Festival and World Cup 2013

The June issue of La Portena Tango has an interesting commentary about the recent city tango championships by Graciela Lopez.  She organizes La Milonguita milongas in two venues and won the first city tango championships (south zone) in 2002.  She is author of Secrets of a Milonguera, published by Abrazos Books.  She made some excellent points about this year’s city championships.  The following is my translation.

I was there at the beginning of the championships, and I have a great affection for them and those who take part.  Since I’m part of them, my review is also self-criticism.  My objection is not about the organizers because I know how difficult it is to please everyone. Instead, I’m commenting on the criteria for the competition.

The championships should go back to the milongas.  This year only a few milongas of more than 120 in the city participated as venues for the qualifying rounds.  Many were held in cultural centers with free admission, a good thing.  On the other hand, where is tango danced throughout the year?  In the milongas!  That’s the place to hold the rounds.

In earlier years the city championship rounds ran for a month in many of the milongas.  Each one held the rounds without changing the general climate of the milonga; it was just a special day.  This year the competition was only two weeks in very few places.  Since the number of entries was large, the few milongas suffered an invasion by the competitors, friends and family, not to mention a higher admission charge.

We can divide the attitude of the people into three groups:  (a) the competitors who have a desire for recognition and want to make tango their profession; (b) people who don’t even notice the competition and dance as usual at the milongas; and (c) those who stay away if the rounds are held at a milonga.  I suspect this group will increase because those who go to their milonga and support it throughout the year feel excluded if the competition takes many hours.

In the qualifying round held at my milonga, they asked me to move a group of people who were at their usual tables in my milonga.  The reason was given: no one is seated close to the judges.  This concerned me.  We prefer to host and make room for everyone because the milongas are a place of belonging.

Years ago, they introduced dancers by their names at the beginning of the rounds.  Now they are known by a number.  If this is necessary for the judges, it could be accompanied by names.  This gives them an identity.

The rushed atmosphere this year allowed no time between rounds.

During the semifinals, there was no explanation about the judges’ connections with tango.

Winners were no longer presented awards by the judges in a nice ceremony.  It was all done very quickly.

The public did not get to vote for its favorite couple during the qualifying rounds.

“Tango de salon” competition  is now called “tango de pista” which is another contradiction with the finals being performed on the stage of Usina del Arte, not in a milonga.

There were many photographers taking shots of the dancers when their dress should not matter.  It’s all in the videos.  It would be nice to have more feeling and a festive atmosphere.  But in this respect, it failed.

The champions are excellent, and I congratulate them because they managed to stand out even under these conditions, besides dancing on an inappropriate floor.

There were several participants attempting to embrace one another, but without actually doing so.

And if we look back over the past eleven years, it’s not surprising there is a  lack of uniqueness with many young people trying to dance one way.  They assume that is the way to win.  Here is the problem that we inadvertently generated.

There is a model that many dancers copy that is technically perfect, but without any originality to show their personal styles.  This is why people say they all dance the same.

The city championship has lost its heart. If it was open to the general participation of people in the milongas, it could recover.

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4 Responses to “Festival and World Cup 2013”

  1. Pros Van Heddegem Says:

    Thank you for the translation. Good to read (this part) of Graciela Lopez’ critique. She says: ‘There is a model that many dancers copy that is technically perfect, but without any originality…’: Do you know of some video material to show us what she means?
    Best regards.
    Pros Van Heddegem

  2. jantango Says:

    Here is a good example of a final round of the Campeonato de baile de la Ciudad 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA8M5oTz1pk They all watch the videos of champions and copy the style to win. Studying with the judges is useful as well. Even the way they embrace is not the way it’s done in the milongas. Nor the long side step, etc. Compare the video to one from the recent championships in Beijing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3OPUENNY58 Do they all look the same?

    Graciela commented about the finals being held on stage. The tango de pista champion Jimena Hoeffner is a seasoned stage performer in shows, so it wasn’t foreign territory for her.

    http://www.tangosalonextremo.blogspot.com/ is scheduled before the world championships. It’s another example of how the champions are marketed for classes when what they do is performance tango. Some of them will be judging the competition, so it can only help if you are a familiar face to the judges. It’s a new business – Study with the champions.

  3. Chris Says:

    Interesting to see the biography of one of this year’s winners listing all the shows in which she’s worked, but mentioning no milongas in which she dances socially. Originally there was a rule that barred such tango workers from participating in this competition, so to keep it for those who actually dance in milongas. Graciela complains this competition “has lost its heart”. Perhaps she should stop hosting the competition rounds full of people she says are just in it for recognition and money, and should start petitioning for restoration of the bar.

  4. jantango Says:

    Chris,

    You are correct that at one time the competition did not allow professionals. It began as a friendly competition among social dancers.

    Graciela is a strong supporter of social tango in the milongas and the competition among social dancers. She may change her mind about hosting qualifying rounds if things continue the way they are.

    Even more interesting is the timing of the new dinner show opening June 21 including the new champions in the cast.

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