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In Pictures: Queer tango festival challenges dance stereotypes

Sammy Ellis can dance the tango any way she wants, with anyone she wants. And the California woman has come to Argentina to celebrate that at an event known as the Queer Tango Festival.

Sammy Ellis can dance the tango any way she wants, with anyone she wants. And the California woman has come to Argentina to celebrate that at an event known as the Queer Tango Festival.

The festival, whose sponsors include the national and city governments, upends the rigid stereotypes of the dance.

"Normally the man leads and the woman is led. In Queer Tango, those roles are flexible," said Augusto Balizano, one of the organizers. "There can be men who lead, men who follow, women who lead and women who follow."

And some couples switch roles, a woman leading while the man follows.

If it sounds odd to some, it actually harks back to the beginnings of tango, which arose at the end of the 19th century in the suburbs of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay. At the start, both partners were men.

Ellis, 71, said that sometimes she likes to lead, other times to follow. Tango is a dance of the heart, not the head, she said.

The festival began in Hamburg, Germany, at the start of the century, and versions of the event have been held since then in Stockholm, Berlin, Copenhagen, San Francisco and Mexico City.

Buenos Aires has hosted an international festival yearly since 2006, mixing seminars, films, classes, performances and social dancing.

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