- Many First World tango dancers who have danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires desire to have in their home communities a traditional milonga supporting the customs of Buenos Aires milongas. It is their indisputable right to create and maintain this environment.
- In creating a milonga environment incorporating Argentine tango cultural traditions, it is postulated here that these tango traditionalists have 4 minimum expectations for a traditional milonga:
- All music played at a milonga is classic tango music structured into tandas with cortinas.
- There is a smoothly circulating ronda on the dance floor that is free of navigational hazards and exhibitionism.
- There is an absence of instruction on the dance floor.
- The right of dancers to choose their partners for dancing by cabeceo is respected.
- In North American tango communities, there is usually some general agreement in principle with these rights of tango traditionalists. Nevertheless, there are countervailing forces that impede the incorporation of these Argentine tango cultural traditions into the milonga environment.
- The nearly constant recruitment of beginning level tango dancers typically results in inviting them to attend milongas before they have acquired skills in navigation and use of the cabeceo. Their presence at milongas also invites teaching on the dance floor from more experienced dancers. The practica usually is not provided as an alternative environment in which these practices are acceptable.
- Tango community organizers frequently invite traveling instructors who teach popular off-axis, space-consuming, and outward directed movements (characteristic of Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario), as well as methods of excessive ornamentation that, when used by dancers at the milonga, function to attract attention and create navigational hazards. Some dancers using these movements claim they are adapted for the social dance floor, thereby counteracting criticism of their inappropriateness for the milonga.
- Conditions favoring the use of the cabeceo for dance invitation at the milonga are typically absent. Gender segregated seating is not supported. Instruction and practice at use of the cabeceo is not provided within the community.
- Although playing only classic tango music for dancing tango has become more commonplace at milongas, milonga organizers often invite musical ensembles to play music for dancing tango that is less suitable (i.e., lacking a clear tango rhythm).
- Economic considerations (desire for profit, need to meet expenses) are often responsible for the failure to incorporate Argentine tango cultural traditions into First World milongas.
- Recommendations are made to assist incorporation of Buenos Aires milonga customs into a First World traditional milonga, including:
- Selecting a DJ who plays only classic tango music
- Not offering pre-milonga lessons, which encourage instruction on the dance floor
- Not scheduling exhibitions, which elicit exhibionism on the social dance floor, during breaks from social dancing
- Setting aside some tables specifically designated for those using the cabeceo for dance invitation
- Tango traditionalists need to assert their rights to have a milonga environment free of interference with the practice of the customs of the milongas of Buenos Aires.
At many (probably most) tango social dance events advertised as ‘milongas’ in First World countries, the characteristics of dancing and the associated social milieu are very different from that of most milongas in Buenos Aires. In First World milongas dancers often do not embrace while dancing [Factors Affecting the Survival of Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions in Non-supportive First World Cultural Environments (The Dominance of Tango Extranjero)]. The movements used are often large, attention-attracting and potentially invasive of the space of other dancers on the floor (video). The ronda is sometimes poorly defined, with dancers stopping in place to perform exhibitionist displays, often incorporating an excess of adornments (To Decorate or Not to Decorate; Women’s Adornments for Tango Social Dancing), and what line of dance exists often fails to progress as a harmonious unit around the floor (video) (See also: A little Tango lesson: Help me Ronda! Dancing in harmony with all the other dancers on the dance floor). The music played for dancing tango is sometimes modern tango or popular First World music lacking a tango rhythm, not the classic tango music of the Golden Age (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues). In some cases, there is teaching on the dance floor (No teaching on the dance floor) (Preventing Teaching on the Milonga Dance Floor: The Role of the Pre-Milonga Lesson). Invitations to dance are almost always by Direct Approach to the table with verbal invitation, rather than by using the cabeceo (The “Cabeceo”; Use of the Cabeceo and Gender Segregated Seating in Milongas in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere in the World).
Despite these characteristics common to First World tango social dance events, there is often a minority of dancers (labeled here as tango traditionalists), particularly those who have danced in the milongas of Buenos Aires, who cherish Argentine tango cultural traditions (Codes and Customs of the Milongas of Buenos Aires: The Basics) and who have a strong desire to dance in a milonga environment in their home country incorporating these traditions. They would prefer to have partners with whom they can share a peaceful embrace while having their movements inspired by classic tango music. Women would prefer to have their movements guided smoothly by their partners rather than being pulled or pushed off balance, have their legs displaced with excessive force, or be rushed through rapid changes of direction. Men would prefer to dance with partners who do not struggle to break out of the embrace or engage in excessive kicking, leg-wrapping, and foot driven ornamentation (Women’s Adornments for Tango Social Dancing). These dancers would like to dance in a smoothly circulating ronda and not experience frequent impediments to progression or encounter risks of collision on the dance floor. They would prefer not to be exposed to a spectacle of exhibitionist movements. These dancers do not like other dancers instructing them on dancing tango on the dance floor, and would not like to encounter the obstacles to navigation that these ad hoc instructors create in any case. Tango traditionalists wish to select their partners for dancing rather than be exposed repeatedly to invitation by Direct Approach from partners with whom they would not enjoy dancing.
Creating an environment resembling the Buenos Aires milonga in First World tango communities is a daunting task. Local cultural traditions regarding dancing and social interaction shape the milonga environment. Education regarding milonga customs is needed in most cases, and many characteristics of this Argentine culture are resisted upon attempts at implementation. A worldwide tango dance culture that has adapted to local cultural influences has evolved (Tango Extranjero) and become ingrained in foreign tango communities.
Despite the dominance of Tango Extranjero, tango traditionalists have the right to enjoy a milonga environment based on Buenos Aires milonga customs in their home communities. After all, this is the cultural origin of tango and creating this type of environment should require neither justification nor defense. There are obviously many traits that characterize the milongas of Buenos Aires [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)]. Implementing all or even a majority of these conditions in First World milongas is nearly impossible, due to the impediments placed by local customs. Therefore, in order to create a tradition-based milonga within a foreign culture, it appears that the best strategy at this time is to concentrate on bringing to fruition an environment containing the most essential features of Buenos Aires milongas. Stated here are proposals for creating a tradition-based milonga along these lines, stated specifically in terms of four basic rights of tradition-minded tango dancers.
Basic Rights of Traditional Tango Dancers
Dancers who support the cultural traditions of Buenos Aires milongas have certain rights, as tango dancers, to be able to attend in their local communities a milonga having certain characteristics. At a minimum level, these rights can be stated succinctly in terms of 4 basic necessary conditions for a tradition-based milonga.
- All music played at a milonga is classic tango music structured into tandas with cortinas.
In Buenos Aires milongas today, one rarely hears music played for dancing tango that is not the recorded music of the popular tango dance orchestras of the Golden Age (Biagi, Calo, Canaro, D’Agostino, De Angelis, D’Arienzo, Demare, Di Sarli , Donato, Fresedo, Laurenz, Lomuto, Pugliese, Tanturi, Troilo), or from orchestras during this period that were not among the most popular at milongas but which played music that is similar to these orchestras (e.g., Malerba, Orquesta Tipica Victor, Rodriguez). This music was designed for dancing tango. Although this music was recorded during a 30 year span from the late 1920s to the late 1950s, and the recording quality of some of this music is not optimal, the rhythmic quality of this music elicits the smooth yet syncopated walking movements characteristic of tango dancing, and the emotional impact of this music enhances the embrace between dancing partners. There is music from some more modern tango orchestras emulating the musical style of Golden Age tango orchestras that also has some of these qualities (e.g., Villasboas, Gente de Tango, San Souci) and recorded music from these orchestras will occasionally be played at Buenos Aires milongas, but the primary and nearly exclusive repertoire of music drawn upon for dancing tango at Buenos Aires milongas is the recorded classic tango music from the Golden Age referenced here.
The organization of music into tandas with cortinas allows a couple to develop a dancing and possibly social relationship over the course of 3 or 4 recorded pieces of music. A cortina of nondanceable music signals the end of the partnership and a time for dancers to clear the floor and prepare for select other partners in an organized predictable manner.
At some First World milongas, music other than classic tango music sometimes is played for tango dancing (Tango Alternative music:). This includes the nuevo tango music of Astor Piazzolla and other ensembles playing music in this genre. This mixture of classical music and jazz elements with elements of tango can be quite enjoyable for listening, but the varying tempo, often too fast or slow for dancing, or the occasional absence of a distinct rhythm, makes this music unsuitable for dancing tango. Notably, Piazzolla himself did not intend to compose music for dancing (Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir; by Natalio Gorin, translated by Fernando Gonzalez. Amadeus Press, Portland, Oregon, 2001). Other music played for dancing tango at First World milongas may include what has been called ‘electrotango’, which is music that incorporates electronically produced sounds, including hard percussion (electronic drum kits) and vocal loops sometimes referencing aspects of tango, along with a bandoneon (e.g., Gotan Project; Bajo Fondo Tango Club; Tanghetto; Carlos Libedinsky; Jaine Wilensky; Otros Aires). This type of music typically lacks the singular and prominent pulsating walking rhythm characteristic of classic tango music. Also heard sometimes at First World milongas is non-tango music (popular music from First World or occasionally Third World cultures other than Argentina) that may or may not have a clear rhythm, yet rarely has a tango rhythm (List 1; List 2; List3). Lacking a tango rhythm, these types of music are unsuitable for dancing tango (and, by definition, such dancing cannot be called ‘tango’ if tango music is not played for dancing). If these types of music are concentrated in what has been called ‘alternative milongas’ and advertised as such, traditional tango dancers can be sufficiently informed and avoid these venues. However, it has not been unusual for a DJ at a First World tango social dance event, advertised simply as a ‘milonga’, to play several tandas of Tango Alternative music (i.e., an alternative to tango music) in order to appeal to dancers who prefer not to dance exclusively to classic tango music. Tango Alternative music may elicit movements that are used in tango dancing but lack a connection to rhythm (Tucson Tango Festival); at worst Tango Alternative music inspires rapid and sometimes violent looking movements that create severe navigational hazards (Portland Tango Festival). Tango Alternative music typically also disrupts the emotional connection between partners enhanced by classic tango music. For traditional tango dancers, the Tango Alternative music played and the dancing it stimulates are disruptive to the visual, aural, and emotional atmosphere created at a milonga.
- There is a smoothly circulating ronda on the dance floor that is free of navigational hazards and exhibitionism.
Milongas in Buenos Aires are typically characterized by having a ronda that progresses smoothly in a lane moving counterclockwise around the outer portion of the floor (Lo de Celia; Club Gricel; Sunderland Club). Couples in the ronda are expected not to pass one another. If there is space in front of a dancing couple, they may move into that space without infringing on the space of the couple in front in the line of dance. Couples are expected to not move against the line of dance, but if they do, it is only a step or two that is taken after determining visually that the space behind them is available. [There may be (and usually is) an area in the middle of the floor that does not have a line of dance that is as clearly defined as in the outer lane, but dancers in this space maintain a safe distance from other couples.] Dancers typically keep their feet close to the floor and near their bodies; they do not lift their feet above the floor or project them outward from their bodies (as in high boleos, linear boleos, and piernazos). Dancers embrace and usually maintain this embrace throughout the dance (Ricardo Vidort & Myriam Pincen; Ruben Harymbat & Enriqueta Kleinman; as examples of Tango de Salon Estilo Milonguero); if the embrace is opened, it is for ochos and turns in which the woman moves around the man at a close distance (Gerardo Portalea & Susana; Jorge Dispari & Maria del Carmen; as examples of Tango de Salon Estilo del Barrio). Dancers in Buenos Aires milongas do not separate to a connection of one hand only or to a distance with no body contact (soltadas). Dancers maintain a balanced connection, not pivoting off axis, creating compromises to balance (colgadas and volcadas). In these ways the risk of collision with other dancers is reduced significantly. Appropriate selection of movements in combination with experience in navigation on crowded floors minimizes risks of collisions. There may be exceptions in adherence to these standards, but these are the socially agreed upon conventions for dancers attending a milonga in Buenos Aires. Many violations of milonga codes are committed by foreigners.
There is also an expectation that on the dance floor in Buenos Aires milongas there will be an absence of conspicuous space-consuming movements characteristic of Tango Escenario (video). Excessive and conspicuous displays of adornments are also avoided (Women’s Adornments for Tango Social Dancing; Women’s Technique) (video1; video2). Not only do these movements create navigational risks because they involve large and unpredictable changes in direction, but also because stationary displays impede the progression of the ronda. These exhibitionist movements are also avoided because they are visually distracting. The mood of the milonga is one of connection and communication with one’s partner, not displaying to the audience one’s physical prowess. Exhibitionism and space consuming movements in general raise the level of arousal of other couples dancing on the floor, putting them into a defensive mode, thereby interfering with concentration on the music and an emotional connection with one’s partner in a relaxed embrace.
- There is an absence of instruction on the dance floor.
In Buenos Aires, tango instruction is not supposed to occur during a milonga. Dancers learn to dance in a group class setting, in a (formal or informal) practica (The Tango Practica, the Practica Nueva and the Tango Dance Party in Buenos Aires) or in a one-on-one setting (either a private lesson with an instructor or in learning from a friend or family member).
It is not unusual for teaching to occur on the dance floor at First World milongas. Tango dancers have the right to not encounter teaching at a milonga. Teaching received from a dance partner may be unsolicited, and dancers have the right to not be subjected to this, no matter how well-intentioned it may be. Traveling and resident tango instructors should also refrain from teaching on the milonga dance floor; however, this code of behavior is sometimes violated at First World milongas. A milonga is a social dance environment, not a classroom. Even if teaching is willingly accepted from a partner, this interaction causes an interruption in the ronda and creates unnecessary navigational challenges for other dancers on the floor. It can also create audible conversation that interferes with other dancers’ concentration in listening to the music and communicating nonverbally with their partners.
- The right of dancers to choose their partners for dancing by cabeceo is respected.
At Buenos Aires milongas, either dancers come to the milonga with a partner and dance exclusively with that partner throughout the duration of the milonga, or partners for a tanda are selected using the cabeceo (Use of the Cabeceo and Gender Segregated Seating in Milongas in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere in the World). There are separate seating sections for men, for women, and for couples, so that dancers know who is available to be invited using the cabeceo. Dance invitation by Direct Approach is frowned upon and is considered a legitimate reason for rejecting the invitation.
Dancers at First World milongas have the right to select their partners for dancing. They should not be placed into a position of social obligation when receiving a dance invitation from someone who makes a Direct Approach. Use of the cabeceo is an effective means of selecting partners for dancing by mutual consent. Use of the cabeceo also prevents the embarrassment of rejection from a potential partner who is approached directly for a dance invitation.
However, in First World milongas, even for dancers who know how to use the cabeceo as a means of dance invitation and wish to use it, the effectiveness of the cabeceo is typically limited by the lack of dancers’ awareness of this option or the willingness to use it. Willingness to use the cabeceo as a means of dance invitation is reduced when few potential partners are expecting a cabeceo and thus initiation of the cabeceo will fail or limit the number of potential partners. Environmental conditions such as low lighting or physical obstructions (including dancers remaining on the floor during the cortina) may also make implementing the cabeceo difficult. Lack of clearly differentiated seating (i.e., men, women, and couples at different tables) may also complicate partner selection.
Tango Community Attitudes towards the Basic Rights of Traditional Tango Dancers
This declaration of the rights of tango traditionalists is limited and reasonable and should be able to be accommodated. This Tango Manifesto does not place demands upon a tango community that all milongas have the attributes stated here, but only that should a milonga be created with the intent to incorporate these Argentine tango cultural traditions (e.g., being labeled specifically as a ‘traditional milonga’), that dancers attending these milongas respect the house rules (just as one would normally do, by custom, at an event for any social organization). One would think that this is not too much to ask. After all, this is only an attempt to recreate conditions existing in the milongas of Buenos Aires, the cultural origin of tango. However, the reality is that in most (perhaps nearly all) First World tango communities it is very difficult, if not impossible, to establish a milonga incorporating fully even this limited number of practices following Argentine tango cultural traditions. Some dancers are following a different voice, and feel justified in doing so. The irony in this situation is that in many First World tango communities, there is at least some general, possibly tacit agreement with the principles stated here regarding the rights of traditional tango dancers, particularly among tango community leaders (tango instructors and event organizers).
Focusing specifically on North American tango communities in 2016, it is safe to say that, at least in principle, there is general agreement that the dance floor should be free of navigational hazards. Most dancers probably would agree that one has the right to choose one’s partner for dancing tango. It would be difficult to find someone defending the right to offer unsolicited instruction on tango dancing on the milonga dance floor.
Also, a promising sign with regard to support of tango traditions is that the character of music played at most milongas in North America has changed over the last 10 years. Experimentation with the playing of Tango Alternative music for dancing tango appears to have decreased significantly or, when played, at least such dance events are more likely to be advertised to indicate this, e.g., as ‘alternative milongas’ or ‘50% traditional, 50% neotango’. Thus, in recent years it has become more likely that the music played for dancing tango at milongas consists entirely of classic tango music from the Golden Age structured into tandas of 3 or 4 recorded pieces separated by cortinas, during which dancers clear the floor. The apparent obligatory ‘one tanda of neotango per hour’ is mostly in the past.
Nevertheless, despite at least some general agreement in support of these tango traditions in North American tango communities, there are powerful countervailing forces that prevent the establishment of a traditional milonga environment. The most influential factor preventing the enactment of these simple codes of behavior is economics, either the desire to profit from hosting tango activities, or the need to generate sufficient income to meet the expenses of hosting such events (Strategies for Tango Community Development: Profit and Non-Profit Models and the Perspective of Maintaining the Cultural Integrity of Tango).
An important corollary of the primary economic influence upon decision making in North American tango communities is the perceived need by community organizers for nearly constant recruitment of new tango dancers and the desire for their rapid integration into the milonga environment. Often milongas are preceded by introductory tango lessons, concluding with an invitation to remain at the milonga and dance and socialize. Even if introductory pre-milonga lessons are lacking, students in beginner level classes are encouraged to attend milongas, which even may be advertised as ‘beginner friendly’. As commonly taught, beginner level tango students lack even basic navigational skills and thus create navigational hazards at a milonga. Many milonga organizers (who are also tango instructors) encourage more experienced dancers to ask tango newcomers to dance so that they will feel welcome in the milonga environment. Not only does this place social pressure upon experienced dancers to select tango partners with whom they would prefer not to dance, but since newcomers are almost always unfamiliar with the use of the cabeceo, which is rarely taught to beginning tango students, this establishes the Direct Approach as the standard protocol for dance invitation. The partnering of more experienced dancers with newcomers also invites teaching on the dance floor.
Additional impediments to the incorporation of Argentine tango cultural traditions are created by the penetration of Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario onto North American milonga dance floors. Off-axis movements (volcadas, colgadas), outward-directed, space-consuming movements [high (including linear) boleos, soltadas] and other exhibitionist displays (back sacadas, enganches & piernazos) amplify collision risks. Many dancers have been injured by recklessly placed high boleos (Surveying the damage: Floorcraft Rant). It is also not unusual to see dance partners attempting to engage in these movements discuss on the dance floor the mechanics of the movements they have been taught, thereby disrupting the smooth progression of the ronda. Also contributing to the obstruction of the flow of the ronda is the epidemic spread of the ‘sandwich con adornos’ roadblock on the milonga dance floor. The attention-attracting characteristics of Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario movements not only are distracting to other dancers on the floor, who often are thrust into a stress-elevated defensive mode, but due to the conspicuousness of these movements, they plant in the minds of naïve milonga attendees the notion that displaying physical prowess in creating tango movements is milonga acceptable behavior (Is Tango Nuevo compatible with Tango de Salon at the same Milonga?). Although the actual number of dancers employing these movements at a particular milonga may be limited, the impact of a few couples performing these disruptive displays can radically change the character of a milonga. Tango community organizers, most of whom host milongas, fuel this interference with incorporation of tango cultural traditions by sponsoring traveling instructors teaching Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario. Paradoxically, some of these instructors even claim to support Argentine tango cultural traditions (example 1; example 2).
When faced with complaints regarding the navigational hazards created by off-axis and outward directed movements, some of these dancers state that they do not create navigational hazards with these movements because they only perform them when floor density is low. Risks of collision may be reduced with lower floor density, but disregard of the magnitude, velocity, and direction of movements on a sparsely populated floor once again elevates collision risks. When floor density is high, these dancers may make the counterargument that their movements have been modified (essentially, made smaller) to be ‘safe’ for the crowded dance floor. To a significant degree these perceptions have been created by tango instructors who teach workshops entitled ‘Volcadas/colgadas for the social dance floor’ (e.g., Dancing Soul). Further legitimacy is attempted by labeling this style of dancing as ‘nuevo milonguero’, which results in oxymoronic additions to tango step vocabulary such as the ‘volcada milonguera’ and the ‘colgada milonguera’. Nevertheless, despite consuming less space, execution of these modified off axis movements still compromise the balance of one’s partner, which is in itself a hazard (although the risk is often accepted by the woman led through these movements). Space is needed for performance of volcadas, colgadas, piernazos, and any partner separation. Adaptation of a linear boleo for the social dance floor is unimaginable. None of these movements are evident in the traditional tango dance in the milongas of Buenos Aires; they have been manufactured for export to culturally naïve foreigners. All of these movements, even the less dangerous smaller versions, increase collision risks on the social dance floor. So does a dance strategy emanating from within oneself that focuses on step sequence execution (i.e., Tango Nuevo) rather than one that is governed from the external social and spatial environment existing on the milonga dance floor [while coming from within is attention to the music and shared emotional expression with one’s partner (Tango Milonguero: Improvised Expression of Music through Movement in a Shared Embrace)]. Once a philosophy justifying the use of movements characteristic of Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario on the milonga dance floor (e.g., One Tango Philosophy, Organic Tango) has invaded the public consciousness within a tango community, one is contending with the pervasive propaganda of popular traveling Argentine tango instructors that disrupts an environment supporting Argentine tango cultural traditions.
Even if perchance these space consuming movements are placed with skill so as to not appear to present collision risks, other dancers are placed into a defensive mode or are visually distracted by the exhibitionist elements, both of which disrupt attempts at a peaceful harmony with one’s partner. In following Buenos Aires milonga traditions, one dances with the purpose of connecting with the music and communicating with one’s partner in the embrace, not for the purpose of displaying to milonga attendees the expertise in producing step sequences [Understanding Argentine Tango (with the Assistance of Milongueros): It’s not just another Ballroom Dance].
With respect to methods of dance invitation, use of the cabeceo is hindered by the widespread acquiescence to the Direct Approach. This is the norm in every North American tango community and, with the exception of the few encuentros milongueros, probably at every milonga in North America. The general picture that emerges is numerous dancers (usually men) walking around the milonga, approaching potential partners at the table and making verbal requests to dance. Invited partners (usually women) are placed into a position of social pressure to accept the dance invitation, even if this is not a person with whom one wishes to dance, or the invitee can make a verbal rejection, which may gain this invitee a reputation as an elitist or hurt the feelings of the inviter. Accepting a dance invitation with a less than desired partner may result in not having the opportunity at that time to dance with a preferred partner. The system of dance invitation would be much more efficient, less humiliating, and with less social pressure applied, if the cabeceo were used instead of the Direct Approach. Use of the cabeceo gives more power to women, in particular, in choosing their partners (Female empowerment and the cabeceo: A very linktastic post); without the cabeceo, women are subjected more to dancing with less preferred partners than are men, primary because North American social dance customs give more privilege to men than women in initiating dance invitations.
Most tango dancers with some experience are at least somewhat aware of the use of the cabeceo as a means of dance invitation, with some thinking it is some custom, perhaps even a relic, used primarily in Buenos Aires milongas, having little relevance in First World cultures. Despite agreement among many tango community leaders and experienced tango dancers that it would be a good idea for more dancers to use the cabeceo as a means of dance invitation, there is little effort applied towards increasing its usage. Use of the cabeceo is often mentioned in passing (e.g., by tango instructors), but there is a lack of consensus regarding promoting its use. Thus, the Direct Approach remains the status quo at North American milongas.
Although recorded music played for dancing tango at North American milongas has become more representative of Buenos Aires milongas in that a program of all classic tango music, structured into tandas with cortinas, has become the standard for more and more milongas in recent years, nevertheless, there is a common decision in organizing milongas that interferes with this trend, this being the enlistment of ensembles to play live music for dancing. There is no doubt that live music was integral to creating a favorable atmosphere for dancing tango at milongas in Buenos Aires during the Golden Age. These orquestas played music designed for dancing tango. It is for this very reason that the recorded music of these orquestas is played at milongas in Buenos Aires today. There are several contemporary tango orquestas that have played music in the style of Golden Age orchestras [Gente de Tango (Di Sarli), Orquesta Típica Misteriosa Buenos Aires (Di Sarli et al.), Color Tango (Pugliese et al., not always danceable), Los Reyes del Tango (later D’Arienzo), Sans Souci (Calo), Sexteto Milonguero (various Golden Age orquestas)] at milongas in Buenos Aires [e.g., Confiteria Ideal, Salon Canning (Parakultural), La Viruta, Villa Malcolm] in recent years. These orquestas come closest to replicating the style and sound of Golden Age tango orquestas. Live music at tango social dance venues in Buenos Aires today is not uncommon, but it typically occurs at more informal tango social dance events, often those attended primarily by younger dancers and tourists (The Tango Practica, the Practica Nueva and the Tango Dance Party in Buenos).
At milongas in North America, it is not uncommon to have live music played by local musicians or traveling musical groups (some of which are from Argentina). However, it is extremely rare that these contemporary musicians play music for dancing tango that has the rhythmic and emotional qualities of recorded classic tango music, even when playing interpretations of classic tango music (‘Felicia’ vs. D’Arienzo) (‘Gallo ciego’ vs. D’Arienzo) (‘A la gran muñeca’ vs. Di Sarli) (‘Romance de barrio’ vs. Troilo). In a further deviation from the sound of classic tango music, some of the live music played at milongas in North America consists of interpretations of Golden Age or post Golden Age tango compositions lacking a consistent clear rhythm for dancing tango (Sebastian Piana composition ‘Milonga triste‘) (Julian Plaza composition ‘Danzarin’) (Astor Piazzolla composition ‘ Milonga del Angel‘) or even non-tango music, e.g., electronica or rap.
