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Shall we dance? - World Tango Championship draws to a close

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Shall we dance? - World Tango Championship draws to a close

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Argentinian dancers Cristian Palomo and Melisa Sacchi have been crowned the Salon Tango world champions in front of a home crowd.

Held annually in Buenos Aires, the World Tango Championship usually takes place in August as part of the the city’s Tango festival.

Participation is open and free for amateurs and professionals, and competitors must choose between two categories: Tango de Pista (Salon Tango) and Tango Escenario (Stage Tango).

The competition has been held every year since 2003 and has only once been won by a couple that did not feature at least one south-American – Japan’s Hiroshi Yamao and Kyoko Yamao took the Salon titles in 2009.

The first, Salon Tango, has strict rules about which techniques and moves are acceptable, and dancers are expected to dance in a traditional milonga style.

The second, Stage Tango, is a more choreographic event, including elements from other dance disciplines and competitors are judged

Previously the competition was only open to couples consisting of men and women but in 2013 the rules were relaxed to allow same sex couples to compete.

The World Tango Championship is the final leg of a series of pre-competitions held around the world starting from March. Traditionally the city of Buenos Aires and various municipalities choose their own “municipal” champions who are entered as wild cards into the final rounds. The same wild card advantage is also given to national or regional champions of recognised competitions.

In 2016 more than 500 couples of different nationalities competed.

The rules

In Stage Tango, the rules are simple: couples are to express their interpretations of the Argentine tango in whichever way they choose, but must perform a set of traditional techniques such as: figure eights, spins, long walks, voleos, hooks, and the “milonguero embrace”. Dancers must incorporate a variety of techniques from other disciplines into their dancing, and are scored based on choreography and performance alone.

Salon Tango, on the other hand, is a far more structured affair. The couple must not separate while the music is playing. For the position to be considered correct, the body of one of the members of the couple must be contained at all times by the arm of the other. It is understood that in certain figures this may be flexible, but not throughout the whole duration of the dance. All movements must be made within the space allowed by the couple’s embrace, so as not to get in the way of the other couples. The leader may invite the follower to walk and/or turn to their right or left, without taking steps backwards on the dance floor.

Tango: A brief history

The word ‘tango’ – or ‘tambo’ – originally derived from the term used to describe the musical gatherings of slaves, and records of colonial authorities attempting to ban such congregations date as far back as 1789.

Since the birth of what we now know as in the latter half of the 19th century on the shores of the Río de la Plata – the natural border between Uruguay and Argentina – tango has captured the global imagination.

Originating in the lower class districts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the dance takes its influence from an amalgam of African and European culture, and spread like a fever throughout the world – the unmistakable music touted by street barrel organs and the captivating dance exhibited in theatres.

Popularity exploded in the early 20th century when Europe became gripped in a tango craze. Paris, London, Berlin and other capital cities were engulfed in tango-fever and North America soon followed.

After a brief dip in popularity during the Great Depression, the dance came back with a bang and in 2009 was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

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