This year the Mundial del Tango celebrated its tenth anniversary. The two-week festival was filled with daily shows by orchestras and tango dance companies, as well as lectures, milongas and of course the salon and stage tango competition. There was also tributes given to the famous tango composer and bandoneon player, Astor Piazzolla, 20 years after his death; the world-renowned dancers, Gloria and Eduardo Arquimbau, who started their career in 1959 and were one of the principal couples in the show Tango Argentino; and of course, the queen of tango, Maria Nieves, who has decided to retire at the age of 74.
In the salon and stage tango competition, 487 couples participated, representing 32 countries around the world. Many people have criticized this competition because they don’t believe that tango, as a social dance should be judged, particularly tango salon. Tango salon is not meant for the public, like stage tango. Many tango historians and writers define it as a feeling that is danced, one that is shared only between the two people who are dancing, not by the spectators. But how can one judge a feeling? Also, various people have questioned whether professional dancers should be allowed to compete against non-professionals. Yet there have been many professional, well-known dancers who have competed and not made it past the semi-finals. So what exactly does the competition judge?
In tango salon, the competition seems to have created dancers to be clones of one another and consequently the dancers lack their own personality in the dance. As a spectator of the tango salon final it was difficult to see who would be titled the champions because the majority of the couples were very good dancers and they also danced very similarly. However it seemed as if all of the couples were holding back and not dancing and enjoying the tango like they do in the milonga.
The stage tango competition is generally easier to judge because the dance itself is one targeted for an audience. Yet, many tango dancers and teachers criticize the competition for the lack of creativity in the choreographies, and the lack of true tango. As Maria Nieves said, “Menos aire y mas piso” (“less air and more floor”). In other words many stage dancers concentrate too much on doing showy tricks and jumps and forget about the real tango, which is danced on the floor, with an elegant walk, an embrace and a strong connection between the couple. Impressive technique has taken the place of passion and artistry in tango because many tango dancers instead of dancing for themselves are too concerned with the reaction of the public, who they think seem to be impressed only with acrobatic tricks. Also, the results of the competition have a lot to do with the judges and what kind of tango they like.
Many talented dancers competed this year in the salon and stage competitions. Excitement and emotion filled the enormous Luna Park stadium the night of the finals. The first place in Tango Salon was given to an Argentine couple, Facundo de la Cruz, from Cordoba and Paola Sanz, from Chubut. In Stage Tango, the winners were Cristhian Sosa, from Buenos Aires and Maria Noel Sciuto, from Uruguay who unlike previous winners, danced to a tango by Piazzolla and sung by Goyeneche, “Mi Gordo Triste.”
One of the most touching events in the Mundial was the tribute to Maria Nieves, the woman who embodies tango. On Tuesday night, at the end of the stage tango competition, Maria Nieves danced with the former stage and salon tango champions from the past ten years. The night ended with all of the champions dancing together with Maria shining in the middle of the Luna Park stage and the entire audience, made up of thousands of people, honoring her with a standing ovation. Maria, in an interview during the Mundial, states passionately, “El tango es un sentimiento…algo que primero hay que llevarlo en el corazón y luego a los pies” (“Tango is a feeling…something that you must first carry in your heart and then in your feet”). This is priceless advice that all of the dancers who compete should never forget. After all, tango is a feeling that is danced and that is what the dancers should emulate and what the audience should capture. While many dancers may criticize this competition, it is still a great way to bring people from around the world to the Buenos Aires to share their love and passion for such a beautiful dance.