The Rise and Fall of Tango Milonguero in North America in the 21st Century (Highlighting the Denver Tango Festival)

In the previous post (Trans-Cultural Diffusion and Adaptation of Tango Argentino in the 20th Century) the history of cultural transmission of Tango Argentino as a dance form to North America in the 20th century was reviewed. This transmission was biased due to cultural resistance and selective adoption, so that the tango social dance that developed in North America bore little resemblance to the Tango de Salon of the milongas of Buenos Aires. Noticeably absent from social tango dancing in North America during the 20th century was the maintained (closed) embrace characteristic of tango social dancing in Buenos Aires (The Essence of Tango Argentino). However, in the latter part of the 1990s, this was beginning to change. There were two factors that were primarily responsible for this. First, tango instructors from Argentina who taught Tango de Salon (in particular Tango Milonguero) began teaching tango workshops and training local community tango instructors in North America. Second, North American tango dancers began visiting Buenos Aires, where they experienced the tango social environment in the birthplace of tango (Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga).

The Introduction of Tango Milonguero in North America

Susana Miller was the tango instructor from Buenos Aires who, at times in conjunction with milongueros such as Pedro ‘Tete’ Rusconi and Oscar ‘Cacho’ Dante, introduced North American tango dancers to ‘Milonguero Style Tango’ in the mid 1990s (apparently first in 1995); this stylistic variant of Tango de Salon, characterized by a slightly forward leaning posture, compact movements, and a maintained (closed) embrace, was representative of the style of dancing tango common in the downtown milongas of Buenos Aires at the time. North American tango instructors who learned from Miller and taught Tango Milonguero in their local communities beginning in the late 1990s included Christopher Nassopoulos (San Francisco), Robert Hauk (Portland), and Barbara Durr (Atlanta). Other North American tango instructors, less directly linked to the tutelage of Miller, but teaching a similar stylistic variant of Tango de Salon with a maintained closed embrace, who were teaching social tango in North America by the end of the 20th century were Hsueh-tze Lee (Boston) and Tom Stermitz (Denver). In addition, Daniel Trenner (Boston), although primarily a proponent of Tango Estilo del Barrio in a modified form (i.e., without the embrace), also taught Tango Milonguero at times in ‘advanced’ classes (Tango-L post).

Despite the initiation of instruction in Tango Milonguero and related tango stylistic variants characterized by a maintained closed embrace (perhaps more appropriately together called ‘Tango Estilo del Centro’) in North American in the late 1990s, tango danced in a maintained closed embrace at milongas in North America was a rarity, concentrated mostly at milongas during tango weekends where a visiting instructor taught Tango Estilo Milonguero. Nevertheless a subculture of Tango Milonguero developed in North America. Visits to Buenos Aires and participation in milongas there further reinforced the individual decision to adopt Tango Milonguero as a preferred personal style of dancing.

The Rise of Tango Milonguero via the Denver Tango Festival

In September 2000 (Labor Day weekend) Tom Stermitz initiated a ‘Milonguero Weekend’ at the Mercury Café in Denver, Colorado, which was primarily designed as a social gathering for devotees of Tango Milonguero, but also included some instructional workshops. In May 2001 a similar Memorial Day tango weekend had also been added to the annual schedule of tango weekends. The second Labor Day weekend in September 2001 had already attracted over 250 people, including over 150 from around the United States outside of the Denver area. At the 2002 Denver Memorial Day Milonguero Weekend’ Susana Miller taught the workshops. Advertising for the event clearly stated a Tango Milonguero emphasis:

“Many Milongueros; Many Tango Languages”: The term “Milonguero” honors the style and dancing of the older gentlemen of the dance floors of Buenos Aires. Dancing in Denver recalls the Buenos Aires experience…. The milonguero weekend is about SOCIAL DANCING, not SHOW TANGO.

Workshops: In 5 classes Susana Miller will develop a “milonguero” tango language, starting with words, grammer, phrases and sentences. With so many dances and a focus on close-embrace, your dancing will be transformed….

Unlike many festivals, the primary focus is on social dancing, not show tango or exhibitions.

The 2002 Labor Day Milonguero Weekend included several North American instructors teaching Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro, as well as workshops / discussion groups on organizing and building tango communities. The Tango Milonguero focus was reiterated:

Milonguero Weekend: The theme is “milonguero-style” tango, meaning you should expect the dance floors to be crowded, and the music to be emphasize the rhythms of the 1930s & 1940s. This is not to criticize any other style, rather it is to share the experience with people who wish to dance like the crowded night clubs of Buenos Aires.

Again for the September 2005 festival it was stated:

What is Milonguero Style? The Denver Milonguero Festival honors the style of the great social dancers of Buenos Aires: close, subtle & romantic. Recapture that Buenos Aires experience!…

This is the style typical of crowded dance floors in Buenos Aires. Very-close embrace, use of ocho-cortados and rock-steps, navigation with tight turns.

Special themes this year: Milonguero from the Milongueros. Milonguero style dancers from Buenos Aires: Ricardo Vidort, and Dany Garcia & Silvana Valtz.

Elegant, Traditional Style Milonga. Play the eye game (cabeceo) at the Saturday evening milonga. Host seating will place men separate from women like traditional afternoon milongas in Buenos Aires.

(Note: Dany Garcia and Silvina Valz did not appear at the festival.)

By May 2003, the tango weekend was labeled as a ‘festival’, and although the naming of the festival has not been consistent, in September 2003, the name ‘Denver Labor Day Weekend Milonguero Festival’ was used, and the instructors were advertised as the ‘Top US teachers of “milonguero” or “club” style tango’. American instructors of Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro who were regularly involved in the early Denver festivals included Christopher Nassopoulos & Caroline Peattie (San Francisco), Robin Thomas (New York), Robert Hauk (Portland) Barbara Durr (Atlanta), and Hsueh-tze Lee (Boston); Brigitta Winkler from Germany (Berlin) was also regularly invited to teach at the early Denver tango festivals. There was also some representation in teaching by tango instructors from Buenos Aires (May 2002: Susana Miller; September 2002: Miguel Angel Balbi taught pre-festival workshops; September 2003: Eduardo Aguirre accompanied Yvonne Meissner from the Netherlands in teaching the pre-festival workshops; May 2005 and September 2005: Ricardo Vidort taught festival workshops; Tomas Howlin, an Argentine living in Montreal, also taught at the Denver festivals in May 2005 and May 2008).

By the 2004 Denver Memorial Day Tango Festival attendance had reached about 400 people. Thus, the Denver festivals provided a gathering place for learning and dancing, two times per year, for aficionados of Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro, many of whom had experience dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Photographs documenting the nearly universal adoption of the closed embrace characteristic of Tango Milonguero are available for the May 2003, the September 2004, and the September 2007 Denver festivals. Videos of milongas at the Denver festivals (May 2007: Saturday Milonga) (Sept 2007: Outdoor Milonga) (Sept 2007: Mercury Café) provide additional evidence that the overwhelming majority of dancers at the Denver tango festivals danced in a maintained embrace at the milongas. Instructor demonstrations reinforced the images of dancing Tango Milonguero (May 2005: Ricardo Vidort & Liz Haight) (Sept 2007: Instructor Group Demo).

The Denver Festival was highly influential in the cultural evolution of social tango dancing in North America in that it provided reinforcement for the practice of Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro and stimulated the spread of Tango Milonguero to tango communities throughout North American through expanded instruction, both by visiting instructors (often those who taught at the Denver festivals) and by local community instructors who had acquired the requisite skills. This led to the increased visibility of Tango Milonguero danced at milongas throughout North America. One tango community heavily influenced by the instructors who taught at the Denver tango festivals was Ann Arbor, Michigan, where students at the University of Michigan organized tango weekends and festivals at least 3 times per year that served as a focal point for dancers of Tango Milonguero in the Midwest USA. The Denver Festival was also a model for the Atlanta Tango Festival, which began in April 2005, and the San Diego Tango Festival, the latter also organized by Tom Stermitz from Denver, which began in January 2007 (See instructor demonstration at first San Diego Festival).

In 2006 Ray Barbosa initiated the annual Chicago Mini Tango Festival, which has been unique in consistently providing opportunities to teach tango for milongueros, including Pedro ‘Tete’ Rusconi, Pocho (Roberto Carreras) & Nelly (Nelida Fernando), Ruben Harymbat, Alberto Dassieu, and Blas Catrenau. This festival has employed mostly Argentines to teach Tango Milonguero, including such well known instructors as Susana Miller, Maria Plazaola, Oscar Casas, Maximiliano Gluzman, Alicia Pons, and Enriqueta Kleinman. This has provided additional opportunities for students of Tango Milonguero to learn directly from masters of the art of dancing tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires, and to practice dancing Tango Milonguero in milongas with other dancers with a similar interest.

Although the traditions of Tango Milonguero as danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires permeated the early Denver tango festivals , there were certain exceptions. In May 2003, the all female tango performance group Tango Mujer presented their tango stage show and members of the group taught the festival workshops; only Brigitta Winkler and, to some degree, Rebecca Shulman, had some prior experience teaching Tango Milonguero. Also at this festival, gender neutral tango dancing, uncharacteristic of milongas in Buenos Aires, was encouraged:

C. Workshops
(4) Women leaders and men followers are encouraged (not just tolerated).
D. Getting asked and asking for dances.
(2) Women are specifically permitted to ask guys for a dance.
(3) Women are specifically permitted to lead, both in workshops and in the dances.

(No mention was made of the use of the cabeceo in dance invitation.) It is also apparent that some of the workshops have covered topics outside the realm of Tango Milonguero. For example, in September 2002, Alex Krebs taught an Early Arrival workshop on ‘volcadas’; in May 2004 Homer Ladas taught a workshop on ‘Dynamic embrace or going between close and open’. The Alternative Milonga, featuring non-tango music to which dancers apply movements characteristic of tango, was initiated in May 2004 and has continued to this day. It also has been part of the Atlanta and San Diego Tango Festivals that otherwise have emphasized Tango Milonguero, but has not been incorporated into the Chicago Mini Tango Festival.

