All That Glitters
Highlights of the 7th Shanghai Tango Festival
Here I am again! My Shanghai stopover was advantageously timed to coincide with the 7th Shanghai Tango Festival.
Just when I thought that I had seen all the glitz that the organizers could possibly pull out, I realized I was mistaken. If the opulence of the historic Peace Hotel, last year’s main venue, wasn’t enough to satiate the greatest of luxury appetites then this year’s venue selection was sure to satisfy.
The newly reopened Paramount headlined the 7th Shanghai Tango Festival. The glamour of the landmark 1930’s art deco dancehall sadly vanished at the onset of the communist regime. Reminiscent of the pre-revolutionary elite Shanghai society who graced the floors in the city’s decadent past, the dance floor sprung to life once again as tango melodies ricocheted through the hall.
It was an evening that drew suitably glammed up locals and visitors in full force to experience the Bai Le Men, ‘The Gate of 100 Pleasures’ as it is known in Chinese. Entering a grand marble foyer adorned with a glistening chandelier, a gold banister clad winding staircase led us to the dancehall. By this point we were appeased that the lavishness of the space matched that of the ticket price.
In my experience the most glamorous venues don’t usually translate into the most memorable tandas and this gala milonga was no different. The regal red booths bordering the dance floor and the glimmers of the disco-esque lighting challenged cabaceos. It was a grand occasion nonetheless, one that fused nostalgia and extravagance in memorable fashion.
The sweltering summer temperatures, apparently the highest on record that season, challenged energy levels limiting our participation to only key festival events. As this was now my third Shanghai festival, I was admittedly no longer plagued by fomo, fear of missing out, and was content to maintain a more comfortable pace.
The glitz of the festival was transported for some waterborne action – a sunset milonga on a boat. The Huangpu River becomes a more inviting destination around dusk as the murky hues visible by day give way to the vivid reflections of city night lights. Illuminations on an eclectic mix of historical architecture on the west bank and modern skyscrapers on the east created a visual feast and stunning backdrop to an evening of tango.
Not dissimilar to a multilevel nightclub, we were fired up by a DJ combo spinning tracks across two floors, ensuring a distinctively different dance experience on each deck. After a few hours back and forth between the decks and once the obligatory performances from regional festival supporters came to end, the engines started turning and we gently set sail. The dance floor gradually spilled out onto the upper open deck for a few moments of respite from the now very clammy atmosphere on board. A barricade of selfie takers in pursuit of the perfect shot soon formed by the rails sending a flurry of activity through the airwaves with instantaneous social media updates.
An hour of cruising was ample time to take in the sparkling sights after which some traditional Shanghainese fare soothed the hunger pangs on route to the shore based after party.
It’s not all glitz at the festival. The formalities of the gala milongas ease up at the studio based after parties making for a pulsating atmosphere and a cabaceo friendly setting. With temperatures soaring in excess of 38 °C in July it's sheer determination that keeps the action flowing well into the early morning hours.
I, for one, will be keeping a look out for next year’s announcements – how will the organizers surpass 2017 on the swankiness index next time round?
For more about Shanghai, a City of Contrasts & Contradictions, as a Tango Destination
More on the Shanghai Tango Festival: www.tangobang.cn