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”…
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.
Cachirulo in Obelisco Tango Saturday night was almost bursting at the seams.
Grand tango social dancers were in attendance and appeared to be chomping at the bit to get themselves on the dance floor as Carlos Rey played his delightful music selections. But, wait…the locals were looking somewhat frustrated by the lack of navigation, circulation and floor craft. Some were clearly not using mirada/cabeceo. A few regulars were probably thinking twice about getting out there on the slick dance floor with some very enthusiastic participants that didn’t seem to know the ABC’s of Buenos Aires tango social dance floor craft.
In 2005, while dancing tango in Salon Canning, one of the old milongueros told me it was the ‘honour’ of the milonguero to ‘never’ touch anyone on the dance floor. Once he made me aware of this it was wonderful to have that realized beautifully on the dance floor. We were on this brilliant square wood floor in and amongst every kind of tango dancer and….low and behold…had never touched anyone and were able to circulate with the group in the ronda.
Magnificent and safe!
To move as a group and feel phrases of the music and breathe together as a community……incredible!
On Saturday evening even with the fear of people bumping into each other and the floor being somewhat slippery, it was great fun. The celebrations culminated for me with an invitation to dance for my birthday by Hector and Norma of Los Cachirulos Tango.
Magnificent Claudio Strang agreed to dance with me.
Thank you to everyone who sat through the demonstration and honoured us with their presence.
We danced Telón by Osvaldo Fresedo 1938.
Telón, telón de la comedia
que empezó con un cantar
y que le dio final tu desamor.
Final atroz de ver la soledad
en el rincón del cuchitril
que un día enloqueció tu folletín.
Dolor de ver morir una esperanza,
sueño de Pierrot,
que al despertar se vio bufón.
Telón brutal que a la ilusión le dio un final
el día en que tu amor
se fue con el vaivén del vendaval.