BUENOS AIRES - A wooden dance floor, that familiar tempo of the music, a gesture of invitation. And the dance begins, counter-clockwise...
It does not matter whether it is the El Fulgor de Villa Crespo club or the Sunderland de Villa Urquiza or a dance hall in Moscow or Beijing. The tango has the same codes all over the world.
The milongas, Argentine dance music or dance event, serve as the best, cultural ambassadors for the tango. As a result, the Tango World Championship keeps gaining additional qualifying venues in distant places. New ones have just opened in Russia and China, where qualifiers took place for the World Championship that will be hosted in Buenos Aires this August. The European Championship took place earlier this month in Rome.
According to Argentina's Ministry of Culture, the Tango World Championship branches install themselves wherever there is critical mass of tango dancing. It is not by chance that the one in Tokyo, Japan has existed for ten years. Others include Terracina, Italy; San Francisco, USA; Montevideo, Uruguay; Chillán, Chile.
Starting this year, Moscow and Beijing can be added to the growing list. “After being declared World Heritage by the UNESCO, the tango continues to broaden its borders," says Culture Minister Hernán Lombardi. "That which is so profoundly part of Argentine identity also helps to attract more and more people to Buenos Aires.”
The arrival of tango in a country means the opening of a whole self-contained market. “Right away, the tango clothes and shoes pop up, as do the Argentinian teachers”, tells Silvia Tissembaum, coordinator of production at the Festivals Organization in Buenos Aires.
Photo: Luca Boldrini
The Russian case is a good example. “The tango became so popular in Moscow that there are two, three, or more milongas per day. I have mine on Thursdays. It is called ‘Primavera’,” says Moscow’s Gogoleva Vera, who will also be attending the Championship in Buenos Aires.
“I always did ballroom dancing," explains Gogoleva. "Six years ago, my friend invited me to see him dance. I was so impressed by both the difficulty and the improvisation." After months of initial training, she now comes each year to Argentina to dance. "I love the tango: it is infinite in its emotions, communication, and technique.”
Meanwhile in China, tango is still emerging. The first milonga opened in Beijing three years ago with just three couples. Last month, at the Chinese capital's Cultural Diplomacy & Exchange Center, 25 couples danced at the qualifying competitions for the World Cup.
In August, the winners from the qualifying competitions will have to face their Argentinian counterparts. Wherever they may come from, these dancers share a common language. “In every city, the milongas are very similar to the ones in Argentina," Tissembaum explains. "These are micro-environments -- the codes are the same because the milonga spirit is the same wherever you go.”
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