Monday, 6 August 2012

Revision: the Salon/Milonguero argument

Shoot me, but I have to open Pandora‘s box again.
Remember the discussion that evolved around the definition of Tango (de) Salón: For me, it is a generic term describing social Tango in contrast to Tango Escenario. For others, it is one particular style compared to Tango Milonguero, Apilado, del Centro, Orillero and many more. This style defines itself by its elegant walk, intricate decorations, complex turns in open embrace and a very distinct musical interpretation. It is mostly danced in the Milongas outside the city centre and nowadays all over Europe. The name „Villa Urquiza“ keeps popping up, but that‘s not the only barrio where they dance like this.
As I was lying in bed and remembering another reference to this topic, a couple of questions formed in my mind. Why have I not asked them earlier?
If Tango Salón is a particular style and not a generic term...
... why does the city of Buenos Aires organise a championship in which couples from all over the world compete in two categories: Tango Salón and Tango Escenario?  Is it not a tad discriminating to chose one style as the antagonist of Tango Escenario and exclude all other styles in this worldwide celebration of Tango? Why was there no uproar in the Tango community of Buenos Aires, especially from the „Milongueros“ of the centre?
... does the Campeonato explicitly exclude dancers who do not open the embrace for elegant turns from the competition because they do not dance Salón? (They forbid high boleos and ganchos, so why not forbid dancing in a close embrace?)
... how come they hold the Campeonato Metropolitano in different Milongas all over the city, also in the city centre, where many people dance in an unbroken close embrace? Why don‘t they exclude Milongas like, say, Club Gricel? 
... how come Cherie Magnus, my dear blogger-colleague and her partner Ruben made it to the finals of the IV Campeonato Metropolitano? They do not dance „Villa Urquiza“ style. 
... how come a couple like Osvaldo and Coca won the Campeonato Mundial in the Salón category in 2004? They certainly do not dance in the way described above. 
... what is - according to the representatives of this style - the Argentine generic term for social Tango in contrast to Tango Escenario and why did the organisers of the Campeonato Mundial not chose this expression?
Ok. These are my questions. If anyone can answer all of them in a satisfactory and logical manner, I will never again contradict your opinion.


Anonymous said...

I think you have answered your own questions. Basically there only is Salon tango and Stage tango. There are those who dance for their partner and there are those who dance for an audience. That is the only difference.
You can tell who is doing what, more by the eyes than the feet. Those who dance for their partner are centred around the couple only looking outside to avoide collisions and for the free movement of the room. Those who dance for the audience (as much in the milongas as on stage) are focused outside the couple, always looking to the audience, wherever that might be. The comfort and pleasure of the partner runs a poor second.

Per Berséus said...

Melina, that's easy! :)

It is not uncommon for terms to have several meanings (just look at "Tango Nuevo"). In the case of Tango Salón, we can only observe that the term is used in two ways. Sometimes it is used in a wider sense to describe the whole social scene, while at other times it is used in a more narrow sense to distinguish the style that defines itself using the rules of thumb that you mention above.

Answers for your questions:
1. Because they are using the term in its broader sense, and are thus not trying to exclude anyone. There is not enough angry people to create an uproar, because many understands that the broader sense of the term is implied, others don't think that tango is for competition anyway.
2. No, because they are using the term in its broader sense.
3. Because they are using the term in its broader sense.
4. Because the IV Campeonato Metropolitano are using the term in its broader sense.
5. Because the Campeonato Mundial are using the term in its broader sense.
6. My guess would be that the representatives of Tango Salón (in the narrow sense of the term) do not feel a duty to define a term for something outside of their style. And that the Campeonato Mundial opted for the best term they could find, rather than this non-exisiting term.

Melina Sedo said...

Dear Per, yea, that would be very easy. ;-)

I could live with that. But this does not solve the problem.

If there is a broader and a narrower sense, why do the representatives of Villa Urquiza deny everyone else the use of the term. Because this is what happens currently.

So, I'm still waiting...

Anonymous said...

I still find the terms 'salon' (in its narrower sense) and 'milonguero' helpful -- 'milonguero' in particular ('salon' is vaguer and has the confusing attribute of having two different meanings). The reason I like the term 'milonguero' is that I find it useful to have a word to describe the style of dancing in which people do not open the embrace at any point in the dance. This seems to me like a very clear stylistic choice and it's therefore useful to have a term to describe it. And, of course, if you have a term to describe that, you need a term to describe the opposite: a style in which you open the embrace for giros and that's where the unsatisfying, vague term 'salon' comes in. Since so many people use the term 'salon', as in 'we dance salon' to mean that they open the embrace for walking giros, it can be misleading when people who danced in a sustained close embrace say they also dance 'salon'. Of course, we shouldn't go by language but should look at each couple's unique style and judge it on its own merits -- but in Buenos Aires where there are so many teachers and dancers it has become a useful shorthand for some.

Where I completely agree with you is that the Campeonato, with its rigid rules and rather uniform style of dancing (albeit a style I find very beautiful) can be something which stifles creativity and that would be a great shame. We need to find a way to talk about the differences between people's ways of dancing that isn't divisive or exclusive. Especially since some of us (like me) love to dance in a wide variety of different styles and with a wide variety of partners.

Melina Sedo said...

Dear Terps,

thanks for your comment.

Sure it is useful to have terms for different styles. But why not call it Estilo Vila Urquiza? Or Estilo Elegante? Or estlio Rodriguez? Or estilo Sunderland? I'd find many names!
Why use the same term as the generic term for social Tango. That's confusing for me.

Especially as some years ago (before Susanna Miller and the rise of Urquiza style), there was no-one questioning the generic term Tango (de) Salon as description of social Tango. Hell, Tete claimed to dance Tango Salon. No-one would have dared to tell him that he does not, I guess! ;-)

And the organizers of the Campeonato seem to accept this (broader) definition of the term as well. Or not? So far, my questions have not been answered (expept by Per)...


Have a nice day,


Anonymous said...

I agree that I'd prefer a different term. But it's hard to change people's habitual use of language.

Melina Sedo said...

You are so right, Terps.

This is why it is so hard for me to UN-learn a term that I've been knowing and using since I started dancing Tango. Which was quite some time before the term Tango (de) Salon obviously underwent a change of meaning in the outer barrios of Buenos Aires. ;-)

Good night!

Anonymous said...

Melina, if anyone asks me what you and Detlef dance, I tell them, social tango in a sustained close embrace, with lots of yummy walking. You've also taught me to be much more careful about putting labels on people -- and for that I thank you.

Melina Sedo said...



Sending a big hug from our home town, where we'll be for 3 more days until we're off again!