The Alternative Milonga (Neolonga): The Social Environment for Dancing to Tango Alternative Music

This post examines the characteristics of tango social dance events that are advertised or otherwise labeled as Alternative Milongas, and the Tango Alternative music that is used to elicit dancing at these events. The correlates, causes and consequences of music selection at Alternative Milongas will also be discussed.

What is an Alternative Milonga?

An Alternative Milonga is an alternative to the Traditional Milonga. Its difference is defined by the music played for dancing, although there are other correlated differences. A succinct definition of the Alternative Milonga is provided by a tango group in Humboldt County, California:

What’s an Alternative Milonga?! Well, it’s a tango social dance event where neotango, nuevo tango and contemporary tango music is played as well as some music not usually associated with tango.

The Music of the Traditional Milonga

A Traditional Milonga is a milonga where the traditional codes and customs of milongas in Buenos Aires are observed  [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)]. One characteristic feature of Traditional Milongas is the music played for dancing tango, which can be (and often is) classified as:

(1) Traditional Tango: This includes classic tango music from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s designed for dancing tango (e.g., from the tango orchestras of Biagi, Calo, Canaro, D’Agostino, D’Arienzo, De Angelis, Di Sarli, Donato, Fresedo, Laurenz, Pugliese, Rodriguez, Tanturi, and Troilo). At Traditional Milongas, a small proportion (one or two tandas at most) of music from more modern tango orchestras whose recordings play in the style of orchestras from the Golden Age (e.g., Villasboas) may also be played, although this is atypical (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues). In theory, this could include music from contemporary Argentine tango orchestras that play in style of tango orchestras from the Golden Age – e.g., Color Tango (Pugliese), Gente de Tango (Di Sarli), Los Reyes del Tango (D’Arienzo), and San Souci (Calo); these orchestras may play ‘en vivo’ occasionally at milongas in Buenos Aires, although the recordings of these orchestras are rarely played at a Traditional Milonga.

A Traditional Milonga in Buenos Aires will also have several sets of music that are not tango music, e.g., Tropical (mostly cumbia, some merengue or salsa), Jazz (generally American Dixieland style jazz), Rock-and-Roll (generally 1950s American rock-and-roll), and Argentine folk music (mostly Chacarera, although Paso Doble also is played sometimes). With the exception of Paso Doble, to which many dancers dance a milonga style dance, tango is not danced to these other kinds of music; rather, each genre of music has a more or less prescribed type of dancing that is clearly not tango dancing in its form. These sets of other kinds of music comprise less than 30% of the music played at a Traditional Milonga [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)]; there are also other social dance venues in Buenos Aires where tango-milonga-vals music comprises 50% or less of the music played for dancing; these are typically called ‘bailes’. At these bailes, the music played for dancing tango is still Traditional Tango music.

The Music that Characterizes an Alternative Milonga (Tango Alternative Music)

An Alternative Milonga may or may not play Traditional Tango music (see below). The alternatives to Traditional Tango music that are played at an Alternative Milonga are selected from one or more of the following music genres:

(2) Modern Tango: This includes music from ‘Post-Golden Age’ tango orchestras, such as the Pugliese orchestra after 1960, and the orchestras of Florindo Sassone, Los Solistas de Juan D’Arienzo and Hector Varela. These orchestras play a style of music that is recognizable as tango, but may either lack a clear constant tempo that facilitates dancing (e.g., Pugliese), or the tempo is too fast (Los Solistas) or the arrangements are so lush with other instrumentation that the rhythm is not clearly discernable (e.g., Sassone, Varela). Modern tango music could, in theory, include contemporary Argentine tango orchestras that play in style of tango orchestras from the Golden Age – e.g., Color Tango (Pugliese), Gente de Tango (Di Sarli), Los Reyes del Tango (D’Arienzo), and San Souci (Calo) – but (despite one’s preferences) this would not have the desired effect of offering an ‘alternative’ musical ambience for dancing. (The exception in the just mentioned orchestras would be music from Color Tango where they play in the style of the Pugliese after 1960, or play compositions of Piazzolla.) In contrast, modern tango ensembles that alter the rhythm, tempo, and instrumentation used by tango orchestras from the Golden Age, playing a mix of standard tango melodies and modern compositions more effectively meet the spirit of providing an ambience that is an alternative to classic tango music [e.g., Argentine: El Arranque, Fernandez Fierro, Carla Pugliese, (Nuevo) Quinteto Real (and other tango ensembles led by Horacio Salgan), Sexteto Mayor, Hugo Diaz (Harmonica), Trio Hugo Diaz (Uruguayan), La Tubatango; Non-Argentine: Conjunto Berretin, Mandragora Tango Orchestra, Quartango, Quintango, Sexteto Canyengue, Tango Lorca, Trio Garufa]. Music from these orchestras may or may not have a constant rhythm at a tempo suitable for dancing tango.

(3) Nuevo Tango: Although often used in a broader sense (e.g., Wikipedia), this classification is intended to apply here only to the self-labeled nuevo tango music of Astor Piazzolla from 1955 onward, a musical form containing elements of tango, European classical music, and jazz, and other orchestras playing in this style. Although some critics of tango music would claim that the music of Piazzolla is not tango, today virtually everyone with expertise in tango music would classify Piazzolla’s music as tango, albeit a different type of tango music, which Piazzolla himself did not compose for the purpose of eliciting dancing or meeting the needs of tango dancers (Goren, 2001; see also Google Books). Music played for dancing tango at an Alternative Milonga may include recordings of Piazzolla ensembles or the compositions of Piazzolla recorded by other musical groups, or music played by other orchestras that are in the style of Piazzolla, although not composed by him. Compositions of Piazzolla commonly played at Alternative Milongas include ‘Libertango’, ‘Oblivion’, and ‘Verano Porteño’.

(4) Tango Extranjero: This is tango music from other cultures such as Finland [see Finnish Tango (Tango Finlandia)], Turkey, and central and eastern Europe. This music has a tango rhythm, but generally lacks the bandoneon (typically substituted with the accordion, or may incorporate neither the bandoneon nor the accordion), and may include drums to provide rhythm. The beat may also be emphasized more in Tango Extranjero, so that it may sound staccato, a characteristic absent in the smoother tango music from Argentina (including Traditional Tango, Modern Tango, and Nuevo Tango). Notably, the music of Ballroom Tango, also foreign to Argentine culture, is not used for dancing at Alternative Milongas.

(5) Tango Fusion: This is music with some elements of tango (rhythm, melodies, and instrumentation) mixed with other musical genres. This includes such artists as Uruguayan Juan Carlos Caceres (whose music is a mixture of tango, other Latin American and African influences, as well as North American jazz), and tango-jazz fusion artists such as Pablo Aslan and Bernardo Monk. The jazz-influenced music of Horacio Salgan may also be classified as Tango Fusion, although it deviates less from Traditional Tango than the music of the other musicians mentioned here.

(6) Electrotango: This genre of music is characterized by the incorporation of tango instrumentation (i.e., the bandoneon) into various forms of electronic dance music (e.g., disco, house, techno, trance), at times using Traditional Tango melodies as a foundation, with the possible inclusion of snippets of Traditional Tango music and references to aspects of tango culture in the lyrics. Occasionally, electrotango incorporates a somewhat discernible tango rhythm (e.g., the milonga rhythm incorporated into some recordings of Otros Aires, or ‘Mi Corazon’ by Bajofondo) as part of a multi-rhythmic base, but generally electrotango music lacks the walking rhythm of Traditional Tango music. Even when a tango rhythm is present, it is typically subordinate to the more predominant rhythm(s) of electronic dance music. Popular electrotango artists included in playlists at Alternative Milongas include Gotan Project, Tanghetto, Narcotango (Carlos Libedinsky), Jaime Wilensky, Bajofondo, and Otros Aires.

(7) Non-tango: This is music that lacks the rhythm, melody, and characteristic instrumentation of tango. Non-tango music played at Alternative Milongas to elicit tango dancing varies widely, but popular artists played for such purposes include Tom Waits, Kevin Johansen, Lhasa de Sela, and Goran Begovic, as well as selected music from various genres of ‘world music’ such as samba, fado, klezmer, rembetika, flamenco and gypsy music. In practice and in theory, non-tango music played at an Alternative Milonga to elicit tango dancing could (and might) include other musical genres such as (European) classical music, jazz, new age, blues, rock-and-roll, and hip-hop.

