There’s only ONE tango, but…

When it comes to the dance, there are a few varieties.

TELEVISION TANGO

That’s Entertainment!  Rehearsed choreography.  A professional dancer is well paid for dancing with a celebrity.  The music is never tango.  The goal is to impress the judges and the viewing audience so they’ll vote their favorite couple.  Flash is the key ingredient because they are the center of attention for the studio and viewing audience.  A director marks the camera shots  during rehearsal.  Millions of viewers believe they are dancing Argentine tango.

STAGE TANGO

Again this is tango to entertain for those who don’t know much about tango.  It’s choreography for one selected tango night after night in theatrical productions.  Elaborate costumes.  It’s rehearsed so it’s technically perfect.  Dancers in this category do not know how to dance socially.  Their dance is always prepared for one tango. Couples dance solo or in a group choreography.  Tango is a feeling, but not when dancing on stage for an audience.

COMPETITION TANGO

A committee makes the rules.  The dancers have to please the judges.  That means private coaching sessions with judges can help and competing several years.  They dance to three different orchestras in one round with only ten couples on the floor.  This has nothing to do with social tango. Winners of the tango championships immediately begin teaching careers abroad. Many are already dance professionals who add the title to their resume.  Festival organizers hire these professional couples to teach tango to social dancers.

EXHIBITION TANGO

They are “salon” dancers who dance only as a couple, therefore, you’ll never see either one dancing in a milonga with other partners.  Their exhibitions are in milongas, but the rules of the milonga do not apply for them, i.e., feet on the floor, line of dance.  They dance for the dancers at the milonga, not for each other.  There is a fine line between exhibition tango and stage tango.  The choreography is for a selected tango.  The women often wear stage costumes.  It’s all about the look to sell themselves to an audience, not about feeling or connection.

MILONGA TANGO

It’s a dance for a lifetime.  It’s hard to find these days, even in Buenos Aires.  There are rules to follow.  Going to a milonga is like mystery theater:  no one knows the actors or the story line which unfolds moment by moment for hours.  It’s not about advanced technique, years of training or who is the best.  There is no discrimination or stardom in the milonga.  Anyone can go to dance.  You won’t see any glittery stage costumes.  The milonga is where you dance a feeling and connect with a stranger for ten minutes on a crowded floor.

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13 Responses to “There’s only ONE tango, but…”

  1. Chris Says:

    Plus WORKSHOP TANGO.

    See some _here_.

  2. jantango Says:

    Class, workshop, or seminar is where one learns and practices tango for all of the above. Unfortunately, many teachers don’t bother to mention that their class material isn’t for the milonga. The video is a good example of what social dancers don’t need to know.

  3. Chris Says:

    Janis wrote: “Class, workshop, or seminar is where one learns and practices tango for all of the abov.

    Except Milonga Tango. That’s learned in the milonga.

  4. jantango Says:

    How true! The tango I learned in classes from the big names was put aside. The milongueros viejos were my teachers on the crowded milonga floors.

  5. Marc from Paris Says:

    Nice analysis, thank you. However, let’s detail further how it works in Milongas. Do you select yours partners randomly ? Surely not, so you have criteria, whatever they are; you have your own ways of selecting dancers, don’t you ? 🙂
    This implies that if an unknown dancer wants to be selected by you as a possible partner, he has to fulfill what he believes your criteria could be.
    So he has to respect the codigos, sure, but he also has to show off… In a more subtle manner than in “exhibition tango”, but he has to prove in some way that he is worth a try. Otherwise, why would you want to dance with him ? 🙂
    This is my point: even in Milonga’s social dancing, even in close embrace and close attention to their partner, both dancers also dance for viewers. 🙂

  6. Patricia Says:

    It is indeed true, that much is learned in the milonga. But it is also true that we are all capable of repeating the same mistakes and not realising it.

    I have danced with some lovely local Buenos Aires men who frequent the milongas, but have real bugs in their dancing. It is still enjoyable to share a tanda with them, because of the connection with them and the music, as well as friendship.

    However, ingrained flaws in their technique make some things difficult or uncomfortable. So, I sometimes find myself wishing that they would spend a little time with a good local teacher who could help them improve their technique and hence the experience for themselves and their partners.
    Note: The men I speak of are professionals who could afford a private lesson or two.

  7. jantango Says:

    Marc,
    Good questions! Let’s hear what readers think.

    Patricia,
    The milongueros viejos have spoiled me.

  8. Chris Says:

    Patricia wrote: “some lovely local Buenos Aires men who frequent the milongas … have real bugs in their dancing … I sometimes find myself wishing that they would spend a little time with a good local teacher

    One hears that often from people such as yourself Patricia who spent a lot of time in classes.

    One hears it rarely from people who spent a lot of time in milongas.

    But it is also true that we are all capable of repeating the same mistakes and not realising it.

    Agreed. One such mistake is thinking the dancing people learn in classes should be compatible with the dancing people learn in milongas.

  9. Patricia Says:

    Chris, you’ve got it wrong. I speak from experience in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires with a generally good level of dance. Do you?

    During our current stay in BsAs we have attended a total of about 30 traditional milongas where we dance mostly separately with locals, and we’ve had 2 private lessons with our teacher to work on refining technique. That’s fairly typical of our annual visits over a number years.

    By the way, my wish that some local male dancers would work a little on their technique was an echo of a comment made by a seasoned local milonguera the other day.

  10. Chris Says:

    Patricia wrote: “Chris, you’ve got it wrong.

    I’d understood you’re a dance class teacher. My apologies if that’s incorrect.

    I speak from experience in traditional milongas of Buenos Aires

    I guess then you must have experienced the effect of giving the BA milongueros the benefit of your advice on (what you see as) the “real bugs” in their dancing. Please do tell.

  11. Patricia Says:

    Chris, I would not be so rude as to give such advice, nor would the milongueros give advice to their partners. A milonga is not a practica. However, that does not deny the fact that most of us could work at improving aspects of our dancing.

  12. Chris Says:

    Patrica wrote “However, that does not deny the fact that most of us could work at improving aspects of our dancing.

    Tango workers such as yourself Patricia all too often forget that this is social dance. A social dancer does not “work at” improving his dance. Dancing is something he does when not at work. His dancing improves through dancing, up to his own personal limit. The only people who need to “work at” their tango dancing are tango workers.

  13. David Leasne Says:

    Great subject. I think it’s a matter of learning technique of close embrace and the codes before venturing out to “traditional” milongas in BA otherwise you won’t get danced with. BA has many milongas for tourist where technique and codes are not observed that’s where many end up. it is not likely you will be asked to dance at a popular traditional milonga.

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