Thursday 3 November 2011

What makes a traditional Milonga?

Inspired by a comment on my last post, I decided to write down my definition of a traditional Milonga: 
- The music is 100% traditional argentine Tango, Milonga and Vals, preferably of the late 20‘s to the late 50‘s. No non-Tango, no Electro-Tango, no non-argentine Tangos, no Tangos that were recorded for Tango shows or for listening. There may be a „Tanda“ of Rock, Chacarera or Salsa, although I would not put it as a DJ.
- The dancers actually know the music and connect to it. (There is no need in knowing EVERY Tango of an orchestra and being able to name it, but everyone should strive to know the important orchestras and listen to what they are doing.)
- The music is presented in Tandas & Cortinas with a logical order (e.g. TTVTTM).
- The dancers leave the dancefloor when the Cortina is played to sit down and choose another partner. Waiting alongside the wall or at the bar is acceptable, as long as you do not stand in front of seated dancers and disturb their Cabeceo.
- There is proper seating around the dancefloor.
- People invite by Cabeceo & Mirada and there is light enough to allow for it.
- The dancers do never break the embrace. Some might open a little for turns, as in Villa Urquiza style. 
- People know how to navigate on the dancefloor. (Including all rules like keeping in one‘s line, not standing too long in one spot, not crowding the next couple...)
- People dance exclusively movements, that are appropriate for a social dancefloor: no ganchos, (high) voleos, or any other movement that breaks the embrace or could disturb/hurt the other dancers. 
Did I forget anything? Do not hesitate to remind me! I'm sure, that there are other postings on the Net, who refer to that question. Links are welcome.

Later addition to the text:
Please note, that I do not define GOOD or BAD Milongas. A traditional Milonga can still be an unpleasant surprise. To make a traditional Milonga "good", it also needs good dancers (whatever your personal definition of a good dancer may be), danceable and interesting traditional music, friendly hosts, a good floor, a nice ambiance and much, much more... But that would be a totally different post!


Anonymous said...

Interesting, Melina. Most of the milongas I attend here in BA would fit your definition. Including many of those which are considered very informal, many of the practicas, etc.

Except for the last point. I don't dance too many ganchos, but I am led boleos galore, everywhere. I've always wondered how the Argentines manage to have so few collisions (I've yet to have one since I returned, although I have hit a few empty tables at Milonga 10) and I haven't witnessed any either. But the dancing is crazily elaborate. Whereas in London people were bumping into each other all the time, dancing very simple stuff in close embrace, to use your preferred terminology (e.g. at Carablanca). It's puzzling.

Melina Sedo said...

Let's agree on: no high Voleos in a crowded Milonga. Very low Voleos might still be possible there.

Michel W said...

It is true and it is good to call back it, but it means a little preaching convinced: those who should be inspired by it will not read this blog (in English besides!) finally it always makes the good(property) notice how much my accesses brought in anger, in most of the milongas of west France ("Western milongas" ;-)) are justified!
( Translation Reverso, with my excuses)

Melina Sedo said...

Michel, je comprends pas tout. La traduction a pas bien fontctionné, desolée. Ecrit en français et je vais traduire.

Bises, M.

Michel W said...

Comme cela est vrai ! Je suis entièrement d'accord avec toi Melina et c'est bien de le rappeler, mais c'est un peu à prêcher des convaincus : ceux qui devraient s'en inspirer ne liront pas ce blog (en anglais qui plus est !) Enfin c'est toujours réconfortant de constater combien les crises de colère rentrée que je subis dans la plupart des milongas de l'Ouest (milongas de l'ouest de la France = Western milongas : ressemblent aux films de cow-boys ;-)) sont justifiées !

Wie das ist wahr! Ich bin völlig mit dir Melina einverstanden und das besteht wirklich es zu erinnern, aber das es ist ein wenig Überzeugte zu predigen: diejenigen, die sich davon inspirieren lassen sollten, werden nicht diesen blog lesen (auf englischer Sprache, die mehr ist!) schliesslich ist das immer ermutigend, wie die Krisen zurückgegebener Wut festzustellen, die ich in der Mehrheit des westfrankreiches-milongas ertrage (milongas, = Western west-milongas: sind den Filmen von Cowboys ähnlich;-)) sind gerechtfertigt!
(Ich habe etwas deutsche Sprache der Schule, aber nicht der englischer Sprache gelernt)

Anonymous said...

