Factors Affecting the Survival of Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions in Non-supportive First World Cultural Environments (The Dominance of Tango Extranjero)

The milongas of Buenos Aires are not only a place to dance tango; there is a culture that pervades the milonga environment, with customs and norms of behavior (Codes and Customs of the Milongas of Buenos Aires: The Basics). In milongas following the traditions of downtown milongas of the Golden Age – milongas del centro – there are separate seating sections for men, women, and couples, with seats behind small tables directly facing the dance floor (National Geographic photo). In clubes de barrio (neighborhood clubs) people face each other across long tables that are perpendicular to the dance floor, and there is often a dinner and socializing before dancing (video). The cabeceo is used to invite someone to dance. The right of couples attending a milonga together to dance only with each other is respected. The music played for dancing tango is classic tango music from the Golden Age, with this music structured into tandas with cortinas; a dance partnership is maintained until the end of a tanda and the dance floor is cleared during the cortina. When dancing, couples embrace; this is their connection, a point of communication, both in creation of improvised dance movements and in the expression and exchange of emotion that is generated by the music and the movement (Tango Milonguero: Improvised Expression of Music through Movement in a Shared Embrace). There is a progression of couples around the dance floor in a counterclockwise ronda, with dancers respecting the space of other couples. Exhibitionist movements are frowned upon and may be a cause for reprimand, even ejection from the milonga. [Additional review of the characteristics of Buenos Aires milongas are discussed in: Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)].

A dance classified as ‘tango’, sometimes even ‘Argentine tango’ is danced in many countries around the world, and has spread extensively, particularly in First World countries (economically advanced democracies with a capitalist economy: United States, Canada, most of Europe, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand). At the most transparent level, there is considerable homogeneity in this implementation of tango, i.e., the characteristics of tango social dance events that are typically advertised as ‘milongas’ in First World countries. Typically absent from these milongas are gender-segregated seating, and use of the cabeceo as the primary method of dance invitation. The custom of playing only classic tango music for dancing tango is often not adopted, with the playing of some tango fusion (e.g., ‘electrotango’) and non-tango music for dancing tango being quite common; one First World cultural invention is the Alternative Milonga, where most music played for dancing tango music is not classic tango music (video). Often dancers fail to embrace while dancing, or do not maintain the embrace if they enter into one. At times the ronda may be poorly defined, with dancers not progressing around the dance floor (video). Another Argentine milonga tradition that is often not adhered to is refraining from exhibitionism on the milonga dance floor (video).

Although the aforementioned characteristics predominate in First World milongas, dancers who have experienced Buenos Aires milongas desire to recreate this atmosphere in First World milongas. The rationale for recreating a physical and social environment that follows, as best as is possible, Argentine tango cultural traditions, is that the benefits and enjoyment of dancing tango are optimized under these conditions. The Tango de Salon of Buenos Aires milongas is a dance that offers the pleasure of the embrace, the peaceful harmony of connection between man and woman. Choice in partners to embrace is respected and modulated through the use of the cabeceo as the means of invitation to dance. Rather than being an outward directed dance with attention attracting exhibitionist movements, Tango de Salon is a dance where the partner is the focus in interaction. The harmony of the dance partnership is maintained and enhanced by smooth and coordinated movements among couples in the ronda, with the absence of collisions. The playing of classic tango music for dancing is a catalyst for interaction between partners, by generating a mood for sharing of emotions, something that is enhanced in the embrace; avoided is the playing of music that is discordant with the emotional atmosphere generated by classic tango music, e.g., music having a heavy or indiscernible rhythm, as is often present in electro-tango, tango fusion or non-tango music.

Creating a milonga environment with the characteristics of milongas in Buenos Aires is, in theory, a relatively straightforward endeavor because the primary cultural characteristics of the Buenos Aires milonga are well defined (Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga). However, there are factors strongly operating against the implementation of these goals. The goal of this post is to identify the factors affecting the implementation of Argentine tango cultural traditions in First World countries, with particular attention focused on North America. Some strategies for connecting with a tango subculture devoted to promotion of Argentine tango cultural values are presented and evaluated.

Factors Limiting the Adoption of Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions in First World Milongas

The primary factor operating against the adoption of Argentine tango cultural traditions is economics. For dancers in First World cultures who have not experienced Argentine tango culture firsthand, some education is required to understand the nuances of tango as practiced in Buenos Aires, in particular the centrality of close partner connection and subtle yet complex improvisation focused on musical interpretation (Tango Milonguero: Improvised Expression of Music through Movement in a Shared Embrace). In contrast, offering a modification of Argentine tango to a form that has characteristics expected for social dancing in First World dance culture(s) is more widely accepted. Since monetary investment and return on investment is necessary to some degree for the promotion of a dance activity, and certainly income will be increased the more the character of the dance reinforces existing cultural expectations and biases, the proliferation of a dance form will be directly linked to its economic income potential and, for this reason, tango in a culturally modified form, which will be labeled here a ‘Tango Extranjero’, has become a viable international business enterprise.

The modification of Argentine tango for profit in First World markets can be as straightforward as the promotion of tango out-of-context, i.e., the transference of some form of Argentine tango into an environment that is different from that where it occurs in Argentina (Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression: Part I – A Rationale for Classification by Niche Adaptation). In this regard Tango Escenario, adapted for the stage, and Tango Nuevo, adapted for the Practica Nueva, have been transported onto the milonga dance floor, where they do not exist in Buenos Aires. This transference can occur not only because most First World tango dancers are ignorant of Buenos Aires milonga codes, but also because social dancing in First World cultures characteristically consists of the learning of visually conspicuous patterns of movement, as well as the fact that exhibition moves, rather than being frowned upon as they are in Buenos Aires milongas, instead are a source for admiration by others. Generally absent in First World cultures is an emphasis on partner bodily connection and the sharing of emotions of passion while dancing, both of which are considered to make a dancer personally vulnerable. Some First World cultures in particular have moderate to strong social prohibitions and inhibitions against maintaining close physical contact while dancing, which further makes Tango de Salon less palatable in these cultures.

Nevertheless, fueled by the  One Tango Philosophy with its inherent business intelligence, Tango Extranjero does not exclude Tango de Salon in toto, but rather incorporates it as needed into its repertoire of tango offerings, sometimes with modifications here as well. The realm of Tango Milonguero may be broadened with Nuevo Milonguero, a misnomer, which adds a veneer of off axis elements (volcadas and colgadas) to a dance in close embrace superficially resembling the Tango Milonguero danced in Buenos Aires milongas, in order to make it more interesting, exciting, and marketable. Likewise, Tango Estilo del Barrio, a stylistic variant of Tango de Salon sometimes advertised as ‘Tango Estilo Villa Urquiza’, is presented in such a way as to emphasize conspicuous footwork elements as sacadas and barridas, and even sometimes (probably typically) the milonga code restrictions against boleos off the floor and use of ganchos are ignored in order to generate greater tango consumer interest.