The term ‘Neo-tango’ is commonly used as a classification for some of the music played at Alternative Milongas. It usually includes the categories of Electrotango, Tango Fusion and Non-tango listed above (Neo-tango website; Sharna Fabiano; Stephen Brown). A more inclusive term – Tango Alternative music – is designated here to include all musical genres that typically could be played as an alternative to Traditional Tango music at an Alternative Milonga.

Lists of Tango Alternative music recommended for dancing tango are provided by Sharna Fabiano, Veronika Fischer, Django Tango and TangoTales, as well as in this Tango-L post. Some recordings of Tango Alternative Music are accessible for direct playback at Tango Oasis.

Dancing to Tango Alternative Music

Here are some recordings of exhibitions of dancing labeled as tango by self-identified tango instructors, using various genres of Tango Alternative music:

(1) Homer & Cristina Ladas: ‘Oblivion’ (composition by Astor Piazzolla) [nuevo tango]

(2) Chicho Frumboli & Juana Sepulveda: ‘Borges y Paraguay’ by Bajo Fondo [electrotango]

(3) Rebecca Shulman & Nick Jones: (composition by Erik Satie) [classical music]

(4) Daniela Pucci & Luis Bianchi: [new age]

(5) Norberto “El Pulpo” Esbres & Luiza Paes [rock]

(6) Nick Jones & Diana Cruz: Lightnin’ Hopkins [blues]

(7) Dancing to Eminem [hip-hop])

There appears to be an association of dancing steps characteristic of Tango Nuevo to Tango Alternative Music.

Here are some recordings of actual dancing at Alternative Milongas in the United States: Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, Denver, Colorado, and Boston, Massachusetts.

How much Tango Alternative Music classifies a Tango Social Dance Event as an Alternative Milonga?

Clearly, a tango social event that plays only Tango Alternative music to elicit tango dancing is an Alternative Milonga, and tango social dance events of this type have existed at various tango festivals (e.g., Denver Tango Festival, Albuquerque Tango Festival, San Diego Tango Festival). There are also regular Alternative Milongas within local tango communities that play only Tango Alternative music, such as that in Washington DC, where one can

… dance to such great artists as Beyonce, Lady GaGa, Usher, Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees, Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, the Black Eyed Peas, Bono, Nat King & Natalie Cole, Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Ricky Martin, Katey Perry, Glee, Cher, James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Martha Washington, ‘The Divine Miss M’ (Bette Midler), Jennifer Hudson, ABBA, Michael Buble’, The Four Seasons, Josh Groban, Enrique Iglesias and many, many more. In the future we may also include by request, popular Middle Eastern and Bollywood dance music.

However, most Alternative Milongas play a mixture of Traditional Tango and Tango Alternative, with the proportion of each musical genre being variable. For example, the website for the Boston Alternative Milonga states:

Some of our DJs incorporate traditional tango music into their sets to varying degrees. It depends on the DJ that week and the reason why DJs differ from one milonga to the next is because we want to represent a range of tastes and traditional/alternative ratios. Sometimes there won’t be any traditional tango music though.

For this reason, Alternative Milongas generally do not list the proportion of music that is Tango Alternative.

However, for some tango social dance events playing Tango Alternative music, the proportion of Tango Alternative music to be played is clearly stated. (See: Tango Nuevo Festival Montreal). The well known CELLspace Alternative Milonga in San Francisco ‘is an on-going educational endeavor to provide a balanced 50/50 mixed music night for beginner and more experienced tango dancers to enjoy alike’; which is interpreted here as meaning 50% Traditional Tango music and 50% Tango Alternative music for dancing tango. Tango Pulse milongas in Massachusetts play 70% Traditional Tango and 30% Tango Alternative.  The ¡TangoNeoSi! milonga in Bramshaw, Hampshire, England has “95% neotango tracks and 5% traditional tango tracks”. Notably, Django Tango includes ‘Siete palabras’ by the Leopoldo Federico orchestra and ‘Por una cabeza’ by the Tango Project as ‘traditional tango’, something no reputable DJ in Buenos Aires would do. Thus, it cannot be verified that the same classification of music into ‘traditional’ and ‘alternative’ categories is used at these events as is presented above.

Nevertheless, most tango social dance events advertised as Alternative Milongas do not specify the proportion of Tango Alternative music played (e.g., Eugene OR; Los Angeles; San Diego), nor can the proportion of Tango Alternative music in each subgenre (Modern Tango, Nuevo Tango, Tango Extranjero, Tango Fusion, Electrotango, Non-tango) be anticipated.

It is also quite common for a tango social dance event to be advertised simply as a ‘milonga’, without specifying whether or not Tango Alternative music is to be played. It is even possible within North America for a tango social dance event to be advertised as a Traditional Milonga, at which one ‘tanda’ of Tango Alternative music per hour may be played. In actuality, although it is the norm for milongas in Buenos Aires to play only Traditional Tango music for dancing tango, in North America and Europe today it is difficult to find a tango social dance event advertised as a ‘milonga’ that plays only (i.e, 100%) Traditional Tango music for dancing tango.

Thus, if a dancer seeks a Tango Alternative music environment for dancing, there is some uncertainty regarding the proportion of Tango Alternative music played. Likewise, if a dancer seeks a music environment where only Traditional Tango is played for dancing tango, outside Argentina there is little guarantee that such an environment can be encountered at an event advertised as a ‘milonga’, although this dancer should at least to be able to make the decision to avoid tango social dance venues that are advertised as Alternative Milongas.

Regarding the proportion of Tango Alternative music that qualifies a tango social dance event as an Alternative Milonga, one could follow the CELLspace model and set at criterion at 50% of more Tango Alternative. Given that in Buenos Aires, to be classified as a milonga a social dance event needs to play at least 70% tango music [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)], perhaps a criterion of 30% or more Tango Alternative music could classify an event as an Alternative Milonga. However, since Traditional Milongas in Buenos Aires play only Traditional Tango music, one could also argue that one requirement for classifying any tango social dance event as a Traditional Milonga is that the music played for dancing tango is 100% Traditional Tango, and thus any tango social dance event playing any Tango Alternative music for dancing tango is a candidate to be classified as an Alternative Milonga.

The Alternative Milonga and Tango Alternative Music in Buenos Aires

At some Informal Milongas and Practicas Nuevas in Buenos Aires (e.g., La Viruta, La Catedral, La Marshall, Practica X, practicas at Villa Malcolm) it is possible to hear some Tango Alternative music and observe dancers using movements characteristic of tango in dancing to this music. However, as far as can be determined from personal observation and conversation with porteños who dance tango, as well as written reports (The Tango Practica, the Practica Nueva, and the Tango Dance Party in Buenos Aires), all of this Tango Alternative music falls into the categories of Modern Tango, Nuevo Tango (Piazzolla), Tango Fusion, and Electrotango, whereas Tango Extranjero and Non-Tango music are not played for dancing tango. Notably, this Tango Alternative music appears to be almost entirely that recorded or played live by Argentine (or Uruguayan) musicians. However, even at Informal Milongas and Practicas Nuevas in Buenos Aires, the overwhelming majority of music played for dancing tango is Traditional Tango music. There have been several experiments at introducing the Alternative Milonga environment in Buenos Aires, i.e., an event where the majority of the music played for dancing tango is Tango Alternative music. It appears that these few events have been hosted by foreigners. Helen Halldorsdottir (‘La Vikinga’) from Iceland has been credited with organizing one of the first Alternative Milongas in Buenos Aires. The chronicles of a failed Alternative Milonga – Otros Buenos Aires – are reported on its website. Thus, the Alternative Milonga and the playing of Tango Alternative music are not a characteristic part of the tango social dance culture in Buenos Aires as they are in many tango communities outside Argentina.

The Origin of the Alternative Milonga

It is clear that the concept of the Alternative Milonga did not originate in Buenos Aires. It is not immediately apparent where and when the first Alternative Milonga appeared, and undoubtedly it was not called an ‘alternative milonga’ at the outset. However, there are some clues regarding its origins and early appearance. During the 1990s, as Argentine Tango was expanding its foothold in North America and Traditional Tango music was not as readily available as it is today, and few DJs were cognizant of the structure of the milonga music program in Buenos Aires (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues), it was not unusual for DJs at tango social events advertised as milongas in North America to play tango music of Argentine origin or American imitations thereof that were available for purchase in local music stores. Thus, one could observe tango dancing to music such as tango show music (e.g., soundtrack from Tango Argentino), Astor Piazzolla, Hugo Diaz (harmonica), and the Tango Project, none of which was played in milongas in Buenos Aires at that time (and rarely today as well). This departure from Traditional Tango music was due to naivete, not a conscious effort to create an alternative tango aural environment.

