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October 1, 2009

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Tango added to UNESCO heritage list

TANGO was declared part of the world's cultural heritage by the United Nations yesterday and granted the international seal of approval Argentina and Uruguay have long sought for the dramatic dance and its sensual moves.

The 24 members of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Heritage granted protected cultural status to tango dance and music at its meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The designation comes with no money, but may make Argentina and Uruguay, both claiming to be tango's birthplace, eligible to receive financial assistance from a specialized fund for safeguarding cultural traditions.

It will also help both governments justify using public funds to preserve their most famous export after beef.

"We are very proud," Hernan Lombardi, the minister of culture of the autonomous city of Buenos Aires said in Abu Dhabi. "We hope this decision will help spread the tradition of tango all over the world."

Tango emerged as a dance style in the late 1800s in the suburbs of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay. It is popular in Europe, Japan and the United States. The recent spike in tango's popularity throughout the world is in part attributed to the Broadway hit "Forever Tango" and TV's "Dancing With the Stars."

"Tango is a feeling that can be danced, and that feeling of course is passion," Lombardi said.

The popular image - willowy, spike-heeled women spinning, kicking and lunging across the floor in the arms of tuxedo-clad men - is known as show tango. The kind danced in milongas, or tango dance halls, is more like a waltz, but equally sensual.

Argentina and Uruguay have long been embroiled in a clash over the birthplace of the great tango crooner Carlos Gardel. They kicked aside their differences last year in a joint effort to persuade UNESCO to list tango among UNESCO's traditions worth safeguarding for humanity.


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