Nevertheless, despite these digressions from Tango Milonguero, the Denver Tango Festival and the similar Atlanta, Chicago and San Diego Tango festivals served in the mid 2000s as national gathering places (3 to 5 times per year) for dancers of Tango Milonguero in the United States.

The Turning Point: Gustavo Naveira Teaches Tango Milonguero in Boulder, Colorado

Gustavo Naveira, considered by many as a co-founder of Tango Nuevo, in conjunction with his partner Giselle Anne, have been teaching workshops in Boulder, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, since 2007; they currently maintain a residence and host a weekly practica in Boulder, and host the annual Boulder Tango Festival. Although many if not most instructors of Tango Nuevo (as defined by the teaching of amplified off axis movements; op. cit.), do not differentiate Tango Nuevo as a distinct genre of tango and, indeed, much of the instructional material is applicable for more than one genre of tango, the 2007 and 2008 Colorado Tango Encuentros with Gustavo and Giselle Anne contained instruction in the genre-defining off-axis movements.

A significant turning point in the history of tango festivals in the United States occurred in 2009. The theme of the 2009 Colorado Tango Encuentro with Gustavo & Giselle Anne was ‘Tango Milonguero’. This in itself was a significant change in topic coverage for the Colorado encuentros, but the change in the dates for the festival was also significant. Whereas the 2007 and 2008 encuentros were held in July, the 2009 encuentro in Boulder with Gustavo & Giselle Anne was scheduled to start September 7 – Labor Day – the day after the Denver Labor Day festival organized by Tom Stermitz ended. From the point of view of an organizer, it was a strategic move in that dancers coming to the Denver area for the Labor Day festival could remain in the area for the Tango Milonguero Seminario with Gustavo & Giselle Anne. However, dancers’ resources are not unlimited and when presented with the choice of participating in workshops on Tango Milonguero with familiar North American instructors or taking workshops on the same topic area with one of the most well-known tango instructor couples from Argentina, even given the added expense of studying with Gustavo & Giselle Anne (about $300 per person) versus studying with the Denver Festival instructors (about $150 per person), the opportunity of experiencing Gustavo & Giselle Anne’s approach to Tango Milonguero was probably considered by many an event not to be missed. Although exact figures on attendance and certainly economics are not available, the North American tango rumor mill (to be believed with caution) has spread reports that although attendance at milongas during the Labor Day weekend was consistent with previous festivals, attendance at workshops was significantly lower.

It needs to be stated that although there are some less than completely reliable assumptions being made in concluding that the Tango Milonguero Encuentro with Gustavo & Giselle Anne had a negative impact on the attendance at the Labor Day festival and thus its economic profitability, the reaction in the aftermath of this scheduling cannot be considered to be arbitrary. After the September 2009 scheduling of the Gustvao & Giselle Anne Seminario on Tango Milonguero immediately following the Denver Labor Day festival, the set of instructors teaching at future Denver Tango festivals, as well as San Diego Tango festivals, both organized by Tom Stermitz, changed signficantly. Instead of continuing with the previous set of tango instructors, most of whom focused primarily or even entirely on teaching Tango Milonguero / Tango Estillo del Centro, after the September 2009 ‘Turning Point’, most of the the instructors who were invited to teach at the Denver and the San Diego Tango festivals were more representative of Tango Nuevo and Tango Estillo Villa Urquiza than Tango Milonguero, even though these instructors may not specifically claim an affiliation with these styles or genres of tango.

Instructors known for teaching Tango Nuevo (with video examples of their teaching) who have taught at the Denver and San Diego Tango festivals since the Turning Point have included Homer & Cristina Ladas, Jaimes Friedgen & Christa Rodriguez, Carlos & Tova Moreno, and Murat & Michelle Erdemsel. The movements demonstrated in these videos are uncharacteristic of dancing in the milongas in Buenos Aires (and could lead to reprimand if used) and maladapted for dancing at crowded milongas anywhere in the world, including the festivals where they are taught.

There are also some instructors whose style of dancing is more characteristic of Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza / Tango Estilo del Barrio, who have been invited to teach at the Denver and San Diego Tango festivals only after the Turning Point. These include (with demonstrations referenced) Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt, Mauro Peralta & Marika Landry, Felipe Martinez & Maria Ybarra and Brian Nguyen & Yuliana Basmajyan. It should be noted that only Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt self-identify as dancing Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza and there are stylistic differences among the couples, but all of them maintain the embrace while walking and open out of the embrace for turns, characteristic of Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza, while they do not maintain the embrace throughout the dance (although Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt often do) as in Tango Milonguero, and they are not inclined to use the off-axis movements characteristic of Tango Nuevo, nor are they Stage Tango performers.

To indicate the significance of the changes in the sets of instructors who have been invited to the Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals, a table is presented below. Data were obtained from TangoColoradoNews, the Tango-A Archives and Tom Stermitz’s web site. To simplify presentation, instructors are classified as either ‘entirely or primarily Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro’ versus ‘NOT entirely or primarily Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro’. This dichotomy circumvents the needless argument from instructors of Tango Nuevo (and sometimes other stylistic preferences) who merge together all tango stylistic variations under the ‘One Tango Philosophy and thus deny or protest their own classification. The table is divided into 3 groups of instructors; those in Group A were invited to at least 20% of the 18 Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals from September 2002 (the first time multiple instructors from outside Denver were invited) to September 2009 (Period 1), and those in the Group C were invited to at least 20% of the 10 Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals from January 2010 to December 2012 (Period 2), i.e., after the Gustavo & Giselle Anne Tango Milonguero Seminario Turning Point. Those in the Group B were invited to at least 20% of the festivals in both periods.

Table: Listed are numbers and percentages of Denver and San Diego Tango Festival appearances of each instructor in Period 1 (September 2002 – September 2009) and Period 2 (January 2010 – December 2012).

(bold): Tango Milonguero only
(not bold): not only Tango Milonguero

Period 1    Period 2    Instructors

Group A:
11  61%     0   0%       Christopher Nassopoulos & Caroline Peattie
10  56%     1 10%       Robin Thomas
9    50%     0   0%       Robert Hauk
9    50%     0   0%       Hsueh-tze Lee
7    39%     0   0%       Barbara Durr
5    28%     0   0%       Yelena Sinelnikova
4    22%     0   0%       Tomas Howlin

Group B:
6    33%     3  30%       Brigitta Winkler
6    33%     4  40%       Marika Landry
5    28%     2  20%       Avik Basu

Group C:
1       7%    5  50%       Homer & Cristina Ladas
0       0%    3  30%       Jaimes Friedgen & Christa Rodriguez
3     17%    2  20%       Alex Krebs
2     11%    2  20%       Eric Jorissen
0       0%    2  20%       Ney Melo
0       0%    2  20%       Mauro Peralta
0       0%    2  20%       Brian Nguyen & Yuliana Basmajyan
0       0%    2  20%       Felipe Martinez
0       0%    2  20%       Shorey Myers
0       0%    2  20%       Mike Melixi & Carrie Field

It is apparent from this table that there was a significant shift away from instructors teaching only Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro in Period 1 to instructors NOT specifically identified with Tango Milonguero in Period 2. There were 6 instructors or instructor couples consistently identified with Tango Milonguero (Christopher Nassopoulos & Caroline Peattie, Robin Thomas, Robert Hauk, Hsueh-tze Lee, Barbara Durr, Yelena Sinelnikova) who taught repeatedly at the Denver and San Diego festivals in Period 1, and of these only Robin Thomas taught once (May 2011) in Period 2. In Period 2, only one instructor (Eric Jorissen) who is identified specifically with teaching Tango Milonguero has taught at 20% or more of the festivals. The other 9 instructors or instructor couples in Group C who have taught at 20% of the Denver and San Diego tango festivals in Period 2 are not specifically identified with Tango Milonguero, and most could readily be classified as placing an emphasis on Tango Nuevo or Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza, as identified from the teaching and demonstration videos presented above. Thus, for the most part, the only instructors to survive the transition that occurred after Gustvo Naveira and Giselle Anne taught their Seminario on Tango Milonguero in Boulder in September 2009 were instructors who were not specifically identified with Tango Milonguero (Group B) and new instructors who were invited after this turning point were instructors who were, for the most part, not specifically identified with Tango Milonguero.

When examining the details of the changes in the Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals following the Gustavo & Giselle Anne Tango Milonguero Turning Point, the rationale for this radical pivot in the dance orientation of invited instructors is understandable. If Gustavo Naveira & Giselle Anne, popular worldwide promoters of Tango Nuevo, can teach Tango Milonguero effectively (as probably they can to some degree) and draw a large audience, then other instructors who are popular in North America in part because of their promotion of Tango Nuevo may also be able to teach Tango Milonguero effectively, and they also may be able to attract more festival attendees because some dancers who were initially attracted to them because of their Tango Nuevo instructional offerings would follow them to the Denver and San Diego Festivals to improve their knowledge and practice of Tango Milonguero. Add popular instructors from the increasingly well-received Tango Estilo Villa Uquiza, and it would still be possible to maintain the theme of a festival that focuses on Tango de Salon, the tango of the milongas of Buenos Aires at the same time attendance is increased within the competitive economic realm of tango festivals.

