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(REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian)

Bold steps

At all-women tango festival, women reclaim a dance that often disrespects them

By WITW Staff on March 15, 2019

A women-only international tango festival in Buenos Aires is drawing big crowds and providing a space of opportunity for women dancers. The event is part of a larger effort to combat widespread misogyny and machismo exhibited by some male practitioners and fans of the popular dance form.

According to tango singer and composer Marisa Vasquez, the founder of Tango Hembra, Buenos Aires’s first women-only international tango event, modern practitioners of the dance must reconcile the fact that some of the genre’s most famous songs glorify the abuse and even murder of women.

“Historically, tango came from the people, and at the time the songs were composed, in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, it was normal to hit women,” she said. “We don’t want to stop singing these songs, but we want to repurpose them, to teach audiences about where tango comes from and how it has led to the society we have today.”

In the past, Vasquez explained, male dancers were celebrated as the stars of the dance, while their female partners were relegated to anonymity and obscurity. That trend, unfortunately, continues to this day. According to Al Jazeera, women account for fewer than 15 percent of names billed on tango festival lineups.

“Still today, in the new tango scene, women are met with a great resistance… We are not allowed to enter the art as equals,” said Vasquez. “In dances, men change their female partners, and keep building their name. Sometimes, the women aren’t even mentioned.”

At Tango Hembra, women compete in same-sex pairs, while women composers perform works touching on topics that include domestic violence. Speaking to Al Jazeera, a number of tango dancers and composers expressed hope that ongoing feminist movements would find their way into the dance world, and help encourage further opportunity for new and current generations of female tango artists.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

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