Learn exceptional Argentinean dance moves at Queer Tango Budapest
Photo : Queer Tango Budapest
23/3/2017, 3:25 AM●4-minute article
There are few dance styles more passionate than Argentinean tango, characterized by improvisation and strict leader-follower roles – in which the lead role almost always belongs to the male dancer. This traditional setup definitely has its own charm, but in 2017, everything is about reversing roles and opening up cultural opportunities to a wider audience. Queer Tango Budapest not only allows access to English-language tango lessons for the city’s LGBT community, but it also encourages the reversal of leader-and-follower roles, as well as same-sex setups.
Tango first appeared in the suburbs of Argentina at the end of the 19th century. Men could dance with men back then. According to some, they passed time this way as they waited for prostitutes in brothels, while others think that they simply learned the moves this way – since women could only practice at home. At milongas (community dance events) in Buenos Aires, men and women were seated separately, and even requesting a dance had strict rules. The first gay tango events appeared in Hamburg in the mid-1980s, followed by the Queer Tango Festivals at the beginning of the new millennium. Finally, in 2007, the first Queer Tango Festival was held in Buenos Aires; interestingly, Argentina was the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage, in 2010.
On hearing the name, we’d think that Queer Tango Budapest is a gay-exclusive program, but this isn’t the case; although dance lessons for same-sex couples are available here, too. Instead, the point of queer tango is disregarding the traditional, gender-bound roles of the dancers, thus adding gender neutrality to the choreography. While it’s no surprise that this trend enjoys great popularity in the gay community, the project’s organizers, Argentinean tango dancer and instructor Fabricio and his partner Daniel, emphasize that “gay” is not the main buzzword here. We visited the Belvárosi Táncterem (“Downtown Dance Hall”) to attend Queer Tango Budapest with a hetero couple, and we didn’t feel like odd ones out.
To be able to interpret this phenomenon, we must first learn about the technical background of this storied dance style. As we mentioned before, Argentinean tango is danced by a male leader and a female follower, and since it’s heavily improvisational, there needs to be clear communication between partners – although certain patterns of movement have been codified by instructors over the years. Because of this, many studios teach this dance separately.
This unpredictability requires special attention and precise coordination, which so it is essential to establish mutual attraction and good chemistry between partners. Classic tango music ignites passion in dancers, and the movement of the bodies, only a few inches away from each other, is traditionally interpreted as a seduction technique. Formerly, many relationships started off on the dance floor, which was explicitly a platform for courting. Since queer tango events are popular among gay and hetero people alike, the concept mixes orientations and changes traditional behaviors.
It’s easy to guess that queer tango is more exciting than the “original” one, featuring traditional gender roles – here, the dominant role can change even mid-dance, which essentially becomes another feature of the dance’s improvisational nature. However, at the first class the air isn’t exactly scorching with sexual energies – the beginner group has been attending the class since November, and this day’s lesson, the giros (turns), was new for everyone. The regular exchange of partners was mandatory, so our appointed “guinea pig” danced with both men and women – it was also nice to experience the roles of leader and follower alike.
This phenomenon is in no way isolated, because regular tango classes can encourage role reversal, as well – since most tango-themed parties have more women than men, ladies often end up dancing with each other. In any case, Budapest has an active Argentine tango scene, and Fabricio and Daniel are more than glad to join in the fun with their unconventional English-language lessons.