Milonga 101: Pay attention to the music

The standard format in the milongas of Buenos Aires is two tandas of tango, a tanda of vals, two tandas of tango, a tanda of milonga.  The deejay combines four tunes by the same orchestra (not always possible for valses) from the same recording year for each tanda.

First you decide whether the tanda is tango, vals or milonga.  After identifying the orchestra, you decide whether you want to dance that tanda, then begin looking for someone with whom to dance.  There are those who are looking around the room during the cortina music, and once the tanda begins, they have already made and accepted an invitation without any regard for the music.

Most invitations come during the first dance of the tanda.  If you aren’t dancing the first tune, you have a chance to dance the second or third.  It’s important to listen to the music.  You should know how many tunes were played in the tanda.

Many invitations come after the first dance of a tanda, so don’t give up.  I saw one of my favorite partners at his table.  The second dance of the D’Arienzo tanda began, and I really wanted to dance with him.  I kept looking in his direction, and he finally turned his head to invite me.  I accepted and entered the floor to join him before everyone began dancing.  We had only three dances that tanda, and they were great.

I know that milongueros viejos invite a woman as late as the third tune of a tanda for the first time.  Then, if the woman dances well enough, a milonguero viejo may invite her later for a complete tanda.

It’s difficult to miss those who aren’t paying attention to the music during the tanda.  They are the ones who begin dancing halfway through the fourth tune and seem surprised when the cortina comes so soon.


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