There’s one in every milonga

They’re the ones dancing in the center of the floor, oblivious to the music and others.  They have their set routine of sequences that they memorized in classes.  They do their thing, and that’s fine.

Every milonga has at least one couple on the floor who go to perform for themselves.  They’re not at the milonga for social dancing.

I was going to begin a conversation recently with a woman in the ladies’ room.  I wanted to know if she was a foreign visitor and where she learned tango.  Before I spoke, the attendant commented how well they dance.  The woman added that they take classes in performance tango and couldn’t do anything on the floor because there was no space.  They had to dance salon style.  Most of their dance was the eight-step basic with no regard for the music.  They are a couple in their early 50s, so I wonder where they plan to perform.  It was painful to watch them.

The worst thing is they are Argentine.  I should have asked the names of their teachers.

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21 Responses to “There’s one in every milonga”

  1. Janet Rieck Says:

    There is more than one in every crowd these days.

  2. Stefano Says:

    I’m afraid we are living a new world revival of tango but, of course, with a different interpretation of its original message. Present approach is based on business and exibition, both important aspects of our western world. If this even happens in BA is a bad sign. The only solution is to find people and milongas trying to maintain, live and dance the simple social Tango and its codigos.

  3. JohnM Says:

    Many classes today, even in Argentina, seem to be teaching derivations of performance style tango. Not surprising really when they are taught by professional dancers. Social dancers don’t generally teach in classes but person to person, that’s if they teach at all.

    Perhaps they were not planning to perform at all but they were discovering that what they had been taught was useless at crowded milongas. Other Argentines have told me the same, that when they came to the milongas they had to throw away most of what they had learned in their previous classes.

  4. Janet Rieck Says:

    It is important for people who want to dance tango anywhere that they are aware they are also dancing on a floor with other dancers. They need to be considerate of the ones that are around them. Some are taught carelessly by those that are careless in their dancing. It is important to be careful who you study with and to watch people who have been dancing for many years. You have a lot of freedom to dance in a small place if you know what you are doing. Most don’t it appears. A good teacher will teacher you proper technique that will allow you to dance in a milonga. If you want to do performance tango, you need to study many years with that as your goal. It is not milonga tango. People dance salon tango in the milongas with many variations…all of which fit on a milonga floor. Keep it simple and you will be fine. Make it complicated and you will surely get into trouble.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    I’ve tried to provide actual social milongas here in NYC without “classes” or “demonstrations” or performances, with tandas of very carefully chosen and widely varied, well arranged music from a full century of Argentine tango, with codes of etiquette and behavioral expectations… and the organizational participation of the few people I can find here who know and understand them and who function as actual hosts and hostesses rather than moneytakers… there has been extremely low interest….

  6. Chris Says:

    Janis wrote: “They’re the ones dancing in the center of the floor, oblivious to the music and others. They have their set routine of sequences that they memorized in classes.

    I see these people and wonder from where they get this thing for doing performances in the centre of the circle formed by everyone else around the edge.

    Then I remember the hundreds of hours they spend copying an instructor doing performances in the centre of the circle formed by everyone else around the edge…

    🙂

  7. jantango Says:

    Lorenzo,
    Congratulations. Choosing music for the milonga is key. Those who attend certainly appreciate your efforts. A milonga patterned after those in BsAs may not be the latest fashion trend these days in NYC, but there has to be one for those who are selective.

    Chris,
    Good observation.

  8. Chris Says:

    Janet Rieck wrote: “A good teacher will teacher you proper technique that will allow you to dance in a milonga.

    A good teacher will advise you that what allows you to dance in a milonga can be learned only in a milonga.

  9. David Leache Says:

    Jan, In LA [Los Angeles] it’s getting more and more frustrating to dance tango without being bumped kicked run over. The list goes on. I think the majority of self-proclaimed teachers couldn’t even explain codes, let alone teach them. They simply don’t exist here. The truth is most of the dancers don’t know what they don’t know. What can you expect to learn when the person teaching has no concept of social dancing. We are becoming the minority, and the payasos [clowns]are taking control. so sad.
    David

  10. Chris Says:

    David wrote: “ I think the majority of self-proclaimed teachers couldn’t even explain codes, let alone teach them. They simply don’t exist here.

    Things are only slightly better here in the UK.

    At heart, the problem is that social dance customs (“codes”) select against people who behave anti-socially, and anything that selects against anyone who might pay for a class is inherently bad for tango teaching business.

    And the effect isn’t limited to the teachers who understand and make this choice. Increasingly the typical teacher here never had this choice. He/she’s a product of the dance class system that took the choice away, just as in their hands it now takes that choice away from their students.

    Business imperative causes this effect to spread to any dance community off which it can feed. I think it was Lorenzo who hereabouts called it a cancer. Sadly, that analogy is apt.

