Gay Magazine
Tango | Tango  

¿Who dances with Whom ?
by Miriam Burgués (G-maps BA)


Translation: Leonardo Di Cecco


Queer Tango in Buenos Aires

Main Article
G-maps Spring 06 (Printed Version)


Neither neon lights at the door nor a strong advertising campaign to be publicized. The atmosphere feels clandestine, rather, much as it may seem otherwise, as tango requires an aesthetic like that. They are far from being labeled as venues one would be embarrassed about getting into. On the contrary, even the least smart will have the chance to check for themselves in situ in Buenos Aires that gay milongas (tango dancehalls) are in fashion.

Since 2003, restaurants, accommodation and many other, gay-oriented services have sprung up in the Argentine capital. Thus, the gay idiosyncrasy has come to acquire a cultural value that goes beyond the purely commercial conception of the gay community. In other words, today almost no one will say ‘I'm not getting in here or there –I don't want to be taken for gay,' for the trend has been turned upside down. Going to gay places is ‘chic.' It is synonymous with modern, sophistication, sound cultural level, and high purchasing power.

Hernán Alvarado united that spirit of tolerance and respect toward the community with the need of those wanting to dance tango with people of their same sex and had nowhere to do it. That is how ‘Besos Brujos' came to exist, one of the first gay milongas set up in Buenos Aires, originally located in San Telmo and then moved downtown to an old orthodox church. After the ‘Cromañón' tragic fire in December 2004, Alvaredo had to close it down, but together with his business partners Martín Aldasoro and Javier Donoso, he is determined to reopen ‘Besos Brujos' in 2007.

Today the most popular place for men-to-men tango dancing is ‘La Marshall' and is located in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires, on Maipú street. Roxana Gargano, one of its founders, says they opened the venue more than three years ago because it was almost necessary . ‘Boys would take tango lessons, but then had no place to practice in,' she says. This milonga has a large following that go wherever Roxana and Augusto (her business associate) go, as ‘La Marshall' has changed locations over the time. For one thing, thanks to the word of mouth that following has never dwindled.

‘It may seem shocking to set up something like this, but we didn't even think of it at the beginning. The thoughts about how it would be received (positively or negatively) by the people came around later.' This is the way Roxana speaks about how naturally the milonga has been shaped, labeled as open. The visitor will be told bluntly that they will see people of the same sex dancing together, and it is precisely that normal environment that one witnesses at ‘La Marshall' which makes the key to its success. The other key has to do with its good advertising, avoiding any possible mistakes, because as Roxana says, it is not a cruising place.

Nevertheless, that is purely theoretical –one never knows. After all, the atmosphere itself at a milonga suggests, and paves the way to, spontaneous encounters and deceptions. At least that used to happen at ‘La Noche Azul,' another gay milonga that closed down recently. Owner Claudio Vespasiano tells the story of two foreign boys who met dancing at his milonga and eventually became a couple.

Funnily enough, it is foreigners –Americans, French, English, Germans, Mexicans, Brazilians, Spaniards, etc– who frequently go to this kind of milongas , perhaps for the exoticism they still distil and which their first supporters want to escape. The truth is that, from a historical perspective, there is nothing picturesque about two men dancing tango together, since originally tango was a form of entertainment from which women were banned.

Fortunately, things have changed. And girls also want to enjoy tango among themselves. But they are shyer –they prefer to practice on their own and stay away from the commotion that surrounds many of the initiatives of the gay community in Buenos Aires . Nevertheless, the ‘queer' tango lessons offered at ‘Simón en su Laberinto,' in the heart of San Telmo (Bolívar 860), are widely accepted by the female crowd.


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Needless to say, each of these milongas has its own style and character. However, their achievements are common to each other. Hernán Alvaredo is right to point out that the greatest satisfaction is seeing people happy to express themselves freely. ‘Everyone dances the way they can –the point is to get new adepts to tango,' he adds. Claudio Vespasiano further supports this idea by emphasizing that in his milonga the boys who play the feminine role move and place their legs almost better than girls do. There is the magic, in putting yourself in the other person's shoes, in connecting with the other regardless of age, social status or sexual orientation.

Along with these new tango trends, old questions and paradoxes about this dance reappear. Firstly, the fact that this rhythm is so well established in the Buenos Aires inhabitants that they do not practice or absorb it as much as foreigners, who have been key to keeping some of the milongas alive, especially those that cater to the gay crowd. On the other hand, the playlist of tangos to dance to is quite strict, as there are many songs that, by principle , are not played. We still await a more profound change with a view to profit to the fullest from one of the arguably most attractive features of the Argentine culture.

Special thanks to:
Jorge Molina (Filete Porteño)
Augusto Balizano (La Marshall)
Leonardo Di Cecco (Translation)

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