The term ‘nuevo milonguero’ has been used at times in recent years as a classificatory label for tango workshops or perhaps to describe a style of tango taught by an instructor. What exactly is ‘nuevo milonguero’? If one were to follow standard Spanish syntax (adjective placed after noun), then ‘nuevo’ would be a noun, presumably the commonly used abbreviation for ‘tango nuevo’ and the subsequent ‘milonguero’ would be the adjective here (similar to its use in describing the stylistic variation called ‘tango milonguero’), which would imply that tango nuevo is modified is some way by a contribution from (tango) milonguero. However, an examination of the use of the term ‘nuevo milonguero’ indicates that this is not the usual intended meaning.
Stephen Brown, in his listing of ‘tango styles’, defines ‘nuevo milonguero’ as:
… a relatively new approach to Argentine tango that adds some nuevo movements such as cadenas, and volcadas to milonguero-style tango. It would probably be a stretch to regard nuevo milonguero as a separate style of dancing because the approach is fully compatible with milonguero-style tango and doesn’t have an identifiably separate group of adherents.
So, according to Brown, nuevo milonguero is a modification of ‘milonguero-style tango’, but not separate from it.
Igor Polk, in his classification of ’11 Argentine Tango Styles’, identifies one tango style as:
Nuevo Close Embrace. Sometimes called Nuevo Milonguero. Very sensitive, no lean or very small one, very smooth. Dancers do not separate. … “Milonguero style” is a simple form of this style.
Describing a favorite unnamed couples’ performance, Polk elaborates:
They have danced in what I call “Tango Nuevo in close embrace” style. Yes, with all those “kicks”, ganchos, and volcadas, but how virtually effortless and sublime they were performed! They swam in the ocean of movement. This style is characterized with smooth movements, I can not even say “steps”, and very sensitive embrace without lean, even though cortes (corte is a cut step, which is not really cut, it is just a name) are quite often there.
Given these two descriptions, it is not clear whether Polk views Nuevo Milonguero as an elaboration of Tango Milonguero, the simple form, or a close embrace modification of Tango Nuevo. The absence of an apilado (forward leaning) posture would not meet the strict definition of ‘milonoguero-style’ tango as promoted by Susana Miller and her disciples, although a maintained frontally aligned embrace without a significant forward lean is common among porteños dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires (Salon Style Tango, Milonguero Style Tango, and Tango de Salon in Buenos Aires and in North America).
Hsueh-tze Lee, a tango instructor based in Boston, who is often identified as teaching ‘close embrace’ tango, offers courses in ‘nuevo milonguero’. Lee describes one course she teaches as:
Nuevo Milonguero (Adv). Find innovative ways to add to your vocabulary while keeping the close connection to your partner. Incorporate nuevo tango elements and avant garde moves into close embrace! This material is exquisite because it can be done even in the most crowded floor. Advance material includes alteration of direction, single axis turns, and some of the more unusual figures for dancing in close embrace. Prerequisite: Two Close Embrace series or equivalent.
Lee also offers a related course that incorporates some movements from Tango Nuevo within a ‘close embrace’ framework:
Off-Axis “Leans” – Cradled, Suspended & Dynamic Figures (Intermed / Adv). Explore dynamic off-axis figures, and how to improvise musically within a social context. Focus on Follower’s Technique: Dynamic pro-active engagement WITHOUT passive “leaning”, Free leg decorations. Topics: Syncopated Calesitas, Invisible Colgadas, Suspended Elasticity, Incipient Volcadas & Volcada Variations, Reversals. Prerequisite: Close Embrace Fundamentals or equivalent.
Lee’s foundation in teaching tango is a ‘close embrace’ tango that probably can be classified correctly as Tango Milonguero. Thus, similar to Brown (and possibly Polk), she interprets Nuevo Milonguero as the modification of a Tango Milonguero base with elements of Tango Nuevo. Thus, it is proposed here that if standard Spanish syntax is applied, this variation of dancing tango should be called Tango Estilo Milonguero Nuevo, or abbreviated to ‘Milonguero Nuevo’. However, the terms Milonguero Nuevo and Nuevo Milonguero will be used interchangeably in this post at times, depending upon the labeling used by others or upon which variant of tango is understood to modify the dominant characteristics of the other, as well as when definitions are vague.
