Take a close look

Millions of viewers watch flashy dance performances on entertainment television.  They probably have no idea that those choreographed routines called tango have nothing to do with the music and dance that originated in Buenos Aires.  

A few days ago I filmed dancers’ legs during a vals tanda.  This is social dancing at its best.


10 Responses to “Take a close look”

  1. Paul Says:

    Those hoping to discover more about the authentic world of social Argentine tango dancing are indeed ill-served by the preponderance of flashy show dance on offer both on entertainment television and on YouTube. It is unsurprising that many people new to tango have difficulty knowing what it is that characterizes acceptable social dancing. Clips like this provide a welcome and necessary antidote and should be required viewing for all those high voleo lovers who often seem blissfully unaware of the nuisance they are making of themselves on the dance floor.

    Some years ago while visiting an Argentine tango event in Dublin I recall that the organiser had the novel idea of projecting dance video clips onto the side walls to create something of the atmosphere of Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, the clips were all of touring professionals, (including this one ) mostly showing flashy displays of elaborate workshop moves: in many ways, the antithesis of “social dancing at its best.” For those present at the event, this only served to perpetuate the myths and misinformation surrounding Argentine tango. This may have been by accident or design so I would not like to cast judgement on the particular organiser or his event. In general, however, it is hardly in the commercial interest of anyone running a dance school to show authentic examples of social dancing in all its simplicity, grace and restraint.

  2. jantango Says:


    Thanks for your comments.

    Tango for export was primarily choreographed performance on stage before an audience. However, over the past several years, a new form of tango labeled de salon is marketed as the social style of the milongas. These salon dancers do choreographed exhibitions and teach their choreography. It’s not social tango at all; it’s performance tango in a milonga. Tango is an improvised social dance.

    This is the title for a new book: The End of the Milonga — How marketing changed the tango forever.

  3. Chris Says:

    I don’t believe the milonga has met its end. All that’s happened is that show tango marketing has created a different kind of event called (by those that sell it) a milonga. Here in the UK, we’ve now got many of these, but they’re easily spotted at a distance by the fact they advertise dance classes, instructor shows, alternative music etc, making them very unlikely to be mistaken for a traditional milonga by people who know what a traditional milonga is.

  4. jantango Says:

    I agree that the milonga hasn’t met its end, but it’s in sight. Marketing calls them dancers of tango de salon, but they are performing their choreographies at milongas for social dancers who want to learn what they do. Social dancing is boring to those who want to be the center of attention. We have exhibition tango these days — a blend of choreography with tricks that passes as tango de salon. Fill a milonga with those dancers, and it’s the end of the milongas as we know them in Buenos Aires.

  5. Piotr Says:

    Hi jantango,

    I ocasionally read your blog. Thanks for sharing your insight in the traditional ways of social tango. My teacher (both trained stage dancer and milonguero since early 90s) recently told me that the prevalent way of dancing in BsAs, that is milonguero style with fixed close embrace also originated in the 90s. As an illustration he showed me this series of videos:

    Some of these people are famous stage/tango fantasia dancers, like Todaro but most are just milongueros. Of course they are exhibitions but the dancers had to learn all the flashy moves somewehere, didn’t they? I feel that exluding all the flashy/exhibition elements from the notion of tango is unjustified. In these videos we can see 40 years of not-co-close embrace, flying legs, spacious moves and so on. It was always there – after seeing this I thought that nuevo inventors only added new technique, no new moves.

    It seems that for a long time tango was both social and exhibition dance and the second aspect wasn’t limited only to professional stage dancers. Why deny this?

    Best wishes,

  6. jantango Says:


    Thanks for your comments. I recorded that video to show how tango is danced on crowded floors in BsAs. Many of those legs have 50 or more years dancing. When a personal style is formed, it doesn’t change like fashion.

    To put it bluntly, your teacher is wrong about tango in the embrace originating in the 1990s.

    The video you included was made in a club de barrio (Mariano Acosta and others) when black & white 8mm filming was available in BsAs. The ladies’ dresses date the video around 1980. The only record we have of tango in the 40s is found at the milongas — the old milongueros who still dance.

    I don’t need to give a lengthy response when Tango Voice has done so already on his blog. There you will find all you need.

  7. Chris , UK Says:

    My teacher recently told me that … milonguero style with fixed close embrace also originated in the 90s. As an illustration he showed me this series of videos: Bailarines de tango 1940-1980

    Hmm. This is like showing videos of the first cars to illustrate a claim that horse-riding originated only decades later.

    Piotr, I hope you’ll consider spending your money elsewhere.

  8. Piotr Says:

    @Janis – yeah, I figured it out that there were no 40s dances in the videos. There are four parts, though – I thought some of them could be made in the lat 60s because of the clothing.

    Anyway, I never wrote that tango in the embrace originated in 1990s. This would be a dumb thought :). English is not my first language so I expressed myself not clearly – what I meant is that the idea of never opening the embrace is relatively new (or maybe: became more popular in the 1990s). This is what I was told – that traditional tango usually allowed opening for giros and some figures.

    But my point with the videos was that the exhibitions and choreography and ‘flashiness’ have been a part of tango for a long time. I don’t understand the reason to try to cut them off in such a blunt manner. They’re not my cup of tea but I admit that they have their time and place – which is certainly not in the milonga – and so be it.

    @Chris – I appreciate your concern about my finances considered the financial crisis and all but let me handle them myself 😉 Apart from the fact that I was misunderstood here, I pay the guy for tango lessons, not a history class 😉

    Have a happy New Year full of tango and embraces.

  9. Chris , UK Says:

    I pay the guy for tango lessons, not a history class

    The actual cost of trying to learn Argentine tango from instructors that misrepresent the dance is something that takes quite a while for students to discover. That’s one of the aspects of the business model that makes it so popular – with instructors.

  10. jantango Says:

    Well put…the way it is.

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