get there so we only danced a little over 1 hour. Part of the fun of going to new places is figuring out how to use the public transportation. The practica is free. It was very warm but I danced from fan to fan. Danced with some novice dancers but also found a couple of excellent partners. FUN!
“MILONGA PORTEÑA” at Chevy Chase Ballroom. This milonga is organized by Viviana and Isidoro Levinson. Nice floor and venue. The music was pretty good. Diane danced non-stop. Met Barbara Durr (our past mentor). Danced with her but didn’t talk much (busy dancing). When you are new, sometimes you just have to insert yourself. I just asked one lady from Alexandra Va. (she was one of the best of the night)
Milonga #5 Sunday evening August 28: Milonga a la Libertad Freedom Plaza downtown DC. Concrete plaza. It’s free. It was a really fun, friendly crowd. I danced with an amazing partner, many really good ones, and a few novices. Diane danced non-stop again. Nice breeze helped an otherwise hot evening. There were a lot of spectators and a TV crew. Later that night we saw it on the local 11:00 news. This type of event is so good to get visibility! FUN!
Milonga #6 Monday Milonga Zandunga – Capital Ballroom Organizer Teacher and DJ Ramu Pyreddy. Got there just as the classes were finishing. Ramu and Bell Sterling were teaching Vals Intermediate. Rick Kim was teaching the beginners. The room was divided with tables to cut the dance space down. 40-50 mostly high quality dancers showed up. Ramu said his Saturday milonga had 150-175 and fills the whole room. Many folks said this milonga is held in very high regard. Music was excellent== Dancing excellent. Really funny. Paul Stanton (danced in Augusta for a year) told me to go ask this lady to dance. So I did. She blew me off. So Paul danced with her and must have said something. A little later she cabeceoed me so we danced. She said the “best dancers in DC only use cabeceo”. Our experience says you need to know it, but it’s only a guideline and only ½ of communities and people use it. Some communities don’t use it at all. If you travel to a milonga in a new community, I recommend asking the organizer if it’s a cabeceo crowd. You can waste a ton of time trying to cabeceo in a NON-cabeceo milonga.
Dances #7 & #8 August 30th Tuesday. We arrived early at 18th street lounge for the ESL Milonga. We climbed the stairs and went down the hallway to the right, then listened for the music; which led us to the room. Intermediate class was in the main room and behind the curtain a beginner class. Good class on sacadas and ganchos. The milonga started with a mix of newer and experienced dancers. We stayed about 1 hour but we had to “check-out” the Ozio’s (assignment from Ryan Stevenson) milonga right around the corner.
As we left we ran into Paul Stanton (now living in DC). We talked him into going. Ozio’s is on the roof (another climb). This is called a practica but the music is like a milonga (practicalonga). We recognized many people and danced with a few. These guys were very friendly. We received a big greeting from Katya Mereczhinsky (the teacher and organizer). We all decided to go back to 18th st because it was very humid, plus there were lots of extra ladies. We stayed about 45 minutes.
Back to 18th st Milonga (ESL milonga). Looked like more experienced dancers had arrived (very high level of dancing). We danced a good bit. The organizer was very friendly and welcoming. We had heard dancers were a little snobbish at this milonga, but did not experience that ourselves. We both danced as much as we wanted.
Learning in General
Big learning ==>Parking in Washington DC is tough. We assumed the AirB&B we rented had parking-> WRONG!! Street parking was very hit or miss on many streets, plus you had to feed the meter every 2-4 hours during the day. You could park 10pm to 7am for free, but would be towed after 7am. We wound up leaving the car in a parking garage until we were ready to leave, and got around by metro, uber, and walking.
BEFORE YOU GO! Study the metro system. http://www.wmata.com
Best thing to do is get a Smartrip card. Metro stations have vending machines. You have to buy the card but load it with pass charges. Buses were very clean and air conditioned (very hot and humid in August). Subways were not as nice and less A/C. The main bus we used was 42 and we assumed it stopped at midnight WRONG. After midnight the time delays expand. Rather than a 10-15 minute gap it’s more like 30-45 minutes. So you can still get around in the early morning but you have to plan. There are also senior discounts but they are sold at the main office and during the workweek.
Understanding how the system flows and intersects is key also. Bus #30s run up and down west city. Bus #90s run up and down east side of the city. There are also “surge” buses that run during peak hours.
Google maps help big time. You just have to allow time to make connections. We finally configured Maps with “less walking” (helps)!
UBER is another way to make connections and trips (just costs a little more). The longest wait was 5 minutes.
In summary DC was a great tango experience. There are many many excellent dancers. One guys said there are 200 dancers in DC. I would estimate more? There are plenty of opportunities to dance you just have to get to and from them? We had a lot of fun!