Another Perspective: Nuevo Milonguero – Tango Nuevo in a (sometimes) Closed Embrace
Gustavo Rosas & Gisela Natoli from Buenos Aires recently have released an instructional DVD entitled ‘Milonguero Nuevo’, which they describe as ‘the combination of Traditional Tango with elements of Tango Nuevo, providing modern movements that renew the tango dance without losing its essence.’ This appears to be in agreement with the standard definition of Milonguero Nuevo as a modification of the base of Tango Milonguero with elements of Tango Nuevo. A small selection of their instructional material from this DVD is provided in the following video. The first sequence is a salida to the cruzada in parallel feet, conducted entirely in a closed embrace, that inserts a unique element – a foot lift – after the first side step. The subsequent sequences demonstrate giros incorporating underarm turns, colgadas, back sacadas, and linear boleos, with a varying distance between partners, all of which are characteristic of Tango Nuevo. This preview of the instructional DVD is indeed a mix of a few elements from Tango Milonguero here with considerably more elements from Tango Nuevo there, but from what is offered in this DVD preview, these elements are not really integrated and so it is not apparent how the supposed essence of ‘Traditional Tango’ (read ‘Tango Milonguero’) has been modified by elements of Tango Nuevo. (Using standard Spanish syntax, it would be more accurate to call this mixture ‘nuevo milonguero’, a modification of Tango Nuevo with, at times, an embrace characteristic of Tango Milonguero.) Perhaps one would need to buy the instructional DVD to learn how Tango Nuevo and Tango Milonguero are integrated. A more plausible explanation for the use of the term ‘Milonguero Nuevo’ for this DVD is provided by Cherie Magnus, an American tanguera who has lived in Buenos Aires for several years. Magnus suggests that the labeling of the dance as ‘Milonguero Nuevo’ is used primarily for marketing purposes. Additional insight can be gained into Gustavo & Gisela’s dance orientation from their other two instructional videos on ‘Colgadas & Volcadas’ (see also this website), clearly within the mainstream of Tango Nuevo. Adding ‘milonguero’ to ‘nuevo’ expands its niche, offering something ‘new’, which may be attractive to naïve consumers following the evolution of tango without understanding its essence (The Essence of Tango Argentino).
Jonathan Yamauchi & Olivia Levitt teach tango in the San Francisco Bay area in California. They identify renowned stage tango dancer Carlos Gavito as a major influence. In advertising, their workshops have been classified as ‘nuevo milonguero’. A video of one of their performances provides an additional perspective on what type of tango dancing constitutes ‘nuevo milonguero’. This is a performance danced to the nuevo tango composition ‘Milonga del Angel’ by Astor Piazzolla. The apparent contribution of Tango Milonguero is the embrace with direct frontal alignment, the woman’s arm extended over the man’s shoulder, and the apilado posture (Salon Style Tango, Milonguero Style Tango, and Tango de Salon in Buenos Aires and in North America), which is maintained throughout most of the performance. Volcadas, calesitas, ganchos, sacadas, and high boleos are inserted into sequences while the embrace borrowed from Tango Milonguero is maintained, but at times the embrace is also opened to perform a giro with a lapiz and enrosque at one point, and to insert a colgada at another point. The performance alternates between showing characteristics of Tango Milonguero at some points, Tango Estilo del Barrio (sometimes called ‘Tango Villa Urquiza’) at other points (Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza) [Tango Estilo del Barrio (versus Estilo Villa Urquiza) / Tango Estilo del Centro (versus Estilo Milonguero)], and Tango Nuevo at other times still. However, the expansive sweeping movements that sometimes elevate off the floor make this kind of dancing unsuitable for the pista of the milonga. Since Tango Milonguero is designed for the milonga, it cannot be considered a variation of Tango Milonguero or a role model for dancing at the milonga. The music – Piazzolla’s “Milonga del Angel” also lacks the clear rhythmic structure suitable for dancing at a milonga and indeed none of Piazzolla’s music is used for dancing at traditional milongas in Buenos Aires where Tango de Salon / Tango Milonguero is danced (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues). Perhaps Yamauchi & Levitt are being (unintentionally) accurate in labeling their dance Nuevo Milonguero, a modification of Tango Nuevo with elements of Tango Milonguero, rather than Milonguero Nuevo, a modification of Tango Milonguero with elements of Tango Nuevo.
Milonguero Nuevo: Volcadas and Colgadas for the Social Dance Floor
One movement characteristic of Tango Nuevo that has been linked frequently with Milonguero Nuevo is the volcada, an off-axis ‘falling’ forward movement of the woman, led and supported by the man. A closed embrace is highly beneficial to prevent the woman from falling onto the floor. It is the link of a ‘close embrace’, often seen as the identifying characteristic of Tango Milonguero by those who dance tango with an open frame (Salon Style Tango, Milonguero Style Tango, and Tango de Salon in Buenos Aires and in North America), with a move – the volcada – often seen as an identifying characteristic of Tango Nuevo (Tango Nuevo: Definition of the Dance), that is often seen as the natural conjugation of Tango Milonguero and Tango Nuevo that has procreated Milonguero Nuevo. One of the progeny of this union is the instructional unit ‘Volcadas for the social dance floor’, frequently offered as a workshop at tango weekends and festivals. For example:
Volcadas for the Social Dance Floor (and that won’t break your back)! Learn or refine this elegant “new” move in close embrace — Volcada — from Volcar – to tip-over or capsize; a falling step: The leader causes the follower to tilt or lean forward and “fall” off her axis before he catches her again. The process produces a beautiful leg drop and arc by the follower. Perhaps the most popular move to come out of the nuevo tango explorations, adapted for the social dance floor.
