lagrimas y sonrisas

Tears and Smiles about Argentine Tango

lagrimas y sonrisas

Milonga, shmilonga

March 10, 2012 · By Bob Dronski · No Comments

Kathleen and I had an interesting experience last weekend.  We went to a "milonga" in another city.  I have to put that in quotes, because there really was nothing that could justify calling that event a milonga.

When we arrived (about 1 hour after it began) we heard some pleasant, non-tango music.  We figured it was a break between tandas.  After the fourth or fifth song, we realized that something was up.  After about 20 minutes, Di Sarli/Rufino came on. We got up and danced that song, as well as the next instrumental Di Sarli.  But then the music switched back to an assortment of rhumbas, west coast swing, bossa nova, and even a little tango nuevo.  Probably another half hour passed before a single vals played.  Most literally--one vals was the next appropriate song for a milonga after all that other music.  

We saw people dancing a myriad of dance styles--west coast swing, cha-cha, and something that would be considered by some people to be tango nuevo.  

As this was held in a ballroom studio in a non-established tango community, I can easily understand what I saw.  What I can't understand, however, is that the "tango" was being danced by the studio owners to completely and utterly non-tango music.

Everyone who knows us, and even many who don't, know what sticklers we are for the music.  So to see the teachers completely ignoring the fact that far more appropriate (and easier to teach) dance styles would work was illogical at best. They continued to beat that square peg into the round hole.  

And there's the problem.

As teachers, I feel we have a responsibility to show, by both explanation and example, what a music form truly is, and how to dance TO THAT MUSIC.  It's easy to understand how a student can be confused, and then disenchanted with seeing the same steps danced to Pugliese and Sade--yep, Smooth Operator was on the playlist.

Now I don't believe these people don't care.  Just the opposite.  I have learned that they make a major effort to study with a teacher in another city several times a month.  That then raises two questions:

1) Are they really to blame when they don't know any better?  Are they to blame because they don't want to learn and are adamant about their concept of dancing tango to everything?


2) Is it the fault of the teacher that definitely knows better to not place more of an emphasis on what tango really is before they go off in completely other directions?


I think both.  If the hosts really are interested in calling their event a milonga, it's easy enough to learn for themselves what a milonga truly is.  If they go through the effort of taking classes, they should also experience different milongas.  Because whether we're talking about a nuevo or traditional milonga, there are still similarities.  Tandas of similar music grouped together. Cortinas to create a logical break and to allow people to get off the floor without seeming awkward.  I could continue, but you get the idea.

Please, understand the term "milonga" before you attach it to your event.

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