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June 22, 2006

Tango Revival in Argentina Spurs Sales of High Heels, Fishnets

June 21 (Bloomberg)-- Tango is undergoing a renaissance in Argentina, land of its birth, as dancers from Europe to Asia flock to the South American country to learn the steps and try out the new ``milongas,'' or dance halls.

Sales of fishnet stockings, high-heeled shoes and slit- thigh skirts are soaring as a new generation discovers the art of romantic dancing. The capital's tango radio station has quadrupled listeners in four years.

``I used to ice skate and play the flute,'' said Louise David, a 24-year-old Parisian ready to start a night of tango in stiletto-heeled shoes at a Buenos Aires club. ``Tango combines both: the art of movement and the art of music.'' David gave up her job as a musician to move to Argentina three months ago.

Surging interest in tango has led to a doubling in the number of Buenos Aires milongas in the past year. Ariel Crocitta, 30, the owner of shoemaker Darcos Magic Shoes, has tripled his staff to 40 in three years to meet demand for shoes with ankle straps and special soles that allow dancers to pirouette and slide with minimal resistance.

``There has been an explosion of tango in the past years, in Argentina and abroad,'' said Crocitta, whose workshop is a few blocks from Avenida Corrientes, the downtown avenue that was once home to the smoke-filled cafes and dance halls where aficionados gathered to listen to singers such as Carlos Gardel and Edmundo Rivero. ``We get orders from dozens of countries.''

Appalled and Seduced

Nowadays, tango clubs can be found from the fashionable residential suburb of Palermo to the city's older quarters of La Boca and San Telmo, where tango evolved from the music of immigrants arriving from Europe and Africa in the second half of the 19th century.

``In that melting pot of cultures, tango is born,'' El Viejo Almacen, a tango nightspot converted from a San Telmo corner store, says on its Web site. ``Its first lyrics and dance steps appall -- and at the same time seduce -- the prudish Portenos.''

The Portenos, or citizens of Buenos Aires, overcame their inhibitions, and tango soon became the epitome of the city's culture and nightlife.

Tango began to become known in Europe about 1910. In the 1920s, its international fame was cemented when Gardel toured Latin America, the U.S. and Europe, and starred in several films, said Alejandro Martino, 50, a researcher and member of the National Academy of Tango in Buenos Aires.

Worldwide Tours

More recently, tango dancing troupes have helped revive tango's popularity through worldwide tours of shows such as ``Tango Argentino'' and ``Forever Tango.''

In Argentina, tango fell out of favor with young Argentines from the 1960s to 1990s, when they preferred U.S. and European styles of music, and left tango to their parents and grandparents.

Now, there's a revival of interest from youngsters in their teens and 20s, and a new style of electronic tango is breaking the mold of music traditionally played with violins, piano and accordion.

Carla Quintana, a 23-year-old psychology student, says she dances tango every weekend.

``Since I started learning tango, I can't stop,'' Quintana said before stepping onto the floor at the La Viruta dancehall in Palermo. ``Tango is 100 percent Argentine and means passion. I totally identify with it.''

In the past five years, the average age of listeners to Radio La2X4, a Buenos Aires radio station dedicated to tango, has dropped to 35 from about 50, said Luis Tarantino, one of the station's reporters. In the same period, the number of listeners quadrupled.

``The radio has grown because young people are discovering that tango is a valid alternative,'' said Tarantino, 49. ``Tango has an identity and personality that is very much its own.''

Close Contact

Unlike modern dances, where partners often don't touch each other, tango requires close physical contact. The man guides his partner with his hand pressed against her back, alternating flowing moves across the floor with abrupt changes of direction. Sometimes the woman bends back, hanging in his arms, and at other times, she hooks a foot around one of his legs. Dancers maintain stern expressions and rarely look at each other.

``Tango has a very special communion with your partner which is amazing,'' said David, who is hoping to become a professional tango dancer.

Skilled dancers have little time for beginners who may get in their way, said Horacio Godoy, who runs La Viruta. Students need three or four classes before they can take the floor at his milonga.

``Tango is like driving: If you don't know how to drive and you stop the car, you will cause trouble for others,'' Godoy, 34, said. ``Tango needs permanent movement.''

One of the city's tango schools is run by Mora Godoy, 34, who performed in the ``Tango por Dos'' and ``Tanguera'' shows in Europe, Asia and America.

``I've seen an outstanding interest in tango by young people and tourists,'' said Godoy, who is no relation of Horacio at La Viruta. ``Tango allows embrace and a closer relationship with your partner. That's something young people don't find in discos.''


To contact the reporter on this story:
Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires at
eraszewski@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: June 21, 2006 00:05 EDT

Posted by joegrohens at June 22, 2006 01:04 AM

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