Posts Tagged ‘Milongueros’

Juan Carlos Copes

February 19, 2021
May 31, 1931–January 16, 2021

Stanford Tango Week 1993

I first met Juan Carlos when I attended Stanford Tango Week, July 1993. I wanted to take of photo of him, but he handed my camera to someone else who took this photo of us. Stanford is the grandfather of tango festivals in the USA, and it wouldn’t have been complete without the Maestro. Shortly after Stanford, I approached Northwestern University’s dance department about holding the first international tango congress. Juan Carlos and Maria Nieves were both invited to teach at Northwestern in June 1995. It was a privilege to know and study with them. I went to O’Hare Airport to meet their flight and got down on my hands and knees when I saw them walk off the plane. They started dancing as teenagers in the milongas and danced in New York City in the 1950s.
Juan Carlos invited me to dance during the final milonga/reception of the tango congress. It was the finishing touch after two years to turn my dream into a reality.


Miguel Angel Balbi

November 29, 2010

November 29, 1937 —

I met Miguel Angel in Club Gricel in October 1999, where we danced for the first time.  We danced regularly for three years.  In those days he had some hair; now he has simplified his life by shaving his head.  I had my camera in Gricel to film him recently.

Roberto Angel Pujol

November 28, 2010

March 2, 1938 — May 2010

I hadn’t spoken with Roberto Angel since his birthday and decided I had to make a trip to Ciudadela to see him.  I had been unable to reach him by phone for several months.  It was raining when I found his house empty and inquired with a neighbor about him.  He told me that Roberto Angel passed on in May from a heart attack.   A gloomy day got gloomier.  It has taken several days to write this post. 

Robert Angel and I danced together in the milongas and gave classes together for several years.  He gave his first private class with a couple from Israel in September 2003; the class lasted four hours.  I had the foresight to record him talking and dancing.  On another occasion I recorded him talking about his life in the milongas.  He was self-taught and never went to a practica.  I felt how differently he danced depending on the orchestra for the tanda.  He was the best partner I ever had.

A new home for Alito

January 26, 2010

Geriatrico Nazaret in AlmagroAlito moved recently from Hospital Israelita to a cozy geriatico in Almagro.  Only the universe could have found a room for him with an old friend.  Oscar Casas has managed Alito’s life for months and gets him out to the milongas several times a week. 

Alito shares a room on the fourth floor with Dante who worked as a waiter for Alito many years ago in one of his milongas.  They have known one another for 50 years. I found Alito in the TV room next to the elevator when I arrived for a visit.  He took me to his room to chat.  There is a southern exposure with a nice breeze in the afternoon.  His room has a closet and even a small refrigerator.  The rooms on the fourth floor are men’s quarters, so Alito always has company.  The dining hall is on the top floor with a nice view.   The staff is friendly and take care of 120 residents.   Juan Esquivel came by for a visit while I was there.  Alito seems content in his new home.

Juan, Alito y Dante

Juan, Alito and Dante

Does a real milonga still exist?

January 20, 2010

Before my serious interest in tango, I attended ballroom dance classes in Chicago where the studio owners held parties on a Friday or Saturday night for their students.  We danced to a variety of recorded music.   Everyone got dressed up.  The parties had exhibitions by the teachers and their students.   When I began teaching, I organized class outings and parties for my dance students as well.  The focus was on practicing and socializing.  Everyone got to know everyone else by name.

Those who have had social dance experience probably believe that a milonga is a dance party just like all the others they have attended with one difference–most of the music is tango.    This is not true.

A venue was a milonga because there were milongueros present.  That alone set it apart.  It could have been a club de barrio like Premier in Caballito or a confiteria like Domino downtownAs long as there were milongueros, the term  milonga was appropriately usedToday there are only a handful of places where the milongueros go.  One outdoor venue which has no seating, no tandas, no use for the codes, and no milongueros is included on the list of milongas in Buenos Aires.

A milonga is where milongueros go to listen and dance to tango.  A milonguero doesn’t talk while dancing.  There is respect for tango.  A milonguero doesn’t discuss his personal life in a milonga.  Conversation between dances is brief and private.  The main agenda is the music and dance; exhibitions, announcements, raffles, birthday celebrations, etc. are no part of a real milonga

They call them milongas, but a real milonga doesn’t exist in Buenos Aires–they have become tango dance parties for socializing.  The milongas as they were known by the milongueros are gone forever.

Naming the anonymous

December 5, 2009

This is the 200th post of Tango Chamuyo.  It’s purpose is to write about the milongueros of Buenos Aires.   I had no idea when I began taking photos of them ten years ago that I would be using them in this blog.  Each post has unfolded on its own for sharing with readers.  I will continue to write as long as there are milongueros dancing, and people interested in reading about them. 