It has not been possible to retrieve information on workshop titles from all Period 2 Denver and San Diego Tango festivals. For those that are available, it is apparent that the terms ‘milonguero’ and ‘close embrace’ are still used in labeling content for some workshops, indicating some consistency with Period 1 workshop content, and there are additional workshops for which the stylistic variants of tango portrayed are not evident, but for which one cannot at face value conclude the content was not consistent with Tango Milonguero or more generally, Tango de Salon. Nevertheless, from the workshop topics alone, there is some leakage of information regarding at least some topics taught that are inconsistent with Tango de Salon. Those identified include the following:

January 2010 San Diego Festival: Brigitta Winkler & Fabienne Bongard: ‘Play with enganches’

May 2011 Denver Tango Festival: Mauro Peralta & Marika Landry: ‘Change of dynamics using ganchos’ and ‘Suspension movements: types of colgada movement adapted for crowded milongas’.

September 2011 Denver Tango Festival: Felipe Martinez & Tara Fortier: ‘Mini-colgaditas for the social dance floor’

May 2012 Denver Tango Festival: Homer & Cristina Ladas: ‘Social volcada-wraps’

December 2012 San Diego Tango Festival: Homer & Cristina Ladas: ‘One social over-turned gancho’

By specifically stating that off-axis movements and leg wraps are ‘social’ or are ‘for crowded milongas’, this sends the message that these movements are socially acceptable, although they still have not reached that level of acceptability in milongas in Buenos Aires. This expansion of the boundaries of Tango Milonguero for foreign audiences is often advertised as ‘Nuevo Milonguero’, an appellation apparently designed to provide legitimacy for the movements within the social environment of the milonga. Thus, the Denver and San Diego Tango Festival instructors are redefining the acceptable boundaries of social tango for North America.

Workshop titles are not always reliable indicators of content. Videos of teaching at the Denver and San Diego Tango festivals, which could document topical coverage, are rare. However, one available video indicates that even in a workshop with a non-informative title, violations of the codes of the milongas of Buenos Aires can be demonstrated. In this workshop by Homer & Cristina Ladas entitled ‘Long steps in compact spaces’, several ganchos are incorporated into a class demonstration sequence.

Demonstrations given by instructors at the Denver and San Diego festivals also reveal a change in the characteristics of the type of tango portrayed in the festivals. Whereas in Period A instructor demonstrations adhered to the characteristics of Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro, in Period B this has not been the case, as is seen in the following instructor exhibitions: Alex Krebs & Diana Cruz (September 2010); Jaimes Friedgen & Christa Rodriguez (September 2011); Homer & Cristina Ladas (May 2012); and instructor group demo (May 2012). The Denver Tango Festival also now offers the non-traditional so-called ‘tango rap’ of Momo Smitt, which some dancers appear to find suitable for dancing steps characteristic of tango.

It is apparent that the change in instructors and performers invited to the Denver and San Diego festivals after the September 2009 Turning Point has altered the image of tango offered to attendees. However, the impact on dancing at milongas is more subtle. In this video of a milonga at the September 2011 Denver festival, it is apparent that the overwhelming majority of dancers are dancing a variant of tango that is within the range of stylistic variation of Tango Milonguero / Tango Estilo del Centro. However, upon closer inspection, often by observing dancers in the middle of the floor, it is apparent that the embrace is valued less, with the arm-pinching kidney hold by women having become more common, and anti-social movements such as high boleos, volcadas, and ganchos have crept into the dancing repertoires of some of the Denver festival attendees, characteristics that were rare in Period 1 festivals.

It should be noted that the Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals are still currently advertised as:

A Tango festival “By Dancers; For Dancers”. T he Denver Tango Festivals are a special treat for all tango dancers who love the social tango popular in the milongas of Buenos Aires: close, subtle & romantic.

At the milongas this description is apparently still reasonably true. However, some of the workshop material and the demonstrations by instructors are not characteristic of the ‘social tango popular in the milongas of Buenos Aires’. Thus, the Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals no longer provide a supportive environment for the Tango Milonguero adherent minority that exists and appears to be rapidly diminishing in North America today. The Atlanta Festival, also having provided that supporting environment (milonga video), was last held in 2010, so that is one additional venue that is no longer available to aficionados of Tango Milonguero.

The Chicago Mini-Tango Festival, in its 8th year, still continues to offer instruction in Tango Milonguero / Tango de Salon almost exclusively, with almost all instructors having experience teaching Tango de Salon in Buenos Aires and being knowledgeable about dancing conditions and customs in Buenos Aires milongas. In fact, the 2013 program of instructors (Alicia Pons, Oscar Casas & Ana Miguel, Osvaldo Natucci & Enriqueta Kleinman, Pablo Rodriguez & Eva Garlez) is one of the most consistently Tango Milonguero programs (at around $300 per person for the entire program: Registration) this festival has offered. However, milongas at the Chicago festival (video1) (video2) (video3) have rarely achieved the harmony of a cohort of dancers practicing Tango Milonguero, in part because there have not been local (Chicago) instructors consistently providing instruction in Tango Milonguero and because the existing local instructors and their students have demonstrated ignorance of the codes of conduct regarding navigation on crowded floors and injection of stage moves onto the milonga dance floor. There have been some good demonstrations of Tango Milonguero by milongueros at the Chicago Mini Tango Festival (e.g., Ruben Harymbat & Alicia Pons; Blas Clemente Catrenau & Enriqueta Kleinman), but there have also been some demonstrations by invited instructors that do not depict Tango de Salon (e.g., Gustavo Benzecry Sabá & Maria Olivera; Daniela Pucci & Luis Bianchi). ‘Tango rap’ has also found an open microphone at this festival. Thus, the tango images and opportunities presented by the Chicago Mini Tango Festival are inconsistent, and it has not to date offered an adequate Tango Milonguero refuge to dancers of this stylistic variant of tango.

The Aftermath of the Altered Focus of the Denver Tango Festivals

Perhaps as a response to the loss of a Tango Milonguero focus in the Denver, San Diego and now defunct Atlanta Tango Festivals, recently there have been a few attempts to host events with a specific Tango Milonguero focus in North America. The website Siempre Milonguero, dedicated to this purpose, states:

Siempre Milonguero is an unincorporated association organized to advocate Argentine Tango in the Milonguero Style. Siempre Milonguero seeks to preserve and promote the culture, philosophy, and dance form of traditional social tango developed throughout the Golden Age of Argentine Tango (1935-1952) and still danced in the tango salons of Argentina today.

As an association based in the U.S., we seek to connect dancers and organizers within the Milonguero Style tango communities in North America. We support dancers committed to good navigational skills, traditional music, and the codes of the dance, by listing venues and events that share these interests.

Siempre Milonguero proposes the hosting of ‘encuentros’:

Encuentros are small, cozy tango retreats hosted by rotating communities and attended by those communities and our larger network of dancers. Encuentros can offer the opportunity to learn from highly respected milonguero maestros from Argentina and around the world, or can just be a place for like-minded people gather and dance. Encuentros are a place for committed milongueros to learn from and dance with each other in a venue that encourages and supports the codes and atmosphere of the traditional Buenos Aires milongas.

On its ‘Latest News’ page, three events of this type are listed, for San Diego, for Salida, Colorado, and for New York City; only the New York City event had multiple instructors. To some degree the ‘Encuentros Milongueros’ appear to be associated with hosting Susana Miller to teach tango, which more or less replicates the situation that existed in North America with respect to Tango Milonguero in the 1990s, before the initiation of the Denver Tango Festivals. Given its short history and the low visibility of these efforts, it is not clear to what degree these encuentros will diversify in their offerings and succeed in replacing the impact of the past Denver, San Diego, and Atlanta Tango Festivals.

Summary and Conclusions

The Denver Tango Festival and its descendants, the Atlanta and San Diego Tango Festivals, have provided a place for aficionados of Tango Milonguero in North America to gather several times per year to participate in tango activities where the overwhelming majority of dancers have danced tango in a manner similar to the way it is danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires, and to learn from instructors who teach Tango Milonguero. However, a pivotal event that upset this equilibrium was the September 2009 Seminario on Tango Milonguero given by Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne in Boulder, Colorado immediately following the Denver Labor Day Tango Festival. After this Turning Point, a significant transformation occurred in the Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals organized by Tom Stermitz. Although the theme of the festivals was still advertised as ‘social tango’, the invited instructors were no longer the group of instructors who taught Tango Milonguero exclusively or even emphasized it in their teaching tours; i.e., a number of the instructors invited subsequently instead were popular instructors of Tango Nuevo (as indeed are Gustavo & Giselle Anne). Although after the Turning Point phrases such as ‘close embrace’ and ‘milonguero’ still accompanied some workshop titles for the Denver and San Diegeo festivals, characteristics of Tango Nuevo, such as ‘enganches’, ‘ganchos’, ‘colgadas’ and ‘volcadas’ also entered the pedagogic vocabularly. Demonstrations by instructors became even less connected with Tango Milonguero. Although the majority of dancers at the milongas still have been dancing a style of tango resembling the Tango Milonguero of the milongas of Buenos Aires, the nearly universal focus on a maintained embrace in social tango dancing has lessened and anti-social elements such as high boleos, ganchos and volcadas have become more prominent not only in the workshops and demonstrations, but also on the milonga dance floor.

By claiming the focus of these festivals is still ‘social tango’, an attempt to redefine social tango in North America is being undertaken. In the first 10 years of its existence, the Denver Tango Festival promoted Tango Miloinguero and was the focal point among national (US) tango festivals in doing so. The environment created was intended to resemble the environment of the milongas of Buenos Aires. However, without a corresponding change in the environment of the milongas of Buenos Aires, the Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals have redefined ‘social tango’ to be that communicated, to a significant degree, by instructors whose teaching is more likely to emphasize Tango Nuevo than Tango Milonguero. This newly defined ‘social tango’ is a reflection of the One Tango Philosophy that mixes elements of Tango de Salon, Tango Escenario, and Tango de Practica on the milonga dance floor to replace a partner and music oriented dance with a movement exploration based dance that is often maladapted for the social environment of the milonga. The failure of the One Tango Philosophy is that it neglects to recognize the adaptation of different genres of tango to different environmental niches (Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression: Part I – A Rationale for Classification by Niche Adaptation). However, the ability to offer additional movement possibilities in teaching this Unified Tango introduces a flexibility that is successful in the tango marketplace because tango consumers will continually find new movement options to purchase at tango festivals.

