It Takes Two Dudes To Tango

Or dudettes. For the first time, the annual Tango World Cup features several same-sex couples - three teams of men and one pair of women.

The next step for tango dancers
The next step for tango dancers
Romina Smith

BUENOS AIRES — Who knew that the tango used to be just a guy thing? Men danced at the brothels of Buenos Aires in the late 1800s, practicing the steps and arm movements among themselves, the story goes. The idea was to polish their moves to impress the ladies at Argentinian dances knowns as milongas. Partner dance between men and women is apparently a phenomenon that began much later.

But either the tango is returning to its origins or the world is becoming more enlightened. For the first time, four same-sex couples are competing for the coveted tango World Cup. The 11th annual Tango Buenos Aires Festival and World Cup features three teams of men and one pair of women. It is apparently a reflection of what has been happening for some time now at the milongas.

During this week’s qualifying rounds, Juan Pablo Ramírez and his partner Daniel Arroyo were among the first teams to dance. The challenge, says Ramírez, is not only to reach the highest level, but also to demonstrate that it really does, as the saying goes, take two to tango. “And it doesn’t matter if those two are two women, two men, or a man and a woman,” he says.

He is Argentine, and Arroyo is Venezuelan. Arroyo came to Buenos Aires just to try it out, to see what it was like to live the tango lifestyle in the city where you can almost breathe it. Eduardo Arquimbau, an expert dancer who has taught for more than 50 years, says “the tango is danced like nowhere else in the world” in Buenos Aires.

Arroyo came just to watch the event last year. He met Ramírez at one of the dances, and they stayed in touch. In February, he returned knowing that they would dance together again. They started as friends and ultimately became lovers, but now they are dancing again just as friends. “The tango is very emotional,” Arroyo says. “Romance always appears between people. It’s in your blood. We went through that, but then realized it could not be. Now, we are brought together by dance.”

Ramírez says they have felt confident between rounds. “We were also well received by the audience,” he says. “The next step is to face another jury of judges. Then if we make it through, we will go onto the semi-finals. If we are successful there, we will get to the finals in the Dance Floor category.”

This time around they are both participating dressed in suits, but if they make it to the finals, they will take it up a notch. “We’re thinking about appearing more as we feel, more androgynous with heels or makeup,” Ramírez says enthusiastically. Heels are fundamental because “it changes the axis of the body and the way you do the steps when it is time to dance.”

The ladies of the Tango World Cup have the opposite consideration. “I dance in heels,” says Lucía Christe, dance partner to Marlene Heyman. “We both want to dance in shoes later on, so we need to practice.”

Both women are Argentine and have been friends for seven years. They have been dance partners for a year now. “We have fun,” Heyman says. Christe says there was a lot of anxiety at their debut this week but also a lot of joy. “What we want most is to connect and enjoy it like we do at the milongas.”

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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