Tango event organizers offer live music at milongas because it attracts more dancers to their events, thereby reinforcing the interpretation that economic and community growth considerations outweigh support for tango cultural traditions in their decision making. Live tango music creates a more exciting environment for most attendees, regardless of their level of expertise in dancing tango, although it can be a particularly effective recruiting tool for newcomers to tango. Some of the excitement created by live music at a milonga is the volume of sound, and other stimuli for animated (but not necessarily controlled) dancing are provided to some dancers with the playing of the music of Piazzolla and other post Golden Age orquestas (e.g., Pugliese after 1960). The result of this stimulation is often the elicitation of larger and more rapid movements characteristic of Tango Escenario and Tango Nuevo and excessive use of adornments, little of which is connected to the music [Understanding Argentine Tango (with the Assistance of Milongueros): It’s not just another Ballroom Dance]. Given the characteristics of the music and the dancing it elicits, tango traditionalists are often disappointed with live music at milongas as a replacement for the recorded classic tango music from the Golden Age.
Remedial Measures to Create a Traditional Milonga Environment
There are several measures organizers of traditional milongas can utilize to increase the likelihood of incorporation of Buenos Aires milonga customs.
Music Played for Dancing Tango
The easiest characteristic of a milonga to change is the music played for dancing tango, which is under the control of the milonga organizer, whose prerogative it is to hire the DJ for the milonga. The appropriate DJ for a traditional milonga is one who plays only recorded classic tango music in tandas of 3 or 4 pieces, with cortinas of non-danceable music between tandas, of sufficient length to allow all dancers to clear the floor. The DJ should also not be open to taking requests from dancers with regard to the music played.
Teaching on the Milonga Dance Floor
Milonga organizers can play a role in reducing significantly the amount of teaching on the dance floor. One way to accomplish this is to not schedule a tango lesson immediately prior to the milonga (Preventing Teaching on the Milonga Dance Floor: The Role of the Pre-Milonga Lesson). Within the tango community as a whole, teaching on the milonga dance floor can also be reduced by encouraging beginning level tango dancers to attend practicas, where teaching is permissible, instead of attending milongas (The Role of the Milonga Organizer in Creating an Environment Promoting Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions). The role of the practica within tango communities as a training ground for developing tango dancers needs to be promoted. Even for more advanced dancers, the practica is the setting for working on technique and experimenting with musicality. The practica is the appropriate place where more experienced dancers can contribute to community growth by dancing with less experienced dancers. Dancing couples can willingly exchange feedback about their partners’ dancing. Designated instructors at practicas can offer feedback to dancers at all levels. (To be avoided at practicas are dancers with a little experience believing they are qualified to be self-appointed instructors.) In order to accomplish these goals, floor density at practicas needs to be much lower than at milongas. The practica also can serve a social function, allowing members of the tango community to walk around, intermingle, and converse in a more casual environment. Access to food and beverages can serve as a catalyst for social interaction. Within a community, a practica can even be set aside for practitioners of Tango Nuevo. In reality, these are the conditions of many tango social dance events advertised as ‘milongas’ in North America, but which are, in fact, practicas, not milongas [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)]. There are a variety of types of practica in contemporary Buenos Aires and these variations can serve as models for North American (and other First World) tango communities (The Tango Practica, the Practica Nueva and the Tango Dance Party in Buenos Aires).
If teaching does occur on the dance floor at a traditional milonga, it may be necessary for the milonga organizer to inform (or remind) those involved that this is inappropriate behavior at this milonga.
Navigational Hazards and Exhibitionism
Eliminating navigational hazards and exhibitionism from a milonga is difficult once it has become prevalent and therefore accepted within a tango community. Nevertheless, there are some preventive measures that can be taken by a milonga organizer to reduce navigational hazards and exhibitionism on the dance floor. Removing stimuli eliciting exhibitionist movements can be productive in this regard. Not playing Tango Alternative music for dancing may assist in reaching this goal. Certainly to be avoided are exhibitions scheduled during a break in social dancing at a milonga, whether by traveling or local instructors, or by tango students in a community. (Having tango students give demonstrations at milongas only reinforces the concept that tango dancing is designed for exhibition.) It should also be obvious that traditional milonga organizers should not bow to social pressure from the community at large to host a visiting tango instructor specializing in teaching exhibitionist movements to teach a pre-milonga workshop containing this type of material, as part of this instructor’s milonga tour through the community.
To some degree, navigational hazards also can be reduced by not inviting beginner level tango dancers to milongas. Not scheduling an introductory tango lesson before the milonga reduces (possibly eliminates) the number of tango newcomers at a milonga (Preventing Teaching on the Milonga Dance Floor: The Role of the Pre-Milonga Lesson). If resources (tango instructors, space) are available, the milonga organizer can offer to beginner level tango dancers at another time an appealing practica environment, one that invites social interaction with like-minded tango traditionalists at all dance skill levels in the community.
Increasing milonga floor density (i.e., reducing the open space available to perform exhibitionist movements) may in some cases reduce the perceived opportunity to execute spatially expansive movements, although it will increase the risk of collisions caused by tango dancers for whom performing exhibitionist movements is their standard modus operandi. This restriction of space can be accomplished not only by selecting a venue for a milonga that is not too large, but also by strategic placement of tables to make the dance floor smaller, e.g., by allowing space behind the tables for movement of milonga attendees outside the milonga dance floor (The Role of the Milonga Organizer in Creating an Environment Promoting Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions).
Perhaps the most difficult challenge in reducing navigational hazards and exhibitionism at milongas is controlling the space exploration tendencies of Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario inspired dancers who feel they have the right of free expression at a traditional milonga. There are several lines of defense against this behavior. The first line of defense is carefully crafted advertising that promotes the event as a ‘traditional milonga’. This may not be completely effective because some instructors of Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario (or their advertisers) state their dancing is rooted in tango traditions (example 1; example 2), or has been modified for the social dance floor. The second line of defense is posting the milonga codes, either in a conspicuous place upon entry (Tango Codigos – Part 2), or in a hand-out to attendees, with the latter preferred because the transaction of distribution of the written codes is a more direct communication. A possible third line of defense is making a public announcement if navigational hazards occur, e.g., as has been done at the Cachirulo milonga in Buenos Aires (video). A fourth line of defense is talking directly to the offenders regarding rules violations, with a request to leave the milonga (e.g., by saying this is not the environment for that kind of tango) as the final option for repeat offenders.
Cabeceo for Dance Invitation
Breaking the inertia of lack of use of the cabeceo for dance invitation is an arduous task because the Direct Approach is deeply ingrained in North American social dance culture. Prior to introducing the cabeceo into a milonga on any basis other than its employment by the occasional dancer already familiar with this practice from previous experience, there needs to be education and practice within the community regarding its use. Tango instructors need to introduce the cabeceo as part of learning to dance tango. This can be accomplished in workshops (in this case, the pre-milonga lesson is appropriate) or in practicas (e.g., as in the Practimilonguero hosted by Monica Paz, primarily for tourists, in Buenos Aires).
Even with this educational preparation, there needs to be some positive reinforcement for using the cabeceo and some negative consequences for using the Direct Approach, other the sometimes unrealized benefit of dancing only with preferred partners and the relief from social pressure when faced with an undesired Direct Approach. The cabeceo works most effectively with clearly defined gender-segregated seating (Use of the Cabeceo and Gender Segregated Seating in Milongas in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere in the World). Therefore, one organizational feature of a milonga that can encourage the use of the cabeceo is to designate (by table top sign if necessary), sections of tables, one for men, another for women, for dancers intending to use the cabeceo for dance invitation (The Role of the Milonga Organizer in Creating an Environment Promoting Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions). These tables should be in a prime location, adjacent to the dance floor, where they would be clearly visible. Milonga attendees would be asked upon entrance if they wish to use the cabeceo for dance invitation and, if so, would be escorted to these tables. The conspicuous designation of these tables for the cabeceo (only) signals to milonga attendees that the dancers sitting there are to be invited via cabeceo, thereby relieving occupants of the social pressure of agreeing to dance with anyone making a Direct Approach. Setting aside tables for use of the cabeceo accommodates tango traditionalists, but does not obligate other dancers to use the cabeceo for dance invitation. Nevertheless, it provides a public example of its use, a condition that could lead to increased usage by other members of the tango community. An obstacle to effective implementation of the cabeceo is having enough dancers of both sexes willing to participate and occupy the tables designated for its use. Perhaps at least one dozen men and one dozen women would be needed to allow dancers to select a variety of partners across different tandas. Under the conditions stated here, dancers at other tables would be permitted to send and receive dance invitations via cabeceo, but would also be subject to Direct Approach. These conditions would allow tango traditionalists to use the cabeceo and avoid the Direct Approach (as well as provide justification for rejecting it), but not force all dancers to use or be limited or using the cabeceo for dance invitation.
A significant obstacle to incorporation of the cabeceo into milonga practices in North American tango communities is the resistance of dancers to assigned gender segregated seating, even though this is the norm in Buenos Aires milongas. Widespread use of the cabeceo for dance invitation is probably the most difficult of the tango traditions mentioned in the Tango Manifesto to be incorporated into a traditional milonga.
Tango traditionalists in First World countries have the right to create a milonga environment incorporating Argentine tango traditions. Tango has its cultural origin in Buenos Aires; therefore, this right is indisputable. There should no need to justify or apologize for creating a milonga respecting Buenos Aires milonga codes. The conditions for a traditional milonga set forth in the Tango Manifesto are limited (compared to the milonga customs observed in Buenos Aires) but important in establishing a milonga environment resembling that of Buenos Aires milongas.
Members of a tango community should not feel offended or angry (as they often are) about the request to honor Argentine tango cultural traditions; they have free choice in not attending a milonga with these codes of behavior. To force one’s ignorance, lack of regard, or even disdain for tango traditions upon those who wish to honor them (e.g., by dancing Tango Nuevo in a traditional milonga) is one of the worst offenses that can be committed in a tango community. It leads to conflict and community fission. Ironically, those who resist the incorporation of tango cultural traditions into a milonga environment have been known to criticize tango traditionalists as being restrictive of freedom of expression and therefore antagonistic to tango community harmony and growth; in reality, it is the free expression of tango traditions that is often restricted, disappointing tango traditionalists and sometimes even discouraging their active engagement in a tango community. Resistors to tango traditions often make the counterargument that tango is evolving and that new interpretations of tango need to be accommodated. The truth is that they are already accommodated in most milongas in most tango communites. What really needs to be accommodated is a milonga environment for those dancers who wish to model their behavior after the customs of the overwhelming majority of milongas in Buenos Aires today.
In order to minimize conflict and gain respect and support for their efforts, tango traditionalists should refrain from criticizing the adaptation of tango to foreign cultures that has become epidemic, even if there is indeed justification for this criticism. Tango traditionalists need to be positive in communicating about their program. They should clearly assert that they are honoring Argentine tango cultural traditions and creating an environment for the purpose of enjoying the practice thereof. All who are interested are free to join in this practice. What others may do is different and the message should be that it is not inherently bad, just different. Tango traditionalists can appeal to a respect for cultural diversity that allows each genre of interpretation of tango (e.g., Tango de Salon vs. Tango Nuevo) to have its own environmental niche for expression (Is Tango Nuevo compatible with Tango de Salon at the same Milonga?). This is how tango social dance venues are differentiated in Buenos Aires today (Milongas and Practicas: Cultural Tradition and Evolution in Buenos Aires Tango Social Dance Venues). This perspective contrasts with the ‘one big tent’ theory of the One Tango Philosophy promoted in many (perhaps most) First World tango communities, where Tango de Salon, Tango Nuevo, and Tango Escenario are not recognized as different expressions of tango adapted to different environmental niches and therefore are integrated onto the same milonga dance floor (Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression: Part I – A Rationale for Classification by Niche Adaptation).
First World Tango dancers should have choices in attending milongas.
Those who wish to enjoy a milonga environment with all classic tango music, with partners who embrace and connect to the music, navigate so as to maintain a circulating ronda with minimized risk of collision, and refrain from exhibitionism, with an absence of instruction on the dance floor, with the opportunity to select preferred partners using the cabeceo, should be free to create this environment and not be confronted with intrusions (perhaps even confrontations) from dancers who wish to impose a different interpretation of tango upon others who do not want it.
Those who wish to have a tango social dance environment that includes Tango Alternative music for dancing, allows exhibitionism and exploration of the spatial dimensions of dancing tango without the restriction of a circulating ronda, permits free verbal exchange of ideas about tango dancing on the dance floor (i.e., instruction), and tolerates the Direct Approach for dance invitation, should also be allowed to host and attend these events. All that is requested is that these events be advertised honestly as ‘alternative milongas’, ‘nuevo practicas’, or ‘nontraditonal milongas’, as the case may be, so as to differentiate them from traditional milongas.
Tango traditionalists should no longer be forced to sit silently or complain among themselves about a tango social dance environment where they experience Tango Alternative music, exhibitionism, collisions, undefined rondas, teaching from ad hoc instructors and Direct Approach from undesired dance partners. They need to assert their rights to have a traditional milonga environment and the local tango community needs to respect it.
TV wrote: “Recommendations are made to assist incorporation of Buenos Aires milonga customs into a First World traditional milonga, including: * Selecting a DJ who plays only classic tango music”
Oops. This excludes every BA milonga DJ I’ve heard. Ones that play tango, vals and milonga, not to mention cumbia, rock and roll etc.
“The appropriate DJ for a traditional milonga is one who plays only recorded classic tango music in tandas of 3 or 4 pieces, with cortinas … ”
Er, no. The appropriate DJ for a traditional milonga is one who plays music appropriate for a traditional milonga. This music is not confined to “classic tango music”.
Tango as a musical genre includes the rhythms of tango, milonga, and vals.
Yes, tropical Latin msuic, jazz, rock and roll, and chacarera are also played at most milongas in Buenos Aires. No one uses steps characteristic of tango dancing when this music is played. At many First World milongas (some of which are called ‘alternative milongas’), nontango music is played intentionally to elicit steps characteristic of tango dancing.
One rarely hears music that is not classic tango music, from the period spanning late 1920s to late 1950s, played for dancing tango at Buenos Aires milongas. The exception may be modern tango orchestras playing in the style of Golden Age tango orchestras.
Dear Tango Voice: This is just a fantastic document! As an American residing in Florida, I’ve found myself a ‘beginner’ for two years; attempting to learn the traditional Argentine Tango. As such, to me this ‘manifesto’ is just brilliant. No doubt that if the first list of 4 ‘minimum expectations’ were adhered to those who wish to truly learn the traditional Argentine Tango could do so with less difficulty and impediments. The individuals described in item 2 cause perhaps the most problems encountered; for they are so hungry to feed an apparently insatiable ego they can, and sometimes do literally injure innocent nearby dancers with flailing legs, etc. Thank you Tango Voice for this wonderful and very educational document. Sincerely, Robin D. Robin Barker, Stuart, Florida
Tango dance style has morphed into a new dance style that should be recognized for what it is, and be given a specific name so those who prefer the style can enjoy their preference. With that said, the styles should not be tolerated on the same dance floor.
This is the way it is in Buenos Aires, where Tango de Salon and Tango Nuevo have different dance venues. Thus would be a reasonable solution for the rest of the world.
Many tangueros want authentic tango but what is it really? For me there are 3 aspects. The music, the actual way we dance and the social arrangements.
The music is easy. We can define authentic as Golden Age music. D’Arrienzo, Di Sarli, Canaro, Troilo and Pugliese are the big orchestras although there are many more that produced wonderful music in that 1935-55 period. Personally that is my favourite music but surely we should acknowledge developments in the music. Piazzolla took tango music forward, although some but not all, is difficult to dance to. I knew one teacher who claimed to have left a milonga because Piazzolla’s music was played! There is room for an acknowledgement of Nuevo music, not a hysterical rejection.
The actual way we dance is more difficult. In the 30s, you would be asked to leave the milonga if the sole of your shoe became visible. There are many who might toe the authentic line but their toes will not stay there as they want to boleo and gancho! I am sure the steps we use has evolved so is there anything wrong with a continual evolution, involving breaking the embrace or using the elastic embrace? I can see the yellow card coming out if you did that at some milongas and encuentros. Are we not stifling the development of tango with too many codigos. Tango is an art form and surely must be allowed to develop like any other art form.
Then there is the social context. When asked to comment on himself Pugliese said “I am just a musician from the people”. I love that! Tango is for the people, it started out that way and to be authentic it should still be for the people and not for incestuous groups. Are beginners really turned away from some milongas and encuentros? Is it true a woman was asked to leave a milonga because she approached a man to ask for a dance.
A recent article “What makes tango anti-social” in http://www.tango-therapist.blogspot.com quotes research which shows the same pattern in the brain for rejection (or shunning) as physical pain. Many people feel shunned by pretentious attitudes in milongas and abandon this beautiful dance as a consequence.
We are in danger of abandoning the true origins of tango, denying tango its natural evolution and alienating people with this pretence of being authentic.
posted by Bob’s Blog http://www.treboryarrum.blogspot.co.uk
It is very interesting how tango music has evolved since the Golden Age, yet the music played for dancing tango at milongas in Buenos Aires today is still overwhelmingly the classic tango music from the Golden Age. With the infusion of elements of classical music and jazz, Piazzolla brought about revolutionary changes in tango music, as well as worldwide recognition for Argentine tango music culture. However, Piazzolla did not compose music specifically for dancing. Most of Piazzolla’s music lacks a clear constant rhythm or the right tempo for dancing tango. Other modern tango composers and interpreters (e.g., Pugliese after 1960) also abandoned the clear rhythmic tango music of the Golden Age. Some contemporary Argentine musical ensembles have adopted rhythms from First World musical genres (in particular, electronica), added the bandoneon, and marketed their music as ‘tango’, and although rich in rhythmic elements, this music generally lacks the clear pulsating walking rhythm of classic tango music. This is why nearly all of the music played in the milongas of Buenos Aires today is still the classic tango music from the Golden Age.
With respect to movements, there have been changes in the way tango is danced today compared to the start of the Golden Age (1920s). There was a time before Petroleo invented the giro. There was a time before milonga con traspie. The direct frontal embrace of Tango Milonguero, predominant today, only evolved during the late 1940s. These changes have become incorporated into Tango de Salon because they did not violate milonga codes prohibiting exhibitionism and movements creating navigational hazards. Since the 1990s, new movement exploration generated from what has become known today as Tango Nuevo has evolved outside the confines of milonga etiquette. This is why this type of dancing is ‘forbidden’ at Buenos Aires milongas, yet has a life of its own at Practicas Nuevas (less common today than 10 years ago) and some other informal tango social dance venues in Buenos Aires.
Social customs in Buenos Aires have also changed somewhat since the Golden Age. The most obvious change is the way dancers dress in coming to milongas; more casual dress is permitted today. The cabeceo with gender segregated seating is still the standard at milongas where dancers change partners throughout the milonga (i.e., ‘milongas el centro’). The cabeceo is used less frequently at tango social dance events attended mostly by younger dancers, where there is also less circulating of partners, i.e., most partner selection is among friends and acquaintances.
Another social custom that has changed to a limited degree in Buenos Aires is the gender roles assigned to men as leaders and women as followers. This is still the standard at almost every milonga in Buenos Aires today, although several ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ milongas and practicas have arisen that allow freedom in gender role assignment. One may occasionally see women leading with a woman following at tourist oriented milongas.
Nevertheless, there are some important constants that have been maintained as milonga customs in Buenos Aires. The music played for dancing tango is still almost entirely classic tango music, even at youth-oriented, gender role liberated, and tourist oriented milongas. A clearly defined ronda is the standard. Creating navigational hazards is at least frowned upon, even if not universally prohibited (e.g., at youth and tourist oriented milongas). Respect for mutual consent in partner selection is still the norm.
Even if there have been some changes in some Buenos Aires milongas, milonga customs established at the end of the Golden Age still predominate in the majority of milongas. This is the tango cultural heritage of Buenos Aires. Many foreigners enjoy engaging in these practices. If they wish to create a milonga incorporating the major aspects of this culture in their home countries, this right should be respected. The argument that tango culture has changed (which is nearly always over emphasized) is not a legitimate justification for imposing one’s own interpretation of tango customs, which may not reflect cultural changes in Buenos Aires, upon those who wish to create an environment honoring Argentine tango cultural traditions. It is, quite simply, just a matter of respect. This is not the imposition of one’s values without consent upon others. If a dancer does not wish to abide by these customs, this dancer has the freedom to choose another milonga. However, if dancers attending traditional milongas do not respect the rights of tango traditionalists, these traditionalists may not have another place to dance.
Well, there’s a great deal to digest here and you’ve obviously put considerable thought into the preparation of this document. Regarding your four points, I have found that almost all local DJs play traditional music using traditional methods (tandas and cortinas). Some DJs are better than others, of course, and some will slip in a Hugo Diaz tune from time to time, but, overall, the music is traditional and danceable.
Floorcraft and maintaining the flow of a traditional ronda is a genuine problem. Some milongas are more successful than others at achieving equilibrium on the dance floor but you still find dancers who ignore the smooth movement of the ronda, criss-cross the dance floor, pass other dancers, or simply back into the line of dance without looking (yes, I’ve seen it).
Instruction, unfortunately, takes place. Not often, not extensively, but it happens. And you’re right in that pre-milonga classes encourage beginners to try to dance, with the obvious consequences. It would be nice if instructors informed them of the codigos of tango and dissuaded them from trying to dance before they were ready. And the tango world is filled with egotistical leaders who are more than willing to “instruct” a beginner.
Experienced dancers here are aware of the cabeceo and do use it, but many use it more effectively than others. You discussed all the obstacles to its use, however, placement of tables, lighting, physical obstacles, and lack of training in its use when learning tango. Other problems include crowded dance floors and the tendency of dancers here to socialize more than dance. Nothing wrong with that if there were some way to distinguish between folks who want to chat and those who want to dance.
I’m not sure where these problems originate. Partly it’s the fault of teachers and training programs—lots of lessons in sequences and steps, almost no training or teaching concerning the history and social customs of tango, use of the mirada/cabeceo, line of dance, and so on. Partly its the fault of trying to emulate traveling performers. Partly its the fault of so-called advanced dancers trying to show how good they are on the dance floor without concern for other dancers. This includes “teachers,” as well.
I find little to disagree with in your article other than the unlikeliness of gender-separated seating working in local milongas. While most milongas provide individual chairs for people not in a group, they are not exclusively for one gender or another, and are not alway conveniently located (that is, no row of chairs directly opposite them). I’m not sure how to fix that other than to encourage more people to use the cabeceo no matter where they are sitting.
Yes, floorcraft and maintaining a flowing ronda is a major challenge; absence of these is difficult to fix. Yes, tango instructors contribute to this in teaching step sequences, some of them exhibitionist in nature, rather than teaching improvisation and navigation. Tango exhibitions by instructors during breaks from social dancing at milongas contribute to tango exhibitions on the social dance floor.
Yes, gender segregated seating may be the most difficult Buenos Aires milonga custom to integrate into traditional milongas. Selection of available partners is simplified by gender segregated seating, but First World dancers want to sit and socialize among friends at a milonga. Yes, even if dancers used the cabeceo with mixed gender seating, this would be an improvement with respect to dancers forming partnerships by mutual consent. However, unless the mixed gender tables are designated as ‘cabeceo only’ tables, there is still the possibility of invitation by Direct Approach.
This is how I imagine the Tango Ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice would write about “the True Milonga”
When I read texts like this „manifesto“, I see certain patterns. I am afraid that the motives behind such attempts to achieve opinion air superiority above the tango campfires are less noble than they claim to be. I see those patterns in Europe too (I am a German national).
It is not unusual, in nature and society as a whole that groups try to shape rules such that they fit their own abilities. An aging tango dancer, who sees his physical abilities diminish, will of course prefer a view on tango which values slow motion more than dynamic movement. If his ability to improvise is reduced, he will prefer a “surprise-free” environment, both in terms of motion and of music.
Of course such groups have every right to try to create fitting sub-ecospheres within the greater tango universe. Things become dangerous when such movements get too much influence. They will suffocate the dynamics which is needed, in the longer run, to keep this universe alive.
A special case is music. Of course, in EdO times there was a huge market for tango, bringing about many great orchestras. To denounce contemporary orchestras, in a general way, as not able to deliver danceable music, is stupid.
The same applies to the everlasting cabeceo discussion. Cabeceo is a tool; there are times when it is appropriate to use it, and others where it would not work well.
The common denominator of all these sub-discussions is the attempt to simplify things to black and white in order to avoid dealing with the reality, that there are a lot of grey tones.
What really annoys me is the attempt of the “diaspora traditionalists” (to use a term coined by Iona Italia) to stage as victims which have the right to defend themselves. This is just a cheap try to avoid delivering arguments and to occupy a moral higher ground without a reason.
I for my part don’t want to live in a closed Tango universe which is slowly decaying due to lack of fresh energy. I don’t want to keep people to live there, fine for me but please keep in your reserved areas and don’t try to impose your view on the whole tango world.
