Milonga amongst same sex-couples, historic or groundbreaking?
In prehistoric times, human beings used to simulate animal movements when performing rituals that celebrated a specific event. Therefore, without even noticing it, men ́s uninhibited behavior and moves generated typical figures that would become what we nowadays refer to as dance.
The different style, methods and characteristics had variations according to the musical rhythms, the ritual’s motive, the personality of the leading characters and the geographic region where the cult took place.
As time went by, hundreds of styles were born around the world and historians reported several dances styles that took place between couples of the same sex. It didn’t reflect any sexual orientation or preference; it was due to the fact that there was a shortcome of people who danced in certain areas.
The social system that ruled through the end of the 19th Century-beginning of the 20th Century generated a constant gap between men and women regarding their social labours. On one hand, men worked in fabrics, railways, trains, mines, crops and commerce. Women, on the other hand, stayed at home working as housewives. This scenario, as one can imagine, resulted in a lack of women in men ́s spaces, and therefore, dancers had to find a dance partner within the same sex. This was not an issue at the time.
Marines and soldiers -all men- used dancing amongst themselves as a method of physical training and preparation.
But was this phenomenon replicated in the Rioplatense ́s dances? Was tango danced among men during this time period? Is Queer Tango actually a new brand of tango in the 21st Century? Yes, yes and no.
Let us agree that tango is born as a product of the mixture between locations that surrounded the Rio de la Plata and the European landings in Buenos Aires and Uruguay. Therefore, tango is born and nourished by the Old Continent ́s customs and styles. Customs that encouraged dance between the same sex as well as intertwined positions that would later become the traditional tango hug: “abrazo milonguero”.
The nightlife, the parties, the milonga or “garufa” (nightlife expressed in Argentine lunfardo) was a man thing. It was majorly them who attended the tango, alcohol and dance scene. The lack or absence of women did not impair the continuity of music or dance. Milonga was danced among men.
There are photographic registers where we can see men dancing in couples to the sound of tango through the Rio de la Plata as something common. As well as beautiful women couples performing Argentinian dances in dance-saloons and events.
But as the 20th Century went by, this practice was gradually hidden until the point of extinguishing itself.
We abruptly ceased to see same sex couples dancing tango. And, on the other hand, social and philosophical currents of the time determined that the image of tango couple should be man-woman. An idea that was reinforced by the iconic seduction and attraction role portrayed in the milonga dance.
This continued till the millennium changeover, when a new air of tango amongst the same sex reappeared. The idea that seemed extinct, was reborned with a great relevance in Hamburg, Germany, where a group of lesbian girls decided to initiate the first International Queer Tango Festival. It was the first important relationship between tango and the queer movement, a term that belongs to the definition of oneself not based on the sexuality seen as X or Y; we are all the same regardless of the classic feminine or masculine aspect.
Ever since then, the festival takes place every 4 years in Hamburg and cities like Buenos Aires have adopted the same practice in its most distinguished scenarios. In addition to the Argentine Capital, other big cities like Stockholm, Oslo, Berlin, Mexico DF, San Francisco y New York, Queer Tango is taught and practiced through different workshops and academies.
The World Tango Festival in Buenos Aires serves as an example of the rebirth of this type of tango since it features queer couples amongst its competitors every year. The most relevant tango event in the world gathers queer couples that compete for the first place in the Stage Tango and Ballroom Tango.
Tango Queer has given tango back its original characteristic. And we can now agree that tango has been, and is, for everyone, since you only need two to tango, regardless of the sex of its dancers.