Michel, peut-tu decrire les milongas dont tu parles avec plus de details, s'il te plait? Je ne les connais pas et ca m'interesse beaucoup.

TJoerg said...

‎"no non-argentine Tangos"?! What's about uruguayan Tangos?
Tango is from Rio de la plata!

Anonymous said...

PS If no high boleos are allowed, then I have to correct my previous comment and say that there are probably no traditional milongas in Buenos Aires. You will find boleos pretty much everywhere here. At least everywhere I have been recently (and I've visited a lot of milongas).

Alter said...

This might be interesting for the discussion:

Melina Sedo said...

Hi Terps:
I dunno. Been to many traditional Milongas in BA (Chachirulo, A Puro Tango, many of the El Beso ones ....) and have not noticed any high voleos. Also no guy try to lead me into them. If so, I did not notice it, as I do not dance them at a Milonga and unsually transform them into low Voleos.
I have not been to BA since November 2009 though. Maybe the situation changed. Which would be lamentable.

I agree that good dancers can lead all sorts of stuff without hitting another couple, but it is nevertheless antisocial as it bothers the other dancers. When I see someone in front of me doing high Voleos, I dance automatically more defensive and try avoidin to be near that couple. I get nervous, as I do not KNOW, if they can really control what they are doing. And that affects the pleasure in the embrace.

I can assure you, that no high Voleos will be danced at the Encuentros or Festivalitos in Europe - if they don't happen by mistake like this Monday...

Story: I was at the Raduno in Impruneta and people keep their feet to the ground. On the penultimate day of the Festival an italian guy joined the event. He is an exellent dancer who sometimes opens the embrace a little. He CAN lead all kind of stuff and is very musical. But he adapts his movements to the occasion. Then, he was dancing with me and got carried away. He lead a Voleo and - as I did not expect it - I did not block it, it happened. ARGH! We do not hit anyone, but I felt very embarrassed. This was most likely the only high Voleo of the Raduno and I danced it. A shame!

Well... I can live with that. But I still think, movements like these should not be practiced on a crowded dancefloor, no matter how good the dancers are. And I am sure, that many will agree with me there. Even in Buenos Aires! ;-)

Melina Sedo said...

Cher Michel, tu as raison. J'ai deja vue quelques Milongas tres "sauvages" en France.
Mais heureusement, les danceurs qui viennent a nos stages souvent adaptent leurs movements aussi dans les Milongas du soir dans notre presence. Souvent, les associations, déclarent les Milongas avec nos demos comme des "Milongas traditionels" et ça change le comportement des danseurs. Un peu... ;-)

Mais c'est pas que dans le Ouest: J'ai visitée pendant les derniers 6 anes souvent les Milongas en region Nimes/Montepellier. Ils etaient relativement civilisés et on a dansé un beau Tango du bal. Mais pendant le dernier annee, ça a changé: J'ai vue tellement beaucoup des sauts, des levés, des Ganchos, des Voleos et des mouvements du Tango de la scène cet été, j'étais shoqué!

Tu as PAS raison avec une remarque: ce blog est aussi lu par des personnes qui ne partagent pas ma philosophie. Tu peux le voir dans les commentaires tres critiques! ;-)

Melina Sedo said...

Ok: Tango vom Rio de la Plata! :-)

Melina Sedo said...

By the way:

Please note, that I do not talk about GOOD or BAD Milongas. I do not claim, that traditional Milongas are the only truth or attract only superb dancers. A traditional Milonga may still be filled with very average dancers and a non-traditional Milonga might attract very good ones. A traditional Milonga may have an uninspired DJ who manages to play the most boring Tangos. A traditional Milonga might have very unpleasant hosts who do not make you feel comfortable... A traditional Milonga can be a BAD Milonga in many ways.

