Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Tango Marathon. A Marathon, or Maratón (in Spanish), is a series of day/night Milongas (sometimes with breaks in them for food, but mostly not). Usually, a Marathon happens over the course of a weekend (72 hrs), from early Friday night to early Sunday evening. Sometimes, depending on the event structure, there is also an after-party, which the participants of the Milonga will congregate at after the Marathon is done. Typically there are no breaks in the Marathon (with rare exceptions for the aforementioned food). There are small gaps when there is a Tango DJ change. The Marathon is built on the idea that we want to keep dancing and the Tango DJ’s skill with creating music that will keep the dancer on the floor throughout a 6 to 8-hour set is crucial to that idea. Marathons, as the name would imply, do not, however, go beyond 3 am in the morning, mostly. Marathons usually start at 11 or 12 and then go until 2 to 3 am. You would think that because it’s a Marathon that the dancing is non-stop. That’s not the case, typically.

Lodging.  Typically the Marathon is either in a hotel with a ballroom, or at local milonga space. If it’s at a hotel then the organizer has an arrangement with the hotel to give discounts on lodging. It’s usually best to look at AirBnB or a Hostel (especially in europe) for cheap lodging.

Food. Food at Marathons is a bit dicey. And this is where you have to do a bit of research on the event itself. Sometimes a Marathon will provide 2 meals and a midnight snack. Sometimes it will be light snacks (think: Fruit, coffee, teas, water, juices, nuts, potato chips, and of course chocolate, that sort of thing). Sometimes nothing at all. Sometimes the events that do provide food on site, really do go out of their way to provide a very classy meal with meat and vegan/vegetarian options, with wine. And sometimes not. Those events that do are usually very well regarded, but cross the line into private Tango Party more than anything else. And those that don’t are working on the theory that you’re there to dance, not to eat, or sleep. Food ? Who needs food when there’s tango afoot, right ? Well ? Clearly you do at some point. So do yourself a favor, while it’s not necessary to bring water, do bring some nuts or a snack for yourself just in case there’s nothing on site and there’s no mention of it on the website. If you’re not clear, ask the organizers.

Classes/Workshops. Typically there are no classes or workshops at these events. Nor is there any need for them either. While there are reminders about floorcraft, there are no classes. This event is based on the idea of social dancing. You will, however, find events that list themselves as “marathons” that include Classes and workshops. These are, in Tango Topics Opinion, not traditional Marathon events. The rightfully classify as a Tango Festival, not a Marathon. A marathon is focused on social dancing, not teaching you how to dance. A marathon is for experienced dancers only. Not dancers that are just starting out or who haven’t been dancing that long. While floor time is relative to the dancer there are certain things that a class or workshop cannot teach you, most notably the Neurology of how to dance which only can be learned on the floor and with a lot of experience. So a marathon’s goals are to give an opportunity to the experienced dancer to dance with other experienced dancers, not beginners who are just figuring these things out for themselves.

Performances/Shows. Marathons, again, are about social dancing. Continuous social dancing. There are typically no tango performances or showcases of ‘artists’, or anything else. In recent years a few organizers have tried to bend this idea a little bit by having musical interludes by tango based artists, such a tango piano composers perform, or a live orchestra perform, but for the most part, there are no teachers performing to showcase classes or workshops or why should go study with X, Y, or Z as you would in the case of a Tango Festival.

Live Music/DJs. Sometimes, infrequently so, there are Tango Orchestras or quartets that are invited to play a live tanda or three, but for the most part, the music is all golden-age (1928 – 1954ish) based music that is put together in 443 song tandas. 443 being the preferred marathon idea that has taken hold over the last few years, even in local milongas. 443 ? Each number refers to the number of songs in a Tanda and the type of Tanda. 4 Tangos, 4 Valses, and 3 Milongas. The Marathon environment is really about the quality and knowledge, depth and breadth of the Tango DJ. The Marathon is not a place for the beginning DJ that’s just purchased their first batch of the 1000 greatest hits of Tango Music package from certain Tango Music Online stores. No. A Tango DJ spends years toiling to create their understanding of the music, to craft playlists of music that flow from one idea to the next. As easy as that is to read, it is a very difficult thing to do accomplish as the DJ has to have an intricate knowledge of social dancing, and an intricate knowledge of the music, and it’s history.

Registration. Most often these things are advertised and promoted 6 to 10 months out BEFORE the event via Facebook and very little email these days. So that’s why it’s absolutely crucial if you want to go to an event that you register the day that registration opens because it will usually fill up very quickly, at least for Followers. (See Getting In).

Resources. There are several good resources online for finding Tango Marathons, however the best of them is probably the Tango Marathon Directory. Usually it has an up to date listing of all Tango Marathons, and a few Encuentros, plus DJ listings.

Getting In. Competition is stiff to get into a Marathon, specifically for the Follower, but not necessarily for the Lead. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial as a Follower to sign up the day that registration opens for a Marathon. Usually the hour that it opens. Most Marathons have an open enrollment plan. Meaning that you’re allowed to register but if an organizer doesn’t know you or your Facebook profile looks a little thin on Tango pix and Tango connections, then it is probable that you may be waitlisted. Followers tend to fill up Marathons very quickly. Leads usually wait until the last moment to register.

Pricing. Pricing for Tango Marathons tends to range (in dollars and/or euros) from 80 to 150 for a weekend of dancing, which may include the meal, but not include lodging. Check the registration website.

Gender Balancing. This is a sticky topic but it has to be mentioned. Over the years as Tango Marathons have become and more and more popular, there has been an outcry from the ranks of Followers that these events need to be role balanced and gender balanced. Meaning ? There are an equal number of Leads and an equal number of Followers. Sometimes this idea works and more often than not it doesn’t. It’s a way to ensure that everyone is dancing with everyone and that no one sits. It doesn’t always work. The reason it doesn’t work is because you will still have that row of women that sit, and the row of men that stand, that will not dance with each other for all the reasons already laid out in the links provided. Gender Balancing is very commonplace in the Marathon, Encuentro, Private Party environments but not at Tango Festivals.

Style of Dance. The style of dance at these events could loosely be construed as ‘Closed Salon’, or Close Embrace dancing. While there may be Boleos, Ganchos, Volcadas, or Colgadas in the line and lane of dance, you do need to keep a watchful eye on this stuff. Lane and Line of dance may be respected, but generally, it’s taking your life in your hands at some events. So it’s a good idea to watch the floor for sometime before you jump up to dance. Sometimes the Male Cabeceo is respected, sometimes not. There is a Ronda, but it’s generally like a zoo. Don’t expect nice lines of dance like an Encuentro. It’s not going to happen.

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