A handful of people in Buenos Aires pioneered Queer Tango – an evolved version of the traditional tango dance that challenges stereotyped gender roles. We asked two of the city’s foremost Queer Tango instructors to show us their inclusive and loveable Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires is synonymous with tango, a dance that is not only about music and movement, but also communication between two people, often with a strong sensual connotation. But as the society that created tango evolved to be more diverse and all-encompassing, so did the dance itself.
Tango themes often encompass unrequited love, deceit, abandonment and broken hearts. But historically its core has retained some sexist ideas of gender roles: it often portrays eroticism in a limiting heteronormative way, with the man taking an “active” role and the woman a “passive” one. Queer Tango challenges this notion in an innovative way.
Mariana Docampo and Augusto Balizano started the Queer Tango movement in Buenos Aires. The redefined dance is an environment that is open to everyone, a place where nobody takes your sexual orientation for granted, nor your choice of role to lead or be led. It advocates the message that tango should be free from pre-established expectations attached to the gender of the dancers.
In the words of the dancer and Queer Tango instructor Liliana Chenlo, “Queer Tango represents the freedom of dancing the way we desire and with whom we choose.” Augusto Balizano, dancer, choreographer and instructor, adds that Queer Tango removes the limitation of taking a single role while dancing. “Gender needs not to be relevant to the way we choose to dance,” he says.
Here are Liliana Chenlo and Augusto Balizano’s favorite places in Buenos Aires to dance, express themselves freely and generally fall in love with the inclusive city.
Best places to dance in Buenos Aires
This milonga –an event where Argentine tango is danced – was first organized 15 years ago by Balizano and, in his words, “is a must if you want to tango.” This milonga is held once a month and welcomes couples who are hetero, gay, lesbian or any label they choose, to come share the dance floor. Make sure to check out the website or Facebook page for upcoming events before you go.
This milonga, recommended by Chenlo, is known for being a reflection of the contemporary tango scene of Buenos Aires and for fostering a young, gay-friendly and diverse atmosphere. Domilonga takes place in the “Chau Che Clú”, a club located in the neighborhood of Barracas, known for its tango tradition. The place also features an open grill with both Argentine meat and vegetarian options. Check out the website for upcoming events and classes.
Every Monday at La Paz Arriba (a billiard saloon and live music hall), El Despelote Tango takes place. At 9pm there is a role-free class and from 10:30pm onwards the dance floor opens to all.
Best LGBT places
This bed and breakfast, recommended by Balizano, is an intimate guesthouse where only gay men can book a stay. In their own words, “Because gay friendly is just not enough”. Most of the rooms have a stunning view of the San Pedro Telmo church that gives its name to the famous neighborhood. The boutique hotel features spiral staircases, sunny terraces and, most importantly, a tango salon and café.
Pride Cafe is a place to get lost in conversation with strangers, sharing travel stories and maybe funny anecdotes. Recommended by Balizano, this small, gay-friendly café features all sorts of coffee drinks, a plethora of magazines, music videos rotating on screens and modern art on the walls. Just beware of stopping by on Sundays: due to the San Telmo fair, the shop is usually crowded and some of its charm can be lost.
Open every night from midnight until dawn, km ZERO is a one of a kind gay club in Buenos Aires. The club offers a vast catalogue of music genres that can range from electro-house, latin-dance and pop to tango. Most nights, drag and strip shows take place, and the club can become quite packed during weekends.
Other places in Buenos Aires
Chenlo recommends this complex that features several theater halls, an open air food court and commercial gallery. Here you’ll find a wide array of restaurants, bars and other shops. The theater runs both classic and contemporary productions, including tango and stand up comedy. Check out the website for the theatre and comedy listings.
As some locals say, the best way to walk back into the past of Buenos Aires is to stroll down Calle Defensa from Plaza de Mayo (the oldest square in the city) until Plaza Dorrego (the second oldest). Located in the bohemian San Telmo, this street brims with art galleries, cafés, antique shops and street murals. The famous San Telmo street market takes place in Dorrego Square on Sundays. With many 18th-century buildings still standing, its atmosphere takes visitors back in time.
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