I personally prefer GOOD traditional Milongas. ;-)

But dance level, personal taste of music or other general factors are not, what this post is about.

It's about defining a traditional Milonga.

(Gonna majke an addition in the text...)

ichtanzegerne said...

Hallo alle,
da mein Englisch zu wünschen übrig lässt schreibe ich deutsch.

Mir scheinen diese ganzen Diskussionen reichlich abgehoben. Klar, als geübte Tänzer und Tänzerinnen kann man die erwähnten Regeln (mehr oder weniger gut) einhalten. Aber wo genau sollen die Anfänger denn tanzen? Ein Anfänger hat oft die Tanzrichtung noch nicht ganz im Griff, er probiert zur Musik zu tanzen, manchmal gelingt es, manchmal nicht so richtig. Irgendwo und irgendwann muss man ja lernen sich in der Milonga richtig zu bewegen. Cabeceo und Mirada kann man auch nicht auf Anhieb praktizieren.

Seid doch ein wenig tolerant und nicht so dogmatisch oder tendiert ihr zu einem Fähigkeitsausweis für bestimmte Milongas???

Noch eine Bemerkung zur Region Nîmes: da war ich tanzen im September und habe nur noch gestaunt, wie gesittet dort jetzt neuerdings getanzt wird. Früher, d.h. vor ein paar Jahren, fand ich es katastrophal: nur fliegende Beine, manchmal fliegende Frauen, einfach jegliche Art von Gymnastik auf der Tanzfläche.

Melina Sedo said...

Hi Ichtanze gerne:

1. Anfänger können von der ersten Stunde an in der Milonga angemessen partizipieren, wenn diese erste Stunde Folgendes enthält:
Gewichtswechsel und Gehen im Einfachen Tempo (on the beat)
Regel: In Tanzrichtung bleiben
Hinweis auf Mirada & Cabeceo (zumindest mal die Idee ansprechen)

Da kann ich in 1,5 Stunden jedem beibringen. Und habe es schon oft getan.

2. Was Nimes angeht: Da waren wir offensichtlicgh auf unterschedlichen Milongas. Ich war im El Rebote, der Open Air Milonga Freitags, der Milonga von Hakim,der Milonga in Aubais und bei Felix. Detlef war noch auf der Milonga in Montepellier (Open Air am Theater). Nur die beiden letzten waren ok.

Melina Sedo said...

Ach ja. Ich habe noch die Milonga im Mas de Sagnier vergessen. Sehr nette Leute und schönes Ambiente. Leider totales Chaos auf der Piste. Da habe ich sogar einen Mann gesehen, der seine Partnerin als Wischmop benutzt hat.
Auch ich war früher ein großer Fan der Milongas in Nimes/Montpellier. Von daher bin ich umso mehr enttäuscht!

Werde 2012 wieder mehrfach dort sein und verifizieren, ob meine Beobachtungen zutreffen.

Anonymous said...

In september I didn't see high boleos too often on traditional milongas in BA. (Any milonga in El Beso, El Maipú en La Nacional, Cachirulo, Parakultural in Salon Canning.)


Anonymous said...

I'm still musing on the high boleos question (note, my comments were descriptive, not prescriptive). I think I'll take a tally sometime.

My personal experience is that I used to go to many traditional milongas in BA. I definitely preferred them. And now, on the whole, I prefer those that are not as traditional, simply because they are the ones which (in my totally subjective opinion) are attracting the better young dancers. The most traditional milongas I regularly attend are at El Beso (La Bruja and Sundays at El Beso). And, occasionally, I go to Sunderland. But all my other milongaing activity has switched to the non-traditional venues. I have mixed feelings about this....

However, I would say that the difference is not always so hard and fast. I get most of my dances through mirada and cabeceo, wherever I go. The music is almost always 100% traditional tango music (with the exception of the occasional tanda of chacarera or rock and roll) wherever I go. At many of the less formal places, music is still played in tandas and cortinas and you don't usually dance more than one consecurive tanda with a partner. But, as for the boleos, well, they definitely fly!