The failure of Tango Milonguero as a festival option to survive in the tango free enterprise market is due largely to the cultural determined expectations of tango consumers. In the North American cultural environment, where showiness in dance is valued, it was inevitable that the visual conspicuousness of Tango Nuevo and Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza would displace Tango Milonguero within the niche of ‘social tango’ dancing. Tango festivals are expensive to operate, yet successful ones can generate significant income for organizers such that it is not necessary to seek income outside of tango. The decision to discard Tango Milonguero because of its economic disadvantages is indeed a logical one, based upon the economic and cultural constraints of the foreign environmental niche in which it is offered as a version of tango.

Prior to the Tango Renaissance of the 1980s, tango in the Rio de Plata region spread primarily as an urban folk dance, driven by the desire of the people to participate in their living culture. Among aficionados of Tango Milonguero worldwide, there is a subculture in which dancers participate, one in which man, woman, tango music, and the others on the milonga dance floor merge their common interests to form a unified participation in a shared tango experience. This was the atmosphere generated in the early Denver Tango Festivals. In its transformation to an emphasis on an externally projected tango populated with movement tricks, catalyzed by exhibitions from the currently popular North American tango celebrities associated with Tango Nuevo, the Denver Tango Festival has evolved to resemble the large majority of tango festivals that are stocked with tango clothing and shoe vendors and yoga classes, i.e., a commercial enterprise designed more to consume the economic resources of tango dancers than to educate them on tango culture.

In order for Tango Milonguero to survive as a subculture outside the Rio de la Plata region, it is necessary for aficionados of Tango Milonguero to eschew tango commercialism and embrace tango culture. Instead of participating in the commercialized tango marketplace with idolized celebrities that now constitute tango festivals, Tango Milonguero dancers should gather together with the purpose of dancing and sharing the culture of the Buenos Aires milongas. There is no need to collect hundreds of dollars (or more) from 400 more festiveros captured by mass marketing to experience tango as it is danced in the milongas in Buenos Aires. An inexpensive gathering of 100, even 80 or 60 Buenos Aires experienced dancers in a weekend of milongas with other non-workshop activities, similar to the ‘lindy exchange’ concept embraced by swing dancers, could replace commercialized tango festivals to meet the need of Tango Milonguero dancers. What is needed is a return to the ‘by dancers, for dancers’ concept upon which the Denver Milonguero Tango Weekends were originally based. Tango Milonguero should be recognized a cultural entity to be preserved, not an economic commodity to be modified for mass marketing.

54 Responses to The Rise and Fall of Tango Milonguero in North America in the 21st Century (Highlighting the Denver Tango Festival)

  1. Eric Crowder says:

    Impressive stats. But I wonder if its losing battle for milongueros. 21st Century dancers probably have a different mind set to be disciplined for an evening of social close embrace. I find myself ( a dancer of all dance except Tango since 1978), sometimes slipping out of close embrace and doing off axis stuff. But what I think will have to be accepted is Nuevo isnt going to go away. It appeals to the young! My older lady friends automatically go into close embrace, but they love it when I do something “nice” in open embrace.Not necessarily flashy. I thin what is most important above all else in our arguments is to remember– On the dance floor you are not alone, others want to dance and enjoy. So just remember your manners and normal etiquette as you would in life. unless you are French or Russian in a queue!! ha ha. Great post and lots of references for those that want it, and that includes me.
    Interesestingly one of my teachers are percieved as “nuevo” but they love and play only Authentic music. yes they put in “newer” stuff in their dancing but they always preach “keep a metre” bewtween that couple in front and fill it when they have moved on. Now that is good dancing practise!

    • tangovoice says:

      “Nuevo isnt going to go away.”

      Perhaps not. Perhaps it is a fad that will die out. Certainly the reckless movements of nuevo dancers cannot survive in crowded milongas.

      However, this is a different point than is stressed in the post, which focuses on the loss of suitable environments for Tango Milonguero dancers due to the evolution of the Denver and San Diego Tango Festivals. Proponents of the One Tango Philosophy impose their will on Tango Milonguero dancers by insisting all of the dance variation subsumed under the rubric of ‘tango’ is compatible in the same environment. Whereas Tango Nuevo dancers can wreak their havoc with impunity on all dancers at a milonga, they fail to truly recognize diversity by respecting the right of Tango Milonguero dancers to have their own environment free of cascading movements and dramatic displays.

      • eric says:

        I quite agree with all of this. We dont really have the problem here in the UK. We have separate Nuevo venues and those dancers who frequent them come to our milongas and dance salon or milonguero (difference to someone who just wants to dance close?) We have larger venues where both styles coexist. If I am “disturbed” by nuevos in one of “our” milongas I simply dance thru’ them and if challenged tell ’em straight to behave on the dance floor and repect others. It selkdom happens. Perhaps in the USA you need to stand up to the bullies!

      • Eric Crowder says:

        Hiw about this? Is the Tango world in danger of becoming a bit like BAllet. Full of snobbish bullshit. We all dance Tango to our own way of thinking. Im not, I might add, putting my view here, as its pretty much been said before. I am just offering food for thought. Commercialism has to be accepted as a given. The Argentinians do it. Americans unashamedly relate success to money. If we dont agree with what goes on at a venue then do as I have just done. Boycott the venue. There are more places to go. If not gather like minded folk and start your own.
        I would love a partner who dances like myself and interested in doing what would be my vision. Just to dance with courtesy to all on the floor to Argentine music with no Electronic. As that is unlikely to happen, I handle the whole situation by dancing with whom I care to ask, to the music I love, at the venues I like , and hang out with the folk I like.

        You know I didnt read all the post because really it is overwhelming. Some folk can soak it all up. I cannot and dont want to. I regard dancing as the greatest social skill I ever learnt (Perhaps diplomacy wasnt the 2nd either ha ha ) because it enables me to enjoy the beautiful music with a lady in my arms and having both fun and a smattering of romantic nonsense! Can you imagine that one day I was selected to dance for the Queen of England, not because I am such a wonderful dancer but because I do it to the best of my ability and always try my best to offer the same experience for the lady opposite me, thus giving an audition that gave off good vibes. Enjoy and chill folks. Even Nuevo can be fun!

      • Chris says:

        Eric wrote: “Just to dance with courtesy to all on the floor to Argentine music with no Electronic. As that is unlikely to happen…

        Eric, I’ve found a few places where it happens in our country. Some are listed here. Let us know if you’ve found any more.

  2. Patricia says:

    Thanks for this essay. Very true and excellent work.

  3. jantango says:

    The 6-day festival registration at Northwestern University in June 1995 was $350. I made $2,356 for two years of work and had to fight with the dance dept every step of the way and to get the money owed me. Northwestern profited well. The 6-day festival registration at Tangofest in Columbus, Ohio in June 1996 was $465. My business partner and I each earned $6,177 in profit. Neither festival was promoted on a website or email. I organized them with Argentine teachers to promote tango, not get rich. Today it’s all about $$$$$. I would probably gasp hearing how much money is made at USA festivals these days when most of them have more to do with commerce and little or nothing to do with the feeling that is danced.

    Someone in the Denver community answered my question as to why the festival has gone nuevo — Tom’s new partner, Amy.

    Gustavo is a savvy businessman who saw an opportunity to market himself in new packaging. I don’t believe he had any intention of really teaching what he neither dances nor knows. It was about luring people to his class — a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    I never heard of Siempre Milonguero until reading the post. At least there is a network in the USA trying to promote tango as a social dance from BsAs.

    • Patricia says:

      In Toronto the week-end of Jan. 11-13, 2013. Tango Marathon, single milonga, $25 per person. Package prices and early bird specials were available. Organizer claims 150 people (in one night) probably the Saturday night. Other milongas were asked to close. Other milongas which are “traditional”. Understood a messy floor. all d.js from North America and heard music very good-traditional tandas and some alternative? so these marathons and festivals do make money. People in North America seem to only want instructors who actually speak English-no translators! A pity. So little is understood by the regular attendee of tango milongas/workshops in North America.

    • tangovoice says:

      I would probably gasp hearing how much money is made at USA festivals these days when most of them have more to do with commerce and little or nothing to do with the feeling that is danced.

      The problem is not making money, per se. If festival organizers are honest in providing an accurate representation of Tango Argentino and make money in the process, then the profit is well-deserved. The problem is that tango has become a product to be sold to as many people as possible, and so it is presented in a way that attracts as many people as possible, regardless of the authenticity of what is presented. The marketing caters to the existing cultural biases of the consumers rather than trying to educate them about the true culture of tango. The Argentines who travel and teach are to blame for this as much as anyone. To counteract this tendency, there needs to be an active community of dancers that rejects this faux tango and does everything within its power to form its own network of dancers who appreciate the true Tango de Salon of Buenos Aires and make the effort to congregate and share it.

      Someone in the Denver community answered my question as to why the festival has gone nuevo — Tom’s new partner, Amy.

      The economic advantages of transforming it into an apparent ‘Milonguero taught by Nuevo’ festival are probably sufficient to explain the change in the Denver and San Diego Festivals

      Gustavo is a savvy businessman who saw an opportunity to market himself in new packaging. I don’t believe he had any intention of really teaching what he neither dances nor knows. It was about luring people to his class — a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

      By offering Tango Milonguero as an item in their tango teaching buffet, instructors of Tango Nuevo can increase market share, often by putting out of business tango instructors who teach only Tango Milonguero. Today there are few (probably no) North American tango instructors teaching Tango Milonguero exclusively traveling extensively to teach. This was not the case 5-7 years ago.