Another factor limiting the spread of Argentine Tango de Salon in First World cultures has been, ironically, the role of tango instructors from Argentina, who have been willing co-conspirators in the proliferation of Tango Extranjero. This began in the late 1980s and 1990s when cast members of the stage productions ‘Tango Argentino’ and ‘Forever Tango’ saw opportunities for increasing income by teaching Tango Escenario, which was applied immediately to the dance floor in First World milongas, with little or no mention that this was tango for the stage and not used for dancing at milongas in Buenos Aires. This misrepresentation of Argentine tango by tango instructors from Argentina has continued into the 21st century with numerous Argentines whose primary source of income is teaching Tango Extranjero, in the form of Tango Escenario, Tango Nuevo, or a glamorized version of Tango Estilo del Barrio replete with sacadas, barridas, ganchos, and a variety of adornments. By the fact that they are from Argentina, an air of validity is bestowed upon these instructors, and naïve audiences believe they are learning the social tango of Buenos Aires from practitioners of the art form, whereas in fact the participation of these Argentine tango instructors in the milonga culture of Buenos Aires is often minimal at best (outside of their appearance in exhibitions). The fact that these Argentine tango instructors misrepresenting Argentine tango are headliners in numerous tango festivals in First World countries further limits the communication of Argentine tango milonga culture at the expense of a more marketable adaptation for First World cultural proclivities, i.e., Tango Extranjero. In contrast to the general misrepresentation of Argentine tango cultural traditions, tango instructors from Argentina who have participated extensively in dancing in Buenos Aires milonga are few in number. Particularly sparse in this instructional stream are milongueros and milongueras, men and women who have spent significant parts of their lives living tango culture on a regular basis in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Instead, a version of tango dance labeled as ‘Tango Milonguero’ increasingly is being taught as an element in their teaching program by tango instructors who are not active participants in the Argentine tango milonga culture [The Rise and Fall of Tango Milonguero in North America in the 21st Century (Highlighting the Denver Tango Festival)]. This diversification of the tango instructional program meets the needs not only of the instructors from Argentina, but also serves the economic interests of promoters of the One Tango Philosophy in offering additional instructional modules for tango consumer consumption.

Another significant modification of Argentine tango that has occurred in First World markets is the infusion into tango social dance venues of First World music or music by Argentine composers influenced by First World musical genres. Among the latter, the nuevo tango music of Astor Piazzolla, strongly influenced by European classical music and American jazz, as well as the so-called ‘electro-tango’ music (typically disco, techno, house or hip-hop musical rhythms with the overlay of a bandoneon) are commonly played for the purposes of eliciting movements characteristic of tango dancing at social dance events advertised as ‘milongas’ (video). Also commonly played for this purpose is non-tango music from musical genres such as blues, rock, pop, jazz, new age, and European and Third World folk music. Some events, sometime advertised as ‘Alternative Milongas’, i.e., an alternative to Argentine milonga tradition, have musical programs that consist primarily or entirely of music of the aforementioned genres. The rationale for such musical offerings is that the classic Argentine tango music of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s that is played for dancing tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires, which has vocals in Spanish and often has a low recording quality, is unpalatable for First World tango consumers, whereas the playing of contemporary ‘tango fusion’ and non-tango music for dancing will attract more newcomers to events that are advertised under the rubric of ‘tango’.

The consequences of promoting exhibition tango and non-tango music for dancing, which are popularly received, at the expense of the more subtle Tango de Salon and classic tango music, is that the modification of tango and its environment for First World cultures creates a new standard of expectation, a new definition of tango, a new genre of tango – Tango Extranjero. Historically, this is not the first time this has occurred, as it has occurred previously with Ballroom Tango and Finnish Tango in the early 20th century (Trans-Cultural Diffusion and Adaptation of Tango Argentino in the 20th Century). With its contemporary transformation, the audio-visual environments of some events in the First World advertised as ‘milongas’ (video) have more characteristics in common with a First World cultural antecedent (video) than they do with Argentine tango cultural roots (video). The ultimate deception in promoting this culturally modified aberration of tango is that it is still advertised as ‘tango’, often as ‘Argentine tango’, without acknowledging that it indeed is not Argentine Tango, but rather a product modified for promotion in foreign cultures. Nevertheless, the value of Tango Extranjero as a cultural adaptation is often heralded in its description as ‘the evolution of tango’, sometimes presented with an air of inevitability, without explication that the evolution of tango in this form exists primarily as a commodity modified for foreign consumption, and only exists in Buenos Aires as a tourist attraction.

The palatability of Tango Extranjero for First World cultural tastes gives it a competitive advantage over (Argentine) Tango de Salon in proliferation in tango communities, i.e., as recognized by proponents of the One Tango Philosophy, the inclusion of Tango Escenario, Tango Nuevo, Tango Estillo Villa Urquiza, and Tango Milonguero Nuevo in a smorgasbord of tango offerings attracts dancers with diverse interests and expands an instructional program, which along with diversification of the repertoire of music played for dancing tango to include a variety of tango-influenced and non-tango music not played at milongas in Buenos Aires, results in higher attendance at tango social dance events and greater income for tango promoters. This increased income serves as capital for investment in events with even higher attendance and higher income earning potential, such as tango festivals (e.g., Portland Tango Festival) with multiple instructors, multiple milongas, live music labeled as ‘tango’ for dancing (Chicago Tango Week; London International Tango Festival; Houston Tango Festival), ‘jam sessions’ for musicians (Denver Tango Festival) , and possibly even stage tango productions (Miami Tango Fantasy; Los Angeles Tango Festival). The income from tango festivals allows further investment in polished advertising for future festivals, which provide a preview on festival content as well as insight into the characteristics of Tango Extranjero (Dallas Fandango de Tango; Chicago Tango Week).

Less costly means of promoting Tango Extranjero are tango social dance events in public places such as bars, coffee houses, and restaurants that expose tango naïve individuals to this modification of tango for First World cultures; for increased exposure, outdoor (typically free) events such as outdoor milongas (New York City Central Park; New York City Union Square), or events advertised with such attractive names as ‘guerilla milonga‘, ‘hit-and-run milonga‘ or ‘flash mob tango‘ can assist further in educating the tango naïve public in the characteristics of dance and music associated with Tango Extranjero culture.

Options for Survival of Tango de Salon in Non-supportive First World Cultural Environments

Tango de Salon as a dance form is not the predominant form of tango danced in First World cultures. Responsible for this is the continual barrage of instruction from local and visiting instructors who emphasizes elements of tango that are not compatible with the milonga dance floor. In addition to the practice of exhibitionist movements, lack of concordance with Argentine milonga codes that are prevalent at First World milongas includes the absence of separate seating sections for men, women and couples, approaching a potential partner directly with a verbal dance invitation (thus, the avoidance of the cabeceo), absence of a progressive ronda, staying on the dance floor and possibly even dancing during the cortina (assuming cortinas are used), teaching on the dance floor, and the playing of non-tango and tango fusion music for dancing tango.

For tango dancers who prefer maintaining the customs of Buenos Aires milongas, there are some options available when living in a community where Tango Extrajero and its concomitant set of revised codes for tango social dance events are the norm for milonga behavior. Several of these are outlined below.

(1) Tolerate the violations of Argentine milonga codes and just enjoy as much as is possible the aspects of Argentine tango culture that are present, such as the good classic tango music that is played, partners with a good embrace and (for women) partners with good navigational skills and a good connection to the music.

This is a passive strategy that will not add more aficionados of Argentine tango culture to a First World tango community. Some dancers will inherently appreciate exercising choice in selection of dance partners, a good embrace while dancing, the absence of fear of collision on the milonga dance floor, the absence of teaching on the milonga dance floor, and the absence of discordant music such as neo-tango and other non-tango music played for dancing tango at milongas. However, with the repeated intrusion of exhibition tango, not only on the milonga dance floor, but also as taught by visiting instructors from Argentina that are highly regarded by many in a First World tango community, it becomes difficult for more than a minority of dancers to appreciate the value of adhering to Argentine milonga codes. In any case, even if suitable partners for dancing are found, the auditory assault from non-tango music, the visual assault from exhibitionism, the tactile assault from milonga floor collisions, and the uninvited invasion of personal space from approaching undesired dance partners proffering dance invitations with outstretched hands, make this environment tolerable only for dancers needing tango under the most challenging of circumstances.

(2) Organize events that promote Argentine tango culture. Organize a milonga that follows Argentine milonga codes. Play only classic tango music. Choose a small dance floor that limits the expression of exhibitionist movements. Invite instructors to the community that teach Tango de Salon.

