Tag Archives: Milonga

Buenos Aires: Week 2

Buenos Aires Street

Although our intention was to blog every few days, we’ve come to realize it’s hard to post often when neither of you actually likes writing or has any real skill for it :)

We’ve definitely been enjoying our time here. It’s been great seeing friends, seeing faces from our last trip, and making new friends. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying our private lessons even though it means we feel like beginners again and there’s a decent amount of frustration involved. We’ve happily gone to new places for Tango and it has helped us to further solidify what Tango means to us.

Being Tall Sucks

This is nothing new, but of course K is being reminded how her height is such an issue here. With her heels on, she’s over 5″10 and that is taller than the majority of men who tango in Buenos Aires. Many shorter men are keen to dance with K, but she is not interested in having men’s eyes at the level of her bust (even if there really isn’t anything to see there). There are only a handful of men who are within her height range – of those, fewer still are nice dancers. Of those dancers, not all of them necessarily want to dance with K. Although K would enjoy dancing more tandas, she would definitely rather sit, listen, and observe than dancing some mediocre tandas (and she’s also had some of those).

Enjoying The After-Glow

Listening and watching are not the only reasons both of us often choose to sit down during a tanda. After dancing a lovely tanda with someone, we both enjoy taking the time to bask in the after-glow. An easy analogy for foodies like us: After taking a bite of some fabulous foie gras, why would you even consider putting another type of food in your mouth right away? No. You want to give yourself time to savour the taste and let the flavour slowly melt away.

Jorge’s Turn

During our last trip, it was K who danced the most in the milongas. Jorge was (and is) constantly working to improve his self-confidence and he often struggled with the attitude needed to draw the attention of new partners. This time around, he feels better about his dance, he’s accepting that not everyone needs to like his dance, and the organizers or staff remember him and have given him good seats at the milongas.

New Milongas and Practicas

A new friend invited us for our first (and last) visit to “Milonga en Orsay” in San Telmo. Stepping into this place, it felt like we were transported to an underground Tango scene. In all the ways the word “underground” can imply, it was dark, dingy, and rough around the edges. The floor was bumpy, uneven, and small, people chatted loudly, and others danced to music that was being played too quietly. A live band of six young musicians played one set. Aside from the bandoneonist nearing tears when one key of his bandoneon remained stuck playing the same note, they were quite interesting to listen to. The violinist was particularly impressive and we rather enjoyed hearing them play.

Today we made it out to practica “La Maria”. Without knowing it, we headed to the location “La Catedral” milonga is held. What a fantastic space – especially with light seeping in through windows high up near the roof! If Canadian children could see this place, they would think they’ve died and gone to heaven. It’s the epitome of a cool homemade fort. With lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, an old record player, a double-leveled stage, curtains held by clothespins, a mannequin, many chairs and tables that had no match, soft sofas, and bumpy wooden floors.

The practica is actually held in the room beside the large tavern (aka fort). The floor is flat and smooth, but very sticky. The music consisted of a half-an-hour playlist of Tangos by Fresedo, Calo, and Rodriguez, along with a few milongas of Canaro… on repeat. That was reason enough to never go back.

However, let us share how seeing some of the ugliest Tango we’ve ever seen at both the milonga and the practica made us realize we didn’t belong there. These places may very well be where young dancers are taking their first Tango steps – and for this we’re excited. But why are none of these dancers being taught or learning anything about posture? The majority of dancers weren’t standing straight – from hunched backs, to heads looking down, to overly bent knees – and there was some strange Tango being danced. Although we have seen for ourselves that Tango Nuevo is definitely no longer in style here, there are remnants of it left over in many dancers and being passed on to many new dancers.

Shoes

Finally, some pictures of K’s new Tango shoes purchases… because it makes many of us Tangueras happy. These are the NeoTango shoes. K has since bought a beautiful pair of Soy Porteno shoes (picture to follow in the next post).