Theresa said...

Hi Melina,

I did dance high voleos at the Raduno in Impruneta - in the last 30 minutes or so of the night, when very few couples were left on the dance floor, and with a partner I was sure that he takes care. And so do the people in Parakultural and in El Beso in the last tandas. And sometimes in my own milonga when there are few people and a lot of space.

So I would not be that strict in the definition of a traditional milonga. The essential thing is that dancers avoid to disturb other dancers (which can happen without even touching them).


Melina Sedo said...

In the last 30 Minutes of a Milonga, - when almost nobody is left on the dancefloor - I sometimes even dance open embrace and do all kind of stuff. Usually because I'm so tired, that I verge on hysteric. ;-)
You know, that that's not what I'm talking about...
Go on then, Teresa and TTA, dance your high Voleos at the Milongas. As long as you don't dance them next to me and hit me! ;-)

Kerstin said...

die wunschmilonga, die du schilderst....
wir leben auf dem land, im norden. und leiden an tango, eine ansteckende "krankheit" für anfällige. in der grössten stadt hier haben wir einen saal gemietet - gross, ca 140 quadratmeter, und schön. dort treffen wir uns einmal in der woche. "Wir" sind etwa 150 leute, die im radius von 100 kilometer leben, und wir sind durchaus unterschiedlich, was die präferenzen der musik betrifft. und den stil des tanzens. BRAUCHEN tun wir aber alle tangobegiesterten der region, denn es muss saalgebühr, gema und dJ bezahlt werden. also wechseln die tandas zwischen traditional und nuevo (sehr nuevo).... so dass jeder "seins " bekommt. Und es funktioniert. Man kann sich ja auch mal zwischendurch unterhalten..... und zuschauen. Musikalisch "reinrassigen " milongas wären ein nicht bezahlbarer traum, bei den eintrittspreisen die acceptanz finden. Bei dieser Saalgrösse haben auch die anfänger platz. Und es kommt vor dass die nuevotänzer zu den traditionalisten umwechseln (umgekehrt eher selten)
TANGO ist das gemeinsame interesse.... Toleranz die überschrift.. und es funktioniert.Seit 10 jahren.

Anonymous said...

It's your birthday, Melina! So, can I just say that I enjoy your blog, love your feisty no-nonsense tone and appreciate your contributions to lively discussions about tango. Have a wonderful, tango-filled and successful year!

Melina Sedo said...

Thanks, dear friends and readers for your lively discussion and "Mille grazie" dear Terps for the birthday wishes. This will be a Tango-free day for me and my non-Tango friends. But there will be much more Tango the coming year, I'm sure. :-)

And a surprise tomorrow!!!

Melina Sedo said...

Liebe Kerstin,

was ich hier geschildert habe, ist keine "Wunschmilonga", sondern lediglich die Definition einer traditionellen Milonga. Ich weiss, dass es in ländlichen Gegenden schwieriger ist, mit allen Tangobegeisterten auf einen Nenner zu komnen und Kompromisse nötig sind.

Aber, nur um mal darüber nachzudenken: Auch in anderen abgelegenen Gegenden gibt es "rein" traditionelle Milongas: die finden vielleicht nicht in einem 140 qm großem Saal statt und bestimmt nicht jede Woche. Aber auch dafür reisen Menschen aus weiter Entfernung an. Gerade WEIL sie wissen, was sie erwarten können! :-)

Und Anfänger kommen auf einer traditionellen Milonga prima zurecht, wenn man im Unterricht eben nicht nur Schritte, sondern auch Kommunikation und die Traditionen unterrichtet! (Siehe Kommentar weiter oben.)

Ghost said...

Mulling this over, the obvious question is “So what?” – to which I get two useful answers, I think. The first is it’s a clear definition of what Melina means when she uses the term; which is a useful thing both as a reference point in this blog and also for anything that she’s involved in and refers to as traditional. So for example, it gives me a clear idea of what the next Festival she helps organize should be like. Whether I personally agree with her definition doesn’t really matter in this case, as long as it conveys the necessary information correctly to me.

