I never thought I would be here talking about my experience at a Tango Competition. I have poo-pooed the thought of competing in Argentine Tango for all of my tango career – until now. I have been a strong advocate in promoting the dance form as a social dance, as a folk dance, not as a competitive sport! or so I thought that was what it meant.
So Rommel Oramas asked me to join him as his partner in this Tango Competition. At first I was furious and continued kicking and screaming for the most part for many months until I did obviously, eventually, give in. It was just something I didn’t think I wanted to do and didn’t want all those people who knew me as a social dancer to think I had crossed over to some other side!
April 21 – 24, 2011 was the first officially sanctioned Tango Competition in the USA, Sanctioned by the Office of Festivals and Central Events of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires.
There were 25 couples who registered for the Tango Salon part of the competition – this included Rommel and myself.
Tango Salon has a few key rules:
1) The Couple, once formed, may not be separated while the music plays. This means that they may not be break the embrace, considered as the tango dance position.
2) For the position to be considered correct, the body of one of the members of the couple must be contained all the time by the arm of the other member. It is understood that, in certain figures, this may be flexible; but not throughout the duration of the dance.
3) All movements must be made within the space allowed by the embrace between the members of the couple.
4) The Jury will take into account the couple’s musicality and walking style as fundamental to the score.
5) Within these parameters, the couple may carry out all the popular figures, including barridas (sweeps), sacadas al piso (drawn to the floor), enrosques (twists), etc. All other figures typical of stage tango such as ganchos (hooks), saltos (jumps) and trepadas (climbs) are completely excluded.
6) Couples, as in a dance hall, must constantly move counterclockwise, and may not stay in the same point of the choreographic space as this would obstruct the movement of the other dancers in the dance floor.
7) None of the members of the couple may lift his/her legs beyond the line of the knees.
And we were off and running!
Upon our arrival we were given a number that became our number for the duration of the event – #3. We were placed in a group – Number 1 – and on the first night danced with 5 other couples to 3 songs chosen ahead of time and told to us while we were on the dance floor.
Each night started off with the Stage Tango Dancers doing their performances and then when they were done they continued with the Tango Salon category. Each night Rommel and I were couple #3 and danced in the first group! Each night we kept passing!
Saturday night was a grueling night when after all the groups went they asked set up another group for a tie-breaker without telling any of use who the tie was for. Rommel and I and another beautiful couple were in this tie-breaking round. We had to dance to 2 songs.
There were 12 couples in the final round on Sunday. 12 of us past to this last round. And this was an exciting time – 2 groups of 6. Again in Group 1. It was a “tanda” of 3 songs that were great for dancing, we knew the orquestas and we liked them.
We didn’t get 1st, 2nd, or 3rd but it was an extraordinary experience. Most of the couples were from California, there was 1 couple from Boston and 1 from New York.
We found out from the judges that we came in 5th. And I was complimented on my feet!
Overall, I am glad to say I did it. I feel well-equipped to talk about competition from new stand point.
I did try to do some research on Tango Competitions because I remember when I started to dance tango – they didn’t exist, not that I had heard of. And I did find out that 2010 was only the 8th time doing it in Buenos Aires – and this is the “world cup” or the World Championships – http://www.tangobuenosaires.gov.ar/campeonato10/web/en/tango/festival_mundial.html
I know the organizers of this festival and championships are looking forward to doing it again and having it grow and I am sure there will be more sanctioned championships throughout the world.
The experience has added to my Tango experiences. I can see myself training future competitors. And I think the competition adds a dimension to the dance form that was completely unexpected – which is – to show others musicality, grace, endurance, beauty, connection, understanding of the dance form in the tradition of line of dance, respect for the floor and the other dancers – and all this can be done without having to be a show tango dancer.
See 2 of our 3 dances in the 1st round of the final day of competition: