Archive for the ‘Milongas’ Category

Be quiet

June 21, 2017

All the chatter is really getting to me.  I go to listen to the music and watch the dancing.  The milonga isn’t a social club, it’s where people go to dance tango.  I may share a table with a friend, but we aren’t engaged in incessant conversation.  Blocking out the chatter is a challenge, something I’ve had to practice so I can enjoy the music.

I had a good view of the floor and the first row of tables from the second row where I sat alone.  There were as many as six women sharing a table.  When they weren’t dancing, they were chattering away.  There is no interest in listening to the music or watching the dancing.  I believe this is one of the major changes in the milonga ambiance.  Over the last 15 year or so, the milongas are more social clubs than a place where people go to enjoy tango.  Newcomers fall right into the social club mode.

One professional is a good example of how things have changed.  She has danced for more than twenty years in the milongas.  She respected the codes and customs of the milonga.  After years going abroad to teach, she gets the star treatment.  Her front and center seat is waiting for her.  She stands on the edge of the floor during a tanda as if she entered a restaurant to meet friends for dinner.  She removes her coat while chatting with other women at the table.  The conversation continued for a half hour.  Then she removed her knee-high boots at the table; the ladies’ room is too inconvenient for her to bother. She has the skills of a contortionist changing into her tango shoes with very little space, while trying not to display her bare legs and feet.  This was taking place a few feet away, and I kept my eyes on the scene.  She never stopped talking either.  Then she sat for an hour without an invitation to dance.

The men listen to the music and watch the dancing.  They reserve their conversation for the women.  That’s why there is no end to the chatter.  The women talk at the table with other women, and then with the men between dances.  There was a moment when I wanted to stand up and shout: be quiet!  Don’t you want to hear the music?

The milonga I attended yesterday had lots of chattering, too.  A friend and I sat between two tables of chatterers who never stopped talking, even during the demonstration by the new senior city tango champions.  After the demonstration, a young woman from the USA sat with us.  The woman next to us interrupted tell us not to talk, so we don’t miss invitations to dance.  Her remarks were amusing, and came across as  “do as I say, not as I do.”

Those who chatter away don’t appreciate what the milonga offers them.  They don’t know what they’re missing.

Be choosy

June 18, 2017

If you ask any woman at a milonga if she is there to sit all night or there to dance, she’ll probably say she wants to dance.  I’ve seen women who dance every tanda all night long, like they’re at a marathon.

A few years ago, Leonora shared my table.  She was new to the milonga.  She wasn’t a familiar face, so she was sitting more than dancing.  We talked about observing how the men dance before accepting an invitation.  I told her how I preferred to sit than to suffer through ten minutes with a partner who didn’t feel the music or take care of me while we danced.  In early May, I saw her at a Saturday afternoon milonga.  She stopped by my table to thank me and let me know that she decided to take my advice about dance partners. She is content dancing fewer tandas with better dancers.

Ines heard me talk about the milongas during the three months she was coming to a weekly lesson.  She was finally ready for her first milonga.  We went with friends to Nuevo Chique.  Her first tanda was a disaster.  Her second tanda was another disaster.  She was too good with the cabeceo, but was accepting every invitation that came her way.  Then we talked.  I pointed out Jose, the best dancer in the milonga to her, a man with whom I’d enjoyed dancing many times.  He was directly across the room.  I told her to look his way.  She did. He invited her.  That was an aha moment for Ines.  She felt the difference between men who pushed her around and one who danced with her.  She said, Janis, I’m going to take your advice from now on.  I’m not going to dance with anyone until I’ve seen how he dances first.  I’ll be choosy like you.  A few weeks later, we went together to Nuevo Chique.  She was eager to dance, so I reminded her that she is choosy like I am.  She danced only three or four tandas that day, but none of them were disasters.

 

Are the milongas declining in Buenos Aires?

March 1, 2017

Recently, I commented to a visitor that she has the option of 120 milongas each week.  That’s the total that remained constant for many years.  Today I reviewed hoy-milonga.com and found only 78 milongas now listed.  That number excludes practicas, free dances which don’t pay licensing fees, outdoor places with no seating, places allowing jeans and sneakers, gay, and underground venues.

