Community Event, South County

Burning Tango in McCloud

Over the weekend, the little town of McCloud was packed with men dressed in suits or formal shirts and slacks along with women in high heels wearing floral, flowing dresses all looking ready to dance. 

Roughly 300 people came from as far away as Argentina, Canada, and various states like Utah or South Dakota, and all over California and Oregon to attend the Burning Tango Festival which is held yearly in McCloud. 

“There is a very rich culture around tango,” according to  professional dancer and singer Debra Mungnani who comes from San Francisco each year to attend this event. “It is a social dancing ritual that started in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The draw is an improvisational dance with your partners. It is connecting with another person for 8 to 10 minutes at a time.”

The Burning Tango Festival has been held yearly for the last 12 years in  McCloud at the Dance Hall. They also used the Great Room in the Mercantile and also the Axe and Rose Hall for the different classes. It offers not just tango dancing and mixers, but demonstrations and classes for every level in technique, and styles, including Milonga Dancing which is similar to the modern Argentine tango with relaxed movements, fast-paced dancing with emphasis on rhythm. 

Kyle Asher has been dancing for 12 years and is also a photographer for tango dancing exhibitions. “Tango started in the 1920’s and draws an older crowd. Because of its original origin, it can be performed by any couple of the opposite or same sex. Tango is the easiest, and hardest dance: it is walking, but with purpose, with another person keeping balance.”

People sit on the sidelines in the gigantic dance hall and enjoy watching others dance as well as dancing themselves. It is customary to dance 3 sequences: tango, waltz tango and  Milonga tango. This is because they danced to vinyl records which were in a series of three songs on each side. 

Brick Robbins has been the DJ for Burning Tango since 2012. He uses a computer to play the old Spanish songs from vinyl records.  He explains some of the “code” rituals of tango: “There are very subtle moves and eye contact (similar to discreetly getting the attention of a waiter at a fancy restaurant) when asking another to dance. Women can not ask men, they can only make eye contact. And, men cannot walk over to another to ask. It is mostly eye contact and  slight head gestures (such as a head tilt) where no speaking is involved.” 

Bonnie Ernst from Oceano, Ca. has been enjoying tango for about 13 to 15 years now. She says that she has traveled to 4 countries and 10 states to tango festivals, workshops, and marathons. She says that she enjoys coming to McCloud best. She has a teardrop trailer and camps along the way. She calls it “My Teardrop Tour” and hits Yosemite and other fun camping/hiking places along the way.  She says that she enjoys the familiar faces at all the different tango events. “It is like a moving community of the same people going to other tango events in far-away places. Lots of traveling is involved.” 

Four upcoming tango events that most of these people say that they will attend, include the Los Angeles del Tango in July,  San Diego Summer Tango Marathon in August, Tango Mendocino Weekend Workshop in September, and Viva Mexico Tango Festival in Jalisco, Mexico in January. 

Kristin Cunningham, the new owner of the McCloud Dance Hall, said, “What energy they bring! All these people have a long history of dance. It is a very sensual, vulnerable, and intimate form of dancing.”


  1. Sorry to have missed it!!! Sounds like it went well😊

  2. D A Burke

    You didn’t mention – Or maybe the organizer didn’t tell you: Year before last was a super-spreader event where 60+ (out of 200 attendees) came down with Covid19 in the days immediately following the event.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *