Why Tango? Because It Offers More Than Any Other Dance!
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!
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The Family of Tango Dances
There are actually three tango dances—each with its own music—in Argentine social dance. During the course of an evening of dancing all three will be played and danced.
The first is simply tango. This is thedance most people would recognize as tango and the dance most beginners learn first. Its music is typically based on a slow, steady four-count beat.
The second dance is called milonga. Milonga is a faster-paced dance based on simplified tango steps. It has much the same rhythm and feeling as a polka.
Milonga music is historically older than tango music, but the dance itself is actually newer. Milonga is a dance simply for fun.
The third is tango waltz, called vals or vals cruzado. Tango waltz music is based on the classic 1-2-3 of waltz, but in this type of tango, dancers typically dance on the ones.
The word “milonga” has three uses in tango. It means,
(1) the dance milonga,
(2) the music you dance themilonga to, and
(3) a tango dance party. It’s possible for you to dance a milonga to a milonga at a milonga.
And believe me, that’s a great thing.
Styles of Argentine Tango
Within Argentine tango there are various styles you may hear people refer to. They will say, “Oh, he’s milonguero dancer,” or “She dances salon style.” Styles are as unique as dancers and I think it’s ratherfoolish to try to categorize either. Just remember if you hear terms like “salon,” “milonguero,” “fantasia,” or “orillero” someone is talking about a certain style.
As with any evolving art form, trying to pin down the rules is impossible. Every day, new styles come forward and dancers find ways to play with them and incorporate them into their dance. In the past few
years, styles known as neuvo and liquid have appeared. Who knows what’s coming next? All we know is that it’s coming.
Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness!
At the Milonga (Tango Dance Party)
The pure joy of dancing tango is found at the milonga. A milonga refers to the event where tangos, milongas and waltzes are danced.
What is a Tanda?
At a milonga, music is played in sets called “tandas.” Usually three or four songs are played by the same orchestra followed by the “cortina” (the curtain) which signals the end of the tanda. If you ask someone to dance and they accept, it is assumed that it will be for the entire tanda.
Cortinas are an interesting little detail at a milonga.
A cortina is unique to each DJ. Some will select one cortina for an evening and some will use a different one for each tanda. Some are humorous; some are grating on the ears; some are simply beautiful music. In any case, the cortina is supposed to be a piece of music that people people know not to dance to. It’s your signal to smile, say thank you and (possibly) change partners.
Cabeceo — (from cabeza; head): Traditional technique for selecting dance partners from a distance at the milongas in Buenos Aires by using eye contact and head movements.
How Someone Asks for a Dance
In Argentina, men ask women to dance with a look—a certain glance, movement of the head toward the
dance floor or smile that says, “Dance with me?” This can take place from far across the room if the right eyes are caught. If a woman wants to accept a dance with a man, she smiles back and (most important) keeps looking at him while he approaches her. The slightest glance away is usually interpreted as meaning “I’ve changed my mind and don’t want to dance.” This system is very wonderful and full of pitfalls.
What if the asker is looking at the woman behind you?
Did you really see a “yes” or a “maybe?”
Because we are caught up in this Argentine art form, the practice of asking people to dance with the eyes is also followed to some extent. In many areas of the world, however, you may ask someone to dance directly or with your best Argentine eyes. As in the dance, practice makes perfect.
Accepting a Dance or Saying “No, thank you”
Accepting a dance is as simple as saying “yes.” You can do this with your eyes—be on the look out for people who ask the Argentine way—or by accepting a direct invitation. It is also perfectly acceptable to say, “No, thank you.” If you accept a dance remember it will probably last
for the remainder of the Tanda that is playing—three or four songs if you start at the beginning. If either one of you decides that one or two dances is enough, however, either person can simply say “thank you” and begin leaving the dance floor. Once you say “thank you” to someone in a polite manner, the dance with that person is over.
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