Tearing down the gender wall in tango

Helen Halldórsdóttir opened the first gay friendly, traditional tango club and worked on establishing the first queer tango festival in Buenos Aires. This has lead to her teaching at queer tango festivals around the world. She says that such festivals are now growing more rapidly than traditional tango events.  

Being from the North, blonde and blue-eyed Icelander Helen Halldórsdóttir – Helen La Vikinga – perhaps doesn’t fit the stereotypical image most people have of tango dancers. But then again, she’s never been keen on stereotypes and is well-known on the international tango scene as the brave Viking woman who’s aided tearing down the wall between female and male tango dancers. 

Helen Halldórsdóttir, Helen La Vikinga, on the balcony of her home in Buenos Aires. Helen opened the first gay friendly, traditional tango club in the city.Queer tango will be taught at the center of the national queer organisation Samtökin ’78, on Suðurgata 3 in Reykjavík tomorrow night. Helen will teach and DJ there and then offer a workshop at the center this forthcoming weekend.

She helped establishing the first queer tango festival in Buenos Aires shortly after she moved there in 2004. But why do queer people need a special environment to simply dance? “Because it’s frowned upon if two men are dancing together or if a woman is leading, especially in South-American culture. And even two women dancing together is not liked; I once went to a traditional tango club in Buenos Aires with a female friend and we were dancing together, me leading her. Then we were told that same-sex dancing partners weren’t allowed, which we found ridiculous and refused to comply, we’d rather leave the club.

That’s why I enjoyed going to gay milongas, even though I’m 150 percent straight. I liked the relaxed atmosphere there where you can choose whether you lead or follow no matter what gender or orientation you are, and without anyone raising an eyebrow. And then I myself opened the first gay friendly, traditional tango club, Bien Puelnta  in Buenos Aires.”

And that’s how she got involved with the queer tango society; she opened a gay friendly tango club and worked on establishing the first queer tango festival in Buenos Aires, which then lead to her teaching at queer tango festivals around the world, amongst them the first of its kind in Mexico. “And also San Fransisco, New York, Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen. It’s become quite a thing, queer tango festivals are growing more rapidly than traditional tango events. There was a surge in tango interest just over a decade ago, but now most places are organizing queer tango festivals too.”

“It’s become quite a thing, queer tango festivals are growing more rapidly than traditional tango events. There was a surge in tango interest just over a decade ago, but now most places are organizing queer tango festivals too.”

Helen started dancing and teaching tango over 20 years ago when she was introduced to it while living in Chile. “I’ve also danced salsa a bit where one partner leads and the other follows, but there’s less choreography in tango so it’s a bit more intense, where one partner is more reliant on being lead by the other,” Helen explains. And adds that as tango’s history is rooted in the mating rituals of birds, it’s always been a dance that tells the story of a man wooing a woman and therefore a very macho dance with exaggerated gender-based dance roles.

“But it’s really just like theatre where the dancers take on roles, so it doesn’t matter who does what during the dance. But it’s a very macho thing, especially in Argentina; football and tango, one of the few frontiers that men had left. So it wasn’t very popular when I arrived and started leading, dancing with girls in traditional tango clubs. That’s how I got my nickname because they saw me as a brave, intrusive Viking woman, “que brava la vikinga!” so now I go by the name Helen La Vikinga.”

Helen leading at the queer tango festival La Vie en Rose in Paris (2015). Photo/Thibault Cresp Photographie

She explains that she struggled with being the one following when she first started tangoing, it wasn’t really in her nature. “It was a great challenge for me because I found it very difficult to go out dancing and allowing a man to be in control. But then I saw that my friends were able to be lead so I thought, “If I can overcome this, I can do anything.” It took me a few years to start appreciating being lead in the dance and not always having to show initiative, so I enjoy it now. But when I started teaching tango I had to be able to lead too so now I just shift between leading and following when I’m dancing tango; it doesn’t matter to me at all.”

People from around the world attend Helen’s tango classes in Buenos Aires and then she takes them out dancing. “I take them equally often to traditional tango clubs as the gay milongas and tango queer clubs and a lot of my students really appreciate the independence; the freedom to choose whether you lead or follow. If you’re a man, you can follow if you like and a woman can lead if she wants and that’s much more difficult in traditional tango clubs. At gay milongas and queer tango clubs, no questions are asked.”

Helen has lived in Iceland, Sweden, Chile and Argentina. She says there’s clearly a difference between the cultures in the cold and hot climates.

“It’s frowned upon if two men are dancing together or if a woman is leading, especially in South-American culture. And even two women dancing together is not liked,” says Helen.

“Gay men simply couldn’t dance with other men at the traditional tango clubs in Buenos Aires, so there was much need for gay milongas and queer tango places, whereas there wasn’t nearly as much need for it in Sweden, where I tried to establish such a place too. It just wasn’t that big of a deal to see two men tango with each other there, while in Buenos Aires it was considered outrageous. But I think that now, because we’ve got these gay friendly clubs, it doesn’t draw as much attention anymore, seeing same-sex pairs dancing tango.”

“Gay men simply couldn’t dance with other men at the traditional tango clubs in Buenos Aires, so there was much need for gay milongas and queer tango places.”

And of course, everybody’s welcome to the gay milongas and queer tango clubs, even heterosexuals. “I’d say a large portion of those who attend are heterosexual, especially women, and in the queer tango clubs, it’s probably close to fifty-fifty. Perhaps heterosexual men find it slightly more difficult to dance with another man but many of them are cross-dancers so they’ve learnt both to lead and follow and it shouldn’t matter who they’re dancing with. There doesn’t have to be a correlation between gender or orientation, and the role you take in tango.”

Helen travels around the world, teaching tango and participating in tango festivals. She’s now visiting her native country of Iceland, giving tango lessons at the headquarters of Samtökin ’78 this forthcoming weekend and teaching there a tango class tomorrow night and DJ-ing afterwards as well. “I held an introductory course there earlier this year. Tomorrow night there will be an introductory course as well at Samtökin ’78 and then there will be two follow-up courses this weekend, so perhaps we can start some sort of queer tango culture here as well.”

Helen performing with Sandrine Navarro at La Vie en Rose in Paris. Photo/Tibault Cresp Photographie


    Blush was founded in 2011 when it started selling high quality sex products. The goal from the beginning was to change the market and take the discussion about sex products to a higher level. Today Blush provides professional services in a pleasant environment that fulfills different needs, both for individuals and couples. Blush respects diversity and wants to set a good example in all of its messaging to target audiences. Sexual health and equality in sex is important and Blush wants to focus on those issues through education and open discussion. Blush works in a socially responsible manner for society, their customers and the environment.

    Check out Blush’s website: https://blush.is/

    Omnom Chocolate
    - award-winning chocolate maker

      Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

      Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

      Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

      In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

      At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.




        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater
        comes from 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals—the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

        From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        The Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        - leading financial institution

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

        Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

        The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

        Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

        Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        - get inspired

        Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

        Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

        More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

        VSÓ Ráðgjöf


          VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

          - for all your Apple needs

          From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

          Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
          For all your Apple needs. We are here.

          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

          Contact Us

          Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.