[Tango-L] Beginners and milongas

Janis Kenyon Jantango at feedback.net.ar
Fri Feb 15 15:06:01 EST 2008

I was talking the other day with a couple I know from Chicago.  She has many
years of ballroom dancing experience.  He is a devoted swing dancer.  They
met each other at a singles dance.  They share more than a casual interest
in tango, although their study has been limited and infrequent.

I took them to Lo de Celia so they could watch the dancing.  They aren't
ready to dance for one important reason--they don't know the music.  They
want to take classes while they are in BsAs, but I pointed out that it would
be a waste of their time.  They need to know tango music first.  It's the
music that makes them want to dance, the same as when they dance ballroom or
swing or salsa together.  One can't dance to music they don't know.

Attending a milonga is an important lesson for a beginner to learn about the
tandas, the cortina, the cabeceo, crossing the floor, escorting the woman to
her table, etc.  My friends are interested in learning these things before
they set foot on the floor.  It's all part of the tango culture.

At one point, he asked me, "what would happen if we danced, and I led a
gancho or a sandwich?  Would I be kicked off the floor?  I asked him if he
noticed anyone leading ganchos, boleos, or sandwiches?  Yes, there is one
Argentine couple who are the only ones doing steps for stage in Celia's.
It's obvious that they recently took classes with peformers, and he doesn't
have any sense of the music.  The rest of the dancers are dancing simply and
with the music.  He didn't want to hear what I was saying--that he can
forget everything he learned in classes in Chicago.  He was seeing tango as
it has been danced in the downtown milongas since the 1950s.

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from an Argentine man who was
interested in learning to dance.  He asked if Gotan and Piazzolla music was
appropriate for dancing.  I suggested tango orchestra recordings he should
buy and listen to for a year.  I told him that when he knows and loves the
music, his tango will come out of him.  He learned the eight-step basic, so
I told him to forget it.  He has to feel tango to dance well, not think

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