This is a financially risky strategy. There are economic costs in hosting milongas and especially in inviting visiting instructors. If the predominant Tango Extranjero culture places value on exhibitionism on the milonga dance floor, shuns the embrace, resists the cabeceo and gender segregated seating, tolerates teaching on the milonga dance floor, and draws and amplifies energy from non-tango music for dancing tango, all accepted as part of the inevitable evolution of tango, the success in promoting Tango de Salon and Argentine milonga culture will be limited. There may be an initial curiosity, but sustaining interest will be more difficult. Attendees at events designed for Tango de Salon may (intentionally or unintentionally) disregard the milonga codes designed for such events, so that the effort and expense directed towards bringing Argentine tango culture into a First World tango community will not reach the anticipated goals. In addition, missionaries from the One Tango Philosophy may infiltrate such events for the purpose of recruiting dancers to Tango Extranjero by promising larger gatherings, live music, and a wider variety of acceptable expressions of tango. Furthermore, promoters of the One Tango Philosophy are likely to co-opt Argentine tango culture by including some aspects of it (and modifying others to make them more attractive, e.g., ‘nuevo milonguero’) within the myriad of tango variations offered at festivals and within organized tango instructional studios. There is a key marketing advantage of the One Tango Philosophy – by offering a variety of expressions of tango, there will be something attractive to each tango consumer. Even if promoters of Argentine tango culture believe in the necessity of having tango social dance venues where Tango de Salon and Argentine milonga culture thrive, dancers who are only curious about Tango de Salon or are neophytes may not understand the value of a culturally accurate representation of tango, and may be attracted to the larger Tango Extranjero following, assuming incorrectly that attendance provides validation, or simply because larger attendance generates more excitement and also provides dancers more opportunities to meet other dancers for purposes other than dancing tango.

(3) Segregate from the larger tango community and form a smaller community that promotes Argentine tango cultural values.

Complete segregation from the larger Tango Extranjero community at first appears to be an attractive option. This means having a closed tango community, with invitation to events dependent upon known acceptance of Argentine milonga codes or some reasonable approximation of this environment. The advantage of this strategy is that there is an increased likelihood of having milongas without the distractions of exhibitionism and collision risks on the dance floor, direct physical approach in dance invitation, teaching on the dance floor, and demands for non-tango music to be played for dancing tango. Achieving this environment will require recruiting dancers for this community, which usually will necessitate providing instruction in Tango de Salon and education regarding Argentine milonga codes. However, by creating a closed community, there will be fewer attendees at events and less income. Perhaps it will not be possible to afford inviting visiting instructors, events which generate interest, attendance, and even generate sufficient income to meet normal operating expenses. Some of the costs of hosting events with the desired characteristics can be minimized by holding them in locations where rental costs are low or even non-existent (e.g., someone’s home) and instructors may need to have lower expectations regarding remuneration for teaching. It also needs to be pointed out here that offering tango events without charge, even if this is possible, may increase attendance but also attract people who are less committed to learning about Argentine tango culture.

An additional disadvantage of this strategy is that community segregation may be viewed by the larger Tango Extranjero community as hostile, exclusionary and elitist, and negative propaganda may circulate that will hinder recruitment. Of course, even the insistence upon adherence to Argentine milonga codes in a more open community (option #2 above) may lead to labeling of the pro-Argentine culture proponents as ‘tango police’ or anachronistic resistors to the inevitable evolution of tango. However, note that if a group were formed, for example, to reenact dance culture from the Civil War period in the United States (and such groups exist), with the expectation that participants acquire costumes and abide by the customs of the era, it is unlikely this group would be seen as elitist and exclusionary, yet if dancers wish to promote tango as it is danced in its country of origin and have expectations of participants abiding by the customs of the culture, this may be perceived as an anti-social activity. The source of this conflict is that promoters and practitioners of Tango Extranjero typically believe they have the rights of inheritance to the tango cultural legacy, along with its inevitable evolution, and by democratic majority rule they have the right, within their One Tango Philosophy, to impose their misguided and misappropriated tango cultural values upon even those people who wish to transplant Argentine tango culture as intact as is possible. In this context, the arrogance is not in the separatist movement, but rather in the culturally insensitive majority.

Thus, segregation from the larger Tango Extranjero community has substantial social costs and economic risks. It may not be possible to achieve the desired goals of having milongas accurately representing Argentine tango culture and then, after having alienated the Tango Extranjero community through exclusion, promoters of Tango de Salon may either have to swallow their pride and tolerate hostility in participating in the larger Tango Extranjero community or  may need to travel elsewhere to participate in tango social events that are more culturally representative of the Buenos Aires milonga environment.

(4) Travel to find culturally accurate Argentine tango milonga events

If time and money were not limitations, a tanguera/o could experience Argentine tango culture firsthand by traveling to Buenos Aires regularly. Some First World tangueros have even moved to Buenos Aires to maximize this encounter. (See blogs: Tango Chamuyo; Tango Cherie; La Vida con Deby; Sallycat’s Adventures).

In the absence of the ability to move to Buenos Aires or travel there frequently, and lacking a suitable tango environment in his/her own locale and the ability to create a subcommunity with Argentine tango cultural values, the tanguera/o needing a culturally valid environment for dancing tango will need to travel to less distant communities to find that environment; if fortunate, travel distance and time will not be excessive. In the first decade of the 21st century there were annual tango festivals in North America in Denver, Atlanta, and San Diego promoting Argentine tango culture [The Rise and Fall of Tango Milonguero in North America in the 21st Century (Highlighting the Denver Tango Festival)]; however, the competitive economic advantage of promoters of the One Tango Philosophy has caused the transformation or cessation of these festivals. The Chicago Mini Tango Festival still offers instruction that is primarily Tango de Salon. In North America there are smaller ‘encuentros’ that feature instruction in Tango Milonguero and milongas following Buenos Aires customs, including gender segregated seating and use of the cabeceo for dance invitation, characteristics of Argentine milonga culture that were not achieved in the Denver, San Diego, Atlanta, and Chicago tango festivals; however, these events have been hosted primarily in southwestern US states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado) and thus have limited geographic distribution. More widespread geographic distribution of these events is needed to make it more feasible for tangueros in other geographic regions to enjoy Argentine tango culture with less expense in time and money in order to attend.

Conclusion

The overwhelming market dominance in the First World of Tango Extranjero, the tango product adapted for First World cultural tastes, makes it difficult for the tanguero seeking an environment for dancing tango that resembles that existing in Buenos Aires milongas. There are several options available to achieve at least some connection with Argentine milonga culture, but there are costs associated with these endeavors. A person seeking Argentine milonga culture either needs to travel to Buenos Aires to find that environment, or travel to geographically closer communities where some reasonable approximation of this environment exists, or to attempt to establish an environment with the desired characteristics is his/her own local community. Unless there is an existing compatible tango community nearby, none of these alternatives offers an easy solution. Trips to Buenos Aires to experience tango in the environment of its birth are a necessity for someone to gain at least some experience of the characteristics of Argentine tango culture, but with limited opportunities to do so, there needs to be some sustenance to maintain a connection with Argentine tango culture in the meantime. Networking and cooperation between tango communities in close geographic proximity seeking an Argentine milonga environment can provide some of the needed support to achieve these goals. Future posts will examine in greater detail some of the ways to improve networking and also strategies for establishing a viable Argentine tango cultural environment in a local community.

