A very talented, outspoken, colleague of mine asked me this a while back during a break we had in one of our morning of meetings for musicians that teach teachers how to teach music. Well, that was a very interesting question, but one that really makes most Argentine social tango dancers laugh, and laugh out loud.
My immediate response was “No…Bob…let’s just think about this a moment, how could we all (tango social dancers) circumnavigate the dance floor safely with others doing that at the same time?”
Hmmm, his look of surprise and concern was quickly forthcoming. “You are right Isabella, how could that happen?”
What a brilliant and quick mind he had. Immediately he understood that in a social context, jumps and kicks just cannot happen.
This begs the question “What does happen on the tango social dance floor?”
Here is a very recent video taken in one of the more famous places.
Many people that dance regularly in the dancehalls (milongas) in Buenos Aires, (milongueros and milongueras) just say that ‘life’ happens there.
In the milongas, people socialize, listen to tango music from the Golden Age (1940’s), dance a soft intimate style of tango that mainly plays with walks and turns moving in spirals that is respectful of all the participants.
Often people have bottles of champagne on their little tables in buckets of ice, tall glasses of Fernet-Branca and Coke, or plastic bottles of water with accompanying glasses. The table often includes mints and even hand santizer nowadays.
Upon entering the milonga people pay an entrance fee (minimal) and are escorted to a seat assigned by the milonga organizer. Oftentimes the ladies are seated on one side of the room and gentleman on the other. This facilitates the non-verbal invitations to dance of looking and nodding (mirar, cabeceo).
People are there to have a great time and they make every effort to be well-dressed and perfumed.
The Argentine tango social dance scene is full of passion and sparkles.
This alternate world thrives, it pulses and keeps everyone part of it desiring more.
Please also see “The end of a beautiful evening”…
Recently I was incredibly surprised to see my image on the newsfeed in facebook with my picture advertising that there would be a birthday celebration for me at the beloved “el maipu” milonga (tango social dance) here in Buenos Aires.
What a fantastic idea!
Having invited a few friends, enjoying some local champagne and laughing a lot….the organizer Dany whispered something in my ear like…so we will have a birthday vals for you.
I had actually never seen a Birthday vals done in this milonga before so didn’t take it very seriously. Once the announcements were done and my Birthday mentioned, Dany suggested that since I had blown out the candle on the Birthday cake too early (or late)(who can remember with all the champagne) I would have to dance a Birthday vals in front of everybody.
Once having stood up a friend of mine danced a little spiral of the vals with me and very quickly someone else cut in and danced a little phrase etc…. etc…it was a lot of unexpected fun and really felt great to have the organizers invite me to do this with all the regulars. This milonga has been a regular place for me for over six years.
Thank you to all the regular dancers.
A special thanks to Lucy and Dany of “El Maipu” that run a truly generous, friendly milonga (dance) that makes everyone feel ‘at home’.
Click the image to enjoy the full issue!
Often while in the milongas (dancehalls), such as La Nacional, run by Lucy and Dany on Mondays, (El Maipu) in Buenos Aires, I find myself peering off in the distance staring at the magical footwork on the dancefloor, my absolute favourite of all time being Juan Carlos Pontoriero.
His elegance of movement, unending smile and absolute joy, made you desire to strive to be a much better dancer. The grace and polish in his footwork to me … legendary.
Thank you for inspiring me to keep on with this wonderful tango journey.
In Coqueta, by Orquesta Tipica Victor, 1929, the very first notes viscerally punch me in the stomach and make me feel melancholy and sad. My whole body wants to move in slow motion recalling all old losses in this mood of death and disaster. During this social tango we walk together, play with the rhythm and pause.
From my side step at 1:01, I try and create a little adornment that is languid and full of beauty. My partner pauses for me and pulls me in a little closer to begin the next part of his lovely intimate walk. The tango is a soft, loving game or dialogue. We internalize the music and freely interpret the movement based on the social tango dancing style of Buenos Aires. Each of us moves from a loving, longing, respectful centre that knows this is an ephemeral moment in time, only making our tango, Coqueta, more remarkable.
