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July 20, 2011


Salon or milonguero?

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.

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1 Comment
  1. Jul 21 2011

    The recent post on addressed this issue of labeling tango styles. We can’t do it since every man has his own personal style when he dances; otherwise we women would be bored.

    There was a difference in the way tango was danced in the city and how it was danced in the surrounding neighborhoods. Today, teaching is producing clones for certain.

    Alito (82) was the first organizer of independent dances in the city, where he ran La Pista de Lima for seven years. It was an outdoor court set up with tables, rare in the 1940s, but Alito knew what he was doing. I’m encountering men (in their late 70s) who danced at La Pista de Lima and learned by watching Alito. This week I danced with three of them, and none of them come close to the elegance of Alito. Twice a week during the 1940s Alito went to Villa Urquiza to dance with his girlfriend Josefina. His style is his own, and I doubt he changed it to suit the tastes of the neighborhood.

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