The World’s Most Important Tango Festival Kicks Off in Buenos Aires

Our Buenos Aires Querido is, of course, the world capital of tango. Once a year, the city’s dance floors get especially crowded as the best dancers from all over the globe converge in the Argentinian metropolis for Tango Buenos Aires Festival y Mundial, widely considered the most important tango event on the planet. The glittering festival and competition kicked off last night with performances by famed tango musicians Raúl Lavié y Adriana Varela, plus the debut of a brand-new documentary about tango great Astor Piazzolla. Here’s what else is happening at the 2013 edition.

The Venues

The festival’s events are set in five venues, scattered throughout the traditional tango barrios of Buenos Aires, with headquarters at the Centro de Exposiciones in Recoleta. Additional concerts and performances take place at the  striking Usina del Arte in La Boca, the massive amphitheater inside Villa Crespo’s recently revamped Parque Centenario, and inside the lovely and somewhat off-the-beaten-path CCC Teatro 25 de Mayo in Villa Urquiza. The final championships occur at the storied Luna Park theatre (the same place where a young Eva Duarte – also known as Evita, perhaps you’ve heard of her – first met Juan Perón.)

Luna Park, site of the final tango championships

Luna Park, site of the final tango championships – photo courtesy of Alexis Gonzalez Molina

The Competition

Hundreds of couples from Argentina and all over the world – keep your eye on the Japanese dancers – are set to compete for the world championship titles in two categories, Tango Pista (ballroom tango) y Tango Escenario (stage tango). Watching the action during qualifying rounds, starting in the second week of the festival, allows an excellent overview of various tango styles. The finals, held at the historic Luna Park on the evenings of August 26-27, are particularly glamorous; the theatre has 10,000-person capacity, and tickets, while free, will go quickly (note that they’ll become available at the Centro de Exposiciones on the morning of August 19th, and tickets requests are limited to two per person.)

Tango dancers

Tango dancers – photo courtesy of Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires

What’s in it for the rest of us

In addition to the competition itself, the two-week festival features an impressive array of activities for all ages and skill levels. Look for tango concerts, dance performances and open-air milongas , or tango club-style dances open to the public. (My top pick? The hip, youthful milonga electrónica events, set to innovative soundtracks by local DJs who mix and mash tango music with cumbia and hip-hop.)

Tango musician on the bandoneon

Tango musician on the bandoneon – photo courtesy of Jorge Royan

Free classes on offer range from highly specialized courses geared towards professional dancers to simple beginner’s workshops, tango classes for children, even a tango seminar for the visually impaired. If you have no intention of stepping onto the dance floor, you can still buy a slick-looking pair of tango shoes from the artisan vendors in the ongoing Feria de Productos.

Arrive in the world capital of tango with LAN Airlines and its affiliates, offering daily nonstop flights from Miami to Buenos Aires, plus daily connecting flights from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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