Tag Archives: Porteno

Tango Clones


I read with interest Jantango’s article entitled Homogenized tango. It left me with so many comments I wished to make, that the only answer was to comment here, where I can let rip without the constraints of a limited comments box.

I suspect I am not alone here, as Janis told me she had over five hundred hits in one day, some record Janis, for which you are to be congratulated.

There can be no doubting the skill of the dancers or their dedication, anything that brings young blood into tango or increases its visibility is to be thanked. I wonder though, could we not have a separate championship for true milonguero style, people who improvise, interpret the music, and dance for each other rather than the audience?

This homogenization is what has put me off other dances, I don’t want to be a clone and I don’t respond well to orders, but if I can feel the music, then I am happy. This standardization is happening over here as well; we must all hold our arms this way, move that way and follow strict order on the floor. I have found myself getting annoyed at other dancers when I am in Buenos Aires, because they do not follow these rules. It took time for me to realize, this is their dance, I do not own any of the floor, if there is a space they will take it, they do not follow our rules.

The milonga floor is a jungle; we must interpret the music, protect the woman, avoid other dancers and on top of this make her enjoy the dance. How can you do all this while sticking to a rigid routine?

Tango is in danger of loosing its roots, we create cookie cutter champions (Jantango’s phrase not mine) they spread out into the world and what the world sees they believe is the real thing. Why would they not? After all they are endorsed by judges from the very centre of Tango, they come from the city of tango, and let us not forget, they look very good.

Ballroom teachers over here (in the UK) now teach Argentine Tango, they learn it from books, they teach to a syllabus, but they know nothing of its roots, the music or of Buenos Aires. As tango is being standardized, they can do this because a standard tango is just up their street.

I will continue to do my own thing, rebel that I am. I have never professed to be the best dancer in the world, far from it. I keep it simple because that is what I am; I improvise because I don’t remember routines, I dance what I feel and ignore what teachers tell me.

I will never be a tango champion, I have no desire to be, the big money will always be with the Porteños anyway. (Apart from last year which I think was just a hiccup)

It is a sad fact that the best milongueros are mostly too old to travel, not able to communicate in other languages and do not wish to leave their beloved Buenos Aires. So the only ambassadors that tango has are these young, up and coming dancers, who have been taught only to give the world what it wants rather than what tango really is.

I hope that some day (sooner rather than later) they will learn to show the world that tango is not about steps, routines and acrobatics, but about the music, improvisation, and the embrace. The tango that I, and others like me, love must not be allowed to be sacrificed on the altar of commercialism, these beautiful and talented people must be shown that there is another way, what is done in demos and competitions is not tango salon. We cannot all dance like them it is futile for us to try, but if we are taught to dance well in a milonga, with a warm embrace, enjoying the music, then I believe Argentina will have given the world not just another business but something that will propagate love, understanding and unity across the world.


Filed under milonga, Tango

Como El Beso?

OK maybe not entirely like El Beso, but here in the UK we have become accustomed to plenty of room to move. The concept of having to dance with the room is hard to grasp when you have acres of space. We simply do our own thing because there is always room to manoeuvre. El Beso for me is the ultimate in crowded milongas, you barely have room to breathe, so if you do not keep up with the room you will be pushed, barged and constantly overtaken. In El Beso you keep up with the room or you leave frustrated, since there is no middle ground. I remember well my first time there; I would have one dance, and then have to sit down while I tried to work out what was happening. I nearly gave up tango, I simply could not cope, I needed the space we have at home. It took me nearly four years before I had the courage to return there and I still found it difficult, we had seen fairly crowded floors in Amsterdam but not like this and certainly never in the UK.


Tonight for the first time I saw the new intake at Chester, it seems the work done by Ralf, Viv, and of course Sharon, had paid off. The room at Stanley Palace was filled to bursting. I think the lack of space worried one or two, but I am hoping that starting this way that they will learn from the beginning how to handle a crowded room.

Viv and I were exiled to the back room while the class was on, Viv collected the money and I helped any dancers who had a particular problem. It was only the second week of this beginner’s course so there was little we could do in the main room anyway, but it would have been nice to see how they performed.

Once the beginners were finished and the intermediates started we then had a number of the beginners with us who were willing to stop and practice. Again the main room was too crowded for us to join the class, but we were happy taking the new intake through what they had learned. One or two were having difficulties and were glad of a bit of one to one, others who had done a bit here and a bit there were confused. The messages from tango teachers can seem contradictory and, in a full class it is sometimes difficult to make the message clear. Of course I am no better; I just hope I have not further confused them. We talk of contra movement, yet keeping the body taught, then we talk of keeping tension in the arms yet leading from the chest, these things and more are difficult for the beginner to grasp. I tell them that they cannot be expected to be great tango dancers in their first weeks; after all it has taken me more than ten years to get as bad as I am.

When the class was over I had my chance at last in the main room. It was the first time ever for me in England that I danced with an American, a French lady, a German lady, as well as of course English and Welsh, all in the same night. We are quite cosmopolitan now, we have crowded rooms, and people from all over the world, and they said it would not last.

The dancers appeared to be coping well with the lack of room, some had of course been to our Gresford milonga so were used to it, others had only got their experience in the class, never the less it pleased me to see people moving with the room. There was, of course, the inevitable overtaking. This was after all a practica so there was some stopping when things went wrong, but in the main the movement was good.

All that is left to say is that I hope no one is put off by the lack of room, anyone learning in this environment is well set up to visit the great milongas in Buenos Aires. Many who visit from the UK are intimidated and never return or see little of the real milongas, I would hope that any from Chester would now relish the opportunity and move like a porteño.


Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, milonga

The First Gresford Milonga

As I said in my previous post, this has been a particularly good tango week for me.

First there was Chester on Monday(see previous post) then I was able to attend Shrewsbury on Thursday. We arrived later than usual again, but we were there in good time for the mid class practica. Mischka was taking the class again and we did some interesting things with the Giro.

It seems now to be the highlight of the night when we all reconvene at The Coracle. We were determined not to stay too late as we had a lot to do the following day, but as these things go we did not leave until ten to twelve.

As we pulled out of the car park the local police just happened to be passing in the opposite direction. Suprise, suprise they turned around and followed me. Obviously I was stopped and breathalysed, when they asked if I had ever been breathalysed before, their eyes lit up when I said that I had been done three times. They now thought that they had a serial drink driver on their hands whereas it was obvious to me, that I meant that I had been breathalysed three times.Anyway I have a complaint for the landlord of The Coracle, the meter actually read ZERO. I know I only had mild shandy, but I would have thought that there would have been some alcohol in it.

Finally this week, we have had the first Gresford Milonga, I will not say too much about it. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I would however like to give a big thank you to those that came and made it a huge success and overcame their superstitions. It was after all Friday 13th and when Sharon arrived there were thirteen people here.

We ended the evening with some Cumbia. With the music and the disco ball, I thought for just  a moment that I was in Club Fulgor, Ecstasy. Finally we did some Chacarera, somehow it never fitted the music, but there was so much flouncing by the women and stamping by the men, who cared? it was enjoyable mayhem.

Sign on the door courtesy of : Alfredo F Martinez, filete Porteno. Feria de San Telmo, Buenos Aires. E-Mail martinezalfredo@yahoo. com


Filed under Dance Venues and Schools, Uncategorized