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Love and Tango

It wasn't clear if they were lovers or just friends. I don't think they even knew. They had a chemistry that radiated from their intertwined bodies and spread over the crowd in tangible waves.

Ceci and Meme were like yin and yang. Ceci was a storm of uncontrollable, violent passion. Meme was the anchor that grounded her and kept her from flying off the stage into the crowd. Dancing the tango was their life. They danced all day for tourists and then all night at milongas, or tango events, scattered throughout the sleepless city of Buenos Aires. 'I'll sleep when I'm dead', Meme told me. Ceci felt at home in the milongas. She had been dancing since she was eleven and her grandparents began to bring her to the clubs when she was fourteen - a bit too young, she admitted. Older dancers had taken her under their wing and showed her the ropes. The soothing rhythm of the dance calmed her nervous energy, and she lived for the magical feeling of the tango. Meme used to go to discos, but dropped that lifestyle for the tango clubs where you didn't have to push your way through crowds to get a drink, where bouncers were unnecessary, and the night never ended in a fight.

The tango was supposedly born in the brothels of the port area on the Rio de la Plata in the late 19th century. It was practiced in the cabarets of El Caminito, the small street where Ceci and Meme now dance for tourists. The people of Buenos Aires looked down on the tango until it boomed in the 1940s. Then, the need for Rock 'n' Roll completely smothered the traditional dance until it became cool again in the 1980s. So it skipped a generation. Now the milongas are full of people of all ages passionately moving across the dance floor under dim but colourful lights.

Ceci loved to improvise, and Meme was the perfect partner, allowing her to express her inner self through her movements and to carry on a dialogue between their bodies. 'Naturally I'm impulsive, disorganized and too sensitive' Ceci told me. 'Meme is more relaxed. When the two of us mould together to make a whole, we are much stronger than we are on our own.'

Karla Gachet won a target='_blank'>World Press Photo award for her photographs in this story in 2010. A full text by Ivan Kashinsky is available.
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