The tango world meets in Recoleta

Today is a holiday in Argentina.  I arrived around 12:30 at the Centro de Exposiciones where I found a long line of people waiting patiently in the cold.  I headed for the end and talked with people I know along the way.  I thought they were in line to enter for the qualifying rounds of the salon competition scheduled for 2:00.  As I reached the end of the line about three blocks from the entrance, I learned this was the line to get tickets for the finals in Luna Park.  I didn’t want tickets and walked to the entrance where there was a much shorter line.  People arrived hours earlier to wait in line; they started giving out tickets at 11:00.  Each person gets two tickets.  If you go with a friend, you can get two tickets to the salon and stage finals.

The doors didn’t open before 2:00.  When they did, there was a mad dash across the dance floor to get a seat in front of the stage.  Seating for about 800 did not accommodate all who wanted to watch the qualifying rounds.  Many stood along the sides and took seats as people left.

The rounds finally got started at 2:45.  The first panel of five judges were Mingo Pugliese, Celia Blanco (Lo de Celia Tango Club), Elina Roldan, Carlos Perez (whose students have won the last several championships), and Veronica Alvarenga at stage right.

Each couple is introduced by number, names, and the country they represent.  Every man has a number attached to the back of his suit jacket for scoring by the judges. Each round is ten couples who dance three tangos.  The announcer gives the titles and orchestra before the round.  The music selection was prepared by Mario Orlando, a DJ for several milongas.  There was two changes since I attended two years ago.  Couples have one minute to test the floor before competition, and they line up to take a bow after their round on stage.  As soon as they leave, the next round begins.  I watched 24 rounds, and they weren’t over when I left at 8:30.  Every two hours or so, there were new judges.

A couple from the milonga asked if I saw any couple in the rounds who looked like they could be the next champions.  I didn’t.  I waited until the 14th round for a couple whose dancing I liked.  They are No. 421.  I don’t know who they are, but they got my vote.  There is no doubt they’ve danced together many years in the milongas.

The list of countries represented this year is impressive — Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Turkey, Pakistan (a first), Russian Federation, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico and the United States with more couples than in earlier years (Phoenix, Tucson, New York, and New Jersey).  Argentina has the largest number of couples participating as always.

There was one couple who stood out.  The man wore a hat, and his partner had her head wrapped in a scarf.  Although they represented Argentina, it’s obvious they are Cuban.  They are the couple I won’t forget.

The tango championship brings the world’s attention to tango and Buenos Aires this week.

There is an exhibition of 250 photos of Piazzolla’s life with family and friends, manuscripts, drawings, and a display case of old record albums from the Astor Piazzolla Foundation.

The Festival program doesn’t have a floor plan which would be helpful to find restrooms, the cafeteria, the dance class room, coat room, product fair, etc.

The dance floor is huge and crowded.

La 2×4 broadcasts from the Centro de Exposiciones.  Everything to do with tango is under one roof in Recoleta.  It’s the place to be every August in Buenos Aires.


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