However, the birth of Tango Alternative music as a preferred aural environment for the employment of movements associated with tango dancing quite clearly has its origins at the time of release of Gotan Project’s electrotango ‘La Revancha del Tango’ CD in 2001. The association of hip hop / techno / trance / house musical elements with musical instrumentation including a bandoneon, an instrument associated almost exclusively with tango, as well as verbal references to ‘tango’ and ‘Buenos Aires’ created what would soon become a new genre of music labeled as ‘electrotango’, The music of Gotan Project immediately became popular for dancing at events advertised as ‘milongas’ outside Argentina, most notably in North America and Europe. The Paris based ensemble and its commercial success soon stimulated Argentine progeny within this musical genre, the most notable of which have been Tanghetto, Bajofondo, Carlos Libedinsky, Jaime Wilensky and Otros Aires.

As a major influence in the establishment of Alternative Milongas, Homer Ladas started the CELLspace Alternative Milonga in San Francisco in July 2003. An Alternative Milonga had been added to the Denver Tango Festivals in 2004 (Memorial Day; Labor Day). This video appears to be from an Alternative Milonga at the 2004 Portland Tango Festival. In recent years the Alternative Milonga has become a standard part of tango festivals throughout North America. Sometimes all milongas at a tango festival include at least some Tango Alternative music intended for dancing tango.

The Rationale for Tango Alternative Music and the Alternative Milonga

Tango Alternative music for dancing tango is played sparingly at a few Informal Milongas and Practicas Nuevas in Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires there has been no lasting tango social dance event that could be classified as an Alternative Milonga. In contrast, Tango Alternative music for dancing tango comprises, at the very least, some small proportion of music played for dancing tango at the majority of tango social dance events outside Argentina, and there are numerous tango social dance events advertised or classifiable as Alternative Milongas where 50% or more of the music played for dancing tango is Tango Alternative music. Why is there this tendency to deviate from the Buenos Aires standards of music selection in so many tango communities outside Argentina?

The rationale for playing Tango Alternative music for dancing tango is apparent from the commentary of promoters of Tango Alternative music as a medium for utilizing movements associated with tango dancing. Reproduced here are some explanatory statements supporting the playing of Tango Alternative music at tango social dance events, excerpted from a 2003 article by Sharna Fabiano entitled ‘The Rise of Neo Tango music’:

– One of the most exciting changes is a new genre of experimental tango music. Young dancers especially are dancing tango to non-Argentine music, and at the same time, contemporary tango musicians are collaborating with electronic musicians to create a hybrid sound. I call this new genre “neo tango”…

… although classical tango must and should be preserved, our era is different from the Golden Age of tango in Buenos Aires (1930s-50s). We have different musical instruments and technologies, different social venues, and different styles of dress. All of these things inspire today’s tango dancers and musicians to play and improvise in new ways.

– Creeping into the souls of enthusiasts around the globe, the tango is searching for a contemporary cultural context…. This is why modern music is so essential to effectively renew the spirit of the tango.

– This hybrid tango music strikes a chord with mass audiences, and its vibration has the potential to generate not only small gatherings of aficionados, but an international social and artistic movement.

– Until now, many have assumed that there was a natural ceiling on the growth of tango communities, perhaps because traditional music and traditional atmosphere only appeal to a small segment of today’s population. The manifestation of neo tango music in the tango world pushes against that ceiling. Young people especially are drawn by the eclectic sound and by the fun and experimental atmosphere that typically accompanies it.

– And so the contemporary tango music library is growing, and with it the allure of tango for a key portion of the 20- and 30-something demographic. The songs have the tango’s unmistakable ‘walking beat’ and the edge of the new millennia in their melodies.

Veronika Fischer from Augsburg, Germany comments:

Most people enjoy non-tango in the style they normally listen to (jazz or blues…), and non-tango is a great way of getting beginners to dance: they usually know one or the other pop-/rocksong, and find the beat more easily than in traditional tango which needs a certain amount of practice. Also, advanced dancers enjoy non-tango for the variety, and for the fact that those pieces allow to vary the dancing style.

Steve Morall from Bramshaw, Hampshire, England, in reference to non-Tango music with lyrics in English, states:

All over the world, Tango Argentino is enjoying a renaissance as an exciting and passionate partner dance and is attracting huge numbers of people to dance. As it popularity grows outside its birthplace, traditional tango music is perhaps not so well received and understood by people of other cultures. It can be too complex for a novice dancer to interpret. For dancers without a spanish-speaking heritage, the heart felt lyrics have no meaning, and a novice tango dancer will struggle with the rhythmic complexity of classic tango. In the last few years, neotango has emerged as non-argentinian tango dancers sought to express themselves with music from their own culture.

Andrew, a DJ at a Tango Alternative music practica in Portland OR points out that for people who enjoy dancing tango but don’t like Traditional Tango music, creating a predominantly Tango Alternative music environment for dancing tango, with some ‘traditional music’ played as well, gets these dancers accustomed to Traditional Tango music, which increases the likelihood that these dancers will attend other milongas, thereby “expanding the pool of dancers for traditional milongas’. (Later in this Tango-L post, some examples of traditional tango are given, and include the following: Color Tango, El Arranque, Los Reyes del Tango, Hugo Diaz on harmonica, the Hugo Diaz Trio, Sexteto Mayor, Los Coso de al Lao, La Chicana, Horacio Salgan, Florindo Sassone, music from the Forever Tango show; at best, these are modern orchestras playing in a traditional style, and most do not even meet these criteria.) Andrew also notes that “the infectious fun … that often gets infused from nontango sets comes back into tangos, and they seem a little less serious and staid.”

To summarize, Traditional Tango music does not appeal to a wide audience. Greater acceptance of tango dancing can be achieved by playing music for dancing that is more familiar to those raised outside the Argentine Tango culture. This redressing of tango within a contemporary cultural context makes it more relevant to dancers worldwide and has led to the successful propagation of tango outside Argentina.

To paraphrase, releasing Argentine Tango from the restriction of maintaining ties to its Argentine cultural heritage and history by infusing it with music from other cultures has made tango palatable for dancers unwilling or unable to understand tango as a cultural phenomenon of Argentine origin, thereby increasing its market share worldwide.

Perhaps one should ask whether the promoters of Tango Alternative culture are more accurately classified as supporters of creative artistic expression or successful entrepreneurs.

The Resistance to Tango Alternative Music

Despite the apparently appealing arguments for propagation of a tango culture that deviates significantly from its Argentine cultural origins, there do exist some tango dancers worldwide who find this cultural transformation unappealing and unacceptable.

At the simplest level, objections to playing Tango Alternative music at milongas are summarized in the following statements:

– Tango can only be danced to tango music. The music defines the dance. The music and the dance are inseparable.

The elegant simplicity of this argument is demonstrated by comparison with other dances. Can a dance be called a ‘waltz’ if the 1-2-3 rhythm of waltz is not present? Can contra dance be danced to the music of Erik Satie? Can salsa be danced to the music of James Taylor? To answer ‘yes’ to these questions would bring deserved ridicule from members of the ballroom dance, contra dance, and salsa dance communities. Nevertheless, executing steps associated with tango dancing with the music of Tom Waits playing in the background is lauded as ‘experimentation’ and ‘creativity’. The tango dance cannot be separated from tango music. If the music is not tango, the dance is not tango. It is as simple as that. When viewed within this logical structure, the assertion that tango can be danced to non-tango music is inherently and blatantly absurd.

– Tango dancing is part of a culture that defines the dance.

In Argentina, at the milongas tango is danced to Traditional Tango music, even at the Informal Milongas and Practicas Nuevas. (Non-tango music is not used for tango dancing at tango social dance events in Buenos Aires.) One is not dancing Argentine Tango unless one accepts the characteristics of the dance defined by the Argentine culture that generated it.

Even if one believes that it is possible to dance tango within a social environment to any kind of music other than Traditional Tango music, one is not dancing Argentine Tango, but some cultural artifact created by a non-Argentine culture. This is recognized in Ballroom Tango and Finnish Tango; these dance genres are not claimed to be ‘Argentine Tango’. Since the milonga is a cultural product of the Argentine Tango culture, calling any event a ‘milonga’ in which tango is danced to music other than Traditional Tango music is a misrepresentation of the Argentine Tango culture and a misappropriation of the term ‘milonga’ [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)].

