Understanding Argentine Tango (with the Assistance of Milongueros): It’s not just another Ballroom Dance

 

  • Many dancers at North American milongas appear to structure their dance around the conspicuous step patterns and not around the music.
  • The emphasis on producing step patterns while dancing tango is the consequence of tango instruction, but also an adaptation of the instructors to the prevailing cultural understanding that social dancing (as in ballroom dancing) is focused on producing step patterns.
  • In contrast, the overwhelming majority of dancers in Buenos Aires milongas use a small number of relatively inconspicuous movements.
  • Milongueros (experienced tango dancers in Buenos Aires) concentrate and improvise on the rhythmic structure of the music.
  • Milongueros emphasize that tango music generates emotions and the expression and sharing of these emotions are an integral part of the dancing tango.
  • Milongueros emphasize the importance of the embrace in the communication of emotions while dancing tango.
  • North American tango dancers who ignore the music and do not dance embraced are missing an important, unique and rewarding feature of dancing tango.

 

In looking out across the dance floor at many events advertised as ‘milongas’ in North America, it is apparent that the character of the dancing while tango music is playing is very different from the tango dancing in a typical milonga in Buenos Aires [Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga (Part II of ‘Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression’)]. What one often sees among dancers in the North American event is a collection of step patterns, with names most dancers using them could recite, such as ‘sandwich’, ‘lustrada’, ‘boleo’, ‘gancho’, ‘sacada’, ‘arrastre’, ‘volcada’. (A categorization of tango into named steps is given in ‘Figures of Argentine Tango’.) Among the men who have acquired a collection of movements, there is often a display consisting of a nearly continuous and sometimes predictable sequence of step patterns, often without regard to the progression of the line of dance; complexity in the physics of movement appears to be favored over the highly improvised linking of small movements (often those lacking a codified name) that utilize only the space needed to progress in the circulating ronda. Many women appear to be focused on performing embellishments, finding as many opportunities as possible to use them, often without regard to whether or not the man has provided time and space for their execution, and without regard to the space between them and other dancers on the floor (Women’s Adornments for Tango Social Dancing). Tango dancing at North American milongas often appears to be a performing art (with questionable artistic properties), directed by the brain, not a social and emotional interchange between partners, directed by the music. Often absent in dancing to tango music in North American milongas is an embrace between man and woman, i.e., chest-to-chest contact maintained through the dance or, if there is any embrace at all, it is broken apart for the performance of conspicuous step patterns. Also absent is a close connection of movement with the music, even when the dance-facilitating classic tango music from the Golden Age is played for dancing. For the dancers who more or less are connected to the music (i.e., moving in conjunction with the primary beat), they are not exploring the intricacies of music by taking into account syncopations, as well as pauses associated with musical phrasing. It often appears as though the music is only a background for executing patterns, not a framework for structuring the dance. In the most extreme cases, the music played for dancing at these events advertised as ‘milongas’ (sometimes ‘alternative milongas’) is not tango music designed for dancing tango (i.e., classic tango music).

Deviations from the manner in which tango is danced in Buenos Aires milongas are seen readily in the following videos of dancing in North American events advertised as ‘milongas’: San Francisco Tango Marathon, Chicago Mini Tango FestivalNew York Milonga de Reus; Atlanta Milonga Luna; San Diego Moose Milonga; Portland Tango Festival; Albuquerque Tango Festival; Tucson Tango Festival.

In contrast, videos of dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires indicate a different manner of dancing tango that uses simpler movements in a more improvised manner with respect to use of space and interpretation of the music [El Beso (Cachirulo); Sunderland Club (La Milonga del Mundo); Salon Canning (Milonga Parakultural)]. Almost completely absent in these recordings are dancing without embracing, and use of volcadas and ganchos; rare are the use of sacadas, arrastres, and the ‘sandwich’, as well as high boleos and excessive ornamentation by women. [Note that these videos were selected from milongas that are attended by a significant number of younger dancers (less than 40 years old) and tango tourists, to match more closely the demographic makeup of the North American milongas for which video representations of dancing were provided above. Even closer adherence to traditional standards of dancing tango in milongas is evident in these recordings of dancing at milongas at Lo de Celia Tango Club and at Club Gricel (La Cachila).]

The characteristic manner of dancing tango in Buenos Aires milongas can be seen more clearly in the demonstrations of tango dancing given by milongueros, men for whom dancing tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires has been a central part of their lives for decades. Improvisation in musical interpretation is evident to varying degrees in these demonstrations.

  • Ricardo Vidort (with Myriam Pincen) varies the tempo of his walking (slow walks, corridas and pauses) in accordance with the varying tempo of the musically complex rendition of ‘Chique’ by the orchestra of Francisco Canaro.
  • Pedro ‘Tete’ Rusconi (with Silvia Ceriani) creates suspensions for Ceriani within back ocho and giro sequences while still stepping to the driving syncopated rhythm of ‘El recodo’ as performed by the orchestra of Roldolfo Biagi.
  • Ricardo Ponce (‘El Chino Perico’) (with Paola Taccheti) intersperses pauses within a dance that varies between single and double time rhythms, in connection with musical variations in ‘Poema’ as performed by the orchestra of Francisco Canaro.
  • ‘El Flaco’ Dany Garcia (with Silvina Valz) has been a master of milonga con trapsie, varying between single time (weight changes on primary beats only) and double time movements (weight changes also on secondary beats), at times dancing double time while Valz is dancing single time, and also varying between partial and complete weight changes, while dancing to ‘Milonga sentimental’ as performed by the orchestra of Francisco Canaro.
  • Walter Dominguez (with Monica Paz) has a groundedness in his walk (‘hugging’ the floor) that allows him to employ a traspie while dancing to the fast tempo milonga ‘Todos te quieren’ as performed by the orchestra of Angel D’Agostino.
  • Alberto Dassieu (with Elba Biscay), in dancing to ‘Valsecito criollo’ as performed by the orchestra of Juan D’Arienzo, improvises on the constant tempo vals rhythm, stepping mainly on count 1 (the strong beat) but also stepping on count 2 in the forward ocho-like weaving walk and a variant of this (right foot outside partner) walk that ends in a side-together to the right collection; he also steps on all 3 beats in a few backward corridas and giros. There are also a few points in the dance where Dassieu does not change weight but leads Biscay to change weight on each strong beat (some sequences ending in a cruzada).

Note that in these demonstrations there were no ganchos, volcadas, high boleos, arrastres, and sandwiches, and that ornamentation by women was using sparingly. Sacadas were also used sparingly by the men. The dances focused on the music, with movements selected to express the music, movements which in a social tango setting also function as a means for navigation. The movements used were not ostentatious; they were relatively simple, although a viewer with a good knowledge of tango dancing can recognize the precision and creativity in the dances.

Additional examples of milongueros giving demonstrations of tango dancing are presented in Videos of Tango Milonguero. Even more informative are recordings of Milongueros Dancing Tango in the Milongas of Buenos Aires. A more extensive collection of recordings of milongueros dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires is presented by Jantango.

The words of milongueros reinforce the notion that the focus of tango dancing is not the creation of complex and conspicuous movement sequences.

Regarding the selection of movements for dancing, Cacho Dante has said of milongueros as they developed their dance:

When they didn’t really know how to dance, they did 20 steps; when they knew a bit more, they did 10; and when they really knew what they were doing, they danced five… but with real quality.

The tango is a feeling that is danced. That’s why it is not choreographed, though it can have sequences, like all feelings. You can dance love, rage, happiness, pleasure, every mood. The tango is not a dance to demonstrate ability but rather an interpretation of feeling. It is not just moving your feet and posturing. The tango is Argentine, but it belongs to all those who understand its feelings and its codes.

Emphasizing the movements used in dancing tango as well as the music used for dancing, Facundo Posadas has said:

Don’t dance tango in a contemporary style, because the tango belongs to a culture; there are other kinds of music to dance contemporary. If we continue to dance as we are doing, we are losing our identity and we don’t show any skill. What we are showing is movement, but the skill is making you feel my dance, so that you are accompanying me, not showing that I can jump very high or drag you over the floor.

There’s nothing like tango, because of that embrace to the world. Why should we want to destroy it? Let’s continue with this one. There’s so much to do in a simple tango salon.

Regarding the selection of steps in dancing tango Ricardo Vidort has said:

People that dance tango all over the world … most of them they are crazy, all the steps, all the figures…

In contrast, Vidort has recommended:

You move with the grace that the music gives you to do it in the way you want to. We put that movement in several steps, that there are 7 or 8, and from those steps we can make 500 or more. Put the feeling; that’s the secret. That’s the whole secret of the tango. So you move and you hold the woman with strength but soft; she feels safe inside and she feels that you are taking her. So, in that moment the man, only the priority is the music and the woman. I don’t care the people… I dance for my partner; I don’t dance for them.

Further emphasis on connection with the music is provided by other milongueros.

Ricardo Ponce (El Chino Perico) has also stressed the central importance of the music in dancing tango:

The dancer listens to the music. You should know what you’re dancing to, what the singer is saying. Most people don’t know it because they like the dance. That’s OK, the tango became fashionable and they’re dancing. But the milonguero dances and with his body he has to explain to people that the tango is sad. … The milonguero, he knows the orchestra and the tempo in which he should dance. You should be one member more of the orchestra. 

‘El Flaco’ Dany Garcia has also emphasized how tango music generates emotions while dancing:

The music has to come in through the ear and, personally for me, it goes to my heart. And for the first place, I dance for the woman that is in my arms; after that, I consider the people. But always with heart. Without feeling you can’t dance the tango.

Pedro Sanchez also has placed emphasis on the role of tango music in generating emotions:

Well, the most important to me is to want the music, love the music. Love what you listen to. In tango, if you don’t get emotional when you dance, if you don’t feel the emotion, the nice thing that crosses your soul… yes, you dance. But I dance that way, I’m passionate of dancing.

In addition to tango music generating emotion during the dance, Alberto Dassieu has noted the importance of the embrace in communicating feelings:

As a final message … dance the tango, respecting the music; dance the tango respecting the people in the milongas; dance the tango with feeling. Dancing with feeling is a nice thing. Sometimes when one dances with this feeling, one feels that the heart of the woman is beating heavier; one can feel that the woman changes the rhythm of her heart, as an effect of the dance. … Embrace well; don’t dance separated.

A common theme in these comments of milongueros is the centrality of elicitation of emotions and their expression in dancing tango. Monica Paz, in her interviews of milongueros, usually asks them at the end of the interview to describe tango in one word. (Viewing the dance demonstrations after the interview is also instructive regarding how milongueros dance.) Here are some of the responses:

Thus, from the perspective of Argentine men for whom tango has been a central part of their lives, tango is not about dancing complicated and conspicuous patterns without regard to the music, but rather tango dancing involves embracing one’s partner, feeling the music and the emotion it generates, and sharing that feeling with one’s partner while moving smoothly around the floor within the circulating ronda using mostly simple movements that connect with rhythmic variations within the music. Dancing tango is not a cerebral activity that designs a dance from a vocabulary of steps, but rather an emotional expression of the music. (See also The Essence of Tango Argentino and Tango Milonguero: Improvised Expression of Music through Movement in a Shared Embrace.)

There are several reasons why dancers at North American milongas dance differently than dancers at Buenos Aires milongas. The immediate cause of step-based musicality-deficient dancing in North American milongas is most likely the instruction received from local community tango instructors, those who introduce prospective dancers to tango. It is from these instructors that beginning tango dancers gain the impression that learning tango consists primarily of acquiring a vocabulary of steps (e.g., Dallas; Los Angeles; New York; San Francisco Bay Area; St Louis). A video of Gustavo & Jesica Hornos advertising tango instruction provides an example of the extreme to which tango is represented as a sequence of steps lacking any progression in space and devoid of connection to the music; dancing of this type often appears to be the role model for aspiring North American tango dancers. The step-oriented instruction is reinforced by traveling tango instructors, most of whom in recent years have been young Argentines with limited experience dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires. The step orientation of the majority of workshops given at tango festivals is evident from a review of the titles of tango workshops given at North American tango festivals held in 2015 or scheduled in 2016. Workshop titles that include the terminology ‘steps’, ‘figures’, ‘patterns’, ‘move(ment)s’, ‘sequences’ or ‘combinations’, or list the names of specific steps or movements (including ‘embellishments’ or similar terminology) comprise 17 of 21 workshops (81%) at the October 2015 Boulder Tango Festival, 31 of 48 workshops (65%) at the February 2016 Portland Valentango festival, 33 of 53 workshops (62%) at the July 2015 Nora’s Tango Week, and 24 of 47 workshops (51%) at the August 2015 Montreal International Tango Festival. Additional evidence that tango instructors traveling in North America focus on step patterns is evident from the ‘Didactic Videos for Sale’ web page of the Organic Tango School, where 33 of 45 videos for sale (73%) mention steps in either the title or content description.

In addition to a focus on building a repertoire of step sequences, tango instruction in North America (e.g., as indicated in the listing of tango workshops of festivals mentioned above) often focuses on an ‘elastic embrace’ or ‘shifting’ between ‘close embrace’ and ‘open embrace’, a movement not employed by most milongueros (who maintain the embrace throughout a dance) and even among those dancing Tango Estilo del Barrio in a milonga in the outer barrios of Buenos Aires (video), the embrace is not opened to the distance or for the duration often shown in tango workshops in North America (e.g., Tango Lesson: Elasticity from Close to Open Embrace).

There are also workshops on musicality given at nearly every tango festival, but they often focus on achieving a cognitive understanding of the music rather than emphasizing to students that one should allow the music to enter the body, generate emotions, and guide the body in movement. Often valuable workshop time is spent talking about concepts and giving demonstrations at the expense of students practicing connecting to music (e.g., Portland Valentango Festival). Demonstrations given at the end of musicality workshops often include step patterns that show off instructor movement skills, and they are sometimes even danced without a connection to the rhythm of the music (vals demo), thus not demonstrating musicality. Sometimes tango workshops focus on dancing to music that is not intended or designed for dancing tango (e.g., the music of Astor Piazzolla) and therefore fail to demonstrate musicality appropriate for dancing to tango music intended for dancing. The benefit of most of these workshops on musicality is questionable. In the development of their tango skills, dancers would benefit more from listening for many hours to the classic tango music of the dance orchestras of the Golden Age, in order to familiarize themselves with the music, and subsequently practice dancing to this music using simple steps, than to attend most workshops on tango musicality.

Traveling tango instructors provide guidance and inspiration to developing tango dancers. Demonstrations of tango dancing by popular tango instructors at tango festivals reinforce the notions that dancing tango consists of executing a series of complicated and conspicuous steps, that it is not important to maintain the embrace throughout the dance,  and that classic tango music is not required for dancing tango:

These demonstrations, with their displays of physical prowess and command of a large repertoire of movements, characteristic of tango for the stage, stand in stark contrast to the demonstrations of tango dancing appropriate for the milongas given by milongueros that were referenced above. Some developing tango dancers recognize that demonstrations of this type given by traveling tango instructors are show tango and are not influenced by the deviations from social tango, others recognize the deviations but believe that the codes of the milonga are changing and thus find raw material in these demonstrations for developing their social tango, others are confused regarding the boundaries yet model their tango after what they see in the demonstrations, and some are even naïve regarding the distinctions and find in these demonstrations inspiration for guiding their social tango development.

Given the type of tango instruction commonly available to aspiring tango dancers, and the demonstrations given by tango instructors, it should not be surprising that there is a plethora of step sequences observed at North American milongas, at the expense of close connection of partners with each other and the music. This focus in tango instruction on step manufacturing is set within a marketing environment that promotes tango as a performance dance, as is evident from the representation of tango in websites (The Representation and Misrepresentation of Tango in Website Images in North America) and the popularity and availability of YouTube videos (YouTube as a Source of Tango Information) of tango dancing that mostly portray show tango.

The cultural milieu into which tango is introduced in North America cannot be ignored with respect to its impact on tango dancing. Predominant perceptions that learning to dance involves learning step sequences, promoted by the ballroom dance establishment with its published step lists, contribute to this approach to teaching and learning tango [Factors Affecting the Survival of Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions in Non-supportive First World Cultural Environments (The Dominance of Tango Extranjero)]. Anxiety regarding the intimacy of the embrace also facilitates avoidance of or minimal engagement with a maintained embrace while dancing tango (ibid.). Lack of exposure to classic tango music within the culture hinders acquiring the familiarity with tango music necessary for improvisation on the musical structure; lack of appreciation of music from a foreign culture creates the opening for familiar music from North American culture to be substituted as a background for executing sequences of steps associated with some types of tango dancing (e.g., Tango Nuevo or Tango Escenario rather than Tango de Salon).

The causes of step orientation in tango dancing in North American milongas are obvious and have been discussed above and in previous Tango Voice posts. What have not been discussed in detail previously are the consequences of the cerebral orientation towards tango dancing on the nature of the engagement with tango experienced by the tango dancer. Obsession with the production of step sequences concentrates the dancer’s attention in the mind instead of letting the emotions flow. An analytic approach to the music prevents the music from enveloping and guiding the dancer. Repeated alterations in the embrace hinder the achievement of a communion between partners allowing an emotional exchange, perhaps even romance. If these qualities of absorption in the music, expression of emotion, and communication with partner are absent from tango dancing, then dancers have failed to understand tango as experienced by the Argentines, and they then fail to enjoy tango as a unique dance providing a unique and enjoyable emotional experience.

Tango is not just a collection of steps; it is not just another ballroom dance.

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151 Responses to Understanding Argentine Tango (with the Assistance of Milongueros): It’s not just another Ballroom Dance

  1. Beautiful. Brava. I wish everyone would read this and dance it.
    At milo gas in North America, it’s like the soul tango has disappeared

    • How says:

      I have been teaching tango for over 14 years in the first year of study I asked, teach me more steps. In the second year I discovered that I can’t even dance the salida.in the third year that I cannot even walk.no teacher could show me anything with any degree of understanding.why? Tango is in its origins that is its very spirit.a student once said don’t give me tango philosophy.i replied go dance tango somewhere else for here I teach tango.dance all you like. But you will never tango.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This needed to be said. Thank you to the author.

  3. R. Bononno says:

    Couldn’t agree more. This has been said before (here on Tango Voice and elsewhere) in different ways but this is an excellent description of the core of Argentine tango and the problems faced by dancers in North America (is it the same elsewhere? Europe, for example). If I were a teacher, I would have my students read this at the beginning of the learning process. In my limited experience, the better teachers emphasize technique and the mechanics of bodily movement but invariably escalate to steps, step sequences, embellishments, etc. One of the reasons for this is that beginning students are eager to get on the dance floor and want to feel that they can “hold their own” with other dancers. So, instead of learning how to walk, embrace, connect, they (we) are taught sequences. The basic movements, of course, are very useful, necessary even but beyond a certain point you’re moving into performance territory. And discussions of musicality are generally superficial, at best. Excellent post.

    • Felicity says:

      Re “In my limited experience, the better teachers emphasize technique”. I believe awareness of yourself and your partner and a lot of dancing leads to good technique. Technique from teachers makes people think about dance and feel overly self-conscious and worried about all the technique they’re not doing and that never works.

      “So instead of learning how to walk, embrace, connect…”
      Pretty much everyone I know grows up knowing pretty well how to do those things without needing to be taught.

      • R. Bononno says:

        Learning technique per se never made me feel self-conscious; learning (trying to learn) complicated sequences or patterns did, however. Especially if you haven’t mastered the individual components of the sequence. And I’m referring to basic technique, such as how to stand and how to walk and how to make the abrazzo work. The walk and embrace of tango are rather specialized and stylized. But the awareness part is very relevant, yes. Partners, however, change so our awareness needs to be developed rather quickly.

      • Felicity says:

        I do see and feel partners (mostly girls) self conscious about technique they learnt in class. The guys are usually too busy thinking about steps and technique which is why I don’t dance with them. Dancing with the girls though, one tries to let that self-consciousness slip away so they stop thinking and relax so that then they can dance.

      • Max Yin says:

        “Pretty much everyone I know grows up knowing pretty well how to do those things without needing to be taught.”

        I cannot agree with this really. I have had walked for more than 20 years with bad posture. And while feeling is important, technical suggestions from good (not ALL!) teachers also make me to embrace better. Tango is clearly about connection as the article states, and good technique would help this.