Today I came across a list of milongas that I compiled in March 2000, according to the magazines.  There are 135 milongas on that list.  I noted with a marker those that were still open in April 2009 and 2011.  Those that are crossed off are closed.

dscn9609

Saturday, I attended the last day of El Arranque, which opened on February 14, 2000.  The owners sold Nuevo Salon La Argentina to a developer. This is an important salon with a capacity for 700 that will leave a gaping hole in the tango scene for many seniors.  Video

The venues listed that still host milongas today are: Salon Canning, Gricel Tango Club, Club Maracaibo, Club Sin Rumbo, Salon Rodriguez, Salon Sur, Salon El Pial, Centro Region Leonesa, Club Social Rivadavia, Club Bohemios, Club Pedro Echague, and Club Fulgor de Villa Crespo.

The famous Confiteria Ideal closed its doors one year ago for major renovation.  We are hopeful that it will return as a venue for milongas and classes every day of the week.

Are the milongas declining in Buenos Aires?  The fact is they are.

Which technique do you prefer? bend over or leg lift

February 28, 2017

dscn9343

In 1996, I joined a tour group from Los Angeles for my first visit to the Buenos Aires milongas. The tour organizers knew the milonga codes and customs, including changing shoes in the restroom, not at the table.  Most women go wearing shoes for dancing.  I remember attending the milonga at Club Almagro on Medrano and going directly to the restroom to change into my dance shoes.  It’s one thing changing shoes for dance classes at your local studio, but the custom is different in the milongas of Buenos Aires.  You won’t see the milongueros changing their shoes . . . ever.  Even soccer players get dressed in a locker room, not on the field.

Oh, how things have changed in the milongas.

I don’t understand why so many women today change shoes at the table.  Where do they wash their hands before the first tanda?  Do they think no one is watching them?  Is it such a long walk to the restroom to change one’s shoes and attend to other personal matters? It’s such a big time saver to do these things at the table in full view of everyone.

There are two techniques of shoe changing at the table.  The photo above shows the “bend over” technique.  First, she removes her street shoes and leaves them under the table or packs them away in a bag.  How elegant is it to see bare feet? The milonga isn’t on the beach.  She may even take a moment to shake foot powder into her dance shoes or on her feet.  Buckling the straps takes a few minutes with the knees together.  Why waste time going to the restroom when the “bend over” is accomplished in full view of everyone?  Men get to size up your butt.

dscn9603

dscn9604

The second is the “leg lift” technique which has two variations: one is a knee lift to the chest; the other is placing a foot on the leg. The latter allows the woman seated next to you to get a whiff of your smelly feet if she is unlucky enough sitting out the tanda.

dscn9606

dscn9605

If you’re on the edge of the dance floor or near an aisle, you offer a private show for the men.  I couldn’t believe the scene yesterday in Obelisco Tango.  It was so outrageous that I stood up and stared at the woman changing her shoes with her skirt completely open as if there was no one else in the room.  Two men seated in front of me didn’t miss the show, and she got a tanda very soon with one of them.  I pointed out the scene to the other women at the table who both replied they always change shoes at the table.  A few minutes later, one of them asked me for directions to the ladies room and was wearing her dance shoes.

 

el-maipu

The two women next to me are culprits. The woman with her back to the camera asked me for directions to the ladies’ room and has no problem with changing shoes at the table.

Tango is macho?

January 25, 2017

Recent conversations prompted my search on this topic. The following is a translation of an article by a blogger in Europe.

 

In the milonga you listen to comments from people close to you that sometimes make you happy, others make you sad, others leave you puzzled, some annoy you, and others just do not understand them, let alone in a society like the one we live in today.

It was early and the milongueros were arriving little by little, greeting others, occupying tables, changing shoes, and preparing for the night. Then a young girl, whom I’ve known for a long time, arrived. After greeting one another, we decided to catch up, but as usual, we ended up talking about tango, the milonguero codes, hugs, what we like and didn’t like about them.

She told me that she likes a firm close embrace and that she does not care for those in which she can barely move, since it is the man who marks and the woman who follows, and that, after all, tango is a macho dance. I also like the close and firm embrace, but I also like that you can breathe in it and be flexible, and what I definitely do not like is for the man to ignore me and do not bother to “listen” to me when I dance.

I was surprised by her explanation that tango is a macho dance. In my opinion, no dance is and, even less, tango. He is the milonguero – and for nothing they all are , who is sexist, whether they dance tango or not. What is certain is that if he is macho, it is convenient to say that tango is also, so as to excuse his behavior with the milongueras and in the milonga.

