Every year in Buenos Aires, in the middle of their damp winter, towards the end of July, tango loving tourists flock to Buenos Aires to participate in or watch the Mundial del Tango or the Tango World Championship and festival. The tango festival consists of special free milongas with live orchestras, performances by tango orchestras and dancers throughout Buenos Aires, master classes by famous dancers, lectures on tango and of course the Tango World championship in salon and stage tango.
I participated in the competition in 2007 in tango salon. The whole experience seemed like the Olympics, but for tango. Dancers from around the world study for years to go to Buenos Aires to participate in the competition. In the dressing rooms you hear various languages spoken: Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, German, English, etc. The dancers arrive a couple of weeks (sometimes months) before the competition to indulge in the last few private classes they can take from the Argentine masters, to buy their dresses, suits, shoes and to perfect their dance in the Argentine milongas and/or practice studios.
Although the Tango World Championship, especially in tango salon is known to be very difficult to win unless you are Argentine, many dancers have had more hope since 2008 when the Japanese couple won, Hiroshi and Kyoko Yamao. This year however, unlike any previous year no sole Argentine couple qualified within the top 5 in tango salon (Cristian Andres Lopez, who finished 5th is Argentine, but dances with his Japanese wife). The Colombian couple, Diego Julian Benavidez Hernandez and Natasha Agudelo Arboleda (pictured above) took 1st place after a dance off with the Venezuelan couple, John Erban and Clarissa Sanchez who came in 2nd. 3rd place was given to an American couple, Brian Nguyen and Yuliana Basmajyan (the first time an American couple made it to the top 5). 4th place was given to Mauro Zompa and Sara Masi from Italy and in 5th came a “Japanese” couple, Cristian Andrez Lopez and Naoko Tsutsumizaki.
Many Argentines, unhappy about the results, criticized the judges for not choosing fairly. Many believe that tango born in the Rio de la Plata region between Argentina and Uruguay cannot truly be danced by a couple with another nationality. Other nationalities imitate the tango but because Argentine tango is not just about the steps, it is about the music, the Argentine culture, the history, the people, imitating Argentine tango is difficult unless you have a very intimate relationship with it. Yet, it seems that in the past few years with the influx of foreign tango dancers in Buenos Aires, coupled with the numerous tango dancers who travel the world teaching, the intimate secrets of tango are being revealed and passed along to people from other countries.
Many tango connoisseurs also criticize the Mundial because they question whether tango, especially tango salon, is a dance that should be judged. Every year, couples from around the world try to imitate the previous years’ champions. They try and replicate their embrace, their walk, their musicality and even their steps. Tango salon was originally an improvisational dance, which allowed each couple to explore their own musicality, steps and embrace. Tango salon was supposed to be enjoyed by the two people dancing together. The connection between the two people is what was important. It was not to be danced for the public. Stage tango is different because it is made for the stage, for the audience, it is a spectacle. Therefore, it is a dance than can be judged. Has the Mundial changed how dancers dance tango salon? Can the passion and the connection between the couple still be seen when it is danced for a competition or does it become a sport?
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Also, if you would like to see true Argentine tango salon danced, join us for an NTT Milonga Outing. Or if you are more interested in the spectacle contact us for tickets to some of the best tango shows in Buenos Aires!