Saturday, March 11, 2023



The opening night of the Nelson New Zealand Summer Tango Festival held at Nelson College. Photo R Therkleson

Energy and Excitement continues through the entire  Summer Tango in Nelson Festival

The 11th annual INTERNATIONAL SUMMER TANGO IN NELSON FESTIVAL started on the evening of Friday 3 March and ended on Sunday 5 March at Nelson College in Nelson.

The festival for 11 years now has always been 

organised and produced by Mrs Anne-Maree Therkleson director, event organiser and Tango teacher of Tango Libre Richmond.

I asked Anne-Maree how she felt about the opening night. Mrs Anne-Maree Therkleson said “I was so excited to see everyone arriving full of energy and excitement at what the weekend would hold. We have had to cancel the last two years festivals due to Covid and it was obvious from the buzz in the room that dancers were very happy to be in each other’s arms again, feeling that awesome tango embrace.”  

“This year we have the most international visitors which is really exciting for us - being able to share our love of Nelson with people who speak the same language as us, but who come from all over - Venezuela, Germany, Vancouver, Hawaii and just about every state in Australia is represented here." 

What a stupendous event! 

Most impressive attendees tangueros (dancers), beautifully dressed participants, splendid dancing, the   tenderness, serenity and emotion of the dancers filled the hall, a special distinctive quality of DJ Tango music, out of this world decorations mostly centred above the dance floor, unmatched hall spot-lighting, food for all tastes, excellent layout of the hall, perfect floor for dancing on, just a wonderful crowd and splendid organisation and festival.

What a breathtaking venue, and location!

A must repeat location at the magnificent Nelson College, Assembly Hall, Waimea Road, Nelson and the extensive mature grounds. The beautiful main building with the well appointed spacious hall surrounded on two sides with internal gardens which kept the noise low from outside. Outside on Saturday night in the  beautifully kept grounds were young school borders, on their free evening, flashing their phone lights throughout the dark grounds, magical inside the hall and outside!

The venue being a special one for the Nelson Tango Festival, after losing the Masonic Hall in Nile Street, Nelson to a fire.

The venue had a large dance floor large enough for everyone to be comfortable, spacious ceiling space for decorations, lovely stained glass windows by day, adequate seating area, room to mingle around the hall and outside on a deck over one of the internal gardens. There was a compact and accessible area for food and soft drinks tables. A hall worthy of use by the public. 

One Nelson College teacher told me that the hall may have been used in the past by large orchestras, but this would be Nelson College first time at allowing a Tango Festival to go ahead.

Wonderful setting created for festival participants.  Photo R. Therkleson

Special hall decorations planned ahead for months, but “actually years” Anne-Maree said as they had to cancel two festivals due to covid. The decorations were assembled during the days before the festival and all put in place by a dedicated small team of Tango volunteers, under the close eye of Anne-Maree. 

These were the DJs that played at the Summer Tango Festival 2023:

The opening night DJ Frida Kotlyar (Sydney). Photo R. Therkleson

Frida Kotlyar (Sydney)

Junko Kobayoshi (Nelson)

Deb Waltenberg (Christchurch)

Brendon Varcoe (Nelson)

David Bagshaw (Nelson)

I asked Anne-Maree the organiser of the event how she felt, now that the Summer Tango Festival was finally over for 2023.

Anne-Maree Therkleson

“Tired, ecstatic and overwhelmed! Tired because I think I only managed 4 hours sleep a night for three nights!  Ecstatic and overwhelmed at the plentiful positive feed back, the happy faces and warm smiles. The most important aspect for me is seeing everyone dancing in a state of absolute presence. It really was magical.” 

In regards to the different festivals Anne-Maree organises each year, I asked her to explain?

“All the festivals have a very different flavour and they are all very special in their own way. I call them the ‘4 Seasons of Tango.’ They also have different themed milongas depending on where in NZ they are held. It’s quite exciting preparing for a festival!”

'A Splash of Colour' Milonga  Trafalgar St. Hall Nelson, New Zealand. Photo R Therkleson

“The other three festivals are: Autumn Tango located in Arrowtown and has the warmth of the autumnal colours to flavour the festival which has more of a homemade crafty feel to it.” 

“Winter Tango is in Hanmer Springs so it is very cold, and snowy and the theme is like a winter wonderland.” 

“Spring Tango is in Martinborough when all the flowers are coming out and the wine season is open!” 

“This is the way that I like it - so that if a dancer came to all four festivals (which they do!) they get a different experience from the space they are dancing in whilst getting the same good quality organisation, and always awesome dancing opportunities with great floors.” 

“Participants who have danced in Buenos Aires mentioned that the Nelson College Assembly Hall reminded them of milongas in Buenos Aires.” 

“The old world feel of the large dance halls in Buenos Aires, the wooden panelling and the amazing floor for dancing on.” 

“I feel so grateful to have found this space as it is very difficult to find a large enough hall for dancing in here in Nelson while I am trying to grow the festival.  I want to make Nelson the Tango capital of NZ - I think we are well on our way!”

