“A sad thought…danced.”

Tango Illusions wanders the steamy dance halls and sweltering streets of Buenos Aires to understand the hearts, minds and souls of porteños (Buenos Aires residents). Tango is the lens, the political chaos of modern Argentina is the backdrop.

In the austral summer of 2001, after four years of deep economic depression, Argentina found itself on the verge of bankruptcy, political chaos and social disintegration. American filmmaker Joshua Dylan Mellars reported the Argentine political upheaval–as a wire service and radio correspondent–by day and filmed the tango world by night.


The word tango may have its origins in the Portuguese tanger “to touch” or possibly an African word meaning “a closed place.” The dance had humble beginnings among African Argentines who danced a milonga composed of elements of the polka and the Cuban inspired habañera. 

Joshua Dylan Mellars La Boca

Knife-wielding street punks (compadritos) carried the dance to the bordellos of the south of Buenos Aires. The tango began its journey away from pimps, punks and prostitutes when European immigrants started dancing tango in the Italian dance halls and cafes of Buenos Aires. 

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“Life in Argentina can be as precarious as dancing a tango.”

“When Mellars arrived in Buenos Aires, tango’s mecca, he found beautiful architecture, European-style cafes and tea rooms…some of the most cultured and articulate people in the world, but there were also signs of social unrest. There were nightly marches to the Plaza de Mayo, drums rolling, pots banging. Shirtless demonstrators wielded slingshots and paving stones, blocking roads and setting cars on fire…During the turmoil in Argentina, the milonga (tango dance hall) remained a good place to escape reality, a fantasy world of dance.”