2000 Argentine Tango arrived in Ipswich when Patricia Sabbag from Argentina began classes at Pals in the Buttermarket. Here she is (in the stripes) with most of her students at her leaving dinner:2002: Unfortunately for us, Patricia decided to return to Argentina where she is now Directora del Ballet Contemporaneo de Tucuman, Argentina.
In the meantime Cambridge and Norwich had a flourishing tango scene and the keen Suffolk dancers all travelled there to build their skills.
2005: After years of having to travel to Cambridge or Norwich for a dance Cliff and Rosemary Hoppitt decided to start a practica at Bredfield village hall April 17th 2005. About 8 people turned up to the first one and it continued on an occasional basis after that.
At Madeline Lees’ instigation a beginners’ class with Kate Isotta and Tony Ramsay was started at Diss at the Bistro. Shortly after, Madeline started the practicas at the Angel Cafe in Diss on Sundays which continue to this day as an informal and friendly practica/milonga.
November 2006 – Kevin Wood and Tassie Russell had also spotted that Suffolk needed its own ‘tango scene’ and they got together in November 2006 with Cliff and Rosemary to build a plan for a Suffolk-wide tango community and
‘Suffolk Tango’ was born.
The only way it was going to happen was to run events ourselves. If we wanted more people to dance with, we would have to arrange the classes, arrange the teachers and grow a community of dancers from scratch. The aims of Suffolk Tango were
To build a tango community in Suffolk – with the emphasis on the word ‘Community’.
Kevin started by organising a beginners’ workshop at Halesworth with Kate Isotta and Tony Ramsay from Tango Abrazo of Norwich. He also created the Suffolk Tango Yahoo Group so that we had a means of advertising ourselves and contacting interested people. The very first message was from Tony Ramsay
“Congratulations, Kevin. Suffolk’s days as a tango desert look numbered.
Best of luck with the new group, Tony”
2007: Kate and Tony began teaching a course in The Cut at Halesworth in January 2007. Their approach to technique was much appreciated and soon they had extra recruits for their regular class at Broom and then at the Park Hotel in Diss.
Henri Lewis joined the team and helped organise the first Woodbridge practica at the Bull Hotel. Initially there were only about 6 people.
Soon the Suffolk Tango team was enlarged as Sal Goldsmith, Penny Mackay, Geoff and Eileen King and Sue Shand joined.
Our first milongas were started at Stratford St Andrew in July 2007 . Since there were still very few people in Suffolk who could dance tango we did not know whether it would be successful. However thanks to lots of publicity from Sal we had a good turnout of dancers from both Cambridge and Norwich. The event exceeded our expectations and these milongas have been a major event ever since.
The team asked Kate and Tony to travel down to Ipswich and to Great Blakenham for a series of beginners workshops on Sundays, followed later by progressive classes at different levels. Slowly the numbers of dancers began to rise, but we knew it would be a very long term project to build a fully self-sustaining dance community.
2008 The SuffolkTango website was created by Cliff. We also helped Diss Tango (now Angel Cafe Tango) by sharing a common email list and by hosting their website.
2009: Mick Smith and Esme Brown took over tango in Bury from Steve Mackay as a separate organisation from Suffolk Tango. Suffolk Tango was pleased to be involved in the early discussions and as part of Suffolk Tango’s aim to build a wider tango community offered financial help if needed with their first events. We have continued to work closely with Bury Tango and still run some joint events.
2010: Kate and Tony suggested that Cliff and Sal start teaching revision classes in the weeks between their main classes and mentored and encouraged them as they started teaching. Cliff was later supported by Sue Shand.
2011: As time progressed the bulk of the most experienced dancers in the county had been attending the series of intermediate classes that Kate and Tony ran at Diss. However in 2011 Kate and Tony decided that they needed to devote their time to other things and the classes at Diss came to an end. This was the end of an era because largely the same class participants had stayed together for nearly 4 years as they all developed together.
By this time Suffolk Tango had risen in numbers and the team decided to take a financial risk and bring in high profile guest teachers on a regular basis. The classes took place at Henley on Sundays and were a great success, drawing in people from a wide area. The first guest teachers were Caro Hosier, Paul Vossen and Raquel Greenberg.
