Open Democracy hosts Yessika Gonzalez’s article looking at the queering of the Argentine tango.
With the internationalization of tango, its slum origins were forgotten and a strictly codified dance was exported with clearly defined roles between man and woman. In the traditional milongas—the venues where people in Argentina go to tango—women generally sit on one side of the dance floor to show their potential dance partners that they are available. The man invites the woman to dance with a head motion and the women either accepts or rejects the proposal. So begins a dance in which the man leads and the woman follows the marked steps, embellishing the dance with several adornments.
In recent years, however, people have begun to champion the so-called Queer Tango – queer meaning “strange”, “different”, or even “eccentric”. But since the word was traditionally used pejoratively against people on particular gender and sexual grounds, it was eventually appropriated by the LGBTQ community. The Queer Tango therefore does not aim only to create spaces for the gay community to express itself through tango, but it allows all people, regardless of their sexuality, to explore themselves and go beyond social gender norms. As the Buenos Aires Queer Tango blog explains:
“Queer Tango is a space for tango open to everyone. A space for meeting, socializing, learning, and practicing that seeks to explore different forms of communication between those who dance. The queer tango does not presuppose the sexual orientation of its dancers, nor their taste for occupying one role or another when dancing.”
[El Tango Queer] es un espacio de tango abierto a todas las personas. Un lugar de encuentro, sociabilización, aprendizaje y práctica en el que se busca explorar distintas formas de comunicación entre quienes bailan. El tango queer no presupone la orientación sexual de los bailarines ni su gusto por ocupar un rol u otro a la hora de bailar.
Although, at its inception, only men danced the tango, in the traditional milongas of today, same-sex partners have been victims of discrimination and have even been thrown out of the dance floor. In fact, the birth of many “queer” milongas came as a response to these attacks.