Likewise because it’s not a 500 page document, there’s some assumptions built-in, eg nowhere does it say that anyone has to be clothed! ;o) (BTW was a complete omission about clothes deliberate? ie are suits / smart casual necessary, or can "scruffy nuevo style"TM be worn?)

Does this mean that there aren’t currently any traditional milongas in BsAs under this definition? Quite possibly. But is that actually a problem? Only if you want to try and come up with the One True Definition of “Traditional Milonga”, which is pretty much pointless unless you particularly enjoy debating for it’s own sake. If the people who run certain milongas, or the people who attend them want to call them "traditionsl" using a different meaning, then fair enough.

Anonymous said...

A traditional milonga is "just busy enough". Too empty and it feels lonely and encourages lazy leading by shouting (big acrobatics) and lazy following. Busier floors encourage quieter but more active intentional leading which encourages listening and closeness.

This is another reason why I'd prefer to see demonstrations from professional couples, dancing in an active busy floor - its boring watching them dance across an empty vast floor - for me that is not tango, never mind traditional tango of a traditional milonga.

Michel W said...

OK Melina, je retire ce que j'ai dit au sujet de ton blog que je croyais être lu uniquement par tes "fans" : en fait je n'ai pas été capable lire tous les commentaires vu qu'ils sont écrits en anglais (j'ai déjà beaucoup de mal à traduire ce que TOI tu écris dans ton blog !)
J'ai dansé dans le sud de la France (Toulouse, Nîmes entre autres) et en Italie il y a quelques années : je me suis fait beaucoup moins bousculer qu'ici à Nantes et surtout j'ai eu l'impression que les danseurs suivaient beaucoup mieux la musique. Ici à Nantes, lorsque je ne danse pas (ce qui à présent m'arrive de plus en plus souvent car j'attends toujours patiemment que les quelques cavalières avec lesquelles j'ai envie de danser soient disponibles, je ne leur "saute pas dessus", contrairement à beaucoup de mes congénères), donc j'ai le temps d'observer les danseurs et je suis effaré de voir que la plupart ne suivent pas la musique : ils avancent sur le temps faible au lieu de donner l'impulsion sur le temps fort (compas) font des pauses et des "ronds de jambes" inopinément pour "placer leurs figures" quand ils ne dansent pas carrément à contre temps. Beaucoup de bousculades et de coups de talons aiguille viennent de cela à mon avis, par manque d'écoute de la musique et désir de faire coûte que coûte telle ou telle figure pour impressionner sa partenaire ou la galerie.
J'espère, Melina, que tu es plus forte en français que moi en anglais et je te prie de m'excuser de t'obliger à traduire ce commentaire un peu long...

Pour répondre à Terpsichoral maintenant :
Je ne veux pas citer des milongas en particulier, j'ai déjà assez d'ennemis comme cela !!! ;-) Cependant si Terpsichoral fréquente les milongas de l'Ouest qui sont répertoriées sur l'excellent "Agenda Tango" de Philippe Loupmon, il (ou elle) aura certainement utilisé les mêmes pistes que moi... S'il (ou elle) ne s'est jamais fait bousculer, s'il (ou elle) n'a jamais ressenti des accès d'impatience ou de colère, s'il (ou elle) trouve que "tout le monde il est beau, tout le monde il est gentil" tant mieux pour lui (ou elle). Moi, l'angélisme, ce n'est pas mon fort ni ma tasse de thé...

Melina Sedo said...

Cher Michel,

malheureusement, j'ai pas le temps de traduir tout ton commentaire. Hier, j'ai ecrit mon dernier blog, car je dois mettre mes energies dans des nouveaux projets et j'ai deja ecrit beaucoup!

Mais tu as raaison: dans le sud de la France le niveau de danse etait plus haut que dans le nord. Mais j'ai peur, qze ça change les derniers annees. J'ai passee beaucoup de temps cet annee dans les Milongas de Nimes en evitant des talons en air et des cavalieres etant jetes sur terre. C'etait pas amusee!!