      I never heard of Siempre Milonguero until reading the post. At least there is a network in the USA trying to promote tango as a social dance from BsAs.

      It’s not clear how active this network is. Three tango weekends per year with low visibility is probably insufficient to stem the rising tide of transformation of social tango in North America. Tango Milonguero dancers need to take action and organize more effectively.

  4. jantango says:

    “In fact, the 2013 program of instructors (Alicia Pons, Oscar Casas & Ana Miguel, Osvaldo Natucci & Enriqueta Kleinman, Pablo Rodriguez & Eva Garlez) is one of the most consistently Tango Milonguero programs….”

    Almost all of them learned to teach in the same place: La Academia de Tango Milonguero of Susana Miller. Alicia Pons started teaching in 1999 with Cacho Dante. Pablo and Eva are recent graduates of the Academy with no regular classes in BsAs. Enriqueta Kleinman is another graduate with the resources to organize tours with milongueros. Oscar Casas bills his style as “Neo Milonguero” — new, revived or modified — it’s not milonguero. Natucci knows more about the history, dance and music than all of them combined.

    There isn’t one milonguero viejo in the lineup.

    • tangovoice says:

      It is true that La Academia de Tango Milonguero has the largest influence on the exportation of Tango Milonguero to North America. That this group is teaching is in itself good. For the most part (and there are exceptions that will not be discussed here) this group of instructors mentioned here does not misrepresent tango as it is danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Thus, they are making a positive contribution, certainly much more so than Tango Nuevo instructors deciding ad hoc to add Tango Milonguero to their palate. However, it is also true that whereas the Chicago Mini Tango Festival hosted some milongueros in years past, this trend has decreased in recent years. Nevertheless, considering that even past invitees are now deceased or too ill to travel, perhaps the opportunity to learn directly from milongueros is decreasing in any case and is not the fault or intention of the organizers.

  5. carolina says:

    Nice article. It’s nothing short of incomprehensible to me why anyone would want to dance tango to “tango rap”. I guess that’s one of the reason I don’t go out dancing here anymore. Too much of that kind of thing at the milongas and not enough real tango.

  6. Brian Dunn says:

    This is absolutely fascinating.

    Full disclosure: My partner and I were the primary organizers for Gustavo and Giselle’s first few years of workshops in Boulder until they transitioned into producing their own events without us.

    Tangovoice, you seem to suggest that G&G’s 2009 “Tango Milonguero” seminar was a Turning Point in the careers of tango teachers focusing on Tango Milonguero at the Denver Festivals – namely, that G&G’s 2009 seminar basically put them more or less out of business. Please – don’t you think having the same instructors at a festival *eleven times* is a little bit of what they call in showbiz “being overexposed”? Christopher and Caroline, Robin Thomas and Robert Hauk are fine people and nice dancers and teachers, but come on, enough is enough. There is a burnout effect in the marketplace if the same instructors come back year after year after year. This has far more to do with the results you tabulate than any sort of damage done to the milonguero brand by Gustavo & Giselle’s seminar.

    It is also true that the Denver Festivals, like other tango festivals, have noticed a decrease in the instructor/class cashflow in general and a shift towards milonga-only attendees. This can also be understood as a result of the increased level of confidence on the part of milonguero dancers in the United States – how many times do you need to take a workshop in ocho cortados anyway? Soon, these dancers will only want to go to festivals to dance with the people they met at previous festivals, and they will sleep during the classes to be fresher for the night’s milongas! This is natural and expected, and has nothing to do with G&G’s seminars.

    Susana Miller and Ray Barbosa have done great service in sharing their visions of the Argentine Tango social dance experience. My partner Deb and I attended Ray’s first Mini-Tango festival, and some of our friends who had worked with Susana before, who heard we were going, predicted that Susana Miller would hate us and everything we stood for.

    The reality was quite different. Susana and Deb hit it off so well that Susana partnered with Deb as her follower assistant for her entire set of classes where Susana was dancing as a leader. Ray was an enthusiastic proponent of our TangoIntensivo(tm) sessions with Luciana Valle (which I suspect you would categorize as “Nuevo”), grabbing me around the shoulders and shouting out to a full class in the big hall at the Mini-Festival about how our program with Luciana and her talented young Argentine assistants was not to be missed. Ray had joined us in Buenos Aires for that program just some months before. I was an enthusiastic participant in the tango class for teachers that Susana offered on Sunday, and still count her material and insights as valuable. Susana herself has been quoted by Trini Regaspi as saying that (more or less) “young people should not try to dance like old people from Buenos Aires, they need to be active and athletic when they are young – when they get older” will be soon enough for them to style themselves after the old masters.

    The point is that, while your dedicated efforts to elaborate and flesh out your point of view are worthy of the highest admiration, some of the people you applaud the most do not seem to feel the same pull to polarization and harsh negative judgement that appears as a regular feature of your perspective.

    Given the amount of play you give G&G’s 2009 seminar as a “Turning Point”, and given the care you obviously employ in preparing your blog, perhaps it would be useful to learn about what actually happened at that seminar from someone who was there, and who was responsible for organizing parts of the event – what was taught, how tango milonguero was represented, what historical and structural-analysis context was offered, what the performances were like, etc. Having taken multiple private lessons with milongueros viejos (and Jan, you were in the room for one of them) I can tell you that the first fifteen minutes of G&G’s five-day seminar was absolutely revolutionary in my understanding of how to dance tango milonguero in a way that would make my partner happy – and I’ve gotten plenty of very positive feedback from many different partners about the difference.

    Should you want to check out your assumptions about the nature, value and impact of this seminar, within the limits of my partnership and contractual obligations, I offer my services.

    Again, I very much appreciate the care and dedication with which you prepare these articulate statements of your perspective. What I share here, with you and with your readers, is very much in the spirit of broadening the tango dialogue in the direction of academic inquiry, a goal I feel you and I hold in common.

    All the best,
    Brian Dunn
    Dance of the Heart
    http://www.danceoftheheart.com
    “Building a Better World, One Tango at a Time”

    • tangovoice says:

      ‘Tangovoice, you seem to suggest that G&G’s 2009 “Tango Milonguero” seminar was a Turning Point in the careers of tango teachers focusing on Tango Milonguero at the Denver Festivals – namely, that G&G’s 2009 seminar basically put them more or less out of business. Please – don’t you think having the same instructors at a festival *eleven times* is a little bit of what they call in showbiz “being overexposed”? Christopher and Caroline, Robin Thomas and Robert Hauk are fine people and nice dancers and teachers, but come on, enough is enough. There is a burnout effect in the marketplace if the same instructors come back year after year after year. This has far more to do with the results you tabulate than any sort of damage done to the milonguero brand by Gustavo & Giselle’s seminar.

      It is also true that the Denver Festivals, like other tango festivals, have noticed a decrease in the instructor/class cashflow in general and a shift towards milonga-only attendees. This can also be understood as a result of the increased level of confidence on the part of milonguero dancers in the United States – how many times do you need to take a workshop in ocho cortados anyway? Soon, these dancers will only want to go to festivals to dance with the people they met at previous festivals, and they will sleep during the classes to be fresher for the night’s milongas! This is natural and expected, and has nothing to do with G&G’s seminars.’

      -> No claim has been made that Gustavo & Giselle damaged the milonguero brand. What they most likely offered was an attractive alternative to the familiar Denver festival instructors of Tango Milonguero within the same time frame. It is not the change in instructors per se but the characteristics of the instructors before and after the 2009 G&G ‘Tango Milonguero’ Seminario that is revealing. Brigitta Winkler and Avik Basu, who have taught both Tango Milonguero and Tango Nuevo, have been retained as instructors. Marika Landry, who switched from partnering with Robin Thomas (basically Tango Milonguero) to partnering with Mauro Peralta (more or less Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza) has been retained. If the theme of the Denver Festival has been to promote ‘the social tango popular in the milongas of Buenos Aires: close, subtle & romantic‘ (May 2012 statement), then continuing with this theme could have involved inviting milongueros to teach, or Argentines who regularly travel to teach Tango Milonguero, i.e., the type of instructors invited to teach at the Chicago Mini Tango Festival. Instead, the North American instructors who have taught Tango Milonguero exclusively have been replaced by instructors who typically teach Tango Nuevo teaching Tango Milonguero. The rationale behind the selection of the latter strategy rather than the former is unclear, but is probably based on economics. Perhaps this decision to change something about the Denver festival to make it more economically profitable was imminent anyway, but the timing of the decision and its magnitude are not arbitrary, not a gradual evolution, but a nearly complete and immediate change in the instructor lineup for the Denver and San Diego festivals.

      ‘Susana Miller and Ray Barbosa have done great service in sharing their visions of the Argentine Tango social dance experience. My partner Deb and I attended Ray’s first Mini-Tango festival, and some of our friends who had worked with Susana before, who heard we were going, predicted that Susana Miller would hate us and everything we stood for.

      The reality was quite different. Susana and Deb hit it off so well that Susana partnered with Deb as her follower assistant for her entire set of classes where Susana was dancing as a leader. Ray was an enthusiastic proponent of our TangoIntensivo(tm) sessions with Luciana Valle (which I suspect you would categorize as “Nuevo”), grabbing me around the shoulders and shouting out to a full class in the big hall at the Mini-Festival about how our program with Luciana and her talented young Argentine assistants was not to be missed. Ray had joined us in Buenos Aires for that program just some months before. I was an enthusiastic participant in the tango class for teachers that Susana offered on Sunday, and still count her material and insights as valuable.’

      -> This may all be true but it is outside the scope of the current post.

