Archive for December, 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.