Monday, 15 May 2017

Of Dragons and Bad Hair

"Dragons! Ever since he was two years old he had been captivated by the pictures of the fiery beasts in The Octarine Fairy Book. His sister had told him that they didn’t really exist, and he recalled the bitter disappointment. If the world didn’t contain those beautiful creatures, he’d decided, it wasn’t half the world it ought to be."

(The Color of Magic - A novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett)


This is exactly how I always felt. And I was not only missing the dragons. What about vampires, werewolves, witches and wizards? Where were the shining queens, kings and knights? No monsters, no gods, no goblins to be seen. No resurrection, no epic battles, no magic. No magic!

Instead of Galadriel, we get a boring politician with a bad haircut, instead of Sauron a stupid liar with even worse hair. So disappointing.

But there have always existed magicians! They are the ones who take words and create worlds out of them with the pure power of their imagination. The story-tellers, authors, writers of the past and present.

I love music, dance and the fine arts. And movies! But literature for me is the highest form of art. (Please excuse my bias, my dear artist friends and even my beloved.) This is why I have been reading my whole life, why I started to study literature, why I did roleplaying-games, why I always wanted to write a novel - until a friend told me that I’d be crappy at it. Now I might be too old to complete my studies and too discouraged to write, but I can still read. So everything is fine.

But is it?

Where have all the magicians gone? 

Don’t get me wrong, I always cherished the approach of describing our world and its inhabitants in realistic or sometimes idealistic forms as done by many important authors of the 19th century: Zola, Dickens, Jane Austin, the Brontes, Mrs. Gaskell, Henry James … Today there are great writers who follow in their footsteps and there are lots of good reads lying ahead. But I was from an early age very much attracted by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and those others who created worlds full of mystery, monsters and magic. My true heroes are the fantastic authors of the 20th century: J.R.R. Tolkien, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Umberto Eco, Terry Pratchett.
(I am aware that most critics would not include Pratchett in such an illustrious list, but I believe he was a master.)

The problem is: now they are all dead and I’m seriously running out of fantastic novels to read. Most newer publications have rather disenthralled me. Sure, Steven King ist still living, but after having produced masterpieces like It or The Stand he has long failed to write another comparably compelling story. 
(Again with the alliterations! I guess this is why I should not write!)

There is one magician left: Neil Gaiman. 

Neverwhere, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane… Those are books that open windows to other worlds and by this make the most poignant observations about our so-called reality, our lives and our fears. I think he’s great. Also quite cute - in spite of the funny hair. 

But I am beginning to fear that his fame might keep him from writing great books in the future. He is getting a little too popular and busy posting about his talented wife, his book signings and the TV-adaptation of American Gods. Yes, I am going to watch and like it. And yes, his latest work Norse Mythology was as illuminating as it was amusing, but dear Mr. Gaiman: I need a new world to discover.

Because the one in which we are living is getting more dreadful and boring by the hour. Someone has to help me get off the internet and read more about Brexit, Trump and the other evils in my work-free hours.

So please write another outstanding novel into which I can escape. Now?




Monday, 24 April 2017

Masters

I have not written for some time. There was nothing that seemed very important and I was too busy anyway. But yesterday, I saw a video which I - very spontaneously and in an untypical manner - criticised on Facebook. 

It is a video of a famous teacher couple demonstrating a very long and fast sequence in a master class. From what I could see and from what I know about the target audience, I had the very strong feeling, that the participants would not be up to that sequence. Therefore found it hard to understand the value of teaching such a combination in this context. I was not as diplomatic as I have could been, so I have obviously offended others. It was made clear to me, that it is not for me to criticise professionals publicly. Sorry for that, but I think that critique and open discussions are important in every context. Every public person has to deal with that and what others have written about me, my dance or teaching is far more blunt than anything I would ever say. Some of that came from famous professionals. But this is not what I want to focus on here.

The discussion ensuing after my observation is still ongoing. One main argument against my critique is that someone who signs up for a masterclass should well be prepared for a challenging move. I spend some time arguing that teachers should adapt their class content to the level of participants, no matter what the title was. This and the discussion whether teaching long sequences is sensible anyway is of course important, but whilst pondering about all that in bed, I have noticed, that this may not the main problem.