      ‘Susana herself has been quoted by Trini Regaspi as saying that (more or less) “young people should not try to dance like old people from Buenos Aires, they need to be active and athletic when they are young – when they get older” will be soon enough for them to style themselves after the old masters.’

      -> By the way, there are many young Argentines dancing Tango Milonguero in Buenos Aires milongas. … Miller herself has changed with the changing tango market. Ten years ago she was widely known for her strict approach in workshops and private lessons. She even demanded that workshop participants execute movements exactly the way she taught even if some milongueros in the milongas of Buenos Aires did things differently. One example is the placement of weight onto the heel first when walking forward. This is a common, but not a universal characteristic of milongueros. To move forward with weight placed first on the metatarsals could result in reprimand. … However, times have changed and the market for Tango Milonguero is declining rather than expanding. Miller has become more tolerant toward students in workshops and private lessons. …

      ‘The point is that, while your dedicated efforts to elaborate and flesh out your point of view are worthy of the highest admiration, some of the people you applaud the most do not seem to feel the same pull to polarization and harsh negative judgement that appears as a regular feature of your perspective.’

      -> It’s easy to say that the Tango Voice perspective is harsh, negative, and judgmental. However, when tango dancers who have no Buenos Aires milonga experience have become so indoctrinated by the One Tango Philosophy that they believe that ganchos, high boleos, volcadas, colgadas, and soltadas are a normal part of social tango dancing, one must speak loudly and clearly and point out the fallacy of this belief system. When Tango Nuevo dancers (or just bad imitators of Nuevo and Stage Tango) create havoc at milongas, when viewers of exhibitions applaud (reinforcing) movements that are impossible or dangerous at milongas and desire to learn these tricks, then someone needs to speak loudly for the right to practice Tango Milonguero (or more broadly, Tango de Salon) at a milonga without interference or disturbance as one is able to do in the overwhelming majority of milongas in Buenos Aires. One should not be criticized as ‘intolerant’ or ‘controlling’ for desiring to maintain a promote an integral part of Argentine culture. The posts of Tango Voice are calls to be heard above the noise created by the merchants of tango who ignore the Argentine tango culture.

      ‘Given the amount of play you give G&G’s 2009 seminar as a “Turning Point”, and given the care you obviously employ in preparing your blog, perhaps it would be useful to learn about what actually happened at that seminar from someone who was there, and who was responsible for organizing parts of the event – what was taught, how tango milonguero was represented, what historical and structural-analysis context was offered, what the performances were like, etc. Having taken multiple private lessons with milongueros viejos (and Jan, you were in the room for one of them) I can tell you that the first fifteen minutes of G&G’s five-day seminar was absolutely revolutionary in my understanding of how to dance tango milonguero in a way that would make my partner happy – and I’ve gotten plenty of very positive feedback from many different partners about the difference.’

      – Note that in this post no criticism is made of the Gustavo & Giselle Tango Milonguero Seminario. The perspective here is only the response to this event.

      • Eric Crowder says:

        Maybe Tete Rusconi had the last word wheh he appealed to teachers all over the world to preserve what “what we have and lets learn to co-exist”en el Piso”

  7. Francis says:

    I stopped going to tango festivals years ago. For the most part, North America is a Nuevo/post-modern venue. It can not be helped. Teachers earn their way by teaching show dance steps. Free wheeling consumers like new cars and neck high ganchos. We are not the land of social etiquette, let alone 1930-50 BA. The internal intimate dance of the old BA happens when there is an aesthetic that supports and encourages it. We are dancing with the stars tango!

    • Eric Crowder says:

      ref comment Francis. I have only been to one in Edinbugh. Not sure if Iwant to go back. classes I enjoyed. The milongas no. Too many folk, and so many of them wanting to practise class moves/nuevo on the crowded floor. backing everyone up around the floor. My regular haunts just dont have that problem and dancing is a real pleasure. So why spend a lot of money for event, hotel, travelling etc. Yes it case of dancing with the stars Tango. I am still having a longstanding email argument with Mr Godman, who is now so self important he has a PA!! Did anyone ever hear of a dance teacher needing a PA! I have made progress and now have the ear of the producer of Godmans latest TV sojourn into dance. Maybe I will get “our day in court” in a circuitous route. So long as it eventually gets heard and theses judges get put in their ” no nothing about TAngo” place then a lot of folk will feel better. Excellent short post Francis tks

      • Francis says:

        Dear Erick,

        Thanks for the reply. Do continue to go to the places where the dancing is good and the social graces are better. Save your energy for the wonderful women who really appreciate the close embrace and love moving to beautiful music. Build from the grass roots a great American tango aesthetic.

        Regards,

        Francis

  8. Great artice! I keep feeling like a voice in the darkness and have first hand experience in the rise and fall of Milonguero. I participated in the first San Diego Festival (danced with Tom in the teachers exhibition, all of us milongueros) . Now witnessing with sadness the change. I spearheaded the idea of Encuentros and had the first one in San Diego but you are right the allure of the massive festivals prevails and the number of milonguero proponents are not enough to create an awareness. Thank you for giving us a voice
    Linda

    • Chris says:

      Linda wrote: “I spearheaded the idea of Encuentros and had the first one in San Diego

      Linda, I’d be interested to know what you mean by “first one”, and the date of that event.

      • Susana Miller had been having Encuentros in Buenos Aires for about two years. I could not make it to them so I came up with the idea to have them in the US. I established the name EncuentromilongueroUSA and had the first one in November 2009
        some pictures are on my website. Personal issues prevented me from organizing a second one, but idea took off and embraced by Milongueros from Phoenix and Santa Fe and SiempreMilonguero was formed to promote Encuentros organized by US Milonguero teachers.

      • tangovoice says:

        The Encuentros are a good idea in theory, but they need to have higher visibility. They don’t have to have high attendance, but they need to have attendance by dedicated Tango Milonguero dancers. The Denver & San Diego festivals started with a small group but spread through advertising through a central source of information. The now essentially defunct Tango-A (supported by discussion on Tango-L) assisted in the propagation of information about the early Denver festivals. Today there are individual websites advertising events, but there is an apparent lack of a readily visible central source of information for Tango Milonguero.

        Siempre Milonguero could be the foundation for a revival. However, the group needs higher visibility and probably more communication among its members (assuming here that lack of activities reflects lack of communication). Hardly anyone knows it exists. Facebook might help, but its open structure could lead to extraneous, irrelevant, and misleading information being posted.

        Siempre Milonguero or any other organization promoting Tango Milonguero also needs to avoid becoming merely an extension of La Academia de Tango Milonguero de Buenos Aires. Susana Miller is one voice in the spread of Tango Milonguero but she is not the only voice.

        Why haven’t instructors associated with Siempre Milonguero joined together to have a festival (or even a smaller event) along the lines of the earliest Denver festivals?

        The Chicago Mini Tango Festival could, in theory, become a meeting ground for Tango Milonguero dancers, but the influx of local dancers has prevented this festival from having the Tango Milonguero atmosphere of the early Denver festivals. The Chicago Mini Tango Festival is also, to a large degree, an extension of La Academia de Tango Milonguero de Buenos Aires.

      • Chris says:

        Thanks. You may like to know that such events were running in Europe ten and more years earlier.

  9. Chris says:

    TV wrote “Why haven’t instructors associated with Siempre Milonguero joined together to have a festival…

    The better question might be: why haven’t the milongueros associated with it done so?

    Presuming such milongueros exist…

    • Santa Fe ,NM is having an Encuentro in March, Phoenix ,Az milongueros having one in May, Albuquerque,NM milongueros planning one for 2014. Moderator for group lives in Alburquerque, this should be the bigger Encuentro

      • tangovoice says:

        Some of this information is listed on the Siempre Milonguero website: http://www.siempremilonguero.org/latest_news/ but if one has to go to the website to find this information then few people are going to find out about these events.

        This is a move in the right direction, but the information needs to be circulated more widely. Or is there a reason for not doing so?

      • Chris says:

        TV wrote: “Siempre Milonguero could be the foundation for a revival.

        Thanks for the link. Interesting reading.

        This milonguero’s dance is a social dance, socially learned, starting with newcomer men dancing one-on-one with accomplished men in practicas.

        Contrast with that Siempre Milonguero educational programme, consisting of commercial level-segregated bulk-instruction dance classes lead by only by women.

        I don’t see even one milonguero involved. And I’m not surprised.

        Siempre Milonguero founder Linda wrote: “I keep feeling like a voice in the darkness“.

        Linda, I think that’s a feeling you should trust.

        Good luck.

      • tangovoice says:

        Men dancing with men in practicas was a consequence of women not having the freedom to leave their homes unescorted to go to community centers to practice tango. It was not a desired state, but rather a consequence of the restrictive sociocultural environment of Buenos Aires during the 1940s and 50s. Demanding adherence to Golden Age sociocultural traditions in the second decade of the 21st century is neither necessary nor an adaptive strategy. Certainly the proliferation of tango around the world would not be enhanced by forcing men to dance with men in practicas (starting as followers for one year before becoming leaders) and women to learn in their homes from family members (where probably none dance tango). There are parts of tango tradition to be preserved and parts that can be circumvented with the realization that there has been a change in the sociocultural environment and the freedom given to women in the last 60+ years. Notably, in Buenos Aires today men and women mostly learn tango in structured classes and practices with (except for Tango Queer) men dancing as leaders with women as followers.

        However, there is indeed a weakness in instruction in Tango Milonguero throughout the world (even in contemporary Buenos Aires). There is an abundance of women teaching the leading role and a scarcity of male role models among tango instructors from Argentina. The male Argentine teachers of Tango Milonguero traveling in North America who come to mind are Oscar Casas who, with ‘colgadas milongueros’ and ‘volcadas milongueras’, sometimes teaches what might be classified as ‘nuevo milonguero’ (an oxymoron), and Maxi Gluzman, who has limited exposure. More male role models from Argentina are needed for teaching Tango Milonguero, at least in North America, where there is a notable scarcity.

