Tango in Yucatán: Argentina’s Sexiest Dance Hits the Peninsula with Gusto

Yarima Nuñez waves her hand fan. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

While at a bus stop in Mexico City, where he was studying mathematics, Leonardo Araujo came across a sign offering tango lessons. While at first glance, there is not too much overlap between math and tango, Leonardo begs to differ.

“Both math and tango require a great deal of creativity. There is not always one single way to do things. Often, it’s about instinct and moving with the flow to find the most elegant solution,” says Leonardo.

With a dance student at a restaurant gathering in Itzimná, Leonardo Araujo demonstrates the tango’s demonstrative qualities. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

After several years of taking classes and learning on his own, Leonardo decided to visit Buenos Aires to experience the tango World Championship as a spectator. Being exposed to the culture of Argentine tango had a profound effect on him.

“After my experience in Argentina, I knew I wanted to bring tango to Mérida and share what I had learned with others,” says Leonardo.

In the beginning, with a small group of friends and students, Leonardo started to organize informal milongas, which are social events of sorts during which people passionate about tango get together to dance and have a sip or two of wine. 

These days, Leonardo’s dance classes and milongas essentially take place inside dance studios and local restaurants like the second floor of the iconic restaurant Luigi’s in Colonia Itzimná. Though the spirit of these milongas is identical to when he simply danced with friends at the park, he and his students now dress to look the part, with the dominant colors being red and black.

“When people think of tango, they imagine a carefully put-together choreography, roses in mouths, and lots of flare. While there is some truth to this, for us who make tango part of our life, this is more the exception than the rule, as we enjoy being loose and simply dancing,” says Leonardo.

Though precision is undoubtedly a big part of tango, in many ways, Leonardo’s preferred form of tango has a lot to do with improvisation, like jazz. 

But of course, also like jazz, the ability to improvise effectively comes only after one has mastered at least the basics of the moves and a deep understanding of your main tool, in this case, the body. 

While tango started as a hobby for Leonardo, it has now “taken over his life” — although he is still involved in research. “There is nothing quite like a good milonga, the music, the dance, friends, a little food and wine; everyone should experience it at least once,” he says.

Leonardo Araujo offers private lessons for the uninitiated or a full-fledged group class. Facebook: @decorazontango or Instagram: @de.corazon.tango

Yesica Benitez
Yesica Benitez
Born in Yucatán, Yesica Benitez Chan is a marketer, avid gardener, softball player, baker, and a great lover of Yucatecan culture and cuisine.
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