It was mainly because I moved out of London, but it was also an accident of timing. In the early 2000s Ricardo Vidort and possibly Gavito taught regularly in London. I was lucky enough to come across what was probably Ricardo's last class ever in London soon after I started. I say 'come across' because I'd no idea who he was; I turned up that evening quite by chance. Later I realised what a wonderful chance it was, such a relief after miserable classes spent in a futile attempt to master Pablo Veron's choreography, wondering where the music had gone to. & it was Ricardo who said 'Hold your partner close!' That one class gave me a glimpse of the kind of energy and life, the sheer enthusiasm and happiness tango was, or could be. No wonder I was dissatisfied with London tango as I was encountering it.
Six months or so later, when YouTube got going, I found another name, or pair of names, Tete and Silvia. You mean BsAs tango isn't a salida, then an ocho, then a giro, then an ocho cortado, then a cross? It all runs together in one impulse, one energetic movement that relates so closely to the phrases of the music? That's what I want! I watched Ney Melo's videos over and over, open-mouthed. Thank you so much, Ney! No one taught that, let alone danced it, in London! From YouTube I began to realise that Tete and Silvia taught all over Europe, but never in the UK: since I could never find advance dates for their Europe tours I decided I had to go to Buenos Aires and hope they were there. I knew by then that Ricardo Vidort had died, so I went to meet Tete and Silvia. & they were there. More enthusiasm and happiness, and the moving presence of a couple who loved nothing more than dancing together. & of course there were others too who danced the tango of Buenos Aires.
So when I'm asked what I think of the European 'festivalitos' I have to say I really don't know. (Why 'festivalito' by the way? Why the diminutive? They aren't small, are they? & I think 'fiesta' would be the usual Spanish; doesn't 'European Tango Fiestas' sound much better?) On my first trip to BsAs over four years ago, I couldn't understand or communicate a lot, but I could get by. I didn't get many dances at first, but I was usually very satisfied with what I got. So for four years, during which time the 'festivalito' movement has grown so wonderfully in Europe, my tango thoughts have been elsewhere. & I think the teaching of close embrace social tango in the UK has generally got itself together during that time. Not that I've paid much attention to it I'm sorry to say; I've usually got plenty enough memories from a dozen or so classes stacked up in my mind to keep me occupied between yearly visits. (I call them 'classes' but for the most part they are practica sessions with portena dancers with long experience of the milongas, whose feedback and advice is incredibly valuable.)
It's as if there was a gap in London teaching between the early 2000s and 2010, give or take a few years. Dancing close embrace when I started seemed something of an endeavour: perhaps it would have been in 2000 too, but at least at that time there were sometimes teachers who encouraged it. & if you want to dance close now it's not hard to find people who can help and support and encourage you. This blog, and others, partly grew out of trying to make sense of and communicate what we were trying to dance at that time. It seemed all very new, and it took a while to find teachers who could help make sense of it.
I do look forward to taking part in a 'festivalito'... the diminutive is really irritating! Start again: I look forward to taking part in a great tango fiesta! I'm sure there's good dancing, but I know I'll always want to go back to Buenos Aires while it's still possible to sit in wonderful milongas and watch and meet dancers with over 60 years of tango behind them, and I'll probably still want to go there after they've gone, too. I'd urge everyone to think of taking the plunge while those older dancers are still there and on the floor; it's something else altogether. & I have to say, as a city it does start to get under your skin, resist it as you might.