Posts Tagged ‘tandas’

Milonga 101: Pay attention to the music

January 4, 2011

The standard format in the milongas of Buenos Aires is two tandas of tango, a tanda of vals, two tandas of tango, a tanda of milonga.  The deejay combines four tunes by the same orchestra (not always possible for valses) from the same recording year for each tanda.

First you decide whether the tanda is tango, vals or milonga.  After identifying the orchestra, you decide whether you want to dance that tanda, then begin looking for someone with whom to dance.  There are those who are looking around the room during the cortina music, and once the tanda begins, they have already made and accepted an invitation without any regard for the music.

Most invitations come during the first dance of the tanda.  If you aren’t dancing the first tune, you have a chance to dance the second or third.  It’s important to listen to the music.  You should know how many tunes were played in the tanda.

Many invitations come after the first dance of a tanda, so don’t give up.  I saw one of my favorite partners at his table.  The second dance of the D’Arienzo tanda began, and I really wanted to dance with him.  I kept looking in his direction, and he finally turned his head to invite me.  I accepted and entered the floor to join him before everyone began dancing.  We had only three dances that tanda, and they were great.

I know that milongueros viejos invite a woman as late as the third tune of a tanda for the first time.  Then, if the woman dances well enough, a milonguero viejo may invite her later for a complete tanda.

It’s difficult to miss those who aren’t paying attention to the music during the tanda.  They are the ones who begin dancing halfway through the fourth tune and seem surprised when the cortina comes so soon.

La pista sagrada

October 22, 2010

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, as we all know.  So when you want to talk with a friend on the other side of the dance floor, you walk a straight line to get there.  Well, that is unless you know you are crossing sacred territory .

On my very first visit to Buenos Aires in 1996, I didn’t walk, I ran across the floor when I saw a dancer I wanted to greet.  I was impulsive in my behavior without noticing that the floor of Club Almagro was clear during the cortina.  I cringe recalling my blunder that night.  I can only imagine what the milongueros were saying about la extranjera.  In those days, no one paused to talk or crossed the floor during the cortina. 

Things certainly have changed.  Newcomers aren’t aware that the aisles behind rows of tables are paths for getting to and from a table, and the floor is for dancing.  The only time men should walk across the floor at a milonga is after the tanda begins and a woman has accepted his invitation.  Imagine someone trying to get to their front-row table against the flow of dancers on the floor.  It doesn’t seem to occur to some that they could wait until the end of the tanda before walking to their table or even wait until the pause between dances.  This code of respect is too often forgotten.

I recently saw a foreign woman walk along the edge of the floor with her taxi dancer following behind her.  The floor was crowded, and there was no room for them to pass.  It obviously never occurred to her to use the aisle behind the tables or wait until the end of the tanda.  She wanted to get to her table as quickly as possible.  She wasn’t escorted by the hostess who seats people at the milonga.  It appeared she decided where she wanted to sit and went there on her own.  Her taxi dancer didn’t direct her to the aisle behind the tables.  It was interesting to see how they both worked their way against the flow of dancers like salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

Best DJ in Buenos Aires

March 21, 2010

This is Daniel Borelli — we call him Dany.  He turned 40 a few days ago.  I have learned what good tandas are for the milonga by dancing to his music for the past eleven years.  Dany is a music lover who observes what the dancers enjoy and gives it to them.  He knows all kinds of music and its history.  I always learn something from him during our chats at the bar or after the milonga.  He doesn’t dance, but knows what music dancers want.

Dany is a porteño from Parque de los Patricios.  He started working as a DJ at Club Gricel in 1995.  He also worked in Salon Dandi, Sin Rumbo, Club Español, and Club Banco Provincia.  He has been the resident DJ at Lo de Celia Tango Club for years and has trained two apprentices who have shared the DJ responsibilities with him. 

Dany was interviewed for the first issue of Diostango in June 2006.  He doesn’t play his preferences in music, but what the public wants to hear.  He observes the milongueros and programs the music for them since they are the most demanding.  Among those I have asked, there is complete agreement that Dany provides the best music of any deejay in Buenos Aires.  He told me yesterday that he stays with the best music from 1937-1944 with only a few exceptions.  He notes that women have a sensitivity for violins while the men prefer the strong sound of the bandoneon.  He considers everything when he selects the tandas according to the public in attendance and the energy in the room.  He doesn’t prepare a playlist in advance. 

Dany compiled video footage of the great orchestras of the 1940s, which is being shown on a large screen during the milonga Nuevo Chique in Casa de Galicia.  This is the only milonga providing it, thanks to Dany.

His milonga work schedule:

  • Monday – El Arranque in Nuevo Salon La Argentina
  • Tuesday – Nuevo Chique in Casa de Galicia
  • Wednesday – Lo de Celia Tango Club
  • Thursday – Nuevo Chique in Casa de Galicia

Tanda Trifecta

April 28, 2009

A new visitor to Buenos Aires was going regularly to her favorite afternoon milonga.  She was gaining more confidence each day in using the cabeceo and was enjoying tandas with several Argentine men.  There was one in particular with whom she enjoyed dancing.  She accepted two invitations from him one afternoon.  When it came to the third tanda with her, other dancers on the floor were teasing him that they must be novios.

