Every August it’s time to put on a sultry face and slide into a tight embrace on the dance floor at the Buenos Aires’ Tango Festival.
At this yearly tango festival, tango aficionados and international visitors enjoy live tango orchestras, dance shows and competitions, tango-related films, art exhibitions and of course milongas (dance parties), celebrating Argentina’s most famous dance.
The free two week event is hailed as the world’s largest tango-related festival with 2,000 performers and nearly half a million visitors. This larger event is preceded by the citywide Buenos Aires Tango Championship, held every May — this year from the 10th to the 21st.
Bailongo in Buenos Aires
Although today considered one of the country’s most sophisticated cultural exports, tango was born at the end of the 19th century in the working class portside neighborhood of La Boca. An immigrant community of mostly struggling, single European men meant there was a dearth of women at the time.
Men danced with each other to practice for the day they might have the chance to seduce one of the few single ‘ladies of the night’ available. Because of tango’s early association with crime, the outlaw language of lunfardo and poverty, upper crust Argentines originally turned up their noses at the dance.
Once the sounds and moves of tango exploded in Europe in the early 20th century, wealthy and middle class Argentines co-opted the once underground sound and began composing more purified tangos, bringing the sexy dance into their ballrooms.
Since the 1990’s tango has experienced a new renaissance in Buenos Aires and worldwide. UNESCO included tango on their Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009.
Throughout the festival there is a variety of open milongas allowing the public to dance to the live sounds of traditional tango orchestras, tangotronica DJ’s and tango-inspired fusión groups .
Among the living tango greats who have hit the stage here are Saúl Cosentino with his avant-garde tango tunes akin to Piazolla; Bandoneon virtuoso, Julio Pane; and composer and the former bandoneonist for Alfredo Gobbi, Alberto Garralda. Other performances include an homage to Grammy winner, Leopoldo Federico, who performed at last year’s Tango Festival and then died at 87 a few months later, and a retrospective of Russian tango of the ’20s and ’30s performed by the Belamor Kanal Quartet. Bringing more modern tango sounds are acts such as Cumbre de Contrabajista (Summit of Stand-up Bassists) and French composer, guitarist and singer, Brian Chambouleyron (on a double bill with the aforementioned Alberto Garralda).
For those who dream to dance tango like they own the floor, the festival hosts dance classes and talks with local dancefloor legends such as Milena Plebs, Sebastián Arce, María Nieves, Julio Balmaceda y Corina de la Rosa, Fernando Galera, Vilma Vega and 82-year-old Juan Carlos Copes.
World Tango Competition
The festival culminates in the Tango World Cup in which the world’s best tangueros compete on stage for prestige and cash prizes in the Salon Tango and Stage Tango Competitions at Luna Park.
All the activities and shows at the Tango Festival are free. Tickets for Tango World Cup are first come, first serve, and will be given out at the Casa de Cultura, Av. de Mayo 575. There is a two ticket limit per person. The 2017 date to pick up tickets has not yet been announced.
For all other limited seating events, tickets are given out beginning two hours before the show.
To see a day-by-day breakdown of the Tango Festival events and the World Championship Dance competition see the Buenos Aires Culture Department’s official webpage linked below.
Tango BA — Citywide championship competition
May 10-21, 2017
Buenos Aires Tango Festival & World Cup 2017
Buenos Aires Culture Department Festival Page
• Tel: . 0-800-333-7848 (Mon-Fri 10a.m.-8p.m)
Tango Festival Venues
Av. Corrientes y Bouchard
• Tel: 5279-5279
• Bus: 4, 6, 20, 22, 23, 26, 28, 33, 45, 50, 54, 56, 61, 62, 74, 91, 93, 99, 105
• Subway: Línea B, L.N. Alem stop
Subte: Line D: Tribunales stop; Line B: Carlos Pellegrini stop; Line C: Diagonal Norte stop
Av Corrientes 1639
Subte: Line D, Callao; Line B Uruguay stop or 9 de Julio; Line C Diagonal Norte
• Usina del Arte
Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza 501 (corner of A. Caffarena)
Bus: 4, 8, 20, 25, 29, 33, 53, 64, 86, 129, 130, 152, 159, 168, 195
•Museo del Cine
Agustín Caffarena 51
Bus:4, 8, 20, 25, 29, 33, 46, 53, 64, 86, 129, 130, 152, 159, 168, 195
•Teatro de La Ribera/La Milonga del Dique
Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza 1821
Bus:8, 20, 25, 29, 33, 46, 53, 64, 86, 129, 152, 159
•Espacio Cultural Adán Buenosayres
Av. Asamblea 1200
•Espacio Cultural Julián Centeya
Ave. San Juan 3255
•Teatro 25 de Mayo
Av Triunvirato 4444
Bus: 71, 112, 114, 127, 133, 176
Subte: Line B, Echeverría Stop