As numbers grew at practicas we outgrew the small back room in the Bull and moved on Sundays to Martlesham Leisure, initially run by Cliff and Rosemary but then by Stephen Hodd.
Geoff and Eileen also volunteered to organise classes and milongas at East Bergholt almost every Wednesday. These attracted people from Essex to join and enlarge our community. Initially with John Connatty of Cambridge Tango as the teacher, thereby helping to cement relationships with the tango scene in Cambridge.
Richard Kett and Mandy Wilkinson ran a series of beginners classes in Rushmere, and then at Old Hall in East Bergholt.
2012: Henri Lewis joined the committee and started work on building a working relationship with Dance East in Ipswich, initially via a tango event in the Spiegel tent in Christchurch Park, Ipswich and later with tango events at the Jerwood Dance House on the waterfront.
2013: Richard and Mandy volunteered to run beginners classes every Monday and improvers classes every Wednesday at Kesgrave. We felt it was important for students to have consistency of teaching to complement the various guest teachers.
2014: Cliff stepped down as Chairman, but continued looking after the website, Facebook, publicity and teaching where necessary. He happily handed the reins to Mirjam. Penny also took over running the Henley workshops. Paul Moser took over form Penny as Treasurer. Stephen volunteered to run the Martlesham Practicas and increase their frequency to fortnightly.
2015: Mirjam felt that it was about time we had an Ipswich venue and began monthly milongas at Degeros Bar. After 4 years of running classes and milongas at East Bergholt Geoff and Eileen decided to take a break and the last event at East Bergholt was held on Jan 6 2016. At the same time the excellent Manor Ballroom became free and we grabbed it for monthly milongas on a Thursday (the milongas being run by a rota of people). Graham Harrad joined the committee taking from Penny in organising guest teachers at Henley. He also started doing some of the teaching as well as doing more DJing.
2016: Mirjam stands down as chair but continues to run the Pump and Grind Bar Milongas. Mandy takes over as interim chair. Amanda Brakels and Phil Wilmot join the committee. This year is the tenth anniversary of Suffolk Tango so celebrated with our largest milonga ever. We were pleased that Kate and Tony were able to join our celebration. In addition we continue working with Bury Tango on several events. The beginners classes run by Richard and Mandy move from Kesgrave to the Richard’s Room at Martlesham, a more intimate space.
2017: Rosemary takes over as chair and David and Julia Faulkner join our committee and offer to run a regular praticlonga in the weeks between practicas at Martlesham Leisure. Graham starts regular monthly milongas at the charismatic Rep in Ipswich which has a lovely buz and attract people from far afield.
2018: Graham Harrad leaves the committee after making a great contribution at Henley, the Rep and a DJ and dancer over the past few years. Paula Kleyn, Graham Grigg and Wendy & Andrew Rayner join. The Rep are no longer able to have us on a Wednesday so we move to Degero in Ipswich and Stephen takes over the organisation of it. Amanda takes over Henley events and Julia and helpers take over Stratford St Andrew events.
2019: Rosemary decided to stand down as chairman in order to devote more time to her book-writing and Mandy was persuaded to take over as chair on an interim basis. Rosemary also left the committee after being a founder member and a mainstay for more than 15 years. Paul (treasurer) and Amanda (Henley organiser) also both stepped down after many years of service. Kevin McEvoy joined the committee to take over as treasurer and Stephen agreed to take on Henley in place of Degeros. Richard and Mandy continued with classes on 3 evenings in Martlesham Heath. Degero milonga, Henley guest teacher classes, Stratford St Andrew milongas and the Martlesham practicas have also continued.
2020/2021: These years include the many wilderness months of Covid-19 when not only were there no tango events and also the dancers were unable to visit or see one another for long periods. The Suffolk Tango team held itself in readiness waiting for the restrictions to be lifted. Richard and Mandy gave up teaching and left the committee whilst Richard has two new hips fitted. Julia and David stepped up and started running beginners’ classes at Martlesham Ciommunity Hall. The end of Summer milonga and Henley also went ahead in the autumn. Cliff stood down from the committee after having been helping to run things since he co-founded the group in 2006 – he intends to spend more time dancing, coaching and DJing.
Future Years: A far cry from when we all started and Suffolk was a tango desert but we are still a group of volunteers with the aim of building a vibrant tango community in Suffolk. Please support us by getting involved.