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29 Responses to Factors Affecting the Survival of Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions in Non-supportive First World Cultural Environments (The Dominance of Tango Extranjero)

  1. Mark Word says:

    Estimado “THE voice of tango argentino”:
    Although I agree with many of your points, perhaps you can agree that one of the problems of the US mentality is arrogance. This seems to be also a problem for Argentina (and many other overly proud nationalistic individuals). So let’s agree that you being from Argentina and I being from the US both share a cultural tendency for being arrogant, okay? I am indeed opinionated, but your blog beats me in this area of arrogance by your proclamation that you are THE voice of Argentino in North America. Creo que no. You are a single informed-but-opinionaged voice, an eloquent one. You yourself are a teacher and you know how difficult it is to market tango in a very visual modern world that watches dance more than doing it. How can we bind together for the survival of such a fragile and wonderful thing?

    Let’s start then with arrogance as the main problem. I would posit that teachers in general are mostly to blame for tango extranjero, and Argentine teachers have led the way. As a baby tanguero, I started my own tango blog and quickly I realized that my blog was often anti-tango-teacher in its tone. Much of what I have written also has promoted traditional tango etiquette. So I realize your frustration. Our great difference is I do not blame foreigners but rather the arrogance of Argentina’s visiting teachers.

    Your blog hints at the problem of Argentine teacher arrogance, but you do not seem fully to acknowledge Argentine teachers as the epicenter of the problem. Rather, you seem to blame the consumers, los extranjeros, primarily. Visiting Argentine teachers are not the only problem, of course, but I even some Argentine teachers who discovered tango in America teach it with great pride and arrogance and market it with the pride of being from Argentina. They teach open embrace and lots of tricks. It is sickening. Perhaps your blog should be primarily in Spanish so that Argentine teachers can fully understand your ideas. But of course they would not hear it! Tango extranjero is money in their pocket, and they have no great love for tango culture and the social aspects of tango that you and I love.

    How could people with your knowledge unite together for change?That is simply not going to happen because (a) you write in anonymity, and (b) who would want to join the forces of dark negativity and “depressive realism” for a cause of good and light? There is no hope in your message that I see.

    In the end, you are not marketing your important ideas well because of the cutting criticism. Who can escape your anonymous blog’s discerning yet cutting observations? Even those who are trying to bring the embrace and traditional dance and music are slammed! Also, you speak with authority about the entire world without knowing the world. I happen to know just my little corner of the world, and I know that you speak without knowing. I live in what you have called a so-called first-world country in Europe where “encuentros” are common and very popular. Los còdicos de tango are well known and practiced at these “encuentros.” ONLY traditional Tango of the Golden Era is played. So you err and speak outside of your experience. Anyone who can bear the arrogance in your blog can learn a lot from you. I always do! Even with the negativity that is overpowering, I do believe that you have a message and important observations. I wish you could use your energy to find solutions that do not start with a premise of negativity which is replete even in the title of this last message.

    In a world at the brink of concerns of its own political, economic and environmental survival, the survival of tango in traditional terms perhaps would allow us to fight more for a need to unite than fight.

    • tangovoice says:

      Despite what may be perceived from the content and tone of the response below, the posted comments are greatly appreciated.

      “Let’s start then with arrogance as the main problem. I would posit that teachers in general are mostly to blame for tango extranjero, and Argentine teachers have led the way. As a baby tanguero, I started my own tango blog and quickly I realized that my blog was often anti-tango-teacher in its tone. Much of what I have written also has promoted traditional tango etiquette. So I realize your frustration. Our great difference is I do not blame foreigners but rather the arrogance of Argentina’s visiting teachers.”

       Some Argentine teachers are arrogant, some are very nice, and some are just doing their job. With respect to Americans (and other First World tangueros), some are arrogant in proposing their way of tango is the only way, some are arrogant in proposing any variation of tango is acceptable. The main problem is not recognizing the relationship between the characteristics of the dance in relation to the environment in which it is danced. A variation of tango that causes collisions of the dance floor, blocks the progression of the circulating ronda, and is designed in its conspicuousness to attract attention and detract from partner connection is not designed for the milonga (See: Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression: Part I – A Rationale for Classification by Niche Adaptation: https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/tango-styles-genres-and-individual-expression-part-i-a-rationale-for-classification-by-niche-adaptation/). Because of the disconnect of dance from environment, it is also not Tango Argentino. This is an objectively based conclusion.

      “Your blog hints at the problem of Argentine teacher arrogance, but you do not seem fully to acknowledge Argentine teachers as the epicenter of the problem. Rather, you seem to blame the consumers, los extranjeros, primarily. Visiting Argentine teachers are not the only problem, of course, but I even some Argentine teachers who discovered tango in America teach it with great pride and arrogance and market it with the pride of being from Argentina. They teach open embrace and lots of tricks. It is sickening. Perhaps your blog should be primarily in Spanish so that Argentine teachers can fully understand your ideas. But of course they would not hear it! Tango extranjero is money in their pocket, and they have no great love for tango culture and the social aspects of tango that you and I love.”

       In some sense the Argentine instructors are to be blamed in misrepresenting their own culture, and in some sense they are not to be blamed because teaching tango in a wealthy capitalist economy provides them with a livelihood they would not otherwise have. It is the ignorance of First World cultures, that typically view other cultures through their own culturally biased lens, that creates the demand which the Argentine instructors are capable of supplying.

      As for the Argentines reading this blog, the statistics provided by WordPress indicate that, given the population size of Argentina, the Argentines are reading this blog at a rate much higher than expected from population size. So the Argentines are seeing these words; it is not clear what they are believing.

      “How could people with your knowledge unite together for change? That is simply not going to happen because (a) you write in anonymity, and (b) who would want to join the forces of dark negativity and “depressive realism” for a cause of good and light? There is no hope in your message that I see.

      In the end, you are not marketing your important ideas well because of the cutting criticism.”

       That is an astute comment. To some degree, the tone of this post (and blog in general) can be interpreted as ‘preaching to the choir’. However, espousing the merits of Tango de Salon to followers of the One Tango Philosophy is often responded to with comments like “Yes, Tango Milonguero is great when the floor is crowded but when there is room, dancing Tango Nuevo does no harm”, or “That is the past of tango, and we are embracing its future” or “We are embracing the diversity of tango in all of its forms” or “We’re not in Argentina”. With constant reinforcement from Argentine instructors, First World tango consumers are being brainwashed into buying what is most saleable. The only way Tango de Salon is going to survive is if its followers organize and congregate and plan events that provide reinforcement to the participants. This means solidarity within communities and networking between communities. If supporters of Tango de Salon host a milonga with 100 dancers and play only classic tango music and everyone moves harmoniously in embrace on a crowded floor, either followers of Tango Nuevo are going to try it and like it or go home frustrated. Tolerance for exhibition moves and playing the expected ‘one tanda of neo-tango per hour’, well-honored First World Tango Extranjero traditions, are not going to convert anyone to Tango de Salon; this is a fallacy shared by many organizers promoting Tango de Salon. The only strategies that appear to have any chance of creating the desired environment are complete segregation (combined with selective recruitment), or an open door in an environment completely dominated by Tango de Salon. The second cannot occur without the first at first succeeding.

      “Who can escape your anonymous blog’s discerning yet cutting observations? Even those who are trying to bring the embrace and traditional dance and music are slammed! Also, you speak with authority about the entire world without knowing the world. I happen to know just my little corner of the world, and I know that you speak without knowing. I live in what you have called a so-called first-world country in Europe where “encuentros” are common and very popular. Los còdicos de tango are well known and practiced at these “encuentros.” ONLY traditional Tango of the Golden Era is played. So you err and speak outside of your experience. Anyone who can bear the arrogance in your blog can learn a lot from you. I always do! Even with the negativity that is overpowering, I do believe that you have a message and important observations. I wish you could use your energy to find solutions that do not start with a premise of negativity which is replete even in the title of this last message.
      In a world at the brink of concerns of its own political, economic and environmental survival, the survival of tango in traditional terms perhaps would allow us to fight more for a need to unite than fight.”