This comment demonstrates some of the challenges faced by tango traditionalists in creating a milonga environment supporting Argentine tango cultural traditions. Rather than showing respect for tango dancers who support the traditional cultural practices that are predominant in the milongas of Buenos Aires today, many First World tango dancers, either by ignorance or by informed choice, impose upon an entire tango community their own First World cultural adaptation of tango (Tango Extranjero), one that disregards or even undermines traditional tango cultural practices. Even if a group of tango traditionalists, almost always a minority within any First World tango community, wishes to have its own milonga environment free of exhibitionism, reckless navigation, forced choice of tango partners, and music played for dancing that is unrepresentative of the preferred classic tango music played in the milongas of Buenos Aires, this environment is not safe from invasion by those who wish to impose their own foreign cultural adaptation of tango upon them. The requests made in the Tango Manifesto are minimal – play recorded classic tango music for dancing (already standard), minimize collision risks (opposition to this is inconceivable), remove exhibitionism from the social dance floor (the standard in Buenos Aires, because it causes collision risks and is distracting to concentration), remove teaching from the dance floor (almost universally supported), and respect the right of those selecting dance partners by mutual consent through the cabeceo (a logical and effective option). Even at a traditional milonga as defined here, the cabeceo is not imposed upon dancers unfamiliar or unwilling to use it; all that is requested is that those preferring the cabeceo being granted the right to practice it without interference. (Surely, the cabeceo is not an intrusion upon the rights of those not using it.) There is no legislation that dancers at a milonga of this type be required to embrace their partners (as in Tango Milonguero); all that is asked is that they navigate responsibly. Even though dancers with their First World adaptation of tango have other choices in attending milongas, the majority which do not prohibit exhibitionism and poorly defined rondas, perhaps even permit instruction on the dance floor, and allow social pressure to operate in the selection of dance partners by Direct Approach, as well as occasional use of music lacking a clear tango rhythm intended for eliciting movements characteristic of dancing tango, they act to impose these practices upon all tango social dance values, disregarding and disrespecting the desires of a minority, despite fact that many of these same dancers vow respect for cultural minorities and diversity in other political arenas. In their opposition to traditional tango values, they depict tango traditionalists as arrogant and self-righteous, yet the real arrogance is displayed by tango non-traditionalists in their disrespect for the cultural traditions of the dance they claim to love. Tango traditionalists are ridiculed, labeled as ‘anti-social’ and destructive of tango community harmony (when it is actually tango community homogeneity under the banner of Tango Extranjero that tango traditionalists threaten). Justification for the actions of tango non-traditionalists is derived from the biased perspective of tango marketed for export by traveling Argentine tango instructors. In this viewpoint, tango evolution is seen as inevitable and therefore superior, rather than as an adaptation to a new cultural niche. Very few of the tango non-traditionalist have been to Buenos Aires to experience how tango is danced in milongas there, or if they have, they have visited tourist oriented milongas and tango schools that derive a significant portion (perhaps even a majority) of their income from tango tourists. It is likely that this aggressive reaction to creating a safe environment for practice of tango cultural traditions is due to some inherent sense of insecurity, perhaps some recognition (perhaps unconscious) that traditional tango and its cultural practices are a threat to the non-traditional tango, a marketed cultural adaptation that has a weak foundation and therefore an uncertain future.
There is a very simple solution to your problem, if it is a problem, namely, organize a dance exclusively for alternative tango and mix and match the music to your heart’s content. When I go to a milonga, I go to hear classical tango music and dance in a way that is an accompaniment to that music and respects the ronda. If I so chose, I could also go to a venue that plays non-traditional tango music, where other styles of tango are danced. To claim that the proponents of tango are forcing you to comply is clearly not the case when you have other options. The problems arise when fans of alternative tango, nuevo, and so on, try to introduce that style of open, free-form movement into a venue that is traditional in nature. If you can’t find a sufficient number of alternative venues, you are free to start your own. But why impose your preferences on those who want something else?
I didn’t know that North America is something like the Land of Mordor for poor traditionalist tango dancers. I was assuming that it was like Germany, where there are many traditionalist milongas, quite some 150% traditional encuentros with people selection (and sometimes also gender/role discrimination) plus a few mixed milongas as well as even fewer pure non-tango events. So if it is really that bad over the Great Pond, my apologies for my uncaring words, and my heartfelt sympathy for the terrible situation you are in.
However, over here the Tango Orks are more under the traditionalist flag – they appear to not make prisoners or know compromises. There are some people trying to be opinion leaders claiming that a single non-EdO piece of music pollutes a whole tango evening.
I am sure in this “traditionalists are victims” narrative they will say that they act out of pure self-defense – hunt or be hunted. So I am a bit indecisive if I should say “if you are really an endangered species, come to Europe where you can get refuge from the evil forces” or if this would be against my own interests.
But just for my understanding: Where exactly is, in your opinion, the difference between “following the music” and “exhibitionism” in dancing – maybe there are some Youtube videos showing examples? And how exactly does “interference to cabeceo” work? I am sure you can deliver some practical descriptions rather than just firing those “combat terms”.
Exhibitionism can consist of following the music. Good stage tango follows the music. However, exhibitionism does not have a place at a traditional milonga. Following the music at a traditional milonga means moving connected to the music within the circulating ronda without creating risks of collision. Moving connected to the music consists of making weight changes only on the beat, with options to move faster (weight change on minor accented beats), only on major accented beats (moderate speed), or slower (not changing weight on every major accented beat). There is also connection to the phrasing of the music, with collection (bringing feet together with weight change) at the end of a musical phrase.
Exquisite interpretation of the music is demonstrated by Ricardo Vidort.
Movement without regard to the music is shown by several dancers in this video.
‘Interference’ with the cabeceo may not have been the best choice of words. What was meant in this post is that dancers who wish to send and receive dance invitations by means of the cabeceo often have this plan interrupted by dancers making a Direct Approach for a dance invitation.
So your definition of exhibitionism is to dance recklessly? I can live with this definition as it includes a reasonable judgement of when dynamic movement is okay, and when it is not – something I would expect to be in the skill set of any fairly good dancer.
Apart from that, bad dancing in the sense of not being connected to the music can be found in all types of motion. I know people who are able to turn the most cheerful milonga into a gloomy grave march. Nonmusical dancing just becomes more visible with larger movements.
I am also happy that you include the circulating ronda. I actually see, quite often, a type of exhibitionism which I call “tantra tango” – people who block the circulating ronda by ultra-slow movements and which is as annoying than its “wild brother”.
By the way I was looking at some of the videos in your previous post. Just in the first one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NDa6jmayvU) of what I understood to be your “poison list”, I saw a fairly empty floor, with people moving in a very considerate way – no visible signs of danger, threat, or nervousness. It correlates to my personal experience. There are definitely people who make me nervous when they dance just in front of me. But they are few. Again this has to do with expectations on skills a dancer should have. I don’t think one should always adjust to the weakest link in a chain – if there are people who are extraordinarily jumpy, they should get this problem fixed and learn to develop a certain level of trust, not force everybody else to adjust to their neurosis.
As for your assumptions on the feelings of Argentineans – with all respect, I assume you are none (I tried to look it up in your About but couldn’t find clues). I think you should be careful not to be patronizing. I am not an expert on Argentinean souls. However, coming back to the topic of dynamic expression and music (and from watching videos from BA shot on less-than-crowded dance floors) I assume that joy of life and motion is more part of the Argentinean mindset than you might feel comfortable to imagine.
Finally about cabeceo. Catching away dance partners – hm. Logic tells me that my looks are faster than my feet. So maybe someone who is much closer to your target person may be faster than you – but then, he would also have a better chance to do it by eye contact.
Exhibitionism in tango is making conspicuous movements that attract attention. In many cases, particularly when these movements encompass relatively large spaces on the milonga dance floor, or compromise the balance of one’s partner, or block the flow of the circulating ronda (e.g., excessive ornamentation in place), these movements increase collision risks. Exhibitionism and creating collision risks are correlated, but they are defined differently (along different but not orthogonal dimensions). In particular, one can create collision risks without being exhibitionist, and not all exhibitionism potentially creates collision risks. For example, not all ganchos create collision risks, yet they attract attention. The objection of tango traditionalists to exhibitionism is that it attracts attention, that it is it is showing off and considered to be in poor taste. This is the code of the milongas of Buenos Aires – do not attract attention, do not show off, it is in poor taste. Exhibitionism creates an atmosphere where dancers dance to the audience, rather than for one’s partner.
One could argue endlessly about whether exhibitionism creates navigational hazards when there is low floor density or whether all dancers object to it, and whether the cabeceo is really necessary, and not reach some resolution or agreement when dancers have a different underlying philosophy regarding dancing tango. The solution is simple – separate venues for Traditional Tango and Evolutionary Tango. This is the segregation that exists among tango venues in Buenos Aires; each milongas has its character and that character is respected by attendees. The differences between followers of Traditional Tango and Evolutionary Tango are not so much a matter of party affiliation as that of behavior. In First World tango communities, when an aficionado of Evolutionary Tango enters the milonga environment of Traditional Tango, this dancer needs to respect the codes of behavior of that environment. It’s that simple.
I teach and dance in a rural, spread part of North America. If we did not invite and encourage beginners, we would have no place to dance and no one to dance with. We are tango ‘hicks’; but one must adjust to one’s environment. We also find young dancers want very much to have alternative music and so we have to give and take. If we tried to have milongas which conform to Buenos Aires traditions, it would feel very artificial. Nevertheless, I liked the article and I do try to open up discussions about these principles in my classes — but again, we have to be flexible and adjust to the environment we find ourselves in.
The constraints of starting a tango community are understandable. What is addressed in this post is establishing a ‘traditional milonga’, something that rarely can be done in a new tango community. Nevertheless, there are choices to be made at this stage that affect the future development of the community.
Playing Tango Alternative music for dancing legitimizes this music as appropriate for dancing tango and it becomes difficult to offer a different perspective at a later date. There is plenty of tango music with wide appeal that can be used for dancing that is either classic tango music [including the higher fidelity recordings of Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, and De Angelis in the 1950s (some recordings of Canaro’s Quniteto Pirincho may also fit this model, but Pugliese is best saved for more accomplished dancers] or post-Golden Age tango music modeled after classic tango music [e.g., recordings of Villasboas, Gente de Tango, Los Reyes del Tango, San Souci, Sexteto Milonguero, Orquesta Tipica Misteriosa Buenos Aires]. After learning to connect to this music, older music from the Golden Age can be introduced.
If one teaches ganchos, high boleos and volcadas, for example, because it attracts students, this sends the message that dancing tango is about making conspicuous movements (i.e., exhibitionism), and if this becomes way of dancing established in a community, it becomes difficult to change the message and use the dancing of the milongueros as a role model.
With regard to teaching on the dance floor, perhaps it is best to recognize that in a developing community there is plenty of room for practicas, where teaching occurs on the dance floor, and it may take time to establish a real milonga environment.
With respect to the cabeco, students should at least be made aware of this practice as being standard in Buenos Aires milongas. Tango classes can introduce the use of the cabeceo as a practice. It will take time to catch on, probably a long time.
One can adjust to the local culture in offering tango to a community, but it should be recognized that (ignoring ballroom tango for the moment) there are two types of tango worldwide, Tango Argentino, based closely on the tango culture of the milongas of Buenos Aires, and there is a tango that has been shaped to satisfy the cultural tastes of foreign cultures (called Tango Extranjero in this blog). One can move in either direction in developing a tango community.
My response was more of a comment than a question. I most definitely do not agree that the music of the 50’s “high fidelity” and other music you mention are more acceptable to the modern ear or the ears of anyone. My students like the rhythms of the older music and prefer Biagi, Canaro, early DiSarli, Lomoto, Laurenz, etc., also these are much more compatible to teaching and dancing. They also like some alternatives as well. We may be in a rural area but we do have a world class DJ who is very traditional in her music and dance (she is one of the only Americans asked to DJ in Buenos Aires. I have danced tango for 20 years and learned from very traditional Argentine teachers and traveled, studied and danced in Buenos Aires. The challenge is to balance the preferences where there is a smaller population. To educate, but not dictate and to build a tango community which reflects the more relaxed, friendly country environment.
It’s laudable that the tango students prefer older Golden Age music. In some communities poor fidelity creates problems of acceptance and playing later Golden Age music and that of contemporary orchestras playing in a similar style can be gateway to older Golden Age music, which is really the preferred tango music in Buenos Aires milongas.
Dear Tangovoice, it seems that I have no more questions. I would reflect the advice of R. Bononno and say, there should be a simple solution to create tango events according to your vision: Every organizer who wants to follow this concept can do so. Use pre-registration, face control at the evening box office or “dancefloor policing” to keep away or eject people who don’t comply to your rules… and then see what happens.
Oh…as an afterthought it tried to get deeper into the traditionalist state of mind and some more ideas to improve the tango world started to flow. If exhibitionism is about creating attention to oneself then we should be aware of further hazards. Personally, if I see a woman with exceptionally good looks or with a particularly good posture or movement, Not to mention dresses. I feel that my eyes are drawn to this person. So I guess such persons daring to look or move shamelessly better should also be restricted somehow (I think the same will apply to the opposite sex). Some cultures have already developed tools and regulations (e.g. clothing to hide offending body parts) dealing with these hazards – so if we eant to learn from other cultures why stop at Argentina. I am expectantly looking forward to respective extensions of the rules against exhibitionism.
Exhibitionism in tango relates to movements, not clothing, at least not in contemporary Buenos Aires, where there is wide latitude in clothing worn by women. However, athletic shoes and blue jeans are frowned upon.
You’re being flippant. Dressing well, looking good, personal beauty, and beautiful dancing are all perfectly compatible with traditional (or nontraditional) tango. I’d say they are to be encouraged, in fact. Goes for men, too, by the way. There is nothing exhibitionistic about this, of course (unless you show up naked) nor anything “shameless” about it. Indeed, I wish that more milongas encouraged such behavior.
Dear R. Bononno, I didn’t want to be flippant – actually I tried to be sarcastic or ironic. A term like exhibitionistic with a very fuzzy definition – actually every local tradi-tango mullah will have his own view of what attracts inappropriate attention – would lead us into very problematic terrain. If I haven’t made this clear enough so far, I find such thinking a bit creepy.
In entering upon the dance floor at a milonga advertised or known to be ‘traditional’, there are several approaches a dancer could take in deciding whether to use a particular movement that might be considered exhibitionist, i.e., attracting undue attention.
One approach is to dance as one normally would, perhaps as one has been taught in a tango workshop, and wait for the milonga organizer to intervene if a movement is too exhibitionist. This approach tests the limits of what is acceptable.
Another approach is to keep movements small with feet low to the ground, being careful not to encroach up the space of other dancers. The movements chosen should not attract undue attention because they are different from most other dancers on the floor.
The second approach is what the wise tango tourist does upon entering a milonga in Buenos Aires. The unwise dancer who chooses the first strategy is unlikely to find dance partners after milonga attendees have observed this person’s dancing.
A respectful approach when entering into any social event is to first gain a sense of the social customs and behave accordingly. Assuming that it is the responsibility of the event organizer to specify all the acceptable limits of behavior is impolite.
Testing the limits and expecting someone else to define them is what a child does. A mature adult tries to determine what is acceptable first before acting.
Dear Tango Voice, I took the time to read some of your older posts, and I believe I understand now the problem you have. Let me try to explain this using an analogon.
I live in a house which was built at the beginning of the 20th century. It has a ceiling height of 4 meters (or a bit more) and frankly I cannot imagine to live in a contemporary flat with a ceiling height of 2.6 m or so.However – this does not mean I want to have coal ovens in every room, toilets on the half-floor and all the other living standards of that time. Much lesser I regret that the political circumstances of this age are gone.
In case you still don’t understand – I actually dont care so much what people in BA have been doing during the EdO, or what they do today. I am thoroughly grateful to them that they invented tango – but there is as much moral obligation to keep it forever in the form of its invention, as there is an obligation of today’s Christians to kill heathens, burn withes or torture heretics. When we talk about rights, every culture has the right to use the gifts of other cultures and do whatever they like with it. Is this arrogance? I call it evolution.
I love this. I imagine Tango Voice Man sitting in the “first world” milongas and wringing his hands, scowling, listening and watching for any offenses to his delicate tango sensitivities. Imagine being in a really early tango salon — wild rumpus, musical experimentation and show off moves being thoroughly celebrated.
You are comparing apples and oranges. This is not a question of “rights and obligations” but a matter of choice, free choice, since there is no obligation to dance tango or attend a milonga of any kind. It’s really a simply concept, if you like salsa and I like tango, well, you can attend a salsa dance and I can attend a milonga and everyone is happy. I really don’t understand your insistence that traditional milongas be banished to some dusty attic when there are people all over the world striving to keep those traditions alive. If you prefer nuevo, there are venues for that. I like tall ceilings, too, by the way.
Evolution consists of change, but essentially it is adaptation to an environmental niche. There are different environmental niches in Buenos Aires which have shaped the evolution of tango dancing into different forms or genres. Tango de Salon is tango adapted for the milongas of Buenos Aires. Tango Escenario is tango adapted for the stage. Tango Nuevo is tango adapted for the tango academy, the Practica Nueva. Each of these genres of tango is a different expression of the historically antecedent tango dance to which all of these genres trace their ancestry. Although Tango Nuevo is a relatively new evolutionary form of tango, its main contributions to tango dancing have been additions to the repertoire of Tango Escenario, and to a commercialized social tango for export popularized for foreign cultures, i.e., Tango Extranjero. Interestingly, in Buenos Aires Tango de Salon as a dance has evolved little since the 1950s (60 years ago), and the music to which it is danced is nearly identical. The three genres of tango dancing described here evolved within Argentina and therefore are various expressions of Tango Argentino. The first foreign descendent of tango dancing – Tango Ballroom – arose about 100 years ago in Europe and North America. Tango Ballroom is adapted to the environment of the ballroom dance salon. Beginning in the late 1980s, the various genres of Tango Argentino (Salon, Escenario, Nuevo) were introduced into First World cultures. However, instead of retaining separate niches as in Buenos Aires, they were all integrated into the foreign social dance environment and adapted to its particular cultural characteristics. The greater emphasis on step sequence acquisition and exhibitionism inherent in social dancing within First World cultures allowed this integration within a single environmental niche. This new genre of tango, Tango Extranjero, is promoted by disciples of the One Tango Philosophy, advocates of tango evolution who neglect a basic principle of tango evolution, the adaptation of different genres of Tango Argentino to different environmental niches. Within this mixture of dance expressions that comprises Tango Extranjero, the Tango de Salon of Buenos Aires is out of place. The exhibitionism and disregard for maintaining a functional circulating ronda prevalent within the Tango Extranjero niche threaten the functionality of Tango de Salon, therefore making it maladapted for this niche. There are several ways to interpret this. One way is to argue that Tango Extranjero is the successful descendant of the Tango Argentino of the past, and its evolutionary heir, such that Tango de Salon is a relic of former times and is maladapted for the 21th century First World cultural niche. It is allowed to exist within the niche of Tango Extranjero, but if dominant cultural forces drive it into extinction, this is not a matter of disrespect or arrogance, but rather one of recognition of the maldaptiveness of this genre within contemporary First World culture. To a significant degree, this analysis is true; nevertheless, it omits one important perspective. Tango de Salon is the predominant form of tango social dancing in contemporary Buenos Aires, thriving within a rich environmental niche that has changed little in 50 years. What prevents Tango de Salon from existing within a similar niche within foreign cultures is resistance due to cultural inertia and creative marketing of Tango Extranjero. Nevertheless, despite these impediments, there is demand for a niche for Tango de Salon and its associated social customs (e.g., cabeceo for dance invitation) within First World cultures. This niche is the traditional milonga, an environment designed for Tango de Salon, into which traditional milonga customs are incorporated, modeled after contemporary milongas of Buenos Aires. The primary problem with attempts at creation of this niche is that it is repeatedly threatened by invasion practitioners of Tango Extranjero, who represent the predominant tango subculture within First World communities, and fail to respect the traditional milonga customs and the desires of tango dancers who wish to support and maintain this niche. The primary objective of this blog post is to assert that the traditional milonga environment for Tango de Salon has the right to exist and that attendees to these events need to respect the parameters designed for this niche. Thus, with respect to tango dancing, there indeed has been evolution, but it should also be understood in terms of adaptation to different environmental (including cultural) niches. Arrogance is a separate dimension from tango evolution. Nevertheless, in the adaptation of tango to foreign cultures (i.e., Tango Extranjero), there has been a certain degree of arrogance expressed by some dancers in their imposition of foreign cultural values upon the environmental niche (the traditional milonga) that attempts to sustain Argentine tango cultural traditions.
OMG. Culturicide by ruthless First World rambos. Extinction of species. What is missing? Right. Global warming, climate catastrophe – of course also caused by the First World. Another threat to high people density dancing in close embrace – think of the dangers of overheating.
(How about a bit of Second World bashing for a change? I saw a couple of videos from Moscow…Chicho Frumboli, Eugenia Parilla, if you know what I mean). And China. Enter “Shanghai” in YouTube.
I just ask myself what all the clos embrace, cabeceo-invited dancing in my tango neighborhood means? Perhaps I am having hallucinations.
Dear R. Bonnono, actually I am afraid it might be easier to compare apples and oranges. At least there is consensus between biologists about which is what. In the case of different tango flavours, it is more complicated and actually would come down to some marketing related stuff. Are you dreaming of is some kind of international treaty, which defines a kind of certificate which is only granted when a product has certain properties? (as it happens, in my non-tango life I am working in international standardization). I would be curious to learn how you imagine the structure behind this. And I would also be curious – coming back to the evolutionary point of view – how such an “animal” would survive in the open nature.
To both you and TV, let’s leave it here – we don’t want to enter a repeat loop, don’t we? I hope our agreement of the “my house, my rules” principle still holds. Actually no International Tango Union for standardization is needed. Every organizer is free to define (and police) an event as he/she likes, and every tango dancer ios also free to take or leave such an offer.
Oh..by the way…you might be interested to read this (about another view on the “collision risk” issue): http://tangoforge.com/no-crash-trance/
After 17 years dancing in the Buenos Aires milongas, I can talk about changes and evolution I’ve seen here.
Chacarera was first introduced to the mix of music in La Viruta; today it’s included at the most traditional ones.
“Many violations of milonga codes are committed by foreigners.” There are foreigners who’ve traveled to BA for more than ten years who know more about the codes than many of the local dancers. First time travelers usually stand out in the crowd, but if they come from a location where the milonga codes are respected, they have no problem acclimating.
The milongueros viejos are aging and dying, and the milonga codes are dying with them. That’s the way it is. Only Cachirulo tries to maintain order.
There are many professional women now in the milongas who took up tango within the last few years. They, along with many foreign women, are changing the milonga codes. They initiate the cabeceo to men, and even invite men at the table. I’ve written about this and other things on Tango Chamuyo.
Not mentioned in the navigational topic is the blatant disregard for the dance floor. Many women, in a hurry to return to their first row table, walk along the edge of the dance floor against the flow of dancers, rather than using the aisle between rows of tables or waiting for the cortina music. Dancing to the cortina music is another practice that was absent 17 years ago. The tourists started the practice, and now the portenos join them.
Tango for export is a big business, but it’s not contributing to good dancing either here or abroad. One example is the women’s technique class offered at the Tango Milonguero encounter in August. The video description is: Designed to increase elegance, sensuality and musicality, the women’s technique class covers a thorough review of posture, balance and playing with the free leg in a reduced space. It is especially adapted to the milonguero embrace, where relaxing with one’s partner and using the music to dictate each step are especially important. Six elements will be explored: the walk, front and back ochos, the boleo, the cross and
the turn. The class will also include ornaments.” If tango is primarily a social dance in an embrace, women don’t need to focus on their feet. They are sensual by virtue of being in the arms of a partner. They share musicality in the embrace and move elegantly. Ornaments are sold because women believe they need to buy them to improve their tango. A friend from France has learned to dance with quiet feet after years of classes which sold ornaments that aren’t necessary. The end result is women are focusing on doing, not being, in the dance and music. They don’t know that men want their partners to be satisfied in the embrace and moving as one. Unfortunately, the most well-known teachers in Buenos Aires are on the frontlines of changing a social dance into one of that’s no longer recognized as tango.
Another great post as usual.
Today there are 30 practicas listed among the milongas in BA. I believe the number is more than 20 years ago because a younger generation is interested in learning, and there is no requirement to respect the milonga codes at practicas. New dancers don’t have to reach a certain level before getting on the dance floor as was the case in the 1940s and 50s. The first open practica was held more than 20 years ago at Cochabamba 444; before then practicas were exclusively for men. Today they are quasi-milongas that last until the wee hours of the morning without any requirement of city inspection laws. Cochabamba is still operating with a class by the same teacher, followed by the practica (and it costs as much as a milonga). It was the place where thinking about how milongueros did what they did got its start. Dissecting the dance has continued to replace the connection and feeling. That’s evolution.
These excellent observations from someone living in Buenos Aires for 17 years are greatly appreciated.
Dancing to the music of the cortina is also common in North America. This prevents clearing the floor for unobstructed use of the cabeceo at the start of the next tanda. This dancing can be controlled easily by the DJ not playing danceable music during the cortina.
Indeed there appears to be a great increase in the number of tango dance events advertised as ‘practicas’ in Buenos Aires in recent years and most of these practicas are those attended by young dancers, providing an informal atmosphere for learning to dance and socializing. Some are little more than a bar or coffee house with a makeshift floor. Many provide live music, most of which lacks the clear rhythm optimal for dancing tango. There is no gender segregated seating. The cabeceo is rarely used. In other words, except for the makeshift quality of the dance floor (although not in all cases), these are the conditions of most First World social dance events advertised as ‘milongas’. Problems occur when the conditions of these practicas encroach upon milongas where tango traditions are observed.
Personal observations over approximately 15 years of visiting Buenos Aires and attending milongas there on a regular basis indicate some apparent changes in these milongas.
– The frequency and duration of very crowded milonga conditions has decreased, probably due largely to economic circumstances prohibiting more frequent participation by both Argentines and tourists in milongas, although there appear to be more tango tourists in Buenos Aires milongas in recent years than in the early 2000s.
– Dress has become more casual over time. There are more men not wearing suits, a few even wearing blue jeans. More women are wearing pants or other casual clothing and fewer are wearing clothing appropriate for a formal dance or even the office workplace. This change in dress code includes porteños, even middle aged and older ones.
– There has been a rising epidemic of adornments by women in some milongas, mostly those attended by tango tourists.
