This is the second year of the SMITH (Santa Monica International Tango Holiday; the name gives its a nice European ring, rather than calling it a festival), and last year’s attendees, some of who were not going to go this year but decided to take another chance, say things have improved greatly.
I cannot attest to this comment, as I did not attend last year. But those with whom I spoke say the decor, at least on Saturday night, was nicer, the dance floor cleaner, and it was better organized.
However, some groaned (including myself), the fact that it’s in a gym doesn’t warrant a $35 ticket price for a gala milonga. Granted, there were about 300 people there, so there was opportunity to dance with new people. But the place, including the dirty high school bathrooms with one rusty sink and no mirrors, is not a proper a venue for people who like to dress up to tango.
What you get for $35–a large space with decent floors, good music played by visiting DJs, a great deal of people, and, this year, free water. There were also performances by the three visiting tango couple instructors on Saturday night, one of who were beautifully elegant dancers.
Sebastian Achaval and Roxana Suare are from Argentina, and their style of salon Argentine tango dancing is true to the intimate and graceful, yet sensual, form of the dance. The audience seemed to think they were wonderful, giving them the loudest applause of the evening, even at one point a standing ovation. See video below.
Julie Friedgen and Angel Echeverria of the Tango Room (El Encuentro) were honored Saturday night. They even closed their milonga that night, the first time ever we are told, in support of SMITH organizers.
As for how the rest of the festival was, those who attended can post their own comments on this site.