       Perhaps.… No one is knowledgeable about everything. If things are different in some parts of Europe [Where is this? From personal experience in at least a half dozen European countries (on the continent)], it appears Tango Extranjero is alive and well throughout Europe. As for here in the US, there are a few places where Tango de Salon has some signs of life, but centralized gathering places for its practice, geographically distributed, as existed with the Denver, San Diego, and Atlanta festivals, have essentially vanished (The Chicago Mini Tango Festival may be an exception but has priced itself too high), and the encuentros milongoneros that do occur don’t even have 100 participants, unlike the One Tango Festivals that have 200, 300 or even 400 participants. Of course, these encuentros have been more culturally accurate than their festival predecessors and number of participants is not important, having a suitable environment is, but these encuentros need to be more frequent and more geographically widespread.

      Social movements for change, large and small, don’t arise from complacency; they arise from action by those committed to change.

      • Paul says:

        Mark Word wrote:…but you do not seem fully to acknowledge Argentine teachers as the epicenter of the problem. Rather, you seem to blame the consumers..

        TV wrote: :… In some sense the Argentine instructors are to be blamed in misrepresenting their own culture, and in some sense they are not ….It is the ignorance of First World cultures, that typically view other cultures through their own culturally biased lens, that creates the demand…

        I am not sure that the blame game is particularly productive whether the preferred focus is on the demand (naïve or ignorant first world consumers) or the supply (business-savvy Argentine or non-Argentine teachers). For instance, though it is tempting to see consumer demand as the source of the problem, it should be recognised that the show tango performers have long exploited the potential to create that very demand. Ultimately, whether it is more the fault of the teachers or the customers is surely best considered a matter of punctuation (rather like the chicken and the egg). For those of us who are motivated to preserve and promote the cultural traditions of Tango Argentino, it is possibly more useful to acknowledge that this dynamic (supply of and demand for tango extranjero) thrives and shows no obvious sign of abating. That alone may help us better to adapt our rhetoric to our purposes.

    • El Polaco says:

      Mark Word wrote:
      your blog beats me in this area of arrogance by your proclamation that you are THE voice of Argentino in North America. Creo que no. You are a single informed-but-opinionaged voice, an eloquent one. You yourself are a teacher and you know how difficult it is to market tango in a very visual modern world that watches dance more than doing it.

      Really wish I saw this comment earlier. Finally a comment and commentator I can agree with on this blog. After reading this blog and getting useful information, I agree that it’s condescending tone and the negative nature of the majority of the discussion completely contradicts it’s claimed goals of promoting traditional tango milonguero.

      There is, eg., a complete lack of any effort at all to summarise or draw any positive conclusions that move the discussion forward beyond the display of knowingness by both author and discussants, despite the claim that there is interest in actual action.

      I also wish I had read this earlier and had known that the author is Argentinian and a teacher, which I started to suspect anyhow. This confirms my suspicion that the project is ethnocentric in orientation.

      Your blog hints at the problem of Argentine teacher arrogance, but you do not seem fully to acknowledge Argentine teachers as the epicenter of the problem. Rather, you seem to blame the consumers, los extranjeros, primarily. Visiting Argentine teachers are not the only problem, of course, but I even some Argentine teachers who discovered tango in America teach it with great pride and arrogance and market it with the pride of being from Argentina. They teach open embrace and lots of tricks. It is sickening.

      Exactly! Even as they claim to be ‘natural’ and not ‘academico’, they teach show tango, and their compatriots who dance close embrace won’t say a word. Once you see the inconsistencies, the ego and general hypocrisy, one is not encouraged to travel to Buenos Aires … who wants more confusion? Get your act together Argentinians!

      How could people with your knowledge unite together for change?That is simply not going to happen because (a) you write in anonymity, and (b) who would want to join the forces of dark negativity and “depressive realism” for a cause of good and light? There is no hope in your message that I see.

      Exactly. As the attacks on me and the aloof behaviour of the author has shown … guaranteed ethnocentrism under the guise of ‘rights’ and ‘anti-commercialism’ … my foot. The tone is condescending knowingness designed to instill a sense of inferiority and undermine confidence or efforts without the ‘leadership’ of Argentines/Buenos Aires experienced dancers. I saw this sad dependency-instilling tendency in my Argetinian teachers.

      I dislike both sides: the arrogant Argentinian teachers and the equally toxic non-Argentine organisers, and hope that people like Mark can lead the way forward in a positive way that maintains a healthy distance from both sorts of toxicity. I checked Mark’s website and believe that he provides ideas for the sort of pedagogical approach I would endorse.

  2. jantango says:

    Thanks for addressing the issue that concerns many of my tango friends and me. Tango Extranjero is business for tango professionals, and tango as a social dance is disappearing. The tango champions win a title for tango de salon/tango de pista and the next week they’re performing choreography on stage.

    We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women of the milongas who for decades kept tango as a social dance alive and well in Buenos Aires.

  3. Mark says:

    It seems to me that the world has always been full of people who are easily confused by even poor quality marketing, but, hopefully, the pendulum can still swing. I just keep dancing ‘apilado’ and the melee provides exercise for the brain & floor craft. Keep trying.

  4. Paul says:

    Thanks for another well-prepared and thoughtful reflection on a topic of great interest to many of us.

    TV wrote: Strategy 1: Tolerate the violations of Argentine milonga codes and just enjoy as much as is possible the aspects of Argentine tango culture that are present, such as….

    This is a passive strategy that will not add more aficionados of Argentine tango culture to a First World tango community.

    As it respects the law of least effort, this strategy is likely to be the most commonly adopted. While it is probably true that it is unlikely to contribute signficantly to the growth of a social tango dancing community, it is perhaps not completely true to see this strategy as entirely passive either. Some of us who frequent these imperfect milongas in the first world are not not merely taking what we can from the somewhat mixed bill of fare; we are also (hopefully at least) testifying to the existence of a perennially viable alternative to the prevailing practices of tango extranjero.

    • Mark says:

      We do what we can in any given context. Good on you guys.

    • tangovoice says:

      Yes, it is true that those practicing Tango de Salon in the Tango Extranjero environment serve as a testimony to the existence of a different interpretation of tango, hopefully one that is accurately representative of the tango danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires. This provides an opportunity for others to see an alternative to step-focused dancing and exhibitionism disconnected with the music. Perhaps sitting out tandas of electronic music and other forms of non-tango music played for eliciting steps sometimes used for tango dancing also sends a message that this is not music designed for tango dancing. However, one needs to remember that the One Tango Philosophy embraces versions of Tango de Salon such as Tango Milonguero as a variation of tango that may be obligatory under the most extreme circumstances of crowded floors (when exhibitionist moves are not possible, although some would advocate that that there are versions of volcadas and colgadas and enganches that fit into small spaces). Thus, an example of Tango de Salon in a crowd of practitioners of Tango Extranjero typically does little to influence the structure of a tango community. If permissible (i.e., not leading to social ostracization by the organizers of Tango Extranjero events and their supporters), one may use Tango Extranjero gatherings as a source for recruitment of interested dancers to a more culturally accurate environment for dancing tango (even a small practica can be productive in this regard), although in this case one needs to be prepared for reverse recruitment, i.e., Tango Extranjero dancers recruiting less integrated Tango de Salon dancers to the larger and thus more exciting Tango Extranjero environment.

      • tangovoice says:

        Another comment. Attending a Tango Extranjero event validates the event. It sends a message to other dancers that misrepresentation of Tango Argentino is acceptable. It also provides financial support for continued misrepresentation of Tango Argentino. Tango accurately representing Argentine cultural traditions is not going to have a chance of existing if dancers do not discriminate in their support of events, and if they are not assertive in excluding detractors (i.e., exhibitionists) from the events they organize. A passive approach to the promotion of Tango Argentino will only lead to the continued domination of Tango Extranjero.