– Navigational ability has deteriorated somewhat. Some of this deterioration is due to tango instructors showing off at milongas attended by tourists in order to sell tango lessons. Some of the remainder could probably be attributed to the students of these instructors.
Things that have apparently changed little in Buenos Aires milongas in the last 15 years include:
– The music played for dancing tango mostly remains unchanged. One could argue that the quality of the DJs in arranging music throughout the milonga has decreased, but that it is mostly subjective and a difficult case to prove.
– In a general sense, the style of dancing has mostly remained unchanged. Tango Estilo Milonguero still predominates in Milongas del Centro, although Tango Estilo del Barrio has made some inroads. One could argue that the quality of dancing has decreased but again this is subjective and difficult to prove except for the observation that navigation has deteriorated, as indicated by a higher rate of collision, even though floor density tends to be lower (or maybe because of it).
– The cabeceo is still the primary method used for dance invitation in Milongas del Centro. Gender segregated seating has been maintained.
According to Christine Denniston, traditional tango in the Golden Age included ganchos, boleos and moves which took the follower off her axis. Yes, this was not in downtown BsAs and was not the dance of the society doyens, but it was the dance of the neighborhoods in the south of BsAs. I also have friends whose grandparents danced in the ’40s and have heard the same from them.
Why do you seem to discount these traditional moves? Especially since, if well executed, they need not show off, need not consume any more dance space than a ocho-cortado or close embrace molinette, will not interrupt the flow of the rondo, and will not disturb the adjacent dancers, at least not if the nearby dancers are attending to their partners and not simply staring around acting as tango police. Same goes for woman’s adornos. If they stay within the confines of their “floor tile”, what’s wrong with them? Why do you seem to care? Why do you bother to even mention these “moves?”
Yes, there are rude dancers who do mess up the rondo, but the last time I was interfered with it was on a very crowded floor by a close embrace dancer who took a back step onto my partner. It happens.
Very well said New Mexico dancer, and I concur! I learned from quite old milongueros in Buenos Aires, known for their conservative approach to the traditions and dance. They did all those moves in their social dance.
If would be helpful to know the names of these milongueros and very instructive to have links to videos of them dancing using these movements, particularly in a milonga setting.
Tradition is what is passed down from previous generations. If indeed tango dancers in the south of Buenos Aires did include ganchos, high boleos, and off-axis movements in their social tango dancing during the Golden Age, as reported by Denniston, but these movements were excluded or frowned upon in this context by the end of the Golden Age and did not reappear with the revival of tango in the late 1980s, then these movements are not part of the Tango Tradition bequeathed upon contemporary Buenos Aires tango social dancing. These movements indeed have been part of Tango Escenario, and were extracted by the pioneers of Tango Nuevo in the 1990s and later brought (perhaps back) onto the dance floor at practicas nuevas, experimental laboratories for exploring the limits of possibilities for tango movements. At the majority of milongas in contemporary Buenos Aires, including these movements in one’s dance is a violation of the social code and repeated use may result in some intervention by a milonga organizer to prevent further occurrences.
Many defenders of the use of elements of Tango Escenario on the social dance floor in First World milongas justify this use by stating that as long as these movements do not interfere with other dancers, they should be considered acceptable. This neglects the aspect of Traditional Tango (that practiced in the majority of milongas in Buenos Aires today) that frowns upon exhibitionism and competitiveness in general on the dance floor. Observation of dancing at milongas in Buenos Aires today reveals, particularly for the most crowded venues closer to the city center, that the dancers on the floor are part of a collective that moves in unison in the ronda. Using movements that attract attention separates one from this shared experience. The focus in one’s dancing is communication with one’s partner in the embrace and connection with the movement of the collective, not establishing oneself as somehow differentiated from this shared experience.
Tango Traditionalists would like to create this environment in First World milongas. The widespread desire for this is indicated in the increasing prevalence of Encuentros Milongueros, where Traditional Tango is promoted and respected. Perhaps the question that should be asked is why do some Nontraditional Tango dancers insist upon imposing their interpretation of tango into an intended Traditional Milonga. The status quo in most First World tango communities is that the request for respect for Traditional Tango customs is interpreted as restrictive and therefore antisocial, rather than that violation of Traditional Milonga codes is antisocial. This is a reflection of the different cultural milieu in most First World communities compared to Buenos Aires. This difference in tango worldview needs to be worked out within tango communities. The simplest solution is that observed in Buenos Aires. When attending a milonga that observes tango traditions, one observes tango traditions. If one wants to dance otherwise, there are practicas nuevas and some informal tango social dance events advertised as milongas where a wider range of dance practices is tolerated. If Nontraditional Tango dancers in First World communities respected the codes established by a milonga organizer, there would be less conflict within tango communities.
Why do you use the term “First World”? What exactly do you mean by it? I find it a strange term.
I agree that the organizer of a milonga has the right to set the tone and mores of the milonga and no one should complain about it. And if they do, so what? In my experience, tango dancers love to complain about everything.
In my fourth world community we are a hodge-podge of types with all kinds of strange ideas about tango – traditional and otherwise — somehow each dancer finds their way and we can enjoy the discussion without coming to blows – at least so far. Newcomers are often attracted by the shiny objects of fancy combinations and steps. They will mature, or risk being “frowned up”, which no one wants!!!
First World countries are those with capitalist economies having widespread advanced technology, a large middle class and relatively low rates of poverty, and democratic political organization. This includes the USA, Canada, Western Europe, Finland, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. A similar definition and list is provided here, except that Turkey is included and Finland and Taiwan are excluded.
I continue to take exception to your use of Tango Escenario (Stage Tango) to describe what manifestly works well in the most crowded of milongas, at least works if properly executed and if permitted by the tango police. Small off-axis moves, and ganchos and boleos which remain well within the space of the couple, do not physically interfere with any other dancers. Yes, one must be sufficiently expert to execute these in very small spaces, but the purpose is NOT to draw attention to one’s dancing. Rather it is to create a lovely, shared experience between partners who are seeking a bit more than a walking hug. If well executed, small off-axis moves are observable only by the tango police, and while ganchos and boleos are more easily seen, they can be extraordinarily discrete. They can certainly be no more attention getting than a sharply executed ocho cortado.
With respect to tradition, I think it would be useful to quote from Christine Denniston’s book a bit more. I’ve excised portions only to keep the quote from being unreasonably long.
Pgs 75 & 76: “Another style, often referred to by people who had been dancing in the 1940’s as the ‘style of the 1950’s’, seems to have been popular in a small number of milongas … in the last years of the Golden Age. It was danced with short steps and relatively simple choreographic shapes… This style was ideally suited to small, crowded dance floors. Some Golden Age dancers I knew said they saw this style for the first time in the 1970’s, when the few milongas were small and the practicas had disappeared…
Some dancers of other Golden Age styles thought of this style as a backward step in the development of Tango. One dear friend of mine described the style … [as] ‘The style of a man who is looking for a girlfriend.”
This style is, of course, the one currently referred to as social, or club, or traditional, or milonguero style – choose your word.
I will point out, firstly, that the 50’s only constituted 25% or so of the golden age (1935-1955), and secondly that when the tango revival began in the 1980’s, dancers from the golden age were older. By 1990, which was the real beginning of the Tango Renaissance, any dancer from, say, 1945, was most likely 65 to 70 years old. One might thus claim that the close embrace/milonguero style is that which is not traditional, but rather it was only a tail-end charlie, occurring primarily after the height of the golden age.
An Argentine acquaintance of mine who began dancing in 1980 and learned directly from people who danced in the 40’s and early 50’s, claimed that the “milonguero” style was, in the ’80s, primarily the domain of the old Argentines who were no longer able to execute the social dance of their youth and those who danced only in the ’50s or later, and that, unfortunately in his opinion, their “milonguero” style became a driving force in the tango revival.
So which is it. Do you wish to dance “traditional” tango from the bulk of golden age (1940’s), or tango enfeebled by twenty plus years of disuse and military dictatorships, tango danced in small rooms so as not to attract attention from the military police.
The way in which Denniston trivializes Tango Milonguero suggests bias, either in information gathering, interpretation or intentionally in reporting. Her perspective contrasts with words of milongueros reported previously [Understanding Argentine Tango (with the Assistance of Milongueros): It’s not just another Ballroom Dance https://tangovoice.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/understanding-argentine-tango-with-the-assistance-of-milongueros-its-not-just-another-ballroom-dance/ )] who emphasize that emotional connection with partner and the music, not execution of a step repertoire, is a core feature of dancing tango. Inserting ganchos, high boleos, off-axis movements and the like into a tango dance takes the attention off the music, partner, and emotional communication, the concentration of the dance in the arms and the heart, and transfers it to the legs and the brain. Improvisation comes naturally without much thought when steps are simple; in contrast, improvisation based on exploring the many possibilities of movement compromises the achievement of a peaceful emotional connection with one’s partner. Perhaps indeed Tango Milonguero is designed for ‘a man who is looking for a girlfriend’, which is certainly part of human nature and not to be denigrated.
Saying that old age and declining physical abilities account for a simple repertoire of steps is misleading. Many of the dancers who began dancing tango again in the late 1980s were in their late 40s and early 50s. Gustavo Naveira (55+), Fabian Salas (52), and Chicho Frumboli (46) are about the same age as many of the dancers at milongas in the early days of the tango revival, and they do not appear to have lost the ability to execute complex movements. Tango stage dancers in their 60s and older, including Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves, Carlos Gavito, and Gloria and Eduardo Arquimbau, were still able to execute a variety of Stage Tango moves. In contrast, many of the dancers at Encuentros Milongueros are in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Dancing Tango Milonguero is a matter of choice for many who are capable of more physically challenging movements.
Regarding ‘tradition’, what has survived in the milongas from the Golden Age of Tango is Tango Milonguero (Estilo del Centro) and Tango Estilo del Barrio (sometimes called Estilo Villa Urquiza). Tango Milonguero is the predominant style of dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires today. This style of dancing and the milonga codigos are the model that Tango Traditionalists wish to recreate in First World milongas, but they meet with extensive opposition, both intentional and unintentional. Tango Escenario and its improvised descendant Tango Nuevo are popular in First World tango communities because this is what they were first exposed to by touring tango stage dancers who taught, and because spectacular movement oriented embrace deficient dancing is within the cultural norms of First World dance cultures. Nevertheless, many if not most experienced tango dancers acquire skills in and even prefer Tango Milonguero, not because they are getting older and losing physical skills, but because they have learned to appreciate the positive experiences of tango dancing based on connection (embrace), shared emotions, and subtle interpretation of the music.
Dancers who do not wish to abide by milonga codes and test their limits, e.g., by executing smaller versions of movements whose larger versions would be immediately disruptive or annoying to other dancers, are not friendly supporters of the local codigos; they are sabotaging the efforts of the milonga organizer and other dancers with their defiance, their belief that the milonga codes do not apply to them and that they can interpret behavioral expectations according to their own value system. They may suppose that their line crossing behaviors are minor infractions and have no significant impact, but their body language indicates that they are not part of the social contract and other dancers will perceive this. They may also impose their own limit testing behaviors on dance partners who are not expecting them. A woman may insert a quick (unled) gancho, a high boleo, embellish excessively, or even create a volcada in such a way as to disrupt the concentration of a man who is focusing on the embrace and music. A man may insert an off-axis movement, a deep sacada, a sudden sandwich, or an abrupt boleo in such a way as to surprise and disrupt the concentration of a woman who is focusing on the embrace and the music. In most First World tango communities, there are other (and usually more) milongas to attend where the milonga codes are more relaxed. One needs to ask why these code-limit-testers are even attending milongas where they do not abide by the customs established by the organizer and followed by other dancers present.
May I also add that the Capoeira analogy is apt because it exemplifies certain features of attempts to codify cultural practices:
1. Approaches to codify historical cultural practices can be more progressivist or traditionalist in orientation
– progressivist approaches such as Capoeira Regional emphasise modernity, evolution, progress, adaptation, globalisation, commercial viability and physical training;
– traditionalist approaches such as Capoeira Angola tend to emphasise historical continuity, cultural authenticity, cohesiveness, community and conviviality, social codes and patriarchy;
2. While these constellation of features provide family resemblance that distinguish the two paradigms, these comprise a spectrum such that on each dimension a Capoeira group will be more distant or closer to each paradigm.
3. That means that a capoeira group that is Regional can include practices characteristic of Capoeira Angola, and vice versa.
4. It means that Regional and Angola constitute paradigms and that each group constitutes a Gestalt of features.
5. It means that your level of happiness in any given group will depend on the degree to which this Gestalt conforms to your self image.
So my interpretation of TangoVoice is that he does not claim that Tango Milonguero is ‘traditional’ in some absolute sense, but that it is ‘traditionalist’ in its orientation, roughly in the way that Capoeira Angola is traditionalist.
Interestingly there is a neo-Marxist (strictly Anarchist) organisation running Capoeira Angola as a means of personal therapy, ‘liberation’ and resistance to oppression. Nonetheless, most Angola groups remain patriarchal in orientation, with few female mestres.
New Mexico dancer says “According to Christine Denniston, traditional tango in the Golden Age included ganchos, boleos and moves which took the follower off her axis.”
“So which is it. Do you wish to dance “traditional” tango from the bulk of golden age (1940’s), or tango enfeebled by twenty plus years of disuse and military dictatorships, tango danced in small rooms so as not to attract attention from the military police.”
This is a valid argument and it has to do with the putative fact that ‘there is no accounting for taste’.
That is why personally I feel that Tango Milonguero might be a better designation than Traditional Tango.
The tradition does exhibit some unity and some diversity and different people will pick and choose what they consider to be their preferred ‘paradigm’ of what is real Argentine tango.
Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out that concepts have a ‘family resemblance’ and this is definitely true of tango.
A good starting point seems to be that we can agree that there are several distinguishable sub-categories, so that we can agree that Tango Nuevo is not Tango Milonguero.
I think that’s progress.
We can also agree that a traditional milonga in Bs Asfollows codes that are usually not followed in non-traditional milongas in First World countries.
So we can agree that there is a difference between a Milonguero milonga (tradiitonal with a milonguero style of dancing) and an alternative or Nuevo milonga.
And so we can agree that some people prefer one and others prefer the other.
People who want a traditional milonga with milonguero dancing do not want to ‘police’ but rather they want to ‘exclude’.
They feel that they have a right to do so.
They prefer this type of dancing, which is to their taste.
And they have some reasons for doing so.
The argument is that the choreography and attitudes of other dancers seems incompatible with milonguero culture.
In other words, Milonguero is a sub-culture of the wider tango culture with a particular set of preferences and attitudes.
A comparative approach is always useful here.
In Capoeira, there was a point in time when the practitioners had to sit down and set down some rules for their practice in order for it to gain wider socia acceptance.
However, the Capoeira mestres could not agree on some central points, and so there was a split into two camps: a more progressive Capoeira Regional, and a more traditionalist Capoeira Angola.
They co-exist and there are mixes but generally speaking they are two distinct forms and sub-cultures of the wider Capoeira culture.
This exact same process is now taking place in Tango. The different sub-cultures in Tango emphasise different aspects as being of central significance: embrace, choreography, type of music, etc.
While it makes sense to me to speak of a traditional milonga, I agree that it may make less sense to speak of the Tango Milonguero style of dancing as being more traditional.
To say that practitioners of Tango Milonguero want to ‘police’ the others is like saying that if Capoeira Angola practitioners expect Regional visitors to their game to follow their rules they are ‘policing’.
They are similar but different and so require separate spaces and separate set of rules.
As someone who is trying to establish a traditional milonga among a tide of commercial faux milongas this approach is very promising. When we get students come to my class to our class our biggest task at the moment is trying to differentiate what we do from the other teachers who engage in the standard aggressive marketing and politics. As teachers we are struggling to get information about how to teach tango milonguero and how to organise our milongas.
The problem is that, unlike for us, the others can fall on well developed paradigms of tango shows, extravagant poses, and all the associated kitsch that draws in the crowd. And lets be honest, what we are ultimately fighting against is tango kitsch, although it seems that people can no longer tell the difference.
Anyway, I am really grateful that TangoVoice is taking steps towards addressing this problem. It means that we are not alone, and that there are other people elsewhere in the world who feel the way we do.
My perspective is not identical to TangoVoice in that I feel that TangoVoice is giving too much credit to the opposition. When I look at other dances, such as Salsa, Bachata, etc. I see exactly the same process of what might be called commercialising and commodifying what Ballroom people call ‘street Latin’: ripping the culture from it’s roots and selling a cheesy, tacky, kitsch version of it to the masses.
So when my friend from the Dominical Republic saw ‘Sensual Bachata’ that is being propagated on the local Latin dancing scene he was horrified. It’s exactly the same response that I imagine a lot of Argentines have when seeing what foreigners do to their tango. Still, I was equally horrified when I saw him trying to teach authentic Dominical Bachata.
The reason export tango is successful is that it is adapted to being marketed and taught. It’s as simple as that. I actually agree with Steve Jobs when he said that people don’t know what they want until you sell it to them. If export tango is in demand it is mainly because that is what is has been successfully marketed.
In other words, my view is that the reason these exported forms of tango are successful is simply that they have been aggresively and effectively marketed, whereas people who favour tango milonguero have been too soft and overly timid in promoting what they want.
Yokoito is the typical sort of individual, and one must ask why these people are so aggressively against tradition. My person observation is that traditionalism generally is meeting with aggressive opposition and that to fail to acknowledge the ideological roots of this opposition might be a mistake.
In other words, there are deeper motivations behind this opposition rooted in a worldview and a personality type that does not like the type of traditional patriarchal culture that created the tango. I mean, just consider that when you extol the 1940s or 1950s you are extolling a period whose attitudes are aggressively rejected and frowned upon by the typical university educated person in a major city in the US or Europe, ie., a person who has ‘liberal’ views.
I don’t say this easily, but quite honestly I have completely failed to find an alternative explanation for the level of hostility to the idea that there should be strict rules of conduct at a milonga, that one should follow the culture of the Golden Era, or that one prefers anything remotely ‘traditional’.
So this is my own hypothesis and frame of reference through which to view the situation and the opposition. And I endorse TangoVoice’s hardline approach (only I would be even more hardline). TangoVoice in my view is creating the seed of a movement to differentiate and promote a traditionalist approach to tango as the real tango, and as distinct from ‘commercial Street Latin’ movement that includes Salsa, Sensual Bachata, etc.
Very interesting post. Thank you. My only quibble is the reason for the rejection of traditional tango milonguero. I don’t think it is the result of liberal attitudes or a college education or that it reflects “tradition.” The contemporary scene in North America consists largely of college educated professionals of a liberal persuasion, especially among younger dancers. Tango, as we dance it today, outside of B.A., is abstracted from its origin. We accept the music, the forms, the codigos, and so on but not the political or social framework in which it developed (several military coups, state violence, and economic hardship). That’s not something that’s hard to accept. If people reject “tradition” and want to dance nuevo or avoid learning traditional tango, it’s a personal issue that has more to do with modernizing tango for the contemporary social scene. You find this in B.A. as well, however.
There have been several recent books that have analyzed the origins and history of tango in Argentina from a social standpoint. Wasn’t always pretty and the role of women was one of powerlessness and submission to male authority. Much of this is reflected in tango lyrics. Most people (many) dancing tango today are aware of this and understand it. But we still love the music and the dance and as long as men don’t try to become that “macho” guy in the song, it’s OK.
“The contemporary scene in North America consists largely of college educated professionals of a liberal persuasion, especially among younger dancers. Tango, as we dance it today, outside of B.A., is abstracted from its origin. We accept the music, the forms, the codigos, and so on but not the political or social framework in which it developed.”
Right, so what I’m asking is whther that’s viable. I think we have to be open and honest about our attitudes and ask ourselves seriously whether those are compatible.
It looks like they might be compatible, but given that we are trying to analyse the crash and burn of milonguero culture in Western countries we need to consider all the possibilities. Do I accept that sex slavery was a bad thing? Yes. Do I accept that women were subjected to male authority or that machismo is a bad thing? I think that’s very debatable. Does it matter to the issue at hand?
Well, under the post Creating a Tango-Brand I commented pointing out that it’s quite possible that the emergent workshop-jam-festival model of participatory dance was actually created within neo-Marxist dance and drama departments of American universities.
You might think me a conspiracy theorist, however, I have experienced first hand how Contact Improvisation has been completely feminised to the point where practitioners are afraid of even acknowledging the fact that a man, Steve Paxton, single-handedly created the form, nor do they like mentioning the fact that CI used to be, in its inception, a musculine technique requiring strength and technique.
Instead, it has been turned into a post-modern, academic, inclusive, partipatory form full of virtue signalling and dominated by political correctness.
Humanities in general are in the process of being scrubbed in terms of a ‘critique’ of white male supremacy and colonialism.
It’s a pretty slippery slope from virtue signalling to accusing (and fear of being accused) of toxic musculinity.
One thing I can say with some confidence is that miongueros have no time for any of that. My sense is that they follow the standard traditional conservative Catholic patriarchal worldview.
So the question I raise is whether this wider context of divergent worldviews is in fact what drives the developments in export tango.
El Polaco wrote: “When we get students come to my class to our class our biggest task at the moment is trying to differentiate what we do from the other teachers who engage in the standard aggressive marketing and politics. As teachers we are struggling to get information about how to teach tango milonguero”
It’s worth any such teacher asking himself: Have I ever met even one milonguero who learned to dance in classes?
“the reason these exported forms of tango are successful is simply that they have been aggresively and effectively marketed, whereas people who favour tango milonguero have been too soft and overly timid in promoting what they want.”
I think that’s only because the commercial tango dance appeals to commercialisers whereas traditional tango dance appeals to dancers. Dancers happy with a dance that speaks for itself and requires no promotion.
And also consider what constitutes success. The commercial forms succeed in very little except selling places in classes.
Where we are located faux tango teachers own the market. Without promotion and teaching we don’t have any milonga, only faux milongas.
El Polaco wrote: “Without promotion and teaching we don’t have any milonga, only faux milongas.”
Then it sounds like you’re trying to supply a demand that doesn’t exist.
Chris, I don’t really understand where you are coming from, but I get the impression that you are not really in favour of TangoVoice’s project. I don’t know where TangoVoice stands on this but if you and the other people on this forum are merely Tango tourists to Buenos Aires then that would render TangoVoices project or agenda a sort of a touristic enterprise whereby you people who, I am quite convinced, have tango tango lessons from teachers who have promoted their lessons in one way or another, have no interest in other people learning tango in classes. You are obviousl against dance teachers and against promotion. That makes absolutely no sense to me, and in my view it will only contribute to the continued marginalisation of tango milonguero.
So far, therefore, I don’t see anyone commenting here who has throughts that are any different than what I have aleady experiences repeatedly. You and the others express attitudes of Tango tourists. Your interest is to limit tango to those who have the time and money for frequent trips to Bs As, and are hostile to dance teachers, even when those teachers want to teach the Tango Milonguero style of dancing and to run milongas that apply the codes.
I learned to dance with teachers, including my local elder Argentine teachers, who in fact held (suprise surprise) classes, as well as American teachers and Argentine show teachers such as Zotto, Bonaventura, etc.
I am not against the teaching or marketing of tango. So we have no agreement on this at all. And what you say makes exactly zero sense.
If your and Felicity’s agenda is for Milonguero to be some sort of an exclusive touristic club of retirees who congregate in Bs As on regular occasions, go for it.
To say that the necessity to promote indicates lack of demand is just such obvious nonsense. You can revel in your fantasies of non-taught and non-promoted Tango Milonguero, good luck with that.
I would suggest that TanvoVoice take down this site since, by the same impeccable logic there is no need for it.
In general, the tone of the discussion suggests that there is a significant interest in tango tourism, and no interest at all in tango teaching and promotion.
I can see you’re piqued, and again, I’m sorry. But I think it’s rather unfair to direct that at Chris who has been characteristically mild-mannered.
I’m sorry too that with your derogatory term “tango tourists” you seem irrationally opposed to people visiting BsAs to for example “see what it’s like”.
It is sad when the judgement of smart, articulate and engaged people is clouded by assumptions and suppositions. I’ve noticed how many teachers tell people not just what to think, but believe they have a sort of all-powerful x-ray vision which tells them better than the people themselves, what those people do in fact think, compared to the simpler and more traditional ways of finding out what people in fact think.
– “I don’t know where TangoVoice stands on this but if you and the other people on this forum are merely Tango tourists to Buenos Aires…”
– whereby you people who, I am quite convinced, have tango tango lessons from teachers
– You and the others express attitudes of Tango tourists. Your interest is to limit tango to those who have the time and money for frequent trips to Bs As,
– If your and Felicity’s agenda is for Milonguero to be some sort of an exclusive touristic club of retirees…
Re: “I would suggest that TanvoVoice take down this site since, by the same impeccable logic there is no need for it.”
On the contrary, it’s so useful.
“In other words, except for the makeshift quality of the dance floor (although not in all cases), these are the conditions of most First World social dance events advertised as ‘milongas’.” Right on. Non-traditional faux milongas are really practicas.
This really cannot be over-emphasised: they are practicas for intermediate level dancers to work over the show moves that they learn in workshops. With exhibitions they function as marketing channels for workshops.
What we need to recognise here is that what TangoVoice calls First World Milonga is really a business model. In other words, I think it is perhaps useful to look at the situation from a purely business and marketing perspective.
When I started learning tango with a local Argentine teacher the guy charged $10. He had a few students and no real way of marketing his classes. He, and others like him, had exactly zero marketing acumen.
Now, what I have seen repeatedly is the phenomenon of what I would call the Instant Tango Teacher: tango teacher in 6 months or less.
These are people who looked at the old school milonguero with disdain and basically knew they were going to teach tango before the end of their first tango class.
This was before YouTube when you needed to use these old guys to get some moves to set up your own shop, engage in aggressive marketing, and push the milonguero off the market completely.
These people, since they knew that they wouldn’t cut it as actual tango teachers, started calling themsevels ‘organisers’, taught the Paso Basico, Ochos, etc.
