2020 marks a momentous milestone for tango dancers in the SF Bay Area. Since 2000, there has been a monthly milonga in the region where dancers could dance all night to their hearts’ and feets’ content.
The All-Night Milonga (ANM), or “The All-nighter” as it is often referred, is held at The Beat, a dance studio in West Berkeley. It happens on the 4th Saturday of every month, from the evening until the wee hours of Sunday morning – a schedule which has not changed since its beginning.
Once a month for twenty years equals 240 nights of tango. That’s a LOT of dancing for some, but really just a blink in the lifetime of many passionate tango dancers. Nevertheless, the All-nighter is a fixture in the SF Bay Area tango scene, laying claim to being the longest-running event of its kind in North America. Certainly among one of the longest-running in the world. And regardless, for the organizers of the event past and present, it has been an amazing and memorable 20 years, with no signs of slowing down.
SF Loves Tango was able to research and reach out to some of those involved in the All-nighter’s beginnings and evolution.
It was Babs Yohai, a co-founder of The Beat, who started hosting the event at the studio in 2000 with the support of dancers and teachers from the local community and afar. She shared various pictures of the early posters advertising the milonga, which was first called “La Rayuela / Hopscotch”.
As noted in the posters, Guillermo Jardiel Valente, an artist and dancer, DJ’d the first event on January 22, 2000, with noted teacher Roberto Riobo teaching the pre-milonga class. And Alex Krebs, dancer, teacher, and musician based out of Portland, Oregon would come down on a regular basis to teach and DJ the event in those early days. Many famous dancers and teachers would come to support and dance at the milonga over the years.
We must thank all the local and worldwide tango community who got the momentum going early on, supporting the All-nighter to the present-day with their presence in-spirit and in-person.
Homer and Cristina Ladas then hosted the All-nighter for a number of years, and even garnered recognition in a front-page Wall Street Journal article in 2005, marking that alternative tango was at a peak of popularity at the time.
Rina Gendleman, dancer and tango clothing designer/owner of Atelier Vertex, hosted the All-nighter for about a decade until 2015. Some highlights she shared:
…one tradition that everyone rallied around was 1 AM pie 🙂. It would be gone within minutes. It improved my pie-cutting technique greatly…When we just started, there was no New Year’s Eve Milonga in SF. So I thought it would be a great idea to do one…so for a number of years we had 2 all-nighters in December!…you could see the cross-sections of all the different crowds at the beat for the all-nighter…
Homer and Cristina returned to host more recently through 2018 along with Felipe Martinez and Ayano Yoneda. Homer shared:
My favorite part about hosting the ANM was always Cristina’s food. She would spend no less than 3 days preparing from scratch an amazing variety of edible delights. These would come out in stages throughout the night. You’d know something new was recently put out on the front desk counter because the dance floor would be half full. Unfortunately, I would sometimes miss tasting them because I was busy DJing, dancing, and/or otherwise hosting.
“Similar to Homer’s,” Cristina added:
one favorite part of mine is when we would put out the ‘sweets’ of the evening, there would be a line forming, emptying the dance floor a little it…🙂. I love this part because I also get a glimpse of the similar joy that folks feel when they are dancing… 🙂The other favorite part is the group photo at the end, ‘the survivors’ photo. One sees the exhaustion via half-closed eyes, rumpled-clothing, crazy hair and yet there is that exhilaration that clearly comes through. It’s all those endorphins and oxytocin that folks are riding high on in the early morning hours… 🙂
Ayano also said:
… Many participants have brought home-made desserts, apples from their trees, drinks, and specialties from their hometowns/countries to share…We cannot recount all the flavors and stories that people contributed. The All-nighter belongs to this community and it’s one of the aspects that makes it special.
On the surface, this recurring theme of food is sweet, but it actually underscores an important ingredient of community-building that the All-nighter succeeds in. Anthony Bourdain has said, “Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating…The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.” While the milonga doesn’t serve full-on meals, every time the snacks come out, they are followed by a rush of hungry dancers continuing to share in their bonds of tango and life with each other off the dance floor, strengthening friendships and forming new ones.
Alex Krebs will be teaching and DJing the 20th Anniversary All-Nighter on January 25th, just like in the old days. He had this to share:
… Things that stand out about the ANM back in the day: I remember people flying down from Seattle and Portland and driving up from LA for one night to dance at the all-nighter, I remember DJing off CD’s and sprinkling in alternative sets (alternative milongas didn’t exist yet), I remember Christopher running his followers gently into the middle divider repeatedly while they were laughing hysterically, I remember Homer and Cristina’s generosity letting me crash at their place and Cristina making such wonderful food, I remember close embrace dancers taking tiny steps dancing and joking with dancers doing back sacadas respectfully in line of dance, I remember the fan by the amplifier to cool it so the fuse wouldn’t blow when the volume was louder, I remember all the fun, passion, spontaneity, and camaraderie that was abound. I remember the people and thank all of them for what they contributed in their own way just by showing up. I remember Denny’s at 9 am, I remember…
Such a fitting (and poetic) summary of what this milonga was and continues to be for many. (Thank goodness the fuse no longer blows out!)
Since 2018, Homer and Cristina passed the hosting of the All-nighter to Xiaomin and Jonas, who along with Felipe and Ayano, have enjoyed making the milonga a memorable event for all. Reflecting upon the experience of hosting this event, Felipe made a point of saying,
The All-nighter is the success of many, not just one.
As a team, we are proud and honored to continue this tradition.
See you at the milonga!
(Heartfelt gratitude to Ayano, Babs, Rina, Homer, Cristina, Alex, and Felipe for contributing to this article.)