  4. Gimena says:

    I really enjoyed this article although I disagree with some of it. I will admit, that at our milongas, I adorn and embellish too much, but for me, I do it almost out of boredom. I find it so difficult to connect with a lot of dancers in the US. So I use my dance time with them, to practice embellishments and steps. I still try to match what I am doing to the music, and when it doesn’t I get embarrassed.

    In Argentina, it was totally different. I can only remember a few times I danced with someone I didn’t connect with. In most cases, I felt like it was more my fault (being nervous, tired, etc.), than theirs. When I felt connected, my brain let go, and I could just dance without “steps”, “sequences”, or “embellishments”.

    Funny enough, I have found that a few times in the US, and when that happens, I am ecstatic. I wish more focus was put on connecting for emotional happiness, than connecting so you can transmit moves, in classes here.

  5. Erico says:

    Whilst agreeing with much of what you say and also dancing in a very milongero style, I would like to know two things.

    1. Who are you? .I dont like to be preached at by someone who I dont know in person or at least have a face to a name. If you are an editor of a group that would be nice to know.
    2. Why do you feel it necessary to write reams and reams of flowery words to get over simple points? If dancers want to do all the clever stuff etc then you going on and on and on about how you feel is not going to get them to change. Its pointless .We dance the way we hope is a truer reflection of BsAs milongueroas etc because we choose to. So long as every one respects all on the dancefloor and dont crash then all is OK

    • jantango says:

      I’ve been reading Tango Voice from the very beginning, and I have no problem with the fact that the author chooses to remain anonymous. I thoroughly enjoy reading every post. They are comprehensive and well written.

      After reading this post, I viewed a new video of an old milonguero performing an exhibition at a milonga in Buenos Aires who clearly dances for himself while his partner runs around him while he completely disregards the music. Sadly, what is described goes on in Buenos Aires, too.

      Thanks for another great post.

    • tangovoice says:

      In presenting an argument, evidence is gathered to support the premises of the argument. The more evidence that is presented, the more convincing an argument becomes. It is particularly important to share the perspectives of milongueros, who have shaped tango culture, because most tango dancers are unaware of their perspectives. Even if a reader remains unconvinced upon first reading, the ideas are planted in the mind and may result in a changed perspective subsequently. With respect to tango, some dancers will be resistant and not change. These are also likely to be dancers who, unless they are tango instructors profiting from the misrepresentation of tango, will drop out of tango because they do not recognize its value. For those who are uncertain about what tango offers, the ideas presented here may open their minds to the essence of tango and increase their enjoyment and commitment to tango. For those who already recognize the value of the basic characteristics of tango, they may find support in the arguments made here (which in some communities may be a minority opinion) and continue dancing tango despite the threats to the accurate representation of tango that confront them when they go to milongas or take tango classes.

      Regarding the argument that non-traditional dancing is acceptable as long as it respects others on the dance floor, this fails to recognize that many dancers of Tango de Salon operate in a defensive mode on the milonga dance floor and the constant threats to invasion of personal space distract one’s attention from concentrating on the music and achieving an emotional connection with one’s partner that consists of more than shared anxiety about collision with movement possibility explorers. The conditions in most First World milongas decrease the enjoyment in dancing tango. One can passively accept this as the local tango environment, and this will not change conditions, or one can seek and promote change in the tango environment. Without raising issues about the value and representation of tango as a social dance, there will be limited opportunity to enjoy tango as it was intended to be enjoyed, as a shared enjoyment of the music with one’s partner with an opened door for emotional exchange.

  6. Yet another fine post! Felicidades. you might appreciate my recent post on connection in tango, The Horse Tango Connection. willowtango.me. ciao from Buenos Aires.

  7. I find this publication very knowledgeable. So much so that I think authors need to publish their names and their credentials. Thank you. Beatriz is author of “In Strangers’ Arms: The Magic of the Tango.”

  8. Rich Bray says:

    This analysis of Tango serves both as an oblique look at dance instruction overall and at this oh so deceptive dance we know as Tango. As such it is a statement long overdue to be heard in US dance studios. BUT, to me dance is like language, it either dies like Latin or lives as a spoken written growing living thing. You can try and hold it in place like a Golden Age but really wasn’t that a time that had its share of dross too. Second BUT, this article is incredibly dense with knowledge and examples, and for that alone it is well worth studying and learning by its example. Thanks.

    • tangovoice says:

      Some of the changes that have occurred in dancing tango in recent years have altered some of its most unique qualities, the elicitation of emotions when dancing to classic tango music, the sharing of the emotions between partners in a maintained embrace, and the attention to improvisation upon the musical structure in the dance. The milongueros cited here have mentioned this (and more comments are available in the interviews cited as well as other interviews of milongueros conducted by Monica Paz and others).

      Although in recent years there has been some experimentation with dancing tango (i.e., Tango Nuevo) that has focused primarily upon improvisation in movement and, to a lesser degree, making these movements while non-traditional tango or non-tango music is playing, this practice has declined in Buenos Aires outside of the tourist circuit. Making movements reminiscent of tango while non-tango music is playing never caught on to a significant degree in Buenos Aires milongas. In contrast, Tango de Salon is still danced by the overwhelming majority of dancers and classic tango music is still played almost exclusively for dancing tango in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Despite the influx of thousands upon thousands of tango tourists to Buenos Aires in recent years and despite the economic opportunities available to tango instructors who focus upon some of evolutionary experiments in tango dancing and music, the traditional tango of the Golden Age is still the most predominant form of tango seen and heard in Buenos Aires milongas today. Thus, the traditional tango of the Golden Age is very much alive, not an extinct cultural artifact.

      Where evolutionary trends in tango are more accepted is in foreign cultures, primarily because the evolutionary trends towards a movement (rather than music) based dance is more characteristic of social dancing in these (primarily First World) cultures and, of course, the non-tango music usually is of First World origin. The fact of the matter is that much of what is danced in First World milongas is a derivation of tango adapted for First World cultural proclivities – Tango Extranjero, similar in this respect to an earlier adaptation – Ballroom Tango. The evolutionary experiments in tango dancing that occur in First World countries reflect non-Argentine cultural influences. Of course, in a free society freedom of expression is permitted. However, those who state that tango is evolving often fail to recognize and respect those within First World cultures who wish to maintain Argentine cultural traditions within tango. The rapid and often unpredictable display of movements characteristic of Tango Extranjero is distracting in that it focuses the traditional dancer’s attention on navigation and protecting the partner from collision. (This is true for both men and women.) Also, as more and more dancers are trained to dance tango as a series of conspicuous movements or as a dance to be embellished at every opportunity, it becomes more difficult to find a partner with whom dancing tango consists of walking in a shared embrace, offering opportunities for emotional exchange, guided by the music designed for dancing tango – the classic tango music of the Golden Age. The evolutionary experiment of Tango Extranjero may survive, but it needs to find its own niche, much as Ballroom Tango found its niche within the ballroom dance community, and allow the time-tested traditional tango to thrive so that more dancers may enjoy its unique qualities.

  9. fmdifonzo says:

    TIENEN VERSION EN ESPAÑOL ?  SALUDOS, FRANCISCO

    WordPress.com | tangovoice posted: “In looking out across the dance floor at many events advertised as ‘milongas’ in North America, it is apparent that the character of the dancing while tango music is playing is very different from the tango dancing in a typical milonga in Buenos Aires [Ta” | |

  10. RFshooter says:

    Interesting article. I enjoyed reading it and agree with much of it. Some of the premises I don’t agree with probably because my experience differs… I’ve met and conversed with many of the milongueros mentioned as well as with the teachers, stage dancers and DJs. After more than 20 years of dancing tango, one is exposed to many and varied things of tango.

    Firstly, I want to say that I share the disgust of of “alternative” and “nuevo” styles of music and dance. To my liking, they are totally sterile and leave me cold. The very idea of dancing tango to non-tango music makes absolutely no sense to me.

    I also think that the multitude of steps and step sequences can be a bad thing, especially because it promotes a “cerebral” approach to the tango. I am in complete agreement that the embrace and musicality are the heart and should of the tango. Nothing in my mind beats a well danced tanda with embrace and musicality.

    However, I don’t think that every single occurrence of of a volcada, sacada or voleo is a bad thing. Likewise the “elastic” embrace. There is a place and time for these things as well. Also, judging negatively all the examples the videos presented is not fair or useful as there are as many good examples of dancing musically and with the embrace as there are poor examples in the same video…. (excepting of course the “alternative” things which I detest).

    Also, I have seen in BsAs similar dancing to what I’ve seen in North, Central & South America as well as Europe. There is no perfect dancing anywhere, although the milogas in BsAs do have a much higher level of dancing in general.

    Still, much of the article is true and points to the problem of teaching tango poorly or not very well. However, it is interesting to know that the teaching of steps is driven in great part by the students themselves who want to learn the “show tango”. For good or ill, teachers are forced to teach steps and sequences to the detriment of musicality and the embrace or risk losing their students.

    • R. Bononno says:

      Largely agree. From the student perspective, I think part of the problem (as you suggest) is that students are too eager to get onto the dance floor without learning either the rudiments of tango or the nature of the dance (history, culture, context). For some it is steps or sequences, but most simply don’t understand that it takes time to train your body to move like a tanguero or tanguera. I’ve seen young dancers try to dance at a milonga after one or two lessons. Of course, that never works and creates havoc on the floor. The problem is that most teachers are reluctant to tell students that it requires considerable time and effort to be able to dance tango (well) and that they need to be patient and wait until they’ve developed a sufficient set of skills for dancing at milongas.

      • Felicity says:

        “I’ve seen young dancers try to dance at a milonga after one or two lessons. Of course, that never works and creates havoc on the floor.” I think it rather depends who’s dancing with the girls. Don’t be put off girls. New guys, it’s a nightmare trying to go straight in to dance as the guy first. Dance as the girl first to “get” the music and the dance, with good dancers, in say a practica.

        “.. it requires considerable time and effort to be able to dance tango (well)”
        Disagreed. That depends most of all on who you dance with and how much.

        Re “training”. It is a social dance, traditionally learnt socially, danced socially, not a session down the gym.

      • Chris says:

        R Bononno said “I’ve seen young dancers try to dance at a milonga after one or two lessons. Of course, that never works…”

        Indeed that never works… when said lessons are those classes in which first-timers try to learn to dance by partnering other first-timers in copying show-and-tell sequences.

        I’ve experienced girls at the milonga do fine after zero lessons. Suggesting when it doesn’t work, the cause is not absence of the right kind of lesson. It is presence of the wrong kind of lesson.

    • Felicity says:

      From what I see I agree with your points that there is good and bad all over and that there is some good in the American videos, though it struck me more with the men than the girls.

      “teachers are forced to teach steps and sequences to the detriment of musicality”
      Disagreed. Steps sell, dancing music doesn’t. In any case, I don’t see many teachers trying to get people to dance the music over dancing the step. The idea of trying to formally teach an embrace to a group or even to get a group to try to dance musically, which is an individual thing strikes me as utterly absurd. The way for people to learn to dance is to dance with nice people who don’t lecture them, who can already dance and who make them feel good.

      • RFshooter says:

        Teaching how to move with a partner in a close embrace can be nearly impossible. Sure, there are a few who “get it” right away but they are exceptional. Then, they must be taught to interpret the music (while maintaining their own creativity). This is another very difficult thing to teach.

        It is said that Todaro invented or created the 8 count basic with back step sequence in order to teach tango, principally to teach how to navigate on the dance floor. That is usually the first thing that most students use to learn and although it’s a perfectly fine thing, it created all sorts of problems as people got stuck on it.

        Later as people like Susana Miller started coming around, they taught a simple change of weight and the arrepentida to try to get students to dance. That works too, but not much better than the 8 count basic. People just have a tough time learning to dance unless they are willing to take the time and pay a good teacher for private lessons. However, at $5 or $10 per class, it’s not feasible for teachers to teach private lessons. Thus you get the group lesson model with the problems it creates (non-learning students). To keep the students interested and in the class, the teacher(s) teach them little sequences (or long choreographies like Copes) with sacadas, ganchos and voleos.

        Sure, one can absolutely teach most people to dance tango in private lessons very nicely and relatively quickly. They learn the embrace, the musicality and the feeling, and become decent dancers. Unfortunately most people are not willing to put their time and money to learn like that.

        Also, to be honest, unless you are a good tango dancer already, you are not going to appreciate subtle movements, musicality and connection. On the other hand, it’s easy for almost anyone to be impressed excited by even a sub par performance of disconnected and ill performed ganchos, voleos, cortes and quebradas and even the rose in the teeth ;). So its easy to understand why students want the “flash and trash” and teachers oblige…

      • Felicity says:

        RFshooter said:

        “Teaching how to move with a partner in a close embrace can be nearly impossible. ”
        Agreed 🙂  I didn’t mean dance with new dancers in private lessons though. Most teachers I find don’t dance as well as experienced social dancers.  Besides, many teachers (tango workers) are unwilling to share their dance unless paid and this exclusivity of access gives an often false impression that those dances are worth paying for.

        “unless you are a good tango dancer already, you are not going to appreciate subtle movements, musicality and connection.”
        I understand from that statement that you did not learn the guy’s role from dancing in the girl’s role first with good social dancers. When class dancers do real social dancing in the milonga with good experienced partners if they ever were “impressed excited by even a sub par performance of disconnected and ill performed ganchos, voleos, cortes and quebradas” then at that point with a competent social dancer happily they *do* in fact feel the pleasure of that subtlety, musicality and real connection & the surprise of the difference compared to the class-style dancing they know as normal is evident. The hardest part can be simply allowing it to happen given prior, harmful exposure to the contrived movement that goes on in classes.

    • tangovoice says:

      “However, I don’t think that every single occurrence of a volcada, sacada or voleo is a bad thing. Likewise the “elastic” embrace. There is a place and time for these things as well.”

      Sacadas certainly have their place in dancing tango in a milonga and they do occur in the demonstrations of milongueros cited, but they are used sparingly. Boleos certainly are also acceptable, as long as they are kept on the ground and close to the dancer using them; they should also be used sparingly, as a decoration or emphasis, not as a core characteristic of the dance. In demonstrations given by tango instructors at festivals, one is often confronted with a volley of sacadas and high boleos, giving the impression that this extensive use is desirable and acceptable. Regarding volcadas, these do not appear to be used at all by milongueros, although one could probably find a few rare examples where a brief and small off-axis movement of the woman is created. A volcada disrupts the balance of the woman and thus the harmony of a peaceful embrace; milongueros want their partners to feel secure, not introduce them to the thrill of unstable balance. Regarding the ‘elastic embrace’, it has been emphasized repeatedly in the posts in this blog that a core characteristic of Tango Estilo del Barrio is opening the embrace for ochos and giros. However, this opening is usually no more than 15-20 cm, i.e., just enough to clear a path for movement. In some of the demonstrations given by teachers of Tango Nuevo, the embrace is opened to arm’s length (about 50 cm), and sometimes contact is reduced to one hand or there is complete separation (soltadas). Not only do these movements change the character of dancing from sharing emotions in the embrace (perhaps even with the woman’s eyes closed) to thinking about how to maintain a partner connection; they also increase the risk of collisions. Preoccupation with using sacadas, boleos, volcadas, and repeatedly altering the embrace changes the tango dance from a relaxed shared emotional experience to a higher level of arousal and a cerebral-focused dance.

      “Also, I have seen in BsAs similar dancing to what I’ve seen in North, Central & South America as well as Europe. There is no perfect dancing anywhere, although the milongas in BsAs do have a much higher level of dancing in general.”

      There are indeed tango venues in Buenos Aires where step-based dancing is evident. Most of these are Practicas Nuevas (where Tango Nuevo is taught and thus practiced), such as El Motivo in Villa Malcolm, or at informal youth-oriented tango social gatherings sometimes advertised as milongas, e.g., La Catedral and La Viruta (The Tango Practica, the Practica Nueva and the Tango Dance Party in Buenos Aires). These venues all attract many tango tourists. However, these tango events are relatively small in number compared to the dozens upon dozens of milongas in Buenos Aires where the overwhelming majority of dancers dance Tango de Salon.

      It is also possible to find milongas in North America where the overwhelming majority of dancers dance in a manner reasonably similar to the way it is danced in Buenos Aires. These events are sometimes advertised as ‘traditional milongas’ or as events promoting Tango Milonguero, although from personal experience it is apparent that not all dancers at these events adhere to traditional tango milonga codes, sometimes to the point that these few non-adherents can alter significantly the atmosphere at a milonga. It is also notable that many North American tango dancers use primarily a vocabulary of movements that are characteristic of Tango Milonguero, but their dancing is still based on steps with little connection to or improvisation upon the music. One could also apply this observation to some dancers in Buenos Aires milongas.

  11. Felicity says:

    “[Music is]…a framework for structuring the dance.”
    I balk at music as a “framework”. Movement I think *springs directly from* music and from the feeling you have with your partner, and the available space. Without good music there can simply be no dancing (I mostly dance the other role just now).

    I was very surprised by the Cachirulo/El Beso milonga so your list of milongas there was very useful (the American list was interesting, and the milonguero video list was nice). I see plenty of open or uncomfortable looking embrace, flash dancing or move type things happening in Cachirulo/Sunderland. They looked very different from the other videos I have seen of traditional milongas in BA, which is what I hope to find. They are the ones you show in Lo de Celia and La Cachila. The best thing about all those milongas though is I hear so much good music.

    • tangovoice says:

      The original context for the quote is ‘Music … is a framework for structuring the dance’. Certainly music generates emotion in the dancers, which is translated into movement. The milongueros cited have emphasized this, and this is one of the central points in this post. The timing of the movement, the improvisational component, fits within the rhythmic structure and the phrasing of the music, i.e., it provides a framework for improvisation. Hopefully this clarifies the intended meaning here.

      Cachirulo, Sunderland, and Parakultural were chosen as examples of dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires because they attract many tourists and young people, thus providing a demographic mix that is more similar to tango festivals in North America. Despite some degree of demographic similarity, most dancers are reasonably disciplined in dancing Tango de Salon. This contrasts with what is often seen in milongas at many (most?) North American tango festivals. Lo de Celia and La Cachila are examples of milongas where traditional milonga codes are respected by almost all dancers attending. They attract fewer tourists and almost no young people (i.e., under 40). There are many other milongas similar to these, although the quality of dancing is not always as high.

      • Felicity says:

        TangoVoice said “Lo de Celia and La Cachila … attract fewer tourists and almost no young people (i.e., under 40).”
        Because they are not welcome? Because they don’t get dances?

      • tangovoice says:

        Each milonga in Buenos Aires has its own clientele. The characteristics of attendees are dependent upon such factors as age of dancers, whether or not one is attending without or with a partner, dance ability, relationships among dancers who are regular attendees, loyalty to organizers, DJs providing music and the type of music played (e.g., percentage of ‘other rhythms’ such as cumbia, jazz, rock and roll, and chacarera played for dancing), scheduling and location, probably but not necessarily more or less in that order of importance. Other characteristics that determine to some degree attendance at a milonga are whether or not there is a lesson before the milonga and who teaches it, and whether or not there are dance demonstrations. There are milongas that primarily have older dancers and those that primarily have younger dancers. There are milongas where the average quality of dancing is high and those where the average quality of dancing is lower. There are milongas that are more traditional and those that are more informal. A few have live music. A few are open to same sex partnering. Tango tourists have their own tourist circuit milongas, based primarily on publicity and word-of-mouth. In theory, any person can attend any milonga. In theory, any person attending a milonga is able to find partners with whom to dance, but this will be easier in some milongas than in others based on such factors as age, familiarity to other attendees and dance ability. Dancers tend to attend milongas with clientele of the same age. There does not appear to be any overt discrimination or exclusion of potential milonga attendees, although some people fit into the character of a particular milonga better than others. Most milongas actually welcome tango tourists and porteños are typically kind to and curious about tourists, provided they show a good dance ability and respect for milonga codes. In other words, the factors affecting milonga attendance are numerous and complicated.

      • Felicity says:

        Re TV on tourists at BA milongas: Still, in those two milongas there’s great music (as in the other places), and the dancing looks great yet you say *fewer* tourists… Surely there ought to be more because if a dancer is taking the trouble to go to the home of traditional tango music and the dancing of it, why go where it was less like that unless say tourists were not welcome yet indeed I have not heard that is the case. I suppose it is horses for courses and guess I will find out in February-March!

      • tangovoice says:

        Tango tourists usually have incomplete information regarding the character and quality of Buenos Aires milongas. They typically learn about milongas from conversations with tango dancers in their home countries who have been to Buenos Aires. Thus, tango tourists tend to go to Buenos Aires milongas where tango tourists have gone to Buenos Aires milongas. El Beso probably is a popular destination because Susana Miller and other tango instructors from La Academia Tango Milonguero (located in El Beso) have had tango teaching tours in First World countries. For many years the now defunct Niño Bien was very popular with tango tourists. Young tourists have been going to La Viruta. The Sunderland Club milonga has received a lot of media attention and thus has attracted many tango tourists. The Parakultural milongas at Salon Canning have also attracted many tourists, as have the Porteño y Bailarin milongas. Milongas at Confiteria Ideal have been popular with tourists because of the convenient location at the center of downtown. These are not always the most traditional milongas. Recently some of the most traditional downtown-style milongas have been at El Beso (especially Cachirulo and Lujos), Lo de Celia Tango Club, Obelisco Tango, Plaza Bohemia, and Club Gricel. All have some tango tourists, El Beso more than the others. This is an incomplete list, based on personal experience.

    • RFshooter says:

      To answer to your previous answer to my comment about teaching tango and students predilections, let me say that I think you are confusing the experience of dancing with the observation of dancing.

      Watching first class tango dancers doing a social dance is totally unimpressive to non-dancers as they cannot see the subtleties and musicality that the 2 dancers experience. However, they can easily see and be impressed by even poor execution of big, dramatic moves and steps.

      Also, I think you are off base judging from far away, and with no experience at all anything about my dancing. How I learned and how I taught and teach cannot be judged without first hand experience,

      • Felicity says:

        RFshooter said: Re “you are confusing the experience of dancing with the observation of dancing.”
        In that case when you talk about dance I’ll be sure to remember you mean watching it. Most teachers do indeed like students to watch them.

        Re “Watching first class tango dancers doing a social dance is totally unimpressive to non-dancers as they cannot see the subtleties”
        Agreed for sure that look is not feel

        “and musicality that the 2 dancers experience.”
        Disagreed. You can see musicality, even in a very quiet and discreet dance “Revelatory, in comparison”, said in the milonga my non-dancing friend, “now you point out that couple”.

        Re learning, True enough it doesn’t matter how you learned. But for new people to read from you the false statement “unless you are a good tango dancer already, you are not going to appreciate subtle movements, musicality and connection” – that does matter. How to address that then? The fact you teach is enough now to explain it but since we didn’t know that at the time, rather than implying wilfulness or ignorance, simply then because unless you have learnt as the girl with good, experienced dancers then you will not know that statement to be false. The teaching model is undermined, rendered redundant by that approach. Little wonder then if teachers want to deny the effectiveness, even the existence of it.

      • RFshooter says:

        Felicity, perhaps I’m not making myself clear enough. What I am trying (unsuccessfully) to say is that people who are not dancers (but can become students when they get interested) are usually exposed to tango through performances. Maybe excellent to middling and sometimes awful.

        No matter what, these tango-ignorant people love the flash and trash of the tango performance and that is exactly what attracts them to tango and that is what they want to do. When they see a “milonguero” demonstration or watch social tango dancers, they see nothing much… They don’t have the knowledge to understand what is really going on. To them, watching the social dance can be underwhelming and perhaps boring.

        Sure, when teaching, one begins to disabuse them of their ideas and try to teach them the “real” (whatever that is) tango. Anyway. I hope this conveys my thoughts on the subject of the new students driving the teaching of steps and even difficult, inappropriate moves for in the milonga.

    • Felicity says:

      Re trad BA milongas: Thanks, TV.

  12. New Mexico dancer says:

    Much of this article seems rather disingenuous, intended more to inflame, or at least to bulwark a set of beliefs about the degenerate state of tango in North America, rather than to inform. Since I dance mainly in Albuquerque and Boulder areas, I can’t speak to the other venues discussed in the article, but:

    1. The Albuquerque Tango Festival (ATF) video you provided is of an event clearly labeled “Alternative”. If you attended the ATF, or looked any further than this one video, you would have found that the ATF is largely a close embrace event with golden age music, cabeceo, polite requests to join in with the flow of dancers, etc. It is the case that, when the floor opens up, some dancers will also. But I found the skill level at the ATF milongas to be generally high. Couples maintained their lanes, I never felt threatened by kicking or otherwise flailing about, and even at the alternative event couples were quite respectful of one another.

    2. In addition to the ATF, Albuquerque/Santa Fe have very strong ties to close embrace and there are a number of close-embrace style instructors and milongas in the area. Liz Haight ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2puX7uOCDg ) is a primary instructor in Santa Fe and holds a well attended weekly milonga. The weekly Las Puertas milonga in Albuquerque is also very well attended and is almost strictly close embrace, and there is a school headquartered out of the Las Puertas venue, the Bien Milonguero Tango School, that is “dedicated to teaching social Argentine Tango in all its aspects, specializing in Milonguero Style (the characteristic style of tango dancing in downtown Buenos Aires).” See http://www.bienmilonguero.com/ for more information.

    There is also a very crowded, hence necessarily close embrace, weekly milonga with a live traditional tango music (QTango). Is the orquesta of the caliber of the classic golden age Orquestas? No. But they are striving to get there by playing as often as they can.

    Yes, there is an active “Nuevo” tango scene here also, but so what? That doesn’t denigrate the close embrace dancers, and many, perhaps most, of the open embrace dancers also dance in a close embrace when the floor warrants.

    3. With respect to Boulder, have you attended an event there? This year’s Boulder Tango Festival (BTF) perhaps (Chicho, Gustavo, and both of Gustavo’s children were the instructors)? Or Yunta Brava (Fabian Salas and Juana Sepulveda were the instructors)? Or the weekly Cochabamba North Practica? The milongas at the last BTF and at Yunta Brava were golden age music, and the dancing was close embrace. I attend Cochabamba North only occasionally, but again, Gustave plays classic golden age tango music.

    4. Now as to the criticism that the “Nuevo” dancers are “step-based” and “musically deficient”, the same can be said of many close embrace dancers who are not as experienced as your average 70-year-old Buenos Aires milonguero, they simply have fewer steps than the “Nuevo” dancers (back-ocho, back-ocho, back-ocho, ocho-cortado, back-ocho, etc.) Although I don’t know who you are, I believe that if you but had the skill, you would discover that dancing with a fluid connection can be as emotionally moving, as deeply connected, and as musical as dancing strictly in a close embrace.

    5. And I had to laugh at your criticism of Gustavo & Jesica Hornos. 2011 US Stage Dancing Champions. Of course their advert shows stage dancing. That is what they do! Compare with the demo by Bien Milonguero instructors eva garlez & pablo rodriguez ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWOXxuEglOM ). Yes, a lot of movement, but it is a demo, and people expect instructors to move a lot during a demo, not to just stand there, but the embrace remained resolutely close, and the dancing musical.

    • RFshooter says:

      I agree completely. And having dance in NM I can definitely say that the dancers there can and do dance very nicely. I had the pleasure to dance with a number of them to the best golden era tango music. 🙂

    • tangovoice says:

      “The Albuquerque Tango Festival (ATF) video you provided is of an event clearly labeled “Alternative”. If you attended the ATF, or looked any further than this one video, you would have found that the ATF is largely a close embrace event with golden age music, cabeceo, polite requests to join in with the flow of dancers, etc. It is the case that, when the floor opens up, some dancers will also. But I found the skill level at the ATF milongas to be generally high. Couples maintained their lanes, I never felt threatened by kicking or otherwise flailing about, and even at the alternative event couples were quite respectful of one another.”

      The alternative milonga is a paradox for an event that supposedly follows tango traditions. It sends mixed messages. … Milongueros do not open the embrace when floor density is lower.

      “In addition to the ATF, Albuquerque/Santa Fe have very strong ties to close embrace and there are a number of close-embrace style instructors and milongas in the area. Liz Haight ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2puX7uOCDg ) is a primary instructor in Santa Fe and holds a well attended weekly milonga. The weekly Las Puertas milonga in Albuquerque is also very well attended and is almost strictly close embrace, and there is a school headquartered out of the Las Puertas venue, the Bien Milonguero Tango School, that is “dedicated to teaching social Argentine Tango in all its aspects, specializing in Milonguero Style (the characteristic style of tango dancing in downtown Buenos Aires).” See http://www.bienmilonguero.com/ for more information.

      There is also a very crowded, hence necessarily close embrace, weekly milonga with a live traditional tango music (QTango). Is the orquesta of the caliber of the classic golden age Orquestas? No. But they are striving to get there by playing as often as they can.”

      Events of this type are a minority in North America. The instructors and organizers are to be commended for promoting Tango de Salon despite the ubiquitous misinformation about social tango disseminated by most tango instructors and organizers in North America.

      “Yes, there is an active “Nuevo” tango scene here also, but so what? That doesn’t denigrate the close embrace dancers, and many, perhaps most, of the open embrace dancers also dance in a close embrace when the floor warrants.”

      Tango Nuevo danced on a milonga floor compromises the atmosphere for dancers of Tango de Salon, due to increasing risks of collision. High floor density may necessitate dancing close, but low floor density does not change the manner of dancing of milongueros or those emulating the dance of milongueros. It is the embrace that allows the sharing of emotions generated by the music. It also happens to limit movement, which reduces the opportunity to exhibit physical prowess in the execution of attention attracting movements.

      “With respect to Boulder, have you attended an event there? This year’s Boulder Tango Festival (BTF) perhaps (Chicho, Gustavo, and both of Gustavo’s children were the instructors)? Or Yunta Brava (Fabian Salas and Juana Sepulveda were the instructors)? Or the weekly Cochabamba North Practica? The milongas at the last BTF and at Yunta Brava were golden age music, and the dancing was close embrace. I attend Cochabamba North only occasionally, but again, Gustave plays classic golden age tango music.”

      It is not surprising that Argentine instructors of Tango Nuevo play classic tango music for dancing. Playing Tango Alternative music is mainly a product of First World culture. Tango Alternative music is rarely played at tango dance venues in Buenos Aires, even at Practicas Nuevas. However, it is surprising that dancers adhere to Tango de Salon at festivals where tango movement possibilities of the kind not seen in Buenos Aires milongas are the focus of instruction. Perhaps in this case the influence of local instructors is greater than that of generally highly regarded and influential instructors of Tango Nuevo, or perhaps the workshop attendees are not able to learn the material, or perhaps the floor is just too crowded.

      “Now as to the criticism that the “Nuevo” dancers are “step-based” and “musically deficient”, the same can be said of many close embrace dancers who are not as experienced as your average 70-year-old Buenos Aires milonguero, they simply have fewer steps than the “Nuevo” dancers (back-ocho, back-ocho, back-ocho, ocho-cortado, back-ocho, etc.) Although I don’t know who you are, I believe that if you but had the skill, you would discover that dancing with a fluid connection can be as emotionally moving, as deeply connected, and as musical as dancing strictly in a close embrace.”

      It is true that many emulators of Tango Milonguero in North America are step-preoccupied and musicality deficient. That is another issue. … Virtually all tango dancers in North America who have danced since the last decade of the 20th century began dancing tango without an embrace. Yes, there are emotions shared in being distant from one’s partner, the thrill of rapid movement, the exhilaration of losing balance and the anxiety of risking collisions with other dancers on the floor. Without an embrace it is not possible to feel the heartbeat of one’s partner, the warmth of cheek pressed against cheek, and the comfort and security of arms entwined. A different set of emotions is generated by this latter connection, the type of emotion (“passion”, “love”) of which milongueros have spoken.

      “And I had to laugh at your criticism of Gustavo & Jesica Hornos. 2011 US Stage Dancing Champions. Of course their advert shows stage dancing. That is what they do! Compare with the demo by Bien Milonguero instructors eva garlez & pablo rodriguez ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWOXxuEglOM ). Yes, a lot of movement, but it is a demo, and people expect instructors to move a lot during a demo, not to just stand there, but the embrace remained resolutely close, and the dancing musical.”

      Nevertheless the Hornos teach tango classes, describing a rich repertoire of steps. On their website, they do not state that they teach tango for the stage. … The demo by Garlez and Rodriguez is a very nice example of Tango Milonguero. Many dancers in Buenos Aires milongas dance in a similar manner. This is a good example for North American tango dancers. Sharing this is appreciated.

    • Lioudmila Alexeenko says:

      Bravo, New Mexico dancer!

  13. Mark. says:

    Very good article, I think. Thanks again for your efforts.

  14. Endre says:

    Bravo! This article reminds me the importance of the music above all. and a saying, which I do not know anymore where it comes from.

    Cuando uno empieza a bailar, baila kilómetros. Después, con los años, baila metros; más tarde, centímetros y después baila Troilo .

    • tangovoice says:

      “Cuando uno empieza a bailar, baila kilómetros. Después, con los años, baila metros; más tarde, centímetros y después baila Troilo”

      That’s a great saying – funny because of a surprise ending, but so true. In the end, dancing tango comes down to dancing to the music.

  15. Chris says:

    Re “Music … is a framework for structuring the dance.” Tango Voice wrote “Hopefully this clarifies the intended meaning here.”

    It does, for me.

    It confirms this statement a akin to saying that e.g. the subject of a portrait is a framework for structuring the painting.

    That’s a million miles from what the music means to most of the accomplished social dancers I know.

    “Tango is not just a collection of steps; it is not just another ballroom dance.”

    Indeed. Tango is a genre of music.

    And w.r.t. the social dance of the milongas, ‘to dance tango’ simply means to dance that music. It does not refer a dance called tango.

  16. New Mexico dancer says:

    My last reply dealt with TangoVoice’s comments regarding the Albuquerque Tango Festival and related things. I’d now like to reply in a broader context regarding tango styles.

    I well know how tango is currently danced in downtown BA, and know that this style is often presented as THE social style of tango dance, a dance of two hearts beating as one. Very simple choreographically, but deep with emotional and musical content. But I question how it relates to what was generally danced in the golden age of tango (’35-’55), and I question if we are preserving the cultural heritage of BA, or simply a refined version of that heritage.

    I raise this question based on a variety of data, including two quotes from Christine Denniston’s blog. Please see her site, http://www.history-of-tango.com/ for broader context.

    1. “Possibly the oldest of the Tango dance styles of the Golden Age is the style of the south. The shape drawn by the couple on the floor is one without many straight lines, made up of curves and arcs, looking very much like an Art Nouveau design. The stance of the dancers is a tiny bit closer to the floor. The interpretation of the music involves many pauses, and many rapid movements. This is the style where ganchos and boleos were danced.

    The archetypal step is one where the leader takes the follower off her axis, taking responsibility for her weight, and perhaps walking her around the foot she is standing on. The archetypal orchestra is Pugliese.”

    2. “One of the saddest things I ever saw in Buenos Aires was a dear friend of mine who started dancing in 1945, … on the point of tears – and elderly Argentine men do not cry in public – because a young dancer had said that he was not a milonguero because he danced with steps. He was being accused of lying about an important part of his whole identity, because this young dancer had misunderstood the term “Estilo Milonguero” and thought that this was the only true style.

    The dancing of the people who were dancing in the Golden Age remained unchanged, and one could still go to milongas away from the centre of Buenos Aires and see people doing the most fabulously complicated steps in a truly authentic and completely social way. But by 1995 the style variously known as “close hold”, “short steps”, “Tango club” or “milonguero” had come to dominate the dancing of the people in Buenos Aires who were part of the Tango Renaissance.”

    3. Also telling are interviews with people such as Petrolio, born in 1912, “I changed tango dancing. I invented the turn, the contrafrente, the change of postures, the boleos. Furthermore, I separated sex from dancing. Some time before, a man was after a leg not a female dancer, to squeeze not to dance. I was after dancing.” Perhaps not entirely accurate, but telling nevertheless.

    The following slight digression may also explain some of my skepticism about the “true tango.”
    When Frankie Manning, at the urging of Tammy and Erin Stevens, emerged from dance retirement in 1986 or so, he taught a very refined form of Lindy Hop. I know this because, back in the day, I was one of his students. For example, in the swing-out, one “bowed to his lady and invited her in.” Polite. Old man Lindy Hop. Fortunately, there was extensive film footage of how Frankie danced in his teens and twenties. Wild. Crazy. Not old man Lindy.

    I wonder what thirty-something tango dancers looked like in 1935 or 1945? Was there competition among dancers? What form did it take? Were there gang-like activities? If not, where did the stories of knife fights, or other such behavior, originate? And if the focus of the man was to protect and take care of his partner, was this driven by competition for the woman’s affections in a socially acceptable setting? I realize that some of the last of the milongueros were born in 1930 or so, and would have been 25 or so when the military regimes effectively ended milongas in ’55, but how representative is their dance? Was it smoothed out and refined over the years? Were these milongueros the best dancers of their generation? What did the average dancer look like? Clunky and unmusical? And what of the dancers Ms. Denniston describes as performing “the most fabulously complicated steps”?

    Complicating matters was the fact that, in ‘refined society’, social mores did not allow young men to hold young women closely except under limited circumstances, one of which was a chaperoned dance. I’ve heard tales of what tango was like among the lower classes, where tango was birthed, and they sound almost as much like attempted gang rape as dancing, and I understand that the police were on occasion called because of lewd public displays of tango dancing.

    Not that I’m advocating any such, but clearly there has been evolution in the dance, and early forms of the dance served different needs than today. Should we stop evolution and freeze the dance in the name of cultural preservation? Or should we welcome the innovative and explorational tango sometimes referred to as Nuevo.

    BTW, I am an old man, 70 this year, and dance a simple style, but it seems a shame that younger dancers should be discouraged simply because I, and possibly you, are old and grey in spirit if not in fact. If dancers are fit, and if they can do figures I can’t, and as long as they respect the two or three foot floor tile I claim for myself, well bully for them.

    • RFshooter says:

      Excellent explication! I could not have said it better myself. You have posited many very clear and truthful things. The story of tango for one, is rather not as some (new to tango) people would have it be.

      As you say, the oldest tango dance styles had very little resemblance to the modern “milonguero” style. Even the tango of the Golden Era was very full of intricate, and difficult figures. If one talks with the likes of Juan Bruno, Gloria & Eduardo Arquimbau, and many other famous tango dancers of the 40’s and 50’s the picture of the tango is not exactly like what one sees today in Buenos Aires. And if you take lessons with them, they will show you many steps, figures and sequences that the newly self-style milongueros would denounce as heresy.

      Personally, I prefer a chest to chest, simple dance with musicality. But I don’t close the door on individuality of style, especially if it’s musical and emphasizes the connection and the embrace.

      I do realize that the tango like many other dances, musical styles and everything else is always in a state of flux and evolving. Personally I do not like the evolution to non-tango music and poor execution of moves. But I do have great admiration for the modern top tier dancers like Gustavo & Giselle, or Chicho or many other argentine tango dancers of today. They are very accomplished artists and their dancing is orders of magnitude better than the vast multitude of self-styled “milongueros”.

      Too bad I don’t have the youth, skill and talent to equal them, but I certainly respect their talent and their tango.

    • R. Bononno says:

      A couple of points to add to your interesting comment. I’ve read Denniston’s blog and her book and I respect her work. However, it must be said that we know precious little about the origins of tango or what it looked like or how it was danced. There is some early footage, but not much. We’ve got some short clips of Cachafaz and Petroleo, but these are performance clips and not representative of social dancing as such.

      Denniston’s comments regarding the nature of being a “milonguero” and representative styles is predominantly directed at the distinctions between the “estilo del centro” and the “estilo del barrio” forms of tango, the latter being closer (as I understand it) to what has come to be known as Villa Urquiza style. However, every expression of this I have seen is very smooth and relatively simple, although slightly more open than the typical “downtown” tango that has come to be known (erroneously) as “milonguero” style. As I understand it, she was not implying that those alternative forms were anything like what Cachafaz or Petroleo were doing. Much less Chicho Frumboli.