The issue is rather of how to define a particular term: master. 

Who or what is a master?

In order to make my point, I have to go back in time.

Shortly after I had started dancing tango for the second time (I began in 1995 and re-started after a short break in 2000) my partner Detlef convinced me to taking some master classes with the usual suspects. I protested because I understood myself as a beginner and found it pretty presumptuous to attend such workshops.

During these classes, I noticed that I could easily do the movements and got bored quickly. Sure, I did not have to lead them; I was young and skinny and had danced all kinds of other dances for many years. Throwing my legs into the air and running around a partner seemed easy enough at the time.

Still: something was wrong. But I did not dig deeper. 

How did I continue? Well… Having done lots of jumping and kicking already, I was not very interested in that kind of moves and our focus shifted to other things. We started teaching and trying to understand what we do in order to explain it to our students. As our tango-microscopes got finer tuned, we discovered more and more details in the simplest things. A shift of weight became a very complex entity. Which is why our dancing got even more simple over the years. You become very humble, if you start understanding how things function or could work in an ideal case. 

The same with our musicality: in the beginning we performed to Pugliese. It was fun. But we knew nothing about the music. We just danced instinctively. Some of that was ok, most was awful. Today,  we know much, much more about the music and the possibilities it offers, which is why we often are intimidated by a too high degree of complexity in a song. We know that we’d need much more time to practise in order to actually apply all that we know and hear in our dance. But we don’t have the time. Because we rather spend it preparing classes or didactical methods, writing class summaries or discussing concepts with our teacher-trainees who are equally nerdy. So we keep it simple - which does not equal easy.

In 2007, we were asked to do a masterclass in a small festival. The whole thing was a little absurd, given that I did not see myself as a master.
Detlef and I prepared a small seminar on centres of rotation with pictures to show how they are applied in different standard situations. It did not enter our minds to teach a more complex step, just because the workshop was labelled was called masterclass.

Some years later, we were asked to do a special session for the practice-guides in a French town. We prepared a discussion about the organisation, self-conception and work-focus in tango clubs. The participants were delighted about the idea and a lot of good came out of it. But later they told us, that they had expected something completely different: more steps to show to the practice-participants. Huh… 

This work was actually the foundation-stone for our teacher-training and you can imagine, how this is structured: a lot of analysis of basic principles, didactical work and pedagogical concepts, bodywork, musicality… We spend so much time understanding the transfer of axis of one leg to the other, that we barely have the capacity to talk about Entradas in the last module of the 100-hour-training. 

Ok… I exaggerate a little and I know that we are extreme in our wish to comprehend the world. But I think you know what I am getting at.

For me, a master - a maestro - is first and foremost a teacher. Someone who understands very well, what he or she is doing. Someone who can explain a simple (or a difficult) context to another person. A master is someone who will grasp the complexity of a simple thing, someone who will realise the difficulties that a beginner or less advanced person has to face. Therefore a master will most likely be a humble person. I don’t know, if I am am there yet, but this is what I am aiming for.

But the word master has other definitions too:
- A master can be a boss: master and servant. But this does not help very much in the tango-context apart from the fact, that sometimes leaders and followers are understood in such an (inappropriate) manner.
- A more common interpretation for the term master is: Someone, who is very good at doing something, a champion. In particular when you come from an artistic or sportive context. 

After this lengthy discussion on Facebook I think, that this is where the issue lies: we do not agree on the definition of the term.

When I hear the word masterclass, I am prepared to deal with teachers, who want to understand a specific context better, in order to be better prepared for classes. To put it in the sportive context: for me, master equals coach. The master does not necessarily have to run super fast, but he has to know how to make his trainee perform better.
Confronting a group of teachers (having most likely very different levels of dance proficiency) with a super-long sequence that will take 1/3 of the class-duration to memorise and many months of hard training to do it perfectly does not make any sense. Unless you have a lot of time to explain the intricacies of the whole movement in order to learn something about the underlying principles. 

Others - upon reading the description masterclass - expect super dancers, the champions, the heroes. They expect the ones who can run faster, jump higher or farther. And it is perfectly valid to demand that these dancers cope with a lengthy and complex sequence and - ideally - understand what they are doing, because they have already done the research or because their teachers have prepared them well enough.