Once they were able to establish a basic faux milonga (really a practica) moved into the global tango marketing business by getting professional couples from Bs As to come over to the city to do a floorshow and workshops.
So really, the nature of the faux milonga is the product of the business model whereby people can quickly set up shop and engage in marketing of tango product.
You need to get people to ‘dance’ quickly, but you don’t want them to dance well since they need to feel that they need more tango product delivered in the form of regular workshops. They need to be struggling on the dancefloor.
You then present them with value-added product that will take their dancing to the next level. They will see the product in the exhibitionist moves of the other couple who took previous workshops and are now happily displaying the goods they have purchased.
You purchase value when you dance more and look better dancing. That’s how you cash in on your investment in the workshops.
If you take away the show moves, the women’s technique, the adornos, the exhibitions, and the festivals, in other words, all the marketing paraphernalia that milongueros despise so much, you have basically taken away the core elements of the faux milonga business model.
This explains why a lot of discussion whether you should have certain moves or adornos etc. is really a red-herring. Because if your business model does not incentivise the marketing of tango product then someone doing adornos won’t matter one way or another.
The problem arises because the organisers of faux milongas see dollar signs when people ask them about moves or embellishments.
So my view is that there is a need for the development of a business model which incentivises the provision of a positive milonga experience over the provision of instruction.
In the faux milonga business model the value is in climbing the hierarchy of moves and techniques. The organiser’s task from the outset is to train the students in the idea that they become better dancers when they have more moves and technique of a certain sort.
In education this is called ‘meta-language’. A teacher controls the classroom discourse and indirectly controls how students think about the subject matter.
So in my view the traditional milonga project therefore is to define an alternative business model or paradigm that is built around an authentic milonga experience, that incentivises the provision and maintenance of a traditional milonga, and that disincentivises the marketing practices of faux milongas.
An idea that we are testing currently is to charge very little for classes and to use content marketing techniques to affect students perceptions about tango and value in tango. We’ll see how we go.
@El Polaco: You make plenty of good points. I’m surprised though by what I read here when I compare it with some of what I see on your blog.
You need to be more specific
Some examples then:
1. You yourself teach tango dance class unlike the milongueros who did not learn in class.
2. Your “About the coach” section mentions teachers like Miguel Zotto. Isn’t for example this the tango-for-export you profess to be opposed to?
3. Sad to see in an often interesting article the use of that terminology for the tango-for-export market: “leader” and “follower”.
4. In the same article, you demonstrate by the diagram of lanes – an imported interpretation of the ronda. This mistaken import is used by those convinced they’re “implementing” authentic milonga etiquette – when it fact misinterpretations like these just set up rules to try to control and “encourage” dancers – a very teacherly trait.
5. I’ve seen your video of a class and believe that exercises such as these will have no effect other than doing anything but the most damaging harm to those attending. I find it just about too sad to watch.
6. The music in that video is just not played in the most traditional milongas in Buenos Aires. I went out every night for three weeks, often to more than one milonga and listened carefully to track after track, noting a lot of it. I spoke to all the all DJs I though were good checking what they played and what they didn’t. Several of these are the most respected tango DJs in Buenos Aires . I appreciate you are playing slow and steady music for beginners but nothing approached that dirge-like quality I hear in the video, which tracks unfortunately I still still hear in some European milongas. In BA, if perhaps because of a replacement DJ any tracks even started to approach something slightly like these (and they almost never did), people complained to each other and few danced. In the milongas with poor music of course all sorts of things were played. But I saw the same faces going round the milongas I went to and wasn’t surprsied by that – they followed the good music..
7. I’m also curious that for someone who would seem to want to be part of a discussion you do not allow comments on your blog.
ok, got it.
I really do not get this. Business model? Is someone out there making a living from holding milongas and teaching? No other job? They don’t also teach gyrotronics, or yoga to make ends meet? Don’t do software development “no the side?” Okay. A few do. But those I know who are doing so are _very_ few in number, and are your basic household names in the world of tango.
I think that most who are involved in teaching, sponsoring workshops, holding milongas, “real” or “faux”, etc, are doing so out of a love of the dance. Either that, or I’m a fool for actually loosing money by buying music to DJ with, barely breaking even, if that, for rental of dance and teaching space, etc.
I agree. But you need to at the very least break even. Also, I always see who do it conviviality drop out so I wonder if that can work at all.
Let me expand on this. Since I’ve been talking about Capoeira Angola in my other comments, while I agree with NM Dancer that teaching Tango is not going to make you money, it is my general observation looking at Tango, Capoeira and Contact Improvisation that the teachers and organisers who survive are business minded, whereas the others seem just drop out.
A Capoeira Angola teacher in Sydney could not pay the rent for his studio. His attitude that he is teaching ‘culture’ and was essentially resting on his laurels.
I saw the same attitude in traditional teachers there. They simply refused to use any business acumen.
By contrast, Capoeira Brasil is a branded international Capoeira brand that is expanding rapidly, and now is the first large group to run classes in Asia.
So conviviality and localism is all great, but based on my observations and experience it simply does not work in terms of developing the form on a larger scale, and even ends up failing locally as even a non-profit needs to pay it’s costs.
Even not-for-profits need to use standard marketing techniques to recruit students and participants if the whole thing is not to implode.
I’ve been spending 100s of dollars just to run my class in terms of website costs, studio rental, music, camera equipment, and hours of work apart from the actual teaching itself.
I would add that there is really no reason to equate Tango Milonguero and traditionalism with not-for-profit. Not-for-profit tango associations do not do a better job than teachers who engage in marketing.
In fact, I would say that they do a worse job, and don’t really add anything. They are usually parasitic on the promotional efforts of those who promote and market tango.
What I think is a more viable model is the sort of content-marketing strategy that I see employed by Marcel Solis and Monica Paz. Content marketing seems to be a viable alternative to the use of the faux milonga and stage tango for promotion.
So I favour developing a business model as opposed to the virtue signalling ‘community building’ approach.
‘Business model’ does not mean that it’s going to make you rich, but merely that you will at least cover the costs in terms of the money and time you put into the project, and that you employ standard business and marketing practices that give your project a chance of surviving.
So I agree with TangoVoice that what is needed is the development of a separate Tango Milonguero brand. I think that Monica Paz is using these techniques quite effectively.
El Polaco wrote: “So in my view the traditional milonga project therefore is to define an alternative business model or paradigm that is built around an authentic milonga experience, that incentivises the provision and maintenance of a traditional milonga, and that disincentivises the marketing practices of faux milongas.”
We’ve seen some good growth in that over the last ten years here in the UK. A significant proportion of events now advertised as milongas eschew the two most damaging faux tango dance marketing practices – classes and adverts (shows).
Chris, that sounds promising. It would certainly help to have some sort of a directory of traditional milongas around the world as that is a major value-add for any teacher of tango milonguero. Also, if we don’t teach classes we won’t have a traditional milonga as the standard teaching practice in our area (Hong King, Shenzhen and Guangzhou) does not favour it in that it’s a workshop centric tango scene. I think workshops esp by show dancers are most damaging whereas classes in basic skills are unavoidable. I’m undecided about workshops by milonguero teachers like Monica Paz, for example.
El Polaco wrote: “Also, if we don’t teach classes we won’t have a traditional milonga as [it is] the standard teaching practice in our area”
This would be the standard teaching practice in your area that led to all the fake milongas in your area? 🙂
“classes in basic skills are unavoidable”
Avoiding classes can’t be that hard given the average Argentine succeeded in doing so throughout the entire Golden Age of Tango! 🙂
The standard teaching practice around the HK-Guangdong area does not favour a traditional milonga. I am the only Milonguero teacher here.
I guess, unlike Argentines, my Chinese student have not been blessed with the tango gene.
Chris wrote on Codes and Customs: “This is because the Argentine milongas in which it originates are fundamentally exclusive – they are for people who really dance tango. In UK milongas following that tradition, the system works well, to the same end. Where the system is as unpopular as described above is in the kind of UK milongas that are described (most often by their promotors) as INclusive – which to be honest means inclusive of people who don’t really dance tango. Ironically the only milongas that have teachers telling people of these “rules they have to obey” are the inclusive kind – because inclusive milongas are the only kind that have (and need) teaching, period.”
What does this even mean? You seem to have created some unusual categories such as ‘real’ and ‘not real’, whereby some people who are ‘real’ dancers didn’t learn from teachers, and other people who are ‘not real’ did need or learn from teachers. This, to me at least, is a completely novel and unusual way of talking. Is there some alternate tango universe in which tango dancers don’t need to learn how to dance?
I know that there are ways of learning which are formal or systematic, and others which are informal or less systematic (usually because they are individualised). And I accept that tango used to be taught in an informal and less systematic way. But unlike with learning your first language, I have never heard that tango can be learned simply by osmosis, without any explicit instruction, whether it’s informally from a family member or formally from a teacher.
I would indeed claim that apart from learning your first language and learning how to walk, everything else that is taught to any degree of expertise, including how to read and write, needs to be taught explicitly, by someone, who is thereby a teacher. Picking things up, like picking up a language, or teaching yourself an instrument, are possible, but you rarely get any level of high achievement without instruction. So perhaps Chris is claiming that tango should be danced only by dance prodigies who are therefore ‘real’ dancers?
On Monica Paz’s Youtube channel she interviews many authentic milongueros and milongueras and it is clear that they all learned tango by some form of instruction from someone who knew how to dance it, and were not simply born knowing how to dance, nor did any of them learn to dance at the milonga simply by ‘picking it up’ dancing at milongas. Some of them learned from an elder brother whereas some learned from a teacher who held formal lessons.
So I am very much surprised to hear that ‘real’ milongueros did not need to learn tango, or that learning from a teacher you are not a ‘real’ dancer. How can I access Chris’s alternative ‘exclusive’ tango universe, or am I permanently exluded to left to languish in the faux tango universe of people who were ‘taught’?
“But unlike with learning your first language, I have never heard that tango can be learned simply by osmosis, without any explicit instruction, whether it’s informally from a family member or formally from a teacher.” Until now, of course..
“Until now, of course …” see below
El Polaco wrote: “On Monica Paz’s Youtube channel she interviews many authentic milongueros and milongueras and it is clear that they all learned tango by some form of instruction … Some of them learned from an elder brother whereas some learned from a teacher who held formal lessons.
I take it this is a response to my: “It’s worth any such teacher asking himself: Have I ever met even one milonguero who learned to dance in classes?”
Amongst all the Monica Paz milonguero interviews I’ve viewed, I found not one milonguero saying he’d learned in classes or from a teacher who held formal lessons.
Quite the contrary. Roberto Fortunato “In those days there were no teachers.“.
Corroborated by researchers such as Christine Denniston. “There was no such thing as a Tango teacher and no such thing as a beginners’ Tango class before the Tango revival began in the mid 1980s.”
“I would indeed claim that apart from learning your first language and learning how to walk, everything else that is taught to any degree of expertise, including how to read and write, needs to be taught explicitly”
This, as many of your comments, erroneously conflates learning and teaching – a mistake made by many tango dance teachers who see no difference between the two. In the real world, these two activities are very different, and all too often very separate.
“Is there some alternate tango universe in which tango dancers don’t need to learn how to dance? … I am very much surprised to hear that ‘real’ milongueros did not need to learn tango”
What you heard wasn’t that real milongueros did not need to learn tango.
What you heard was that milongueros did not need teachers to learn tango..
I learned the waltz from my grandma. Sadly, she didn’t know the Argentine tango. Nor do my students have family members nor friends who can teach them informally. You may have your own egocentric preferences. What you are proposing has no practical application outside of Argentina and so is irrelevant.
El Polaco wrote: “What you are proposing has no practical application outside of Argentina and so is irrelevant.”
That should be a large-lettered notice on the entrance door of every classroom claiming to teach traditional tango dance.
Just think how many newcomers it would save from giving up hope of ever being able to learn to dance tango.
Following the links from some of the people commenting here I finally found what I’m looking for:http://www.siempremilonguero.org/milonguero-style-teachers/. It seems like there is a number of milonguero teachers in the USA, and it seems to me that if you support them instead of all the blah blah blah and tango tourism, therapy, hand-wringing about Nuevo and all the rest that I see evident here you can develop the wider tango milonguero scene. Focus your efforts by keeping it simple, esp. focus on the dancing and maintaining the culture, and supporting the teachers dedicated to this and you can succeed. I find the information here useful but I wonder if it hasn’t lost its point. Good luck!
TV said: “Inserting ganchos, high boleos, off-axis movements and the like into a tango dance takes the attention off the music, partner, and emotional communication, the concentration of the dance in the arms and the heart, and transfers it to the legs and the brain. Improvisation comes naturally without much thought when steps are simple; ….”
This statement may be more reflective of your (presumed) relatively limited experience dancing with ganchos, off-axis movements, etc. than of any truth. In time, an apt dancer will incorporate these “steps” into the dance with no more thought than he/she gives to an ocho-cortado, a molinette, or even a simple, well executed walking step which is, after all, not remotely simple, especially when in close embrace.
Twelve years of dancing daily with volcadas and colgadas have, for me, transformed these from apparently complex to quite simple steps. They are tools to interpret the music and connect with my partner in a joyous and heartfelt manner. They do not transfer concentration to the legs and brain. They flow naturally and easily into my improvisation and musical interpretation.
Yes, they may not be permitted in BsAs milongas, and it may irk you when people dance them in the First World, but they absolutely do not interfere with an emotional and musical connection with your partner if you are sufficiently skilled.
And I say this as someone who also dances heart-to-heart close embrace, having studied, for example, with a half-dozen of the instructors listed on the siempermilonguero web page, including _many, many_ hours of one-on-one private lessons from several of them.
It may be possible that there exist exceptional dancers who, after years of daily practice with the use of volcadas, colgadas, ganchos, back sacadas and the like, while simultaneously absorbing the secrets of tango milonguero through many hours of private lessons with siempremilonguero accredited instructors, are able without cerebral intervention to achieve a close emotional connection with partner, expression of the music and ease in improvisation using the aforementioned complex movements. This contrasts with a much greater number of aging and physically challenged dancers who are destined to achieve these desired states employing only those simplest of movements used by milongueros viejos in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Appearances, logic, and personal experience indeed can be deceiving.
NM dancer wrote: “Yes, they may not be permitted in BsAs milongas, and it may irk you when people dance them in the First World, but they absolutely do not interfere with an emotional and musical connection with your partner if you are sufficiently skilled.
Video example, please. Because I don’t see the non-interfering versions of these show steps in any milonga I frequent.
I think you know yourself that you would find reasons to explain away every single video. Putting in serious effort would be a waste of time. But pulling from my memory- enter “siracusa paris texas” in YouTube. Sorry – no EdO…. And watch the dancer’s faces.
> enter “siracusa paris texas” in YouTube
I see show performers dancing to electronic club music from a band famous for a previous album having the word tango in its title.
> Sorry – no EdO
And no tango, and no social dancing.
Chris – Two issues.
1. Not interfering with other dancers. This is easy. A volcada can be _very_ small. Essentially a puente, which is danced by milongueros, with a front cross on the exit. A single axis turn is a very small colgada. It requires less space than a milonguero molinette. And a larger colgada, in which the feet touch but bodies are separated by several inches, is also quite easy and remains quite small. A high boleo can be performed in which the follow’s leg remains well within the couple’s space – even between the partners if properly led. Same with a well executed gancho which resembles a leg wrap more than a giant show kick. This is especially easy with a gancho en favor which can be executed very slowly, very gracefully, and yet remain very small. That you don’t see this is either because you haven’t a trained eye to observe this, or your local nuevo dancers are not terribly competent and/or they are simply jerks.
2. My original comment was referring to emotional connection. Close embrace dancers would often have one believe that a close emotional connection requires a close physical connection. I would disagree. Prostitutes and their Johns have a _very_ close physical connection, but, I suspect, not a lot of emotional connection. OTOH, I find that being able to look directly into my partner’s face/eyes/etc. can create a very close emotional connection. Perhaps even too close for many. Perhaps that is one of the attractions of close embrace for some dancers. Physically close, but detached. Hmmmm.
Again, video example, please. 🙂
Come on NM, ask a friend to video you dancing these things so we can actually see what you mean. Picture paints a thousand words and all that. Besides, it’d be more interesting and fun. I’m not against some of your moves with the right partner, right conditions. It’s just that I don’t often find myself in those conditions, never mind with the right guy. So it’s all mostly theory for me.
I don’t know what you mean by “milonguero molinette” though. I mean there are milongueros and milongueros. And I rarely saw the BA type do even that – not the older ones, anyway. It was confirmed when some European guys complained the BA women in these milongas wouldn’t e.g. go round them. Or were resistant to it. After feeling what they’re used to and guessing what they like, that was no surprise to me!
Will do, but not immediately. Right now I’m off to the Boulder Tango Festival to dance with the devils 🙂
Very well said. I would add that the degree of connection isn’t really visible. I chose the Youtube hint to Chris exactly while these question for video proof is silly. Poor camera craftsmanship and adverse conditions at social milongas make videos terrible to watch. The Paris Texas video shows the essence of musicality and connection, and this is what happens in social dancing to EdO music too. The whole exhibitionism theme misses this point completely because no one can really see what goes on in people’s minds.
Yokoito wrote: “I chose the Youtube hint to Chris exactly while these question for video proof is silly. Poor camera craftsmanship and adverse conditions at social milongas make videos terrible to watch.”
One does find social dance videos free from poor camera craftsmanship and adverse conditions.
And funnily enough they are generally free from these allegedly non-invasive nuevo dancers too.
El Polaco said: ” I actually agree with Steve Jobs when he said that people don’t know what they want until you sell it to them. If export tango is in demand it is mainly because that is what is has been successfully marketed.”
And:“Without promotion and teaching we don’t have any milonga, only faux milongas.”
Chris said: “Then it sounds like you’re trying to supply a demand that doesn’t exist.”
El Polcao said:“To say that the necessity to promote indicates lack of demand is just such obvious nonsense.”
In an area with no teaching, no milongas and no obvious demand it is hard to see how good dancing could happen. While I wouldn’t take the aggressive position implied by the Steve Jobs quote I think it is true that a non-dancing area probably has potential dancers in it.
Teachers see that as an opportunity to sell dance to them, or among those more intentionally benevolent to “help develop a tango dance community”. And so new, potential dancers end up attending class and may have their own usually fairly faux milonga, even if it is (supposedly) relatively move-free . The trouble is, all being new they have nothing real to copy, no real milonga, no behaviours to observe, and most of all no partners who can actually dance.
I know of just such a place that started this way. It has classes, practicas and milongas. The teachers are not, I believe, commercially motivated. I can say the dancers are much better than many beginners, largely because all dancers can dance both roles. But they still “think dance” because they do class. (It so happens they are also a very alternative scene.). The effects of thinking dance in their case are probably less severe because they are nearly all young and there is a good atmosphere.
Another scene that started from nothing based on classes with older people produces largely horrendous dancing. The organisers though have seen real milongas and in many other ways – if not the music – the milonga is nice. A third more commercial scene that started from essentially nothing also has poor dancing, the organisers though experienced do not I think believe a traditional milonga setup is necessarily of value and therefore the music, conditions and dancing are all far from traditional. They are warm though, so the atmosphere for those who are happy with that arrangement is I think nice.
A milonga in a place where dancing starts from scratch is usually a simulacrum. The way the solution to this problem was put to me when I asked about it, was a frustratingly slow one. It was less about advertising for people to dance with, more (I suppose) about finding or coming across them. I suppose in essence, maybe it was about not forcing things. Indeed, I do meet quite a number of people who tell me they are interested in dance, locally.
It was more then, I think, about going to other milongas with like-minded people and finding more of you there or where you live, among friends or through talking to people. And when there were enough such people in an area, then a milonga or practica locally becomes more viable. Social dancing therefore that starts from very small and perhaps tentative beginnings but which starts from a core of people who actually do want to embrace one another in dance. People who have experienced the real conditions of a milonga, knowing what those are and having an awareness of what works and what does not. I believe this will work because a) I have seen to Milonga Popular. b) I have danced with brand new dancers in both roles, gone with them to milongas and seen the astonishing and rapid results. I just don’t know enough such people near me.
Happily, the dancers from the scene I mentioned did go with their teachers and in groups to visit other milongas in the area to see how different one from another milongas can be, but in general they still think dance (and are still alternative). So I cannot say that a scene that starts from nothing is impossible, nor that it produces poor dancers.
So I have not yet seen dancing in an area where there is as yet no good milongas happen in a way that produces good dancing and the kind of milongas I want to go to. Similarly, I have not personally seen the “organic” way happen either yet. I agree, it is a problem.
Even if felt inclined to or capable of teaching I couldn’t embrace just anyone who walked in off the street. And a dance without a mutually desired embrace isn’t a dance for me. Sometimes, people say to me “But don’t you think private lessons are OK?” I say, no, not for me. Because you’re paying someone to embrace you, someone who wouldn’t, through choice. And besides, we usually have another, less savoury name for that kind of thing. That’s not a real dance, it’s a simulacrum, it’s fake – and when a connection is fakery, what of value really, can you learn from that?
Thank you Facility, Chris, NM Dancer and TV for your wholehearted support (sarcasm). I came here because there were opinions expressed that I agreed with expecting that teaching and attempting to educate myself about tango milonguero would be viewed as at the very least a worthwhile project. Instead, I have encountered everything ranging from total ignorance from TangoVoice, to utter contempt from New Mexico Dancer, and something along that continuum from the others who apparently feel that tango teachers are contemptible scum or just a waste of space. I asked TV to remove my comments from this toxic congregation of pseudo tango afficionados. Since he has not done so I will tell you directly what I think of you bunch: you make me want to vomit.
I think that this is a bit over the top. I accept that most milongas in BsAs are move-restrictive, but disagree with TV’s opinions about a number of things with respect to those restricted moves. HOWEVER, I don’t believe that I have expressed contempt for you or for milonguero dancers. As I said in one of my posts, I have spent a huge amount of time and money learning how to dance in a never-broken heart-to-heart embrace, and I will, in fact, be at the practica this evening at the Bien Milonguero school, dancing full-on milonguero style. Yes, they are very restrictive in what moves they allow on their floor, and I accept that, if I am dancing at their practica, I will be in close embrace and will dance a very restricted set of steps. Oh well.
I do not think that teaching people to dance close embrace is easy, and do not envy you your project. Personally, I started in a “salon” style embrace (partially open vee-shape) and it was only after several years of dance that I was able to move into a full-on close embrace while not stepping on my partner, leading clearly and effectively, etc. It is not easy, and I do respect dancers who are good at “milonguero” style with it’s restricted set of steps. I personally do not enjoy it as much as when I’m able to dance more expressively, but that is a matter of taste.
Again, my main disagreement with TV, and many close embrace dancers, is with their claim that one can’t maintain a close emotional connection while dancing “restricted” steps, and that one can’t dance the “restricted” steps in a small, unobtrusive manner that can. if permitted, work very well in the flow of a densely packed milonga.
NM, we may not like the same things but oh, in comparison to what I have heard today it is so nice to hear, in disagreement, a calm voice.
There is in the end only one explanation: Anglo-Neo-Marxism in tango. All the blah blah blah masks a tacit and not-so-tacit hostility which seems completel irrational unless you factor in the fact that university educated Anglos are brainwashed in neo-Marxism. It makes perfect sense. All the talk about the ‘Rights’ and ‘Manifestos’ of milongueros falls square within the standard victim narrative of Marxism. Hostility towards teachers and teaching falls into the anarchist strain of this sick ideology. Well, good to know what we are dealing with. A sick nihilist ideology.
Puzzling. I don’t teach currently, but have in the past. I do take as many classes as I can afford, almost irrespective of the teacher’s style and abilities, and I never fail to learn something. If nothing else, I get to practice walking with a variety of people who may not (yet) attend milongas and with whom I might not otherwise dance. Or I’ll take the class as a follow (I usually lead) to help with gende imbalance. If beginner, intermediate and advanced classes are offered, I take all of them. I attend festivals and take a full spectrum of workshops and don’t just buy the “milonga only” pass.
I know no trained dancers, ballet, modern, lindy hop, tango, whatever, who don’t continue with classes. I have a friend with over 20 years of tango under his belt, who learned at the knee of his Argentine father, who teaches internationally, and who nevertheless attends classes with a local instructor. Yes, some street dancers pooh-pooh classes and teachers, but I don’t. I can always learn things.
Funny…now as you say it..you make be right. Trying to occupy a moral higher ground, ignorance of counter argument, endless streams of words, closed (citation) loops. Yes. It fits.
I’m glad you posted all of that TV. When all comments are posted it allows one to see all sides of persona. Also it seems that China Milonguero and El Polcao are one and the same. Great that these comments remain as a testament to that character from Milonga Lola and as a warning to anyone who encounters him. It is useful to know that someone who can appear insightful, ostensibly reasonable and calm can descend with startling rapidity into strange violence in words and anger.
I’m sure I won’t be alone in considering that Anglo-Neo-Marxism In Tango is possibly also the same character. The idioms e.g. “blah blah blah” the similarity in supposition and assumption, the wrong-headedness (all “university educated Anglos” are marxist) and the sheer vitriol all suggest it.
I’m on an extended holiday in the Philippines now and quite bored as surf is flat so I thought I might come back and exchange further insults with this bunch of retards.
I must admit I am devastated to hear that Felicity and her fellow tango tourists will not be visiting my milonga, though I am totally not surprised that she’s ‘doxing’ me as the Anglo-Neo-Marxism in Tango … you got me Felicity! … well, by now we know that these are standard feminist tactics.
Well, it is fortunate that I am not employed nor in any way economically dependent on the defunct Anglo economy run by Neo-Marxists.
Instead, my trusty employers are traditionalist, fiercely family oriented descendants of Confucius who hold Anglo-Neo-Marxists in utter contempt as they ravage Western economies through hard work, family values, and patriarchy.
Which is the reason I live in China and why, contra NMD, I do not need to learn programming nor even earn money through dance teaching.
Still, his comments, so condescending to the struggling PhD-barista millennials in his country, expose the Anglo empire for the heap of crap that it really is.