      • Paul says:

        TV wrote: Perhaps sitting out tandas of electronic music and other forms of non-tango music played for eliciting steps sometimes used for tango dancing also sends a message that this is not music designed for tango dancing

        Fortunately, the use of non-tango music at tango dancing events is something that is rarely encountered here in the capital of Europe; however, that same suggestion might usefully be followed when DJs play tango music more suitable for listening pleasure than for social dancing. Casual observation suggests that tango extranjero enthusiasts are also less attuned to this important distinction.

        TV wrote:…one needs to remember that the One Tango Philosophy embraces versions of Tango de Salon such as Tango Milonguero as a variation of tango that may be obligatory under the most extreme circumstances of crowded floors.
        If permissible (i.e., not leading to social ostracization by the organizers of Tango Extranjero events and their supporters), one may use Tango Extranjero gatherings as a source for recruitment

        These are worthwhile observations. There is certainly a risk that the living (dancing) testimony of experienced social dancers passes unnoticed in the wide palette of offerings present at a typical tango extranjero event. Nevertheless, this living testimony at its best would include verbal as well as non-verbal (or behavioral) components. Thus, just just as we might find missionaries from the One Tango Philosophy [infiltrating] such events for the purpose of recruiting dancers, so too can we appreciate the potential importance of committed social dancers who are prepared to talk to those receptive about the authentic traditions of social Argentine tango. As regards opportunities for recruitment to rival events, the risk of social ostracization is indeed real. I know of organisers wishing to promote a more traditional event who try to avoid timetable conflicts with tango extranjero events in the same area. Thus, public announcements or distribution of flyers promoting a traditional alternative are therefore unlikely ever to be “permissible” at such events; instead, a more sensible strategy (and one that reduces the risk of ostracization) would involve conversations in which the more informed and experienced social dancers share what they know with those who seem most receptive. In the early stages of Tango Argentino community-building, this may be reason enough for competent social dancers not to completely desert the extranjero environment, at least in the short term.

  5. Paul says:

    To clarify, I do not mean to imply that Strategy 1 (i.e. Take what you can from unfavourable tango extranjero events) constitutes a long-term effective strategy for the cultivation of a Tango Argentino community in first world environments. Rather, my general point is that while lacking satisfactory local alternatives to tango extranjero/One Tango Philosophy events, some intermediate or temporary strategies can usefully be employed which may contribute to the eventual growth of such a community. It is for this reason that I would dispute the idea that continued frequentation (where no realistic alternative currently exists) of tango events is necessarily passive or (as latterly suggested) counter-productive.

    TV wrote: Attending a tango extranjero event validates the event.

    As you point out elsewhere, tango extranjero (and its sponsored events e.g. milongas, festivals, flashmobs, marathons) already receives plentiful validation through the numbers it attracts; the media attention it receives (television dance shows, YouTube, competition dancing); its enthusiastic adoption by commercial tango schools; and, perhaps most significantly, through the regular engagement (for workshops and demos) of touring, professional Argentine show dancers. It is indeed vexing to think that by attending local tango extranjero events, social dancers might add further to this validation; it is also frustrating to think that one is providing financial support for the continued misrespresentation of Tango Argentino. However, the significance of this “validation” can be overstated particularly where no traditional alternative exists locally. Choosing to attend tango extranjero events in such circumstances does not equate to high-level validation. Conversely, if a traditional alternative did in fact exist, a more meaningful context would be provided for much more significant validation of one or, indeed, the other.

    TV wrote: Tango accurately representing Argentine cultural traditions is not going to have a chance of existing if dancers do not discriminate in their support of events, and if they are not assertive in excluding detractors (i.e., exhibitionists) from the events they organize.

    Agreed. But in unfavourable environments heavily dominated by tango extranjero/One Tango Philosophy, some preliminary work needs to be done before any viable attempt can be made to organize even small-scale events that accurately respresent Argentine cultural traditions. In other words, there is first a need to inform, convince and recruit. It is here where promoters of Tango Argentino need to reflect on the rhetoric that would be most effective to their cause as well as the context in which it is best employed. When the rhetoric is intemperate, there is a risk of alienating and awakening hostility among those one wants to reach. When it is measured, it may at the very least awaken mild curiosity. As for the context, it is important to recognise that most social dancers do not derive their knowledge of Tango Argentino from well-researched and reliable sources such as this blog; rather, their knowledge is likely to be gained from what is typically dispensed at local commercial tango schools where the focus is far less on accurate cultural transmission. It is thus all the more important that those knowledgeable about and supportive of the cultural traditions of Tango Argentino continue to have opportunities for conversations with participants in the tango extranjero world.

    • tangovoice says:

      It is apparent that there is no one effective strategy for building a culturally accurate Argentine Tango environment outside of Buenos Aires. Much depends on the particular local circumstances. Nevertheless, there are some commonly faced obstackes. In almost all cases, the Tango Extranjero population is larger (and indeed the Tango Argentino community may not even exist). Attempts to sponsor events promoting Tango Argentino (e.g., milongas) will either attract more aficionados of Tango Extranjero or not attract enough people to be a successful milonga. It is unlikely that followers of Tango Extranjero will be enlightened enough to recognize that the Tango Argentino event is designed to resemble Buenos Aires milongas, so they will continue to demonstrate eye-catching movements at these events. Hosting visiting instructors of Tango Argentino, particularly if they are Argentine, may (or may not) be effective in convincing Tango Extranjero dancers to set aside their usual habits and learn about Argentine Tango culture, but if there are frequent big name Tango Extranjero instructors coming to town on a regular basis, this effort may be ignored.

      It seems that in most cases the only way to build a culturally representative environment for Tango Argentino is to build it from the bottom up, by recruiting and nurturing new dancers, while educating them regarding Argentine Tango culture. In doing so one also needs to recognize that in addition to the normal loss that occurs in any dance program, plus any additional loss that may occur in introducing First World dancers to (what is to them) an uncomfortable embrace, there will be a loss of dancers who become exposed to the larger Tango Extranjero community that has kidnapped the name of ‘Argentine Tango’. If one looks at the Tango Extranjero community as a source for recruiting, then the Tango Extranjero teachers and organizers will turn around and demand access for recruiting dancers from the Tango Argentino community, and they have more to offer in terms of festivals, live music, and a larger population of single people who are looking for other singles to meet. Given the available options, it seems that the time and energy spent in trying to recruit Tango Extranjero dancers would be better invested in setting up a separate community. However, circumstances may vary depending on the community and its organizers and instructors.

  6. Paul says:

    TV wrote: Creating a milonga environment with the characteristics of milongas in Buenos Aires is, in theory, a relatively straightforward endeavor because the primary cultural characteristics of the Buenos Aires milonga are well defined (Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga). However, there are factors strongly operating against the implementation of these goals.