– Playing Tango Alternative music to attract people to tango dancing attracts people who like Tango Alternative music and provides no guarantee that these people will eventually like Traditional Tango for dancing.

Since tango is a difficult dance to learn and there is a low beginner retention rate, tango communities are in a constant state of recruitment, so this institutionalizes the playing of Tango Alternative music as a core modus operandi of tango communities outside Argentina. Instead of Tango Alternative music becoming a bridge to Traditional Tango it becomes a somewhat equal or perhaps even dominant partner in the palate of selectable music for dancing. This acceptance of Tango Alternative music as a medium for expression of movements associated with tango reinforces the notion that tango music is not required for dancing tango.

Objections to playing Tango Alternative music for dancing tango have been expressed by other tango dancers.

Argentine Oliver Kolker, tango dancer and instructor, in a blog post called ‘Dancing to Non Tango Music’ states:

In my personal life I very much enjoy listening to Gotan Project. Do I connect with the music to dance to it? NO. But that is me. I don’t connect and, in my case, I know why. Because for me tango emanates from the music, with its roots attached to the meter and beats of the main harmony of Tango. … I feel uncomfortable moving, embracing, and walking to a different type of Music that is not Tango….

It is simply a cultural thing. I’ve sometimes heard people in NYC say “I hate Tango Music, but I love the Dance.” It may be because they appreciate the movement without comprehending the music. To me this is baffling being that I believe the dance, itself, springs from the music.

Likewise, from a post entitled ‘The Signature of Tango’ on the ‘In Search of Tango’ blog:

Classical tango music is the signature of tango. It is created and developed with tango and for tango. People recognize it and associate it with the dance when they hear it. There is a sentimental attachment between the two. In reality tango dance and classical tango music are two aspects of one thing called Argentine tango, inseparable as body and soul. The fact that tango can be danced to other musics doesn’t mean it can remain intact when so danced. One may dance tango to the music of Beijing opera, but that will not be tango. Alternative music from different cultural background does not have the same rhythmic structure and sentimental richness of the classical tango music, which is passionate, multi-layered, manifold, changeful, deep and moody, allowing the freedom to interpret and improvise. Any music sharing the same rhythmic structure and sentimental richness will be recognized as tango and not alternative music. By definition, alternative music is the music that lacks the structural and sentimental depth of tango, and therefore is not the best music for tango dancing. It only appeals to beginners deficient in good taste and musicality or weird dudes seeking novelty, and those who choose to pander to their taste in order to make money.

Alternative Nomenclature for the Milonga Alternative

Given that playing Traditional Tango music for dancing tango is a core characteristic of tango social dance venues in Buenos Aires, not only for the Traditional Milonga, but also for the Informal Milonga and Practica Nueva, and that playing non-Tango music for dancing tango is essentially nonexistent at tango social dance events in Buenos Aires, the labeling of events where a significant part of the music played for dancing tango is not Traditional Tango music (or sometimes tango music of any kind) as an ‘Alternative Milonga’ is an oxymoron, whereas in fact a tango social dance event of this type would be labeled more appropriately as an ‘alternative to a milonga’ or a ‘milonga alternative’. However, even the inclusion of the term ‘milonga’ within the same phrase as the term ‘alternative’ provides some legitimacy to such an event as being representative of Argentine Tango culture, whereas in fact there is gross misrepresentation. Thus, different terminology would be appropriate for labeling such events. Perhaps the most direct and unambiguous terminology would be ‘Tango Alternative Music Dance’, but this verbosity would place significant constraints upon those texting or using Twitter to promote an event of this type; thus, a more concise verbal construction would be preferable. The term ‘bilonga’ has been used to describe an Alternative Milonga in Eugene OR, but this terminology is not widespread. However, a more widespread substitute terminology for the Alternative Milonga used in Europe is ‘neolonga’ (Vienna; Munich; Nottingham, England).

In not explicitly incorporating the term ‘milonga’, ‘neolonga’ is a preferred alternative to ‘alternative milonga’ and its usage is encouraged in North America to further differentiate this type of dance event from a Milonga, where movements associated with tango are danced to tango music, as is the custom in Buenos Aires.

Further development of the Neolonga concept is provided by the Tanguerilla enterprise based in Bremen, Germany, that travels to provide the following service to tango dancers:

the neolonga »tanguerilla« merges lights, neotango.beats and roomfilling, 360° videoprojections to a fascinating audiovisual tango production for couples, solo-dancers und non-dancers. you will become an acting, integrated part of the virtual environment.

An example of this type of neolonga is provided in this video. This cultural adaptation of the milonga concept is quite different from the environment of a Buenos Aires milonga.

Summary and Conclusion

In Traditional Milongas in Buenos Aires, only Traditional Tango music (classic tango from the Golden Age and modern tango music in the same style) are played for dancing tango. In Informal Milongas and Practicas Nuevas the overwhelming majority of music played for dancing tango is also Traditional Tango, with a small percentage of Modern Tango, Nuevo Tango (Piazzolla), Tango Fusion, or Electrotango possible. Non-tango music is not played to elicit tango dancing in Buenos Aires tango social dance venues.

Outside Argentina, particularly in North America and Europe, Tango Alternative music (Modern Tango, Nuevo Tango, Tango Fusion, Electrotango, Tango Extranjero, and Non-tango) is more commonly played to elicit tango dancing. Some tango social dance events, called Alternative Milongas (mostly North America) or neolongas (more common in Europe) play a significant proportion of Tango Alternative music, perhaps 50% or more, for the purpose of eliciting tango dancing. This trend is relatively recent (existing less than 10 years) and can be traced to the success of the electrotango ensemble Gotan Project, which stimulated further development of electrotango musical ensembles, as well as a widened interest in Tango Alternative music in general.

The playing of Tango Alternative music is associated with dancing Tango Nuevo. It is also associated with a more casual style of dress at tango social dance events. These changes in the characteristics of tango social dance venues are favored by younger dancers.

The successful propagation of Tango Alternative music in general and the Alternative Milonga in particular, especially in North America and Europe, is attributed to the greater palatability of Tango Alternative music for dancers who have not found the Traditional Tango music to their liking, at least not initially. Thus, the employment of movements associated with tango to Tango Alternative music has become an integral part of tango culture outside Argentina. This reinforces the belief that tango music is not needed for dancing tango and the use of Tango Alternative music as bait for attracting new dancers serves to attract dancers who do not like Traditional Tango music.

Since in Buenos Aires milongas do not play Non-tango music for dancing tango and no tango social dance event plays a majority of Tango Alternative music, the term Alternative Milonga is an oxymoron and should be replaced by another term. The term ‘neolonga’ is used in Europe for social dance events of this type and using this terminology would clarify the distinction between the Traditional Milonga where Traditional Tango music is played for dancing tango, as is done in Buenos Aires, from the foreign cultural creation – an event where movements associated with tango dancing are used when non-tango music is playing in the background.

References in Print

Gorin, Natalio (2001)- Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir. Translated, annotated, and expanded by Fernando Gonzalez. Amadeus Press. Portland, Oregon.

62 Responses to The Alternative Milonga (Neolonga): The Social Environment for Dancing to Tango Alternative Music

  1. AnA Santos says:

    I will share it! tks a lot! AnA

  2. tangovoice says:

    Posted on ‘About’ page:

    ilenetango says:
    January 4, 2012 at 10:03 AM (Edit)
    Very Good writing about tango music. I strongly share your point of view. I am a traditional Argentine Tango DJ and an organizer who understands the pressure to “go nuevo”.

    A few things I would add to your post-

    – Argentine Tango is about connecting to your partner – not about just whirling about the floor to any music having a good time. It is deeper and far more profound than that, and I absolutely believe that the only way to experience and enjoy the very rich complexity of the dance is to go deeper, and it has become quite obvious over the years, that neotango music and dance does not get you to that place. the essence or the “purpose” of the dance is aborted when dancing to neotango, alternative, etc.

    – There are indeed many milongas in the USA where only traditional tango is played- I play at several of them in NYC, Boston, Woodstock, Miami etc.

    – I would like to see an update on the scene on Buenos Aires where nuevo/neo tango is quickly dying out, especially with young people, according to what I experienced in July 2011, and according to the many porteño artists visiting NYC who say while there might be a handful of neuvo practicas, there is no growth and that the young people have come back to traditional.