But I am guessing from my own critical analysis of Felicity’s discourse, like NMD she belongs to the generation of baby-boomers who have exploited her Anglo economy and is currently living off the backs of the hapless PhD in Gender Studies barista millenials, as she spends her retirement on trips to milongas in South America and Amsterdam … everything and everyone else can go to hell as long as I … me me me me …
Sally Potter, the role model.
Baby boomers and their pseudo-educated hippie-barista-PhD in Gender Studies offspring are the most retarded curse on this planet at the moment, as we can see exhibited presently.
There is a nice, quite sympathetic towards me, I think, commentary by Gerhard Riedl, the Milonga Fuehrer, (http://milongafuehrer.blogspot.de/2016/09/tango-voice-iii-der-widerspruch-wachst.html) which I eventually deciphered using Google Translate from the German, which pokes jokes at this discussion, but seems understanding of my predicament with respect to your Neo-Marxist lot.
Six degrees of separation: he linked on his blog to a website by a woman Vio, an American I guess, who now operates in Germany but was active spreading her weirdo Nuevo seed in my hometown a few years back.
He links this post which is interesting: http://tangoforge.com/no-crash-trance.
I’m guessing Vio has a degree in dance and gender studies but seems not to have to earn a living as a barista or freelance logo designer, or anything else for that matter … just guessing as I don’t know many baristas who can afford to shift between Australia and Germany willy nilly promoting tango nuevo.
What I find interesting from this discussion, from her postings, some discussion I’ve recently had with Tango Nuevo promoters in Hong Kong, etc etc, is just how polarised, really how vile and toxic, the exchange has become.
The camps are totally polarised as people are realising that there is no coexistence.
I understand why our side is so sore, but until now I couldn’t really understand what their problem is.
I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog that this situation has happened in Capoeira. Two camps separated and simply coexist.
Tango Voice, if you ignore for a second the confused Marxist orientation, provides several useful and thought provoking insights and perspectives that have informed my thinking over the recent days and given me some new perspectives on the issues.
If you read my blog I divide the approaches into Tango Salon, Tango Nuevo, and Tango Milonguero.
Tango Salon is what my teacher referred to as Tango Academico, as opposed to his own ‘natural’ tango. It’s the stuff derived in the 90s from stage shows and the barrios of Bs As.
Tango Nuevo is in this lineage as pretty much the same people will go for it.
What strikes me is the level of rebelliousness and hostility of the Nuevo bastard child to the traditionalist ‘Neo-Victorians’ and their “bigoted moralistic policing”.
According to Vio, at Tango Nuevo ‘raves’ you can explore your creativity, improvise, and you don’t have to be limited by such things as tandas, embrace or gender roles.
I love it!
I just don’t understand why Tango Milonguero is ‘neo-Victorian’ … are Milongueros against sex?
I’d say that dancing chest-to-chest is less Victorian than Nuevo dancing.
I just don’t understand is why the hostility to traditionalism??
I mean, they are free to do what they want, aren’t they? Are traditionalists attempting to stop people organising Tango Nuevo events??
In the same vein, the pseudo-tango-aficionados present here are also free to engage in all the vacuous tango tourism (read ‘cultural appropriation’) that they want.
We live in a Laissez Faire world … we don’t live under a communist dictatorship with police breaking up Tango Nuevo parties, do we?
I mean, traditionalists like me, who actually truly represent Tango Milonguero (if I may say so myself) have no problem with people dancing Salsa, Ballroom, Bachata, or anything else.
I don’t want to dance Ballroom or Tango Nuevo.
But Ballroom dancers do not call their events Milongas, nor do they come and dance Ballroom Tango at milongas (as far as I know).
Why am I called a moralistic bigot if I want to dance tango a particular way?
All we really want is clear *labelling* so that when I go to a ‘Milonga’ I don’t end up at a Tango Nuevo party or something else.
But when you want some labelling apparently that makes you a ‘moralising bigot’.
That seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it?
it seems that the issue is in fact *language*: control of language or Political Correctness.
In other words: what I call Anglo Neo-Marxism in Tango.
ANMIT cannot tolerate traditionalism, patriarchy and gender roles and seeks to destroy it.
Simply: Third-wave feminists cannot tolerate opposition.
It seeks to take over tango just as it seeks to take over universities, dance departments, etc.
If you read Vio’s blog what you see is a series of ‘redefinitions’.
But Vio and her ilk are not satisfied to use this new Politically Correct language. They want us to stop using the language of Traditionalism … because it’s ‘bigoted moralising’ and therefore needs to be *eradicated*.
And, as Fecility demonstrates presently, they engage in the standard controlling tactics such as doxing and try to get people fired from their jobs, anyone, in particular any *white man*, who opposes the cultural Neo-Marxist creed.
The ‘white man’ is important here: Felicity is a traditionalist as long as this involves oppressed Latino man (cf., Sally Potter and Pablo Veron).
White man are either recist and sexist oppressors, or they are bitter losers. White women are strong, liberated and charmed by Latino man whose machismo is not oppressive or sexist but charming.
Tango Voice: do you really want a leftist/statist solution through legislation? Really? Good luck to you!
I am a bigoted moralistic, conservative in favour of free market solution to this leftist scourge which does not involve Western feminists or their Simps.
Peronist left-wing populism destroyed one of the richest economies in the world. Feminism is now in the process of destroying your society: your economy and your culture.
Wow. You know nothing about me. I might be a Native American, perhaps a Zia Indian and former a uranium miner, bald from radiation sickness. Or I might be a Capitalist running-dog, owner of Kinti Mining, getting rich off the backs of the Zia slaving in my open pit mine. (Trying to sound like a good little Marxist. Was I successful?) Maybe an auto mechanic working 16-hour days. Or an unemployed PhD barista in a local coffee shop. A failed novelist? Perhaps even a tango gigolo, living off my rich girlfriend. Oh, the opportunities abound.
I think you, like The Donald, should both stick to tweets. Less opportunity to stick your foot in your mouth. Oh. Wait. Belay that.
In the post on DJ-ing for the traditionalist milonga the author provides useful information about the music appropriate to tango milonguero. This is a usefule educational resource for organising tango milonguero events and is the type of thing we need to promote tango milonguero. The fact is that until recently it has been very difficult to locate such resources online in any systematic form without spending weeks or months and loads of trial and error.
Having access to educational resources and a pedagogical approach is important to deal with the problem the author raises in this blog. Lets consider the following passages where the author deals with the possible options to deal with the problem of this blog, the putative “marginalisation” of tango milonguero, all of which are, apparently, depressingly unsatisfying. One of the options considered is this:
Complete segregation from the larger Tango Extranjero community … having a closed tango community, with invitation to events dependent upon known acceptance of Argentine milonga codes or some reasonable approximation of this environment. The advantage of this strategy is that there is an increased likelihood of having milongas without the distractions of exhibitionism … recruiting dancers for this community, which usually will necessitate providing instruction in Tango de Salon and education regarding Argentine milonga codes.</strong)?
However, by creating a closed community, there will be fewer attendees at events and less income … will not be possible to afford inviting visiting instructors, events which generate interest, attendance, and even generate sufficient income … instructors may need to have lower expectations regarding remuneration for teaching….
An additional disadvantage of this strategy is that community segregation may be viewed by the larger Tango Extranjero community as hostile, exclusionary and elitist, and negative propaganda may circulate that will hinder recruitment. Of course, even the insistence upon adherence to Argentine milonga codes in a more open community (option #2 above) may lead to labeling of the pro-Argentine culture proponents as ‘tango police’ or anachronistic resistors to the inevitable evolution of tango.
However, note that if a group were formed, for example, to reenact dance culture from the Civil War period in the United States (and such groups exist), with the expectation that participants acquire costumes and abide by the customs of the era, it is unlikely this group would be seen as elitist and exclusionary, yet if dancers wish to promote tango as it is danced in its country of origin and have expectations of participants abiding by the customs of the culture, this may be perceived as an anti-social activity.
The source of this conflict is that promoters and practitioners of Tango Extranjero typically believe they have the rights of inheritance to the tango cultural legacy, along with its inevitable evolution, and by democratic majority rule they have the right, within their One Tango Philosophy, to impose their misguided and misappropriated tango cultural values upon even those people who wish to transplant Argentine tango culture as intact as is possible. In this context, the arrogance is not in the separatist movement, but rather in the culturally insensitive majority. … Thus, segregation from the larger Tango Extranjero community has substantial social costs and economic risks.
Here the author correctly identifies
(a) the need to create a separate ‘brand’, a different ‘thing’;
(b) the need for education of students in the dance and the culture.
Excellent point! Should be obvious, right? So why does it read so depressingly pessimistic?
The author cites the many “dangers” including
(a) being viewed by the larger Tango Extranjero community as hostile, exclusionary and elitist
(b) being labelled as “tango police”; and
(c) being viewed as anti-social
(d) circulation of negative propaganda
(e) some sort of arrogance on the part of Tango Estrangeiro as to their right to impose their cultural values on the practice and evolution of tango.
I think that the author seems somewhat confused about the issues here. I would instead interpret the situation as being the following:
– (d) and (e) represent simply the marketing efforts of Export Tango promoters;
– (a) to (c) represent the current, already existing view of tango milonguero practitioners behaviour vis-a-vis the marketing efforts of Export Tango promoters.
– The grounds for (e) is that Export Tango promoters have an pedagogical approach and an economic system (a “business model”) for promoting tango, whereas tango milonguero people do not.
– Because tango milonguero people do not have a pedagogical approach or a business model they will have few people attending and make little or no money.
– As they claim that their tango has authenticity and the other does not they undemine the marketing efforts of Export Tango promoters.
So we may then ask what are the reasons for the emergence of a situation whereby
(a) there exists an Export Tango industry which has a pedagogical approach and a viable business model; and
(b) the “real” “authentic” Tango Milonguero which does NOT have a pedagogical approach or a business model.
My answer to this is the following:
(a) tango has been taught by professional studio dancers;
(b) “Milongueros” don’t know how to teach tango; and
(c) Westerners who like Tango Milonguero are tourists who want to transplant milonguero culture to their home country but have no interest in the “evolving” the form so that (i) it is more inclusive, (ii) there is a pedagogical approach, and (iii) there is a business model;
Thus, this situation (ie., the emergence of Export Tango and failure of Tango Milonguero outside of Argentina) originates with with Argentines themselves as well as the “traditionalists” who adhere to Milonguero. Export Tango has been set up not by foreigners but mainly by Argentines themselves selling their services abroad. Thus, in “Inside Tango Argentino” Antón Gazenbeek writes:
It is an interesting fact to see that throughout the history of tango it has been the Argentines themselves who have never known how (or wanted to know how) to appreciate the richness and beauty of their most representative cultural icon: the tango.
They have repeatedly throughout the past century looked down upon the tango, mocked it. and only when it has reached international acceptance have they “reclaimed” it as their own and used it as a superficial trend or as a machine of cheap commercialism. This occurred in the l9l0s after the tango’s success in Paris, and once again in the l980s after Tango Argentino‘s success around the world, and it is happening now in 2008 around the world.
In the years leading up to Tango Argentino, tango had all but died in Argentina, and the few professional tango dancers that were working in the country were those in the show. What there were, however, was a large number of professional folkloric, jazz, modern, and ballet dancers.
After the success of Tango Argentino abroad, news came back to
Argentina that folklore was out, and tango was in. Literally ovemight hundreds of ex-folklore dancers emerged as tango dancers and, even worse, as tango teachers.
(a) The Export Tango industry is created by Argentine professional studio dancers (of folk, ballet, jazz, etc.) and
(b) The professional and newbie (jump-on-the-bandwagon) studio dancers outside of Argentina. In other words, the studio dance industry.
(c) Both Argentines and non-Argentines have a vested economic interest in maintaining this industry
(d) As authenticity of what they teach is part of the marketing image any alternative claim to this will be perceived as a threat.
The so-called “traditionalists”, on the other hand, play into their hand because of their regressive attitudes:
(a) Traditionalists have a knee-jerk preference for upmarket tourism;
(b) Traditionalists have an image problem in coming across as snobs who venerate traditions which they seek to preserve and are preoccupied with rules and conventions;
(c) Traditionalists have either failed or have no interest in developing a pedagogical approach and a business model for what they want;
(d) Traditionalists meet with hostility and derision attempts to develop these;
Thus, when one seeks tango milonguero one finds that a lot of the blogs are devoted to documenting people’s touristic experiences in Buenos Aires, and discussing the mysterious rules and codes surrounding the milongas. What one does not find among these traditionalist tourists is any positive effort to develop inclusive and marketable pedagogical resources that allow people to learn and promote this form. Suggestions in that direction are systematically met with hostility and derision.
It is more accurate to say that the adherents to tango milonguero are “afficionado tourists” or “connoiseurs” who are not interested in tango milonguero per se, but are more interested in being superior and aloof, in posturing and demonstrating their superior knowledge of “real” and “authentic” tango culture. It is therefore very easy for Export Tango promoters to dismiss them as self-congratulatory, ineffectual, irritating or hostile.
If they actually did something like what was suggested by the author above, ie., started teaching and organising under a separate brand, the Export Tango promoters couldn’t do anything about it. But they won’t. Because their main interest is tourism and their attitudes are regressive they refuse to develop the form to be more inclusive and pedagogical, and to support people who want to promote and popularise the form, which is what is necessary. They then complain when they are accused of elitism and hostility. But that’s exactly how they appear online. They create a massive image problem for those of us who really want to develop Tango Milonguero, besides the fact that they are hostile to us, and are therefore part of the problem, and not part of the solution for Tango Milonguero outside of Argentina.
A truly useful resource for those seeking to promote tango milonguero. The author, once again, exhibits great analytical skill and demonstrates his academic credentials and experience in empirical inquiry in the social sciences, congruent with the larger project of seeking social justice for retiree tango tourists. The question remains, however, whether there is a point in time at which the author intends to address the pressing issue of the extremely narrow (due to its being “marginalised”?) interest in tango milonguero (not only in North America, which by the way, is not any meaningful regional designation from the point of view of *Argentine* tango) and the concomitant incongruence of seeking universal human rights to traditional milongas “of 100, even 80 or 60 Buenos Aires experienced dancers”. I feel truly sorry for the marginalised “Buenos Aires experienced dancers” but who will stand up to fight for the human rights of the even more marginalised non-Buenos Aires experienced dancers, and thus make this project somewhat less narrow … minded?
There is no intention to marginalize non-Buenos Aires experienced dancers. However, the leaders in advocating a Buenos Aires milonga environment will be those who have experienced this environment. The goal of these leaders is to demonstrate to others the value of this experience.
To be clear, it is not Tango Estilo Milonguero per se as a manner of dancing that is the primary focus of the Tango Voice blog posts. Tango Estilo del Barrio is also a culturally valid manner of dancing tango. The larger goal is the advocacy of creation and support of a traditional (i.e., Buenos Aires) milonga environment in which to dance tango. This, of course, includes dancing in a manner where the circulating ronda is respected (i.e., minimization of navigational hazards), and there is no exhibitionism on the dance floor. Dancers who do not embrace (which has erroneously been called ‘open embrace style’ tango) are not chastised or excluded from participation, although it is hoped that these dancers will recognize and value the unique connection achieved in embracing one’s partner [Understanding Argentine Tango (with the Assistance of Milongueros): It’s not just another Ballroom Dance]. Notably, there is a very small percentage of dancers in Buenos Aires milongas who do not embrace while dancing. Nevertheless, the wider goal here is promotion of observance of customs that are not directly associated with the manner of dancing, including playing only Classic Tango music for dancing, use of the cabeceo for dance invitation, and elimination of teaching on the dance floor. There is no doubt that creation of a traditional milonga environment is challenging, as addressed in the current post and in previous posts [e.g., Factors Affecting the Survival of Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions in Non-supportive First World Cultural Environments (The Dominance of Tango Extranjero)].
In First World cultures, the lack of interest in Tango Milonguero, or Tango de Salon in general, is due to two factors – the lack of exposure to this manner of dancing [Tango de Salon: the Tango of the Milonga (Part II of ‘Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression’)], as well as the greater acceptability of types of tango dancing that emphasize exhibitionism (i.e., Tango Nuevo and Tango Escenario), which have characteristics more similar to popular social dances in First World cultures (Trans-Cultural Diffusion and Adaptation of Tango Argentino in the 20th Century). The decision of tango community organizers to promote non-social forms of tango dancing is based primarily upon economics [Factors Affecting the Survival of Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions in Non-supportive First World Cultural Environments (The Dominance of Tango Extranjero)]. Nevertheless, there is also some resistance to dancing Tango de Salon (and Tango Milonguero in particular), because there is a hesitancy among many in First World cultures to dance in a maintained chest-to-chest contact as a general practice (Variations in the Tango Embrace – ‘Open Embrace’ and ‘Close Embrace’ Styles of Tango: The Evidence from Buenos Aires Milongas).
There are many strategies that can be used to promote Tango de Salon (or more specifically, Tango Milonguero). For example, milonga organizers can structure the milonga environment to inhibit exhibitionism (e.g., small dance floor, playing only Classic Tango music) (The Role of the Milonga Organizer in Creating an Environment Promoting Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions). However, in many if not most cases, the best results, i.e., all dancers at a milonga dancing Tango de Salon, as is done in Buenos Aires milongas, only can be achieved in most First World tango communities by intentional separation of traditional dancers from the remainder of the community [Factors Affecting the Survival of Argentine Tango Cultural Traditions in Non-supportive First World Cultural Environments (The Dominance of Tango Extranjero)]. This requires developing a subcommunity within the larger tango community where Argentine tango cultural traditions are taught and their value reinforced. This may be analogous to or actually consist of forming a club where members are taught and expected to abide by certain customs, i.e., the tango cultural traditions of Buenos Aires milongas. It requires a commitment of club organizers and members to support these cultural values. However, the likelihood of success is typically low because of the overwhelming advantages of Tango Extranjero in recruitment and retention, due in large part to the appropriation of the ‘tango’ label by proponents of the One Tango Philosophy. Identifying Tango de Salon as Traditional Tango or Argentine Tango may assist in creating the distinction needed for tango consumers to recognize the separation (and perhaps value) of Tango de Salon from the more generalized nonspecific heterogeneous creation that is Tango Extranjero (Creating a Tango-Brand: The Role of Language in the Marginalization of Argentine Tango).
Thank you for clarifying that. I can now see where the core points of disagreement might be. Let me respond to each point in turn:
There is no intention to marginalize non-Buenos Aires experienced dancers. However, the leaders in advocating a Buenos Aires milonga environment will be those who have experienced this environment. The goal of these leaders is to demonstrate to others the value of this experience.
This is ambiguous. It can be interpreted in a number of ways, eg.,
(a) Only BAs experienced people have the right or the credentials to lead a “Tango Milonguero Movement”;
(b) Only BAs experienced people have the necessary skills to demonstrate the value of Tango Milonguero;
(c) Although (a) and (b) are false, it is likely that only BAs experienced people will take on this role;
I think that (a) is false, unless a basis for such a right can be demonstrated and I doubt that it can; (b) is false; and (c) may or may not be true.
What I think would be better is:
(d) BAs experienced people can provide the necessary information and support for other people to organise Tango Milonguero classes and events. I think this is true and would appreciate it (but see below).
To be clear, it is not Tango Estilo Milonguero per se as a manner of dancing that is the primary focus of the Tango Voice blog posts . . . as addressed in the current post and in previous posts.
True, if what you mean here is that we want the organisers to institute and enforce following the Codigos and play traditional Tango music according to BAs rules you laid out. I agree with all of that. Again, I don’t see why you need (a) or (b) above for that.
In First World cultures, the lack of interest in Tango Milonguero, or Tango de Salon in general, is due to two factors – the lack of exposure to this manner of dancing . . .
True. But you don’t need to go to BAs to be exposed to this manner of dancing. There is the internet, and a teacher can expose sts to this manner of dancing. I did not need to be exposed to tango in BAs to adopt this manner of dancing. It was transmitted to me by some local teachers.
as well as the greater acceptability of types of tango dancing that emphasize exhibitionism . . ., which have characteristics more similar to popular social dances in First World cultures. The decision of tango community organizers to promote non-social forms of tango dancing is based primarily upon economics …
True. This is important. Economics is important (see below).
Nevertheless, there is also some resistance to dancing Tango de Salon (and Tango Milonguero in particular), because there is a hesitancy among many in First World cultures to dance in a maintained chest-to-chest contact as a general practice.
False. I don’t see a lot of people having a problem dancing in ‘close embrace’. The problem is that close embrace is taught within an Export Tango framework so that people move in and out. It is up to the teacher to teach the correct technique for sustained close embrace (see below).
There are many strategies that can be used to promote Tango Milonguero.
True. However, these must include two factors: economics and pedagogy. You will not succeed without these factors. This is the basic problem of Tango Milonguero which I do not see well-addressed in this blog or by the discussants.
For example, milonga organizers can structure the milonga environment to inhibit exhibitionism . . . It requires a commitment of club organizers and members to support these cultural values.
True. You need to develop a separate Tango Milonguero “brand” or “concept” that separates it. However, caveats:
(a) the concept must be workable, “doable”, and teachable,
(b) it must not be excessively complex and undigestable
(c) it must not refer to ‘mysterious’ social codes that people can’t learn unless they spend 20 years at BAs milongas;
(d) it must not be based on elitist and touristic attitudes that require people to travel to BAs unless they want to or have the means to.
I really like your analogy of a “historical re-enactment club” and I think this is absolutely the right way to go. It must be accessible, teachable and learnable, and so requires people who have the necessary skill set to make it so (see below).
However, the likelihood of success is typically low because of the overwhelming advantages of Tango Extranjero in recruitment and retention, due in large part to the appropriation of the ‘tango’ label by proponents of the One Tango Philosophy.
False. The One Tango Philosophy is a marketing ploy to give adapted Export Tango forms legitimacy and authenticity. But this is not the cause of the situation. Instead, the Export Tango industry is successful because
(a) it is organised and steadfastly supported by Argentines: the Argentine professional studio dancers and the Argentine government;
(b) it has a teaching system based on studio dance teaching pedagogy that is common to all dance;
(c) it has a business model that has been developed for all studio dances;
By contrast, Tango Milonguero adherents have been either unwilling or unable to develop these for tango milonguero. It makes no difference whether you’re from BAs or not, few people can actually teach tango milonguero and there is no system to teach it therefore/because most studio dancers won’t touch it (not sure which way the causation goes here).
Identifying Tango de Salon as Traditional Tango or Argentine Tango may assist in creating the distinction needed for tango consumers to recognize the separation (and perhaps value) of Tango de Salon from the more generalized nonspecific heterogeneous creation that is Tango Extranjero
True. However, while it is certainly necessary to create a distinct “brand” or “concept”, this is not sufficient.
BAs experience is not sufficient to teach or organise dance. I learned with several older “traditional” (ie., non-professional, non-academic) dancers from BAs, who spent their entire lives dancing at BAs milongas, some of whom were as good as any of the milongueros you see on Youtube videos. I liked and respected them and learned a lot from them. However, what they had in common was
(a) they were unskilled at teaching tango in a systematic way;
(b) they were unskilled at running their classes and events in an economical way.
As a consequence, they had few students and did not have a great deal of success. This is in the ’90s, at a time when there was virtually no competition from the Export Tango industry. When they encountered any competition they simply packed up and left.
The reality is that in the modern world studio space is at a premium and saying “Practica, practica, practica” after a handful of classes does not constitute effective teaching.
So while I agree that BAs experienced people will likely have a central role in promoting Tango Milonguero, you will also need people who have the following skill set for which BAs experience is nether necessary nor sufficient:
(a) Basic understanding of dance pedagogy – there must be an effort to develop systematic teaching for Tango Milonguero;
(b) Basic understanding of studio dance marketing – there must be an understanding of the means of attracting students;
(c) Above average dancing skills – students expect their teachers to be good dancers.
So I would say that if you want your project to move foward you are going to have to cooperate with people who have experience within the studio dance world, even if you absolutely hate that fact and long for the good old days when tango was taught by the uncle in the living room.
El Polaco said “(a)the concept must be workable, “doable”, and teachable”
Only teachers need it to be teachable.
Everyone else needs only that it be learnable.
“saying “Practica, practica, practica” after a handful of classes does not constitute effective teaching.”
No problem there.
The objective is not teaching (except for those trying to earn money from it).
The objective is learning.
Tango Voice wrote: “In First World cultures, the lack of interest in Tango Milonguero, or Tango de Salon in general, is due to two factors … ”
You omitted the most important factor: First World ears generally don’t like tango.
By the way, it’s not a ‘lack’. The zero level of interest shown by most people is fully adequate to meet their needs.
The comments quoted was in response to El Polaco’s question regarding Tango Milonguero, a style of dancing.
Nevertheless, it is true that many people in First World countries are not interested in tango as a dance because they dislike the Classic Tango music that accompanies it. This explains why many tango entrepreneurs use Tango Alternative Music as bait to attract students to tango dancing.
I think we have to take into account that people are not sufficiently informed on the matter, both teachers, organisers and consequently also the students. A lot of teachers and organisers that I have come across have very little experience, ie., they get into organising as soon as they can get around the floor. I’ve seen this in Australia and I see this in Asia. They then find what’s most easily accessible.
I don’t think you can make a judgement about what people like or don’t like if this is the case. My observation is that the way people are taught to dance tango makes it difficult for them to dance to, eg., D’Arienzo as it’s too fast, and most teachers in Export Tango teach a ‘smooth’ non-rhythmic way of dancing, which is no good for music over 65bpm, or if there’s a strong rhythm anyway.
So there needs to be some empirical evidence that people opt for non-classical music if they were taught to dance to it, or that they are immunised from liking classical music if they are exposed to alternative tango music. Again, I would go back to the Steve Jobs point on this one: most people don’t know what they want until you give it to them.
El Polaco wrote: “A lot of teachers and organisers that I have come across have very little experience”
No surprise there.