The conclusion:
After 17 years of feeling uncomfortable with masterclasses, I finally discovered, what my problem again is. Words. Understanding them. And using them correctly or in a well-defined manner. I am obviously a slow learner. 

So here is my plea for organisers and teachers: 
Please review your definition of the term masterclass and describe such a seminar according to your interpretation. Then you’ll get the right clientele and no-one has to complain. This may need some more explaining on websites or on flyers.

A last thought: 
All of this boils down to a typical tango problem. How to use words properly in order to not create confusion. Please be clear about what you mean by lines, lanes or rails. Be specific about terms like entrada, sacada, cadencia or syncopation. As teachers, musicians or dancers we may have opposing definitions - this is totally acceptable. But we should stick to one of them and make it transparent which one we are using. Because language is complex and - what makes it even harder in our international tango word - most of us have to deal with non-native languages or speakers. So we have to take extra care of what we say in which manner. As someone who teaches in four languages, I am very well aware of this problem and am constantly searching for a clear usage of terms. 

Because I want people to understand what I say.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Encuentros & Festivalitos Milongueros 2017

It is this time of the year again: tango-dancers are asking me to post my Encuentro-recommendations for next year. 

But you may know that I find it harder and harder to compile this list. As I have not been visiting so many Encuentros in the past two years, I cannot guarantee for their quality. Some events, that have been part of last year's list, cannot be found here anymore, either because they will not take place again or because I have heard too much negative feedback about them. Also some organisers have not yet informed me about the dates of their events.

I have nevertheless decided to post another choice of events that:
1. ask participants to pre-register for the whole event,
2. use role or gender-balance to ensure that everyone gets to dance,
3. will take at least 3 days and have separate Milongas,
4. use traditional music in tandas & cortinas,
5. encourage cabeceo & mirada,
6. encourage dancers to leave the dance-floor after one tanda to find a new partner,
7. are meant to attract people who want to dance in a close embrace in a civilised ronda.
Events, that have these features are in general called Encuentros or Festivalitos Milongueros. Festivalitos might include a short demo as well as some classes that focus on social tango. There will nevertheless be no live-music or extended shows at these events. The Milongas are reserved for dancing.

I am going to stick to events that are well-established and and that aim to attract an international crowd. For a complete listing, please visit Gato Milongueiro's site
Like last year, I am going to present the events in three sub-groups.


EVENTS THAT I PLAN ON VISITING + EVENTS THAT I ORGANISE

Abrazos (Tangokombinat UK), Devon, United Kingdom, May 5-7 (info soon)
Le Rendez-vous Milonguero de l'Essaim de Julie, France, June 2-4
Pequeña (Tangokombinat), Saarbrücken, Germany, June 16-18 (info soon)
Festivalito Rural, Verzej, Slovenia, August 25-27
FCA (Tangokombinat), October 13-15 (private event)
2017 will be a very sad year with only very few Encuentros for me. Unfortunately, two of my favourite events  (Viento Norte and Embrace Norway) will not take place in 2017. Also I will be travelling to the USA twice. That does not leave a lot of time for Encuentros. By the way: none of the events mentioned above use separate seating, all are open to changing roles and come with a very relaxed ambiance. 


EVENTS WITHOUT SEPARATE SEATING AREAS FOR MEN & WOMEN

(In some cases, you might nevertheless be assigned to a seat/table)
Noches de invierno, Reichenau an der Rax, Austria, January 6-8
Silueta Porteña, Hamburg, Germany, January 27-29 (fully booked)
Encuentro de Primavera, Kehl, Germany, April 6-9 (on invitation only)
Yo soy Milonguero, Crema, Italy, April 14-17 (very big, seating by country of origin)
Pasionaria Milonguera, Nice, France, March 3-5
Saarburg Festivalito, Saarburg, Germany, March 31 - April 2 
La Colmena, Copenhagen, Denmark, April 21-23
Atlantico, Porto, Portugal, May 11-15
Ronda del Querer, Kassel, Germany, June 3-5
Noches de Verano, Reichenau an der Rax, Austria, August 11-13
Encuentro Milonguero, Kehl, Germany, September 7-10
Abrazame, Barcelona, Spain, December (Encuentro-Marathon), 1st weekend December
Encuentro de Navidad, Kehl, Germany, December 7-10 (on invitation only)
Hopefully I will manage to integrate one or two of these column's events into my schedule. I am interested in Atlantico (because of the setting) and Noches de Verano (which seems to be very friendly). I would also like to go to La Colmena, but will be working that weekend. Gaby's events in Kehl seem to be nice as well, but somehow, I never make it to them.


