Explaining the Finnish love of tango

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THE land of a thousand lakes plays host to all manner of quirky pastimes. Competitive berry pickers flocked to Suomussalmi in 2016 for the World Championships. Annual wife-carrying contests take place in Sonkajarvi. Mosquito swatting (as many killed as possible in five minutes) is a popular competition in Pelkosenniemi. A less peculiar—but still surprising—phenomenon is the Finnish affection for tango, a dance associated with passion and fire rather than with Nordic cold and calm. How did the tango come to Finland? 

If one believes Aki Kaurismaki, the country’s best-known film director, the tango was born in Finland around 1850. In “Midsummer Night’s Tango” (2013), a light-hearted documentary, he argues that the dance originated in the utmost east (a thickly forested region which nowadays belongs to Russia), where shepherds sang to ward off both their own loneliness and the wolves that would prey on their cattle. Locals started dancing in the dance halls by the lakes; by 1880 it had reached the west coast, where…Continue reading

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