[Tango-L] Posting & open discussion on Tango-

Tango Society of Central Illinois tango.society at gmail.com
Fri Feb 22 23:45:26 EST 2008

On 2/22/08, thorn-inside at hotmail.com <thorn-inside at hotmail.com> wrote:
> It appears to me that there is a strongly held opinion among many on this
> list that tango music from the golden age is the only acceptable dance
> music, and that "milonguero" style is the only acceptable social dance
> style, and that any other style of either music or dance is not tango.

The situation is a bit more complex. Porten~os recognize a type of
tango that is danced at milongas (generally called 'tango de salon')
and another type of tango that is danced for exhibition, either on the
stage or as a preformance that might occur at an intermission during a
milonga. These are recognized as separate, just as Carlos Gardel's
tangos (and later Piazzolla's) were recognized as not for dancing
(because of their musical qualities), and D'arienzo, Di Sarli, Canaro,
etc. were for dancing. Tango has expressed itself over time in several
different ways that are all recognized as 'tango', as part of an
intertwined culture with a common origin.

At milongas in Buenos Aires today, virtually all porten~os dance in a
close embrace.The actual form of the embrace varies somewhat in
orientation (directly in front vs. somewhat offset, with various
angles of 'lean' of the partners' frames). What has been called
'milonguero style', with an 'apilado' posture, represents one
variation of this embrace. There are some neighborhood differences in
the proportion of dancers who assume a particular embrace, but in
reality there is a continuum of characteristics of the embrace in the
dancing population rather than 2 distinct 'styles', with some of the
variation due to anatomy, experience, and skill level.

The tango music played at Buenos Aires milongas is almost always
classic tango from the 30s, 40s, and possibly 50s. The only exception
I have ever experienced is La Viruta, which is a very different kind
of gathering of young people lacking many of the qualities of
traditional milongas, which predominate. A porten~a with a lot of
dance experience told me La Viruta is considered an 'entry level
milonga', from which dancers graduate to more traditional milongas if
they are serious about tango. The practicas such as those at Villa
Malcolm and Practica X are different. They are not considered
milongas. Read what Andres Amarilla, an instructor of 'tango nuevo'
says about the difference between nuevo practicas and milongas in
Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, these are distinct.


There is a difference outside of Argentina, where 'tango de salon' and
some variations of tango for exhibition may both be danced at events
that are called 'milongas'. In addition there are 'alternative
milongas' where non-tango music is played for dancing. The
estblishment of performance oriented tango at milongas outside
Argentina had its start because the first instructors of tango outside
Argentina were usually from stage performance companies. Only after
non-Argentines went to Buenos Aires to visit milongas did they see
that the manner of dancing tango at milongas in Buenos Aires is
different. This led to several non-Argentines and later Argentines
teaching 'tango milonguero' or 'tango de salon' outside Argentina.

Thus, the transmission of Buenos Aires tango culture to foreign
nations has been inaccurate. The separation of tango for exhibiiton
and tango for social dancing was lost. Both types of dancing are
'tango', but in Buenos Aires only the close emrbace 'tango de salon'
is danced at milongas.

Cultures outside Argentina are free to adapt tango for their own
cultural tastes. Apparently the most prominent example of this
worldwide is Finnish tango.

The conflict that often occurs is between those who want to create a
Buenos Aires tango de salon environment at milongas outside Argentina,
and other people from within these non-Argentina cultures who want to
adapt tango to their cultural preferences.

In my opinion, those who wish to adapt tango to their own cultural
preferences should try to understand those of us who would like to
adopt the Argentine characteristics of tango as closely as is possible
in our milongas. We are trying to connect with the Argentine tango
culture. I fail to see why such frequent and intense criticism is
directed at those of us who have this preference.

My complaint with the predominant tango culture (performance oriented)
outside Argentina is not that it exists, that that it often fails to
respect the atmosphere social tango dancers wish to create, both on
and off the floor.


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