    – I would also like to see a reference to Chicho Fromboli’s recent comments about how he deeply regrets forsaking the embrace of traditional tango for the free-wheeling movements of nuevo -style tango.

    One last thing, I am really uncomfortable talking with someone whose name I do not know. Can you at least tell us what country you are from???
    all best,
    Ilene

    Ilene Marder
    Woodstock./NYC , New York

  3. tangovoice says:

    Posted on ‘About’ page:
    ilenetango says:
    January 4, 2012 at 10:03 AM (Edit)

    – There are indeed many milongas in the USA where only traditional tango is played- I play at several of them in NYC, Boston, Woodstock, Miami etc.

    -> Milongas playing all Traditional Tango music should be advertised as such. It would be very helpful to dancers who prefer that kind of environment. (This is a recommendation, not an admonishment.)

  4. Chris says:

    Nice article – thanks. We have a quite a few of these kind of events in the UK. All I know of are run by dance class instructors, befitting the fact they are primarily a solution to the big problem of how to fill what are advertised as “tango classes” with people who don’t like tango, but do like the idea of doing the kind of dancing they see advertised as tango. Such events are generally welcomed by tango dancers – they are very effective in diverting their target customers away from milongas.

  5. Ray says:

    Well, I agree with 90% of what you have written, with the exception of a few things – the proper term is “Tango Nuevo” not “Nuevo Tango”.

    Secondly, NeoTango (21st Century Tango) has evolved into a genre of its own. Your category ElectroTango captures most of the idea. But, all NeoTango bands are not electrified, ie. Tango Conspiracy.

    Thirdly, it is not true that NeoTango is not danced in Argentina. It may not be danced in Central BsAs. But, there is a lot more to Argentina. If you are interested, I can send you the names of some clubs. Its also popular in La Plata & Montevideo.

    Lastly, don’t seem to know about Neolongas. Neolongas incorporate music visualization & interactive surface into the Milonga format. This is almost never done at ‘Alternative Tango’ events. But, it is central to the idea of Neolongas, just as similar visuals were central to the ‘house parties’ of the 90s.

    • Chris says:

      Tango Conspiracy not electrified?? Some mistake, I think. Listen here.

      • Ray says:

        Well, the lead isn’t. Yeah, there is a keyboard. But, Jimena’s Guitar & the Bandeneon dominate. Check Malevo, it was called Electro Dub Tango. I always wondered about their name. They are amped acoustics. I love their stuff. But, they are are not a techno-mix electro band., Bajofondo. THere is very little of the neo music that I just don’t love. Even, the Romanian & Greek, stuff.

      • Ray says:

        A quote from Chicho
        “There are the traditionalists who defend roots to the death and then there are those modern or alternative dancers, in other words, new tango. But if you think about it there is nothing in the middle. The traditionalists complain about the modern ones contending that they don’t dance tango, instead they do gymnastics, and the modern dancers complain that the others got stuck in time. There is no fusion, it is one group against the other, and it makes me sad because in reality we are all together.”

        Is the point to repeat steps perfectly? Or is it to enjoy yourself, and bring joy to your partner?

      • Chris says:

        Ray, Jimena’s guitar there is a hollow-body electric guitar.

      • Ray says:

        So, probably I picked the wrong example. But, there certainly are 21st century tango composers & musicians that use minimal or no electronic instrumentation. You could say Garufa is an acoustic group. But, they too use amps. But, after all, this is the 21st century everyone uses computers and its an integral part of music making these day.

        I am very interested in this subject having participated in several neolongas and now organizing several of them. We see a real distinction between neotango & alternative tango. Also, there seems to be a strange use of the term “Nuevo Tango” vs “Tango Nuevo”. Nuevo Tango seems to be a social dance style, a sort of energetic salon style. While Tango Nuevo is Astor Piazzolla, Osvaldo Pugliese, Ariel Ramirez and the other composer-musicians whose work was primarily for concert hall performance. There sometimes are highly choreographed tango ballets that were/are performed with these works.

        To me, NeoTango is a musical genre, not a dance form. Some people have been moving the boundaries of social tango dance to incorporate ‘possibilities’ – among them are Homer Ladas, Oscar Casas, Ignacio González & Ezequiel Sanucci. But, as far as I know there is no firm idea of what NeoTango dancing is, except that it is a derivative of traditional Argentine tango with enhanced improvisation derived from other dances (mostly latin).

      • Chris says:

        Ray wrote: “don’t seem to know about Neolongas. Neolongas incorporate … interactive surface into the Milonga format.

        Regular milongas incorporate the traditional variety of interactive surface 🙂

      • Here in Ann Arbor, we several different kinds of tango events. A couple of styles of traditional ‘golden age’ milongas, ballroom ‘wine & cheese parties’, alternative tango milongas with tandas, fusion exchange parties that mix everything, blues (funky) tango events, and neolongas that incorporate music visualization & 21st century tango. Each kind of event attracts different styles of dancers. But, many dancers migrate between events. But, then most tango dancers around here also dance salsa.

      • tangovoice says:

        The only event that sounds like tango is the ‘traditional golden age milonga’. It is the only one of these that occurs in Buenos Aires. There are no tango social dance venues in Buenos Aires where non-tango music is played to elicit movements characteristic of tango, no mixing of blues with tango, no disco lighting schemes. Having these events may be fun, but it is misrepresenting tango to call them ‘milongas’ or imply that is the evolution of tango. It is merely the adaptation of some characteristics of tango to a foreign culture.

      • Chris says:

        Ray said: “Some people have been moving the boundaries of social tango dance to incorporate ‘possibilities’ – among them are…

        Some people have been disregarding the boundaries of social tango dance to incorporate possibilities for selling more dance classes.

        I notice your list of examples consists entirely of people selling dance classes. That’s not a great recommendation for the product.

    • tangovoice says:

      Well, I agree with 90% of what you have written, with the exception of a few things – the proper term is “Tango Nuevo” not “Nuevo Tango”.

      Use of the term ‘nuevo tango’ for the music of Piazzolla after 1955 in the English literature has already been cited (http://www.astor-piazzolla.org/biography/). Piazzolla named one of his early ensembles in the new musical style ‘Quinteto Nuevo Tango’, indicating Spanish usage. It is useful to maintain the distinction between the music ‘Nuevo Tango’ (Piazzolla and others he has influenced) and the dance (‘Tango Nuevo’); the relationship between the two is minimal.

      Secondly, NeoTango (21st Century Tango) has evolved into a genre of its own. Your category ElectroTango captures most of the idea. But, all NeoTango bands are not electrified, ie. Tango Conspiracy.

      ‘Neotango’ is not used a classificatory term in this post, mainly because it has not been used consistently.

      Thirdly, it is not true that NeoTango is not danced in Argentina. It may not be danced in Central BsAs. But, there is a lot more to Argentina. If you are interested, I can send you the names of some clubs. Its also popular in La Plata & Montevideo.

      Since the classification ‘Neotango’ is not used in this post, this claim was not made. What was stated regarding music played at some social events in Buenos Aires where movements characteristic of tango are used in dancing is

      ‘At some Informal Milongas and Practicas Nuevas in Buenos Aires (e.g., La Viruta, La Catedral, La Marshall, Practica X, practicas at Villa Malcolm) it is possible to hear some Tango Alternative music and observe dancers using movements characteristic of tango in dancing to this music. However… all of this Tango Alternative music falls into the categories of Modern Tango, Nuevo Tango (Piazzolla), Tango Fusion, and Electrotango, whereas Tango Extranjero and Non-Tango music are not played for dancing tango.’

      Lastly, don’t seem to know about Neolongas. Neolongas incorporate music visualization & interactive surface into the Milonga format. This is almost never done at ‘Alternative Tango’ events. But, it is central to the idea of Neolongas, just as similar visuals were central to the ‘house parties’ of the 90s.

      The term ‘neolonga’ appears to be used instead of ‘alternative milonga’ in Europe. The unifying characteristic of these events is the playing of ‘Tango Alternative Music’ for dancing. The Tanguerilla enterprise is the only case where the visual environment created is attached to the ‘neolonga’ classification.

      • Ray says:

        Chris, I love your article on Piazzolla. You missed an important event at the end of his life when tutored at IRCAM and came to know Pierre Boulez. But, beyond that a great article.

        I would like to point out that the title refers to “Tango Nuevo” and the text refers to “Nuevo Tango”.

        Life is strange & complicated, Chris. I hope that you take these comments in the friendly spirit that they are given. I’d like to meet you someday.