Thank you to Paul Akmajian and the wonderful community in Tuscon and Green Valley, that completely encircled me from the first moment. A special thanks to Niki Glen and Cristian Sierra who invited us to dance a third tango, that he selected.
All my life three passions have been travelling with me from inception. Music, dance and art. No matter what, they have kept me inspired and always with the desire to seek out more.
At a very young age with a family that believed in the arts, the road has been a very compelling one.
The joy of the arts has been fundamental. Building on a strong familial theme of continuing education, for life, I have found myself getting as much out of participating in classes as constructing and teaching them.
A lifelong pattern of studying something deeply that you love and then share the essence of it with others emerged.
Inspiring a few along the way is thrilling.
Hence the blog, in this medium I hope to affect, motivate, share my experiences, reflect, and share my passion of Argentine tango.
Thanks for visiting us and we hope all of you follow (or continue to follow) your passions towards happiness in the New Year.
Please enjoy this beautiful tango vals by Osvaldo Pugliese, Navidad.
Having had the pleasure of watching Alberto Dassieu for years in the milongas in Buenos Aires and dancing with him upon hearing he was doing a North American tour in 2011 with a stop in Toronto the idea of taking a private class with him struck home. What would we talk about, dance, what did I want the legend to share with me?
Upon reflection the easiest course that came to mind for me was hoping he would share a little bit of his insights into the orchestra Carlos di Sarli. Of course he would have some interesting views on the topic and want to include me in on them with his long experience.
The class was very interesting and right after we danced one beautiful tango Alberto honoured me with the invitation to do some demonstations with him in Toronto.
Even though we didn’t have the opportunity to ever practise together; when our chance came to share a beautiful tango at a milonga, Alberto was utterly clear with the vision that we should dance the Tango “Llueve otra vez”.
Thank you for sharing a little with me Alberto Dassieu, a true Maestro.
About the music:
Llueve otra vez
Música: Juan José Guichandut
Letra: Juan José Guichandut
el eco de su voz…
Escucha, corazón, está lloviendo
y la lluvia va tejiendo
los recuerdos de su amor.
¡Qué pena, corazón!
No es ella, ni es su voz.
Tan sólo es la obsesión que me domina,
el recuerdo que castiga
desde su adiós.
y un látigo de luz me azota,
relámpago de fiebre loca.
La lluvia, sin cesar,
golpeando en el cristal,
renueva la emoción perdida.
Y entre la bruma creo ver su imagen,
igual que entonces, diciendo adiós.
y el cielo se llenó de sombras,
lo mismo que mi corazón.
Tristeza que dejó
el eco de su voz.
Tristeza de esperar inútilmente
y creer que nuevamente
con la lluvia volverá.
¡No esperes, corazón!
¡No penes por su amor!
Mañana cuando el sol radiante asome
al calor de otros amores,
It’s past three a.m. at the Sunday night milonga (dance) during the Midwest Tango Festival held in Indianapolis for the first time this year.
Sitting close to the steamed up windows and feeling cold, exhausted from dancing tango all weekend and Dj’ing the Sunday late afternoon practica earlier, an intrepid ‘lead’ stands close by.
She skillfully looks at me with her mirada (look) and then cabeceo’s (nods at) me and I pretend that perhaps she is looking at the non-existent person sitting on the chair behind me. Both of us laugh, embrace, and quickly become one within the romantic Golden Age music that is enveloping us.
We are profoundly drawn into the fabric of the vocal line and accompaniment. As soon as the first song of the tanda (grouping) ends we look at each other with wonderment, surprise and deep emotion.
When two people connect so deeply, chest to chest, and breathe in unison with each other and the music, our bodies fuse together to become a kind of musical instrument and float away into another realm.
Only to come back to earth at the end of the tanda.
To some, the milongas used to be a place of hidden encounters with friends and lovers. No-one ever really spoke about the goings on and it was like what people say about Las Vegas….what happens in Vegas….stays in Vegas.
Many participants would drop in on their way home from work and no-one ever knew. Others might have clandestine relationships that only people within the milonga saw.
This only made the milongas more fascinating and tempting. An underworld of hidden riches waiting to be found.