Navigating the quest for authenticity in Tango

by Sharna Fabiano

Above: A Tango mural created by the artist Monteleone for Salon CanningAs tango dancers, we’re familiar with the term authentic. We see it on flyers, on websites, and in artist biographies. Authentic tango is legitimate, valuable, the real thing. It also implies its opposite: an inauthentic, bogus, fake tango lurking out there somewhere. Clearly, authentic is good, fake is bad. But what is authentic, and what is fake? How do we know? And from where did this distinction come in the first place?

My dictionary tells me that authentic means “of undisputed origin.” From this we might decide on a standard for tango as it is danced in Buenos Aires or Montevideo, or as taught by individuals born or residing in those cities. But what about those just passing through? What about the Irish, Serbian, and Japanese students of traveling Argentine and Uruguayan artists? What about the students of those students? Is the tango still authentic as its geographic places of practice expand?

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