Melina, of the Melinda-Detlef fame, recently had something to say about tango styles. What she had written reminded me of my own experiences at a recent tango festival. I do agree with her overall thesis, that tango de salon is a sufficient description for social tango, and should not be used as a tag to separate dance styles between Susana Miller’s use of tango milonguero or Jorge Dispari’s use of Villa Urquiza = tango de salon.
Having taken classes with teachers who dance in a style that is suitable for crowded downtown milongas* in Buenos Aires (nowadays usually associated with the style prominently popularised by Susana Miller, as mentioned in Melinda’s piece), I feel that even here there can be quite distinct differences. As a postscript and before I digress too much, I suppose this is par of the richness that some are lamenting when they complain about tango “clones”!?
To me this “cloning” or “fashionable dance styles” are not really as much of problem as some people make out to be because it’s just indicative of how people came to experience tango. In the old days, people might learn from or were heavily influenced by their peers/elders, hence a style would likely remain dominant in any given barrio. In addition, from what I have heard, due to the relative isolation of different barrios, various styles usually remained untainted. In contrast, nowadays increases in the number of teachers available and fewer men practicing with other men before they can attend a milonga, people will naturally dance in the way they have been taught. I don’t think people should be faulted for trying to learn something new!? With more dancing mileage, things will surely and certainly change. It’s just a question of time.
* I think for the purpose of discussion, this long-winded description is necessary to avoid further confusion.
With the closing of Maipu 444 in Buenos Aires as a tang venue (the building was sold apparently), various milongas held weekly in that relatively small dance floor on the second floor probably had to scramble for alternatives in the last couple of months. Even some of my friends in Singapore who have been to this iconic location have lamented, as it were, an end of an era. For the detailed comings-and-goings of milongas once held at Maipu 444, please see Sallycat’s excellent update (accurate as of February 2011).
Relocation of Cachirulo – milonga for the ultra-traditionalists – to Club Villa Malcolm, better known for its nuevo associations, was a surprise to me initially. The following is a video of the inauguration that took place a couple of days ago on 5th March).
As can be seen, this clip really bears out what I have already known: a different organiser, with his/her preferences in seating arrangement, lighting and of course choice of DJs/music (not so apparent from such a short clip) can completely transform the same venue. Contrast this with the usual clips and photos one sees of Villa Malcolm. Perhaps, with the change in location and a larger dance floor, I felt the atmosphere was a little more relaxed than what I remembered on Saturday nights. Hopefully, too, in time, the same milonga can attract an even larger group of quality dancers that Cachirulo has been known for, and not the opposite as a result of the relocation.
A tongue-in-cheek vision of a good milonga.
While I don’t agree with everything shown here (food, and no mention about teaching on the dance floor, for example), for me some of the take-home messages are:
- Good music – with a not-too-shabby sound system that can produce consistent quality of sounds,
- Good floor (not necessarily dust-free but at least should be stable and safe to dance on!),
- Considerate dancing which becomes even more acute as the size of the dance floor gets smaller,
- Pleasant atmosphere, which from experience is largely dependent on the attitude of the host.
On a more serious note, I recommend highly to anyone contemplating (or even if you are already organising events) to start a milonga to read: “How to organise a milonga”. Almost all of the major points of ensuring a good event are covered, as anyone with some hands-on experience can attest to.
If you are already organising a regular milonga, how many of the issues listed have you considered? If not, probably not too late to learn something new and time to take action! 🙂
Keep coming across the term “traditional tango” on a number of tango teachers’ websites. The use of the term plus the sample video clips got me thinking: just like tango Nuevo was difficult to give a concise definition, what is traditional tango really?
The following is generally accepted as a good demonstration of social dancing by a respected milonguero/a (I am not using the term “milonguero style” here, which admittedly is somewhat ambiguous):
But is this the elusive traditional tango mentioned by the those teachers? Come to think of it, the pace at which tango is changing means what we consider revolutionary or modern will probably become the classic/traditional in, say, 5-6 years’ time? 😉