This festival has grown, and by grown I really mean step up their game for sure. From what use to feel like a single hall and cramped space ages ago, has grown to something quite refined. Not everything is in one place, because like many, there isn’t enough space for everything, but here, they’ve made use of the space beautifully, especially from previous years.
If you’ve never been to the Norse Hall in Portland, you’re really missing out. It’s a wonderful dance hall, with a lot of space. The historic neon sign on the corner, parking nearby, 3 Stories, 1 ballroom, an upstairs dance space, and even a bar inside for drinks! For an evening of dancing, this space has a lot to offer with more than just Tango during the week and caters to a lot of different dances depending on the day. The space has always felt a little bit like a piece of history.
Previous years, the layout has always been changing a bit, but it always felt cramped. The coat racks, vendors, food, entryway, and more really just didn’t flow well. If you haven’t been you wont quite understand, but when I arrived this year, lets say I was very surprised! It all started with the entry, which wasn’t through the front doors. You could leave through the front if you wanted, but entry was another story.
The entrance this year had you walk down some stairs and enter into what I’m guessing is office space. I’m not exactly sure as there was quite a bit curtained off so you only saw a nice entry, with ample room to check in with multiple lines. This let you into the HUGE downstairs area where classes and food was available previous years. Now though, it was changed into a huge coat and shoe area, with couches, chairs, some Portland TangoFest merchandise, and some extra food/drink for purchase. This was also really well decorated with plants, curtains, nice mood lighting, and even space to chat and get a little dance with a portable floor in the middle!
For first impressions, lets say it turned itself around from previous years greatly! You then head upstairs into the main area, which had advertisement and food tables as you head towards the dance floor. This space use to be the coat/shoe area, and I’m glad it has changed. Still a little cramped, but a much better use of the space. The vendors and the bar area was nicely setup as usual, with ample space, and the main hall felt much more open as well with the seating and lighting this year. Not having additional coat racks on one of the wall areas opened up at least another 40 seats for people, which was totally needed! Some nice seperators at the stage front letting people walk was also a nice change!
Outside the Main Hall
Now the upstairs was the same as before, but another great change this year was offerings outside the main hall. In the past, the extra venues kept changing, which is no different here, but this time it felt much more connected. Just a few short blocks was the space for the mid-day Alternative, nicely lit and great second story space. Felt like a short little jump from the venue without any trek to get to. So the Juniper Next Ballroom was great!
I didn’t get a chance to get to any of the events at the Loft on 8th, but do know it’s a great venue. With a dinner offered, and the farewell, only hope I can get into that space next year and not have to worry about heading home and getting back to work. Sometimes schedules just don’t always work out. As for Tango Berretin, it’s a small and fun spot with a lot of character, it is just out of the way, but offers you something with more of a Younger Portland feel. Parking is not fun if you’re driving as well. It’s fun, has it’s role in the festival which it is totally suited for.
The Classes also have been great and much better organized, but can’t remember if there was a special boot camp for beginners. Not something I look into, as since I’m in Portland, I’m usually visiting family and dancing late. Sleeping through classes or working on photos is what happens for my mornings. The quality of dancers and the feel I get here is always nice, and for some reason, the floorcraft and people getting on/off went super smooth this year! Why, I’m not exactly sure, but stuff felt pretty good.
DJs were what I’d expect, but for some reason one of the late night alternatives were really strange overall. Didn’t feel like tandas, and kinda threw me off. Luckily the afternoon alternative and all the traditional was spot on from what I recall. I’m starting to become a little more critical on what i’m hearing and the music is really what helps make me put my camera down to dance.
The performances were nice, better lighting than before. The live musical was amazing as always, granted you like dancing to live music and open to whatever it brings.
Final thoughts from 2018?
I go to this festival just about every year, it helps family is nearby and I can stay with them. I do unfortunately attend for the social dancing, and not really much else. I’m also always in a crunch for time, too much dancing, not enough outside time for friends, and with photography, I’m working it all the same. With all the changes, they have been upping their game and this feels so much more organized and together. For a festival being so old and happening for so long, you’d think they’d have had things down for a while, but now it feels it’s blossomed into a full festival experience.
I’ll be going again this next year I’m sure, and if you happen to be going as well, send me a message, would love to chat and hang out, maybe grab a tanda. Helps me put the camera down!