EVENTS WITH SEPARATE SEATING AREAS FOR MEN & WOMEN
(In some cases with an additional area for couples or mixed groups)
Juntos, France, February 17-19
Encontro Milongueiro A Promotora, Lisbon, Portugal, February 24-28
Encuentro Porteño, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 18-21
Les Cigales, France, May 25-28
Aventura Milonguera - Peace & Tango, Noci, Italia, June 15-18
Festiv'à La Milonguita, Sisteron, France, June 29 - July 2
La Franteña, France, August 11-15
Stockholm in a close embrace, Stockholm, Sweden, August 25-27
Ensueños, Porto, Portugal, October (Date?)
Yupie, France, October 13-15
TanGoaGOGO, Lago Maggiore, Italia, October 28-30
Te Quiero Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal, November 17-19
Roma Milonguera, Rom. Italy, November (Date?)
You will most likely not meet me at any of these events, as the separat seating does not work for me. This is really sad, because some of my friends prefer this setting and I have not seen them for a long time and just miss being at these places. But I cannot help it. Another reason for my not going there is the rather poor sound and floor quality at some of the French and Italian events. If you are sensitive to these factors, please check with the organisers in advance.


That's it for the moment. I will update the list as soon as I get more information. Please also write to me, if you discover a mistake. 

Note for organisers: 
This is no complete list of all Encuentros and Festivalitos Milongueros. I can only recommend events, that I have been to or that are recommended to me by people, who I know personally and who share my standards of quality and definitions. I will also not integrate first-time events unless they are organised by people whom I trust as organisers because I I have visited some other event that they created in the past. This is - after all - my personal list of recommendations. Nowadays, there are dozens of Encuentros. I cannot know or recommend them all. So please do forgive, if your event is not part of this post.




Tango Gourmet or Gourmand?

I ask myself: 
How can one enjoy Encuentros/Festivalitos or Marathons, if one visits them all the time? 
I see so many of my friends constantly in Facebook-albums, some of them obviously visiting international events almost every other weekend... And they seem to have fun all the time, enjoying each of them indiscriminately. In any case, the thank-you-notes are always enthusiastic, no matter how the floor, catering, DJs, sound and dance experience were.
I don't know. My maximum were 11 Encuentros in 2013. In 2016 it will have been 8, some of them combined with teaching, DJing or organising... That does not leave a lot, but I can enjoy every occasion - because for me they are special. I choose carefully where I travel to, because I want every voyage to be exquisite.
Of course, my freedom is very limited. I cannot visit more than a few Encuentros per year, as I teach on so many weekends. So my situation is not comparable to those of my friends with normal jobs. I also don't want to propagate being overly picky - one should see the good in things, not only the defaults
But still: there is a difference between a gourmet and a gourmand, no?



Monday, 28 March 2016

Enquette: Gender and Role Balance at Tango Events

In the last 10 years, many events with balanced numbers of men/women or leaders/followers have been created: Marathons, Festivalitos and Encuentros Milongueros and private events.
This has positive results (everyone present gets to dance more) and negative consequences (long waiting lists for followers).

As a tango organiser who has been promoting this concept, I want to evaluate the current situation and initiate discussions about alternative concepts - if there are any. 

Please note that I am aiming to discuss the topic "gender/role balance at events" and not the pros and contras of pre-registration events as such. So if you just want to rant about supposedly elitist or inviation-only events, my questionnaire is not meant for you.

This questionnaire will be open until June, 5 2016. I am planning the publication of the results in September.

Thank you for 
taking you time and participating here.

