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.
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.
Both Chenlo and Balizano recommend stopping by at El Beso, one of the most intimate dance spots in Buenos Aires. This club hosts a number of milongas. There is Milonga Cachirulo on Tuesdays from 9pm to 5am, which attracts some of the city’s finest dancers. And there is also the popular Lujos Milonga, recommended by Balizano, that is held on Thursdays from 7pm to 2am. Make sure you check out the schedule at the website or Facebook page.
With almost 30 years of history, this milonga combines dancing with showcases of many different styles, live music and art exhibitions. Here, the Parakultural tango company stages events on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, that often involve an orchestra, singers and vivid dance performances. Check out the website for class schedules and upcoming events.
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.
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.
Not much of Buenos Aires’s colonial origin is preserved today, but this visitor-friendly excavation site narrowly escaped that fate. Featuring a series of old tunnels, sewers and cisterns, built in the late 18th century and discovered in 1986 covered in debris, El Zanjón stands as one of the most important urban archaeology projects in the city. Historians speculate that this complex is related to one of the oldest settlements in Buenos Aires. Book a tour to hear the tales that accompany the underground experience.
Commonly known as the “Palermo forests”, this swathe of parks and lakes features a number of gardens, walks and green spaces that offer a great way to spend a whole day enjoying their quietness. You can start at the Botanic Garden of Buenos Aires, then head to the Japanese Garden, the Rosedal and then visit the Palermo Forest, located at Figueroa Alcorta and Sarmiento Ave. If you have an inclination for outdoor activities, make sure to check it out.
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.