    Lorenzo above wrote:

    I’ve tried to provide actual social milongas here in NYC without “classes” or “demonstrations” or performances, with tandas of very carefully chosen and widely varied, well arranged music

    That’s great to hear! I’m assembling a list of the nearest thing we can get to trad class/show-free milongas here in the UK, and it so far has six regulars. If any UK dancer can suggest additions, please do. Tango discos need not apply 🙂

  11. Janet Rieck Says:

    It sounds like everyone on this post thinks the codes are what dictate how you dance. They don’t. They are just a list of proper behavior expected in the milongas…it is no rocket science. Changing your shoes in the washroom, proper hygiene, using the cabeceo to get and accept dances, dancing only 2 times with one partner (to avoid improper advances ladies). If you are a couple and want to dance with others, do not sit together. If you see couples together, do not ask their partners for dances. Escort your partner back to her table. Do not walk across the dance floor…walk on the outside or in back of tables to get your partner.
    Do no accept dances from men who come to your table. And do not pay anyone to dance with you. And do not leave with any of the locals. Always be polite. Always dress properly…men should wear suits and ties…if it is too hot, then no jacket while sitting, but wear jacket when you dance. If you are still too hot, don’t wear the jacket. No jeans, no sneakers. There are others, but that covers some of them. Unfortunately these days many ignore the codes, but it is better to follow them because you will get more dances and respect if you do. Men look so nice in suits…wish they all would wear them.

    In Buenos Aires, there usually are a lot more people on the dance floor and that limits you to any “broad” dancing patterns. Always dance in a circle counterclockwise. If it is really tight, then dance in a circle until the line of dance moves forward. Don’t dance back.
    If you bump someone, please apologize. Argentines really take offense if this happens. Apologizing eases the tension. Do not confront any offenders. Just let it go. You do not want a confrontation on the dance floor.

    As far as the line of dance, you should be practicing this at home.
    You don’t want to get used to dancing all over the floor. Bad, bad.
    As I said, keep it simple and you will be fine. That simplicity also allows you to pay attention to your partner and the music…which is very important and is the heart of dancing tango.

    Janis has other codes on her blog. Study them and it will really help you dance tango well.

  12. Chris Says:

    Janet wrote: “It sounds like everyone on this post thinks the codes are what dictate how you dance.

    It sounds like you’ve failed to read what people have said on this post. And I really hope readers don’t take your version of the codes seriously. For example, try actually asking some guys why they don’t comply with your “Change your shoes in the washroom”.

  13. Patricia Says:

    Steady on, Chris. It seemed to me that Janet was contributing the flow of conversation which included the teaching and fostering of etiquette appropriate to traditional milongas of Buenos Aires.

    All the points she makes about the codes are completely valid and accurate, including not changing one’s shoes in the milonga.

    IMHO, tango communities outside Buenos Aires would only benefit from adopting most, if not all, of these codes of behaviour. They have a civilising influence on the people’s behaviour on the dance-floor. The codes = respect for others.

  14. Chris Says:

    Patricia wrote: ““All the points she makes about the codes are completely valid and accurate, including not changing one’s shoes in the milonga.

    Since you mention accuracy, please note Janet didn’t say “not changing one’s shoes in the milonga.” She said “Change your shoes in the washroom”. Which most guys do not do because they don’t change shoes period. If she meant this for just women, she should say.

    I believe anyone taking the precarious step of promoting the customs as Do/Don’t Rules (as Janet has done) needs to take particular care. And qualifying with the statement that the codes “don’t dictate” (again as Janet has done) is not clarification. It is contradiction.

  15. Dan Says:

    Chris wrote: “Since you mention accuracy, please note Janet didn’t say “not changing one’s shoes in the milonga.” She said “Change your shoes in the washroom”. Which most guys do not do because they don’t change shoes period. If she meant this for just women, she should say.”

    We change shoes in the milonga, and we use the washroom. Que nabo más arrogante …!

  16. Janet Rieck Says:

    I was trying to help you all out. It is obvious that the real problems stem from the lack of knowledge of the milonga culture. I dance 6 hours a day in B.A. every day and have been doing that for a number of years. I kind of know what I am talking about. Most of these codes relate to behavior and not to dancing. It is best to try to follow them, whether you believe in them or not. They are not laws…you can do whatever you want and reap the results.

  17. jantango Says:

    Janet wrote: I dance 6 hours a day in B.A. every day.

    Where are you doing that much dancing? Certainly not at the milongas with your partner who dances with other women.

  18. Janet Rieck Says:

    Yes, with my my partner.

  19. jantango Says:

    To dance that many hours, you would need to dance every tanda with him for the entire time. That’s not the case when you’re at Lo de Celia, the only place where we both dance.

  20. Janet Rieck Says:

    Janis: Guess I have to clarify that for you. We don’t dance at [Lo de] Celia anymore. No, we don’t dance 6 hours straight. My partner does, but I don’t…don’t want to and don’t need to. We dance at least every other tanda and are at the milonga at least 6 hours, which is exhausting to say the least. We have certain music we love to dance to and love to dance chacarera, salza and now rock. Trust me, we do a lot of dancing in an evening…I don’t count the tandas. |He considers it his job to make sure the women get to dance, so he will dance with them to music that is not our favorite. Hard to understand sometimes, but gave up trying to figure that one out. I think it is a good thing to have someone like that. A lot of women would not dance at all if it weren’t for him. Not sure it is always appreciated, but he tries to make them happy. The good thing is that I get to eat chocolate cookies without any guilt. I also dance with other men, but not a lot. We always have a good time.

  21. jantango Says:

    Janet, Thanks for the clarification that you don’t dance six hours straight. That would be a marathon, not a milonga.

    Your first visit to Buenos Aires was March 2010, only four years ago.

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