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Understanding Social Tango 1

Updated: May 2, 2019

(Extracted from Tango Voice, “The Vanishing Art of the Milongueros”) Milongueros served as role models for dancing tango for decades. However, most milongueros have either passed away or have poor health that prevents them from dancing. Therefore, authentic role models for classic tango dancing are vanishing. As the Golden Age in which tango traditions were established fades from the consciousness of tango dancers, so does adherence to tango traditions. This has significant implications for the future of tango dancing, particularly for the entire world outside Buenos Aires, where direct exposure to tango traditions has been rare. The absence of preservers of tango cultural traditions allows for a market driven reformulation of tango that loses the essence and unique qualities of tango.

In the place of milongueros, tango instructors who are stage performers, practitioners of Tango Nuevo, and tango dance competitors have become the new role models for tango dancing worldwide; the expansive exhibitionist movements taught and demonstrated by these instructors fail to provide tango students models for effective navigation in the milonga. The essential partner connection through the embrace is lost in movement through various partner distances and orientations. Musicality becomes subordinate to utilisation of a repertoire of steps. For women, movement of the feet in the air in various directions replaces maintaining a comfortable partner connection as a focus in dancing.

This contemporary evolution of Tango is creating a new identity for tango that is different from classic social Tango of the milongueros, developed and refined over 50 years in the first half of the 20th century. Contemporary Tango, popularly named in it’s various guises as Salon (a name taken from classic Tango), Nuevo and Neo Tango is different in sufficient significant respects to have created a new dance with different objectives and different music. Whilst it clings to the idea of Tango, it will in time completely break away in the way “ballroom” Tango broke away almost exactly 100 years ago. The following demonstrations, (over the next several blog posts) contrast the dance of milongueros with popular contemporary Argentine tango instructors who tour the world. This contrast is provided to indicate the different images presented to developing tango dancers by contemporary tango instructors compared to that provided by milongueros. These different images have different influences on the development of tango dancing in milongas around the world. 1. Carlos Di Sarli “Comme il faut”

a. Ricardo Vidort (1929 – 2006) & Myriam Pincen

This dance is characterized by small steps and therefore slower movement. The repertoire of movements is diverse but limited to standard elements of tango social dancing, including walking inside and outside partner, in parallel and crossed feet positions, sometimes resulting in a cruzada, as well as back ochos, the ocho cortado, and clockwise and counterclockwise giros. Ricardo times his movements in close connection with the rhythm of the music. The embrace is maintained throughout the dance, which in conjunction with the softer and slower movements communicates an impression of an intimate partner connection.

b. Julio Mendez & Mariana Galassi

This dance is characterized by long steps and therefore rapid movement. Opening the embrace creates space for conspicuous movements. The repertoire includes numerous elements designed to attract attention, such as arrastres, back sacadas, colgadas, cuatros, deep sacadas, ganchos, high boleos, planeos, sweeping turns and volcadas. The long rapid steps and high kicks would create navigational hazards on the milonga dance floor. The dance is directed outward towards the audience, not inward within the couple’s embrace.

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