Whittling down

It’s been six years since I attended the qualifying rounds, semifinals and the finals of the Campeonato Mundial de Baile de Tango.  Facilities and management improve every year.  The 2006 competition at La Rural had a capacity of 4,000 for the finals with bleacher seats and an awful dance floor on stage.  Tickets to the finals were not available until the day of the finals.  This year the finals are at Luna Park for 10,000, and people got tickets a week in advance.  Local television has broadcast the finals live for the past couple years which means the world can watch via internet.

I arrived at 1:00pm to wait in line at the Centro de Exposiciones in Recoleta where the semifinals rounds for tango salon started at 2:15pm.  There were ten rounds of ten couples each — 92 from the qualifying rounds and eight from the city championship finals held on May 26.

Judges were salon teachers and performers Pancho Martinez Pey, Damien Edsell, Claudia Codega, Fernando Galera, and Ana Maria Schapira (milonguera and teacher).

Several rounds of couples are given the opportunity to warm up on stage and test the floor before competition begins.  This wasn’t done in the past when the surface was poor, and the dancers suffered the next day.  This important detail is finally given priority.

Coca and Cholo danced in Round #5 of the semifinals.  I sat in the sixth row and recorded them.  Their daughter was in the audience to cheer them on.  They didn’t know they were to receive special recognition on stage for their 40 years dancing tango and many years participating in the competitions.  The festival committee called their daughter yesterday to tell her about the presentation scheduled before the announcement of finalists.  They also told her that next year’s competition will include a special division for 60+ years for the first time in the world competition.  [The city competition has had two age divisions since 2008.]

The semifinal rounds ended at 2:30pm.  During tabulation of the results, we watched movie clips from the 1950s on the screen.  They included Juan D’Arienzo and his orchestra with Alberto Echague, Horacio Salgan and his orchestra with Homero Rivero, singers Julio Sosa, Hugo Carril, Tita Morello, Libertad Lemarque, and many others for an hour.

All the couples in the semifinal rounds went backstage for the announcement of results at 3:45pm.  Coca and Chola didn’t hear what the announcer said about them, only their number.  They walked on stage crying, thinking they had made the finals.  This was the first time a couple received special recognition in the competition, and they certainly deserved it.  They were dancing tango before most of the competitors were born.  Coca told me how much she wanted to dance in Luna Park.

Each couple came on stage as they were announced for the World Cup at Luna Park.  The only couple from Portugal are the oldest and have competed since 2004; all the finalists are under 40.  Three couples from the Russian Federation made the finals, notably Andrey Panferov who competed in 2006 with a different partner.  The list of 39 finalists was once again posted on the internet as the results were being announced to the public in Centro de Exposiciones.

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