One thing I have learned about the milongas is that a person could know other dancers for thirty or forty years, but they can’t tell you their names.  This may seem strange for those of us from other cultures, but this is the way it has always been in the milongas.  Those who performed or traveled years ago became known through videos or publicity.  However, those who danced every night in the milongas remained anonymous.  Names weren’t important in the milongas.  People greeted one another without knowing anything about each other.  Many are known only by a nickname.  All that matters to them is that they come together for one common purpose — to enjoy listening and dancing to tango music.

The milongueros are married to the milongas.  They have no commercial interest in tango.  The milonga is where they go to breathe tango and share an embrace when they dance. 

These anonymous men who have danced for decades have helped to preserve tango as a social dance.  Their love of the music and the way in which they feel it are unique.  Let’s hope that their legacy will remain with us for a long time to come.  The milongueros know the essence of tango. 

Roberto Bonavato, Mario Calarota, Ernesto Garcia, Jorge Uzunian, Hugo Belvisi, Miguel Angel Balbi

Mario Alan "Alito" Candamil in Centro Region Leonesa

Jorge Garcia, Ernesto "Dany" Garcia, Miguel Angel Balbi

Roberto Bonavato and Ernesto Delgado

Milongueros and Dancers–the differences

September 22, 2009

There exists a multitude of ways to dance tango, so many ways to feel it. Still, as in other fields, we can make certain generalizations. One of the divisions I observed is between th0se who are milongueros and those who are dancers.

I’m not talking about a division based on the place where they dance (be it stage or dance floor) nor on the frequency. I am talking about something deeper that you can only see with a way of feeling and expressing the music.

Anatomy of the subjects of this study

To be intrinsically milonguero one has to do something more than simply go to the milongas frequently. There are dancers who go every day and conserve their essence as dancers. To be intrinsically a dancer is more that taking classes or being in a show.

The main difference between them is that the milonguero dances to feel well and the dancer to look good. This doesn’t mean that the dance of the milonguero is less pleasing to see. The feeling that he gives when he begins a tango makes you see that he transmits something special, and on the other hand at times a dancer, in his search for esthetics can lose harmonious paths. The beauty of the dance depends more on the quality of each one and, of course, on the point of view of those who observe it.


The milonguero: he desires the closeness of the contact. He likes to embrace and be embraced, and this is one of his greatest pleasures in the dance.

The dancer: enjoys the movement more. His embrace is a means for his enjoyment of the dance and not an end.


The milonguero: he connects with his partner in the stillness of pauses. He embraces his partner, making connection with her through movement. He dances the silences and continues the cadence.

The dancer: he connects for the movement, it’s a dynamic contact. He embraces his partner, moves, and then makes contact. He gives less importance to the rhythm and prefers changes in velocity.


The Milonguero: generally he possesses a limited quantity of steps, well executed and simple, that he repeats varying the order. He increases the number or the complexity of the them implying he is more cerebral in the dance, his primary enjoyment.

The dancer: disposes an arsenal of steps, constantly growing in number and complexity, caused by his esthetic search and also for certain sensation that to repeat a step in the same tango or very soon is shameful. Anyway, as a woman who enlarges her wardrobe to wear a new dress to each party she attends, so a dancer is always memorizing new steps and combinations that he will demonstrate at the next milonga.

Learning to dance

The milonguero: he never attended classes. His guide is practice and the floor where he dances. In addition, there are few adequate teachers (difficult knowledge to transmit); the adequate way to walk, the feet, and how to lead. They show very good technique in some aspects, and in others, none.

The dancer: he attends many classes, at times more than going to the milongas. And if he has to choose prefers to go to practicas where there is more freedom and space to experiment and test things. His principal interest is the steps and new techniques; he is always looking for new things and perfecting them. Although he doesn’t give much attention to the simple details, like simply walking a tango and his feet, he is always looking for a more comfortable position.


The milonguero: he has a very clear lead, understandable by beginners, very smooth but with security and firmness. The milongueras, on their part, know how to adapt to every type of embrace and, once more, they enjoy them. Even though there will be misunderstandings in dance, they are resolved with elegance, generally without being noticed. Both are displeased and uncomfortable with an open embrace.

The dancer: he knows more types of leads for all the steps he knows. Yes, of course, they need a partner that know how to follow well, and knows their techniques, or they are very limited. Female dancers possess enough sensitivity, but if the lead isn’t precise, or it is a different style to which they are accustomed, they are seen in problems.


