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Cacho Dante - A Milonguero's Take on International Tango

Cacho Dante (1939 - 2019) was another of the milongueros dancing in Buenos Aires towards the end of "The Golden Age of Tango". We are blessed that some of the stories of these milongueros was documented in interviews and blog posts while there was still a living memory of Tango as it developed to its peak of popularity and its zenith as a unique dance and expression of human emotion.

As a teenager, Cacho only danced in his local Flores neighborhood, (as was usual at the time) when his father confronted him, "Do you want to get married?" Cacho said no, then the father said, "Then why are you dancing here?" "Well, because I know the girls," Cacho replied. "Stop messing around," said his father, "and go downtown." (PractiMilonguero)

The complete interview

So Cacho went into the heart of tango, downtown Buenos Aires, and learned to dance at the larger milonga salons. Dancing on the crowded floors of the large milongas demanded a closer embrace and a more controlled dance than the less crowded floors of the suburbs. It was there that Cacho refined his dance to the great orchestras of the 50's.

The Argentine dictatorships of the 1960's and 70's felt threatened by the large gatherings of people at the milongas. They harassed and arrested the young men who attended the milongas, and Cacho gave up and stopped dancing for over 20 years. (ReporTango)

When the dictatorships failed and tango returned, Cacho and other older milongueros returned to the salons. Their dance skills, which had been suppressed for an entire generation, were sought out by younger dancers trying to learn tango.

The Tango and Trapeze Acts (A Milonguero's take on the International Tango revival).

Posted by cachodante

Thirty years ago, the tango wasn’t a trapeze act. It didn’t have choreographies, and the woman was not just a follower, she was to whom the tango was dedicated. Around that time, under the pressure of the dictatorship in Argentina, many milongueros stopped dancing. They were tired of getting picked up by the authorities every weekend to see if they had a police record. Some milongueros went back to the neighbourhood clubs where they had to dance with their neighbours, their cousins, the sisters of friends — all under the watchful eyes of mothers. It was an enormous bore.

The guys at that time had already surpassed the stage of steps. They had already passed through the filter: When they didn’t really know how to dance, they did 20 steps; when they knew a bit more, they did 10; and when they really knew what they were doing, they danced five… but with real quality.

The rest they learned from the orchestras at the time: how to navigate the dance floor; how to mark the rhythm. They danced then to some of the best orchestras, live every day, Osvaldo Pugliese, Anibal Troilo, Juan D’Arienzo, Francisco Canaro, Alfredo Gobbi, etc.

Later, everything changed. The tango climbed onto the trapeze and became choreographed. And it became a dance of the deaf. The dance floor today also sometimes seems like a war zone. Women don’t even get the chance to choose their partners. Men snatch them from the tables as if they were fruit in a supermarket bin.

When some of the milongueros returned to dance, myself included, we wanted to be in style, to learn choreographies. But it was too late for that because for us, it was more important to be appreciated by the woman than to be admired by those who liked to be seen. Women chose the tango milonguero. They embraced the old guys and then later embraced the young ones as well. Even if we milongueros are fat and bald, we still carry our heads high and have plenty of women to dance with.

Sometimes you hear that tango milonguero will die with the last milonguero. But those who say that don’t seem to be aware that the last one is only 17 years old and is already teaching the dance.

Nowadays, we dance to orchestras and singers that are long gone. The sons of the great orchestra leaders, as children do, did not listen to their parents. Today, unfortunately, there isn’t really any new music to dance to. The orchestras now knock themselves out to follow the singers, whereas in the old days the singer was just another instrument. (That is changing today, thanks in great part to Ignacio Varchausky and the Tango Orchestra School. After years of experimenting with 'fusion" music, new bands are emerging with their own sound, but respecting the music and the history).

The Tango, some say, is growing. Others say it is getting fat. I believe it is swollen, like someone who has eaten too much. Luckily, the example of the milonguero exists and it is not by chance, nor just because it is something in vogue that some young people here and other people abroad dance in a close embrace and fly. To fly, you must have your feet firmly on the earth. We Pugliese fans plant our feet on the dance floor and we fly with our torsos. There is no other way to dance the silences and the pauses. With D’Arienzo, you dance in fourth gear, with Pugliese, in first. For Pugliese, you must lower the turns and with D’Arienzo, lift them.

The tango is a feeling that is danced. That’s why it is not choreographed, though it can have sequences, like all feelings. You can dance love, rage, happiness, pleasure, every mood. The tango is not a dance to demonstrate ability but rather an interpretation of feeling. It is not just moving your feet and posturing. The tango is Argentine, but it belongs to all those who understand its feelings and its codes.

Guys, to dance tango, you must listen to the heart of the woman.

Cacho Dante Milonguero de Buenos Aires November 1998

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