Some also say that the cabeceo is sexist. Again I think that is a tremendous nonsense. Maybe the one that nods is, but the eye contact itself is not. In the eye contact, it is the woman who looks at the milonguero with whom she wants to dance. Then it is they who perceive her glance, if they share the desire to dance with her, extend their invitation in the form of head movement; and finally it is she who confirms it or not. The nodding exchange is a totally bilateral non-verbal agreement.

I firmly believe that tango is a channel of communication between two people who embrace each other. What makes this communication bilateral is mutual respect and listening on both sides to the other person, in which there is a proposal and an acceptance or not of the movement. It is a free tango, nothing macho if the person proposing the movement isn’t, one who respects and has equal consideration for the other person. However, what makes this communication one-sided is a milonguero who imposes his will, who does not count on her except to follow him and do what he commands. This last case is the clear example of a macho milonguero, who surely in the privacy of his house is exactly the same: authoritarian, with an immense ego and a very accented pride.

And what does machismo have to do with tango? The same as fashion, cinema, relationships between people, labor relations,  family, and many other aspects of life itself.  Tango is just one more element in time and space, in which women have been treated and considered in a certain way throughout history.

 

 

Does he sweep you off your feet?

January 18, 2017
I went to El Maipu in Obelisco Tango on Monday for a slight change in my schedule. It was cold and rainy on Sunday, so I didn’t go to Obelisco.  I sat at my usual table with two local women and a foreigner.
The first tanda was Troilo, and there was Hugo indicating he wanted to dance with me.  It was wonderful.  The next tanda was Canaro, and Miguel caught my attention to dance.  Another enjoyable tanda of great music.  Then Jorge wanted to dance milongas with me.  I never miss the opportunity to dance with him.
I just listened to the music and watched the dancing during several tandas.  Then I heard the incredible music of Di Sarli fill the room.  With whom will I dance my favorite orchestra?  I know P is here, but where is he?  He suddenly appeared with a big smile, inviting me for the tanda.   In a split second I stood up and told him, “this is our tanda.”  I don’t dance Di Sarli with just anyone.
It had been a long time since I last danced with P.  We have one thing in common —  a passion for Carlos Di Sarli.  I immediately felt comfortable in his embrace.  After the first tango, he said Jorge Duran is his favorite singer. Then I returned to his warm embrace while others continued their conversations.  P and I wanted to dance every second possible.
As the tanda progressed, I sank deeper into music.  It took control of me.  We didn’t speak after the next tango.  We savored the music.  I never close my eyes, but I did during the last tango.
He guided me off the floor.  We shared twelve minutes.  Then it was over, and I basked in the feeling that took me completely by surprise.
Have you been swept off your feet dancing tango?  If not, you have something to look forward to.

Milonga review: Canal Rojo Tango – Salon Canning

December 20, 2016

dscn9436

Salon Canning got a major facelift in October.  All milongas and classes had to be cancelled for about six weeks while the work took place.  The walls are painted gray, the washrooms were totally remodeled, and the wood floor was carefully removed and then replaced.  It’s better than ever.  I hadn’t been there to dance in a year and wanted to see it for myself.  Canal Rojo Tango is the Sunday milonga.

Floor:  In a word — superb.  It gets crowded, so one has to know how to dance in a small space and continually moving along.  This is where navigation skills get tested.

Sound system:  Speakers hang over the floor for optimal sound level. The salon is large with high ceilings.

Deejay:  Mario Orlando who works in the corner by the bar.  He knows what to play for this demanding audience.

Entrada: 100 pesos (and worth it); bottled water is 40 pesos.

dscn9437

Seating: The tables have two chairs facing the floor. Aisles between the tables allow  access to the dance floor.  Two occupy each table, and very few have three.  The central air-conditioning keeps the salon cold. Bring along a jacket if you get cold like I do.

Dancers:  There are many milongueros who have their reserved tables for years.

Waiters:  They are responsible for seating.  I went to sit next to a friend’s table, and those who had it reserved didn’t show up.  I was comfortable alone in the back row.

dscn9439

The walls have large works of art, one of which has Cleopatra wearing tango shoes.

dscn9441

Access to the washrooms is through a door near the bar.  The men’s room is the first door on the left (where the ladies’ room was) and the ladies’ room is further down the hallway on the left.  It is spacious, modern, clean, with large mirrors, good lighting, six stalls, and large waste baskets.  There are two chairs for changing shoes.  This part of the remodeling was long overdue.