Neo Tango Shoes

Neo Tango Shoes

Neo Tango Shoes

Photos by Jorge

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Mopping The Floor

We assume in all communities there exists certain men who are known to approach almost all women for a dance.  They will not even attempt to pick up on any non-verbal cues including a shake of the head in the negative.  In fact, they will even ignore verbal cues such as “not now”, “I’m tired”, and “maybe later”.  At times, these men will practically drag the women onto the dance floor.  All of this should make it perfectly clear to these women what kind of dancing will ensue.   These men proceed to mop the floor clean with their partner for the duration of the tanda.  It is embarrassing and torturous, and some women quickly learn from this experience and will never again say yes to these men.  Others can’t find it in themselves to say no and allow themselves to be tortured over and over again (because “mopping men” tend to be Leading Cheaters).

You never have to dance with a man you do not want to.  Please don’t believe otherwise. Use the cabeceo, but if you don’t, remember that this does not negate the fact that women can make choices.  We live in a country that tries to provide women with equal rights.  Women should grab this equal right by the horns and JUST SAY NO.  Stop dancing with the “mopping men” because they do not respect you or your Tango.


The Tango Plague

There exists a plague within Tango, found in Tango communities around the world, and perpetuated in blogs and by many tangueros alike.  It feeds on the very notion that Tango, unlike every other dance, is more special, more elusive, and more unique.  Death is slow and painful.

Symptoms of The Tango Plague

Those afflicted with the Tango Plague show signs of confusion.  They begin to believe that they do not need to practice or take lessons.  They believe that the best place to better their craft is on the dance floor of the milonga dancing with the best “Milongueros” (although there are no actual milongueros in their community).  They don’t believe that there are dancers that range from beginner to more advanced even though it is often plain to see which dancers are better and which are worse (one only needs to look at the dancer’s musicality, embrace, posture, and movement).   Finally, the infected are often the first to say, “You never stop learning.”

Treatment

The Tango Plague can be remedied very simply.  First, the infected must realize that like ANY hobby, sport, or interest, one must learn and practice in order to maintain and better oneself.  They must remember some people are good at their chosen interests and exhibit a talent for it, while others struggle to acquire the basics.  The aftermath of this plague leaves us with communities full of dancers who stopped learning after taking one 8-week Tango session; dancers whose dance is infected with little more than bad habits.

We were traumatically reminded of this topic when we went to a neighbourhood matinee Milonga here in Buenos Aires.  The dancers were respectful when navigating the floor and were quite musical.  However, most men shuffled along the floor even though there was space and their bodies were able (EVERY teacher here from the young to the Milonguero has instructed us to take bigger steps when there is the space), and most had embraces that were visibly of the death-grip variety.  K danced with six men, two of which repeated the EXACT SAME PATTERN for FOUR WHOLE SONGS!?  Jorge danced four tandas with three different women, two of which decided the steps for him (if these women danced with the men K danced with, it’s no wonder they anticipated/decided the movement before it was lead).  These women, although appearing to be average dancers, could not maintain their own axis or even follow at the most basic level.  Why?  Because they dance with the men of this milonga who lead by force rather than by invitation and have a non-existent vocabulary of movement.  K would have preferred to walk to the beat for four songs than repeat “Ocho Cortados” the whole time.  That said, we have come to the realization that a large number of men here cannot walk and that the walk is one of the most difficult concepts in Tango.  It is far easier to lead and follow variations of ochos than walk.

We are not suggesting that these Porteños start taking lessons.  Our point is only to open people’s eyes to the MYTH that dancing in the milonga (even and especially the milongas of Buenos Aires) will in itself (or at all) a better dancer make.  Those outside of Argentina with the financial means have no excuse to stop learning and/or practicing.  The whole point of taking classes (learning technique) and practicing in practicas (applying technique) is to SET YOU FREE.  When the embrace, musicality, leading/following, maintaining your axis, and maintaining your posture, are no longer challenges, you are able to experience Tango in the realm of absolute FREEDOM.

Our plea to the Tango Universe: Stop telling people that they don’t need to take classes, that they don’t need to practice outside of the milonga, and that they will learn everything by dancing in a milonga.  Tango is no different from any other dance or skill.  The ability deteriorates without proper use and practice, and updating one’s skill is necessary to maintain even a stagnate level.