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It takes two to tango and more to make a Tango Flashmob.

(Photo credit and copyright Rebecca T)

Admist the cellphone/ipad/SLR camera wearing, sensible shoe clad tourists, a man sets down a portable stereo in the middle of the plaza. Out of place in his starched white shirt and formal black pants, he seems to have stepped right out of a soiree. He smooths down his tie and leans over to press play. The stereo leaps into life, exuding tinny strains of a bandoneon which make them way over the chatter and noise of the city. Nonchalantly, he walks over to a woman whose sneakers clash with the pretty flowing flowery dress she wears. He holds out his hand and she accepts graciously and they begin to dance to the music.

After several bars, a man with a backpack and a woman in shorts and hiking boots embrace and begin to dance as well. Cyclists have to swerve around the gathering couples, clad in jeans, shirts, sandals, sneakers and the occasional high heel. Out of nowhere, a milonga has formed and disperses after only 10 minutes, as if it had never existed.

You will have heard of the term ‘flash mob’. The term wasn’t even coined within the twentieth century, making its leap into mainstream in 2003. Defined as a “group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, before quickly dispersing”, it is used for entertainment or artistic purpose. Choreographed dance has made a certain mark on ‘flashmobbing’ with its use in anything from wedding proposals to commercial use. It didn’t take long for tango to join in the party.  Cities around the world from Auckland, NZ to Helsinki, Finland have all hosted tango flash mobs. Even the Vatican City was not immune, with hundreds of people taking over St Peter’s Square to dance to the strains of the bandoneon in celebration of Pope Francisco’s birthday in 2014.

The most unique thing about the tango flash mob is that it embodies what most of us expect of Buenos Aires - the idea that people dance this passionate dance on street corners, at any time and anywhere. That people can share a special connection with each other amidst the everyday hubbub and bustle of the city. In such a grand city where it is easy to feel like just another fish swimming against the current, these inter-personal connections don’t happen very often. That is one of the beautiful things about tango. Despite perhaps not knowing anyone in a room, you can connect with someone for 10 minutes and share a space and dialogue without even talking. The lead for tango comes from the chest or the heart and is received the same way - not from the arms.

Traditional tango is also not choreographed, but improvised on the dance floor as the music plays. From one step to the next, you don’t know what is going to happen but you must trust and follow the lead. (NB: Stage show tango is choreographed obviously as those high kicks and lifts are not able to come from a subtle shift of weight!)

So next time you watch two people dancing tango together, take a moment to watch from their connection at the chest up, because that’s where the magic is happening for them. And watch out for a tango flashmob near you - you never know when it could happen.


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