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Tango Flashmob in St. Peter’s for Pope’s Birthday

Diane Montagna - published on 12/17/14

Hundreds join in a gift for Pope Francis as he turns 78

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A taste of Argentina came to St. Peter’s Square today when hundreds of tango lovers spun and swayed in tribute to Pope Francis, who turned 78 today. 

A flashmob organized by associations of tango aficionados broke out in arguably Argentina’s most well known cultural export. 

Paco Ruggiero, one of the hosts of the event, said they decided to dedicate the unusual spectacle to Pope Francis “because of his origins, his passion for tango. 

“We sang this song, which I wrote, called ‘Francesco’,” he added. “It is a tango dedicated to Pope Francis.”

Madame Chiffon, an Italian tango expert from Rome, said the event was “something not to be missed. It’s very moving. It’s a great gift that the tango community in Italy, and all over the world, offers the Pope.”

She added: “He is so loved and so close to us, and he loves the tango, as he’s said on several occasions.”

Tango is a partner dance that originated in the 1890s along the Río de la Plata, the natural border between Uruguay and Argentina, and soon spread to the rest of the world. 

In the early years of the 20th century, dancers and orchestras from Buenos Aires travelled to Europe, and the first European tango craze took place in Paris, soon followed by London, Berlin, and other capitals. In 1913 the tango hit New York in the US.

Asked if it’s difficult to learn the tango, Madame Chiffon responded: “For men, yes; for women, less so.”

“The man leads the dance and the woman is guided. All the difficulty of leading the tango falls to the man: listening to the music, dancing in tempo, guiding the woman, observing the space around them. In the first moments of the dance, it’s very complex for the man and easier for the woman, but as the dance continues the role of the woman becomes much more difficult. She must take advantage of the pauses the dance offers, and adorn each of her steps with feminine gestures using her feet, her legs, a caress. Each pause the man grants her is transformed into a gift that the woman makes of her femininity. For the rest, the woman entrusts herself to the man. In fact, a woman dances best if she dances with her eyes closed and if she follows the movements of his chest. At times people look upon the dance as erotic, but if one looks at the tango danced well, the couple embraces at the heart. The dance is an embrace."

Claudio Giacchetto, a tango dancer who travelled all the way from Turin, said: “This event is very meaningful for us who live and love this dance, because it brings people together. To be here in Rome with a Pope from Argentina, on his birthday, is a joy and cause of celebration.”

Ruggiero, who composed a special Italian tango song called “Francesco” for the Pope’s birthday, said he was inspired by when the Pope first greeted the people from the Loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica on the night of his election, with the words ‘buona sera’. 

“I was inspired by his ‘buona sera’, because in reality that ‘buona sera’ was able to reduce distances, to strike people, and to revolutionize the attitude of the Church to the Catholic world as well as the non-Catholic world. That ‘buona sera’ was a way of presenting himself to the world, of presenting himself to the Catholic and non-Catholic world. That was the key that showed that the Church had a task, that of bridging a gap between the people and the palace.”

On his birthday today, Pope Francis enjoyed a sip of mate, a traditional Argentinian drink, offered him by pilgrims at this morning’s Wednesday General Audience, and blew out the candles of a birthday cake presented by a group of seminarians.

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.

Pope Francis
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