Milongueros and Dancers–the differences

There exists a multitude of ways to dance tango, so many ways to feel it. Still, as in other fields, we can make certain generalizations. One of the divisions I observed is between th0se who are milongueros and those who are dancers.

I’m not talking about a division based on the place where they dance (be it stage or dance floor) nor on the frequency. I am talking about something deeper that you can only see with a way of feeling and expressing the music.

Anatomy of the subjects of this study

To be intrinsically milonguero one has to do something more than simply go to the milongas frequently. There are dancers who go every day and conserve their essence as dancers. To be intrinsically a dancer is more that taking classes or being in a show.

The main difference between them is that the milonguero dances to feel well and the dancer to look good. This doesn’t mean that the dance of the milonguero is less pleasing to see. The feeling that he gives when he begins a tango makes you see that he transmits something special, and on the other hand at times a dancer, in his search for esthetics can lose harmonious paths. The beauty of the dance depends more on the quality of each one and, of course, on the point of view of those who observe it.


The milonguero: he desires the closeness of the contact. He likes to embrace and be embraced, and this is one of his greatest pleasures in the dance.

The dancer: enjoys the movement more. His embrace is a means for his enjoyment of the dance and not an end.


The milonguero: he connects with his partner in the stillness of pauses. He embraces his partner, making connection with her through movement. He dances the silences and continues the cadence.

The dancer: he connects for the movement, it’s a dynamic contact. He embraces his partner, moves, and then makes contact. He gives less importance to the rhythm and prefers changes in velocity.


The Milonguero: generally he possesses a limited quantity of steps, well executed and simple, that he repeats varying the order. He increases the number or the complexity of the them implying he is more cerebral in the dance, his primary enjoyment.

The dancer: disposes an arsenal of steps, constantly growing in number and complexity, caused by his esthetic search and also for certain sensation that to repeat a step in the same tango or very soon is shameful. Anyway, as a woman who enlarges her wardrobe to wear a new dress to each party she attends, so a dancer is always memorizing new steps and combinations that he will demonstrate at the next milonga.

Learning to dance

The milonguero: he never attended classes. His guide is practice and the floor where he dances. In addition, there are few adequate teachers (difficult knowledge to transmit); the adequate way to walk, the feet, and how to lead. They show very good technique in some aspects, and in others, none.

The dancer: he attends many classes, at times more than going to the milongas. And if he has to choose prefers to go to practicas where there is more freedom and space to experiment and test things. His principal interest is the steps and new techniques; he is always looking for new things and perfecting them. Although he doesn’t give much attention to the simple details, like simply walking a tango and his feet, he is always looking for a more comfortable position.


The milonguero: he has a very clear lead, understandable by beginners, very smooth but with security and firmness. The milongueras, on their part, know how to adapt to every type of embrace and, once more, they enjoy them. Even though there will be misunderstandings in dance, they are resolved with elegance, generally without being noticed. Both are displeased and uncomfortable with an open embrace.

The dancer: he knows more types of leads for all the steps he knows. Yes, of course, they need a partner that know how to follow well, and knows their techniques, or they are very limited. Female dancers possess enough sensitivity, but if the lead isn’t precise, or it is a different style to which they are accustomed, they are seen in problems.


Translated with permission by Ricardo Schoua.   Opinion of Oscar Pereira published in Tango y Cultura Popular No. 107   Original source of article is unknown.

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3 Responses to “Milongueros and Dancers–the differences”

  1. Pete | The Tango Notebook Says:

    The main difference between them is that the milonguero dances to feel well and the dancer to look good.

    I disagree strongly. I dance to feel good and care very little about what I look like. I will agree that I care what I feel like to my partner, which is similar to caring how you come across on the dance floor, but only to the partner I’m dancing with.


    Out of everything you’ve written, I relate to this post the most. I came into Tango from the combat arts, but went through the channel of dancing first.

    Classes were my first exposure to Tango until, eventually, I began attending milongas (the fear was overwhelming). I do not wish to expand steps and patterns, but instead, develop my embrace and lead to the fullest.

    No stage tango, definitely not ballroom, just the connection and the movement through it.

    Very thoughtful post, Jan.

  2. jantango Says:

    It’s nice to know that you dance to feel good, however, the majority who dance want to look good. The author of the article is Oscar Pereira; I only did the translation.

  3. Pete | The Tango Notebook Says:

    It’s a shame, isn’t it. I want to feel so good that my partner feels it at the same time. What other win-win situation is better than that? None other.

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