Uncovering the Histories and Pre-Histories of Queer Tango

Uncovering the Histories and Pre-Histories of Queer Tango: contextualizing and documenting an innovative form of social dancing
by Ray Batchelor, 2014

Attempting to uncover and document the history, or rather histories and
pre-histories of Queer Tango is difficult. Superficially, the history ought to be
easy. The term ‘Queer Tango’ barely existed before 2001 when it was first used
by LGBT dancers in Hamburg, Germany. It was perceived of by them as a riposte
to ‘hetero-normative’ leader-follower relationships in mainstream Argentinian
tango, proposing instead women as leaders, men as followers, same sex couples
and ‘active’ rather than passive followers. Queer Tango has subsequently been
characterized by the emergence around the world of Queer Tango organizations,
of international festivals and an international community of dancers, thriving by
contact through social media. Yet as the author, who is collaborating with writers
and dancers Birthe Havmøller and Olaya Aramo in editing The Queer Tango
, an online anthology of writings about Queer Tango, has found out, there is
still no settled agreement as to what, precisely the term means; there is
disagreement about the premise that ‘hetero-normative’ tango was quite as
oppressive to women in the ways it was originally made out to be; and there is no
agreement – indeed so far, precious little discussion – as to which dance practices
in Buenos Aires and beyond from the late 19th century onwards might legitimately
be enlisted as forming the pre-history. Were the men-only prácticas which ran for
decades, a part of it? Or women teaching each other at home? When so little was
written down, how is one to find out?

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