Volcada Variations — A dynamic new way to experience the Volcada for the social dance floor. Including back and side volcadas! You won’t want to miss this class!
In Morrow Bay CA it is possible to learn ‘Rhythmic volcadas for the social dance floor with Rodriguez’ (the orchestra leader, not the instructor). See also workshop titles in Austin TX (‘Back volcadas for the social dance floor’) and Buffalo NY (‘Volcada for the social dance floor’).
In San Francisco, it is even possible to take a 4-week course:
III. High Intermediate: Relaxed Volcadas for Social Dance. No pain, no strain. Small, beautiful, real, and relaxed volcadas for a crowded floor.
There are several well-known tango instructors who advertise themselves as teaching some variation of Tango de Salon who have included the volcada and its Tango Nuevo off-axis companion the colgada as part of their teaching curriculum.
It should be noted that neither Oscar & Mary Ann nor Gusttavo & Maria identify their dancing or teaching as Milonguero Nuevo, even though they are inserting elements characteristic of Tango Nuevo into a dance in a closed embrace. Nevertheless, this instructional material could be classified as Milonguero Nuevo.
From this promotional material, it is easy to reach the conclusion that volcadas (and, to some degree, colgadas) are adaptable or at least adapted for the social dance floor. This undoubtedly contributes to the widespread distribution of volcadas as part of the standard operating repertoire at milongas throughout North America.
Milonguero Nuevo: An Oxymoron
Despite their widespread popularity at milongas in North America (and elsewhere outside Argentina), volcadas and colgadas are almost never seen in the traditional milongas of Buenos Aires where Tango de Salon / Tango Milonguero is danced (and when seen, almost always performed by tourists or tango instructors trying to attract tourists as students). (See the videos referenced in the previous Tango Voice post: Milongueros Dancing Tango in the Milongas of Buenos Aires). There are at least three apparent reasons for this:
- The man’s role in tango is to protect the woman, to keep her balanced, not to pull her off her axis.
- Social tango is a dance of subtle communication between partners, not an exhibition of physical prowess to the audience.
- The space required for successful execution of volcadas and colgadas can invade the space of other dancers on the floor.
There is an inherent incompatibility in the mixture of elements such as volcadas and colgadas into Tango de Salon (Estilo Milonguero). Milonguero Nuevo is an oxymoron. From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
Oxymoron: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly: something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements
Tango Milonguero is a variant within the larger range of variation known as Tango de Salon, the tango danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires (Salon Style Tango, Milonguero Style Tango, and Tango de Salon in Buenos Aires and in North America). With its maintained close embrace and small steps (when necessary) Tango Milonguero is designed for the high density characteristic of milonga dance floors in Buenos Aires. Tango Nuevo is identified by its focus on the exploration of possibilities for movement (Tango Nuevo: Definition of the Dance), which by its very nature requires space and freedom of direction in movement. This makes Tango Nuevo unsuitable for the milonga, which is organized around the principle of shared space among couples in a progressive ronda (Codes and Customs of the Milongas of Buenos Aires: The Basics). Thus, Tango Milonguero and Tango Nuevo are incompatible at the same tango dance venue (Is Tango Nuevo compatible with Tango de Salon at the same Milonga?).
Although the addition of Tango Nuevo elements to Tango Milonguero to create what has been defined as Milonguero Nuevo (Tango Estilo Milonguero Nuevo) creates an incompatible mix, the converse mixture is viable. The addition of the characteristic closed embrace of Tango Milonguero to Tango Nuevo does not limit the latter’s ability to improvise because the milonguero embrace is only part of the continuum of distances and variations in partner connection that are characteristically passed through in dancing Tango Nuevo. Perhaps this can be labeled (the syntactically correct) ‘nuevo milonguero’ in order to salvage the terminology and increase market share, but in reality it is nothing new; it is just a part of the variation of Tango Nuevo anyway.
Therefore, the tango consumer should beware when exposed to advertising for instruction in Milonguero Nuevo or Nuevo Milonguero. It is either an oxymoron or the recycling of old material under a different label.