        Regarding milongueros teaching, there are few remaining milongueros from the Golden Age who are healthy enough to travel and teach tango. Visa restrictions that are difficult to surmount prohibit those who are healthy enough from coming to the United States to teach. Lack of proficiency in the English language provides additional obstacles to success. Also, in reality, most milongueros do not have teaching experience and thus lack the ability to communicate their knowledge well, certainly in group classes, nor do they necessarily want to. So, rather than demanding that foreigners learn tango in all male practicas with milongueros as guides, it would be more productive for Argentine tango instructors with extensive Buenos Aires milonga experience (and foreigners trained by Argentines) to communicate their knowledge in a foreign environment in a structured learning environment, with a much more desirable condition being achieved with having good male role models in this situation. The goal here is to promote Tango Milonguero, teaching its essential characteristics, rather than recreate the tango teaching conditions of Golden Age Buenos Aires in foreign cultures.

      • I totally agree with you. The fact that we are so many women teaching milonguero should be a red flag to men, we like it! I also am of the opinion that we need more male teachers, the ones in Argentina as you say cannot travel, either because of their health or the lack of resoures to obtain visas. On the other hand we are bombarded with the more succesful younger salon dancers that can travel and the story about “milonguero” not existing persists. Sad, beacause I truly beleive that North Americans are losing out on knowing the feel and rewards of milonguero style dancing.

      • Nerissa says:

        There is a concerted effort among some organizers to keep Tango Milonguero going, as Linda has mentioned.
        We have just opened registration for our Phoenix encuentro in May, “En Tus Brazos” and we already have dancers signing up.
        For those interested :
        http://www.abrazomilonguero.com/en-tus-brazos.html

  10. Chris says:

    TV, I wasn’t suggesting retain all aspects of traditional learning. But to retain none at all is surely unwise. In particular, hiring people who’ve never danced as men in the milongas to teach how to dance as a man in the milongas is not a recipe for success.

    Linda of Siempre Milonguero wrote:

    The fact that we are so many women teaching milonguero should be a red flag to men

    It’s a red flag to men looking to learn to dance. The better kind of flag to wave to newcomers is the green one.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nicely done article. Once any activity begins to generate capital, including pleasure of dancing tango, psychology changes. I cannot agree more that having gatherings to dance a particular style of tango would be fantastic. Regarding the style: age group determines the style often. Young stags and does need to show off, energy abound! Older dancers, aka traditional milongueros, are more intimate, soft and elegant, a way to show their gentlemenship and ladylikeship. Don’t we all strive for that? Sooner of later art of gentleness wins:)

      • tangovoice says:

        It is a commonly held belief that Tango Milonguero is for older people and Tango Nuevo is for the young. While the latter part of this is more or less true, even in Buenos Aires today (although most young porteño tango dancers adapt to the dance environment), this is an oversimplification. Most of the milongueros of today who are in their 70s and 80s (and thus were old enough to dance in the 1950s) danced with a maintained close embrace in the 1950s when they were young. It is also true that during its period of peak popularity in North America about 5-10 years ago, many young people were participating in the new defunct Tango Milonguero oriented festivals in Denver, San Diego, and Atlanta. The (University of) Michigan Tango Club, a large group of mostly young people, still places a strong emphasis on ‘close embrace’ tango in its instructional program (http://www.umich.edu/~umtango/lessons/index.html). The primary reasons for the primacy of exhibition tango in Europe and North America are culture and economics, in that exhibitionism in dance in general is held in high esteem (rather than frowned upon, as it is in the milongas of Buenos Aires), and thus is more economically viable than the more subtle Tango Milonguero.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Chris, what do you mean by green flag?

    • Chris says:

      Anonymous wrote: “Chris, what do you mean by green flag?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racing_flags
      “The green flag signals a clear track to race on.
      The red flag means stop.”

      I don’t know what the red-flag waving of women teachers such as Linda is intended to convey to students. I do know that the kind of dance education she’s advocating has no basis in the Argentine tango tradition she claims to uphold, and its effect hereabouts is to discourage many men who are seeking to learn this dance.

  12. Enkay says:

    Re G&G’s September offering being a possible cause of decline for the Denver fest: THE major problem with G&G’s teaching is the total refusal to provide any kind of record of the material taught, particularly video, and the resulting “drift” from the original over time for participants. Virtually no teachers in the Denver or other milonguero fests have taken this stand: students like me would rather work with teachers who do provide a record which we can use later in practicas to consolidate and better absorb a lot of material which was taught in a very short time. So, for me, G&G is not an option at all, reputation notwithstanding.

    • Anonymous says:

      Chris, what I meant by red flag is for men to notice that women like to dance Milonguero style, I was advocating that more men should take up this style, more men should be teaching it.
      That is the only way that it can really take hold in the general population of tango dancers.
      I personally have a lot of men in my classes ,I really don’t understand what your comment means.

      • Chris says:

        Anonymous (presumably Linda) wrote: “I personally have a lot of men in my classes, I really don’t understand what your comment means.

        Linda, your measure of success may well be the number of men you can get into classes. But since we are talking about social tango dancing rather than dance class business, my measure of success is the number of men you can get into milongas. And I’d guess these two figures are very different.

      • no, not really. As a matter of fact locally I am the teacher that gets more male dancers into milongas. I think you misunderstood what I said, I am not saying women are bettr at teaching, it is just a curious fact that “Milonguer Style” teachers happen to be mostly women.
        Why do you think that is?

      • Chris says:

        Linda wrote: “no, not really.

        Then let’s hear those figures. In the ten years you’ve been teaching, how many men have you got into your weekly classes? And how many of those men now dance weekly in your milonga?

        “Milonguer Style” teachers happen to be mostly women. Why do you think that is?

        I think it is because real milongueros would rather spend their time in the milonga than in the classroom.

  13. Janet Rieck says:

    Trying to read through the maze of all this is a little daunting and boring. I dance in the milongas of Buenos Aires and have for a number of years. I have found this to be true:

    In B.A. it is close embrace. Milonguero only describes the level of a dancer (men) and is very highly respected. There is no nuevo or any other made up style of dancing tango here unless it is in the theater.

    You need to know the codes of behavior and the social aspects of dancing tango in B.A. To do this, you must come and dance here. You will find that there are some (incuding Argentines …especially the women) that do not . Those people get a very bad reputation and are shunned for the most part by those that dance well. So you should make a point of following the codes and respecting them. The cabecero is the only way to get a dance here. DO NOT EVER ask a man to dance here, ladies. The cabecero is the best way and only way to get a dance here…very polite. With that said, there are a lot of people these days paying for tandas. The likelihood of getting dances here from good dancers is very slim. But you also need to know you have to pay your dues here. You need to be a good dancer here to get respect. Having good fundamental skills is essential. There is not one person here who dances the same as anyone else. If you are still wondering what tango really is or are confused by what is presented, you are not ready to dance in the milongas here unless you come with an open mind. You can learn a lot by just watching. If the milongas here are scary to you…they should be. It is not easy to dance tango here. But you will not experience great tango unless you can dance in the milongas here.

    In the US, anything goes these days. Dancing close embrace is still the only real tango…the rest that is presented is all stylized by those that teach. You should dance the way you feel, but you also have to adopt to the floor you are dancing on. Dancing in Buenos Aries requires very good floor craft skills. Having these skills will make it easier to dance anywhere. If you don’t have them, you need to learn them.

    The tango productions that are presented in the US and elsewhere are “theater.” They are not representative of salon tango in Buenos Aries. They are fun to watch. But not to be taken seriously as ways to dance tango…it is theater.

    It is very important that you work on being the best dancer you can before you attempt to come to Buenos Aires to dance. The problems you will encounter here are many and you have to know how to deal with them. Just as dancing anywhere in the world. Knowing the music and its history is part of the culture here. I don’t know why you would want to dance tango if you did not love the music of the great golden age of tango.

    Finally, tango is what you make it for the moment. Someone said to me once that he thought dancing tango with a woman was a privilege. I think that is a great way to approach it. It gives it the respect it deserves.

    • I taught Photography at the college level, and made a very simple statement to beginning students. Today, you can buy a digital camera that provides stupendous opportunities to the visually illiterate. The snapshots. As never before, anyone can be in the ballpark with any of the significant photographers of our time. Well, almost! Snapshots are a universe away from photographs, which are meant to communicate effectively to others. And, the goal is to make photographs.

      Anyone can take a workshop, get out on the floor and feel like Copes or Nieves. Unfortunately, they multiply and dot dance floors especially after the traveling tango dance teachers exit. We are a culture of buy the entrance ticket, and expect instant success, even it is an illusion in our heads. We are in your face. We are Dancing With the Stars, regardless of our skill or ability. We flock to the show stuff, it is what we want. We are excited by the external dance, and ignorant of the internal intimate one. We have lost social manners, and are a few deviations away from the evolved manners of BA dance culture. We confuse freedom and liberty. And we dance that way. It is who we are!

      Find like minded dancers ,and spend time building connections, one dancer at a time.

