Archive for 2010

Not so many

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

It is fairly amazing the large number of porteños (residents of Buenos Aires *) who don’t dance tango. Many non-Argentinians assume that “everyone” in Buenos Aires dances tango but in fact the percentage of the population who regularly attend milongas is miniscule. They grow up, live and work surrounded by and listening to the music but very few actually dance to it. My guestimate is that out of the three million or so people who live in the city, and additional ten million or so in the surrounding districts, fewer than 10000 actually tango. I can’t find any published numbers to support this, it’s just based on observation of the number of weekly milongas and the number of people in each one.

Depending on which list you use there are about 130 milongas per week in Buenos Aires. There are actually more because not all of them get listed. Let’s call it 20 per night plus half as many again which aren’t listed. So that’s 30 milongas per night. I’m assuming the unlisted ones are smaller than the well known, publicised, listed ones. Let’s assume an average of 100 porteños  in each milonga each night. 3000 porteños dancing each night. Maximum. Some dance more than once a week, or dance in more than one milonga per night. So 10000 seems like a plausible upper guestimate for the number who regularly dance tango in a milonga. That equates to about one third of one percent of the population of the city. Actually I think the real number is less than that, but I’m trying to big it up.

Does anyone have a more accurate number? “Do you dance tango” wasn’t one of the questions on the census form on 27 October this year. They wanted to know what the floor in your dwelling was made of, but not whether you danced tango on it, or anywhere else. Given that tango was declared part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage on 30 September 2009, and both Argentina and Uruguay are eligible for United Nations funding to maintain and promote the dance it might have been worth including a question about it on the census form.

This post was prompted by TangoBora’s discovery, reported in her blog here that not everyone in Buenos Aires dances tango.

* See my glossary for the meaning of porteño and other “funny” words.

TangoCynic strikes again

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

I’ve read a few blog posts about tangueras’ tango shoes in the last year or so. Now TangoCynic has weighed in with another in their cracking series of animated tango videos on YouTube. In two weeks the mystery TangoCynic has posted eight superb videos. I know some people are afraid they might discourage new or potential new tangueros and tangueras. I think the people most likely to watch the videos have been dancing tango long enough to recognise both the truth and humour in them and are already too committed to be so easily put off. And having recently seen an entire wardrobe full of tango shoes I can’t resist sharing this one.

I’m not going to link or embed all of TangoCynic’s videos but I do suggest you visit their YouTube page and watch them all.

Fog, traffic, tango – part 4

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Last weekend I went to Turkey for the Istanbul tango ritual, staying with a tanguera friend I met in Buenos Aires. This is the story of the final day of my visit.


Cigdem, my hostess for the weekend had to leave for work at 6:30 on Monday morning. At 6:25 I dragged myself out of bed to thank her for her hospitality and to say goodbye. After she left I went straight back to bed and slept for a few more hours. An airport shuttle collected me at 11am and whisked me through the sunshine – yes, the fog had finally given up – and almost no traffic to Sabiha Gökcen airport.

Squeezyjet did a fine job of getting me back to the UK, just as they had done a fine job of getting me to Turkey on Friday. The return flight was longer than the outbound due to a headwind and the battery on my Kindle gave up an hour into the flight. So much for ten days on one charge; I think I got more like ten hours. Emerging from the cloud at 400′ the pilot made one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever experienced. Fifteen minutes later I was stood outside Luton airport waiting for my taxi. It was cold – only 5 Celsius (41 Farenheit), windy and raining and generally horrible. The temptation to walk back inside to the ticket desks and buy a one-way ticket to anywhere hot and sunny where they dance tango and/or west coast swing was very strong. I hear Buenos Aires is nice at this time of year…