On Tuesday, August 20, a new kind of couple set fire to the dance floor at the 11th Annual Buenos Aires Tango Festival: a same-sex one. Rather, multiple same-sex couples performed in the competition, a first for its exhibition hall audience. Three male pairs and one female pair tangoed for a crowd that was apparently very open to the partnerships.
“Dance has no sex,” said Marcelo Siufe, a forty-one-year-old nurse, while awaiting his turn to take stage. His partner, Mamuel Mioni, is a twenty-six-year-old professional dancer. “Tango is passion and fantasy,” Siufe later added.
Ironically enough, it was actually a tradition in Argentine—the home of the tango—for men to perform the dance with one another, rather than with women. This could be one of the reasons why the usually conservative crowd was so appreciative of the edgy shift in performance pairings. According to The History of Tango Dance by Christine Denniston—she has authored several novels and articles about the history and culture of the dance, which originated in the brothels of 19th century Buenos Aires—the tango was a way for men to entertain themselves as they waited for females to become available at the brothels. Also, it was a way for men to discover sensual ways to impress the few women that were there.
This act of acceptance among the Argentine community is not new, as they are known for their pioneering of legalization of same-sex marriage in the nation as well as having a capital that is very well known for having an open, gay-friendly community.
According to Juan Pablo Ramirez, who also danced with a male partner during the competition, the objective was to try to excel in the wider world of tango and not just a gay subculture. Ramirez added that with all of the positive reception, he and his partner would like to experiment with more androgynous looks—if they make it to the final stage of the competition—by being wearing heels and makeup. The finals are due to take place on August 27.