Gay tango festival puts new spin on Argentine dance

Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:39pm EDT
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By Alexandra Ulmer

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters Life!) - Two men locked in a tight embrace step in time to the mournful chords of a tango. Gustavo Aciar follows his partner's lead, but halfway through the melancholy song, he takes charge.

The nostalgic music and passionate moves are the same as those found in most Buenos Aires tango clubs, called milongas, but a gay tango festival is giving a new twist to a dance that traditionally maintains strict gender roles.

"Tango has to adapt, just like a language," Aciar, 45, an opera pianist from the Argentine capital, told Reuters. "And gay tango is enriching the language of tango."

The event is an offshoot of the bigger International Queer Tango Festival, which was launched in 2007 to increase interest in the dance among the gay community in the country, which became the first nation in Latin America to allow gay marriage this month.

At a workshop held as part of the weekend festival, there were none of the women in high-heels and dapper, suited men normally associated with the quintessential Argentine dance.

"Gay tango takes tango to another level-- the macho leader can become the sensual follower," said Kalervo Barker, 47, a tourist from Wales, who danced a few songs with Aciar.

"Tango is so sensual and for me dancing with a man is more sensual when leading or following, there is a little flirting and I don't want to flirt with a woman," he said as the mainly male participants went through their steps.

They got a chance to put their classes in practice later that night at the Academia Bien Porteno milonga.   Continued...