    Implementation of these goals is certainly fraught with difficulties. But those of us living in first world environments who pine for a more accurate transmission of those cultural characteristics should perhaps reflect on what we consider to be the essential pre-requisites and, possibly, their priority ranking. For instance, most of us would probably agree on the exclusive use of classic tango music from the Golden Age of tango. But what of the characteristics listed below? While some might see them all (and more besides) as essential, others might consider many if not most as either undesirable or unrealistic in first world environments where tango extranjero is the prevailing norm:

    separate seating arrangements with tables for single men/single women/couples
    invitation to dance by cabeceo/mirada
    adequate lighting and spatial adjustments to facilitate this manner of inviting
    dancing in a maintained close embrace that doesn’t occupy too much common space
    absence of exhibitionist or expansive figures ill-adapted for the social dance floor (e.g. volcadas, colgadas, voleos, ganchos, sentadas, soltadas, enganches, piernazos)
    clear and smoothly progressing ronda/s without excessive (temporal or spatial) deviations
    a dress code (e.g. shirt, jacket, and tie for men)
    no same-sex dancing
    total clearing of the floor during cortinas
    no promotional demos by touring or resident professionals showcasing show/competition dance or tango extranjero

    The potential for disagreement here is huge even among those purporting to favour traditional Tango Argentino. Taking just one example, there are those who will will defend the use of nuevo milonguero-style elements such as the compact volcada claiming that no possible discomfort or harm can be caused to other dancers. An organiser taking a firm stand against such deviations on the grounds of cultural accuracy may alienate more than he/she persuades and thereafter may suffer some level of social ostracization.

    Finally, even when there is agreement on the set of essential pre-requisites, questions still remain as to how exactly compliance can be encouraged or, if thought necessary, policed. There is a world of difference between gentle reminders appearing on websites and leaflets on tables on the one hand, and the readiness of organisers to make public announcements or even to confront offenders on or off the dancefloor. There are of course precedents for this in Buenos Aires (video 1, video 2) but just how willing are first world organisers to take similar stances where Tango Extranjero/One Tango Philosophy dominates and much less is known of the authentic culture of social tango? And if they are ready to take such a stance, what set of characteristics (desiderata) should they most usefully focus on?

    • tangovoice says:

      There is a difference between imposing values on an existing system and building a different system. In a community dominated by Tango Extranjero (just about everywhere in the First World), Attempts to impose traditional Argentine Tango values on an existing system will meet with resistance and are unlikely, except in the most enlightened environment, to lead to anything more than minimal success. An event organizer can control the music played and the lighting, can set up tables around the dance floor that can facilitate the use of the cabeceo for dance invitation, and can limit scheduled performances, but probably not much more. Perhaps the obnoxious habit of teaching on the dance floor can be controlled by posting signs (‘No teaching on the dance floor during the milonga’), but that might even be ignored. The alternative to imposing one’s values on the resistant Tango Extranjero majority is to build a traditional tango community from within. This involves a close relationship between the teaching environment and the milonga environment such that milongas might follow classes in which traditional Tango de Salon and its customs are taught. In such a (perhaps closed) environment, exhibition tango is unlikely to occur because it has not been learned. Clearing the floor during a cortina can become a habit. Granted, some cultural traditions may be more difficult to develop than others and separate seating sections for men and women and the use of the cabeceo are probably the most difficult customs to teach in that respect. However, if this is done within a cohesive group environment, some progress can be made here as well. The prospect of attending ‘encuentros milongueros’, where almost all of the traditional customs are adhered to, can be offered as a reward for those learning the customs. Thus, the approach here is ‘build from within’ and ‘connect with others elsewhere’ rather than ‘impose upon the unwilling’.

  7. Paul says:

    TV wrote: Strategy 2 Organize events that promote. …Choose a small dance floor that limits the expression of exhibitionist movements.

    Intuitively, one feels that this “small-floor” strategy ought to work. However, aspiring organisers should note that this does not automatically influence those dancers whose understanding is solely acquired through attendance of first-world tango schools. For them, the essence of tango is not what you eloquently describe elsewhere (The Essence of Tango Argentino); rather, it consists of the gradual mastery of ever more complex steps and figures where advanced competence is understood to be shown more by variety of repertoire and (perilously) speed of execution. Where there is a knowledge gap, reducing the space will have limited (if any) effect. First fill the void, then reduce the space.

    • tangovoice says:

      All other things being equal, tango exhibitionists will prefer a larger dance floor. They also may prefer non-traditional music for their exhibitions on the social dance floor. They are likely to seek an audience that appreciates their exhibitions, not one that disapproves. Depending upon the danger of collision imposed upon other dancers on the floor, the milonga organizer has the option of directly telling the tango exhibitionist that this is not an environment in which exhibitionist moves are permitted. The milonga organizer also can refrain from scheduling exhibitions during breaks from social dancing. If an environment can be created that is non-supportive of exhibitionism, one can reduce the probability of such milonga code violating behavior from occurring. Reducing floor space and/or increasing floor density of dancers are factors under the control of the milonga organizer that can be utilized in this effort.

      “First fill the void, then reduce the space”.

      There may be a huge knowledge void to fill. This takes time, perhaps on the order of years. Reducing space only takes minutes. This can be accomplished in part by placing tables to create an aisle behind the tables rather than having dancers walk in front of tables to reach their destinations (another collision instigator).

    • tangovoice says:

      Paul wrote: “For those of us who are motivated to preserve and promote the cultural traditions of Tango Argentino, it is possibly more useful to acknowledge that this dynamic (supply of and demand for tango extranjero) thrives and shows no obvious sign of abating. That alone may help us better to adapt our rhetoric to our purposes.”

      Herein lies the solution, i.e., recognizing that Tango Extranjero exists and that it is not going away anytime soon. (The previous cultural adaptation – Tango Ballroom – has survived 100 years but fortunately is relatively marginalized.)

      What works to raise the prominence of Tango de Salon in First World cultures and the best ways to bring traditional Argentine Tango values into a milonga environment depend on the characteristics of each (micro)culture. Carrying placards stating ‘This is not tango’ into a First World adapted milonga is unlikely to be an effective recruiting tool. However, blogs have a different purpose, i.e., to raise issues and stimulate thought and conversation. In most cases real world solutions require some compromise, but one should also consider ‘at what cost compromise?’ Attempting to convert aficionados of Tango Extranjero may be mostly an exercise in sowing seed on infertile ground. Creating a separate Tango Argentino environment may be the alternative and best strategy.

  8. tangovoice says:

    Chicho Frumboli speaks out in favor of the One Tango Philosophy (https://www.facebook.com/events/1374251256138136/):

    “Tango in itself has so much variety and possibilities. Different genres within one dance…. Stage tango, tango for the dance floor, social, acrobatic, competition, nuevo, traditional…. without even counting the “styles” that are so much in fashion these days, dividing the tango into intellectually closed groups, and other sorts of the genre that get invented every day as part of new trends. For me the Tango is one and only, and this is why it’s not easy for me to give titles to classes that I teach within an intensive seminar course..”

    The One Tango Philosophy, merging together different genres of tango that are adapted to different environments (milonga, stage, practica nueva), provides tango instructors with expanded opportunities for indoctrination of naive First World tango students who are ignorant of the milonga codes in Buenos Aires. Thus, many Argentines are making a decent living in adapting tango to foreign cultural tastes. It’s no wonder Tango Extranjero is so different from Tango Argentino. .

    Labeling the belief that each genre of tango is adapted to a different environment ‘intellectually closed’ rallies naive foreigners against the adaptation notion. Frumboli knows better.

  9. Chris says:

    TV wrote: “Frumboli knows better.

    Evidence, please.

    • tangovoice says:

      Chicho Frumboli interview with El Tanguata:
      http://www.eltangauta.com/nota.asp?id=1412&idedicion=0#nota-i

      Chicho knows what the milongas are like in Buenos Aires and he knows how the milongueros have danced. He ignores this to offer First World tango students what they want – Tango Escenario, Tango Nuevo, Tango Campeonato…

      Despite his claims that the new dancers are missing the point of tango in seeking steps, Chicho teaches steps. Steps sell.

      • Chris says:

        That’s evidence of his mindset, but I think not evidence that he knows better than to label tango dance divisions as ‘intellectually closed groups’. To a tango worker such as Frumboli, these divisions are barriers to trade. His ‘intellectually closed groups’ is euphemism for ‘commercially closed groups’.

