By Shalini Gidoomal
Published November 27, 2011
November 26, 2011 saw the launch of Kenya’s first ever tango festival. Dubbed WatamuLonga Tango Safari and Festival, this is a fusion celebration of an Argentinian dance form taken to a variety of picturesque Kenyan landscapes. Held at the Tribe Hotel in Nairobi, some 200 dance enthusiasts watched a film, dance demonstration and, of course, danced.
WatamuLonga, consisting of city, safari, beach and tango teaching and dancing, runs as follows:
November 26, 2011 (Tribe Hotel, Nairobi)
November 27-29, 2011 (Tsavo Tango safari)
November 30-December 4, 2011 (Watamu – workshops and dancing).
Ukrainian dance couple Alex and Natalia Lipsky and Dubai’s Mac Ismail, excellent examples of tango’s new international flavour, are jetting into Kenya to share their dance experience by holding workshops in a series of beautiful locations in Kenyan parks and along the coast during the WatamuLonga safari and festival.
“Dance is embodied speech,” says Mario Ruggier, founder of Patamango, the Argentinian tango association credited with bringing tango to Nairobi. “At its best it is a method of conscious evolution for the practioner.”
Tango, a sensual couples dance performed widely in Argentina and Uruguay, is thought to have its roots on the African continent. It is believed to have come via Kongo culture imported from Central Africa and Cuba. Tango, “the fabulous dance of the past hundred years,” started life as a creole: “the Kongo grind, caught in a waltz-like embrace.”
Dances from the candombe ceremonies of former slave peoples helped shape the modern day Tango. The dance originated in lower-class districts of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The music derived from the fusion of various forms of music from Europe.
Inscribed by UNESCO in 2009 as an Intangible Culture Heritage of Humanity, tango has now spread around the world. Go to London, Istanbul and even Bali and you will find a milonga – and a festival.
Patamango regularly hold workshops to introduce tango in Nairobi, “We like to be as inclusive as possible,” adds Ruggier, “We offer subsidsied and free classes and have sponsored a number of participants to take part.” Ruggier estimates that some 400 individuals have taken the tango initiation in the last year, and a community of skilled dancers is slowly coming together.