COVID-19 weakens tango culture in Argentina – .

COVID-19 weakens tango culture in Argentina – .

In a huge, quiet dance space in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the tables are tidy. In a space reserved for musicians, a piano is unused. Nearby electronic sound equipment is not connected to power.

The empty dance place is called the Viruta Tango Club. It shows the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on performers of a dance form based on close physical contact.

Like many other public spaces, the Viruta Tango Club has been closed since March 8, 2020. Argentine authorities have severely restricted public activity in hopes of limiting the spread of COVID-19. The club hosted hundreds of tango dancers between Wednesday and Sunday.

“For those of us who make a living from tango, our self-esteem is on the floor, ”said Horacio Godoy, dancer, historian and club organizer.

“We are more emotionally than financially bankruptcy, ” he added.

A table and chairs sit in the middle of the empty dance floor at La Viruta Tango club, closed during the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Friday, June 4, 2021.

COVID-19 has also forced Argentina to close its borders. It hurt the tango business. Foreign visitors bring a lot of support to the industry.

International performances of Argentine tango dancers have also been canceled as their country continues to face a high number of coronavirus infections. Argentina has recorded more than 80,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.

Godoy earns money teaching foreigners tango online. He said the city’s aid program for dancers and musicians is not providing enough money to pay Viruta’s fees. Out of 18 employees, only three have kept their jobs.

“The city of Buenos Aires cannot offer a history like Rome and Paris. There is no beach to offer as in the Caribbean. He does not have gastronomy proposed as Italy. It does not have waterfalls or glaciers. The city of Buenos Aires has the tango, ”he said.

The Federal Tango Workers’ Assembly said the industry employed around 7,000 people in Argentina. But since the start of the COVID-19 health crisis, a fifth of Buenos Aires’ 200 tango clubs have closed permanently.

Before the pandemic, there were around 40 tango shoe and apparel companies. Now there are about 12 left.

Although the tango is the most famous part of Argentine culture, the industry does not receive any special support from the government.

“Tango workers suffered from permanent job insecurity long before the pandemic,” said Diego Benbassat, musician of the Misteriosa Buenos Aires orchestra and spokesperson for the tango workers’ union. He said: “There have never been public policies designed for tango, which is why we are so vulnerable.  »

Dancer Mora Godoy once taught tango steps to former US President Barack Obama. She received standing ovation for his international performances. But, COVID-19 forced her to close her dance school.

“I did 419 shows with my tango company in 2019. We had done over 100 in 2020 when everything was closed and this madness, this sadness, this global tragedy began,” she said. .

She shows some images from her life as a dancer before the pandemic. One of his favorites is from 2016. It shows then-President Obama resting his hand on Godoy’s back as they tango. The president was then on an official visit to Argentina.

“It’s very painful not being able to dance,” said Godoy. She said some tango professionals have become taxi drivers or found work in food stores to earn a living. She said companies that once made a lot of money running tango clubs did little during COVID-19 to help the dancers who had been so important to club profits.

“Everything froze,” said musician and dancer Nicolás Ponce, who started a business selling plants during the health crisis.

The nature of tango, he said, is what makes it so difficult to play in the current health emergency. “This feeling of to kiss is what sets tango apart from other dances, ”he said.

Couples dance a tango during a protest demanding that they be allowed to practice in open spaces amid ongoing restrictions due to the rise in the number of new coronavirus cases, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday 29 May 2021.

The desire for this embrace causes many tango dancers, or tangueros, to ignore the restrictions on dancing in outdoor spaces.

On a recent Saturday, 12 couples gathered to dance at the Obelisco, a landmark in central Buenos Aires.

“Outdoor tango is health. What is dangerous is immobility, ”reads a panel placed near the monument by dance teacher Luciana Fuentes. She is not against the restrictions and is taking action to prevent the spread.

“But,” she said, “I won’t stop tango dancing in public spaces. “

I am Caty Weaver.

Debora Rey reported this story for The Associated Press. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in this story

self-esteem –n. a feeling of respect for yourself and your abilities

bankruptcy –adj. unable to pay debts; completely lacking in good or desired quality

beach –n. an area next to the ocean or a body of water covered with small rocks and sand

gastronomy –n. the art or activity of cooking and eating food

vulnerable –adj. open to attack, damage, damage or loss

ovation –n. when a group of people watching a show show their approval and appreciation by clapping their hands together repeatedly

to kiss –n. putting one’s arms around someone is a demonstration of love or friendship


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