Translated with permission by Ricardo Schoua.   Opinion of Oscar Pereira published in Tango y Cultura Popular No. 107   Original source of article is unknown.

Ten commandments of milongueros

June 2, 2009

After ten years of listening to men who are married to the milonga, I have compiled what I believe to be the ten commandments of milongueros.

1.  Thou shalt always dress well.  A milonguero bathes and shaves before the milonga. A pressed suit, clean shirt and tie are his uniform. Trimmed hair, shined shoes, and scent of cologne complete his attire for the milonga.

2.  Thou shalt dance ones own style.  A milonguero is a self-taught dancer with his own style, who can dance elegantly with any woman and make her happy.  A milonguero has learned by observing others, but he never copied them.  

3.  Thou shalt dance well or not at all.  If there is no woman with whom he can dance his best, a milonguero is content to listen to the music and observe the dancing.

4.  Thou shalt dance for yourself and your partner.  A milonguero dances what he feels and transmits that feeling to his partner.  He doesn’t dance to perform or for applause.

5.  Thou shalt treat women with respect.  A milonguero never approaches a woman at her table nor greets women while entering the milonga. 

6.  Thou shalt invite a woman to dance from the table.  A milonguero uses either a tilt of the head or movement of the lips to invite a woman to dance.  The invitation is subtle and not obvious to others in the milonga.  Once his invitation is refused by a woman, he will not invite her again.

7.  Thou shalt not dance with another man’s partner.  A milonguero takes time to observe the floor for several tandas so that he knows if a woman he wants to invite has a commitment with another man.  This is not always obvious since they are seated separately, but dance only with one another.  A milonguero has learned patience.

8.  Thou shalt dance in the floor space available.  A milonguero dances compactly without interfering with others dancing.  If he touches other dancers, he quickly acknowledges it by raising his hand. 

9.  Thou shalt not dance consecutive tandas.  A milonguero dances only when he is inspired by the music.  He can wait hours to hear his favorite orchestra or a certain tanda that inspires him to dance.  A milonguero prefers quality over quantity. 

10. Thou shalt not be seen leaving the milonga with a woman.  A milonguero arranges to meet a woman on the street.  He always leaves the milonga alone, just as he enters it.


“The codes are like the commandments which were born with the tango.”  — Ricardo Vidort

Ricardo Suarez

March 14, 2009

March 14, 1924 —

ricardo-suarezDancing certainly keeps Ricardo looking younger than his years.  In 2000, I bought a camcorder for the purpose of filming the milongueros.  Ricardo was the first milonguero we invited talk about his life in tango.  His account of the milongas and orchestras lasted two hours in Miguel Angel Balbi’s apartment. There are three segments for viewing on YouTube, thanks to the editing work by Ricardo Bellozo.  (His daughter Florencia (20) dances with Ricardo Suarez.) I didn’t understand a word Ricardo said at the time of the recording, but I am happy to have had the opportunity to record this interview  so the world could know and listen to a true milonguero. 

His favorite orchestra is Anibal Troilo, and he loves to dance milonga con traspie.   He grew up in San Telmo and started dancing in 1940 after observing for two years.  He works in his electrical repair shop on Estados Unidos.  He never married because he is married to the milonga.  You can find Ricardo dancing on Fridays in Centro Region Leonesa.

Roberto Alvarez

February 20, 2009

February 20, 1933 —

Roberto and Mary

Roberto and Mary

Roberto is called El chueco because he is bow-legged.  He has been the M.C. at the milonga El Arranque of Juan Carlos Falce in Nuevo Salon La Argentina for many years. When I didn’t see him there a few months ago, I asked about him.  I decided to call him at home to find out how he was.  He was fine, but he wasn’t at the milonga because he was taking care of Mary.  She told me they have been together for 25 years when we spoke in October 2008.  Roberto has worked as a handyman doing general repairs and electrical work.  I danced with him years ago when I went regularly to El Arranque.  He usually shared a table with his friends Jorge Orellano and Julio Alé. 

This photograph is from the book A Los Amigos Milongueros (6th edition) by Angel Battelini published in 1998.  Angel (12/23/22 – 5/28/07) found inspiration for his poetry in the milongas and self-published them.  He gave me an autographed copy of his book in October 1998.  This is part of his poem about Roberto El Chueco and Mary (page 53):

El demuestra de salida…
que es milonguero de raza
en la milonga, se pasa
deja en el tango, la vida…
y eya, dulce, sencitiva
elegante pispireta
muestra qu para el gotán
le sobra clase y carpeta…

Julio, Victor, Roberto and Jorge in El Arranque

Julio, Victor, Roberto and Jorge in El Arranque