      There has been an evolution of the dance, how could there not be, but that evolution was really refined during the so-called “golden age” of tango and beyond. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that today’s milonguero “viejos” (those few that still exist) were youngsters in the 30s and 40s, so their dancing reflects tango’s evolution from that point on. If their dancing today (or until their death) is indicative of tango’s progression over the past 70 years, we have a pretty good idea of how it was danced during its formative years. Based on that development, it would seem that the Petroleo’s, Cachafaz’s, etc., were something of an exception in tango. Sure, they pushed the boundaries of the dance and extended the limits of what was possible, just as Chicho and Juana do today. But the milonguero’s and milonguera’s who danced day-in, day-out at the milongas were the people who gave it its ultimate form. Who took what was best from the most extreme styles and refined it down to the purity of the “modern” style we know today as “milonguero.”

      • New Mexico dancer says:

        To the best of my understanding, you are right on. But a follow-on comment if I may.

        First, many of today’s living milongueros were born in the mid 1930’s and later, with some who were born as late as 1948 claiming the designation milonguero. I don’t question any of them, but a number of these were not even in their teens in the 40’s and so their dance reflects only the latter half of the golden age, if that. I have seen an interview with one of the older of the milongueros in which he comments that some of today’s “milongueros” didn’t dance much at all until the tango renaissance, and he cites as evidence that some don’t know that, back in the day when 78s, with only one tango per side, were used by DJs, the same tango was frequently played twice in a row. Rather than fumble around changing discs every dance, the DJs would simply lift the needle and place it back at the beginning of the record. He, or perhaps his wife, also points out that they didn’t have tables and chairs at the milongas they attended, but rather the wall was lined with benches. The mothers (or other chaperones) sat on the benches, the women stood surrounding the dance floor, and the men, as many as several hundred, stood in the middle, easily using cabeceo to find a partner. The ronde circulated, like a carousel, between the men and women. One of the Golden Age codigos we will probably never see again.

        He, or perhaps another of the viejo dancers, when asked to compare todays dancers with those of the golden age, was rather dismissive of the men, but said that the women today are generally much better dancers. Back in the day, although some women practiced at home with their mothers or other family members, many women would show up at a milonga and the men would be expected to lead them. I can easily understand how that might contribute to a very simple dance. Once a woman has learned to wait for the lead and not to step unbidden, most excellent milonguero style leaders can lead nearly the whole “close embrace” repertoire.

        To quote one Milonguero Style dancer, “All this posturing on what tango is and what it should be called makes it difficult for those outside of Argentina to understand what the terms mean. Simply remember that Salon Tango is any form of Argentine Tango that can be danced in a socially responsible way at a milonga, and that Milonguero Style, as a socially responsible form of Argentine Tango, falls under the heading of Salon Tango.”

        Given the very high skill level of many of the younger women, a number of things that could not be lead socially in the 30’s and 40’s now appear to be easily lead (although not by yours truly) in a socially responsible manner. Boleos which remain within the couple’s frame. Small volcadas which remain within a couple’s frame (no big leg sweeps). Colgadas that are basically single axis turns with only slight upper body separation. I’ve even seen back sacadas lead in an offset close embrace.

        So yes. The evolution of tango was refined during the “golden age”, but it seems, especially with followers putting as much time and energy into learning to dance as leads, that the evolution continues. I may regret that this has largely passed me by, but I have nothing but admiration for those that can dance a musical Salon Tango that incorporates the “Nuevo” repertoire.

      • Felicity says:

        I have enjoyed the comments and have been trying to bite my tongue on the topic of nuevo & trad dancing. I failed. But I think I’ve cluttered up TVs blog enough with my views lately, so I put it in my own place instead.

    • tangovoice says:

      My last reply dealt with TangoVoice’s comments regarding the Albuquerque Tango Festival and related things. I’d now like to reply in a broader context regarding tango styles.

      I well know how tango is currently danced in downtown BA, and know that this style is often presented as THE social style of tango dance, a dance of two hearts beating as one. Very simple choreographically, but deep with emotional and musical content. But I question how it relates to what was generally danced in the golden age of tango (’35-’55), and I question if we are preserving the cultural heritage of BA, or simply a refined version of that heritage.

      This is not the issue here (what was danced in the Golden Age). The issue is how tango is danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires TODAY. Tango has certainly evolved since its birth in the latter part of the 19th century. However, not all genres of tango are appropriate for dancing at a milonga because they fail to respect the space and desired atmosphere of those who dance the Tango de Salon of the milongas of Buenos Aires.

      I raise this question based on a variety of data, including two quotes from Christine Denniston’s blog. Please see her site, http://www.history-of-tango.com/ for broader context.
      1. “Possibly the oldest of the Tango dance styles of the Golden Age is the style of the south. The shape drawn by the couple on the floor is one without many straight lines, made up of curves and arcs, looking very much like an Art Nouveau design. The stance of the dancers is a tiny bit closer to the floor. The interpretation of the music involves many pauses, and many rapid movements. This is the style where ganchos and boleos were danced.
      The archetypal step is one where the leader takes the follower off her axis, taking responsibility for her weight, and perhaps walking her around the foot she is standing on. The archetypal orchestra is Pugliese.”

      Tango evolved in the poorer southern barrios and arrabales of Buenos Aires in the earlier part of the 20th century. What is described is characteristic of canyengue or tango orillero, forms of tango that are extinct except for a few tango instructors who are teaching their contemporary version of it (unless one considers that some parts of these styles of tango were incorporated into Tango Escenario). Thus, with respect to this and the previous response, one could make a legitimate case that some of what instructors of Tango Nuevo teach is based upon or inspired by the authentic tango of the arrabales of Buenos Aires 100 years ago.

      2. “One of the saddest things I ever saw in Buenos Aires was a dear friend of mine who started dancing in 1945, … on the point of tears – and elderly Argentine men do not cry in public – because a young dancer had said that he was not a milonguero because he danced with steps. He was being accused of lying about an important part of his whole identity, because this young dancer had misunderstood the term “Estilo Milonguero” and thought that this was the only true style.
      The dancing of the people who were dancing in the Golden Age remained unchanged, and one could still go to milongas away from the centre of Buenos Aires and see people doing the most fabulously complicated steps in a truly authentic and completely social way. But by 1995 the style variously known as ‘close hold’, ‘short steps’, ‘Tango club’ or ‘milonguero’ had come to dominate the dancing of the people in Buenos Aires who were part of the Tango Renaissance.”

      Except for demonstrations, it is not clear at which milongas these ‘most fabulously complicated steps’ occurred. From personal experience in attending milongas at Sunderland Club, Sin Rumbo, and (the now closed) Glorias Argentinas, and from a review of videos recorded at these milongas, all from the 21st century, there is little evidence of elaborate attention-grabbing steps at these milongas; perhaps Denniston was referring to complicated sequences of simple movements, an interpretation possible from her description.

      3. “Also telling are interviews with people such as Petrolio, born in 1912, “I changed tango dancing. I invented the turn, the contrafrente, the change of postures, the boleos. Furthermore, I separated sex from dancing. Some time before, a man was after a leg not a female dancer, to squeeze not to dance. I was after dancing.” Perhaps not entirely accurate, but telling nevertheless.”

      Yes, Petroleo made significant contributions to tango; the giro is a core element in the dancing of milongueros. It’s not clear what Petroleo meant by ‘separating sex from tango’. Anyone who has attended the Milongas del Centro in Buenos Aires knows that many of the dancers are interested in connecting with members of the opposite sex for something more than a dance, whether immediately after the dance or later in the course of a developing relationship. That comment seems naïve if interpreted at face value. With respect to the comments of milongueros quoted in this post, it is interesting to share this comment by Petroleo:

      El tango es una emocion contenida que despues explota. No se puede decir asi se baila el tango, uno lo baila como lo siente, es un creacion.

      Translation:

      The tango is a contained emotion that later explodes. It is not possible to say this is how tango is danced, one dances it as one feels it, it is a creation.

      I wonder what thirty-something tango dancers looked like in 1935 or 1945? Was there competition among dancers? What form did it take? Were there gang-like activities? If not, where did the stories of knife fights, or other such behavior, originate? And if the focus of the man was to protect and take care of his partner, was this driven by competition for the woman’s affections in a socially acceptable setting? I realize that some of the last of the milongueros were born in 1930 or so, and would have been 25 or so when the military regimes effectively ended milongas in ’55, but how representative is their dance? Was it smoothed out and refined over the years? Were these milongueros the best dancers of their generation? What did the average dancer look like? Clunky and unmusical? And what of the dancers Ms. Denniston describes as performing ‘the most fabulously complicated steps’?

      Tango was refined during the early years of the Golden Age. The posture became more upright, cortes and quebradas were eliminated (even forbidden). One thing to remember is that during the 1940s and early 1950s milongas were very crowded, more crowded than they are today. There was no room to perform space-consuming patterns. Respect for the ronda was of utmost importance. Yet reports from milongueros indicate collisions were few and frowned upon. In the milongas of the outer barrios to the north, there were larger floors and lower floor density. There was some room for executing continuous turns and more time for embellishments. This is where Tango Estilo del Barrio evolved. Neverthless, this was tango without cortes, quebradas, and ganchos, and undoubtedly without volcadas, colgadas, soltadas, piernazos and liner boleos.

      Complicating matters was the fact that, in ‘refined society’, social mores did not allow young men to hold young women closely except under limited circumstances, one of which was a chaperoned dance. I’ve heard tales of what tango was like among the lower classes, where tango was birthed, and they sound almost as much like attempted gang rape as dancing, and I understand that the police were on occasion called because of lewd public displays of tango dancing.

      Different time periods. Chaperoned milongas were refined Milongas del Barrio. Milongas del Centro of the later 40s and 50s were where Tango Estilo del Centro (Tango Milonguero) evolved. In any case, in Buenos Aires today maintained embrace of partner is the standard way to dance, not the ‘elastic embrace’ of Tango Nuevo.

      Not that I’m advocating any such, but clearly there has been evolution in the dance, and early forms of the dance served different needs than today. Should we stop evolution and freeze the dance in the name of cultural preservation? Or should we welcome the innovative and explorational tango sometimes referred to as Nuevo.

      The problem with Tango Nuevo is that it is not adapted for the milonga. Its place in Buenos Aires is in the Practica Nueva. In Buenos Aires there are different kinds of venues for different kinds of tango. This distinction is not maintained in First World milongas. Tango Nuevo is thrust into the milonga environment. This is facilitated by instructors of Tango Nuevo, who fail to address this distinction.

      BTW, I am an old man, 70 this year, and dance a simple style, but it seems a shame that younger dancers should be discouraged simply because I, and possibly you, are old and grey in spirit if not in fact. If dancers are fit, and if they can do figures I can’t, and as long as they respect the two or three foot floor tile I claim for myself, well bully for them.

      At First World milongas, experienced dancers of Tango de Salon learn to navigate amid the challenges posed by step-oriented dancers of other tango genres. There is the couple in front in the ronda that has stopped to do foot play and release a repertoire of embellishments, and there is the couple behind that is progressing forward encroaching on the traditional dancer’s space. From the center of the floor comes the rapidly moving couple where the woman is demonstrating her skill in executing high boleos. … Certainly there is no space at milongas for linear boleos, soltadas,and colgadas. Obsession with movement exploration in this and other expressions monopolizes space on the dance floor. This is very selfish, very egotistical. The milonga codes of Buenos Aires demand respect for all other dancers on the floor. The ronda progresses harmoniously. Dancers feel safe. Despite the skill in avoiding collisions shown by dancers of Tango de Salon in First World milongas, the heightened awareness required for this distracts the attention away from a relaxed harmonious connection with one’s partner. The invasion of Tango Nuevo (and even Tango Escenario) onto First World milonga floors interferes with his possibility. Buenos Aires milongas are more crowded, yet it is possible to achieve this connection. This is what Tango Nuevo dancers (and those tolerant of it) do not understand.

    • LIoudmila Alexeenko says:

      Dear New Mexico Dancer,
      I admire the wealth of your knowledge and the depth of your expertise, and also courage and kindness of your heart.
      Thank you!

  17. RFshooter says:

    One point that was made needs to be highlighted. Equating the dance style, prowess, etc. of the old milogueros alive today to the dance of their youth in the gold era is not at all realistic.

    These are old guys and cannot possibly dance as they did in their teens, twenties or even fifties. I’ve been dancing tango for decades and other dances for longer time. I’m 70 now and although I’m still pretty spry and active, I cannot come close to the energy and stamina I had even in my 40’s.

    My dance today is much more “sedate” than it was back then… Likewise for the old milongueros, specially the ones who were mostly or exclusively “social” dancers. I would think that their style and choice of steps, musical interpretation, etc. Are not the same or even close of that of their youth.

  18. New Mexico dancer says:

    clarification – last paragraph of my previous comment: with followers putting as much time and energy into learning to dance as do leads

    do is added. This is not referring to follows who learn to lead.

  19. tangovoice says:

    There has been considerable discussion on this post, some of it directed at the main message of the post and others on related issues. Both types of comments are interesting and welcome. Nevertheless, it appears necessary at this point to reiterate (summarize) the main points in the post in order to focus again on what has stated and not assume or attribute what has not been stated (although some of the discussed issues have been addressed elsewhere in this blog).

    1. Many dancers at North American milongas appear to structure their dance around the conspicuous step patterns and not around the music.

    2. The emphasis on producing step patterns while dancing tango is the consequence of tango instruction, but also an adaptation of the instructors to the prevailing cultural understanding that social dancing (as in ballroom dancing) is focused on producing step patterns.

    3. In contrast, the overwhelming majority of dancers in Buenos Aires milongas use a small number of relatively inconspicuous movements.

    4. Milongueros (experienced tango dancers in Buenos Aires) concentrate and improvise on the rhythmic structure of the music.

    5. Milongueros emphasize that tango music generates emotions and the expression and sharing of these emotions are an integral part of the dancing tango.

    6. Milongueros emphasize the importance of the embrace in the communication of emotions while dancing tango.

    7. North American tango dancers who ignore the music and do not dance embraced are missing an important and unique feature of tango.

  20. Paul says:

    This is an excellent summary of a well-crafted and meticulously prepared article, for which many thanks. A thought occurs.

    Among the comments there was some criticism of the “reams of flowery language to get over simple points.” This is not an entirely trivial point. Perhaps (as you suggest in your perfectly reasonable response) eloquent discourse replete with ample evidence and plentiful references is more convincing. But to whom? Those motivated enough to read these articles in full are unlikely to be among the most committed ranks of tango extranjero exponents who make so many milongas in the first world hazardous and unpleasant for the culturally informed social dancer; while those less motivated who find their way to these posts (whether by accident or recommendation) may feel more overwhelmed than convinced or enlightened. In short, there is a danger of simply preaching to the converted, combined with a limited outreach to those who could most benefit.

    To address this concern, I wonder if you might consider the idea of systematically opening your posts with some form of “executive summary” that sets out clearly the main substantive points, rather in the manner shown above. I am aware that some of your articles end with a “summary and conclusion” but these appear to serve a different purpose.

    Though such a change would not be without risk (e.g. simplified soundbites gaining more attention than nuanced argument), it would also offer some clear advantages. Not least, one could then more confidently recommend your posts to non-native readers of English.

  21. Felicity says:

    There are many good things about this blog. One is that as far as I can recall I have never submitted a comment here that was not published. This is vanishingly rare. Many bloggers censor comments that disagree with their own view or which make statements or which ask questions that the blog author may find awkward or difficult, or they publish some dissonant voices but selectively. While I read and enjoy some of these I do not comment there and I have huge respect for the very few blog authors who do publish such comments.

    I find the most interesting discussion is where there is disagreement or challenge because that is where there you find unexpected insight, learning and growth. I understand though that some places are for listening, some for chat and that is fine. What I really like is that Tango Voice attracts a diverse set of interesting comments.

    • tangovoice says:

      All serious comments are posted, regardless of whether or not they agree with opinions stated in Tango Voice posts. Readers are entitled to make up their own minds on issues. Perhaps only a half dozen or so comments (that are not spam) have not been posted in the 6+ years of this blog, mainly because they were frivolous or meaningless and thus did not add to the conversation. All serious and honest opinions are welcome.

    • Chris says:

      Felicity wrote “There are many good things about this blog. One is that as far as I can recall I have never submitted a comment here that was not published. This is vanishingly rare. ”

      I agree this blog censors comment far less frequently than most tango blogs. In the 6+ years of this blog, only about half a dozen of my comments here have been disallowed.

      TangoVoice wrote: “All serious comments are posted, regardless of whether or not they agree with opinions stated in Tango Voice posts.”

      Not entirely true. E.g. disallowed.

  22. Alexia Isaak says:

    You should meet an amazing new teacher in Dallas who teaches how to dance with a warm, inviting embrace. He teaches dancing to the music instead of just steps. Reading your article was an absolute echo of his words.
    http://www.tangodfw.com

  23. Felicity says:

    Re “http://www.tangodfw.com” : “Our tango dance lessons are for committed, serious dancers who want to learn to dance tango and be part of the best tango community in the U.S.”
    Scary stuff.

    “He teaches dancing to the music instead of just steps”
    My son is 8. He is slight and his head, when we embrace reaches my ribcage. He dances tango with me, very occasionally, in the kitchen. Even more infrequently we dance a few tracks at a tea dance. He has never had a lesson or been told what to do. But he grew up hearing the music, dancing occasionally. I picked him up from school today. We embraced and started walking, side by side, his arm around me, mine around his shoulder across the playground. I was humming La melodía de nuestro adiós. And naturally, because we were in no rush and because always do, we paused at the end of the phrases. Him initiating, if anything. He did the same yesterday or the day before for a trickier Donato track we danced in our kitchen, pausing at the phrases, mimicking the bandoneon embellishments with his feet in a little-boy way – though actually you see serious professionals doing this for real. He does nothing fancy and he dances the music better than most men I know.

    You don’t need to teach anyone to dance the music, you just need to know the music and to want to dance it and put one foot in front of the other. And pause at the phrases. And the rest of it comes on its own.

  24. Chris says:

    “You don’t need to teach anyone to dance the music”.

    Unless you’re trying to make a living from it.

    What’s true is you don’t need anyone to teach you to dance the music.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I need clarification on why you chose to use quotation marks with the word milonga, and why you said ‘events in North America advertised as…’. I also need you to clarify why my milonga is in your list of “events advertised in North America as ‘milongas'”. It appears that you are saying that my milonga is a fake milonga, simply based on how people are dancing in a video that was taken there- and I cannot think how anyone can possibly draw a conclusion which challenges the authenticity of my milonga, simply based on things I have absolutely no control over.

    • tangovoice says:

      A milonga is an event where classic tango music is played for dancing tango, and the tango music (including milonga and vals) comprises at least 70% of the music for dancing. Other rhythms for other (non-tango) dancing may also be played, e.g., music for swing dancing, tropical Latin music, or Argentine folk dance music. The music for tango is structured into tandas of 4 tangos, 3 or 4 valses, and usually 3 milongas. Live music may replace some part of this structure of music, provided the music is similar to the classic tango music of the Golden Age. These tandas are separated by short cortinas of non-danceable music. A circulating ronda of dancers is formed and adhered to. Exhibitions of tango are permissible, but confined to specific times when there is no social dancing; i.e. exhibition tango is not used for dancing during the periods of social dancing. A more complete discussion of the characteristics of milongas is presented in Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited). The use of the cabeceo for dance invitation and gender segregated seating is an important feature of ‘milongas del centro’ in Buenos Aires, although ‘milongas del barrio’ do not have these characteristics in general.

      Many events advertised as ‘milongas’ in North America (and elsewhere in First World countries) lack the core features of milongas in that non-tango music or the non-danceable tango music of Piazzolla is played for dancing and dancers use movements characteristic of some genre of tango (not necessarily Tango de Salon) when these types of music are played. In some events advertised as ‘milongas’, a circulating ronda is not apparent. Dance invitation may be by direct approach to the table. Dancers may not clear the floor during the cortina. Most notable, in many events advertised as milongas, movements characteristic of Tango Escenario or Tango Nuevo are used by dancers; these are movements that may prevent the formation of a circulating ronda and/or create risks for collision. Many of these movements violate the prohibition against the use of attention-grabbing moves at a milonga.

      These are the primary reasons events advertised as ‘milongas’ are not really ‘milongas’. They are probably more suitably labeled as ‘tango dance parties’.

      The milonga organizer can prevent or limit the violation of milonga codes. The most direct control is in the selection of only classic tango music for dancing tango. Other strategies are discussed in The Role of the Milonga Organizer in Creating an Environment Promoting Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions.

