A few days before the festival, we attended our first ever press conference, sponsored by Baumatic, a kitchen appliance manufacturer which recently released a line of red tango ovens. That’s right, the name of the line of ovens is “Tango!” We danced amongst the ovens and refrigerators, and the next day there was a long article with a photograph of us in one of the local Czech papers all about the Tango Alchemie festival! That night Pavel arranged a special treat for us on the Jazz Boat, literally a river boat which takes passengers on a leisurely route under the beautiful bridges of Prague, while they listen to local jazz groups play. As tourist attractions go, it was really quite lovely, and the views of Prague are beautiful and romantic from the water. We even danced one tango to the band’s rendition of “Moondance.”
The tango festival itself was one of the most charming and personal I have ever attended either as a dancer or as an instructor. The theme of alchemie matches perfectly the three aspects of tango experience: 1. Black for dissolving our boundaries and breaking down the layers of static that interfere with communication; 2. White for the purification of leading and following energies, two forces that all of us possess inside, and which are made manifest in the tango; 3. Red for union and connection, the ultimate experience which transforms technique into the magic of tango creation. The venues were also incredible, particularly the gala event Saturday night in one of Prague’s historic palaces, and the final milonga Sunday night in an outdoor pavilion on a hillside, alongside a vineyard and overlooking the city below.
On our last day in Prague, after the festival was over, I got lost twice, confirming the Czechs’ urban myth of the streets mysteriously changing positions. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit the pub whose basement is connected a system of tunnels which lead to Prague Castle; however, we did have a wonderful dinner with Jenne and Pavel, who (along with Radka) deserve huge congratulations for hosting such a beautiful weekend. They even had the brilliant idea of creating tango spirit awards for students, with prizes of discounts on next year’s festival! My favorite awards were the “Tango Angel” award and the “Tangoholic” award!
At dinner they told us an amazing story that has nothing to do with tango, but which is nevertheless worth repeating! Back in 2000, there was a great television strike in the Czech Republic – in protest of legislation allowing government censorship on national networks, the reporters shut down television in the entire country for two weeks, at Christmas time no less! 200,000 people took to the streets to demand the return of television. The strike succeeded, and the legislation was not passed. However, two strange phenomena were discovered within a year. First, the divorce rate increased dramatically, and second, the birthrate soared approximately 9 months following the strike! Fascinating.
I’ll close this entry with one of my favorite local customs, perhaps influenced by the Germans since we also saw it in Berlin. In the evenings, the owners of outdoor restaurants provide blankets for chilly customers finishing their dinner or coffee. As someone who often gets cold but likes to sit outside, this is a dream come true! Ah, Europe. We will miss it, but we’ll return next year, and besides, a new adventure awaits us in DC!