Friday, 25 March 2016

ABC of Tango Events - No More Porridge!


Tango defies all kinds of standardisations. It is a highly individualised tradition based upon the personal views, styles and philosophies of thousands of people all over the world. This is what makes tango so complete and interesting. I certainly don‘t aim to downsize its diversity or the inventiveness of organisers in creating new forms of get-togethers. It can nevertheless make sense to define certain forms of events or more accurately: to describe some commonly agreed-upon categories of events.

Why is that?

When I started dancing tango, there were just a few local milongas. Once in a while the local teachers would invite an external (usually argentine) teacher couple and maybe even a tango-orchestra. And then you’d dress up and call the event a festival, because it was more than a normal milonga. Expectancies were not very well-defined and life was easy. Everyone ate porridge.

Nowadays, there are many different forms of events that have developed based on the philosophies of sub-groups and organisers in the tango community. Sure, there are still those who dance no matter where to no matter what music in no matter what style. When you start out, that might even be normal. But the majority of more experienced dancers will develop personal preferences. Some like dancing to the “old” tango orchestras, some prefer non-tango-music, some love live bands… Most dancers will choose evens quite consciously and spend a lot of time, money and energy to fulfil their quite accurately defined and  sometimes exaggerated expectations, like someone who visits a restaurant:
You know, when I order a Diet Coca Cola, I don’t want to be served a Pepsi Max, because I really don’t like the taste of it. When I order my steak medium, I don’t want it raw. When I order Paella, I don’t want to eat Risotto. And a Pizza is no Flammkuchen. These dishes might be related, but they are not the same. 

In order to prevent their customers from being disappointed and themselves from having to listen to complaints, I think that organisers better describe their events as honestly and detailed as possible in advance. This is where labels come in handy. If everyone agrees upon what a marathon is, an organiser can use this single term to describe his or her event very accurately. If an event will not fit into a commonly agreed-upon category it will of course need a more detailed description.

Unfortunately, a praxis of (intended or uninformed) mis-labelling has spread in the tango community and customers are confused. 

An example: Two years ago, local organisers promoted an international Festival-Marathon-Encuentro. From what I can tell, they have neither been to an encuentro, nor to a marathon. As for the internationality: all milongas in my home region will host dancers from France, Germany and Luxemburg because of our city’s situation in a triangle of three countries. Does this make an event with less that 200 mostly regional dancers an “international festival”?

Another case from last year: A couple of organisers who are specialised in big festivals and personally dance in a rather expansive manner visited their first encuentro milonguero. After that, they decided to organise one as well. Because of their lack of connections in the milonguero community, it was mostly visited by their regular festival- and milonga-customers, who are no milongueros. Do you think that this was a genuine encuentro? I just know, that the single participant who had traveled from afar because she had believed in the publicity was very disappointed. 

The same is happening in lots of places: organisers who want to make money or are just too lazy to describe their events properly, use popular and often quite wrong labels to attract customers.

Sure, there is no law against it and one can expect customers to inform themselves properly. And yes, experienced organisers can cater to different tastes, if they take their jobs seriously or ask for help from experts. But sorry, the above-described behaviour is just unsound business practise. 

I firmly believe that it is not enough to label an event in a certain manner and then stick to some general features in order to make it work. To deliver quality, you have to believe in what you are doing and share the philosophy of your desired customers. That is what makes tango events authentic, personal and good. I know the features of a marathon and I could surely organise one without making any major mistakes, but: I only have very few connections in the marathon scene and there are some aspects of marathons, that I don’t agree with. How could I deliver a great experience for everyone else? You have to know something intimately to create it and you should love what you sell.

In this I agree with many other organisers and business-people in general. Just recently, I visited an encuentro-marathon mixer in Barcelona and discussed the subject with friends. They are anchored in the marathon scene, but have started visiting encuentros. And they are observing the same phenomenon: organisers announcing events as “marathons” without being able or wanting to deliver what they promise. Because of this, Dany de Kay has recently published a brief “terminology of tango events”, to be found here.

At the time of publishing, I had already written the biggest part of this article. But when Dany published his list, I stopped working on it. I have now decided to post my “ABC of Tango Events” nevertheless, as it may offer insights from another perspective and because my blog is read by another clientele. The more we spread the idea of correct labelling, the more we can help organisers and customers to agree upon what the want from each other.

