On every continent, bankers, mechanics, lawyers and computer programmers escape real life to enter the world of tango for a few days in festivals that celebrate the dance and its culture. In 2006 alone, tango festivals were scheduled in places as far flung as Wuppertal, Zurich; Copenhagen, Stockholm, Catania, Seattle, Singapore, Budapest, Taipei and Istanbul. You'll find a full listing of tango festivals around the world at www.totango.net. The website provides dates and details about these events and is a source for a good deal more about tango including links to a multitude of other tango sites. Google also has a world map showing all tango festivals and their upcoming dates: (gmap.tango).
Surprisingly, tango is considered the national dance of Finland, a popularity that began to build when the dance was first introduced there in 1913 and today is mostly danced in the countryside. The Finnish city Seinajoki calls itself "the second city of tango."
Reading about tango
Innumerable books have been written about tango. For a colorful history of the dance and its stars, there's the informative and lavishly-illustrated 1995 coffee table book, Tango!, containing essays by four well-known tango authorities. For readers who want to learn everything there is to know about the tango as cultural history, there's Tango, the Art History of Love by Yale art historian, Robert Farris Thompson, published in 2005. If you're more interested in psychology than dance, try the thought-provoking The Tao of Tango by American writer, Joanna Siegmann. Published in 2001, the book uses tango to contemplate men and women in love.
Video documentaries on the subject of tango also abound. Chasing the Tango High by Infinity Films (2006) follows the popular Canadian ensemble, Tangissimo, to Buenos Aires where they participated in recording sessions with some of Argentina's renowned tango musicians. Tango, The Obsession, is a five-volume 1998 documentary by award-winning director Adam Boucher that offers a historical and cultural context for the dance. The Best of Cosmotango, features some of Argentina's most renowned tango stars who participate in Buenos Aires' huge annual international tango teaching event. A great primer before experiencing a milonga, Tango: Our Dance by writer-director, Jorge Zanada, is a documentary about this popular style of tango. Copes Tango Copes is a musical autobiography of one of tango's premier dancer-choreographers spanning his fifty-year career. It includes sixteen dance lessons.
Tango on stage
In recent times, tangomania has intensified throughout the world as a result of wildly popular touring stage shows. Three of the biggest were Tango Argentino which premiered in Paris in 1983 and went on to tour the US, Europe and Japan. The show is credited with reviving the dance during a period of flagging interest. Tango x 2 (Tango Para Dos) premiered in 1988. It was an tribute to tango's superstar, Carlos Gardel, and toured Latin America, Europe and the Far East. Forever Tango which premiered in San Francisco in 1994, had an all-Argentine cast of twenty-six dancers and an eleven-piece orchestra. Like Tango Argentino, it chronicled the history of tango.
Just about every tango and tango artist can be found on audio recordings. Knowing where to start is the challenge. For an overview, you could choose The Tango Project, a two-CD set of instrumental versions of forty of tango's best known tunes (though the ensemble substitutes accordion for the bandoneon). Or you could listen to the recordings by some of tango's most famous Argentine orchestras and singers that have been re-mastered and released on CD, the anthologies from the Golden Age of tango or the sound-track from the stage show, Tango Argentino. For the latest in tango music, try Bajofondo Tango Club, a group that mixes standard tango music with hip hop and other genres or the Paris-based group, Gotan Project's album La revancha del tango that throws in excerpts of the speeches by Che Guevara and Eva Peron.
To read about tango films, see our website article "Tango on Film."