Who says a papal visit needs to be all solemn?
Amid meetings and rallies about deep issues such as immigration and climate change, Pope Francis will get a taste of his beloved milongas, a fast-paced, highly expressive style of tango, when he sets foot in Philadelphia next week.
A group tango performance made up of 12 couples will dance a choreography for “No Hay Tierra como la Mia” (“There’s No Land like Mine”), the “welcome tango” of choice for when the Argentinian pontiff visits the Independence Hall on Sept. 26.
The couples have been rehearsing all summer with Meredith Klein and Andres Amarilla, who have run the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School since 2008. The choreography was created by Amarilla, an Argentinian, and famed choreographer Nito Garcia at the request of World Meeting of Families officials.
“The event for the Pope is really different and unique for us because it features something more like what you would expect to see at a dance performance, which is a very large number of people dancing in sync,” Klein told Fox News Latino, explaining that tango is mostly an improvised dance.
She said that after seeing video of a tango in Vatican City this past December, celebrating Pope Francis’ 78th birthday , she knew the tango school had to plan something similar for his Philadelphia visit.
“We know from interviews that Pope Francis enjoyed going out to tango dancing in his youth. So we hope that our performance will remind him of his city, Buenos Aires, and make him feel welcome in ours,” she said.
In a 2010 interview for the book “The Jesuit,” the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio told authors Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti about his love of tango as a youth. When asked by the author if he had ever danced tango himself, Bergoglio replied, “Yes, I danced as a young man, although I preferred the milonga.”
One of the 24 dancers selected for the dance said she feels honored and thrilled to perform for the 78-year-old pope.
“Pope Francis is not just any world religious leader,” said dancer Kathryn Donohue, who is Catholic. “I love to dance and do not need an excuse to do it; however, for me this is quite special.”
“Dancing this milonga, a dance from his hometown of Buenos Aires, is my way of welcoming Pope Francis to my hometown of Philadelphia.”
Aja Beech is a freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia.