We didn’t want to hide this dirty little secret. We decided beforehand that it would be something we shared, regardless of the outcome. On October 26th, we competed in the first “Intercontinental Tango Championship“. We saw the news about it on Cherie’s blog before we left Toronto and decided then that we would compete.
The big question is why? Why participate in a competition involving a dance that is a social dance? Our main reason was this: To help us conquer our “stage fright”. We are asked often enough in Toronto to perform and we always oblige. However, we have yet to overcome being extremely nervous in these situations.
Competing was a terrific experience for us and really did help curb our fears. At the end of the first night of competition, we found out we had made it through to semi-finals. Along with this good news, we met some of the lovely competitors who had also qualified. One couple specifically, invited us to go to a practica the following night. We took them up on their offer and what transpired has changed our path in Buenos Aires for good.
The practica is lead by a milonguero and is filled with students who are the next up-and-coming names. Their skills are simply unbelievable. We saw one young local boy dance amazingly with feeling, musicality (as in he knows every song inside-out), and skill (as a post-script: As of 2010, he became the winner of the Mundial Tango Championship :). We are starting to understand how and why these dancers do make it huge. They have been learning for years from some wonderful teachers and surrounded by other amazing dancers.
When this milonguero found out that three couples at the practica (including us) had qualified to the semi-finals, he offered to have us over at his house to help us… for FREE!? With our limited Castellano, we learned so much from this man and we will continue to do so.
On Thursday, we returned to compete in the semi-finals with Jorge’s fever (and then un-diagnosed tonsillitis). We gave it our best and couldn’t have had a more wonderful experience. At the end of the night, they called the names and numbers of those who had qualified for the finals. When it looked as though they had called everyone, they proceeded to call our names and the names of one other couple. Confused for a moment, we were informed that we would dance another tango with this couple so the judges could decide which of us would qualify!?
Can all of you see what an incredible opportunity we were given? Our stage fright was being put to the test! We were being asked to dance at that moment with one other couple (whereas we had danced with three other couples in our round earlier that night). Everyone was watching and making their own personal judgments of which couple “deserved” to go through to the finals. It was one of those experiences of a lifetime and we are so thankful for it – even though the judges chose the other couple over us :)
We received a lot of positive feedback from competitors and spectators (dancers), and we left feeling really great about our experience.
There is a lot of debate over these competitions and their place in the world of Argentine Tango. Here are our two cents: We think these competitions are quite stupid because they fail to get at the heart of what Argentine Tango is. However. there is not a doubt in our minds that Tango can be judged to a certain extent. Do we not all do it at the milongas? We judge who has musicality, lovely movement, nice posture, and a comfortable embrace. We judge this and then make the decision whether or not we’ll dance with that person. In a competition, the contradiction occurs when the judges appear to favour fancy movements that compromise the aforementioned criteria.
Our weakness in this competition was indeed our inability to execute elaborate giros and turn patterns (patterns, in this context, is not defined as memorized steps, but rather an on-the-spot created chain of movements). We have no regrets – it was perfect the way it was. Now we will continue on our journey here to learn and dance more Argentine Tango.