Guess what? Nowadays we have world championship based solely on variations. The speed is challenging, since it is a lot faster and shorter than a more traditional tango competition. I’m not sure what to compare it to, lightning chess? Ippon in Judo?
(This picture montage was created for the Chinese competition, using the pictures of La Milonga Argentina )

What does a variation mean in the world of tango?

Variations in tango are the moments when the music speeds up in the tango songs. Usually this is in the end, but there are some cases where it happens in the middle of the music. During a variation, one of the musicians – usually the bandoneonon – shows his skills by playing much faster with more sounds than usual. The variations vary in length, they can be only 8-9 seconds long, or up to half a minute.
Here is a famous example: Paciencia by Juan D’arienzo (the variation starts at 2:08):

During the variation, the dancers are supposed to change their style compared to the rest of the performance. Usually this means speeding up, but this isn’t necessary, what matters is that their style has to contrast the way they danced up to then. Many people actually take a different turn and slow down their dance, signalling that they get it, the music has changed.

Performances and the variation

Watching a performance, the experienced dancers, teachers and professionals have no trouble recognizing what the dancers „brought to the table”. They see the way they walk, how it connects to the music, how creative and varied their figures are, and how the two dancers of the pair harmonize with each other. Those who have seen many performances are only waiting to see what happens when the ‘Variación’ begins.

This is what the Pelando Variación (PV) competition is all about.

Pelando Variación – the world championship of variations

This competition has been devised and first organized in 2015 by Olivier Kolker and Gaston Torelli. It is called Pelando Variacion and has had two seasons so far. The competitors bring their own music edited by themselves, which contains the variation and the surrounding few beats, and then demonstrate their choreography. Anyone can compete, and although the music may not be changed after entering, the corresponding choreography can be changed any time.
pelando variacion 2015

Promotional videos

The first contest in 2015 was preceded by many great quality promotional videos.  Oliver Kolker, founder of PV wrote the script of the movie „Fermín glorias del tango” which he also co-directed. Therefore it is not surprising, that the first promotional video is a scene of his movie. In the closing of the scene, we can see lovely dancers who have been to Hungary before, Octavio Fernandez and Corina Herrera.

Other promotional videos from 2015:

Fernando Gracia & Sol Cerquides a Cronica Tv-ben

Mariela Sametband & Guillermo „El Peque” Barrionuevo a Cronica Tv-ben

… and I could go on for a while, but let’s get on with the contest.

The 2015 Pelando Variacion contest

After such a spectacular promotional campaign, it is not surprising to learn that the stakes were high. The winner received money, visa, and the opportunity to teach and perform for a month in the USA. „Un mes de gira por Usa visitando, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco.”
The qualifiers and semi finals happened in many areas: Salon Canning, La Viruta, El Motivo, and the finals took place at La Viruta. (La Viruta is the after party for milongas every Saturday in Buenos Aires, which means milonga from four to six in the morning + medialunas y café con leche)

The finals

dancer directionsThe footage of the finals was recorded from the side, and not from direction number 1 of the stage . Not perfect, but still rather enjoyable (direction number 7).

Speaking of which, do you know what direction 1 means??

Direction 1 is the direction pointing towards the audience. In the Vaganova ballet system direction number 1 points towards the audience, and from there the space is divided into 8 segments in a clockwise motion.

These three were my favorites from the seven finalists.

The second couple from the 2015 finals:

The fourth couple from the 2015 finals:

The sixth couple from the 2015 finals:

The winning couple: Fernando Carrasco and Jimena Hoffner. In 2013 they won in the Buenos Aires Metropolitano competition in all three categories (tango, vals, milonga).
Their victory dance was recorded from the audience view, that is to say direction 1:

The 2016 Pelando Variacion contest

pelando variacion 2016The couples, like last year have prepared their own choreography and music: CATEGORIA COREOGRAFICA
But this time, the contest included an exciting improvisational part, the CATEGORIA IMPROVISACION
How do they choose who has to dance to which track, fully improvising every move? They draw the tracks on the spot, kind of like a wheel of fortune.
To make it a little easier, the website had all of the tracks that could be selected in the 2016 contest so they could become familiar with them beforehand. (30 songs!). Among them you can find many Juan D’arienzo, Pugliese, Troilo compositions, and a few other interesting tracks.

Let’s take a look at one of the 2016 semi finals. In the first part of the video, you can view the choreographed dances, and in the second part of the video (from 2:12) they use the wheel to select the dance for the improvisation.

The winners of 2016 PV contest: Yesica Esquivel and Ariel Leguizamon

Pelando Variación 2017

I had the chance to talk to Olivier, the organizer (I am especially grateful to him for the fantastic videos!). He is going to organize it again in 2017 in Buenos Aires, and by 2018 PV will become a respected world championship.
Pelando Variacion
There will be division contests in the USA and China.  Those who win these contests will travel for free to Buenos Aires, and shall be accommodated for four nights.

If you ever get the chance, please visit a PV competition, no matter where it will be in the world, Buenos Aires, or somewhere else entirely.

Possibly even as a contestant :) … good luck, it is time to start practicing.

Pelando Variacion 2018, the winner of the cruel tango competition