To be accepted as a so-called teacher, one must meet only the expectations of people who can’t dance. That requires no more experience than a couple of years of classes from someone else who can’t really dance.
Compare with what it takes to be accepted as a dancer: one must meet the expectations of those who can dance. So it is no surprise we find so many who make the grade as experienced teachers fail the grade as experienced dancers.
TangoVoice wrote: “The comments quoted was in response to El Polaco’s question regarding Tango Milonguero, a style of dancing.
El Polaco’s question’s Reply link is missing, so I used the nearest I found.
Only teachers need it to be teachable. Everyone else needs only that it be learnable.
“saying “Practica, practica, practica” after a handful of classes does not constitute effective teaching.”
No problem there.
Yes, learners have needs and teachers have needs. Both sets of needs have to be met within a systematic learning context. You adhere to the idea of naturalistic learning, but you’ve never spelled out coherently how it’s supposed to work, or why that’s the only way, so your comments are purely of a negative or “trolling” character. It may be your preference to learn the traditional way, but you need to show that this has application within the project of promoting Tango Milonguero. If you can give any evidence that what you are offering is anything other than mere trolling we might have an argument.
The objective is not teaching (except for those trying to earn money from it).
The objective is learning.
Once again, you need to show that there is anything more wrong with “trying to earn money” from dance teaching and organising than from earning money in any other way. But you’ve never bothered to do so. You’re just repeating the same talking points. Again, trolling.
To be accepted as a so-called teacher, one must meet only the expectations of people who can’t dance. That requires no more experience than a couple of years of classes from someone else who can’t really dance.
Compare with what it takes to be accepted as a dancer: one must meet the expectations of those who can dance. So it is no surprise we find so many who make the grade as experienced teachers fail the grade as experienced dancers.
I agree. Generally speaking, in tango as in anything else the dictum “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” applies to tango with a vengeance. So most people have learned tango either wholly or at some time in their career from people who can’t actually dance tango. This is not particularly a problem if
(a) they come across competent dancers/teachers at some stage to get correction or technique input, or they’re especially good at being self-taught;
(b) they learn the technique to a level high enough to be able to dance competently at a milonga;
I used to resent those salsa teachers who can’t dance tango but are making money teaching tango classes. But the fact is that I can barely be bothered teaching beginners myself so in a way they’re doing us all a service.
El Polaco wrote: “naturalistic learning … If you can give any evidence … you need to show that this has application within the project of promoting Tango Milonguero.”
Have you ever visited a BA milonga??
Have you ever visited a BA milonga??
This does not apply outside of BA.
The Buenos Aires milonga experience is critical to an understanding of Tango Milonguero. One cannot claim legitimately that one knows what comprises the Tango Milonguero (read ‘Traditional Tango’) experience (dance, music, and surrounding customs) unless one has been there and immersed oneself in it. Gaining competence in speaking Spanish is also a necessary part of understanding the social environment of the milonga. One cannot claim to know or teach Traditional Tango with credibility unless one has had this experience.
Chris wrote: “Have you ever visited a BA milonga??”
El Polaco wrote: “This does not apply outside of BA.”
I’ll take that as a No.
“you need to show that this has application within the project of promoting Tango Milonguero.”
You’re saying I need to show that the way milongueros learned has application to the way milongueros dance (what you label “Tango Milonguero”).
Sorry, but the task of showing that to a tango dance instructor who can’t already see it is one I’ll have to leave to a miracle worker.
“You adhere to the idea of naturalistic learning, you’ve never spelled out coherently … why that’s the only way”
It’s not the only way.
It is the traditional way.
The way everyone learned before theatrical dance performers’ recent invention of the methodic/systematic commercialised instructor-directed way promoted by yourself and the many tango dance instructors like yourself.
“Today, people teach methodic ways and tango, the real one, does not have a method because it is a feeling. Technique and choreography? It’s only for performance. It is a tango that has been learned for hours and hours for show business.”
Those are the words of Ricardo Vidort. A milonguero.
El Polaco wrote> the fact is that I can barely be bothered teaching beginners myself
Odd because my understanding is teaching beginners was where the money is in that world. And you have to snag them early to get and keep them on that hook before anyone else influences them.
Felicity wrote: Odd because my understanding is teaching beginners was where the money is in that world. And you have to snag them early to get and keep them on that hook before anyone else influences them.
Let me offer an analogy which may or may not make sense to you. There is currently a trend in weight training called Crossfit [
video of Crossfit here] which uses a lot of different exercises and keeps people busy. This system is very marketable and is good business. It has a good business model for mass appeal.
Veteran weight training coach Mark Rippetoe is critical of Crossfit, and argues for a minimalist approach to strength training which he calls Starting Strength [video of Starting Strength here], which he argues produces superior results and fewer injuries.
However, because Starting Strength has less variety of exercises, demands significantly greater training of coaches, and requires commitment and adherence to the system by trainees to a more rigid system which some people will find boring, it is less marketable and appeals to a narrower set of people.
Mark Rippetoe is realistic about this. He has a business model and a marketing strategy appropriate to his product. He does what he calls “narrowcasting” (as opposed to “broadcasting”). He recognises that, unlike Crossfit, his method will appeal to a narrower niche of people. For example, although he trains young people, he recognises that his method will appeal more to older trainees. In other words, he understands his target audience – a basic skill in business marketing.
Now, some clients of Starting Strength coaches may have done prior training with Crossfit. But doing Crossfit does not immunise them from doing and benefitting from Starting Strength when they decide to switch.
However, Rippetoe does not set out to market to the Crossfit demographic, because he recognises that they have different personal characteristics from what he, through his experience, identified as the people who are likely to be attracted to Starting Strength, ie., people who want a simple system to get strong as efficiently as possible.
Because he has presence on Youtube and other social media, the Crossfit people are likely to become aware of his method at some stage, and may decide to try it out when they are ready. But he is upfront about what he is offering, which is a method for getting strong and not mere exercise. He is clear in differentiating himself from Crossfit and in communicating the value of what he is offering: all important marketing strategies.
Likewise, Tango Milonguero teachers need to recognise that their approach to tango will have a narrower appeal, that it’s a niche market, and so need to be “narrowcasting”. It is less relevant whether they teach complete beginners, or people who have previously studied Export Tango.
But narrowcasting does not mean tourism, informal “natural” learning, elitism, or non-academic approach through practice and experience. It does not mean appealing to Buenos Aires experienced dancers.
On the contrary, for the niche Tango Milonguero brand to succeed it must be based on competence, professionalism, proper training and experience in both dancing and teaching (as opposed to hyperbolic statements about what is ‘real’, and mere opinion), in knowledge of dance pedagogy and basic business skills.
Finally, to say that you have basic business skills does not mean that you are money-grubbing, just that you have basic competence in running any sort of organisation that has any chance of success which, at minimum, must mean that you don’t get mowed down by the competition.
Perhaps it would be best not to view the spread of Tango Milonguero in terms of a ‘business model’. In economic terms, Tango Milonguero is not as marketable as is Tango Extranjero within First World cultures. It would be better to view Tango Milonguero in terms of a cultural model, that of Traditional (Argentine) Tango. There is the dance Tango Milonguero, the Classic Tango music, the milonga customs, and even the historical context, all of which comprise the tango experience. In attracting people to Traditional Tango, one needs to emphasize the uniqueness of the experience – the connection with one’s partner in the embrace and the joint connection to the music [Understanding Argentine Tango (with the Assistance of Milongueros): It’s not just another Ballroom Dance], as well as the rituals of the cabeceo, the sharing of the dance experience throughout a tanda, the flow of energy from tanda to tanda. By emphasizing tango culture, those newly exposed to tango will be given the opportunity to understand its value as something to which a person can form an internalized attachment, something more than an acquired skill that one can demonstrate externally to peers.
Tango Voice wrote: Perhaps it would be best not to view the spread of Tango Milonguero in terms of a ‘business model’. In economic terms, Tango Milonguero is not as marketable as is Tango Extranjero within First World cultures.
We agree here. I’m not forcing anyone to think in terms of a business model. However, I make two points:
(a) the cause of the success of Export Tango and the failure of Tango Milonguero is NOT any One Tango Philosophy, but the fact that the former is built around a business model common to all dance forms;
(b) one should not fault teachers for engaging in marketing as some sort of money-grubbing, but accept that all schools that are not government run and funded, and where students are in one way or another coerced to attend, any business or cultural organisation needs to engage in some form of marketing or promotion in order to attract customers, members or students and therefore to remain viable.
(c) people who think otherwise believe that tango dancers and milongas apparently grow on trees, or are yielded by uncles in living rooms, ie., they are either not living in reality or are exhibiting some sort of narcissism.
It would be better to view Tango Milonguero in terms of a cultural model, that of Traditional (Argentine) Tango. There is the dance Tango Milonguero, the Classic Tango music, the milonga customs, and even the historical context, all of which comprise the tango experience.
Agreed. However, this must not be construed in touristic or elitist terms that limit tango to a few privileged tourists with time and money for frequent trips to BA. It must be rendered such as to be accessible and capable of being provided and promoted.
In attracting people to Traditional Tango, one needs to emphasize the uniqueness of the experience – the connection with one’s partner in the embrace and the joint connection to the music [Understanding Argentine Tango (with the Assistance of Milongueros): It’s not just another Ballroom Dance], as well as the rituals of the cabeceo, the sharing of the dance experience throughout a tanda, the flow of energy from tanda to tanda. By emphasizing tango culture, those newly exposed to tango will be given the opportunity to understand its value as something to which a person can form an internalized attachment, something more than an acquired skill that one can demonstrate externally to peers.
There is a lot there to unpack. For example, how do you communicate the “uniqueness of the experience” and the “connection with one’s partner” without coming across as philosophical, introspective, and rendering the feelings ineffable, confusing, or worse still, just boring?
I had a teacher who practiced this approach to teaching tango. For my part, I waited for the end of the lesson in introspective phenomenology so that he would demonstrate the steps. Generally speaking, the progress in the actual dancing in his class was disappointing.
So I’m not a big fan of introspective phenomenology. My point is that even if you don’t like the “business model” idea, you need to make it pedagogical. Teaching the dancing in the context of history, music and culture seems feasible. However, teaching “values” is a more challenging task unless people already have an “integrative” motivation, ie., an interest in the culture of the practice.
Think about it like this. John decided to learn martial arts, and chooses Taekwondo as there is a teacher in the area. He then becomes interested in Korean culture. What you’re suggesting is that John should not have chosen Taekwondo unless he’s already interested either in the “philosophy” or “values” of Taekwondo first, or Korean culture to begin with, or both, before they learn Taekwondo, ie., John should want to attend the class to learn some philosophy and some culture.
Well, what normally happens is that the “value” of Taekwondo is that you learn Martial Arts, ie., the things that people normally expect from Martial Arts = a discipline for combat or self-defense. I think most students of Taekwondo would be surprised if in their first lesson the teacher set out on a lengthy lecture on the values and the culture of Taekwondo. Some teachers do do that, but for beginners I’d say it’s a complete turn off, hence poor pedagogy.
Nonetheless, that does not mean that as they’re learning Taekwondo they’re not learning as they go along learning the Martial Art, the “values”, ie., the culture and the philosophy, of Taekwondo and also develop an interest in Korean culture. That is, the teacher needs to appropriately, ie., pedagogically, introduce these at the right time.
Tango is, primarily, a partner dance, and it’s main “value” is partner dancing, ie., movement with a partner to music. People who come to a tango class therefore reasonably expect to learn partner dancing. They might then subsequently, in the course of the course, be taught the cultural context, and the correct attitudes and feelings (“values”) associated with that partner dance.
You wrote (and I’m trying to reply to your latest comment, which hit the limit of comment depth, so I’m doing it here):
“I had a teacher who practiced this approach to teaching tango. For my part, I waited for the end of the lesson in introspective phenomenology so that he would demonstrate the steps. Generally speaking, the progress in the actual dancing in his class was disappointing.”
And you referenced learning Tae Kwon Do as an example of how one learns a technique embedded in a culture. So, yes, you may not want to get bogged down in lectures on society and culture before even learning the dance, but you could learn them concurrently through independent study. The student has some responsibility in this as well as the teacher. Some teachers do provide insight here and there about the culture of tango, the functioning of the milonga, the structure of the music, and so on, but they are in a minority. As in other fields, teachers begin with the fundamentals, try to make it a little bit interesting, try to get you curious about continuing, and if you stick with it, at some point may introduce background information about the dance and its culture. Or not. It’s really up to the student to deepen his or her knowledge of the dance through outside study (something not unique to tango).
My beef with teachers is that they do not ever stress to students the importance of practice, the importance of the codigos, and tango’s uniqueness as a dance form given that its culture is as important as its techniques, such as they are. They encourage students to advance too rapidly without attention to the fundamentals. They allow them to dance at milongas, with no understanding of how a milonga functions, rather than advising them to attend practicas for a couple of years before trying to dance at a milonga. They promote and showcase traveling performers, which skews students’ understanding of the underlying importance of social and cultural factors in tango and creates a star system. Teachers, often with the best of intentions, want to see students advance in their technique but that isn’t necessarily accompanied by an explanation of what makes the dance unique or even what “advancement” might mean in this case. It’s all about technique (whose importance I am not downplaying). Yes, tango is a partner dance, but so is all ballroom dancing; what we need to know is that tango is a very special type of partner dance and if that isn’t stressed, you end up with a bunch of folks trying to learn increasingly elaborate steps but with no interest in the traditional practice of tango, which was and is about a great deal more than “steps.”
These are excellent comments.
Making a profit from tango activities is not necessarily bad; all promoters of tango need to at least meet their expenses (Strategies for Tango Community Development: Profit and Non-Profit Models and the Perspective of Maintaining the Cultural Integrity of Tango). The advantage of the One Tango Philosophy is that it caters to consumer tastes, modifying tango in order to make it more palatable to local cultural customs. This is more likely to achieve economic success than a Traditional Tango enterprise, which is interested in preserving the cultural integrity of tango.
El Polaco “Tango is, primarily, a partner dance”
This is a misunderstanding that’s widespread amongst so-called tango teachers.
Tango is primarily a kind of music.
Traditionally ‘dancing tango’ means dancing that music.
It does not mean performing a dance called tango… except in the narrow world of ‘tango’ classes, where the word refers to a program of steps suitable for whatever music teacher and students prefer.
The depth of this misunderstanding is illuminated by your citation of martial arts as a parallel. In martial arts, what parallels the music? Nothing.
Chris wrote: “Today, people teach methodic ways and tango, the real one, does not have a method because it is a feeling. Technique and choreography? It’s only for performance. It is a tango that has been learned for hours and hours for show business.”
Those are the words of Ricardo Vidort. A milonguero.”
Thank you for producing something other than trolling, which at least shows a modicum of respect for your opponent.
1. I believe that you misunderstand the spirit of the above quote. Many traditional dancers are critical of “mere choreography”. That does not mean that they completely reject systematic teaching/learning of tango. My first tango teacher complained that his competitor is “academico” whereas he himself is a “natural” dancer. Nonetheless he was himself engaged in teaching, which on your interpretation would be hypocritical or self-contradictory.
2. I have found that listening to the philosophising of Argentines and Milongueros is not all that informative without context and further evidence. A close friend of mine from Chile observed that South Americans have a propensity for theatre and self-aggrandisement which to her was tiring, to the point were she sought North European sobriety. I suggest that you’re fooled by and possibly addicted to Latino theatre and hyperbole. I asked for concrete evidence i.e., something more than a random quote out of context.
3. What you fail to demonstrate is that there is no “academico” milongueros in Buenos Aires. It is difficult to prove the negative. But I can definitely disprove your hypothesis. That what you are claiming is obviously false is evidenced in the following interview by Monica Paz with Myriam Pincen in which the latter talks about the situation around 3-4 decades ago, ie., at a time when many of the people now in their 50s and 60s would have learned tango:
Monica: You said that you started in the year ’78. [At that time] tango had a difficult time. What motivated you to learn to dance tango in such circumstances?”
Myriam: It’s very strange because I didn’t have grandparents or parents who like tango, like most people. On a certain occasion I went to look for my younger sister in “La Casa Del Tango” in La Plata. Then I saw children aged 6 or 7 learning to dance tango with a maestro milonguero. I was fascinated. . . . I asked if they had classes for adults but they didn’t. Therefore I started attending the classes with the children, and obviously I danced with the teacher. . . . I never stopped. In La Plata I studied with couples who came from Buenos Aires and later I went there myself to study.
Monica: Who were your teachers?
Myriam: The first was Mr Roberto Rodriguez. . . . Arguuimbau, Copes, Pepito Avellaneda, Todaro, Mingo Pugliese. I was lucky to find and to know many good teachers at that time. They were very demanding.
Monica: Tango classes in those times, where they “plain,” I mean with no particular style?
Myriam: There was no distinction of style at all. Just tango classes or milonga classes. In the tango classes everything was included, they just differentiated between Tango Fantasia and Tango Salon. [She also mentions Canyengue.]
Monica: How was the relationship between the maestro and students?
Myriam: At that time teachers were respected very much. You didn’t ask something to a maestro. That isn’t the case today.
Monica: Did teachers accompany their students to the milongas?
Myriam: In my case, yes. I went with my teacher and learned all the codes, starting with how to arrive, where to take a seat to have a better overview.
Monica: When did maestros teach the codes? Your maestro took you to the milonga and taught you all that?
Myriam: Yes, yes.
Monica: You told me that you took many tango classes, and even classical dance classes to improve your tango.
Myriam: Yes exactly, to improve the tango. The classical dance classes were needed to give my tango a better posture, balance and the like. I started with tango and afterwards added classical dance.
Monica: What a dedication! Was it common at the time you were studying that people dedicated themselves that much?
Myriam: Yes, there was more perseverance, much more perseverance. For example, the groups in the classes were regular. A group started taking classes regularly and they all completed the course. Therefore you could see the progress.
Monica: Do you think people continue to dedicate themselves as you did?
Myriam: No, on the contrary. I think that times have changed in that respect and today everything is faster. One has to hurry and someone interested in tango today takes a couple of classes and goes to the milonga. Before, that didn’t happen.
Monica: You told me that going to the milonga meant a lot. What did it mean?
Myriam: Going to the milonga was like taking an exam about everything you learned and to see if you really were capable. The maestros were there. They didn’t invite you if they hadn’t seen you dancing.
So there you go, your entire argument blown out of the the water. No “academico” in Buenos Aires. It also blows out of the water the argument that learning with show dancers immunises you from being a good Tango Milonguero dancer.
4. You need to demonstrate that “academico” teaching and learning does not work to produce competent dancers, and only wholly “natural” approach works. Again, the above interview categorically disproves that hypothesis;
5. You need to show that, if “academico” does work, there is some reason not to have it as a way of promoting Tango Milonguero outside of BA, given that a “natural” approach is not a viable option given a massive shortage of family members who can teach outside of BA. In particular, if people in fact prefer academico and academico works then you have to show why we still should not have academico?
Conclusion: unless you can muster arguments (ie., something more than trolling or out of context quotes) to that effect, you are nothing more than the sort of pig-headed traditionalist, addicted to theatre, hyperbole, and consumptive tourism, that are the real cause of the failure of Tango Milonguero culture, as opposed to any One Tango Philosophy that the author of this blog insists is the effective causal factor.
Finally, lets say you decide to engage in consumptive tango tourism and remain a mediocre dancer, and I decide to invest in systematic and persistent learning through tango classes and practice and am as a consequence an above average dancer. Which is more significant from the point of view of promoting Tango Milonguero outside of BA? Because I have met many a tango tourist who remain mediocre tango dancers, but love bragging about their trips to BA, to the point where you can’t wait shut them up between dances.
El Polaco wrote: “I believe that you misunderstand the spirit of the above quote.”
My understanding is based on knowledge gained from meeting the man who wrote the words, and other milongueros like him in BA and elsewhere.
“I asked for concrete evidence i.e., something more than a random quote out of context.”
That quote is selected with deliberation and given in context.
“I have found that listening to the philosophising of Argentines and Milongueros is not all that informative without context and further evidence.”
I’ll bet you have. Until you and the other teachers like you can be bothered to actually visit a BA milonga to see the context and evidence for yourselves, no amount of explanation in words will help you.
And even that won’t supply the proof you seem to require.
The essence of Tango is a feeling. For those that feel it, no proof is necessary. For those that don’t, no proof is possible.
El Polaco: Well, I thought tango was a partner dance, y’know, moving with a partner to music.
Tango Voice: No no no no no. Y’see, you’ve been brainwashed by the money-grubbing ballroom dance industry. Tango is in fact a whole culture, with all the codes and rituals. It’s about how you connect with your partner and the feelings you have to the emotional highs of the music.
EP: So you mean, it’s not about steps, patterns and technique?
Chris: Nope. You don’t actually need to learn these at all. Tango is a philosophy, a way of life.
Felicity: Oh, all that grubby commercialism … I couldn’t dance with people like that!
EP: So you can’t take tango out of its social and cultural context?
C: You have to live it … like the milongueros. You need to talk to them and you’ll “get it”. Then you’ll have complete insight.
F: I only dance with the milongueros!
TV: Sadly, Naveira’s One Tango Philosophy destroyed all that. We must fight!
EP: Sorry to be so crass, but logically that would imply that all the other cultural dances are also about the culture and the philosophy. You can’t take them out of their cultural context.
TV: Right, you can’t.
EP: So to follow this line of reasoning, waltz, polka, mazurka, jive, rock’n’roll … they’re not just dances, but whole cultures. I thought I learned some rock’n’roll but apparently not …
C: … you haven’t lived it man. The 50’s are long gone, you’ve missed the train bro. Watch Happy Days and weep.
EP: Maybe in that case I should stick with the Polonaise. They’re my people. I guess it’s in my genes.
I don’t think I ever saw anyone get everything so astonishingly, determinedly wrong, every which way. The blind misconceptions coupled with the conviction of a steam train at full speed is so astounding that I read EP for the sheer comedy of it.
A friend, a new dancer, said to me today something like: the problem I have with the milongas is that they are closed. You can’t easily go along and pick things up alone. I think there’s some truth there. People do, but people also report that going to the milongas new, alone is and can be very tough, even with some supposed understanding of what the dance is about from class. It’s easier to go with friends, better yet with experienced people.
I heard an absurd discussion online recently about how the “community” [?] could adjust discounted pricing to encourage new men into the milongas. One guy made the excellent point that if the women there weren’t going to do it, not much else was. There isn’t a high volume system for getting people in because the milongas are not factories. The milongas are a social subculture. The ones I like best operate based on unwritten understandings and can be highly idiosyncratic. Class dancing sure isn’t the way to produce people who can dance in or who will even make it into the milonga. That’s efficient only in making money for those conning the punters and themselves that it’s the way to learn to dance in the milongas.
I wouldn’t mind if people learned in class and went to milongas for class people. But they want to mix in with real dancers. I changed place in the ronda at least four times or quit dancing yesterday because two guys (one a teacher) didn’t move in the ronda, a guy (who reeked of teacher) dancing such a flash open style in front of me that it put me off completely and a guy who just doesn’t care who he and his partner take out (I was kicked). These were all experienced dancers. I don’t care how people dance or learn – they can do what they like where they like. But when a milonga calls itself trad and plays trad music I think there are expectations that go along with that so that the milonga works for everyone and good hosts ensure those are met.
One of the main things that goes along with the idea of a traditional milongas is where dancers care about their partner and the people around them and do their best to accommodate these. I often don’t find this in the UK and abroad and a lot of that is because class dancers don’t know or care about this stuff. Or they do so much stuff they don’t have time or space to dance in a very small area. You see in the way they dance care for others doesn’t form any part of what they go to class for and it doesn’t sell because it’s restrictive – it restricts what you can do. True social dancers do it though. I said to my friend: that’s the guy I want to dance with. He danced small, musical, soft, very unostentatious. And he’s caring said my friend. He was also the guy I wanted to be behind (in swapped roles) in the ronda. Good dancers don’t learn it in class. They learn it in real life. This is philosophy, opinion and feeling. It has nothing to do with EPs steps. But there’s no good dancing, or conditions for dancing without it. I don’t know any really good dancer who knows or thinks about what their feet do – or ever really did.
Felicity wrote Good dancers don’t learn it in class. They learn it in real life. This is philosophy, opinion and feeling. It has nothing to do with EPs steps. But there’s no good dancing, or conditions for dancing without it. I don’t know any really good dancer who knows or thinks about what their feet do – or ever really did.
My paraphrase: Good speakers of French don’t learn it in class. They learn it in real life. This is philosophy, opinion and feeling. It has nothing to do with EPs grammar lessons. But there’s no good speaking of French, or conditions for speaking of French without it. I don’t know any really good speaker of French who knows or thinks about what their mouth does – or ever really did.
I would be interested to see, over and above spurious observation and mere opinion, some empirical evidence in the form of a questionnaire, or some biographical accounts, of these dancers to the effect that they never in fact formally taken any tango lessons, or ever thought about what their feet do. Because there is a huge logical leap from
A: The dancer does not think about what his feet do
B: The dancer has never thought about what his feet do
You need to supply evidence supporting the veracity of Statement B in order for your argument to lead to the conclusion that you seem to be trying to establish, something like:
P1: Teaching/learning formally is thinking about what your feet do;
P2: Good dancers have never thought about what their feet do;
C: Therefore, good dancers have never learned formally
P2 is an empirical claim that you must substantiate, through empirical evidence in order for the argument to go through.
a = Tango Milonguero Traditionalist aka Tango Police and Tango Tourist
b = Tango Milonguero Teacher aka Shameless Promoter and Purveyor of Cultural Appropriation
1. What is Tango Milonguero?
(a) Tango Milonguero is a culture. It is what the Milongueros do, including their attitudes, lifestyle, habits and preferences.
(b) Tango Milonguero is a dance style, a sub-variety of Argentine Tango, with specific sorts of movements, technique to specific sort of music, and a particular way of organising events that follows on and off dancefloor rules of etiquette.
