With the San Francisco Tango Marathon coming up this weekend, this is the perfect time to re-publish this article on Tango Festival Survival.
Festivals are a special opportunity to be surrounded by hundreds of people who share your passion for Tango. You will be dancing in unique and beautiful venues with top Tango DJs and orchestras and surrounded by wonderful dancers. However, as exciting as they may be, festivals can also be mentally and physically exhausting. Make sure to practice self-care so you can enjoy yourself and prevent illness and injury. Below are tips on how to have a great festival experience and take care of yourself.
How to make sure you dance with new people:
Here you are at a festival filled with dancers from all over, some may have even traveled thousands of miles just to enjoy this event. Of course it’s easy to dance with people you already know, but the best part of festivals is the opportunity to dance with different people and of course, to find new friends and new dance partners.
Keep an open mind to potential dancer partners. Someone you have never seen before may be an excellent dancer. Also, it’s very helpful to introduce people who may not know each other, and they may do the same for you.
The best way to invite someone to dance is to use cabeceo. This goes for people you know already and those you don’t. Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to dance, make sure to look up and around or even behind you. If you are busy talking to friends or only looking at the dance floor it will be hard to get a dance. And yes, it is okay for a follower to do the asking via cabeceo. Just catch your potential partner’s eye, give them a big smile and indicate to the dance floor with your head or eyes. Keep in mind, the point of being at the festival is to dance. If you can’t catch their eye, it’s best to set your sights on another partner.
How to ensure you have space to move on the dance floor:
Go early or go late and try to avoid the dance floor during “the prime time” of the festival. The busiest time is usually at the mid-way point of the evening. When a floor is very crowded your navigation skills will be tested to the fullest. Dancing on a crowded floor is a good skill to know how to do well, but if you’d rather have space to dance more freely, go either early or late for maximum dance floor space. Afternoon milongas are usually much more relaxed and less crowded allowing for more open dancing.
How to take care of your feet and body during and after the festival:
Hours and hours of dancing and standing is hard on the body. In order to prevent injury and ensure your body is in good condition for several nights of dancing, make sure to find time, (amidst the fun and frivolity) to practice self-care.
Here are some tips for faster recovery:
Ice Water Foot Soak
When you get home after dancing soak your feet in ice water. Find a large bucket, bowl or pot, fill it with water and ice cubes and then soak your feet for a maximum of 10 minutes. Make sure to have a towel nearby to dry and warm up your feet once you are done. It will sting at first, but your feet will thank you for it the next day. This is the theory behind it: Cryotherapy (“cold therapy”) constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body.
Legs Up The Wall Pose
Another great way to relax your body and re-energize your feet is to place them up against a wall. You can do this against any empty wall or even on your bed. Make sure to place your bum as close to the wall as possible, and let your legs rest against the wall with feet facing the ceiling. Just 10 minutes will regenerate your body and legs.
Benefits of “The Legs up the Wall” pose include relief of tired or cramped feet and legs and also provides a gentle stretch for the back of the legs, front torso and the back of the neck. It can also relieve mild back aches and helps calm the mind.
Epson Salt Baths
Epson salt or deep sea salt baths will literally pull toxins out of your body and along with it, your aches and pains. Just add two cups of Epsom salt to your bath and soak for at least 12 minutes. When Epsom salt is dissolved in warm water, it’s absorbed through the skin and replenishes the level of magnesium in the body. The magnesium helps to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of calm and relaxation. Remember, a relaxed body makes for better Tango dancing.
Foot Massages! I can’t say enough about how helpful it is to get a foot massage. Foot massages will help you to improve circulation, prevent injury and recover faster. There are many places in the Bay Area that specialize in foot massages, and they usually include the full body too for a reasonable price. Here are a few listed on Yelp. I also highly recommend using Arnicare to massage onto your sore body and feet. It really helps with muscle aches and pains.
I know for a fact this is not easy to do during a festival. After hours and hours of dancing, your body will be wound up and the music will continue to play in your head. But do your best to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep. Before going to bed, take a warm shower, give yourself (or receive) a massage, do some light stretching, and drink some chamomile or kava tea to relax. Wear an eye mask and ear plugs to keep out light and sound, especially if you are going to bed in the wee hours of the morning.
Rest Your Feet
It’s a good idea to bring more than one pair of dance shoes. By just changing your shoes, you will be using different foot muscles. For ladies, alternating your heels with a pair of flats or lower heels is a great idea. Men too can benefit from wearing a different pair of shoes. Ayano sells some great foot products that will help your feet recover faster. (They will also be sold at the SFTM consignment store).
This is especially important if you are attending a Tango marathon. Do not feel pressure to dance all the time. To prevent illness, make sure to wash your hands frequently and take extra vitamins. Most of all – enjoy the atmosphere, chat with friends, enjoy delicious food and take time to watch some incredible dancing.
If you have any of your own tango festival survival tips you would like to share, please add them to the comments section below.
On an ending note, this clip by Srisram Eleswarapu taken at SFTM 2010 really captures the spirit of the Tango marathon; the expressions, playfulness and of course, the beautiful dancing.