|Ruben and I Dancing Final Round at La Rural in 2006|
The premier five winners are:
Unprecedentedly a tie between first and second place caused an exciting Dance-Off to pick the Champions. Here the two couples from Colombia and Venezuela dance three extra tangos at the end of the competition:
Also for the first time in the history of the Campeonato Mundial del Tango del Salon, no Argentine was among the first five.
The tango championships were created in 2002 to bring more attention to the art form and to bring money and business and more tango to Buenos Aires. It was only in 2001 that the country suffered a debilitating and traumatic economic crisis. "What shall we do to get the country out of the doldrums? I know, we'll have a big fiesta about what we know and do best--along with beef and red wine (and sometimes football.)" An influx of business and tango tourism could only help. And it did.
It began small and standards were lower and fewer. Dance rules were posted but not insisted on. Fewer pesos were awarded. Winners were older.
Then Argentine associations in several countries began to sponsor competitions on their home ground, the winners to get free travel to Buenos Aires to compete in the Mundial. Competitors figured out that it was "good" for them to come early and study with the judges on the panel. Beautiful young women figured out that flirting with the judges while wearing scanty clothing couldn't hurt either. Judges awarded prizes to students, favorites, and sometimes even family members (Maxi Copello the year we competed in the Metropolitano.) Everyone knew that the judging was prejudiced.
Soon the government realized what a great marketing and PR jewel they had in the tango contests, and advertized for participants around the world to come to Buenos Aires to compete. A Tango Festival was added, with free concerts, milongas, lectures, and classes to sweeten the pot. Venders paid to show their wares. It was a win-win situation for everyone. Tango tourism bloomed in August, and local citizens got free entertainment.
This year the pot turned a little sour for some. There was a big fracas in May over whether or not foreigners could compete in the Metropolitano, previously only open to residents of Buenos Aires, a law suit was brought by disgruntled Americans, and the whole city championship nullified. I didn't understand the problem as anyone could compete in the World's in August no matter where they came from.
And then out of 40 finalistas, of which 18 were Argentine, no Argentines finished in the first five of the traditional Tango Salon championship! While all the finalists were beautiful dancers and did a great job on the stage at Luna Park, it's very hard to believe that none of the competing Argentine dancers couldn't do as well. Salon tango has to be improvised, but certainly the three tangos danced in the above video--to popular recordings of famous tangos by Di Sarli, Fresedo, and Rodriguez--were practiced and choreographed, not led. Sorry. Take a closer look.
Diego Hernandez, the Colombian First Place winner, was overheard in an interview saying (smugly) it's as if an Argentine won the Cumbia Competition in Colombia. "Like there's no way in hell that's ever going to happen."
Some of the tangueros and milongueros of Buenos Aires felt like he gave them the finger. (Colombia is famous for its variety of musical styles and high-quality of dancing. Colombia music genres)
And many Argentine dancers feel that the government is giving away their tango. Or rather, selling it.
If Buenos Aires becomes no longer the Mecca of tango, if people can study in Bogota or Los Angeles or Tokyo with world tango champions, why should tango tourism continue to rise along with the high inflation?
From my point of view, Argentina never thinks or plans long-term; get it while you can seems to be the prevailing philosophy of everyone from the lowest to the highest. Planning and saving has never helped them in the past. So they go for the gusto.
'The good news is that this is growing fantastically year after year," a delighted Mayor Mauricio Macri said. Maybe he should think ahead a few more years?
In 2009, tango was declared by UNESCO to be a World's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations.
From the Huff Post:
The 24 members of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Heritage granted the tango dance and its music protected cultural status at its meeting in Abu Dhabi.
The designation may make Argentina and Uruguay, which both claim to be tango's birthplace, eligible to receive financial assistance from a specialized fund for safeguarding cultural traditions. It will also help both governments justify using public funds to preserve their most famous export after beef.
This article is illustrated by this one photo only--stage tango, or Tango Gringo. Is this the dance and music (Gotan Project, Piazzolla) that UNESCO aims to preserve as the cultural heritage of Uruguay and Argentina?
I'm wondering what "protected status" means. Here's what Tito Palumbo thinks.
He writes about the UNESCO designation in Patrimonio Cultural Inmaterial, in B.A.Tango, November 2009:
Money seems to be the reason.
It was considered that Tango is seen as extravagant and exotic
The Minister of touristic culture of the City of Buenos Aires must have lobbied.
A Tango Dance School is mixed up with the milongas.
The tango phenomenon is very widespread. Luckily, its extinction is not expected in the short or medium term. What appears in this declaration is an interweaving of interests among politicians, individuals with privileges and tango merchants with the intention of increasing their power and filling their pockets at the expense of not only local tax payers but also the entire world's population. The following step will be asking the United Nations for funds. It's none of our business; tango exists and remains despite their ploys to live on its fame!
As for my personal opinion, I quote these Argentine sources because I'm a little uneasy to criticize the country of which I am a guest, and the field in which I and my milonguero partner make our living. I am an outsider in Argentina but after so many years and so much attention paid, I must offer my point of view on this huge endeavor, the Campeonato Mundial. ( This post only refers to salon tango. Tango to me is about improvisation, emotion, connection, the embrace--ingredients of traditional social tango de salon, or tango milonguero.)
Money does seem to be the reason. But in the long run, yes, the only champion is the tango!