    • Some day, the Café Deseado will travel to Patagonia. And then there will be a Neolonga in Argentina 🙂

  6. Chris says:

    Ilene wrote: “I would also like to see a reference to Chicho Fromboli’s recent comments about how he deeply regrets forsaking the embrace of traditional tango for the free-wheeling movements of nuevo -style tango.

    That sounds like the Interview in El Tangauta 182, Dec 2009 here.

  7. Ray says:

    Also I totally agree with – “whereas Tango Extranjero and Non-Tango music are not played for dancing tango”. To me that is what I have called “Alternative Tango”. “Tango Extranjero” is probably a better term.

  8. Chris says:

    Here’s another example providing useful insight of the motivation behind events to serve classgoers who don’t like milongas:

    Milonga Uno is designed to be fun. It is not in any way a traditional milonga – we offer this format on other nights, as do most other organisers. Milonga Uno is for people who enjoy dancing, having fun and going out for a great social evening. The music is skillfully mixed by Steve to include some real gems of Argentine tango, vals and milonga, but more than half of the playlist will be alternative, modern music that tango dancers can connect to rhythmically and emotionally.

    There are no tandas (a collection of 3 or 4 tracks followed by a cortina). Music is played track by track to encourage dancers to dance one track at a time instead of adhering to the ‘finish the tanda whatever happens rule’. Its a party, not a trial by jury!

    From http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/tango-uk/message/17696

  9. BTW: Theo only thing that is called ‘milongas’ is the retro ‘old school’ stuff. Maybe, they don’t call them ‘milongas’, but there are plenty of NeoTango dance parties in LaPata & Montevideo. I stay out of BsAs. Its sort of stuffy or touristic,

  10. Zana Fong says:

    great article and as a beginner I CAN NOT WAIT to finally attend an alternative Milonga 😉 ~ I would like to see traditional and modern music co exist at Milonga’s since I do like a few traditional ones but for sure will listen in my car or at home alternative and not traditional music. Sad to see that it is mostly either or and not both and hope that it will evolve. The younger generation and new students will hear alternative tango music first and not traditional I bet – so to make it easier I do not understand why there is such a struggle to incorporate both and make everybody happy?

  11. Chris says:

    I do not understand why there is such a struggle to incorporate both and make everybody happy?

    The struggle comes from the fact that incorporating both does not make everyone happy. Most people like one much less than the other. An event that combines the two often satisfies only the few people who like both. Like a restaurant that served both Indian and Italian food – on the same plate.

    The way to satisfy those who prefer tango and those who prefer alternative is to provide separate events for each, letting each individual choose as much of each as he or she desires. Provide a combined event only of the locality really does have enough people who want the two mixed together.

  12. tangovoice says:

    The alternative milonga presents a philosophical dilemma. Utilizing movements characteristic of dancing tango while non-tango music is being played is a paradox, even an oxymoron. There is no counterpart in Argentine culture. An Alternative Milonga is not part of Argentine tango culture. It is a foreign fabrication.

    The belief that playing non-tango music for dancing tango will attract more people from a foreign culture to tango is subject to disbelief. Playing non-tango music for dancing tango breeds a culture that attracts people who do not like tango music, and institutionalizes the playing of non-tango music at milongas, while diminishing the perceived value of classic tango music.

    Playing non-tango music at a milonga will also serve as a mechanism to drive away people who appreciate the accurate representation of tango culture.

    None of these arguments address the obvious fact that non-tango music is not suitable for dancing tango. The tango dance is defined by the music, so using tango steps while music with a cha-cha rhythm is playing is more correctly identified as an evolution in the interpretation of cha-cha than it is a representation of the evolution of tango.

    The non-Argentine character of the Alternative Milongas demands a justification for calling the event a ‘milonga’. This is why the ‘Neolonga’ terminology for these events is recommended instead above. This is a foreign mutation of tango, not an expression of Argentine Tango.

    • Chris says:

      It is interesting to consider the words of Carlos Libidensky on the dancing that inspired him to create his alternative music:

      “There was something that seemed strange to me. There were many people experimenting with a new form of dancing, but the music they were dancing to didn’t seem to me to harmonize.”

      That’s what’s traditionally known as bad dancing.

      From that foundation, the rest, as they say, is history 🙂

    • I have come to the conclusion that only Argentine tangos performed prior to 1950 should be allowed at milongas.

      No modern tango music like Gotan or Otras Aires. No tango nuevo like Piazzolla, Ramirez or Pugliese, just the ‘Golden Age” classics.

      In fact, playing waltzes & milongas are a bit too alternative. They should be banned from milongas, especially milonga uruguaya or colombiano.

      Stick to Argentina only, none of those perverse Italian tango. And God forbid, not any of those tangos by Pola Negri or any of the Russians.

      The only music that should be allowed at milongas is Argentine “Golden Age” tangos.

      In addition, the dancers need to stop doing those nuevo moves like ganchos & boleos. They should stick to the old milonguero style and quit trying to improvise.

      • tangovoice says:

        “I have come to the conclusion that only Argentine tangos performed prior to 1950 should be allowed at milongas.”

        Most music played for dancing tango at milongas in Buenos Aires is from the 1930s and 40s. There is some music played from the 1950s, in particular from the orquestas of DiSarli, DeAngelis, and Pugliese. Pugliese after 1960 is rarely played.

        “In fact, playing waltzes & milongas are a bit too alternative. They should be banned from milongas, especially milonga uruguaya or colombiano.”

        Valses and milongas from the Golden Age orquestas are an integral part of the music program played at milongas in Buenos Aires.

      • Not ready for satire, eh? Hey, when the times change, the music changes. And when the music changes, the dance changes. So, it has been. And, shall forever be.

      • tangovoice says:

        “Not ready for satire, eh?”

        It was apparent that the previous post was in jest.

        “Hey, when the times change, the music changes. And when the music changes, the dance changes. So, it has been. And, shall forever be.”

        Until it is no longer recognizable as tango. Then it should be given another name.

        When influences from dances such as habanera, polka, mazurka, contradanza, and candombe merged to form a new dance in the 19th century, it became milonga, then tango.

        When underarm turns and partner separation, characteristics of American ballroom dances (and other dances) merge with movements characteristic of tango, non-Argentine music is used as a background for these performing these movements, and off axis movements and high body (e.g., waist) wrapping movements uncharacteristic of tango enter the dance repertoire, this may be the evolution of tango or it may also be a speciation event, where a new dance that cannot occupy the same niches has been born and deserves a new name.

        Today in the milongas of Buenos Aires, tango is danced in a manner similar to the way it was danced 60 years ago. This is still tango and it is still very much alive. Arguments advocating the evolution of tango deny the continued survival of tango traditions 60-80 years old.

        As for the temporal relationship between the dance and the music, much of the new music is not tango so, by definition, what is danced to this music cannot be tango.

  13. Chris says:

    Tango Voice wrote: “Most music played for dancing tango at milongas in Buenos Aires is from the 1930s and 40s. There is some music played from the 1950s

    I’ve heard traditional BA milongas play music from as late as the 1990’s e.g. Miguel Villasboas tango-milongas.

    • tangovoice says:

      Yes, milongas and valses of Villasboas are used sparingly in some milongas. Music from other post Golden Age orquestas are played even less frequently.

      • The post 50’s couples dance forms that have been derived from traditional milonguero style tango do have other names – International Ballroom Tango, American Ballroom Tango, Tango Nuevo, NeoTango, Blues Tango, Salon Tango, Bar-room Tango, Tango Fusion, and even “the funky tango”. And, all of the national styles, from Finnish to Taiwanese. I don’t think many people have it confused.

        It is the preservationists that can’t accept that people innovate and integrate the music & the dance into their own culture and times. Its nice that there are some conservationists that preserve the old forms. But, they shouldn’t expect people living in the 21st century to continue to repeat the past ad infinitum.

        I think that almost all of the Nuevo & Neo dancers & composers subscribe to Picasso’s dictum – “Learn the rules like a professional, so that you can break them like an artist”.

      • tangovoice says:

        “It is the preservationists that can’t accept that people innovate and integrate the music & the dance into their own culture and times. Its nice that there are some conservationists that preserve the old forms. But, they shouldn’t expect people living in the 21st century to continue to repeat the past ad infinitum.”