    • Erico says:

      I think Janet hits a spot! To much mumbo jumbo and then it gets boring. How can people go on and on about such a beautiful simple dance. I have just danced with the wife of Antonio Martinez (Francesca) wh features on Utube in a performance with the wonderful Monica Paz. I have never been to BsAs. I have no fears for the time that I eventualy do. I have been a ballroom dancer for 25 years( competitively). I have very good spacial awareness and periphersl vision. I am always aware of who is around me, and dance with courtesy at all times. I am told that I will be welcomed in BsAs because I dance like a milonguero. My choice, my style, my evolution as a Tango dancer. Teachers should teach Argentine Tango, play Argentine Tango music, giving a good overview of the History. Encourage students to listen to the music first. If it doesnt “move them” tell them politely go away and try to find something that does!!. I have young ( in their 20’s ) followers and they love the music. It stirs them. When we have the attention of wannabe tangueros/as then just teach them to dance close embrace and nothing else. Make sure they learn only this way. If they want to go off and , heaven forbid, do Nuevo they will tire of it and come back! At least their memories will stand them in good stead when they return. There are lots of great dancers outside of Argentina who only promote Traditonal Tango. We are treated to visiting maestros/as who are trying to make money! But it rubs off on us and we can separate out the showy and develop our own miklonguero/salon dance style.
      The cabeceo!! It will never work in countries that have been soaked in their own way of asking a lady to dance. Why should it? If we go to BsAs we just need to remember the local custom. Its that simple.
      Stop the pontificating, puffing up ones own chest and estolling ones own opinions and get back to basics. TAngo is not a complicated dance with a thousand steps. Its about musicality, interpretation, and sharing a few minutes with another in each others arms respectfully and then a little later……… perhaps another tanda with another…….. and ………… another.
      Yes i have done as others do. Gone on and on and on a bit. But it doesnt need to be a long discussion. scan what you see, pick out what is pertinent to your own views and dump the rest! Dance!

    • tangovoice says:

      Regarding the dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires, the embrace is practically omnipresent. Off course foreigners present may not dance in the embrace, although most do as well. The embrace is usually but not always engaged in with a slightly forward postural lean. Most women direct their head over the man’s right shoulder, although some turn their head inwards towards the man’s chest. Most women reach their left arm over the man’s shoulder in the embrace, although some only place their left hands on the man’s right upper arm. Height and girth may affect these choices. Some dancers open the embrace for ochos and turns. The latter set of traits is more characteristic of Tango de Salon Estilo del Barrio, whereas the former closer physical connection is characteristic of Tango de Salon Estilo Milonguero. Tango Estilo Milonguero is more common than Tango Estilo del Barrio throughout Buenos Aires, and the latter is present primarily in the outer barrios and relatively rare in milongas near downtown. These descriptions apply to the traditional milongas. There are some social tango venues (e.g., Practica X and those at Villa Malcolm, La Viruta, La Catedral) where some elements of Tango Nuevo are taught and even seen at times on the social dance floor. These tango social dance venues are attended to a large degree by young people (under 40) and tourists, although people from these demographic categories also attend traditional milongas and do not use nuevo elements in their dances there. The one milonga code violation that is relatively common in some traditional Buenos Aires milongas is women lifting their feet off the floor, e.g., in high boleos and cuatros. These code violations appear to be primarily committed by younger women and tourists. .

  14. carolina says:

    Great comments and while I agree with most of them my experience after having lived in Buenos Aires for 10 months is that different styles are danced there depending on the milonga, and they range from close embrace with no variation in the embrace to more of a flexible embrace allowing for giros and ochos with pivots to a very open embrace. And yes, I understand that many Portenos will say there are only 2 styles of tango, tango salon (or social tango) and stage tango. But someone who dances primarily what we call milonguero would have a better dance experience going to El Beso on a Saturday night as opposed to Sunderland or Villa Malcolm or La Viruta.

  15. Robert Dodier says:

    I’ve often thought about exactly this rise & fall phenomenon myself. I lived & danced in the Boulder/Denver area from 1998 to 2012 and I danced occasionally in other cities, so I know some of the people & events mentioned, and I think TV is broadly correct about the large-scale evolution of tango in North America first towards, then away from estilo del centro (or whatever we want to call it). But I think it’s misleading to focus on particular people & dates — it gives them more importance than they should have.

    I think the largest driving force in the evolution of tango in the US is the difficulty of conveying what is important about tango. Teachers don’t convery and people don’t understand (not sure which way the causality goes there) what’s valuable about the music, the embrace, and the milonga — how could they, given that those are essentially inexpressible and therefore must be experienced to be understood. But the appeal of doing fancy steps and being the center of attention is immediately comprehensible to all & sundry.

    • totally agree tih Robert, I have been trying to teach this style for nearly 8 years, I have now given up trying to get People here in my community to understand the value of music,embrace and what the milonga is about. the “other” aproach always wins
      .

      • Robert Dodier says:

        Keep up the good work, Linda. I used to teach too and I have often thought about returning to it, if only I could figure out a way to get the point across. (I tried, without much success.) There are, sadly, reasons to be discouraged, yet I am still so inspired by the tango experience that I want to try communicating it again.

    • tangovoice says:

      “But I think it’s misleading to focus on particular people & dates — it gives them more importance than they should have.”

      Individuals are important. Humans look to others for leadership. In starting the Denver Festival, Tom Stermitz created an environment that attracted aficionados of Tango Milonguero / Estilo del Centro, who went back to their communities and taught the same approach to tango, and they invited the instructors from the Denver Festival to come to their communities to promote Tango Milonguero. It was not long before San Diego (with Stermitz’s involvement) and Atlanta had similar festivals, so that dancers in 3 parts of the country could travel a relatively short distance and practice social tango in a supportive environment. The Denver Festival was a catalyst for all of this, and Tom Stermitz, in organizing the Denver festivals, was an important person in changing the tango landscape in North America. It is also significant that Gustavo Naveira, one of the founding fathers of Tango Nuevo, whether by design or by coincidence, directly imposed himself upon the Denver festival by giving a seminar in Tango Milonguero immediately following the Denver Labor Day Festival in 2009. Despite what anyone claims, the probability of this being a coincidence is minimal. Only a tango icon like Naveira had the power to upstage the Denver festival. So people are indeed important.

      Nevertheless, despite the initial role of the Denver festival in promoting Tango Milonguero, once the onslaught of Tango Nuevo began in the second half of the first decade of the 21st century, it became difficult to counteract it because Tango Nuevo was able to fulfill the aspirations of many dancers to perform attention attracting exhibition moves on the social dance floor (milonga or otherwise). Thus the dwonfall of the Denver festival was probably imminent anyway.

      • Enkay says:

        I wonder whether Nuevo dancers eventually hit brick walls: nuevo figures need much space, not available in most milongas, and violate line of dance, not acceptable in all milongas. Essentially, a lot of nuevo material is unusable on a social dance floor. Perhaps at that point nuevo dancers begin to “wise up”?
        Re Denver and Stermitz et al: milonga demographics often reflect those of the organisers. It’s not unnatural that the young, cool, hip, etc are attracted to the flashiness of nuevo, at events organized by others like them. The “interior” pleasures of milonguero or salon are not easily discerned by them with their limited experience.

      • Erico says:

        Hi to you all in America.
        Why do you spend so much time debating this never ending argument about nuevo and traditional Salon or Milonguero style? So much hot air. Dance the way we want to and forget about the “nuevos”. If they offend by poor etiquette on the floor then the organiser should be told. I tell ’em! I hate them with a vengance! haha. If they are just doing nuevo open embrace let ’em be and choose partners who dont. I have given up dancing with the show offs, the ones in ” cliques”, and remember why I do TAngo, to the exclusion of other dances. Live and let live, its their choice, but why get all steamed up about it? And so much arty farty language! Its a dance. Full stop. The most beautiful dance ever. Those that dont get it will eventually fade away. If they dont then its just evolution. And we do well to remember that all of Tango isnt new. The Giro for example almost certainly came from the Fleckerl in Viennese Waltz. The VW was the first recognised partner dance and raised so many hackles when it came on the scene. The music, almost certainly evolved from musicians who came as immigrants to the land of silver and would have brought their classical influences with them. Its not rocket science. get on with folks and enjoy it and less talking about it. I ask my “new” followers….. Dont talk dont gawk. Enjoy.

      • tangovoice says:

        Enkay says: ‘I wonder whether Nuevo dancers eventually hit brick walls: nuevo figures need much space, not available in most milongas, and violate line of dance, not acceptable in all milongas. Essentially, a lot of nuevo material is unusable on a social dance floor. Perhaps at that point nuevo dancers begin to “wise up”?’

        Fanatic Tango Nuevo dancers will seek the space they need (larger dance floors) or create space when there is crowding in that Tango de Salon dancers will give them space to avoid collisions. There are workshops available that teach using colgadas and volcadas on the social dance floor. The popularity of these workshops indicates that many dancers would rather adapt their repertoire than learn the milonga codes. There is too much reinforcement from traveling tango instructors to give up movements that are unsuitable for the social dance floor.

        ‘Re Denver and Stermitz et al: milonga demographics often reflect those of the organisers. It’s not unnatural that the young, cool, hip, etc are attracted to the flashiness of nuevo, at events organized by others like them. The “interior” pleasures of milonguero or salon are not easily discerned by them with their limited experience.’

        By the way, both Stermitz and Naveira are over 50.

      • Chris says:

        Enkay wrote: “Essentially, a lot of nuevo material is unusable on a social dance floor. Perhaps at that point nuevo dancers begin to “wise up”?

        I think at least here in Europe, most nuevo dancers are already wise to the fact that their dance is unsuitable for the social dance floor. It is far more suited to the classroom and that’s the way most nuevo dancers want it. The reason is that most nuevo dancers are class teachers, and as such can earn a living from what happens in the classroom but not what happens in the milonga. They dance in milongas only to advertise their wares to prospective customers.

        To understand nuevo is it important to remember that it was invented by class teachers solely for the purpose of class teaching. It has no other purpose. The creators of nuevo claim themselves to be the first professional tango (dance) teachers. The business model they created reflects that fact that they they stood no chance of making a living teaching regular social tango dancing.

        Tango is a social dance. Nuevo is a commercial dance.

  16. Prince says:

    Great article and subsequent debate/conversation. Just wondering if anyone has an idea of how many tango dancer in the world there are? Curious.

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