The Arabia neighborhood of Helsinki, where this couple are dancing tango, is a former industrial zone now better known for its artists and other creatives. The area was named as a nod to its distance from the center, even though the original city was founded here at the mouth of the River Vantaa in 1550.
Helsinki – Been There

Giving the Finns a reason to hug

Photo by Kike del Olmo

Helsinki – Been There Giving the Finns a reason to hug

“Argentine Tango is one thing,” says Jani Keinanen, organizer of a twice-weekly milonga in Helsinki. “But Finnish Tango is something else entirely. They’re two different beasts.”

Kike del Olmo
Kike del Olmo Travel Photographer

“Finnish Tango developed out of the mellower versions of what was danced in Argentina 100 years ago,” says Jani. “It’s very simple: slow-slow, quick-quick, with no variations. There are no spins in the dance. Outside Helsinki it is very popular, and there are songs that everyone knows. One of the main reasons this Finnish Tango has taken such root in our culture is our timidity. For many people the dances have become the perfect pretext for getting to know a woman. Many love stories begin this way, and that’s why everyone knows the lyrics to the songs.”

Jani continues his explanation as we wait for the dancers to arrive. He arranges the chairs, prepares his playlist on his computer, chowing down on Oreo cookies the whole time. "The key word with both is ‘melancholy' – it goes with our character," he says. "We’re a pessimistic people but, if we decide we like something, it’s forever. It is a bit like with friendships. If you have one it’s till the death. And so it is with tango. It came here to stay.”

Hernan Ohaco, an Argentine who founded a tango school here named “Passionate”, shares with me another key reason why tango is so important here. “The Finnish are a cold people by definition,” he says. “It’s strange for a Latino like myself, because on the other hand these people can just all jump into the sauna together, men and women naked, without any shame. For the Finns the naked body is a symbol of equality. They’re used to seeing nakedness. Nevertheless they don’t generally touch each other, they don’t hug, and this is where the tango plays such an important social role. Before some of my classes I actually try to break the ice by holding hugging sessions.”

13-helsinki-170514-0306

El Ático, where these two women are dancing tango, is a dancehall belonging to the "Friends of Tango" association that organizes regular Argentine tango dances or milongas. The association also helps run the International Tango Festival, Tango Frostbite, in Helsinki every February. Photo by Kike del Olmo

Kike del Olmo

Kike del Olmo

Nikon D800

Aperture
ƒ/2.8
Exposure
1/50
ISO
1250
Focal
35 mm

El Ático, where these two women are dancing tango, is a dancehall belonging to the "Friends of Tango" association that organizes regular Argentine tango dances or milongas. The association also helps run the International Tango Festival, Tango Frostbite, in Helsinki every February.

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