        It is the self-annointed innovators who can’t accept the fact that they are ignorant of Argentine tango culture and its associated norms of behavior that flourish today in Buenos Aires (https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2009/12/13/codes-and-customs-of-the-milongas-of-buenos-aires-the-basics/). If they respected Argentine tango culture they wouldn’t smoother it out of existence by ostentatious exhibition at milongas and demand foreign cultures accept whatever innovation is thrust upon a naïve consumer population as the inevitable evolution of tango. If not off-axis movements performed without regard to other dancers on the floor with non-tango music playing in the background as the ingenious creation of artists without a cultural point of reference, why not Yoga Tango, Tai-chi Tango, or Tango Capoeira. The fusion possibilities are endless, but none of them are Argentine Tango.

        => I think that almost all of the Nuevo & Neo dancers & composers subscribe to Picasso’s dictum – “Learn the rules like a professional, so that you can break them like an artist”.

        It is convenient to select a phrase uttered by a respected artist and apply it in support of an irrelevant argument. Tango is a dance with a cultural heritage of norms of behavior and every self-appointed Picasso breaking the rules is only mindlessly creating chaos on the social dance floor in the spirit of creativity. Baseball is a game with rules that have changed little in over 100 years; the maintenance of these rules and the agreement of participants to abide by them leads to harmonious interaction among participants. With respect to tango – it an innovation doesn’t fit on the social dance floor – it is not social tango and should not be used at a milonga.

      • Actually, I agree that there should be no innovative moves like boleos, ganchos, colgadas, volcados or sentadas at a milonga. Innovation should be reserved for neolongas and alternative tango parties. Everything should be done to preserve milongas as historical timepieces that capture those unique unique two decades between 1918 and 1938, in Argentina. If the move wasn’t done then, it should not be done at a milonga.

      • tangovoice says:

        “Actually, I agree that there should be no innovative moves like boleos, ganchos, colgadas, volcados or sentadas at a milonga. Innovation should be reserved for neolongas and alternative tango parties.”

        If this was the prevailing sentiment, there would much less conflict at tango social dance events advertised as milongas.

        “Everything should be done to preserve milongas as historical timepieces that capture those unique unique two decades between 1918 and 1938, in Argentina. If the move wasn’t done then, it should not be done at a milonga.”

        Why not use 1898-1918 as the model years for emulation? After all, this is the original, authentic primordial tango. Anything that came afterwards represents a decay of the original creation.

        Add to this the requirement that the true tango may only be danced in a museum, because it is extinct today.

        Seriously, the years 1918-1938 are not the standard for contemporary milongas. The years 1945-55 are a better representation of the tango that has survived decades. The elusive point that has escaped consensus in this discussion is that the tango of the latter years of the Golden Age is still very much alive in one hundred or more milongas in Buenos Aires today. Tango de Salon (including Tango Milonguero) is not dead, nor has it been substantially transformed. The same cannot be said for milongas in the First World, where Tango de Salon is smothered by Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario, as well as inferior imitations of both. Tango Nuevo is an evolutionary experiment. Perhaps in 10-20 years it will be studied by tango academicians contemplating the causes of its demise.

      • Chris says:

        Raymond said: “I think that almost all of the Nuevo & Neo dancers & composers subscribe to Picasso’s dictum – “Learn the rules like a professional, so that you can break them like an artist”.

        I think you’re right – because almost all of the nuevo & neo dancers & composers are professionals, artists or other kinds of tango workers.

        But I do wonder why anyone would think this relevant to real social dancers.

      • Well, its because there is a market for teaching people Nuevo & Neo moves, like boleos, ganchos, sentadas, etc. And, the people that take these classes are social dancers.

        You know there are tango communities that are so conservative that they find ‘rotary tango’ offensive. The tango evolved from the day it was born. Today’s milongeros do not dance the way they did in the twenties. For one thing, their stance is generally erect rather than bent over, and their hands are held at shoulder height rather than below the waist.

        Granted, their way of dancing would be pretty uncomfortable for most of us. That is probably why noone dances that way except for exhibitions.

      • Chris says:

        Raymond wrote: “Well, its because there is a market for teaching people Nuevo & Neo moves, like boleos, ganchos, sentadas, etc. And, the people that take these classes are social dancers.

        In my experience those people are generally class dancers. Very few become social dancers. Most quit or become instructors.

  14. Raymond says:

    Out of curiosity.

    Do you consider Carlo Buti’s “La Paloma” to Tango Extranjero or Golden Age? What about Pola Negri’s “Tango Notturno”?

    They certainly are not in the canon of ‘Golden Age’ tango. But, they are from the same time frame.

    Tango has been world music since its beginning.

    • tangovoice says:

      La Paloma is a song composed by Sebastian Iradier from Spain in the 1860’s. Although it predates tango, it is based on the habanera rhythm that was incorporated into tango. Carlo Buti’s version clearly is not Argentine Tango. Pola Negri’s version of Tango Notturno, from the 1937 German film ‘Tango Notturno‘, is very interesting in that it has characteristics of rhythm, vocal interpretation, and orchestration that are similar to Argentine Tangos from the same era (e.g., Donato’s ‘La Melodia del Corazon‘). Both ‘La Paloma’ and ‘Tango Nottuno’, having been composed outside of the tango cultural environment in Argentina are, by definition, Tango Extranjero, although Tango Notturno has some of the characteristics of an Argentine Tango.

      • Raymond says:

        Nice, thoughtful analysis. I thank you. I agree with most. And the rest was new revelations.

        I really dislike the term ‘Alternative’. It establishes the concept that there is one ‘golden standard canon’, and everything that deviates from that is an alternative.

        Tango has been international or foreign (extranjero) since the invention of recorded music & radio. There is come really great music in the canon. But, there is just as great music outside it. All of which is very danceable.

      • Chris, UK says:

        Raymond wrote: “I really dislike the term ‘Alternative’.

        One hears that a lot from people who don’t like mainstream.

        It establishes the concept that there is one ‘golden standard canon’

        Not all bad, then 🙂

        there is just as great music outside it. All of which is very danceable.

        The term ‘alternative’ does not say that such music is not danceable. It says only that it is an alternative to the music that constitutes the mainstream tango — that’s the tango that people traditionally most enjoy for dancing.

      • Raymond says:

        I guess I don’t like the term ‘mainstream’ either. It implies that there is a large majority in the so-called ‘mainstream’ and that everything else is peripheral.

        In a recent survey of 3,000 tango dancers worldwide, it turns out that 35% of them prefer Golden Age music over all other forms of tango. In fact, it was about equal to those that preferred tango nuevo & neotango. In addition, many people prefer tangos that are in their native language (extranjero).

        If you reflect on this, its to be expected. The growth of the tango community is largely outside of Argentina, and only about 30% of the people in world understand Spanish. It makes sense that Vietnamese dancers want to dance to Vietnamese tangos.

      • Chris, UK says:

        Raymond wrote: “I guess I don’t like the term ‘mainstream’ either. It implies that there is a large majority in the so-called ‘mainstream’ and that everything else is peripheral.

        That indeed what mainstream means.

        In a recent survey of 3,000 tango dancers worldwide […]

        Tango dancers found on the internet rather than in milongas, I’d guess.

        It makes sense that Vietnamese dancers want to dance to Vietnamese tangos.

        Agreed. But while Vietnamese tango is less popular than Argentine tango, it also makes sense that ‘mainstream’ refers to the Argentine kind — the kind preferred by a majority of tango dancers worldwide.

      • Raymond says:

        You are right. The survey was of tango dancers contacted thru the Internet – FaceBook, Twitter, email, etc. It was not a one-on-one survey of the people entering milongas around the world.

        But, the tango community has been rapidly growing in recent years. It is important to find ways to ’embrace’ this diversity, and not establish barriers that create elitist divisions in the community.

        Abazo

      • Chris, UK says:

        Raymond wrote: It is important to find ways to ‘embrace’ this diversity

        Important for whom, I wonder…

        and not establish barriers that create elitist divisions in the community.

        Identifying milongas as mainstream or alternative does not “establish barriers”. It helps each individual find the kind of music and dancing that suits him/her best.

      • Raymond says:

        There are simply better, more considerate, terminology that can be used. For example, “Golden Age”, and NeoTango, and Tango Nuevo. There is truly alternative Non-Tango tango dancing. But, that is to music that in no way considers itself to be tango.

        Here is a nice example of Neo/Nuevo style dancing to traditional ‘Golden Age’ music.

        There a lot of cross-overs and a lot creative people.

      • tangovoice says:

        This is tango dancing, but it is not tango for the social dance floor. It is exhibition tango. Many of the movements used create collision hazards on the milonga dance floor. Also, dancing at the milonga is dancing for your partner, not for an audience. Attracting attention with exhibition moves is in poor taste.

