Dance Al FrescoDance Al Fresco is London's premier series of outdoor ballroom/Latin/tango dance events. Comprising The Broadwalk Ballroom (ballroom/Latin) and Tango Al Fresco (Argentine Tango), dancers from all over the UK flock to London each summer for these joyous dance-and-picnic weekends, which raise funds for The Royal Parks Foundation and tree planting in Regent's Park. (www.dancealfresco.org)
Tango Al FrescoIn 1998, 80 dancers took part in London's first Tango Al Fresco. Regular park users found themselves mesmerized, applauding after each dance. Since then, there have been a total of 30 Tango Al Fresco events (1998-9, 2001-2, 2004-5, 2007-13). Attendance has swelled to an average of 300 dancers for each event. The weather has been mixed, from bright sunshine and blazing heat (one couple was spotted eating ice cream cones while tango-ing), to grey skies, slow drizzle and even brief deluges, prompting tangueros to dance wearing raincoats and holding umbrellas.
Tango Al Fresco has been graced with wonderful professional demonstrations over the years. London-based couples have included Jill Barrett & Leroy Tango Cat, Strictly Come Dancing's Vincent Simone & Flavia Cacace, Kicca & Cesar, Mina & Giraldo, Leonardo & Bridgit, David Benitez & Kim Schwartz, Rene & Hiba, and Bianca. International dancers have included 2006 Tango Mundial Champions Carlos Paredes & Diana Giraldo, "Tanguera" star Junior Cervila & Natalia Royo, Nick Jones & Diana Cruz, Bruno Tombari & Marie Angelis Caamano, Sebastian & Mariana, Lionel Wirz & Lia Jeker, the much beloved Los Ocampo, and veteran milongero Ricardo Vidort (partnered by Jill Barrett).
Music for the events has come from wonderful DJs and musicians. DJs have included Jill Barrett, David Lurie and Kele Baker, but for the last few years the music has been played by Nikki Preddy and Tony Walker. Occasionally there has been live music, including solo performances by Karl Sandeman (accordion) and singer Oscar Moret, as well as performances by tango groups Los Mareados and Tango Volcano.
In November 2001, Kele and Tango Al Fresco were honoured by having an official tree planting along the side of the London Zoo (see Extras). And in 2007 Kele was invited to a reception at 10 Downing Street, in honour of the anniversary of The Royal Parks Foundation (see Extras).
In 1999 Royal Ballet principal dancer Deborah Bull attended Tango Al Fresco. She participated in the beginner's lesson, as part of the BBC series Travels With My Tutu.
The Broadwalk BallroomIn 2005, the acquisition of a dance floor meant that ballroom dancing could be added to the Al Fresco calendar. Since then, there have been 17 Broadwalk Ballroom events (2005, 2007-13). Ballroom and Latin dancers from all over the south of England, as well as university dancers from Imperial College, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, Bristol and even Leeds, now join London dancers on Saturday afternoons. Even occasional (or persistent) rain showers don't dampen the energy and enthusiasm for outdoor ballroom dancing.
The main DJ for The Broadwalk Ballroom Jacky Logan of Jacky's Jukebox. But we have also enjoyed music by Wendy Glaze of Waltzing With Hilda and Toto's.
There have been performances by some of the nation's leading dance couples, including Strictly Come Dancing's Andrew Cuerden & Hanna Haarala, top UK amateur ten-dancers Danny Stowell & Kate Moore, and Portuguese champions Carlos Custodio & Elena Plescenco, and Lindy Hop specialists Paul & Natasha from Strictly Dance Fever. Andrew made a second appearance and The Broadwalk Ballroom, with his new partner Viktoriya Wilton. The Broadwalk Ballroom was graced by the presence of Strictly Come Dancing finalist and Olympic Gold Medal heptathlete Denise Lewis, who spoke of her positive experience learning to dance and her appreciation for professional partner Ian Waite. She then introduced the demonstration by Ian and his professional partner Camilla Dallerup.
Tango Al Fresco Malta 1999Tango Al Fresco went off-shore for the first time in September 1999, arranging a tango dinner dance at the palatial five-star Le Meridien Phoenicia Hotel on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Malta. The evening benefited The Gaia Foundation, a local environmental organisation with the specific aim of managing sensitive areas that make up an important part of Malta's natural heritage. Eric Jorrisen of Tango El Corte joined us for the evening. He was in Malta giving a week of tango workshops for Isla Del Tango, Malta's local tango society.
I have been attending Dance Al Fresco ever since you first started. The instruction is great and it is good fun to have the opportunity to dance with a variety of people. I would like to thank you and your helpers, as many others thank you, for putting the events together. You give enjoyment to a lot of people, both dancers and onlookers, and your events introduce dancing to bystanders, which is always a good thing.
Tango Al Fresco was one of the most enjoyable days of dancing I have ever had.