BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Salon tango dancers glided onto a dance floor in Buenos Aires on Monday in the hopes of qualifying for the World Tango Festival and Championship held every year in the Argentine capital.

"My expectation is to have the experience of being here, of having personal growth in dance," said Uruguayan tango dancer Maria Poggio, 38.

"If everything goes our way and we qualify ... that would be great, but the most important thing is to participate and prepare for this, an expectation to grow," she said.

Andre Magro, 35, who is originally from Brazil, said dancing was about having fun.

"There are more than 400 couples dancing, participating and it is very difficult if you want to go through to the finals because there are people who dance very well, around the world," Magro said.

He said anyone who reached the semifinal would be very happy, but "the result is what least matters because people are here to meet other people, to dance and have fun."

The tango originated in the early 19th century in the working-class port areas of Buenos Aires.

Now a ballroom dance popular around the world, couples still can be seen passionately dancing the tango on the streets of Buenos Aires neighborhoods like San Telmo.

Chilean Omar Aguilera, 30, spoke about being transported to another world while dancing.

"Well, it's a championship, so the (skill) level is always very high. You're always watching championships and you realize the level grows even more every year," Aguilera said.

"During the round we danced in, one could feel the powerful energy of tango, so I get lost in that. I can't see but you feel it when you're on the floor dancing in full swing."

The World Tango Festival and Championship opened on August 22 and is scheduled to run until August 31 at Usina del Arte, a cultural center in the neighborhood of La Boca.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Toni Reinhold)