The Tango BA Festival & World Cup is a dance competition, held each August in Buenos Aires since 2003. It is a two-week event, heavily promoted by Buenos Aires Tourism, with a competition surrounded by concerts, subsidised and free Tango classes, workshops and milongas. It is a vibrant and fun time to be in Buenos Aires for Tango lovers from around the world.
It is also a good time for visiting Tango dancers to consider what the “Tango Mundial” is about and what it is not. Visitors can enjoy the spectacle and vibe of the festival and competition without having unreasonable expectations about their own social dancing. Those who wish to compete are encouraged to understand what the competition is about and work hard on the competition style in order to be competitive. The rules of the competition are published on the official competition website. These rules have been relaxed over the years to allow more showy figures.
There are two competition categories, Enscenario (Stage Tango) and Salon or Pista (dance floor). Enscenario speaks for itself. It is pure stage performance, often of a very high standard. The second category implies that this category is social dancing. It is in fact “Tango Dancesport”, an expression and exaggeration of social dancing for the purpose of impressing judges and winning the competition, just as Ballroom Dancesport around the world is a hardly recognisable exaggeration of original social dances. This objective is, of course, the antithesis of social Tango. it is very similar to the demonstration/performance that most guest teachers use to attract students to social dance classes, both in Argentina and around the world.
The competition finals are the culmination of a series of metropolitan qualification rounds in Buenos Aires. The metropolitan competition includes extra categories for milonga, vals and seniors. The organisers cleverly encouraged global support for the competition by establishing “preliminary rounds” to be held in countries around the world, with the regional winners given semi-final berths in the main competition.
Winning the competition immediately opens opportunities to teach and perform around the world. Winners of the Mundial are routinely invited as guest touring teachers at festivals in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia / NZ, where they are feted as World Champions. Even local winners advertise themselves as regional champions for the purpose of attracting students to the social dance. Partly because of the promotion and commercial opportunity presented by the competition, the dance has further developed into a popular social dance around the world. Serious competitors from around the world can spend many months in Buenos Aires taking specific classes before the competition and this is evident with more winners coming from foreign countries.
Salon or Tango de Pista (dance floor), developed for the competition should not be confused with social Tango of the milongas. They are completely different dances with different objectives and different technique. The only things they share are the music and dancing in rotation or ronda, a nod to the the roots of the competition in social dancing. This competition is a development of demonstration / performance that may have emerged from the more open dances of the suburbs and Tango movies from the earliest days of film, perfected in the many cabarets around Buenos Aires and the major international stage productions from the 1980’s. This is the dance that foreigners saw and were excited by.
. “It should be appreciated for what it is – skilled tango dancing on display, but not regarded as a model for tango dancing at a milonga” (Tango Voice).
This is a very different dance in form, technique and objective from the dance that is experienced in the classic milongas of Buenos Aires and around the world.
Tango Campeonato has its rightful place at the Campeonato Mundial and other tango competition events. Dancers in a competition can and should be admired for the skill levels they have attained. However, their manner of dancing is unsuitable for emulation on the milonga dance floor. (Tango Voice)
So to all Tango dancers visiting the Mundial, enjoy the competition, the festival and the Tango vibe in the city. Take the time to experience the classic milongas, as well as the modern practicas. Decide what you want to achieve from Tango. Modern tango can be enjoyed in much the same way as Latin and Swing - fun, creative, self-expression. If you prefer the classic dance - internalised, centred on communication with your partner and those around you - the “silent conversation” of classic Tango, then you can enjoy the long journey as the dance unfolds over many years.
A detailed essay on the Tango “Mundial” can be found here at Tango Voice.