Milonga 101: feet on the floor

Voleos and ganchos are probably at the top of the list of most requested things to learn in beginner classes.  They’ve seen them in exhibitions, so they naturally assume they are right for social dancing.  Did I teach them?  Yes, when I didn’t know any better because my students begged to learn them.  I learned them from my first Argentine teachers.

Today, dancers attend classes that teach nothing but a variety of voleos as if they were the most important element in tango.  The problem starts with Argentine performers who try to step into the role of teaching tango for the milonga.  Choreography doesn’t work in the milongas.  We dance tango on the floor in the milongas, and all the tricks and flying legs are for stage.  The problem is that tango for exhibition doesn’t work on a crowded milonga floor.   Many teachers, including salon champions, only know and teach choreography.  Dancers aren’t learning improvisational skills for the milonga.

I had a discussion recently with a world salon tango champion who teaches voleos  to social dancers.  He says: “Some milongueros lead voleos; the reason some don’t is because they don’t know how.  Just because milongueros don’t use voleos and ganchos doesn’t mean they aren’t good for the milongas.”

This attitude explains why many Argentine couples justify teaching these elements to social dancers.  They are teaching tango for exhibition, not as a social dance.  He viewed my dancing in videos and commented that I don’t do 10% of what there is in tango.  That’s so true.  I keep my feet on the floor.  He wants to dance figures; I want to dance a feeling.


5 Responses to “Milonga 101: feet on the floor”

  1. George Says:

    Ok im not sure about it. A couple of months ago i would say that yes they shouldnt do them during a milonga. Now i would say that i dont care if they do voleos or ganchos as far as there is enough space in the floor and they fit with the music.
    I can see why people care that much about learning ganchos and voleos. Dancing doing these figures fits more with the way of thinking of our time. So its more like a way of thinking than dancing.

    Personally speaking i dont do either of them. Im dancing 2 years now (i had only one year lessons) and i havent learn how to do them. Although i learned by accident during dancing in milongas how to do some ganchos or voleos i can say that im not looking forward to add them to my dance. I feel that i have many things i have to learn first and i like to move forward on a solid base.

    By the way. Nice blog. I watch it for a couple of months now and i must say that i agree with you most of the times.

  2. Alan Jones Says:

    Often,10% is more in the tango, eh, Janis? I too,was attracted to the tango by watching a show in England, and particularly liked the move where the man held his foot in the air, then the woman stepped over it! Now, I don’t do that, hopefully through gaining more experience. One female ‘teacher’ recently kicked our table so hard with a high gancho, that she nearly knocked our glasses over, not good with red wine on the table…She will be dancing (and probably teaching) high ganchos at her next dance. There is a place for show dancers, and ‘tango gymnasts’, but not at a crowded traditional milonga. ‘Up with the ‘trads’! Alan Jones

  3. jantango Says:

    I agree, Alan. Less is more in tango.

  4. b Says:

    Well, there is a ton to say on this. The problem is I don’t think of ganchos and boleos as figures, and I see people doing these at places like La Catedral and they are filled with connection and happiness and emotion and really dancing to the music, and not doing any kinds of sequences of moves nor kicking tables over. And I have done this myself and done it within a great embrace and a real tango trance. Janice, I don’t know how much you go to the nuevo venues and so I don’t know how much you know about how people there are in fact dancing an emotion, not figures. But I’d say quite a bit in many cases.

    On the other hand there is this sort of Salon/American thing which seems mostly devoid of emotion, connection (whether to the music, the partner, the floor, or the others), rhythm, etc., and is just based on the fact that the world is filled with people trying to make a living off teaching tango, and so what are they gonna teach if they don’t know how to teach heart?

    And in fact there are plenty of “milonguero-style” teachers in BsAs who are still teaching figures. Otherwise the correct thing would to just get the two people to hug each other and listen to the music and perhaps sway to it in rhythm while they listened to each other’s hearts and breath. But I have never seen a teacher in BsAs brave enough to do such a thing.

  5. jantango Says:

    I agree that voleos are not figures, and I referred to them as “elements” of tango. I know about the nuevo venues like Practica X, Tango Cool, El Motivo, etc. but prefer to dance in traditional milongas.

    Juan Carlos Copes said in an interview that people are “using” tango. There are people who know very little about tango, but try to make a living off teaching it as you point out. This doesn’t benefit anyone. If they don’t know enough about tango to feel it themselves, they won’t be sucessful as teachers.

    I’ve had the same thought about teaching tango. Getting them to surrender to the embrace and the music is the challenge.

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