Standing out or blending in as a foreigner

December 19, 2016

dscn7944

There is one man in the front row of six who is not Argentine.  He doesn’t stand out as a foreigner, but blends in well among the portenos.  He dresses like portenos.  He respects the milonga codes and customs.

Last week I attended Nuevo Chique in Casa de Galicia on Thursday.  A man on the other side of the floor looked my way.  I’d never seen him before at a milonga.  I decided to continue my gaze and wait for him to invite me with a nod.  He did and then approached.  I felt comfortable in his embrace, and he danced the music.  After our first dance, he said: I don’t speak Spanish.  He surprised me, since I thought I was dancing with a porteno.  This was the first time in all my years in the milongas that I had mistaken a foreigner for a porteno.

dscn9438

He didn’t stand out as a foreigner.  He age, his clothing and shoes, and relaxed manner indicated porteno to me.  Only his language gave away his secret.

Charles was born in Belgium and lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  He is at the end of his first visit to Buenos Aires after dancing for 15 years.  We got together on his last day and danced one tango.  I put on Cachirulo by Anibal Troilo.  He has the embrace and feeling of a porteno.

Change is inevitable

November 18, 2016

Once upon a time…

There were no tourists in the milongas, only portenos.  All the men wore suits and ties.  Women wore dresses. There was respect for the codes, and men did the inviting.  You were given a front row table for your excellent dance skills.  Men and women wore street shoes for tango.

Today, foreigners are present in most of the milongas, but that wasn’t the case twenty years ago.  Men aren’t the only ones wearing pants or doing the inviting.  Anything goes these days in the milongas — shorts, sneakers, jeans.  Casual dress is more common for men and women.  Women change clothing and shoes, pack a bag, comb their hair, touch up their makeup at the table as if no one is watching.  All the women wear  shoes made for tango.  First-time visitors get a front row table on the dance floor and then dance tandas with milongueros without knowing how to dance well or anything about the milonga codes.

A friend and I were discussing change and the evolution of tango.  We agree that change is inevitable in life.  A dance originates from the music.  We listen to the same music from the 1930s and 40s.  Personal styles don’t change.  Tango is a feeling danced by two.  The embrace is basic.  The dance is different, and so is the embrace.  Today we have “thinking tango” and “feeling tango.”  It’s not difficult to tell them apart.

I danced recently with a man from Europe.  He moved well with the music, but he lacked the firm embrace I’m used to with portenos.  Although he has visited Buenos Aires many times to dance in the milongas and has taken classes with portenos, his embrace was typical for foreigners.  He dances tango, but hasn’t integrated the feeling of tango with an embrace.  He prefers to use the embrace from his country even when dancing in Buenos Aires.  I believe the main reason tango is changing is lack of cultural understanding and commercialism.

An example of tango’s evolution gone awry appeared on the cover of a tango magazine.  Two shirtless men with bare legs in high heels was the most shocking cover photo I had ever seen.  This style is sold as tango in Buenos Aires and around the world.  If men want to dance with men, and women with women, that’s fine; but they show respect for tango as a social dance with codes.

 

Tuesday at Gricel Club de Tango

October 5, 2016

dscn8928

Last night was the opening of La Negrita Milonga Popular hosted by Alicia Bustos, a veteran milonga organizer.  It’s been four years since her last milonga.  Hector Chidichimo is the owner of Gricel Club de Tango.

dscn8929

Jorge Gonzalez provided excellent tandas for us.

dscn8920

Luis and Alicia

dscn8921

dscn8923

Soledad and Jose Maria

dscn8925

Oscar Hector Malagrino organizes the Friday night milonga in Gricel Club de Tango with Clely Rugnone.

dscn8931

Jose and Elena

I haven’t seen Elena in five years when she sat at the next table in LdC, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her at Alicia’s opening milonga.  After so many years, a milonga feels like a family reunion.

dscn8933

Roberto – Susana

Susana told me she came to the opening because she met her late husband at Alicia’s milonga in Regin some twenty years ago.  That’s how long I know Alicia.

dscn8927

I can’t believe I stayed until 1:30 in the morning and then walked home.