Monday, September 27, 2021

The Last Tango Before Delta

With no community covid cases for 160 days, three cancelled  festivals due to lockdowns, finally the three day Tango festival event “National Winter Tango in Hanmer” got underway on Friday 14th August with tango dancers (tangueros) arriving from all over New Zealand from Dunedin to Auckland. 

The Tango festival Director Anne-Maree Therkleson said “we were very fortunate to have the festival as the whole country went into Level 4 due to delta two days after the festival.”

The newly renovated Hanmer Springs War Memorial Hall, was the location for the festival.  Tango festival director and Tango teacher Anne-Maree Therkleson of Tango Libre Nelson and her volunteers transformed the hall for the keen dancers after months of planning and organising with the hope that no Covid restrictions would be thrown down during the festival.

Hanmer Springs had masses of snow a week before so there was still snow on the ground when all the tangueros arrived and the snow capped mountains were beautiful. Hanmer always puts on a great show for the festival visitors and I’m sure the tangueros have added substantially to the economy of Hanmer Springs.  

The keen tango volunteers took over, under the festival director’s keen eye, to create amazing spaces for the festival. The main hall was creatively decorated with spectacular fairy lights with tables and chairs around the walls, the dance floor in the centre. The stage was transformed into a relaxing Argentinian cafe area with curtains, fairy lights and a moon shaped mural on the back wall representing the “Once in a Blue Moon” milonga (dance evening). The large foyer of the hall became the dining area. 

The core Tango volunteers came from all over New Zealand from Christchurch to Auckland and many places in-between.  “The festival couldn’t have happened without volunteers and dancers pitching in”  Anne-Maree said “we are a family, a community who share our love of dance together.”


The event kicked off with keen tangueros converging on Friday evening for a communal dinner. Dancers tripped the light fantastic for 16 hours minimum, visiting the hot pools and spa in between and resting their tired feet … before the next milonga. The three day event erupted into applause at the end on Sunday afternoon. Everyone’s faces were lit up like daffodils with the enjoyment of meeting everyone again, some whom they had not seen for over one and a half years. A fantastic experience was had by all.

Quique Miller, a volunteer and a Tango Teacher from Christchurch commented “ I was so happy to see and feel the happiness from people…the atmosphere was quite special…Anne-Maree is a legend.  From the beginning she moved the right energy to create one of the best festivals.”

After having three festivals cancelled due to Covid 19 the Festival Director’s speech started with “we have done it!” and very loud applause rang out throughout the hall.

Dancers called it “ an inspirational magical weekend, a gift for the tango community, a special opportunity to reconnect with dancers from all around the country”. All held together by superb organisation and by different and exciting DJs from Auckland, Christchurch and Nelson.

The festival ended, just scraping through before the country was shut down due to Delta.  One participant said “The festival will give us fuel and fill us for the coming days in lockdown”. The organiser’s response “Thank goodness for Level 4 we all need a rest!”

The next Tango festival, Spring Tango in Martinborough in October has unfortunately been cancelled due to Covid.  In true positive tango style though, Anne-Maree has organised other opportunities for keen dancers!  There is Summer Tango in Nelson in March and the latest addition to her festival list is Autumn Tango in Arrowtown.  These ones are sure to be packed out if they are not victims of Covid. 

If you want to learn tango and come along to an exciting and friendly tango festival, contact your local Argentine Tango dance school and start lessons asap!  If you want to learn from Anne-Maree in the Nelson/Tasman area contact her on  Check out her website and see the plethora of dancing on offer.

Winter Tango dancers

Hanmer Springs

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