    • Chris says:

      Anonymous wrote” I cannot think how anyone can possibly draw a conclusion which challenges the authenticity of my milonga, simply based on things I have absolutely no control over.”

      Surely any conclusion on the authenticity of a milonga should be drawn from all relevant characteristics of that milonga.

      I cannot think how anyone can draw a valid conclusion from the subset of characteristics over which the organiser has control, excluding e.g. the dancing.

  26. R. Bononno says:

    One thing I can say for sure: I’ve never seen gender-segregated seating in a local milonga and I don’t expect to find it at any milonga in North America. People, pretty much sit where they please (or where there is room) and with whom they please. They also tend to move around a lot, switch seats, and so on. So there’s rarely a row of women facing a row of men, although some women may congregate together from time to time. If that’s a requirement, we don’t meet it. At least, not in my limited experience. In most other respects, though, here in NYC, we pretty much mirror the milongas in B.A. As for the dancing, that’s another matter.

    • tangovoice says:

      Gender segregated seating is one of the milonga customs that is most difficult to implement in First World milongas; its advantage is that it facilitates the use of the cabeceo, which many tango dancers worldwide agree is a desirable method of selecting dance partners (Use of the Cabeceo and Gender Segregated Seating in Milongas in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere in the World). Gender segregated seating does occur at some ‘encuentros milongueros’ in North America and Europe (ibid.).

      One strategy for encouraging gender segregated seating (and the use of the cabeceo) is to reserve the best tables at a milonga (those adjacent to the dance floor) for those dancers who agree to use the cabeceo for dance invitation; the central placement of these dancers also provides an example of how the cabeceo can function (The Role of the Milonga Organizer in Creating an Environment Promoting Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions). However, a prerequisite for this to succeed is to have a sufficient number of dancers who understand the use of the cabeceo (and want to use it) to fill these tables.

      • R. Bononno says:

        That’s a not unreasonable strategy but unlikely to work here. First, there are logistical problems with table placement at many local milongas (encuentros, I suppose) and you often do not have tables or seats facing one another. You’ll often have women sitting next to men, at tables to their right or left, rather than opposite, so the cabeceo requires a certain amount of physical dexterity. Or you have to get up and move around to position yourself properly, by which point another guy will simply have walked up to the table and asked. Also, to implement such a technique would require knowing who uses the cabeceo regularly before reserving the tables or asking them, which can be awkward to say the least. And since most milongas are primarily concerned with ensuring attendance, you don’t want to alienate potential dancers or make life difficult for them. It might work in B.A., where it’s an established tradition and where the dancers implicitly agree to use the cabeceo, but elsewhere? I’m not so sure.

      • tangovoice says:

        Gender segregated seating doesn’t make any sense unless there is a lot of people who use the cabeceo. However, if there is a significant number of people who use the cabeceo, it is worth trying to have at least some gender segregated seating, as stated above, reserving the best tables for those who agree to use the cabeceo. One way this would work would be to ask milonga attendees upon admission whether or not they would prefer to sit in ‘men only’ or ‘women only’ sections reserved for those using the cabeceo and point out they are the best seats, right near the center of the dance floor. However, in order to fill these tables, there needs to be some preparation, something that perhaps would be best accomplished by tango instructors who teach the cabeceo in their classes or practicas; if these instructors host a milonga, this could be facilitated further.

        It will not be possible to have gender segregated seating unless an attempt is made to implement it. Outside of encuentros milongueros, it is definitely a challenge in First World countries.

      • Chris says:

        R. Bononno says “And since most milongas are primarily concerned with ensuring attendance, you don’t want to alienate potential dancers or make life difficult for them.”

        Big subject there.

        Personally I find the milongas I most like in the UK do alienate and make life difficult for some potential dancers (especially when it comes to inviting). And that’s a large part of what makes those milongas enjoyable for others.

      • Felicity says:

        Personally, I find life very difficult when seats are not allocated, people stand in front of me, so I can’t see potential partners, or they don’t clear the floor. I hate to leave my seat or even stand to invite such that I rarely will, at the expense of not dancing – so I prefer milongas where standing during the cortina is not the norm. Other reasons I cannot see partners in front of me is because they are scattered all over the room or it is too dark. The odd guy might even walk up to a woman though good women dancers I notice generally refuse that type. In the other role I don’t like not having a table for my drink and I don’t like coming back to find my seat with my bag etc there has been taken.

        So, I would much prefer more diversity in milongas so that there is for example one for people who think life is “made easier” where men can walk up to women to invite them and for the rest of us where we have a seat we can keep, with a small table for our drinks, where we are sitting opposite the people we want to to invite and we can see them because the place isn’t as dark as a disco. And most of all no one stands on the floor blocking our view.

      • tangovoice says:

        If people are milling around at a dance event advertised as a ‘milonga’, without having a permanent seat, or are standing on a dance floor during a cortina, this is not a milonga. At best it is a tango dance party, at worst it is using tango as an excuse for a party.

        This type of scene is common at the dimly lit bars in the First World, where there is music, a dance floor, and single people walking around looking for some kind of adventure. It is a common scene for salsa dancing and country-and-western dancing (and formerly for disco dancing). For these dances it has become part of the dance culture. If tango has evolved into this environment, it has drifted far from its cultural heritage.

        Tango is not merely a set of steps that accompany tango music, sometimes not even tango music. Tango is a cultural phenomenon encompassing tango music, movement with a partner within a ronda connected to the music using some steps unique to tango dancing, as well as a set of customs specifying norms for type of dancing (e.g., no exhibitionism or collision inducing behavior), inviting someone to dance, and interacting with a dance partner [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)]. People who neglect the cultural traditions of tango are missing the rich experience tango has to offer – the partner connection, the musical connection, the game of partner selection provided by the cabeceo. At the extremes described here, participants are just coopting tango dancing (if one could at times even legitimately call it that) for social and economic purposes defined by a foreign culture.

        Yes, events that use the names ‘tango’ and ‘milonga’ need to be differentiated. One cannot expect those who wish to profit from tango or otherwise use tango for purposes other than promotion of tango culture to clearly define their deviation from tango cultural traditions {with the possible exception of the ‘alternative milonga’ [The Alternative Milonga (Neolonga): The Social Environment for Dancing to Tango Alternative Music]}, perhaps more appropriately labeled as the ‘milonga alternative’}. Thus, promoters of Argentine tango traditions would benefit from labeling their events as ‘traditional milongas’ (and be prepared to enforce at least some milonga codes), although many events advertised as such deviate significantly from tango traditions, by intent or ignorance, or some combination of the two (Creating a Tango-Brand: The Role of Language in the Marginalization of Argentine Tango).

      • Felicity says:

        TangoVoice said: “If people are milling around at a dance event advertised as a ‘milonga’, without having a permanent seat, or are standing on a dance floor during a cortina, this is not a milonga. At best it is a tango dance party[…]”

        I can think of an example of a milonga such as I have described. I have been to many milongas there. I travel hundreds of miles to go there and to other milongas near it because although when I go it usually has the frustrating problem of standing and blocking (at, indeed, the “singles” end) it is not at all as you describe. Also the singes I do not think are people looking for something other than dance – average age is not young and most are experienced dancers. The floor is great, lighting is good, music is often excellent, which is largely why I go, it is extremely popular with many good dancers mostly dancing in the embrace, floorcraft is well managed- the ronda is usually very busy and very good, invitation is by look (if not discreetly). The “only” major problem is this standing and blocking. So a milonga can be good in many respects but let down in a critical way because the host does not think the conditions for say invitation such as adequate seating, are that important. Or are subservient to, as you say, other things. In a sense, that is a good thing because it means others have a model of what works to copy, and then just fix the missing element.

      • tangovoice says:

        Not having been at the described milonga, no assumption was made regarding all of the characteristics of the milonga. The description struck a chord with respect to some so-called milongas in North America where essentially salsa (to give the best example) has been swapped for tango in a singles bar atmosphere, so that the main characteristics that lead people to think they are attending a ‘milonga’ are that there is some (sometimes questionable) tango music played for dancing and some of the movements made by the dancers are reminiscent of tango dancing.

      • Chris says:

        tangovoice wrote: “there needs to be some preparation, something that perhaps would be best accomplished by tango instructors who teach the cabeceo in their classes or practicas”

        Cabaceo is natural language between guys and girls. Guys and girls get all the preparation they need in life and then by watching others use it in the milonga.

        The idea that preparation would be better accomplished in classes under the control of dance instructors is deeply perverted.

      • tangovoice says:

        The cabeceo may be a natural language, but it is rarely used for dance invitation in First World milongas. Observing others using it is not an effective strategy for increasing its use if it is not used. Thus, some education of dancers regarding the use of the cabeceo is needed. Dancers typically get their first contact with tango through tango dance classes. They are very few tango dancers who learn to dance without taking dance classes. Thus, teaching the use of the cabeceo while teaching students to dance tango is the most effective means of increasing the awareness regarding the use of the cabeceo.

      • R. Bononno says:

        “Thus, teaching the use of the cabeceo while teaching students to dance tango is the most effective means of increasing the awareness regarding the use of the cabeceo.”

        The first time I heard about the cabeceo was after about a year of study. It was mentioned anecdotally during an informal gathering after class by one of my teachers, who is from Buenos Aires. She described it to a few students and another teacher, a man, who was partnering with her during the class. He had never heard of the cabeceo, its origin, or its use. After that, my exposure to the cabeceo came mostly from reading (I didn’t attend many milongas at the time). I don’t recall any other teacher talking about it. As for ensuring its use, I can’t see any other way, given the nature of the local community, than to have the host or hostess inform dancers that its use is recommended. This could be done by a notice given out at the entrance or a printed flyer on every table.

      • Felicity says:

        R. Bononno said: “The first time I heard about the cabeceo was after about a year of study. It was mentioned anecdotally during an informal gathering after class by one of my teachers, who is from Buenos Aires. … After that, my exposure to the cabeceo came mostly from reading (I didn’t attend many milongas at the time).”
        How unfortunate. And wholly avoidable when people learn to dance by going to the milonga, watching, listening and then dancing with experienced dancers. I understand for guys this may be less practical: what is not impractical is for their learning to dance first in the woman’s role and then the man’s role in practicas.

        Going out to bars to watch the natural unspoken language of invitation between guys and girls might help too.

        R. Bononno said: “As for ensuring its use, I can’t see any other way, given the nature of the local community, than to have the host or hostess inform dancers that its use is recommended. This could be done by a notice given out at the entrance or a printed flyer on every table.”

        Those are the sorts of places I imagine also try to teach people how to embrace – a sure-fire way of making that experience stilted, enforced and unpleasant as to keep girls away, or perhaps only attract the kind of girls who will tolerate that sort of embrace and those sorts of pedantic rules.

      • Chris says:

        tangovoice wrote: “Tango is … movement with a partner within a ronda connected to the music using some steps unique to tango dancing”

        Sorry, but this is nonsense. There are no steps unique to tango dancing. Let alone any but walking that are essential to it.

      • tangovoice says:

        Unique to tango dancing are forward and back ochos, the ocho cortado, giros to the left and right, sacadas, boleos, and arrastres. This is only within the realm of Tango de Salon. They are not required steps, but they are unique to tango and at least ochos and giros are commonly used, even by milongueros.

      • Felicity says:

        Tango Voice said: “Unique to tango dancing are forward and back ochos, the ocho cortado, giros to the left and right, sacadas, boleos, and arrastres.”

        Blimey. I wonder what I do then. I’ve danced the man’s part not long but regularly for a year and I’ve danced as the woman before that and I don’t even know what an arrastre is. I don’t have any of those steps, or any steps I know of at all for that matter – and have no plans to go to class to learn any – yet girls and guys, nice dancers all, seem to like it enough to want to do it again.

        If I can recognise any of the things you’ve just described in guys, the more I (as the woman) see those things, the more it tends to make me want to stay away from them.

      • tangovoice says:

        The part that is missing in the quote is “They are not required steps, but they are unique to tango and at least ochos and giros are commonly used, even by milongueros.”

      • Felicity says:

        I don’t think emphasising teaching cabeceo or talking about steps being unique to tango is helpful because those steps need teaching & that way before you know it we’re into the realms of “thinking dance” forgetting about the music & being wholly present with a partner. Not long after that we all start applauding performers of stage tango in the middle of a social dance & paying them to help us ape what they do.

      • Chris says:

        tangovoice wrote “The cabeceo may be a natural language, but it is rarely used for dance invitation in First World milongas.”

        Cabeceo is frequently used in the First World milongas of the UK and mainland Europe. In fact it has been many years since the last cabaceo-free milonga hereabouts that I recall.

      • Felicity says:

        TV said “Dancers typically get their first contact with tango through tango dance classes. They are very few tango dancers who learn to dance without taking dance classes. Thus, teaching the use of the cabeceo while teaching students to dance tango is the most effective means of increasing the awareness regarding the use of the cabeceo.”

        Trying to straighten out something that wants to grow crooked is not in my view generally worth doing. The wrong kind of conditions generally adversely affect what’s growing in more ways than one anyway. Better is to try growing something in good conditions from the outset.

  27. Adam Smolka says:

    Fascinating discussion about tango! As a neophyte, I speak only of the beautiful turmoil of my own experience. The hypnotic music of Argentine Tango and the fusion of mind and body induced by the dance would not let go. In the beginning, as obsession sparred with reason, I fended off surrender by posting on a Facebook page vignettes of life at the shifting interface between Tango fantasy and reality. The stories were set in cities where I had found Tango: Beirut, Barcelona, Lviv, Orlando, San Diego. Men and women I met while dancing inspired my characters. Instead of rummaging through expository psychology, I sketched them in broad strokes, seeking to capture their inner life through dialog, or simply by recording chance details and gestures. The vignettes invariably found the narrator in thrall to a beautiful woman, both of them mesmerized by Tango’s melancholy bandoneons. If you want a sense of what Tango does to you, how it infiltrates and nurtures your neglected waking dreams, just step through the lacquered black door of The Hotel Fakir, ask Ignatio for a glass of Malbec, and let the tropical flowers and Tango take you away. It’s all at TangoDreamer.com. You too will dream all day about Tango…

  28. gyb says:

    The majority of your key points emphasize the importance of music for dancing and experiencing tango, and I concur. Over the years I came to the conclusion, however, that it is unreasonable to expect people who do not know argentine tango music to suddenly be able to dance to it, and hence that one of the most important ways to improve the quality of tango dancing worldwide in mid-to-long term is to make danceable tango music widely available to potential dancers. (I’m not saying that one necessarily needs to know a particular song to be able to dance well to it, but a big part of the reason why more “advanced” dancers are able to dance well to a tango they hear a first time lies in its structural/musical similarities with other tangos that the dancers learned by heart on their way of becoming “advanced”.)

    Fortunately nowadays there are many sources through which people can acquire tango music (some more legal than others). However, although I’d be really excited if more and more people took the pain to actively educate themselves about music in their spare time and spent their dollars to purchase from the music stores, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect non-argentine beginners to know where and what to look for, or even to put in the effort of actively searching for it.

    This is why I decided to create and maintain a legally licensed online tango radio that focuses on danceable argentine tango music 7/24:
    http://www.argentinetangoradio.com

    I hope that more and more teachers and organizers are going to realize the importance of knowledge of danceable tango music, and recommend this station to their communities as one of the means of getting familiar with it.

    • tangovoice says:

      “… it is unreasonable to expect people who do not know argentine tango music to suddenly be able to dance to it, and hence that one of the most important ways to improve the quality of tango dancing worldwide in mid-to-long term is to make danceable tango music widely available to potential dancers.”

      Yes, indeed.

      “I hope that more and more teachers and organizers are going to realize the importance of knowledge of danceable tango music, and recommend this station to their communities as one of the means of getting familiar with it.”

      This is a valuable and hopefully effective contribution.

      • gyb says:

        This is a valuable and hopefully effective contribution.

        Thanks. The effectiveness also depends on how well the word is spread, hence the self-advertisement.. but I’m not really good at this.

        But if I’m already at it, I also started to produce a weekly series called “Danceable Tangos of the Year” that airs on the radio, progressing from 1927. The majority of the episodes will focus on the years 1937-1945, but we have yet to arrive to this period. Past episodes can also be downloaded as podcasts:

        https://www.patreon.com/posts/danceable-tangos-4333905

  29. Adam Smolka says:

    Thank you, gyb. Dolores once filled my flash drive with her entire tango collection, which snaked effortlessly into neural circuits entrusted with the ebb and flow of human emotion. Your radio station has mobilized that emotion into dance; I now understand that a day without tango is a day lost…

  30. […] few weeks ago, a post by Tango Voice (the self-described “Voice of Argentine tango in North America”), launched a heated […]

    • tangovoice says:

      This is in response to a post on Tango Osada that has stated the following

      “Why does American tango have to be EXACTLY the same as the tango danced in Argentina?”

      The reality is that the United States in not Argentina. We may not be as good at social dancing as Argentines, but that is not because we are lacking as dancers, but because social tango only exists within the culture that created it. It is impossible to dance social tango in the United States, exactly like in Buenos Aires, because it is not an American social dance.

      … we should not see dancers within our communities as mindless people who just want to dance as if they were on Dancing With the Stars, but instead as people who are in love with an artistic form from another culture. They are people who have taken it upon themselves to put forth great effort and time to learn a dance that is extremely difficult and to listen to music from a very long time ago. Although not perfect, the dancers in our communities should be cherished for committing to so deeply to Tango, not told that they are doing it wrong.

      There is some misinterpretation of the message in the referenced (current) Tango Voice post. This is understandable to some degree because specific issues mentioned in previous posts are not addressed directly here. First, it needs to be noted that North American dancers (or dancers of any culture, for that matter) have the right to interpret tango as they wish. This had been done previously in Ballroom Tango. However, the ballroom dance community in which Ballroom Tango resides, except for the extreme aberration of the ‘Argentine Tango’ it typically offers (i.e., no embrace, step lists, higher proportion of music that is not classic tango), usually has little influence on the interpretation of tango outside the ballroom dance subculture. An important difference in the more-or-less exclusively tango community at large in North America (or other First World cultures) is that in adapting Argentine tango to their own local cultural tastes, whether consciously or unconsciously, the opportunity for a tango subculture based on Argentine cultural traditions to develop is suppressed. There are a significant number of tango dancers in North America who have been to Buenos Aires, danced in the milongas there and enjoyed Argentine tango culture. Most of these dancers, for one reason or another (careers, family, other interests) do not wish to reside in Buenos Aires (although there are some who have made that choice), but they do wish to create a similar tango environment in their home community. Outside the occasional encuentro milonguero here and there (which often requires long distance travel), there are limited opportunities for doing so. Even for the tango promoter who attempts to create a ‘traditional milonga’ environment where all dancers dance tango within the range of variation of Tango de Salon (the tango considered acceptable in the milongas of Buenos Aires), there is almost always going to be an invasion of dancers from the local community who do not respect the space of other dancers on the floor. Within tango communities it is considered politically correct to allow, even invite, all tango dancers to attend milongas, allow advertisement of all events using the ‘tango’ name, so tango promoters who wish to retain the integrity and cultural accuracy of Argentine tango and therefore not allow milonga code violations and advertisement of foreign adaptations of tango in their milongas are branded as hostile to tango community development. Thus, unless there is a strong emphasis on commitment to retaining Argentine tango cultural values, an effort that is applied in recruitment and teaching of tango traditions to dancers, it will be nearly impossible to recreate a tango environment resembling that of Buenos Aires milongas in First World cultures. This difficulty is increased significantly by tango entrepreneurs, the most influential of which are Argentine instructors with credentials as dancers in successful tango stage productions or as winners of tango dance competitions (neither of which represent social tango in Buenos Aires), who recognize the receptivity of First World dancers to dancing based on accumulation of step patterns and exhibitionism in dancing. In addition, the success of promoters of Argentine tango cultural traditions is limited significantly by the appropriation of the ‘tango’ label, which has been attached to adaptions of tango to local cultural proclivities. This is further exacerbated by the promotion of the One Tango Philosophy (‘There is only one tango’), which declares that all variations of tango have equal legitimacy on the milonga dance floor, ignoring that Tango Escenario is designed for the stage and Tango Nuevo for the intellectual environment of the Practica Nueva. If promoters of non-Argentine values for tango social dancing called their interpretation of tango ‘Nuevo’ or ‘Cosmotango’ or perhaps ‘Supertango’ (maybe even ‘Libertango’), then dancers would be able to differentiate between Argentine-based tango environments and local cultural adaptations, but instead One Tango promoters have seen the economic advantage of co-opting the tango label and thus it does not appear this will occur.