In order for you to understand the basis of my terminology, I will first define three general terms.


1. Los Codigos Milongueros
… are a set of behavioural guidelines recommended by organisers of what often is called “traditional” tango events. 
A short note: Let us not forget, that some of these codigos might the result of a very recent development. As far as I can tell, mirada & cabeceo e.g. might not have been used in the “época d’óro” - at least not everywhere. Men just walked up to their partners and asked them - or their mothers - for a dance. And how could the music be arranged in “tandas” when only one orchestra played live music at a milonga. Actually I believe the “codigos milongueros” to be a modern set of guidelines, that developed to cope with the inevitable chaos and misunderstandings that came with the tango-renaissance in the 80s and 90s.
However long they exist, this is what they boil down to:
- Preservation of the embrace throughout the dance.
- Respect for the ronda and other dancers: leaders cabeceo to enter the ronda, abstinence of movements that take up too much space or might disturb other dancers, constant movement counter-clockwise in one’s lane on the dance-floor.
- Respect for the personal space of everyone and equal activity of followers and leaders in the process of invitation: use of mirada and cabeceo.
- Promote of frequent exchange of partners, so that no-one is left out: clear dance-floor after one tanda, so that everyone can choose another partner.

2. Milonguero, Milonguera, Tango Milonguero
A milonguero or milonguera is a person who dances tango on a regular basis with a high level of commitment and will act upon the "codigos milongueros“. 
Some people relate the term “milonguero“ to a certain style of dancing, often limited to a small repertoire of typical steps and an "apilado“ (leaning) embrace. In my opinion, the term should not be narrowed in this way. General opinion agrees, that milongueros can have different and individual styles, varying from very traditional to highly modern. These styles are often influenced by the space available at their regular milongas. The milongueros of the packed milongas in the centre of Buenos Aires have obviously developed a style with small, rhythmic moves in contrast to their colleagues in the outer barrios, who’ve got huge dance-halls to move in. Even the embrace can range from a slightly open v-hold to a very closed chest-to-chest contact. In general one can say, that a milonguero dances tango de salón.
There are recent opinions who challenge the codigos-based definition by stating, that a milonguero does not necessarily agree with the "codigos milongueros“. In their opinion, the term “milonguero” would just describe a dedicated tango dancer. I don’t find this generalisation helpful. Most tango dancers are dedicated to the tango culture and there is a term to describe them: they are tangueros. To be a milonguero or milonguera implies a shared philosophy, a commitment to a set of values that helps define the community and its expectations.

3. Tango de Salón
For many years, this term has been signifying tango as it is danced in the milongas, the salons. It distinguishes social tango from the choreographed stage tango, the tango escenario. As social tango is always danced in a ronda with other couples, it makes sense to forgo movements, that would endanger the other dancers on the floor, such as high voleos, certain forms of ganchos or volcadas, sentadas, jumps, huge colgadas and the like. As the ronda requires the couple to adapt to the movement to the other dancers, it does not allow for pre-set figures or choreographies. Improvisation is of the utmost importance. 
Since the turn of the century, there has been the tendency to limit the term “tango de salon“ to a certain style: Tango Villa Urquiza. This was done in order to distinguish this more elaborate style from the supposedly very restricted “estilo milonguero“. But as I don’t believe that there is one “estilo milonguero”, I don’t see the necessity of constricting “tango de salon“ to such a narrow meaning either. I will go on using it as a generic term. When asked what he was dancing the late Tete Rusconi - a famous milonguero - would answer “tango de salón” I keep it as simple.

Let me now describe the different forms of tango events, as I know them. There are of course events, that have mixed features, but - as stated above - these traits will usually then be mentioned in the event’s description. For example: Our “Festivalito con Amigos” started out as a festivalito, a small festival. Later is was more clearly specified as a festivalito milonguero, but nowadays it is a pure encuentro milonguero, that preserved only one feature from its festivalito-days: short demo by a couple of our friends. 

