In Argentina, August sees the Buenos Aires Tango Festival; one of the most important international events in tango, and in the whole world of dance. Every year thousands of dancers and hundreds of thousands of tango fans gather in Argentina’s capital for two weeks of culture, including dance, music, concerts and much more.
The most important and prestigious part of the Tango Festival is the World Tango Dance Tournament - an annual Argentine Tango competition which sees dancers from all over the world gather in the home of tango. This event is the culmination of a longer championship which begins in March, with only the very best going on to compete in the Festival. There are two categories in the tournament: Salon Tango, which is a strict, pure form of tango, and Stage Tango, which is more choreographic and allows elements of other dance types such as ballet. Although a relatively new competition, starting in 2003, it has quickly become one of the most prestigious events in dance. Of the 400 or so entrants, the winners often hail from Argentina, but international winners have come from Russia, Japan and Colombia.
Aside from the dance competition, the whole city is embroiled in tango-based culture during the month of August. From screenings of films about tango, to tango theatre performances, tango singers in bars and on the streets to tango classes and tango tours of the city, the festival really showcases the very best of Argentine tango culture. One of the highlights for visitors and locals are the milongas: social tango parties famous in Argentina. There are also often performances from world-renowned dancing stars, as well as hit musical acts as well. All over the city, markets and pop-up shops sell traditional Argentine clothing, particularly tango dresses, shoes, and suits.
Most of the events in the festival are free to attend, with the city striving to make traditional Argentine tango as accessible as possible to locals and tourists alike. The former minister for culture, Hernán Lombardi, would often say that the festival isn’t only for die-hard tango aficionados, but also for anyone with a passing interest in the discipline. Tango has come a long way from its origins in the working-class neighborhoods of Buenos Aires in the 19th Century, to now being performed under the world’s spotlight. UNESCO even included tango on their Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009. But one thing that tango has retained over the years is the vitality, passion and sensuality that the dancers bring to their performances, that is so important to not only the Argentine Tango, but also the Argentine way of life.
Maybe next year, you may be able to attend the Buenos Aires Tango Festival, and even the World Tango Dance Tournament, and cheer on the dancers from your country. If you do, we wish you a great trip, and if not, we hope you have learned something from reading this journal entry. If you would like to learn more about the history of Tango, we have a journal entry on that subject too.