      A major theme in Tango Voice posts is that tango based on Argentine cultural traditions has the right to exist in North American tango communities (and First World cultures in general), but this right is not respected and is often intentionally disrespected in arguments that state ‘Tango has evolved’ and ‘This is not Buenos Aires’. Those many dancers who wish to have a tango dancing environment that resembles Buenos Aires milongas (an environment free of space threatening moves and exhibitionism, teaching on the dance floor, standing on the dance floor during the cortina, etc.), i.e., an environment in which dancers can embrace and become relaxed in that embrace and become absorbed in the music, are essentially denied to opportunity to do so. Rather than focusing on the right of First World cultures to adapt Argentine tango as they see fit to their own cultural tastes, attention should be focused on preserving the Argentine cultural traditions that are part of tango (if, indeed, one wishes the label the activity as ‘tango’). This is a primary message, explicit or implicit, throughout Tango Voice posts.

      • Felicity says:

        Thanks for pointing out Tango Osada’s post TV. Commenters are now torn between replying to your response here or addressing your point on the original article. I foresee we are going to have, confusingly, comments split between both and not least because this post has close on 100 comments I think it would’ve been nice to have some on the other. Still…

        tangovoice said: “the success of promoters of Argentine tango cultural traditions is limited significantly by the appropriation of the ‘tango’ label, which has been attached to adaptions of tango to local cultural proclivities. This is further exacerbated by the promotion of the One Tango Philosophy (‘There is only one tango’), which declares that all variations of tango have equal legitimacy on the milonga dance floor […] – Very important point!

        tangovoice said: “North American dancers (or dancers of any culture, for that matter) have the right to interpret tango as they wish.” – Agreed! It’s good this happens – because alternative tango dancers will go to one milonga and trad dancers to another. Diversity is helpful!

        tangovoice also said: “Even for the tango promoter who attempts to create a ‘traditional milonga’ environment where all dancers dance tango within the range of variation of Tango de Salon (the tango considered acceptable in the milongas of Buenos Aires), there is almost always going to be an invasion of dancers from the local community who do not respect the space of other dancers on the floor.”

        Not necessarily. Continuing the last point I prefer the view that says like attracts like – dancers who like similar things will prefer events that cater for them. A lot of this is down to diversity in milongas, clear advertising and good hosting with expectations that various things will or won’t happen and action to ensure they do or do not.

        tangovoice said “Within tango communities it is considered politically correct to allow […] advertisement of all events using the ‘tango’ name”
        Allow where? In the milonga? Politically correctness is a very regional thing – stronger on the US West coast than the east, I’ve noticed & stronger generally in American society than British. But where business interests compete it is not at all true in the UK – nor I imagine in the US – that all organisers allow advertisement of other events at their own events – only those with allegiances and reciprocal arrangements will do this and I think this is independent of how “authentic” their event is.

      • Felicity says:

        tangovoice said: “unless there is a strong emphasis on commitment to retaining Argentine tango cultural values, an effort that is applied in recruitment and teaching of tango traditions to dancers it will be nearly impossible to recreate a tango environment resembling that of Buenos Aires milongas in First World cultures.”

        Actually, the authentic way was *without* teaching (you can hear this in the interviews with milongueros in the practimilonguero videos by Monica Paz). New guys learnt from experienced guys by dancing with them as the woman and then in the man’s role themselves and when they could dance they went to proper milongas with girls who would just pick up the dance (as you can, as people do) by dancing with experienced guys. Christine Denniston tells us this in her book about the history of tango dance. There is no reason why this couldn’t happen now. The reason it doesn’t is because people aren’t familiar with the idea is all. And because it’s easy to sell to an expectant market (and make money from) classes whereas running a democratic practica that relies on social learning is less likely to be a money-spinner. Come on TV, spill the beans! Are you a (well intentioned) teacher of trad tango dance and codes?!

      • R. Bononno says:

        “There is no reason why this couldn’t happen now. The reason it doesn’t is because people aren’t familiar with the idea is all.”

        Some are familiar with it, of course, and some guys actually practice it. But the problem is that there simply are not that many *experienced* milongueros around who want to teach younger male dancers. Given the option (and can you blame them), they’ll tutor an attractive young woman. The guys have to fend for themselves. Since we no longer live in a gender-segregated society, men and women learn together. The women dance with men, the men with women. The problem with this is that you’ve got two beginners trying to learn from one another, which doesn’t work. Personally, I’ve learned from other, experienced male dancers, but inconsistently because the opportunities are few. And if they’re teachers, you’re going to have to pay them for the privilege. Maybe those experienced milongueros shared their knowledge with others “back in the day,” but today, it’s called a private lesson.

      • Felicity says:

        I see it not infrequently and dance with new & experienced guys in the other role often. It’s he also true that the more it’s seen the more it spreads especially as people twig that often the best guy dancers can or have danced the other role.

        In St Andrews, Scotland & some other teaching environments it is the norm for guys to dance together. There, both sexes dance all combinations though in their social dancing things are (a bit) more heteronormative.

        Lately I hear & notice more generally that women seem to be becoming less inclined to be little more than props for men learning steps in class though some women still pay for that “privilege”. Several classes I know lack women so as more women wise up to how very unpleasant & unnecessary it is dancing with guys who can’t yet dance it would seem guys may have less choice in the matter.

      • Chris says:

        Gimena Gordillo wrote “Why does American tango have to be EXACTLY the same as the tango danced in Argentina?”

        This could be really asking “Why does the American tango have to be EXACTLY the same as the Argentine tango?”, to which the answer is: self-evidently it does not.

        But I suspect it is really asking “Why does the Argentine tango have to be EXACTLY the same as the Argentine tango?” to which the answer is: self-evidently it does.

      • Chris says:

        Felicity wrote: “they went to proper milongas with girls who would just pick up the dance (as you can, as people do) by dancing with experienced guys. … There is no reason why this couldn’t happen now. The reason it doesn’t…”

        It does happen now, all the time. I’ve lost count of the number of girls I’ve met who’ve turned up to a milonga with nothing but the British tango dance they’ve learned in classes, yet after a few months of dancing with guys who can dance, are dancing Argentine tango just fine.

      • R. Bononno says:

        This is a long, thoughtful post. There’s a lot to digest and there’s been considerable commentary. One thing I’d like to add is that sometimes the presence of a local Argentine community can help to mitigate First World tendencies somewhat. I realize that their presence is not always helpful since many are traveling performers and professional teachers and they often like to showboat on the floor. And although they are often only passing through, there are a lot of them. Many dance studios have a continuous rotating roster of visiting celebrities (workshops, performances). But many in the local Argentine community grew up with the traditions you speak of and follow them. They serve as a helpful example to others, especially beginners. Unfortunately, they are few in number and the message doesn’t always seem to get across.

  31. Felicity says:

    Chris said “It does happen now, all the time.”

    As R Bononno saw, “it” refers to “New guys learnt from experienced guys by dancing with them as the woman and then in the man’s role themselves” not “they went to proper milongas with girls who would just pick up the dance (as you can, as people do) by dancing with experienced guys. … “.

    Self evidently: “as you can as people do”.

  32. julian says:

    To criticize one style of tango over another i see as just snobbery and i have seen it tear up tango communities. For a strong community all styles must be respected, attempting genocide on every style but yours never ends well. I find it ironic that you preach about musical connection but yet are unable to connect with Nuevo music. Is it the music you hate or YOUR inability to connect. i hsve difficulty connecting with traditional but have no problems with Nuevo. Tango has evolved for decades, why fight that which you can embrace.

  33. Felicity says:

    Julian said: “To criticize one style of tango over another i see as just snobbery”
    What some object to is a semantic problem – the mislabelling of a dance. Argentine tango is a particular kind of music that people have been dancing, socially in an improvised way for decades.

    Nowadays, some people dance to different music – electrotango, non-tango – **no problem there**! 🙂 The problem comes when they call it “tango” because they dance it with steps learnt in class that teachers call “tango”. This is confusing! It could more helpfully be called a different name such as, usefully “tango nuevo”, or “alternative tango”.

    Many of us would like (as a bare minimum) clear advertising of milongas so that it is clear to people what the event is like. Further, some of us would like it clear to beginners what they are walking in to when they join a “tango” class so that they understand step-based classes in “tango” [sic] do not lead at all to the same place as going to a milonga or practica with traditional music and picking up the dance, socially, from experienced dancers.

    What is most interesting for me is the general level of tolerance for other dances in one camp that is absent from the other.

    • Chris says:

      Felicity said: “It could more helpfully be called a different name such as, usefully “tango nuevo”, or “alternative tango”.”

      Those names for non-tango dancing aren’t helpful. They are misrepresentative.

      It is not “alternative tango”. It is “alternative to tango”.

      • Felicity says:

        Chris said:Those names [“tango nuevo”, or “alternative tango”] for non-tango dancing aren’t helpful. They are misrepresentative.

        There is a group near me, the acronyms of which name indicate that the group is about dancing Argentine tango. The group learns steps like crosses and ochos and giros and dances to music that I in conversational, broad-brush terms would call “alternative”, which is to say they dance – many in a very close embrace – to electro tango, non-tango, cover orchestra versions of traditional tracks and a few traditional tracks There are some nice dancers there, not least because they swap roles. If you were to say to them: You don’t dance tango, I think they would be flabbergasted, non-plussed and upset. If you said to them “You dance mostly alternative tango” (in this sense “tango” clearly – if confusingly – refers to a dance) they might wonder a bit and then perhaps largely agree. But it sounds like you don’t want them to call themselves that either.

        How then would you propose they realistically, workably name their club in the format of say Anytown Dance type Society. Anytown Alternative-To-Tango Society isn’t going to cut the mustard. Neither, obviously is Anytown Non-Tango Dance Society. They do dance something – I see it regularly. It isn’t traditional tango but they dance in the embrace using, to bring up a clearly controversial topic ” some steps unique to tango dancing” – the ones for instance I just mentioned..

        This is a real world problem that needs a real solution. I’ll be seeing them this weekend. If you come up with a real name I’ll suggest it to them, tell them why I’m suggesting it and tell you what they say…

      • Chris says:

        Felicity wrote:
        “There is a group near me, the acronyms of which name indicate that the group is about dancing Argentine tango. …. If you were to say to them: You don’t dance tango, I think they would be flabbergasted, non-plussed and upset.”

        That figures. For some, “dancing tango” means executing a dance called tango regardless of type of music, rather than dancing music called tango.

        “How then would you propose they realistically, workably name their club in the format of say Anytown Dance type Society. Anytown Alternative-To-Tango Society isn’t going to cut the mustard. Neither, obviously is Anytown Non-Tango Dance Society.”

        If you’re asking for a club/society naming acceptable both to members who think they’re dancing tango and to non-members who think they’re not, then I doubt such exists.

      • Felicity says:

        But some of it, most of it even is dancing to tango music, just not trad tango. It is normal they should dance what they enjoy & have a name for it. Some kind of distinctive naming would be useful I think to distinguish it from dancing to trad tango. Anytown Alternative Tango Society does that I think. I don’t understand your problem with that. It conveys a clear sense just as “ballroom tango” does. Another town here has an “Alternative milonga” and that is wonderfully, conveniently clear for me. So to clarify are you saying in your view the only acceptable use of the word “tango” is in a context of trad music & dance?

      • Chris says:

        Felicity wrote: “But some of it, most of it even is dancing to tango music, just not trad tango. … Some kind of distinctive naming would be useful I think to distinguish it from dancing to trad tango.

        This sounds like what such people used to call Nuevo… until others starting using that as a code-word for anti-social/”carefree” tango dancing.

        Felicity wrote: “Anytown Alternative Tango Society does that I think. I don’t understand your problem with that.

        The problem I stated was with your suggestion that dancing to non-tango could be helpfully called Alternative Tango.

        E.g. see this so-called Alternative Tango event which is nothing of the sort. What it is, is an Alternative To Tango event. Intended for (as the promo more truthfully states) “carefree social alternative dancing”.

        One might wonder why this promo needs to use the word tango at all … until one realises this organiser also sells so-called tango classes.

        Learn the rules… break the rules!

        After the success of our first two Alternative Tango nights, Tango Stoke are delighted to invite you for another night of carefree social alternative dancing. The evening consists of two DJs playing a huge variety of non-tango music for you to dance to. There will be music from all sorts of times, places, backgrounds and styles. All of it suitable for carefree social dancing; none of it composed with tango in mind.

        There will be no tandas, no cortinas, no traditional tango music, no modern tango music and no cabaceo. Dance with who you like, for as much or as little as you like, eat, drink, laugh, dance and have a good time. What an excellent way to start your weekend!

        DJ Stokie – Tango Stoke
        DJ Guy – Upton Magna Tango Club

        Entry £7

        From here.

      • Felicity says:

        Chris said “The problem I stated was with your suggestion that dancing to non-tango could be helpfully called Alternative Tango.”

        Actually, I said they dance to a lot of different kinds of music. I gave several examples – electrotango, non tango, cover orchestra versions of traditional tracks and a few traditional tracks.

        Chris said “This sounds like what such people used to call Nuevo…”
        Indeed, I suggested before you mentioned it that such groups might helpfully call what they do tango nuevo (or “alternative” tango – even while I am aware that not all of it is tango, though most of it is).

        I would rather you didn’t shift the focus off to an example of an Alternative-To-Tango group because, interesting though it is, I don’t think that was really the point at issue. Many here understand the difficulties about these sorts of alternative groups and anyone new who has read this far will have picked that up too. Actually, at the top of the archive page you linked to they called that “Improper tango” which I think is quite helpful.

        I don’t think you have answered my question. which was “are you saying in your view the only acceptable use of the word “tango” is in a context of trad music & dance?”.

        Moreover, I quite understand there is a problem of ambiguity of terms. But I am trying to say that many people like to do tango style movements to a mixture of music, some of which is tango and some not & that they enjoy it, they prefer to traditional music, they are unlikely to stop and there is no reason to my mind why they should stop, or for that matter be put under pressure about it if that is what they have chosen.

        Now, we can carry on just saying “Oh well it isn’t tango” or, we can – usefully in my view – , suggest such groups use another name to try to reduce that ambiguity, because it would be for the benefit of all. Once that distinction is clear people will *knowingly* choose one type over the over. One the one hand there would be “tango”, the original, traditional kind on which grounds I think it has a pretty good claim to that word. It would go along with the idea of a ronda, tandas, cortinas, clearing the floor, appropriate seating for invitation etc. On the other hand there would be “Nuevo” or “Alternative” or “Improper tango” which will probably dancing to a mixture of music which may or may not include tango and there might be a whole variety of conditions for that sort of dancing. Calling it “alternative tango” might not be ideal, it might not be precise if they use the t word for some tracks that aren’t actually tango, but at least it lets everyone know what they do – including beginners. And that I think is the point that is really important.

    • julian says:

      You can have a mixture at socials. People presume that people whom do a lot of footwork go to classes. The better ones do, a lot don’t just a lot of traditional stylers whom often just go to socials and never learn to dance

  34. Chris says:

    Felicity wrote: “Actually, I said they dance to a lot of different kinds of music.

    And actually I don’t think that makes calling their non-tango “Alternative Tango” acceptable.

    Chris said “This sounds like what such people used to call Nuevo…”
    Indeed, I suggested before you mentioned it that such groups might helpfully call what they do tango nuevo”

    I said Nuevo. Not tango nuevo. For good reason.

    I would rather you didn’t shift the focus off to an example of an Alternative-To-Tango group because, interesting though it is, I don’t think that was really the point at issue.

    It makes my point that your suggested “Alternative Tango” is marred by its misuse by organisers of Alternative To Tango .

    I don’t think you have answered my question. which was “are you saying in your view the only acceptable use of the word “tango” is in a context of trad music & dance?”.

    No. I am saying the the only acceptable use of the word “tango” is in a context of tango. Non-tango need not apply.

    Now, we can carry on just saying “Oh well it isn’t tango” or, we can – usefully in my view – , suggest such groups use another name to try to reduce that ambiguity, because it would be for the benefit of all.

    Well there I think is our only real disagreement. I think it would not be to the benefit of all. Hence my comment here. And your experience here.

    The fact is the reason these partially/wholly non-tango groups have chosen to name themselves with reference to tango is because they are averase to naming themselves wihtout reference to tango. To do so would severely impact sales of their so-called tango classes. So helping them find a non-tango name is no help them or anyone else. But you are of course free to continue to try! 🙂

    • Felicity says:

      Chris said “And actually I don’t think that makes calling their non-tango “Alternative Tango” acceptable.”
      So if you think that is unacceptable what I wonder do you think they should call themselves? With respect, it’s not enough I think to handwave and say “Well, it’s not acceptable”. The point, to be usefully made, would make a proposal of what such groups should then call themselves, no? Because they aren’t, for sure going to stop dancing to that kind of music – nor should they. Just saying effectively “Tango’s our name” makes people defensive and denuded of a name for whatever it is they do. You might say, “That isn’t our problem” but I think it is because defensive people will not then make any concessions.

      Chris said “No. I am saying the only acceptable use of the word “tango” is in a context of tango. Non-tango need not apply.” But I am saying things are not that simple so what should those groups call themselves? Many groups don’t conveniently package themselves into tango and non tango. The rest of the music in the group I referred to is a mix of trad tango, non trad tango and non tango, often with tandas in tracks of two. For instance, this weekend (I know because I had a message) there will be an hour (out of three) – of trad. “At least an hour” said the message in response to my disappointment. And in their case that I think will be maxing out the trad. And “trad” there often means cover orchestra versions of trad tracks, not real trad. So what *is* a group that dances music like that? Is it a tango group? I think in the sense of music, yes, largely it is tango. Is it an “Alternative” group. Yes, in my mind it is. Because it is largely “alternative to traditional tango” and that is where the main division between many groups lies I think – people either dance trad tango music or non-trad tango or a mix. Even then though, things are not that clear: many in this group dance this “alternative to trad” music in a very traditional embrace yet also with the movements associated with tango that TV was talking about. It is all rather blurred but that doesn’t mean it is clear to me they are more “alternative” than “traditional”.

      Chris said “It makes my point that your suggested “Alternative Tango” is marred by its misuse by organisers of Alternative To Tango”
      Re my last point that is why “Alternative tango” seems to be the closest reasonable name. (If you have another idea, do say!) Even if it glosses over the fact that some of the music is non-tango, the meaning of the label shifts at that point to include “alternative to tango”. The general meaning though I think is clear: it is *all* (largely) “alternative to traditional tango” which I think is the main point.

      Chris said “I think it [groups using another name to try to reduce that ambiguity] would not be to the benefit of all”. Also “The fact is the reason these partially/wholly non-tango groups have chosen to name themselves with reference to tango is because they are averase to naming themselves wihtout reference to tango. To do so would severely impact sales of their so-called tango classes. ”
      I made the same point myself here http://imgur.com/e6P2zt5 from https://archive.is/rZM0d in reply to the nuevo v trad discussion earlier on Tango Voice. Still, I do not think that *everyone* deliberately wants to call their group a “tango” group for purely business reasons. Some teachers are just are not aware of the distinction. Or they just do believe that tango is primarily a collection of commonly seen movements and steps usually danced to tango, but in their minds acceptably (in some cases) to non tango. They say they like that or that their students do. DJs who would otherwise play tango or trad will play some non-tango or non trad because they say or the organiser says dancers have asked for it – I am speaking of another recent example in Glasgow though I have seen it happen in many places. I learnt recently that the teachers in the group with mixed music that I have been referring to do not take money. Membership fee for this group is £10/year or per term I’m not sure which and includes access to most classes and events for free or highly subsidised with monies largely going towards room hire and perhaps snacks. Many groups dancing to a mixture of music are run by people with no intention or expectation of making a profit. Usually, I think they just want some tango [sic?] dancing in their area. Another group which uses “tango” in the name and is to my mind *at least* “alternative to trad” and possibly sometimes “alternative to tango” is run on the same basis. The last I heard their teachers were coming from quite far and only taking petrol money. When I last went to their dance it was £6/head or £3/concession for food and an afternoon of dancing. Astonishing value. If there is any profit from their occasional dances I expect it goes largely towards the cost of the good food, decoration and sundries for the next dance and on room hire. Such groups are not disambiguating their name and it is not in these cases for reasons of profit as you suggest.

