The End of the Milonga: how marketing changed the tango forever

The above is the title of the book I’ll write someday.  The milongueros viejos are disappearing from the milongas, and the few remaining will not be around forever.  They make the milonga what it has been for decades. There will never be a new generation of milongueros.

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 rehearsed choreography and teach it. It’s not social tango at all; it’s performance tango at milongas.

The milonga hasn’t met its end yet, 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 do what they do. Social dancing is boring to those who dance to impress. We have exhibition tango these days — a blend of choreography with tricks and fancy footwork 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.  Social tango is about the embrace and dancing in the moment.



11 Responses to “The End of the Milonga: how marketing changed the tango forever”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The milonga is essentially dead as far as I can tell in NYC and the rest of North America. Sr. Copes and company metastasized and now, it seems, the cancer has returned to BAs… why bother to travel there to dance with the same ilk and their bad manners that I traveled to escape?

  2. Carol Says:

    The same thing is happening in New York City… very sad.

  3. Terry Says:

    Agreed. And so many of them all look just the same. A blizzard of legs seemingly dancing every beat. Boring, very very boring.

  4. Connie Ross Says:

    I live in South FL and every week enjoy the beautiful connection of heart and soul with most of the men I dance with. Young and old alike. I don’t think it will die off. Of course there are those who enjoy making a show but I find most of us just love the loveliness of walking, connecting, and making a beautiful and intimate dance that is meant solely for us two.

  5. Chris Says:

    It’s ironic that only 10 years ago milongueros such as Tete were teaching social tango dance under the description Tango de Salon precisely to distinguish it from the Tango Escenario (Tango of the Stage) of the vast majority of class teachers at the time. Now class teachers have taken over the term Tango de Salon to cover their new kind of show dance adapted to competitions.and to classes, misleading students into thinking it is social tango. A few milongueros resorted to the misleading term Tango Milonguero to distinguish their social tango dance, but even that’s not safe e.g. has already been hijacked by show and workshop dancers such as Gustavo Naveira. If there is a future for milongueros disseminating the social tango dance of the milongas free from the misrepresentation of the show dancers, they are going to have think up a new term and get it heavily protected as a trademark…

  6. Mateo Bodifee Says:

    I agree. Those fancy step dancers kill it for all of us.

  7. lina Says:

    as a female dancer, i cannot stand dancing with this style of dancer. i call them ‘showboats’. they are not dancing with me, looking for connection, they want everyone to see how great they are and how many tricks they know. i would rather walk to the music with a man who feels me and makes me feel good in his arms.

  8. Lorenzo Says:

    Chris: I think the answer (albeit is an admittedly unrealistic expectation) is to have a global moratorium on tango instruction (teaching tango outside of the old friends-for-friends ritual) altogether. Social dance is to be learned by practice and example, not didactic teaching, certainly not the kind by which we have all come to be victimized, either directly or indirectly. The milonga, or any social dance setting, is not at all appropriate commercial turf. Being recompensed for time and expense for space, refreshments, table and chairs, keeping order is one thing. Expecting to make a living teaching others how to dance (even if one is capable of dancing well his or herself on stage or not) is destructive behavior. I am sick to death of paying to dance at a milonga and having to endure a “lesson” and a “demonstration” taking up a third or more of the time I payed to dance. I don’t go to milongas any longer that promote dance instructors. All of it is promotion time at my expense. Historically, “dance lessons” for purposes of social dancing, is a phenomenon that is recent and has been deadly: it’s cancer. All of humanity’s dancing got along without dance instructors up until the last fifty years and social dancing is in the worst shape of all time. We somehow have a culture that is becoming global by way of metastasis that has many of us thinking that we require “lessons” (vis a vis a group of good friends & family) in order to learn how to dance. I can’t tell you how many lovely people (and potential dance partners) we have all lost by way of them staying home after being driven away by a dismal “lesson” and/or “demonstration (performance).” Short of a moratorium, “dance instructors” should have a license to practice ;^)

    Connie: Let me and others know where because I, at very least, am starved for your kind of experience and will hitchhike there, if necessary, as soon as possible…

  9. bird Says:

    Good things won´t fade away forever. They may disappear for a while but they will be back, because humans need what they have to give here: … the embrace and dancing in the moment …and humans will either remember this or seek for it again.

  10. Lorenzo Says:

    Bird: Here’s hoping your optimism stays alight and brightens others and that I’m alive for the recurrence you trust will come… Many of the men and women highlighted here have lived through very dark days that have included the milonga in the deepest shadows… my desire is that those who are no longer with us, have survived, hopefully, in me and my partner(s) if and when I manage to find a milonga…

  11. random tango bloke Says:

    You put into print exactly what I have been feeling for a while now. In London we are flooded with these Tango Salon couples (clutching their winning trophy from the world championships) and to be honest it is probably the most dangerous antisocial tango there is. This performance tango for teachers hidden in a half open embrace pretending to be social tango fools the punters that they are doing tango appropriate for the milongas much more easily than nuevo ever could.

    Your post on the old milongueros dying out really depressed me because they are only reference point.

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