2. Can you formally teach Tango Milonguero?
(a) No, not really. Tango Milonguero is not formally learned. Because Tango Milonguero is a whole culture you can’t teach it piecemeal. It is not learned in a classroom or a studio. It is a cultural whole comprising practices, codes, traditions and rituals. You learn that within your cultural millieu, at your mother’s breast so to speak. You can’t turn that into a formula you can teach.
(b) Of course. There are lots of different kinds of dances that people teach and learn in dance classes because they enjoy dancing to the music that they like. Some people enjoy Salsa, Jive, and others enjoy Argentine Tango. As there are different sorts of Argentine tango these days, some will choose Tango Salon, Tango Nuevo, or and Tango Milonguero. You teach these subvarieties differently as they involve different dance patterns, different technique, prefer different sort of music, and enforce different on/off dancefloor etiquette.
3. What is the market for Tango Milonguero?
(a) Extremely niche and narrow: pretty much limited to Argentine Milongueros as well as some very frequent visitors to Buenos Aires, and perhaps their select friends who are willing to endure the condescending attitude of their superiors and have lots of time and money to travel to Buenos Aires. It’s not a “market”!
(b) Reasonably niche and narrow: as Tango Milonguero requires more patience and committment to regular classes and practice it’s definitely not for everyone. However, while it won’t be as popular as Tango Salon which is easier to dance, there are still a good number of people who want to dance to Golden Era music and dance in the close embrace, who would enjoy a solid DJ set, and who value connection between partners and the music over complicated and showy choreography. These people might also be interested in visiting Buenos Aires, learning some Spanish and finding out about Tango history and culture.
4. How can you promote Tango Milonguero?
(a) You can’t and you shouldn’t. If peope are so ignorant and distinterested in the Milonguero culture they should stick to the other dances and not bother with Tango Milonguero at all. Only people who are capable of understanding the deep feelings inherent in tango music, dance and culture, and who are able to submit to that should be allowed in. We shouldn’t promote, we should screen!
(b) Pretty much the same as any other dance. These days people are interested in dancing, and on the marketplace of dances is Argentine Tango, and there is no reason why Tango Milonguero should not be on the menu. You need to use standard marketing practices, like finding out what sorts of people would be interested in Tango Milonguero, what value you can offer them, and how you can reach them through social media and the like.
5. Who can teach and organise Tango Milonguero?
(a) Because Tango Milonguero is a culture, only certified Milongueros themselves have any right to lead Tango Milonguero worldwide. Because Milongueros are an endangered species who have deep knowledge of Milonguero culture they need to be the leaders and the ‘teachers’ who, like the yogi philosophers, issue their wisdom about the meaning of life and philosophy. A select group of people who take regular pilgrimage to Buenos Aires may also receive the blessing of the Milongueros to bring Milonguero wisdom to the West.
(b) Because Tango Milonguero is a dance, typically people who are competent in dancing and teaching dance will have the requisite skill set to teach Tango Milonguero and to organise Tango Milonguero events. Dance teachers are ‘coaches of movement’, so their job is to instruct on the movement to Tango music, and so they must be experienced and competent in that area. Beyond that they must also have good knowledge of the history, culture, music and etiquette that goes with Tango Milonguero in order to organise enjoyable Tango Milonguero events known as Milongas.
El Polaco on January 16, 2017 at 11:13 PM says “…”
Nicely written article. Gets my vote for the Melina Sedo award for Most Inadvertently Effective Expression of Classeros’ Misconceptions about Dancing Argentine Tango.
I do though take issue with “Dance teachers … job is to instruct on the movement to Tango music, and so they must be experienced and competent in that area.“. Because in practice there’s absolutely no requirement for such dance teachers to be experienced or competent in what they teach.
The only competence required for teaching what classeros call tango is the ability to post an advert saying “Authentic Argentine Tango Classes Here!”. 🙂
Nicely written article. Gets my vote for the Melina Sedo award for Most Inadvertently Effective Expression of Classeros’ Misconceptions about Dancing Argentine Tango.
Why does Melina Sedo have an award for misconceptions? I just checked her website and while I don’t have time to read through her stuff thoroughly she appears genuinely committed to Tango Milonguero. So could you tell me what you see as being misconceived in her approach, or link to an article that exhibits such misconceptions?
I do though take issue with “Dance teachers … job is to instruct on the movement to Tango music, and so they must be experienced and competent in that area.“. Because in practice there’s absolutely no requirement for such dance teachers to be experienced or competent in what they teach.
The only competence required for teaching what classeros call tango is the ability to post an advert saying “Authentic Argentine Tango Classes Here!”.
When you say that in practice there is no requirement, what you mean is that in practice they don’t have this competence. So do you or do you not take issue that they ought to have this competence? Because once again you are using language in unclear and confusing ways.
When I say that it is a requirement what I mean is that good teachers must have this competence, not that in order to get students to teach you must have this.
Getting students is the job of marketing, and so you must be able to market yourself as a teacher. But just because you have students does not make you a good teacher.
Conversely, you might be a good teacher, ie., have the competence to coach movement, but being poor at marketing your classes you have no students to teach.
So the requirement of good teaching is both, competence in coaching movement and in getting students by effective marketing.
I agree that marketing tends to get more emphasis, but it does not negate my point that good teaching requires competence in coaching movement.
So I totally accept the argument that there are many teachers who lack the skills and the competence to coach movement and who merely are good at marketing. I completely accept that these teachers give “teaching tango” a bad name. And I share many of the sentiments that are expressed against inexperienced or incompetent teachers.
Thus, Felicity writes: a guy (who reeked of teacher) dancing such a flash open style in front of me that it put me off completely and a guy who just doesn’t care who he and his partner take out (I was kicked)
First, this teacher clearly was not a “Tango Milonguero” teacher in my sense above if he danced a “flash open style”. He was clearly a Tango Salon teacher (I don’t use this in the sense in which it’s used in BA but on a standard Western tango scene).
Second, there are women who “reek of tourist” who go to Buenos Aires and are taught poorly by some “milonguero” who may or may not have been certified as a bona fide milonguero (who knows?), who actually may have been leadable prior to her touristic soujourn, but then become completely unleadable, opinionated and entitled (certified?) to run classes and events, and lead other women.
Third, the way to deal with poor teaching is not no teaching but better teaching. I completely understand and share many of the sentiments expressed against many if not most tango teachers.
But I believe that there is a simple and readily available solution to this problem.
Let me tell you that when I first came to China I found that most “First World” products can only be obtained online, on the Chinese version of eBay called Taobao. But the Chinese warned me that most of the products on Taobao are fake, as fake products are chronic in this country.
I asked my Chinese friends if Taobao does not have a rating system like eBay, and if so why would any vendor sell fake products if they can get negative feedback and lose business?
As my Chinese skills were still poor I struggled to find the feedback section but it was there. It’s just that even just a couple of years ago the Chinese were not used to the idea of a system were consumers can provide feedback on the service provided online.
Fast forward 2 years later and no one complains about fake products online. Because you can make more money selling real products then selling fake ones when your customers can provide publicly available feedback for subsequent customers to see when they evaluate that vendor.
There is the solution, right there, staring you in the face.
I’ve read Melina Sedo’s article Are We Killing Tango?. My response to that is that while I’m not an elitist/purist like the Tango Milonguero Traditionalists/Tango Police on this blog, I do support a minimalist approach.
That is, I do believe that tango scenes easily become overrun with Excessive Tango Product Consumption, with all sort of events, marathons, workshops, etc. that are confusing and exhausting to students and dancers. This is also now taking place in the China/Hong Kong/Taiwan area.
I feel that the responsibility of Tango Milonguero teachers is to shelter their students from Excessive Tango Product Consumption, rather than exposing them to it. In addition to being coaches of movement, Tango Milonguero teachers need to provide mentorship (which Melina mentions) which means providing sheltering to their students from Excessive Tango Product Consumption.
So I would distinguish basic marketing (“Narrowcasting”) in my sense from, for example, using classes and milongas to promote Excessive Tango Product Consumption. Instead, I advocate mentorship and a sheltered environment for learning, practice and dancing. Sheltered learning is a basic pedagogical requirement for good teaching.
El Polaco wrote:
“When you say that in practice there is no requirement, what you mean is that in practice they don’t have this competence.”
No I don’t mean that. I mean what I said.
Not least because the lack of requirement for teacher competence is a problem far greater than the lack of teacher competence itself.
Teaching isn’t at all like dancing, where lack of competence is self-remedies by leading either to competence or to non-dancing.
In teaching, lack of competence is self-sustaining and self-propagating. Incompetent teaching generates even more incompetent teachers, spreading like a plague. Or for its unfortunate students, like a cancer.
“When I say that it is a requirement what I mean is that good teachers must have this competence”
Ah. When you’re referring specifically to the tiny minority of tango teachers that are good, you really ought to say, to avoid being misunderstood as referring to tango teachers in general.
Second, there are women who “reek of tourist” who go to Buenos Aires and are taught poorly by some “milonguero” who may or may not have been certified as a bona fide milonguero (who knows?), who actually may have been leadable prior to her touristic soujourn, but then become completely unleadable,”
These women go to BA, learn the tango dance of the BA milongueros/as, and return home unable and unwilling to any longer tolerate the fake tango dance of lead and follow taught to and by her home city classeros.
That’s the fake dance of class teachers who’ve learned it from other class teachers, and (like you) can’t be bothered to visit BA to experience the real thing. Or did once visit, found their dance totally didn’t work with the local milongueros, and attributed this to the locals not taking enough Tango Milonguero classes.
The reason you find these real-dancing women unleadable is the real dance of Argentine tango is not a lead and follow dance. Here’s a real Argentine to explain it to you:
“There is another fundamental aspect of tango dancing we all learned in the early stages of development that has been gradually forgotten, misrepresented, or mistakenly equated to the lead and follow aspect of ballroom dances. Tango is not a lead and follow dance. When the man embraces properly, the woman moves when the man moves by virtue of her body being in the embrace. To the trained eye is very easy to spot people who dance tango as if it was another lead and follow dance. The time it takes to process a lead in order to follow makes them dance off the music. Some say that alternative music serves as a palliative for the frustration of being unable to dance the rich nuances of tango composed for tango dancing. So, what makes good tango dancers dance to the music that was composed for dancing tango?”
Read on at _http://web.archive.org/web/20170118125155/https://elfirulete.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-weird-hold/_
Read on at _http://web.archive.org/web/20170118125155/https://elfirulete.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-weird-hold/_
Are the images available? They’re not loading on my end and it’s possible the links are broken. I’m curious about his explanation of the “correct embrace” because it doesn’t sound like what I thought he meant when I first started reading the article. Oh, OK. I’m watching a video of him dancing. He’s describing that semi-open V-shaped embrace, which he opens up from time to time. Estilo del barrio I guess tangovoice would call it. I’m more a Monica Paz, Susana Miller, arm-over-the-shoulder kind of guy. I like what he says about lead and follow.
El Polaco wrote: “I’ve read Melina Sedo’s article Are We Killing Tango?.”
Thanks for that. Loved the bit where she says readers have got her all wrong and need to read her article ‘intelligently’ … as if that was remotely possible for her readers that have the average IQ evidenced by the reader comments on that same page.
“I do believe that tango scenes easily become overrun with Excessive Tango Product Consumption”
‘Excessive Tango Product Consumption’ means ‘Excessive Someone Else’s Tango Product Consumption’, of course.
And the teachers most complaining that too much dancing / too many milongas are ‘killing tango’ are always the ones least succeeding in filling enough classes to meet their business targets. And the ones that don’t provide regular milongas.
Re El Polaco’s “teach n rate” idea. Those who introduce new dancers to the milonga don’t need that. Why would we? Dance for us is about things we don’t care to rate, that aren’t valued that way.
About Melina – I recommend that crowd to you, El Polaco. They’re very traditional by your definition and I think you’d really fit in with them. I think they’ll share a lot of your views: Melina, Miss Hedgehog, Tango Immigrant and especially Tango Salon Adelaide (who also teach). The trouble is they all censor comments – far more tmk than TV.
El Polaco wrote there are women who “reek of tourist” who go to Buenos Aires and are taught poorly by some “milonguero” who may or may not have been certified as a bona fide milonguero (who knows?),
Bona fide? You have criteria?
who actually may have been leadable prior to her touristic soujourn,
Her? You had someone in mind had you?
Leadable. Now there’s a word. What a word.
but then become completely unleadable, opinionated and entitled (certified?) to run classes and events, and lead other women.
I know that women with views can be scary but most guys deal with it – at home, at work. Maybe there’s less of it in China. Is that why you’re there? Most guys would rather not go back to the days when sexist, controlling men viewed women as
biddable”leadable”. I got pretty much kicked out of class once for trying out swapping roles. The teacher has to control everything but I’m preaching to the converted there, aren’t I No, it wasn’t appropriate even though the dance style there was hardly your “tango milonguero”. In any case, I left long ago. He was known for saying inappropriate things about women and for making girls cry. He even tried to control how things are in someone else’s practica not long ago. That’s what controlling men do to women who don’t know their place.
“Leading other women” Horrors! What is your problem with that, exactly? It’s not Tango Milonguero™ (as defined by EP)? Ah, you do say, pompously: it goes against the codes or the proper etiquette of Tango Milonguero.
This blog is specifically concerned with Tango Milonguero culture and so I don’t quite understand what someone like you is doing here.
You really want rid don’t you.
There are traditional milongas here in Europe which in many respects are not like trad milongas in BsAs but most people would call them traditional. Why don’t you define for us what you a “tango milonguero milonga” is like for you. Perhaps you run one. Perhaps you can video the setup and/or the dancing to show us what’s OK by you.
When I see men who look at women who dance swapped as a kind of disease, it reminds me of the many chilling times when controlling people have cut out, permanently, members of society they didn’t want around.
R. Bononno wrote: “Are the images available? They’re not loading on my end and it’s possible the links are broken.
I see your quoted version of the link is faulty, but I can’t see why the original fails for you. The images appear here. You could try the unarchived version https://elfirulete.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-weird-hold/ … while it’s there.
The only reason to respond to EP would be in case any lost soul were considering giving some credence to him and his points. But just about everyone I think sees through that entrenched opinion and that his many wild, often rude assumptions are not only misguided but just plain wrong. To respond would only add fuel to that fire. It’s always interesting to see character revealed that way but sometimes you’ve seen enough.
People genuinely curious tend to do the obvious thing – ask questions. EP on the other hand headbutts any disagreement into his wall of ignorance, whilst reeling about spewing faux rhetoric and flinging insults one way, demands the other.
Anyone unconvinced who to believe more is welcome to come join me and my friends in our corner of our local milonga for quiet chat and dance. Or they can go the Chinese market and pay El Polaco to have assumptions made about them before doubtless being as danced “at”, making you feel like the shopping trolley you pretty much will be in his store – and all to that dire music we saw on his video. Presumably when you get it “wrong” – because in El Polaco world we’ve seem it’s all either right or wrong and you’ll have to be wrong so he can be right, you’ll also be be ranted at, very likely also at deafening volume.
The seven year old son of this “retiree” age [sic] “tango tourist” [sic] asked yesterday how people get to know what “I” means, pointing out that other definitions won’t help the problem because how do you get to learn what those are. The magic of growing up, I said truly, though perhaps not particularly helpfully. I don’t think he wanted a lecture in brain science, more to know that there are many things in life we just do and can pick up easily from context and being around other people. Argentine tango is also one of these. It’s only the controlling types and the insecure types who insist “tango is hard” and lessons are necessary.
Some never really learn that there is anything worthwhile beyond “I” so learning the distinction of “I” from say, “you” or “us” doesn’t really happen.
Felicity wrote: all to that dire music we saw on his video
Let me explain why I don’t accept your criticisms of my class.
1. I don’t pretend to be an experience teacher of tango. I’m not sure if you have reflected on this, but it is actually logically impossible to be an experienced teacher of tango when you are just starting out teaching. I’m an experience dancer and I have taught one on one. Since I don’t like the way teachers in my area teach tango, I decided to run classes and so need to start somewhere. Eg., one of the guys teaching and being highly successful has no actual dancing experience in tango. He is a salsa teacher who simply took some tango classes and started to teach that. He’s never actually danced at milongas at all. So I think I can do better than him.
2. I first started teaching by following the standard way of teaching the Basic Eight, Ochos, Voleos, etc. because that’s how I learned, including from milongueros who migrated to Australia and were teaching in my area and that’s what you see being taught on the internet a lot. After a few months I found the results to be disappointing, so I searched for some other way of teaching. I found Monica Paz’s and Marcelo Solis’ website and Youtube channel, and studied their approach and decided that I’m going to use their methods as they are on their videos. This is what you see on my video. So if you don’t like the music and the steps in the video, perhaps you can send a note to Marcelo Solis and tell him the same.
3. The reason I believe Marcelo Solis uses the music by Canaro is that it is not over 60 beats per minute. I found that a lot of tango music is around 65 beats per minute and my students are struggling to keep up with that. So it makes logical sense to use music at around 60bpm’s for beginner classes. In other words, there is a pedagogical justification for it. However, I accept that past beginner stage the teacher should probably use music commonly used at milongas.
4. I’m open to feedback, learning, adjustment and development, as any teacher should be. I accept that this music is not ideal and might alter that. But I will do so on the basis of my own insight as well as well considered feedback and good reasons. You don’t seem like the sort of person who is capable of providing well considered feedback in an appropriate manner.
5. I’ve never seen you dance. I now learn that you lead women. I don’t think that leading women is appropriate at a milonga or that it has anything to do with milonguero culture, ie., it goes against the codes or the proper etiquette of Tango Milonguero. This blog is specifically concerned with Tango Milonguero culture and so I don’t quite understand what someone like you is doing here.
El Polaco wrote Let me explain why I don’t accept your criticisms of my class.
EP, I’m not criticising your class. I disagree with everything you say. About Marcelo Solis, music, steps, his teaching methods and marketing – I watched a video and know also that neither of us would seek the other for social dance. I care about all of this as much as I care about your justifications for teaching, how long you’ve been teaching or about the number of bpms in a track.
EP wrote You don’t seem like the sort of person who is capable of providing well considered feedback in an appropriate manner.
Feedback: what a cringe-worthy term that is. The last time I talked with a guy about this and tango he ended defending the hypothetical notion of giving a girl who kissed badly feedback, in the belief it would be helpful and all for the best. That’s what you can get into with “feedback”.
As to my being an inappropriate person to give feedback. You do find me bothersomely inappropriate all ways, don’t you. Oh and there you go with your judgements again. Do you do this to girls you dance with? Do you judge, rant at, accuse and insult them? Do they just take it in China? Indeed, I think “feedback” can often be more dangerous and destructive than helpful. So I hardly see the relevance of your point given that we apparently have entirely dissimilar ideas about what feedback is, why you might do it, when and with whom. But do show an example of a willing victim you’ve instructed with feedback and demonstrate how they’ve improved.
I’ve never seen you dance. I now learn that you lead women
I don’t “lead”. There’s another term as unpleasant to hear as it is to feel. At least I’d be ashamed if anyone called my dance that. I dance with people.
And lead women Oh, do I? Since you didn’t know until yesterday who told you it was women or would that perhaps be yet another assumption?
On Sunday I went to a milonga for an hour. A guy friend asked several times if I would dance with him in swapped roles. Then a woman friend asked. Then a girl I didn’t know asked. I danced with two of them. Then I danced in trad roles, once with one experienced guy though I had half-expected him to ask me to swap roles with him as he had before. I danced mostly with a beginner guy, swapping back and forth, so he could pick up the dance. So let’s see, of the four people I danced with three of them were men I did or have danced with swapped. Do you?
El Polaco’s has banged on rather about “milonguero culture”, not to mention my non-right to participate because sometimes I dance in swapped roles. Ah yes, milonguero culture’s that thing you EP think you can claim to know all about without it would seem having seen the origin and continued centre of it all else I think you by now you would have said. The way you are breathtaking to women is in such arrogance My belief is that most people here know rather more about milonguero culture than you, whether they have been to Buenos Aires or not.
You have tried many times, rather desperately, to disparage and ridicule people you know nothing at all about as elite, probably retired, wealthy “tango tourists” and make unpleasant, insinuating comments about dancing which, by your own admission you have never seen. The many assumptions you still keep making are simply helpfully clarifying – about you.
Some of your “tango tourists” have made a possibly once-in-a-lifetime trip to find out for themselves what that culture is. I know people who live and travel on pennies to live in the milongas and around that culture in Buenos Aires and around the world. You it would seem prefer to spend your time in class, which is entirely your choice, if sad for the attendees and those of us who like to see those interested in dance actually a) turn up in the milongas, b) unscathed. I just wish you wouldn’t harangue and disparage us because of what we know and enjoy – the milongas.
People who go a lot to the milongas, wherever they are, are rarely wealthy, for obvious reasons. I asked someone who knew him what a famous milonguero was like, because I wanted to know how accurate was the mental picture I realised I was building up about him. I thought he had probably been a wealthy businessman. My friend laughed. No! He had nothing. He had to walk to the milongas because he couldn’t afford the transport. That’s what you find out when you stop assuming and start asking questions – without that is making unfounded transparently false accusations of e.g. trolling and using unclear language and having taken on board what they already said e.g. that it’s not about teaching, it’s about learning.
Unfortunately, there are so many guys who think grabbing a woman, pulling her in and dancing steps at her is “tango milonguero” – though I don’t think I actually know any real dancers, good dancers, who use this term. It reminds me of the kind of guy who wears baggy pinstripe tango trousers presumably thinking wearing the trappings will help make the man. It’s like putting on a hat, a role rather than actually being something real. So while I wait for the real guys to walk in, the ones who, when I ask them how they learned to dance that way have never yet said “in class”, I’d rather dance swapped.
c = Tango Milonguero Aficionado aka Tango Elitist or Snob
1. What is Tango Milonguero
(c) Tango Milonguero is a dance and a culture that, like good wine or jazz can only be appreciated by people with good taste who taken the time and patience to develop their taste and learned to appreciate it.
2. Can you formally teach Tango Milonguero?
(c)Yes and no. Too many people teach tango and promote mass market product as if it was Salsa or some other form of mid-brow culture. Tango is high brow and it needs to be properly curated by people with the proper training, experience and good taste.
3. What is the market for Tango Milonguero?
(c) The audiences for Tango Milonguero are usually people of good taste with the capacity to appreciate art and culture. These are usually people who are more sensitive and better educated. This will be a niche market, as most people tend to prefer noisy parties and loud entertainments. Those people should probably stick to the mainstream Latin dancing scene.
4. How can you promote Tango Milonguero?
(c) Audience building in tango requires careful curation, sensitivity and understanding. Nowadays unscrupulous purveyors of tango mass product lower it’s value to mid-brown mass Latin dance market through incessant marketing of low-value events such as workshops with show dancers, various festivals and marathos. Culture requires careful curatorial treatment in order to maintain its aesthetic values.
4. Who can teach and organise Tango Milonguero?
(c) Because tango is both a sophisticated dance and culture rich in history, only people who are properly trained and selected can properly disseminate it through cultural workshops that teach the dance and the culture, and through careful curation of tango events and through mentoring of the participants. We must resist the tendency to descend down to mid-brow culture mainstream Latin or Ballroom dancing, so only highly committed people who put in the time into developing the proper understanding and high taste can take on this responsibility.
Re: Chris, Felicity on no lead/follow:
You can say all that, but that does not make it true. The problem with finding things out in Buenos Aires is that there are as many opinions on all of this as there are milongueros. Which is why your Ethnocentric approach doesn’t work. Perhaps the Snob approach will 🙂
This conversation between El Polaco and Felicity is considered ended because it has become repetitive and has descended into ad hominem attacks.
A few comments are made here in closing.
Tango Milonguero is a style of dancing. It is a part of Traditional Tango culture, the culture of Buenos Aires milongas, but the culture is more inclusive and not exclusive to other styles of dancing. As defined in Tango Voice, with respect to dancing there is the genre of dancing – Tango de Salon – which includes 2 somewhat distinct styles of dancing – Tango Estilo Milonguero (or alternatively named, Tango Estilo del Centro) and Tango Estilo del Barrio, the styles of dancing danced in Buenos Aires milongas [Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga (Part II of ‘Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression’)]. Traditional Tango culture also includes dancing to only Classic Tango Music (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues). Within the milonga environment, there are certain milonga customs of behavior and environmental characteristics (Codes and Customs of the Milongas of Buenos Aires: The Basics).
Some aficionados of Traditional Tango are snobs, some are nice people, some are even humble. The same can be said of aficionados of other tango subcultures.
In the Traditional Tango environment, only men lead and only women follow. If otherwise, it is not Traditional Tango as practiced in Buenos Aires milongas. Not following this custom does not make the practice unacceptable within the larger set of tango subcultures; it just is not Traditional Tango.
Claiming that there is no lead and follow in tango is just wordplay. The man initiates the movement and the woman moves in the direction of movement. Other terms may have been proposed, but lead and follow accurately describe the situation.
People should check out Ronald Inglehart’s Cultural Map of the World and World Values Survey. I would say, based on my own research in linguistics, that the closer your home country or locality is culturally the more likely there will be interaction, and the further away the more the foreign cultural/ethnic group will be socially isolated.
As you can see from the map, Argentina is in the middle, and for a period moving radically down, probably due to the depressed state of the economy and collapse of the currency.
Wealthy English speaking countries are high on Self-Expression and middle or mixed as to traditionalism. As countries become richer and more urbanised they clearly move towards upper-right corner, ie., secular and self-expression values. This is also influenced by culture/religion: Protestantism, Confuscianism and Catholicism.
Draw your own inferences. But to my mind, as countries get richer and more liberal, moving to the upper right corner of the cultural map, there is less emphasis on rules and rituals, and more emphasis on freedom, choice, and self-expression.
You then need to move away from the traditionalist approach characteristic of bottom-left, and start to rationalise things, ie., you need to move from a ritualistic church paradigm to a secular-pedagogical paradigm. This is even more the case if the country is Protestant or Confuscian.
Evolve or die. Tradition is boring and useless.