  10. tangovoice says:

    Chicho knows better in the sense that he knows from experience that in Buenios Aires the various genre of tango have different environmental niches and that the One Tango Philosophy he espouses is not representative of the tango that is danced in his native Buenos Aires, the source and model for tango.

    Yes, tango salespersons such as Frumboli benefit from a blurring of the distinctions between genres of tango. Any tango salesperson who teaches multiple genres of tango without emphasizing that some tango is adapted for the stage, some for competition (including the ‘salon’ category), some for experimentation in a practica, and some for social dancing in a milonga, is not being honest about how tango is differentiated in Buenos Aires and thus is spreading the homogenization fallacy characteristic of the One Tango Philosophy.

    • Chris says:

      TV wrote: “Chicho knows better in the sense that he knows from experience that in Buenios Aires the various genre of tango have different environmental niches and that the One Tango Philosophy he espouses is not representative of the tango that is danced in his native Buenos Aires, the source and model for tango.

      That’s a different matter. On which, I’ve see nothing to suggest the source and model of his tango is the Tango de Salon of Buenos Aires, as opposed to simply the Tango de Workshop of his teacher Gustavo Naveira. And nothing to suggest he’s representing it as anything else. He’s selling a commercialised form of the dance invented for classgoers to whom the traditional tango of Buenos Aires is an irrelevance.

  11. Steve, the naïve says:

    Thank you for the blog. I agree with most all arguments to some point, but fail to agree with the discussion in general. I see no solutions, only suggestions for one. If I may suggestions another one, consider this. The schools of your form of dance and excuse me for using only this one form: Tango Salon; they must be proactive in my view, if they want to achieve a single convention of their own milonga form. If I may suggest a possible solution then it would be to organize a sort of “Mixed Jack and Jill with a separate group of fixed couples” Milonga event as you know this in some Milongas in Buenos Aires, but with your teachers as Protectors (Tango Police 🙂 to distribute Yellow and Red Cards to the Male Participants. Two Yellow cards equal one Red. To earn re-entry into the next music set. The participant with the read card must observe one complete set as a learning tool for proper technique or go to rehab advisor to explain how to stay within the boundaries of the normed conventions of your style. The reason I suggest this solution is that us naïve dancers dancing to tango music would actually like to understand the limitations of a particular style. Tango Salon is not the only style taught or danced in Buenos Aires as an original Argentine Tango style, but is one “best defined” as a style presently danced on a broad base within Buenos Aires. There is even a Championship designed to promote it. I personally find it too restrictive and am finding new ways to distort the “Tango Definition” of your favorite dance. If you wonder why the cards are meant only to be handed over to male participants, then please note that I believe it is the man who leads and that the women follow his lead. And why yellow cards. It could be the woman appears to add on her own more to the lead than actually seems to be lead and is the reason for his yellow card. The red card is simple. He seems to be alone the source of a serious violation. Minor violations needed to be handled as such with a yellow or even a warning. And why rehabs? It might be clear that the violation is not minor in nature. With this type of system at these special events, youhave a judging system to not judge excellence but to reduce violations. The protectors are there to help form the proper atmosphere for maintaining a convention which you seem to want to preserve. My suggestion is aimed at providing a fun atmosphere and not to create competition. This is only a social gathering of tango followers.

  12. Mark says:

    In view of the comment by Chris and previous comments, I think an important point is being missed. It’s great to be able to point to BA milongueros in support of my disputes with the hordes of open dancers. However, my reasons for dancing ‘apilado’, anticlockwise, and with respect for other people are not that I’m bent on saving traditions. The most important anticlockwise convention doesn’t belong to Argentina and respect/consideration is a matter of thought, not tradition. ‘Apilado’ is just a label I prefer to indicate the very important art involved in dancing the tango I dance, and that way of dancing is far richer,more efficient and effective than any other for dancing tango music. In my opinion, the ‘why’ is most important, and ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words; but, still, it’s good that we communicate in any way we can. Regards, guys.

  13. Steve, the naïve says:

    The joke. Yes. It was and it isn’t. The issue you are faced with are basically two fold. One, is the interest of a world public to want to dance Tango Salon as the only pure form. Two, the interest of people, such as yourself who believe as a purist, Tango Salon must be respected as the only true form of Argentine Tango. I truly believe your attempt will help to create a better understanding of the Golden years of tango. I also wish you success. In Switzerland and many other European cultures, we have also dance forms, which reflect the local historical culture and they are, unlike in Buenos Aires, only performed by a few dance club members. But if you want to dance freely like within the confines of the particular style of Tango Salon, then you still must travel to Buenos Aires to enjoy the complete set of conventions as you promote. In Zurich, Tango Salon is popular enough that it is a respected dance form. But more popular is not restricting oneself to only one style. We would not enjoy having multiple options of venues to dance Tango every night, if only Tango Salon be an option. By reading your blog that although you do not like this fact, you need to agree with it as a fact of life. No matter how you argue, you will not change this. If you could, then tango would disappear once again. My grandfather used to play on the grammaphone he owned Tango music from earlier times as I was a child but I never saw Tango Salon being danced until I grew up. I love listening to it as I do many forms of music with more than just a boom boom sound, but there was a serious fall out of this form of music because it just wasn’t enough. As Jazz entered and corrupted the music, a new synenergy came back into the almost defunct Tango scene and it is still growing. So continue to promote Tango Salon and the cultural environment around it. But if you don’t educate the general public, they will continue to be naïve. If their dance environment never practices those conventions, then your words will become meaningless like sand on the beach. Your moment of truth will only happen if you can find a way to educate your public and take action instead of just talking about it. In the meantime, I will dance & respect the conventions that are in place at the venues I attend.

    • tangovoice says:

      The major obstacle to the survival of Tango de Salon outside Buenos Aires is the lack of respect for Argentine tango traditions. Reckless navigation, exhibitionist moves, and demand for non-tango music for dancing tango are widespread in First World tango communities and these practices disrupt the environment of a ‘milonga’, preventing the creation of a milonga environment with a culturally valid representation of Argentine tango traditions. Aficionados of Tango de Salon, in general, do not necessarily object to the existence of this form of dance culture per se; they object specifically to its promotion as a form of ‘tango’. Rather than being heralded as the ‘evolution of tango’, it should be recognized for what it is, a cultural adaptation that has evolved away from its Argentine tango cultural roots and is actually a different cultural art form, a fusion of Argentine and non-Argentine influences, at best generously labeled as ‘Tango Extranjero’, whereas more realistically and perhaps less sarcastically it should be called ‘Nueva Fusion’. It is not a matter of stylistic differences, it is a matter of cultural misrepresentation in that this Nueva Fusion is not a social dance form in Buenos Aires beyond the environments of the tango tourist industry. The interference of this dance form with the survival of Tango de Salon is that this Nueva Fusion advertises itself as ‘tango’ (as part of a strategically placed economic program advanced by the One Tango Philosophy), and its appeal to foreigners (who can have their own culture and their tango too) relegates Tango de Salon to a marginalized status in so-called ‘tango communities’ in most First World cultures.

      The lack of respect for the Argentine tango traditions inherent in Tango de Salon indeed is due primarily to the naïveté of tango consumers in First World cultures and education regarding Argentine tango traditions is not only warranted but also necessary. However, the well financed marketing strategy of One Tango organizers, supported by Argentine instructors who recognize the economic advantages of developing a Nueva Fusion (under the banner of ‘tango’) rather than transmitting accurately Argentine tango traditions, are major catalysts promoting the dilution of Argentine culture and the resulting primacy of Nueva Fusion, cloaked in tango garb, masquerading as ‘tango’ in First World so-called ‘tango’ communities. By confronting this affront to the representation of Tango Argentino, a dialogue can be generated that can lead to respect for both cultural art forms.

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