POLITICS

Argentina's top tango performers hit the floor with Obamas: 'He's a good dancer'

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama do the tango with dancers during the State Dinner in Argentina.

 

While President Obama’s visit to Argentina is scheduled to the minute, on Wednesday night there was room for surprise – and a little tango heat – during a state dinner in downtown Buenos Aires.

After a wild standing ovation for their delivery of “La Cumparsita,” tango dancers Mora Godoy and Jose Lugones skipped protocol and invited the U.S. first couple to the floor.

"No, no," Obama's face seemed to say, as he declined her invitation not once but multiple times. But the dancer wasn't to be deterred.

"He told me he could not dance and I told him to follow me. He said 'OK' and started to dance. I started to follow him because he is a very good dancer," Godoy told La Nación, a local newspaper.

Mora said she was not expected to approach the guest of honor, but felt comfortable enough to do so because they looked "very happy."

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She said dancing for two presidents definitely qualifies as one of the most important moments of her career.

"I was nervous,” she said. “[I am nervous] whenever I have a special performance, and this was more than special," said the woman in a shimmering gold dress.

At first, Godoy seemed to content to twirl with her partner, but then she made a beeline for the president and beckoned him to the floor.

She got her way, and Obama was soon sashaying across the floor. Flawless it was not, but the president eventually caught on. By the time the music slowed to a halt, the two were in lockstep, arms high in the air as an audience of hundreds looked on.

Mrs. Obama got in on the action, too, twisting back and forth with the black-clad Lugones.

The unexpected moment came at the end of a candlelit state dinner that Argentine President Mauricio Macri hosted for the Obamas. It has been nearly 20 years since a U.S. president has made a formal state visit to Argentina.

Elegant, slow-moving and sensuous, the tango has its roots in Argentina's capital, which hosts annual tango festivals. One of the most popular flavors of ballroom dance, it quickly spread from Buenos Aires to other parts of Latin America and beyond.

Toasting his host, Obama quoted Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges: "And now, I think that in this country, we have a certain right to hope."

Obama added a few reflections of his own.

"This is a new beginning," he said.

The AP contributed to this report.

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