'Glitzy night' Milonga

During the Festival weekend each Milonga had a different dress theme. The ‘Welcome Milonga,’ was casual on the Friday night. On Saturday afternoon the Milonga was meant to be held in the Queens Gardens Nelson. It was themed ‘A Splash of Colour,’ but due to rain the Milonga was held in the Trafalgar St Hall on Trafalgar Street Nelson. Even though the venue was changed at the last minute everyone loved the venue by the Maitai River. The hall was packed with Tangueros all in different colours - a splendid afternoon.

On Saturday evening the theme was a 'glitzy night' of dancing so tangueros were dressed up in their finest threads, glamorous and fabulous. Many arriving in glorious special dress for the evening. 

The 'Glitzy Night' Mark and Julie from Golden Bay, Tasman. Photo R Therkleson

The final formal Milonga was on Sunday March 5 from 1pm to 5pm. The theme or dress code was 'stunning spots and stripes' for a fun afternoon Milonga back at the Nelson College. Many of the stripes and spots of the dancers were nice and bold making for a fun afternoon of dancing.

'The stripes and spots' Milonga Sunday afternoon 5 March at Nelson College.    Photo R Therkleson

At the end of this Milonga Anne-Maree Therkleson gave a closing speech. “It has been an amazing festival” then very loud applause, “we’ve been waiting a couple of years for this - Summer Tango is so very special” more appreciation from the crowd.

She continued,“What do you think of this piece of art?” (Referring to the wonderful centrepiece of decorations over the dance floor) - more thunderous appreciation. Anne-Maree went on to thank the group of volunteers who helped her create and put up the decorations and she thanked the volunteers who helped during the festival. 


She continued, “a special thanks to all the DJs and to you all for attending the festival as without you it doesn’t happen!  See you all in Arrowtown for the next festival and have safe travel home!” the festival tangueros erupted into even more applause.

Many festival goers went to the after party at ‘The Freehouse’ in Nelson to relax where the DJ kept many of the tangueros dancing for another 5 hours I heard - totally waring out those dancers’ feet.

Festival participants came from throughout New Zealand and overseas and some of the overseas visitor have gone on to tour the country.

Some comments I received from the participants at the festival:

“A splendid well organised event.”

“So much work has been done creating such beautiful decorations.”

“Anne-Maree is always so welcoming and her festivals are always really well run - it is a joy to be here.”

“We go to all of her festivals every year - we are tango junkies!”

“A flawless festival - everything is here when we arrive.”

“A quality of serenity in the wonderful space Anne-Maree created.  I am very grateful”

Some of the decorations. Photo R Therkleson

Some of the decorations. Photo R Therkleson

The event makes history for the Nelson College by being the first Tango Event to be held in the spacious, comfortable, and delightful Nelson College Assembly Hall.

One of the two large stained glass windows in the Nelson College Assembly Hall where the event took place.  Photo R Therkleson

The second stained glass window in the Hall.  Photo R Therkleson

A little history of interest

Nelson College has overcome challenges in the past with damage caused to its main building by fire and earthquake.

The original building built of wood in 1861 was destroyed by fire in 1904. The story is explained below in the captions of the photos.

The first grand building of Nelson College built on these grounds in 1861. Photo Nelson College

The first Nelson College main building destroyed by fire in 1904. Photo Nelson College

The second Nelson College main building built in 1906.

The above second main building damaged by a Nelson earthquake in 1929 and demolished in 1939. Photo Nelson College

The third main Nelson College building today, built in 1942, where the Summer Tango Festival took place March 2023. Photo Ray Therkleson

Back to the Festival

Finally, I asked Anne-Maree if she had any further comments.

She said "thank you to the marvellous Nelson College for their spectacular hall - we couldn't  have run the festival without them!"

"My next festival is 'Autumn Tango' in Arrowtown 28-30 April amidst the wondrous autumnal colours … in the meantime - time to rest up.”

“ has the info on classes and festivals should anyone be super keen to join this great community of dancers."

More Photos of DJs:

Junko Kobayoshi (Nelson) DJ for the 'A Splash of Colour' Milonga  Trafalgar St. Hall. Photo R Therkleson

Deb Waltenberg (Christchurch) (left) DJ for the 'glitzy night' Milonga at Nelson College and Julie (right). Photo R Therkleson

Brendon Varcoe (Nelson) DJ for the 'stunning spots and stripes' Milonga at Nelson College.

Photo R Therkleson

Photo of Anne-Maree and her helpers.

From left to right Mark, Jo, Anne-Maree, Jeanneane, Julie, Mike, Peter, Ray, finally Stevan Anne-Maree's new husband.

For Tango Information See:

Look up the website now to get all the information so far and to start getting excited.  Tell all your tango friends and let's have a great get-together in Arrowtown very soon!


Your Local News From:

Pigeon Post News Richmond, Tasman. New Zealand

11 March 2023

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