      • Raymond says:

        Picky, picky, picky. What if you are skillful & capable of judging the floor. And your partner enjoys it. Its not a choreographed performance. Its improv.

      • Felicity says:

        What if you *think* you’re skilful and you misjudge? It happens all the time, from skilful dancers and people who ape them, with less skill. There was a photo on facebook that whizzed round the tango dance world in hours a few months ago. A woman had been gored by a heel taken off the floor probably in the kinds of moves typical of people who dance to music that is not designed social dancing. She spent six hours in the emergency room to fix a nasty wound. I bet she wished the person who did it had been quite a bit pickier, about time, place, choice of movement. I don’t go to those places the number of moves I see like that is vastly reduced, and the number of accidents.

        Re poor taste, I think it’s only poor taste if it comes into conflict with people whose taste differ. When it’s done collectively perhaps it’s just what another group likes.

  15. Felicity says:

    Why should differences imply elitism?

    I don’t know what “community” you mean. There are people who dance to tango music and people who don’t. I have nothing to do with people who don’t dance to tango music because they aren’t part of my world and I’m not part of theirs. We like different music, we go to different social dance events. So, community?! Those dancers often don’t like the music I dance to and I can only dance to music that makes me want to dance, which is music from roughly 1930 to 1953. That’s tango music. I dance tango. Other people dance other music and they dance it in a different way to the ways I see people dancing to the music I like. What the people do who dance what they call other forms of tango has really got nothing to do with what I do. I don’t know why they call it tango – it’s not tango music & since the dance I do springs from tango music, I can’t see how it can be called dancing tango.

    I don’t care whether people think I’m a “conservationist” or a “traditionalist” or “stuck in the past” or a “museum exhibit”. I don’t feel like I am any of those things. I don’t care about those terms. The music I dance to feels incredibly alive no matter that it was recorded seventy odd years ago. It must be to make me want to move when I hear it. I care about that music and dance and places with the right conditions to dance with people who feel the music the way I do and want to dance it with me. I don’t even think of those derogatory terms except in as much as “traditional tango” is a convenient shorthand for the kind of music I dance to. Only one kind of music can make me feel like dancing the way I dance when I dance tango. Only that music can take me to the places I go when I dance. Trying to dance with movements typical of tango to music that is not good tango feels wrong, a sham, fake, it’s just movement for me that isn’t deeply connected to the music. I wouldn’t do it. I can’t do it. I have no feeling to do it. If I belong to a “community”, and I’m not sure I do, it’s has people in it who feel the same way, it’s the people I dance with.

    • Raymond says:

      Everyone doesn’t need to like everything. I, for example, much prefer Gotan over Canaro. But, that doesn’t make me an elitist.

      Everyone has their favorite songs, composers and bands. But, to reject all the tango music that was not produced in Argentina between 1930 & 1950, and say that it is not tango, is both insulting and elitist.

      You probably even reject late Troilo, a little to rhythmic. I don’t care whether you LIKE it or not. But, it is tango. And so is Piazzolla, Pugliese, Zitarossa, Rodriguez, Leao, and the hundreds of tango composers that came in the latter half of the 20th Century, not to mention all of the 21st tango groups, like Gotan, Bajofondo, San Telmo, Tango Conspiracy, Tanghetto, Electrocutango, and on and on.

      All of these people are modern composers & musicians that are produce tremendous works of art.

      You can stay with your comfort zone. But, don’t be surprised by Neo & Nuevo dancers dancing to those old ‘Golden Age’ favorites. And in the same way, don’t go around insulting these artists by saying “It’s not tango”.

      • Felicity says:

        “Everyone doesn’t need to like everything. I, for example, much prefer Gotan over Canaro. But, that doesn’t make me an elitist.”
        Oh, well, I’m very glad to hear that. You’d said that barriers create elitist divisions in the [disputed] community.

        I’m glad you’re not elitist. Neither am I. So barriers don’t cause elitism. In fact, I see no roadblocks, no barriers. I see people exercising choice to go to different types of events and that is great.

        What is puzzling to me is what you don’t seem to like about that setup and why you like arguing over things that are apples and oranges, and not the same things at all. What’s even stranger is that for someone who seems to want us all in the same “community” you’re seem sensitive about plenty of things. Perhaps that’s because we don’t have the same ideas about, well, much at all. Perhaps since we have such different ideas, we actually belong to different communities.

        “You probably even reject late Troilo, a little to rhythmic. ”
        I can’t imagine why you’d even say that. It’s a non-sequitur. I love plenty of rhythmic music. Actually, of mainstream, it’s the lush, orchestral Di Sarli I often sit out.

      • Felicity says:

        “You can stay with your comfort zone.”
        I tried to make it very clear in my last post that I don’t have a comfort zone. I have music that does and does not make me want to dance. It’s that simple. That is nothing to do with comfort zones. I used to dance to some of the stuff you mention. But it never called me the way good tango does, I never saved it, sought it out, started collecting it. And when I realised I was just moving about to the other stuff, just getting up because I was asked, not because I loved to dance it, I stopped. There is music that makes me dance and music that doesn’t. You would have me step away from that music and fake my feeling to dance to go back to stuff I don’t like so that I “rechallenge my preconceptions” and “re-explore my comfort zone”?! No thanks. So I’ll stick to the music I love and you stick you to yours with our separate events and I can’t see why everyone shouldn’t be very happy with that.

        “don’t go around insulting these artists by saying “It’s not tango”
        Sure, there is so much stuff that people dance to and call it tango dancing I forgot that people dance all the time to what many of us consider non-danceable tango, tango that many think is suitable for listening or for shows. It makes sense that people who like the kind of movememts you do see in shows do dance to that. Of course that’s fine. I just stay away from those events. Sometimes some of it creeps into trad milongas and the boundary of what that kind of music is seems to be different in different individuals and I tend to sit out that kind of music. But just because some people dance to tango that others never would want to by no means implies a similar community between those who like mainstream trad and people who mostly dance to other kinds of tango and non-tango.

      • R. Bononno says:

        I doubt Piazzola thought of himself as a “tango composer.” Based on everything I’ve read about him and the kind of music he wrote, he strove mightily to be taken seriously as a modern composer and break away from his roots in tango, so to speak. Most of the later tango music that we hear, including Troilo and Pugliese, is undanceable as far as I’m concerned and shouldn’t be played at a milonga. A lot of it is not very pleasant to listen to either. I’ll go as far as early Pugliese and the handful of pieces by Troilo (as great as he is) that can be danced to in a social environment. And much as I like Gotan Project, I dont’ want to hear them at a milonga.

      • Raymond says:

        Well luckily, in most major cities, including Buenos Aires, you have a choice of milongas. Some play only traditional music, some play neo/nuevo, some play alternative.

        My favorite milongas are the ones with sensitive DJs that can sense their audience and know the whole landscape of tango music. I love it when they alternate tandas between ‘alternative’ and ‘classical’ finishing the evening with ‘neo/nuevo’. This way, everyone gets at least one tanda that they love, and probably one that they hate. But, a good time may be had by all.

      • Chris, UK says:

        Raymond wrote “everyone gets at least one tanda that they love, and probably one that they hate. But, a good time may be had by all.

        I’m mystified as to how anyone would think subjecting people to music they hate is going to give them a good time.

        Do people who love, say, Italian food and hate Chinese food choose to go to a restaurant that serves the two mixed together?? No, of course not.

  16. Raymond says:

    Actually, I agree with almost everything that you say. I am exactly like you, but from the opposite perspective.

    For example, I think “Rayuela” is GOOD TANGO – one of the best.

    The reason that I suggested that you might sit out the late Troilo is that he was becoming influence by Pugliese & Piazzolla. But, I am glad to hear that you like it.

    • Felicity says:

      I didn’t say I liked late Troilo. I said to suggest that I didn’t like late Troilo because it was rhythmic was a non-sequitur and I said I do like rhythmic music. But I come across awful tracks by good orchestras all the time. Rhythmic apart, it depends on the track. I like some OTV, but too much of even the good stuff I start to find too shrill. I like some Lomuto but some I despair of, I like early Di Sarli and rhythmic Di Sarli, but not the Di Sarli I most often hear played. Stuff I wouldn’t dance to at home I sometimes find myself persuaded into in the milonga. It just depends on the track, how I feel, the partner, all sorts of things. But some tracks I find more reliably danceable than others.

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