So here finally goes my: 

ABC of Tango Events


Encuentro Milonguero
Definition: A meeting of milongueros. In Italy, these events might be called raduno", in France "rencontre“ or ”rendez-vous“. The term suggests a rather intimate setting in which people can socialise easily as opposed to the more anonymous festival atmosphere. (There can of course also be encuentros of non-milongueros, but in the last years, this terms was mostly used in the milonguero context.)
Duration: 3-5 days
Milongas/Dancing: Separate milongas, usually one in the afternoon and another one in the evening. The last Milonga is often called “despedida” (farewell party) and will usually take place on Sunday afternoon to allow the participants to return to their home towns on the same day.
Demos: Usually none
Music: traditional tango music in tandas and with cortinas presented by experienced DJs, often with international reputation, no live music
Classes: None
Booking: Several months in advance
Balance of gender or dance-roles: Yes
Separate seating of men, women and couples: Contrary to uninformed belief, only 50% of the encuentros use this set-up. Please enquire with the organisers or check here.
Participants: Aims to attract experienced dancers from all over Europe or the world, but might also have a smaller catchment area, depending on the connections of the organisers.
Number of participants: Approx. 80 - 300. (Recommendation: stay below 200 to preserve the spirit of an intimate encounter.)
Behavioural codes: The „codigos milongueros“ are promoted.
Typical examples: Abrazos (UK), Les Cigales (France), Yo Soy Milonguero (Italy)

Festival
Definition: Festivals are important events with a comprehensive programme, often hosted at spectacular or big venues. The term "international“ might be added to suggest its significance. 
Duration: 3 days or more, some festivals last up to a week
Milongas/Dancing: Separate Milongas, at least one per evening, usually a formal ball on Saturday
Demos: Shows by the teaching couples and guests of honour
Music: Tango music presented by experienced DJs, often of international reputation, often one or more orchestras.
Classes: Numerous classes by the teacher couples, additionally there might be private classes, lectures, discussions, art presentations. (Recommendation: please call your event a festival, if you plan on inviting more than 2 teachers couples of a certain recognition. Inviting the local teachers to do a beginners class alongside the Argentine guests does not turn your workshop weekend into a festival.) 
Booking: Classes and or festival passes are usually booked in advance, milongas/balls might sometimes be payed over the counter.
Balance of gender or dance-roles: No
Separate seating of men, women and couples: No
Participants: Dancers of all levels and styles, sometimes additional spectators, who come for the shows and concerts. 
Number of participants: A lot. (Please do not call your event a festival, if you expect much less than 200 dancers. Large festivals might host up to 2000 participants, in the past even more. If your events is much smaller in scale, why not call it Festivalito?)
Behavioural codes: Often none, which is why experienced dancers often shun festivals. But it does not have to be that way. Why not encourage the use of the „codigos milongueros“ to prevent the chaos, that often comes from an in-homogenous mixture of participants? At least those codigos that refer to the behaviour on the dance-floor would help a lot and might stop the decline of festivals in the customer’s favour.
Typical examples: Tangomanía (Netherlands), Ostertango (Switzerland), Tarbes en Tango (France)

Festivalito Milonguero
Definition: Basically the term describes a small festival - less participants, less teachers, a downsized programme. But when specified by the expression “milonguero“ it is usually an encuentro milonguero with some classes and a demo. This is what I am referring to in this description.
Duration: Usually 3 days
Milongas/Dancing: Separate milongas, at least one per day, sometimes additional afternoon Milongas
Demos: Usually a short improvised demo of close-embrace by the teaching couples or guests of honour
Music: Traditional tango music in tandas and with cortinas presented by experienced DJs, no live music.
Classes: A few classes by 1-2 teacher couples, additionally private classes or privatandas (privates of the duration of one tanda), sometimes practicas
Booking: Usually several months in advance, classes might be booked later
Balance of gender or dance-roles: Mostly. I strongly recommend to stick to this feature, as the general audience expects this feature to come with the label.
Separate seating of men, women and couples: Usually not.
Participants: Aims to attract experienced dancers, in particular those who want to develop their skills and knowledge, but might also be open to less experienced dancers in order to integrate them into the community. A festivalito can nevertheless can be composed of a very international, highly-skilled crowd, depending on the “pull“ of the organisers, DJs and teachers.
Number of participants: 80 - 200
Behavioural codes: The "codigos milongueros“ are promoted and expected.
Typical examples: Festivalito Rural (2010-15 in Slovenia), Embrace Norway (Norway), Pequeña (Germany)