      A name is what people call things. Not just what a group refers to itself by but what others refer to it as, or what it is known as. There is no single monopoly on how a thing is named. For instance, Dundee Tango Society in its present incarnation exists as classes, a short practica and the occasional tea dance at a village nearer the town of Forfar than Dundee and happens in a village called Padanaram so it is informally known by at least some not as “Dundee Tango Society” but as “Paddy Tango”. The point being, that just because some (other) Alternative Tango (alternative to trad tango, whatever that may include) group calls itself a “Tango” group, does not mean that everyone else has to as well – and indeed they don’t.

      Chris said “And your experience here.”
      Actually, it is not my experience. It was a conditional, hypothetical idea – what might happen were one to to say that a group doesn’t dance tango when in their minds they do. People who like dancing movements commonly associated with tango to non trad and non-tango are going to give up nor should they. I find that distinction useful and that they stick together under some non-trad label very useful because they won’t then get upset at trad events when there isn’t some alternative music and they won’t bring their non-trad open-held, stiff, thought-out dance and their ronda weaving and dancing-in-the-middle to a trad milonga. That is why I think it would be so useful if everyone to had their own names for what they do.

      In discussions like this some people get upset when they hear things like “You aren’t dancing tango. You think of tango as a dance, not music.” When people get upset they entrench and resist change. That’s why I think it might be not just useful, as I said before but *less controversial* if groups used names like “Traditional Tango Society” or “Alternative tango society” or “Mixed Tango” society even if the word is misused. Who cares if people understand what the music & dancing will be like? More to the point, what alternative is there? And anyway, the meaning of a word changes according to how it is used. I firmly believe many words are now “unusable through ambiguity”. http://imgur.com/MYpJJZP from http://www.martinamisweb.com/commentary_files/MA_KingsEnglish.pdf But “tango” can be saved from this fate by the use of qualifiers.

      The trouble is, I’m not sure the non-trad names proposed so far are that good – Mixed Tango just isn’t that catchy, which is why Alternative I see as the best to date. It works well and uncontroversially to describe real milongas, so why not real societies and groups?

      Some dancers are so convinced that tango is primarily a set of movements that it doesn’t make sense to insist that trad dancers have a monopoly of the word. “Dancing tango” for I think some of us means dancing to traditional music in a way that has nothing to do with steps and which also includes a particular kind of milonga culture. “Tango” to others means a set of movements danced sometimes in a hold, sometimes in an embrace usually to some kind of tango, but not always and danced in all sorts of conditions. Perhaps if we all budged up a bit we could accommodate each others differences provided each clearly distinguished from the other what they do by name. It works for “ballroom tango”, so why not for non-trad “tango” (thinking of it as a dance now) which is just about as different? And then, if they refuse, I guess it’s fine to say BUT YOU’RE NOT DANCING TANGO! 🙂

  35. tangovoice says:

    The conversation between Chris and Felicity is becoming repetitive and thus no new comments will be posted unless new arguments are made.

    Chris is correct in arguing that dancing can be considered as ‘tango’ only if tango music is played for dancing tango. This perspective has been stated in previous Tango Voice Posts [e.g., Definition of Tango: Where are the Boundaries in Contemporary Tango (Stage Tango / Tango Nuevo / Contact Improvisation Tango)? https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/definition-of-tango-where-are-the-boundaries-in-contemporary-tango-stage-tango-tango-nuevo-contact-improvisation-tango/ ]

    This argument can be refined further by stating that one is only dancing Tango de Salon if (among other things) classic tango music is played for dancing tango [Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga (Part II of ‘Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression’) https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/tango-de-salon-the-tango-of-the-milonga-part-ii-of-%E2%80%98tango-styles-genres-and-individual-expression%E2%80%99/%5D.

    Also in agreement with Chris, the use of steps characteristic of tango dancing when non-tango music is played is not ‘Alternative Tango’ but rather an ‘Alternative-to-Tango’ or ‘Tango Alternative’ [The Alternative Milonga (Neolonga): The Social Environment for Dancing to Tango Alternative Music https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/the-alternative-milonga-neolonga-the-social-environment-for-dancing-to-tango-alternative-music/ ].

    This addresses some philosophical issues involved in the definition of tango.

    However, the reality in the Tango World is that adherents to the One Tango Philosophy (https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/the-one-tango-philosophy-truths-and-consequences/ ) have appropriated the ‘tango’ label and through virtual media monopolization have changed the public perception of what is ‘tango’ [Creating a Tango-Brand: The Role of Language in the Marginalization of Argentine Tango https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/creating-a-tango-brand-the-role-of-language-in-the-marginalization-of-argentine-tango/%5D.

    Fighting the philosophical debate on the tango dance landscape is, in most cases, a losing battle. Outside Argentina, ‘tango’ is not Tango de Salon (or Tango de Salon is only a small part of what is offered as ‘tango’ and even the term ‘Salon Tango’ is typically a misrepresentation of the tango danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires and is more likely to be ‘Tango Campeonato’, the competition tango of the annual Tango Festival y Mundial); rather ‘tango’ is a mix of Tango de Salon, Tango Campeonato, Tango Escenario, and Tango Nuevo. This is the reality of the First World tango market.

    Felicity is correct in saying that arguing in the public square what others call ‘tango’ or ‘Alternative Tango’ is not ‘tango’ because it is not danced to tango music can be considered confrontational and probably not effective in convincing dancers from the Tango Alternative school to change what they call their dance (and also not effective in getting them to change the music played for dancing).

    The resolution of these different perspectives is derived from an understanding of which type of action is best suited for which kind of environment. Despite the fact that promoters of the Tango Alternative program are philosophically incorrect, bringing the ‘This is not tango’ argument directly into the environment of the Tango Alternative community will definitely be considered confrontational and ineffective and is, for the most part, a waste of time and energy. Bringing up the issue of false representation of tango before the eyes of the naïve (i.e., tango newcomers) reveals conflict within the Greater Tango Community and may inhibit tango interested dancers from becoming involved in the tango community. Promoters of Tango de Salon as the only appropriate genre of tango dancing for the milonga need to recognize the reality that the ‘tango’ label has been kidnapped by the One Tango Philosophy school and others with a similar philosophical perspective (Creating a Tango-Brand: The Role of Language in the Marginalization of Argentine Tango https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/creating-a-tango-brand-the-role-of-language-in-the-marginalization-of-argentine-tango/). The best way to promote Tango de Salon is to emphasize in a positive manner in instruction and advertising its roots in the milongas of Buenos Aires, i.e., the role and nature of Argentine tango cultural traditions. Two suggested advertising labels for the tango offered are ‘Argentine Tango’ (because One Tango promoters usually emphasize that ‘tango belongs to the world’) and ‘traditional tango’ (in contrast to the ‘tango evolution’ offered by those misrepresenting tango). Likewise, milongas should be advertised as ‘traditional milongas’ and various milonga codes enforced (The Role of the Milonga Organizer in Creating an Environment Promoting Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/the-role-of-the-milonga-organizer-in-creating-an-environment-promoting-argentine-tango-cultural-traditions/).

    Thus, there is one conversation and philosophical approach for the academic arena and another for the public marketplace. Both perspectives are correct, but there is a different niche for each one.

    • Felicity says:

      “Bringing up the issue of false representation of tango before the eyes of the naïve (i.e., tango newcomers) reveals conflict within the Greater Tango Community and may inhibit tango interested dancers from becoming involved in the tango community.”
      Yes, true actually. Better they’re shielded from that.

      “Promoters of Tango de Salon as the only appropriate genre of tango dancing for the milonga need to recognize […]”
      Ah, yes. Thanks for pointing that out.

      “Thus, there is one conversation and philosophical approach for the academic arena and another for the public marketplace. Both perspectives are correct, but there is a different niche for each one.”
      Indeed. Better not to make things overly complex to attract the right crowd.

  36. terpsichoral says:

    I wrote a lengthy response to your post on my own blog, which I’ll cut and paste here, in case you are interested.

    First of all, thanks for stirring up trouble and creating fodder for interesting, worthwhile discussion! I do appreciate that a lot. I hope you won’t take it personally that I disagree with a lot of your points, even though I am a lover of traditional tango, Golden Age music and have lived in Buenos Aires for the past ten years. I’m also in the third year of my degree at CETBA and have a PhD in history. I’ve done quite a lot of research on tango history. Just to give you a sense of my perspective on this.

    “As promised, I’d like to offer some responses to this somewhat controversial article.

    I think the author is confusing so many different points, which are only superficially related, that I find it hard to know where to begin. But the main problem, as I see it, is that the writer cannot separate stylistic choices from creativity, musicality and feeling for tango. And, in some cases, he even seems to equate stylistic choices with morality and with soul.

    This leads to his (my sources tell me the writer is an elderly Canadian man) misleading claim that all older Argentines dance in an unbroken, sustained close embrace, without opening up to dance salony giros, etc. This is simply factually untrue. I answer this claim in an earlier status (see comments for a link). Anyone who has watched old black-and-white videos, who has read historical accounts of early tango, who has flicked through the pages of Caras y Caretas from the Golden Age, or who has read tango lyrics knows this: people have always talked about the pleasures of showing off flashy steps and having fun by experimenting with movement. People have always felt the same sense of innocent glee at executing a difficult step or sequence with elegance and ease as a skater feels spinning through a triple salchow. People have always wanted to look — as well as feel — good on the dance floor.

    He also mistakes choices of step vocabulary, etc., based on floorcraft constraints for stylistic choices. Here in Buenos Aires, it is often crowded and people have a tendency to dance more compactly when the floor is crowded (wait till later in the evening and you will notice most dancers change to a more expansive style). People generally don’t dance small for the sake of it — they do because it makes sense when there is less space available. Or because they *enjoy* dancing that way and it makes them feel and look good to take a more pared-down approach. Not because they believe a dancer should be self-effacing. Because they like their clean-cut dance. Not in order to be a kind of Amish of tango, eschewing the vanity of buttons and trimmings. Dancing smaller and simpler is a stylistic choice, not an ethical one.

    I think this confusion of style for substance is one which mars the entire article. But, beyond that, some of the points Tango Voice makes are valid. He claims that there is an overinsistence on long sequences and fancy movements at the expense of musicality, in the US. Of course, no one likes long sequences danced in a robotic manner or led in a sloppy, haphazard or uncomfortable way. There is a tendency for teachers everywhere (including here) to focus on presenting classes based around flashy figures and sequences. I’ve certainly noticed this tendency at the festivals I’ve been to in the States, which often present a full programme of classes, featuring many difficult moves and complex figures — even though, in some cases, the vast majority of the participants at said classes are beginner or close-to-beginner level. Classes based on figures and sequences can be helpful, but probably less so when the students are not accomplished enough to be able to even vaguely approximate performing the figure in a competent way, let alone remember any part of it or use it in their dance later. I’d personally have no problem with people teaching just as many moves and figures as they do now, but focusing more on smaller, subtler differences between steps, when teaching less advanced students, so that those students might have more of a chance of actually being able to incorporate those movements into their dance. Complex sequences and beginner students is a bad combination. And it’s a frequent combination in the US (and probably not only there).

    Like the author, I personally prefer to dance to traditional tango music and traditional music alone and I believe that a deeper knowledge of the music, lyrics, history and culture would enrich most people’s tango. Though I would prefer a more honest approach to the history and culture than this cherry-picked version, carefully sanitised and selected to fit a specific polemic. As a trained historian myself, I get irritated when people falsify history. And, unlike Tango Voice, I don’t think trying to ban people from dancing to alternative music or shame them out of dancing to it, is a good way to go about spreading the word. I’d much rather promote sensual embraces and traditional music choices and try to woo people over to that experience, by presenting it as a rich and deeply satisfying one. And let others dance in whatever ways feel good and life-enriching to them.

    I also firmly believe that the key to dancing well doesn’t lie in specific step choices. You won’t become a good dancer by simply never opening the embrace, never dancing anything more complex than an ocho cortado, never doing an embellishment, never taking a long step. It’s true that you don’t *have* to dance complex figures to be a good dancer; you don’t have to open the embrace to be a good dancer; you don’t have to know any complex sequences to be a good dancer. But, on the other hand, you can be a great dancer and dance many long, complex figures; you can be a great dancer if you open the embrace and dance in a salony way; you can be a great dancer if you add myriad decorations.

    It’s true that many communities in the US consist largely of dancers who have begun tango later in life and for whom a simpler approach may serve them well, at least in the short and medium term. It’s far, far better to dance simple moves well, than complex ones badly. But simplicity is not *in itself* any more authentic, any more ‘real’, any more Argentine than complexity. It’s really not about which style you choose. It’s about the experience of dancing with you.

    You can follow every single one of Tango Voice’s guidelines and your dancing could still be flat, dead, boring, uninspiring. I’ve certainly experienced communities where people followed these rules to the letter — and their dancing was resolutely and depressingly mediocre. There are many pedants who are completely at home in the Land of the Long-Term Beginners. And I’ve also experienced people who danced simply whose embraces were blissful. Good dancing really isn’t about whether your dance is simple or complex, in terms of step choices. Good dancing isn’t about the *what* at all. It’s all about the *how*.”

    Abrazos, Terpsi

    • Chris says:

      Terpsichoral Tangoaddict wrote: “I have lived in Buenos Aires for the past ten years.”

      I’d love to know how it is possible to live in Buenos Aires whilst at the same time teach weekly tango classes in London.

      • terpsichoral says:

        Congratulations. You used the “wayback machine” (the logo is in the top left of the screen) to access a class listing from 2007, when I gave a few classes in London over the summer, when I was visiting. You really must be very bored.

      • terpsichoral says:

        PS Yes, I arrived here on 1st August 2006. It’s now February 2016. So, you are technically correct Chris. I have not been living for a full ten years yet. But pretty damn close. And, yes, I have left the country to visit other places, both in Europe and the States, since I have been based here. But this is where I have my flat, my work, my friends, my base. In any case, I don’t see how your pedantic objections invalidate my arguments in any way. You are a troll.

      • Chris says:

        > I don’t see how your pedantic objections invalidate my arguments in any way. You are a troll.

        I’m sorry you’ve misinterpreted my comment as an objection.

        On the contrary, I think such self-credentialisation is a highly useful indicator for readers seeking to judge the opinion’s true merit.

        Especially when the source promotes herself as a blogger of scrupulous honesty having previously denied being that blogger at all.

        Bye for now.

      • terpsichoral says:

        Oh, for goodness sake, Chris. You are obsessed with me. Get a life!

    • tangovoice says:

      Because there are numerous points made in the commentary of Terpischoral, several separate comments will be made in response.

      “The main problem, as I see it, is that the writer cannot separate stylistic choices from creativity, musicality and feeling for tango. And, in some cases, he even seems to equate stylistic choices with morality and with soul.”

      First, there is no intention in this post to speak in absolute terms, i.e., that Tango Milonguero is all musicality and feeling, and other styles and genres of tango dancing are all based on cerebral activity and are devoid of emotion. Obviously, the mix depends upon individual dancers. Nevertheless, there are significant differences in the focus of attention between the population of tango dancers in North American milongas compared to those in Buenos Aires milongas.

      With respect to stylistic choices, in theory these are indeed largely independent from the degree of creativity, although there are differences in the focus of creativity. Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario can be very creative; they are just not appropriate for a milonga because they interfere with the smooth progression of the ronda and may create collision hazards for other dancers on the floor. In addition, with the conspicuousness of some of the movements, they are visually distracting to other dancers whose intention in dancing tango is to achieve a harmonious union with one’s partner while dancing and, indeed a lot of conspicuous display on the dance floor interferes with the attainment of a peaceful atmosphere at a milonga in general. Where stylistic preference is related to creativity for experienced dancers is that for Tango Nuevo, improvisation occurs mainly along the spatial dimensions and for Tango Estilo Milonguero improvisation typically occurs along the musical dimension (although improvisation in the sequence of movements utilized also explores the spatial dimensions). Tango Escenario involves creativity in the creation of choreographed sequences and in the dramatization of tango dancing (often emphasizing the expression of emotions).

      Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario can also have a close connection with the music. This is particularly apparent in the choreography of dancers in the better tango stage productions and in the exhibitions given by some of the better Tango Nuevo dancers. However, in these genres of tango dancing, the detail in attention to rhythmic variation is typically considerably less than in Tango Milonguero.

      A major point in this post is that for the typical social tango dancer (the overwhelming majority of those who dance tango worldwide) a concentration on developing a repertoire of step patterns interferes with the connection with the music and partner that many milongueros have identified as a core feature of the tango experience in Buenos Aires milongas.

      With respect to morality, the primary point made is that dancers who knowingly choose to incorporate hazardous movements into their dancing at a milonga are being arrogantly disrespectful of other dancers on the floor. It is ironic that criticism of dancers’ behavior that is anti-social is sometimes deemed as arrogant whereas the former is not. Perhaps this is a reflection of some view of political correctness that allows hazardous free expression without regarding the rights of the minority that is harmed.

      With regard to ‘soul’ (a translation of ‘alma’, although ‘heart’ also may be appropriate here), the term is used only in this post to quote milongueros in their PractiMilonguero interviews. No specific equivalency of style with ‘soul’ is stated. However, to the extent that ‘soul’, or more specifically ‘alma’ in this case, reflects a quality that is connected with emotion and its expression, a cerebral concentration upon complex sequence building (i.e., the mind as the central generator of the dance), a characteristic of Tango Nuevo and tango in general as taught in North America, creates a different feeling in the dance and thus the emotions shared with one’s partner, compared to a dance that emanates from the heart.

      • terpsichoral says:

        Thanks for clarifying, Tango Voice. I agree that antisocial dancing is never a good thing. However, I think it is possible to dance with good floorcraft in a range of styles (perhaps excluding escenario — but I’ve never yet seen anyone dancing escenario at a milonga).

        I would have liked you to include some quotations/examples/videos of older dancers who *don’t* teach at the El Beso school or dance only sustained close embrace, for balance. I’d suggest Nito & Elba, Jorge and María Dispari, Carlitos & Rosa Pérez and the late Pupi Castello with Graciela Gonzalez, to name just a few.

        I still feel you misrepresent — or, rather, only partially represent — the experience of learning to dance back in the 40s and 50s. Apologies for quoting myself again (from my own blog): “when I listen to stories of those days, told by those who were there, learning to dance in that epoch, I don’t hear that everyone was keen to make small movements, not open the embrace, keep things simple and sober and pared down. Instead, I’ve heard many anecdotes of energetic young men experimenting with movements, discovering new sequences and patterns, challenging themselves to twist and turn and sacada and gancho and barrida and enrosque and boleo through a dozen different directions. I’ve heard tales of jealously-guarded signature moves which were sometimes even idiosyncratic, exploratory, athletic.”

        The El Beso school is one particular, specific movement. It doesn’t represent all older milongueros. And I say that as someone who dances at El Beso twice a week (at Cachirulo and on Sundays).

        I suspect that you and I would agree on many of our preferences. I love mirada and cabeceo, traditional milongas (I have a preference for those with split seating), Golden Age music (with a smattering of earlier tracks), classic dance styles, close, sensual embraces, the incorporation of history and lyrics into teaching. But I feel that your approach is counterproductive. Your tone and style is combative and overly authoritarian and you are making enemies of almost everyone, even those who would otherwise agree with you. I have some sympathy, as I respect your passion for the dance and its culture. I’d happily chat more over a whisky when I’m next in Montreal (love your home town!).

        Abrazos, Terpsi xoxo

    • tangovoice says:

      Terpsichoral said:

      “This leads to his … misleading claim that all older Argentines dance in an unbroken, sustained close embrace, without opening up to dance salony giros, etc.”