In our conversation that night, she related the sequence of events and wanted to know what people were talking about.  She thought she had done something wrong and needed clarification from me on los codigos.  I explained that if a woman dances three tandas with the same man, it is because she is either in a relationship with him or wants to be.  My friend was surprised and asked if she should stay away from that milonga because of the incident.  I encouraged her to return, because now she knew what three tandas, especially three consecutive tandas, with the same man means in the milongas of Buenos Aires.  Everyone makes a mental note of who is dancing with whom. This can be interpreted as a clear signal to all the other men in the room that she wants to dance the entire afternoon with the same man.  Other men will ignore her, just as they would if she was seated at a table with a man.

This is an example of why it can take years to fully understand los codigos milongueros.   The milongueros observe the women first, and if they see they do not have a compromiso with one man, an invitation comes later.  One codigo is never to dance with the partner of another man.


Trifecta: used in horse racing in which the bettor must predict which horses will finish first, second, and third in exact order; a term used to describe any successful or favorable phenomenon or characteristic that comes in threes.

Tandas at the milonga

July 22, 2008

A tanda is a set of four dances followed by a change of music (called the “cortina”) for dancers to return to their tables. The deejay selects four pieces of music by the same orchestra with the same singer that were recorded around the same time in order to provide continuity in style and rhythm. The orchestras that played specifically for dancing recorded enough tangos for an entire night of tandas. Those who liked the recordings of Troilo would go to dance where the night was dedicated to his music. However, some orchestras have very few recordings of valses and milongas, so a deejay often has to blend different singers of the same orchestra to form a tanda.

The music of the milonga today is programmed differently from the way it was in the 1950s during the “golden age of the milongas,” (1948-1960) even though mostly the same recordings are used. The format of tandas was changed in the 1970s. Today, the common format is two tandas of tangos (alternating rhythmic and melodic), four valses, two tandas of tango, a tanda of milongas, etc., with only one tanda of latin (salsa, cumbia, merengue) and one tanda of jazz in the course of six hours. About three years ago, the city government restricted the milongas to playing only tango, vals, and milonga, but that law was changed to allow once again for other music to be played for dancing as it had been during the late 1940s and 1950s.

By questioning milongueros, I learned that there was a wide variety of dance music played in the milongas during the 1950s. The milongas of Buenos Aires originally included other dance music, including foxtrot, rumba, bolero, salsa, and jazz. In the 1940s, recordings were made on 78rpm vinyl discs that had to be carefully turned or changed for each dance. In the confiterias bailables, the deejay announced the orchestra, singer and titles for each tanda. For example, “vamos a bailar a Anibal Troilo con Francisco Fiorentino–Yo Soy El Tango, Toda Mi Vida, Cachirulo, Milongeando en El Cuarenta—two vocals with the same singer and then two instrumentals. The first three tangos I’ve mentioned were recorded on the same date—March 4, 1941—an example of how deejays carefully programmed a tanda for consistency of style and rhythm thereby providing a high quality of music for the discriminating tastes of the milongueros. They selected their partners according to the tanda.

Young milongueros went to the confiterias bailables in downtown where they could hear the recordings of their favorite orchestras. In the 1950s, there was competition among the milongas. The milongueros wanted to hear different music each night of the week. The deejay’s knowledge and music collection was key to a milonga’s success.

The cortina music was played very low while dancers were returning to their tables, and it continued for five minutes in order to allow dancers to rest, smoke, retire to the ladies’ or men’s rooms, or have a drink. The atmosphere of the milonga was certainly more relaxed than it is today. People dressed elegantly. Men always wore suits and ties, even in the summer months when there was no air-conditioning, so they needed time to rest. It’s common today for deejays to play 30-45 seconds of different music for each cortina at a high volume like nightclubs. There is no thought of resting after a tanda these days where the milonga is more like a gymnasium for a workout. Sweat on the brow and the perspiration-soaked clothing proves it.

There is tango for the milonga (i.e., Troilo), tango for dancing (i.e., Osvaldo Pugliese), and tango for listening (i.e., Carlos Gardel). A deejay has to know the difference in order to provide quality tandas for a milonga. The orchestras of the milongueros are Anibal Troilo, Ricardo Tanturi, Miguel Calo, Carlos Di Sarli, Angel D’Agostino, Pedro Laurenz and Enrique Francini/Armando Pontier. The orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese performed for large dances every Friday night at Salon La Argentina on Rodriguez Pena. The orchestras of Osvaldo Fresedo, Lucio Demare, and Julio De Caro performed regularly in the downtown cabarets where there were two orchestras alternating half hour sets between tango and jazz. The orchestras of Rodolfo Biaggi, Juan D’Arienzo, and Roberto Firpo were popular in the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Of course today, the music of these orchestras and others are included in tandas at the milonga.