Review: River Tango At the Tate

Date: Sunday 14th September 2008

Time All day (noon - 10pm)

Location: Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Review and comments:

The Mayor's festival is a great celebration. Although it's a little confusing to read that 2008 is the 10th anniversary, as we've only had a London mayor since 2000; still, that's a mere quibble.

Anyway, as part of this festival, there's the River Tango event, which is reportedly the UK's biggest Tango festival. I'm not sure how this is measured, but there were certainly a lot of people around the Tate Modern on the Sunday when I went.

Transport: the Tate Modern is on Bankside, which is on the South Bank of the Thames. The closest Tube station is probably Southwark, or Blackfriars. However, if you drive there early like I did, you can park almost at the back of the building on single-yellow lines. Given that the entire South Bank gets packed as hell during the festival, it may well be worth driving rather than battling through the crowds.

Facilities: the organisers (led by the ubiqitous Nikki of Dancetango) had set up a dance floor with a stage in the large area in front of the Tate entrance, with two rows of seats around the edges. The floor itself was a bit dodgy, uneven with some gaps between the large floor tiles, but then it's temporary flooring. By mid-afternoon, the area was completely packed - spectators were 3-deep around the outside of the chairs, although the floor itself wasn't too busy. Another (raised) row of chairs for the next time, maybe?

I snuck off around 2:30pm to grab some food - a lovely Argentinian chorizo hot-dog thingy from one of the local stalls. The stalls were great - but again, very very busy.

Dancing: things were very quiet at noon when I got there - very few people there. Within 20 minutes, people had started to move in, and spectators were arriving. River Tango is unusual in that you sometimes feel you're performing for the public - actually, this is true for all the open-air venues, now I come to think about it. So you need to be a bit of an exhibitionist to get dancing, at least at the start.

There was a packed programme on the Sunday; classes, demonstrations, bands, and so on - all very welcome. The people were lovely and friendly - again, as I found at Tango al Fresco, there's something about dancing in the open air which seems to make even the most miserable Tanguero more approachable.

I met a lot of new people, from all over the country, so that seems to verify the festival's claims to importance; quite a few people had travelled down to London specifically to be at the Festival.

Class::David and Kim of Tango Movement did a beginner's class, and with the aid of a mike they managed to do a decent job of it - you really really need a mike to teach in the open air. The beginner's class was packed, probably 100 people or more, it was great to see so many people giving it a try.

I left around 4pm - a great day out, thoroughly enjoyable.

More details: www.rivertango.co.uk

- David Bailey