      No such claim is made. It is recognized that Tango Estilo del Barrio is a stylistic variation of Tango de Salon in which the embrace is opened for ochos and giros and, indeed porteños of all ages dance in this style at milongas in Buenos Aires, although not so much in the more centrally located milonga. The more highly regarded dancers in this style from the Golden Age (e.g., Gerardo Portalea, Miguel Balmaceda) did not lose connection with the music. Their selection of movements was relatively small compared to the improvisation along the three spatial dimensions inherent in many contemporary dancers of Tango Nuevo (e.g., Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas). The more highly regarded dancers of Tango Estilo del Barrio and Tango Nuevo undoubtedly have spent many years in perfecting their movements in coordination with the music. To a significant degree what one commonly sees at milongas in North America is a modification of Tango Estilo del Barrio, without incorporation of an embrace from which to open for ochos and turns, that is often devoid of connection with the music, i.e., no embrace and no musicality.

    • tangovoice says:

      Terpsichoral said:

      “Anyone who has watched old black-and-white videos, who has read historical accounts of early tango, who has flicked through the pages of Caras y Caretas from the Golden Age, or who has read tango lyrics knows this: people have always talked about the pleasures of showing off flashy steps and having fun by experimenting with movement. People have always felt the same sense of innocent glee at executing a difficult step or sequence with elegance and ease…”

      It would be instructive to provide links to these videos in order to evaluate the characteristics and contexts of tango dancing in the Golden Age where ‘flashy steps’ were used.
      There are several things to keep in mind in evaluating the use of complicated movements in tango:

      – There were, at the very least, tens of thousands of tango dancers in Buenos Aires during the Golden Age. Only a very small percentage, those with considerable experience, could execute complicated sequences with grace and style. Most dancers danced in a simple manner. North American tango dancers coming fresh out of a workshop with a professional tango stage dancer or otherwise highly skilled tango dance instructor today will not be able to replicate the movements taught in the workshops at the milonga, a social dance floor with potential for collision. The milonga is not the place to practice complicated movements and yet this is what North American tango dancers often do, instead of practicing at the practica.

      – Milongas during the Golden Age in Buenos Aires were very crowded. The complicated movements that very few highly skilled dancers could execute did not have a place in the milonga. There were demonstrations during pauses in social dancing in which tango dancers had opportunities to demonstrate their physical prowess. There were also practicas where men danced with men and experimented with complicated movements they would not use at the milonga.

      – For almost all tango dancers, there is an imbalance between concentration on music and partner versus concentration on movement. If one chooses to concentrate on movement, there is a sacrifice in concentration on connection with partner and music. For the most highly skilled dancers this imbalance is lessened; for those with limited tango dance experience (e.g., many who dance at North American milongas), the imbalance is much greater. It is highly unusual for a skilled tango dance instructor to suggest that musicality and partner connection be sacrificed to master complicated steps. It is much more likely that a skilled tango dance instructor will emphasize that good tango dancing is based on a smooth stable walk, connection with the music, and connection with the partner, as well as use of space that is respectful of other dancers at the milonga. These are the foundation of tango dancing, yet the dancing of many if not most tango dancers at North American milongas is based on a foundation of steps, without style and grace, with poor partner connection, lacking in connection with the music, and insufficient concentration on the impact of one’s dancing on the other dancers on the floor.

      – Citing examples of Golden Age dancers with an extensive and highly skilled repertoire of complicated movements sends the wrong message to developing First World social tango dancers, providing them with an ill-founded justification for focus on movement rather than music, partner, and other dancers on the dance floor. It is much better to provide a message to developing First World social tango dancers that it is entirely consistent with the goals of tango social dancing to use a limited repertoire of steps for which some reasonable level of expertise has been achieved, and build one’s tango skills by developing a smooth and balanced walk, a comfortable embrace, and to achieve a good connection with the music. This is not only something that is more achievable, but it also highlights the unique features of tango, a dance where music generates emotion that is shared in a comfortable embrace with one’s partner, as mentioned by the milongueros in the citations in this post.

      • Max Yin says:

        This is so very true! It also reminds me the words my teacher told me once: to make steps happen and to dance is totally different.

    • tangovoice says:

      In reply to terpsichoral:

      “I would prefer a more honest approach to the history and culture than this cherry-picked version, carefully sanitised and selected to fit a specific polemic. As a trained historian myself, I get irritated when people falsify history.”

      In order to be completely credible, a criticism that characterizes statements as being biased or fabricated needs to identify the nature of the bias and falsification of the facts, i.e., provide evidence, not just assertion, that historical data presented are unrepresentative or have no factual basis.

      What is missed in this criticism is that the central arguments in this blog post are neither based upon nor dependent upon historical accounts for verification. There are few historical references in this post. The statements made by milongueros are given in a contemporary context. They assert that attention to music, embrace of partner, expression of emotion, and respect for the space of other dancers on the floor are core features of social tango as danced in Buenos Aires today and that many tango dancers worldwide pay too much attention to steps instead of these core features of tango. The differences in the character of tango dancing at milongas in Buenos Aires versus North America are supported by film footage. The statements of milongueros are indeed opinions, and the well informed readers can judge for themselves whether they are accurate or not, or should even be heeded given the opportunity afforded to those living in free societies to express an alternative interpretation of tango dancing based upon First World cultural values.

      To make a counterargument that the fundamental focus of tango dancing is creating elaborate sequences of steps, and that this is more important than the attention given to musicality, embrace, expression of emotion, and respect for the space of other dancers on the floor, one would need to provide statements from contemporary respected tango dancers (perhaps leaders of the Tango Evolution movement) that contradict the opinions stated by milongueros in the current post.

    • tangovoice says:

      “And, unlike Tango Voice, I don’t think trying to ban people from dancing to alternative music or shame them out of dancing to it, is a good way to go about spreading the word. I’d much rather promote sensual embraces and traditional music choices and try to woo people over to that experience, by presenting it as a rich and deeply satisfying one. And let others dance in whatever ways feel good and life-enriching to them.”

      No suggestion is made here to ban anyone from dancing to non-tango music, as long as the organizer of the event permits it. (Organizers control the music through the selection of the DJ.) The primary suggestion made in this blog is that there should be truth in advertising. It would be appropriate and respectful for the organizer of a tango dance event to inform dancers who follow Argentine tango cultural traditions that at the event some non-tango music will be played which may elicit movements characteristic of tango dancing. Many dance event organizers indeed do so by labeling the event as an ‘alternative milonga’ or specifying that some percentage or mix of ‘neotango’ music or ‘nuevo’ music will be played for dancing. Others do not.

      Regarding ‘spreading the word’ about traditional styles of dancing, what appears to be implied in this comment is that genres of tango dancing that are unsuitable for dancing at a milonga (e.g., Tango Escenario and Tango Nuevo) should be permitted at a milonga in the hopes that observation of Tango de Salon dancing by others will encourage the milonga-inappropriate dancers to explore dancing Tango de Salon. This philosophy apparently has been applied many times in North American tango communities. There does not appear to be any evidence that this stated goal is ever achieved. The more likely outcome is that dancers of Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario will disrupt the environment of the milonga by hindering the smooth flow of the ronda and creating other navigational hazards. The lack of interference with milonga disruptive dancing also sends a signal to these dancers, as well as naïve beginning tango dancers, that this behavior is acceptable at milongas. Another likely outcome of this laisse faire attitude is that dancers preferring Tango de Salon (usually women) will be imposed upon (by direct approach to the table for dance invitation) to dance with milonga-inappropriate dancers. Because milonga-inappropriate dancing is often characteristic of the majority of dancers at North American tango dance events, those preferring Tango de Salon may accommodate the majority in their manner of dancing and some may even stop dancing tango in that community because of the unpleasant experience of risking or actually encountering collisions or being jerked about in their acquiescence to dancing with milonga-inappropriate dancers.

      • R. Bononno says:

        From personal experience (limited, I admit, and local) I’d say that leading by example simply doesn’t work. Couples (leaders) who dance nuevo-ish styles of tango are going to continue to do so no matter what others are doing on the dance floor. They are aware of the fact that other dancers are engaged in another, perhaps simpler, and less space-occupying form of tango but that really has very little effect on what they do. Much of this has to do with how people are taught and how their favorite teachers dance. It may also be the result of watching one-too-many live performance and wanting to emulate the performers. Or a combination of things. Whatever the reason, it is still disruptive, distracting, and potentially dangerous on a crowded floor.

        It’s also worth noting that a couple of local milongas do advertise the fact that they provide an “alternative” room with a separate DJ for people who don’t want to dance to traditional tango music.

      • Julian Visch says:

        It is disruptive? You weren’t paying attention to those around you on a crowded dance floor?

        Distracting? You weren’t paying attention to those around you on a crowded dance floor?

        Potentially dangerous? Only if you aren’t looking where you are going on a crowded dance floor.

        Nuevo dancers on a crowded dance floor adjust their movements to be smaller. Sure there are some bad eggs, but that applies to all styles of tango, some traditionalists dance like bulldozers not caring if anything is in their way or not. Lack of experience of multiple styles is what causes a lot of the problems. Floor craft takes practise just like all other aspects of dancing.

      • Chris says:

        Julian Visch wrote: “It is disruptive? You weren’t paying attention to those around you on a crowded dance floor? Distracting? You weren’t paying attention to those around you on a crowded dance floor?”

        The fact nuevo/anti-social dancing requires social dancers to pay it so much attention to avoid injury is one of the things that makes it disruptive and distracting.

        “Lack of experience of multiple styles is what causes a lot of the problems.”

        This is nonsense. Experience of multiple styles is needed only by those that teach them.

      • Julian Visch says:

        I find I have to pay more attention to traditional dancers than Nuevo dancers as Nuevo look where they are going but traditionalists have obscured vision and some have a get out of my way attitude. I say again, the problem is with you, not the Nuevo dancers. These are social events not “do things my way” events. This type of attitude to other styles is a destructive attitude which can destroy a tango community as they become splintered.

      • Max Yin says:

        I find your observation very difficult to comprehend. I have only danced in milongas for ~5 years and mostly in US, including east and west coast, midwest and south. There are, in general, always people who are too inexperienced to navigate a crowded milonga. I am fine with that as everyone has been there. So let’s only talk about the dancers who has some experience but choose to do things in certain ways.
        The words “obscured vision” probably suggest that you don’t understand tango salon or milonguero at all. Just yesterday I danced with a follower, who is at least 30cm taller than I am, in a relative crowded marathon. We never bumped into anyone and we danced in close embrace! You see, in a milonga there are “line of dance” and sometimes multiple lines. If people follow the line of dance, you don’t need to be super open-embrace (if there is embrace at all) to know what is going on around you. As for the “get out of my way attitude”, sometimes it is there. But again, sometimes people don’t not follow the line of dance, or travel against it, or jump in and out of the line, or stop the traffic, then they should definitely get out the way. Because it is a milonga and “line of dance” is a basic, isn’t it?
        However, the first question you should ask is that why you are dancing Nuevo in a crowded milonga? By definition, you are taking a significantly more space than the average you should have, which means other couples will have less space, which is usually created by using high boleo and kicks to scare the people out of the way. Again, isn’t milonga a social event for EVERYONE??? I mean I love dancing like FOREVER TANGO with a nice Piazzolla myself, if it is NOT a crowded milonga. Just like you said, milonga is a social event, not a private party.

      • Julian Visch says:

        You clearly have a distorted view of what Nuevo dancing is, experienced Nuevo dancers take no more space that traditionalists. We have other moves than kicks, and often the kicks I see at socials are not done by Nuevo dancers but by Salon dancers dancing cheek to cheek not looking where they are going, trust me, I am terrified of them too. Experienced Nuevo dancers would not do moves like that on a crowded dance floor. As for following line of dance, great if you can get it but when room becomes scarce, the line kinks. When the room has pillars, or holes in the floor, or incredibly slow dancer, the link curves and has bottle necks. People will stop for many different reasons, not looking what is ahead of you is dangerous. I have had to stop because of insufficient space ahead to proceed safely and then crashed into by Traditionalist dancing behind me not looking where he was going and then having a hissy fit. You need to be more observant in crowded socials. And those you dislike on the dance floor, chances are they taught themselves.

      • Max Yin says:

        It seems pointless to argue like this. Yes experienced nuevo dancer can manage relatively crowded milonga. Of course! Bad navigation, regardless the style, will lead to pushing and clashing. However, in my short tango life in North America I have only seen only a handful couple of couples able to do it. How many of the “experienced” dancers are only experienced in their own mind and actually taking other people’s space without even realizing it?
        So, if we are only talking about experienced dancers, the people who know what they are doing and choose to do it in certain way, which again applies both very open embrace and very close embrace, then by the law of physics the open embrace will take more space, isn’t that obvious? It is “open” after all.
        If we agree to that, (should I say again I enjoy open even nuevo myself when there is space?) then there is really no good reason to do nuevo in a REALLY crowded milonga. By “really crowded”, I mean where average couple have one SHORT half-step space in front of and behind, if you are lucky! Imagine a nuevo couple in front of you taking that space! And alas no I haven’t even been to the crowded BA milongas that everyone has told me about.
        This is longer than I expected so I will cut it short. After all we might actually agree more than what we disagree. Unless we can be face to face and have a large pool of couples dancing in front of us, “someone is wrong on internet” never goes anywhere. I can only say that I learn my navigation by listening to advises from the teachers that I respect, by following the behavior of fellow dancers that I respect, and by learning from the countless mistakes I made myself. I try to move around the room with the average speed of line-of-dance, use the average space that is determined by the venue and number of attendees, and adjust my style according to the music, the space, the follower and of course my mood. If there is a hot-shot who constantly takes other people’s space, I even enjoy pushing their space a bit.
        After all tango navigation is no different than driving. It doesn’t matter if you drive a truck or a mini as long as you follow the rule. But once in a while there will be a manic on the road and you would like very much to shoot that ****.

      • Julian Visch says:

        I go to Nuevo classes, we are never huge in number, at socials most come from having done Milonguero tango but just with kids whom are taught not to have sex, they get tempted by the fancy moves they see in shows and try and duplicate them, and as they like the kids are never taught how to do “it” safely they dance like lunatics. For which Nuevo gets the blame, maybe it is time they were taught how to do safely in Milonguero classes. And no I have never seen any Nuevo dancer dancing that bad. Had another look at the video, sorry was in a rush when I posted. Their kicks were always away from any dancers and typically one doesn’t dance close hold at it is restricts movement. Frankly anyone whom is that scared of kicks should avoid watch football matches.

      • Chris says:

        Julian Visch wrote “I say again, the problem is with you, not the Nuevo dancers. These are social events

        The way I avoid these kind of problems is simply by avoiding events which welcome Nuevo dancers.

        The way you could avoid these problems is simply by avoiding events which welcome mainstream tango dancers.

        This type of attitude to other styles is a destructive attitude which can destroy a tango community as they become splintered.

        I hear that a lot from Neuvos that number insufficient to populate their own events. Such splintering sounds like a fine solution. All it destroys is the source of the problem.

      • Julian Visch says:

        All socials welcome Nuevo dancers (I have never been declined admission anywhere) so I hope that means you will stop going to tango because you have just demonstrated the type of negativity that is not needed in a dance community.

      • Chris says:

        Julian Visch wrote “You clearly have a distorted view of what Nuevo dancing is, experienced Nuevo dancers take no more space that traditionalists.

        Let’s take a look at an (in)famously experienced Nuevo dancer:

        Now, we’ll let Gustavo Naveira show you how it works in the real world. As the scene opens, he has just faced down the couple behind him. Then, he moves across the floor to deal with the couple dancing ahead of him. He backs into them, crowds them into the wall, and then throws a kick that lands blindly behind him, inches from their feet. Finally, he goes back across the floor, and fires a warning kick at the entire room. By the end of this short clip, he has driven everyone to the other side of the dance floor.

        This video demonstrates how you can use posturing, leg feints, and “dancing loco” to drive away other dancers. It’s like biting the head off of a live chicken. You’ll get everyone’s attention, and they’ll give you plenty of room.

        http://www.tangoandchaos.org/chapt_6school/36nav3.htm

        Feel free to post a video of ‘Nuevo dancers taking no more space that traditionalists’.

      • Julian Visch says:

        Not an experienced Nuevo dancer, looks like a lot of Milonguero dancers whom I encounter on the dance floor whom scare me too. Notice the obscured vision? The frequent use of kicking, sorry we don’t dance socially like that.

    • tangovoice says:

      “But, on the other hand, you can be a great dancer and dance many long, complex figures; you can be a great dancer if you open the embrace and dance in a salony way; you can be a great dancer if you add myriad decorations…

      It’s far, far better to dance simple moves well, than complex ones badly. But simplicity is not *in itself* any more authentic, any more ‘real’, any more Argentine than complexity. It’s really not about which style you choose. It’s about the experience of dancing with you…

      Good dancing really isn’t about whether your dance is simple or complex, in terms of step choices. Good dancing isn’t about the *what* at all. It’s all about the *how*.”

      Indeed, very few distinctions can be cast in terms of black and white, good and bad. However, one cannot ignore the probabilities associated with certain choices regarding tango dancing. Dancing without a connection to the music is bad dancing. (That is an absolute.) Concentration on the music and partner connection should be foremost in one’s dancing. All other things being equal, concentration on creating figures distracts from concentration on the music and partner connection. Better and more experienced dancers can improvise in terms of movement possibilities while maintaining good musicality and partner connection; less experienced dancers (most dancers at North American milongas) cannot and therefore much of their dancing consists of displaying steps with poor technique and without musicality (often completely disconnected from the music) and with poor partner connection (as evident by imbalance and poor coordination of movements with one’s partner’s). It comes down to a matter of priorities. Connection with partner and music come first, then exploration of movement possibilities. It is apparent that this message needs to be transmitted repeatedly, for it is often ignored. Inexperienced dancers often hear the message that attempting step displays is a core feature of tango, something to be pursued and perhaps even treasured (certainly if complimentary comments regarding Golden Age dancers making complex movements are communicated), and the message of partner connection and musicality is overlooked, perhaps because the cultural proclivities of First World dancers are to value complicated movements in the first place.

      Another thing that is missed in this justification of the value of complex movements in tango dancing is that the unique value of the embrace in tango is overlooked. A current teaching philosophy among tango instructors (both in the Tango Estilo del Barrio and Tango Nuevo schools) is that there are many variations in the partner hold (from an embrace to an open hold to partial and complete separation, as in a soltada). Indeed one can explore all of these variations (with the soltada being most disruptive to other dancers on the floor and thus not considered part of Tango de Salon), but in doing so one sacrifices the sensuality of a maintained embrace in which emotions can be shared between partners. )Perhaps avoiding the possibility of this sensual experience is comfortable for many First World dancers.) Sharing emotions in a maintained embrace is a unique feature of tango dancing, as evidenced in the words of milongueros cited in this post. Exploration of movement possibilities, including variations in partner hold, limits the enjoyment of this unique pleasurable tango experience.

  37. terpsichoral says:

    Tango Voice,

    You haven’t answered my other, implicit question, which is this: why do you write in such an alienating way? You choose a style which is deliberately dry and tedious (managing to make a topic so many of us are fascinated by as boring as watching paint dry) and use a tone which is hectoring, schoolmarmy, pedantic, arrogant, and basically designed to make enemies?

    If you really want to promote more traditional dancing (a goal I would endorse), why are so hell bent (in such an un-Canadian way!) on making everyone hate you? It seems perverse and even masochistic. And definitely counterproductive.

    • Chris says:

      terpsichoral wrote “why do you write in such an alienating way? … as boring as watching paint dry”

      TangoVoice’s writing is not alienating me or the many others I know who read and appreciate this blog.

      You’re doing fine TV. Keep it up.

      PS TV, if you could bore away the people who feel the need to visit this blog to proclaim how boring it is, that would be even better.

  38. Felicity says:

    Julian said “I hope that means you will stop going to tango”
    There is talk about “tango” as a dance, “going to tango” and “tangueros”. And there is talk about tango as music, about going to the milonga and about a bailarin. They are fundamentally different views of something that hinges around a shared word “tango”. What nueveo dancers do is a totally different dance. It doesn’t just need a different venue, it needs a different name to avoid needless discussions and misunderstandings.

    I am beginining to think that there are not two different dances, maybe nearly three. Because dancing in the traditional embrace in Europe can be, I have found, nothing remotely like dancing in the embrace with great social dancers in the milongas in Buenos Aires. It is a mystery for me how and why the men here have such a different feeling for the partner.

    • Anonymous says:

      Such men exist,Felicity. It is the reason the best social dancers were invited to England from BA,so we could learn from them. It was the next best thing for dancers who couldn’t afford or find the time to go to BA regularly!

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