It occurred to me the other day when I was talking to one of our students, that there is quite a lot of confusion about various terms in the Tango.
This is not helped by the fact that many of the words used are Spanish. There is also the problem of words like ‘milonga’ having a dual meaning. The other confusion seems to arise in the milongas and etiquette, so, I thought I would write a short explanation which might help to clear up some of the confusion!
First of all, Argentine Tango has ‘styles’ and it also has ‘rhythms’. It’s a common misconception that Tango is just Tango. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked by people from other dance styles – “how can you just dance Tango all night? It must be really boring!” So, here we go!
Within Tango, you have the ‘rhythms’ of: Tango, Vals, Milonga and Foxtrot.
You then have the ‘styles’ of Milonguero, Tango Salon and Nuevo which are the main styles danced today. There are others such as Canyengue, (from the 1910s), Orillero, (from where Leo comes from in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires) and also Villa Urquiza but let’s not complicate matters further, this is another topic!
The rhythms of Tango, Vals and Milonga can be found within the styles. So, you can have a Milonguero Vals and a Tango Salon Vals, or you could have a Milonguero Tango and a Tango Salon Tango, etc.
The ‘style’ originates from the era that it was popular in. So the Milonguero style was popular in the 30s to 40s and was mainly danced by the working class people in crowded dance halls. The Tango Salon style evolved when Tango became more popular with the wealthier, upper class people who had their own Salons. The Nuevo style is a more recent addition which takes the ideas of the past and expands them focusing on the dynamic.
One of the other main confusions is using the word ‘milonga’. A milonga is a word used to describe a meeting place where people go to dance Tango, think of it like a ‘social club’. The milonga is also a rhythm of Tango. For more detailed info about this and all the rhythms and styles take a look at our web site here:
There are a few very simple rules in the milonga to ensure that everyone has a pleasant evening.
Leo comes from a Tango family in Buenos Aires and his father was also a milonga organiser, (see left), so, we run milongas in the UK in the traditional way. This means that the only rules we have are:
1. Dancers go anti-clockwise around the floor.
2. It is perfectly acceptable for dancers to overtake other dancers to maintain the flow around the floor as long as it is on the left side of the man.
3. Be respectful to all other people on and around the dancefloor. It is not acceptable to use high boleos/castigadas on the social dance floor. Nobody likes being kicked, so please don’t do it.
4. Use the ‘cabeceo’ as much as possible as it is a more friendly and less intrusive way to ask someone to dance.
5. Be hygienic and clean, it’s only polite to smell nice!
A ‘tanda’, is a combination of tracks that the DJ puts together for people to dance to. This can be 3 or 4. The tracks should be of a similar nature, but not necessarily from the same composer, or the music will quickly become boring. The skill of a good Tango DJ is to compile tracks that allow people to dance a certain genre and to keep them entertained throughout the tanda. At our milongas we play music in tandas of ‘threes’ which we find is better for everyone as it enables people to swop partners more frequently.
You do not have to dance the entire tanda. If you are not enjoying the tanda with the partner you are dancing with, for example, maybe the embrace is uncomfortable, then politely thank them and move on. I remember years ago, dancing with a man whose embrace was really uncomfortable – he had my hand in some sort of vice grip that activated a pressure point and made my arm go numb! All I could do during the break between each track was to rub my arm to try and get some feeling back into it! I didn’t feel confident enough to tell him it was hurting so I carried on throughout the entire tanda of four tracks! What made matters worse was that I was so stupid, I accepted another tanda from him later that evening because I didn’t want to be impolite! Never again!
A ‘curtain’ is played by the DJ to separate the ‘tandas’. This is the time when couples usually return to their seats before the next tanda begins, so that you can dance with someone new. Sometimes, the DJ will play another type of non tango music during this point so that people can enjoy dancing another rhythm. Leo usually plays Salsa, Cumbia, Rock n Roll, Ceroc, etc.
The milonga itself
Remember that Tango dances are supposed to be fun! I hear from so many people (unfortunately most of them women), of bad experiences they’ve had at milongas, to the point where some of them have contemplated giving up Tango.
One of the main complaints of course is that they are not asked to dance. Please see my previous article about this, but as I explained before if the cabeceo is used correctly, then it is totally acceptable for both genders to invite the other to dance.
The other problem is the music. If a DJ does not understand the music properly or insists on playing the same genre of music all night, then it will quickly become very tedious. Remember, the whole original idea of milongas was to go out and have a party. Somewhere along the way, this idea got hijacked, with the result that many milongas now have a limited playlist. I remember going to a venue that had a fantastic DJ which made you want to dance all night. The following night I went back to the same venue hoping to enjoy a similar experience but this time with a different DJ. The music was so boring, we left half way through the evening.
So, those are a few of the main confusions that we are constantly asked about. I hope this article has helped! You’ll find a lot more info on our web site at Tango Fandango
See you soon!