High Speed Tango
Traditions of the Black Forest contrast the high speed of modern Germany
I wonder how many people would drive 80+ kilometres to a milonga under the haze of transcontinental jetlag. Though, on the German autobahns that’s actually not a great distance to cover.
At first when our rental car was upgraded to a Mercedes I thought it was indulgent. With crazed drivers hurtling past at speeds in excess of 200 km/hour I soon realised a comparable horsepower was a necessity not a luxury! It does take a brave heart and a skilled driver to navigate the unlimited speed zones which comprise up to 60% of the German autobahn network. The unrestricted speed limits sanction crazed road users to put their technologically advanced engines to the test.
Exiting the autobahn requires another level of aptitude, with multiple Mercedes Benz and BMW emblem clad and truck laden lanes to traverse, the guidance of our GPS, whom we fondly dubbed Frau Benz was literally life saving.
It was only fitting that we were driving to Stuttgart, the home of Mercedes Benz, in one of their latest models. Stuttgart, in south west Germany, is set against the backdrop of the evergreen, mountainous Black Forest region.
Tangoloft is a dedicated space for tango clearly designed by seasoned and enthusiastic tangueros. The experience starts with a sizeable cloakroom to change and dispose of all excess paraphernalia. A well stocked bar props everyone up between tandas while a cute wall shelf positioned at the entry to the rotunda acts as a holding space for eyeglasses. A lasting first impression for a mere €5 entrada!
It was heart-warming to be recognized immediately by a couple of tangeuros I had met in Buenos Aires and Sydney. Such is the world of tango – international! The organizers are warm and hospitable and as luck would have it we arrived on the host’s birthday evening so attendance was high and a range of delectable cakes with glasses of sparkling were generously offered to all in attendance.
Though the stereotype commonly suggests otherwise, the reality is that the Germans are a friendly bunch. Being a goal-oriented nation, their competitive discipline carries across into their tango and most are focussed on continuously improving their dance. The enthusiasm and sizeable community attracts a whole host of reputed teachers and creates for numerous festivals and events.
The tango crowd was more German than I expected given the country’s diverse ethnic mix. Word spread quickly that we were ‘from Australia’ and the friendly cabaceos flowed.
Tangoloft runs twice a week and is known to be the best milonga in Stuttgart’s active calendar. Rumour has it, that it can be credited for placing Stuttgart as the next best tango destination in Germany after Berlin. The vibe was energetic and spurred by great music. The floor craft was variable and traditionalists felt compelled to tell us that the many nuevo and alternative followers in Germany make for a mixed scene.
Stuttgart is seemingly a random choice for a European tango adventure; we were met with looks of amazement that we had travelled so far just for tango. Truth be told, our destination was Karlsruhe: even more random and unknown, certainly in the world of tango.
Inspired by a single youtube video and piqued with curiosity, we travelled to Karlsruhe to learn with one of Europe’s leading couples, Marko & Maja. Their graceful technique and playful musical expression speaks volumes and embodies both the ‘less is more’ style and a clear sense of equilibrium in their shared dance. A frivolous facebook enquiry led to a strong connection with our soon-to-be maestros and within a couple of months we found ourselves in Karlsruhe in the company of two very talented dancers and gifted teachers.
The jet setting Croatian couple have chosen Karlsruhe as their central European base though there isn’t an active tango scene in the Black Forest city. Stuttgart was the closest possible destination to road-test our newly learnt techniques.
Karlsruhe sits on the border of the Black Forest, which stretches west to the Rhine River and borders the gourmet Alsace region of France. The region, laced with nature trails, medieval castles and quaint villages, is famed for the cuckoo clock, black forest gateau and the world of Grimm’s fairy tales. Though Karlsruhe itself is nothing to write home about, our time there was splendidly cross-national with tango lessons in Germany by day and dinners in France (less than an hour away) by night.
To my delight, the thermal spa town of Baden Baden was in easy access for some high-calibre indulgence. The spas are famously ‘textile free’ for the more liberated though fortunately the outdoor thermal pools are more conventional and a heavenly respite for tango stressed legs.
Tango Highlight: The tremendous learning experience with Marko & Maja and the welcoming crowd of Stuttgart. As we travelled through Europe, we continued to share tandas with Stuttgart tangueros in other festivals.
Destination Highlight: Starting the day with ‘Guten Tag’ and ending it with ‘Bonsoir’ for a perfect European blend. The dense goodness of rye brot, German bread, and not to forget the uber cleanliness of everything!
More on Stuttgart Tango: Visit http://tangostuttgart.de
Marko and Maja’s philosophy rests on both partners being equal contributors in the dance and is evident in their expression. "This idea is based on the communication that goes both ways - whether we are doing a complicated sequence of steps, a pause or an embellishment. By suggesting, understanding and sharing a movement inspired by the music we are both actively and willingly participating in the dance."