Et oui aussi, beaucoup des problemes sur la poste resultent de la manque d'ecoute de la musique! Il-ya encore trop des profs qui enseignent rien de la musique, rien de la navigation, rien de la technique... que des pas, des poses, des effects! C'est triste.

Mais on essaye de amelieorer ça avec nos possibilités limités! ;-)


Michel W said...

Liebe Melina,
Danke für deine Antwort in französischer Sprache. Es ist schade, daß du in deinem blog nicht mehr schreibst, weil das wirklich sehr interessant war, deine Meinung auf dem Tango zu haben, du, der ebenfalls eine Psychologin bist.
Aber ich wünsche dir ein großes Gelingen in deinen neuen Projekten und ich hoffe, dir in der West Gegend mit Detlev zu sehen.
Ich werde fortsetzen, den Ereignissen zu folgen, die dich auf Facebook betreffen.
Sehr freundschaftlich,

Anonymous said...


Comme je suis très souvent en France et normalement très francophile, je dois admettre que vos commentaires sur des milongas francaises et leur niveau surtout dans la partie norde correspondent absolument avec mes experiences. Et surtout, cela qui probalement m'a plus genée que tous les talons volants qui m'ont même frappés (!!), c'est la méconnaissance de cabeceo. On parle à la table avec son groupe, ne regarde nulle part et quand même quelques hommes m'invitenz à danser et ne comprennent pas du tout que je décline. Pour moi le tango est comme toutes les danses qqc. de social - alors quand je parle avec qqn. j'aime bien que cette conversation soit respectée - ne parlons pas de mes pieds comme ceux de tout le reste sans dommage sur la piste!

Anonymous said...

Hello Melina,
I'm curious, will you find same sex couples or couples where the woman is the leader and the man the follower in traditional milongas? I guess that is not within the definition of traditional milonga or is it? I would like to know what is your opinion about this. Thanks.

Melina Sedo said...

Hi Anonymous,

in MY opinion, a traditional Milonga is a place that pays respect to the music and some social behaviour that helps us to interact with politeness and that ensure fairness (equal opportunities) to the visitors as individuals and to create an environment that allows the "bonding" within a group. The rules of a traditional Milonga were not developed to EXCLUDE subgroups. This is why he have to put the rules of a traditional Milonga into our modern context.

For example the seating: if there are enough tables around the dancefloor and people leave the dancfloor during the cortina, everyone has a fair chance of getting invitations by different partners.

But: A Milonga does NOT necessarily need women, men and couples to be seated at separate tables - I can very well do a Cabeceo with a man who's seated next to a female friend and do it all the time. The rule of NOT inviting a women who comes to a Milonga with her partner derives from a cultural backgroud that payed attention to "honouring" mariage and same-sex-relations in a very particular way. Today, at least in Europe, most couple do very well cope with the fact that their partner dances with other people as well. It does not endanger their relationship or honour. If so, they can still refuse invirtations. But they do not have to be "kept apart".

Same with same-sex dancing. The Cabeceo & Mirada might be a little more complicated, but I know quite some women/men who dance with same-sex partners at traditional Milongas. I certainly do it as a leader or follower and even Detlef dances with men (usually leading them). We've been doing that for example at the Encuentro in Impruneta. That does not make the Milonga less traditional in my eyes.

Others might have other opinions.

Melina Sedo said...

Chere anonymous,

on a pas dit, que TOUT les Milongas en France sont "null2. Il-y-a des excellents Milongas et danseurs/danseuses en France. Mais - tu as raison - on a aussi vue beaucoup des "malaises". Comme dans les autres pays.

Il-y-a a des Milongas excellents et bonnes en Allemagnes, Italie, Belgie, Angleterre... et des endroits, ou les danseurs on pas encore entendus les regles d'une invitation polite et d'une interaction civile sure les pistes, avec la musique, le partenaire et les autres danseurs. C'est aux organisateurs, associations et profs de ameliorer cette sitution!