Marathon
Definition: Non-stop dancing over a longer period, typically in a more informal setting.
Duration: Usually 3 days. There seem to be other formats as well. A 12-hour Milonga might also be called a marathon, but I am not sure, if marathon folk would find that appropriate. Dany de Kay’s terminology speaks of 3 days.
Milongas/Dancing: The milongas blend into each other, usually interrupted by short breaks in the morning hours or during the shared meals.
Demos: None
Music: Usually traditional tango music presented in tandas and with cortinas by experienced DJs, but some Marathons may be also open to non-tango music or modern tango recordings. Please check with the organisers. No live music.
Classes: None
Booking: Usually several months in advance
Balance of gender or dance-roles: Yes
Separate seating of men, women and couples: No
Participants: Depends on the connections of the organisers, but aims to attract an international crowd of experienced dancers. 
Number of participants: Approx. 80 - 300. (From what I can tell.)
Behavioural codes: Depends on the organisers and participants. At some marathons mirada & cabeceo are encouraged as well as the clearance of the dance-floor during the cortinas, but at other events, people seem to dance several tandas with the same partner. Depending on the experience of the dancers, the ronda will certainly be civilised, but some more higher-risk movements are to be expected.
Typical examples: La Tosca (Italy), High Noon (Germany), Bergen Tango Marathon (Norway)

Milonga
Definition: A single tango event during the afternoon or evening. Can be a recurring or a one-time-only event.
Duration: Approximately 3-5 hours
Milongas/Dancing: Single event
Demos: Usually none - except in many Buenos Aires Milongas, where demos can be seen on a regular basis.
Music: Depending on the taste of the organisers, please check with them.
Classes: Usually none. In the USA, pre-milonga classes are popular.
Booking: Usually not required
Balance of gender or dance-roles: Usually not
Separate seating of men, women and couples: Usually not. There are a few Milongas in Buenos Aires, Italy and France that use that special set-up, but they are definitely exceptions.
Participants: Depends on the connections of the organisers 
Number of participants: 2 - 200 or even more
Behavioural codes: Depends on the organisers and participants. More and more organisers encourage the “codigos milongueros”, at least those related to the behaviour on the dance-floor.
Typical examples: Any milonga in your home community

Milonga Weekend
Definition: A series of connected or un-connected milongas on one weekend. Either by one organiser or by several. A recent variation is for a bunch of friends to “band together” and visit several local milongas. Can be recurring or a one-time-only.
Duration: 2-3 days
Milongas/Dancing: Separate Milongas
Demos, Music, Classes, Booking, Separate Seating, Number of Participants: See “Milonga”
Participants: Depends on the connections of the organisers, but because of the higher concentration of milongas on one weekend, dancers from afar are more likely to visit.
Typical example: Tangosommer Wiesbaden

Workshop Weekend
Definition: A special event, created around the visit of a teacher couple or workshops by local teachers.
Duration: Usually 2-3 days
Milongas/Dancing: Separate evening milongas, at least one per weekend, usually no afternoon milongas, as the classes will take place at this time of the day.
Demos: Demo or show by the teaching couple
Music: Tango music presented by local or traveling DJs, sometimes an orchestra might be invited.
Classes: Single classes or intensive seminars, additionally there might be private classes or privatandas.
Booking: Classes are booked in advance, milongas are usually payed over the counter.
Balance of gender or dance-roles: Only in the classes
Separate seating of men, women and couples: Usually not
Participants: Mostly local and regional dancers of all levels
Number of participants: Depends on the local community and the "pull“ of the teachers
Behavioural codes: Depends on the local customs or the philosophy of the guest-teachers


So, that’s it for the moment. I hope this list will help organisers and consumers to communicate and plan better.  

I might add more info later upon noticing that I have forgotten important features or entire forms of events. Do not hesitate to contact me with reasonable suggestions.

For my Romanian followers: Check out the Romanian translation of this post.