Tango Argentino > Show tango is not REAL tango?!

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by larrynla, May 6, 2009.

  1. larrynla

    larrynla Member

    It has become politically correct to say that show tango is not REAL tango. This would have surprised the first milongueros. They did informal tango shows at milongas and also performed on stage and screen. Most of the cast of "Tango Argentino" were milongueros and milongueras. For some insight into milonguero's attitudes toward show tango you might like reading the autobiographical interview on TodoTango.com of Pepito Avellaneda and others.


    Even the youngest couple in "Argentino" who later became full-time dance pros started out as fanatical milonga dancers. That tradition is still alive today, when most professional Argentine show dancers have had much formal training and think of themselves as dancers first. When they've practiced many hours each week and taught multiple classes it's not unusual for them to eat and rest in the evening and then go out to milongas to relax.

    These pros might or might not dance, and when they dance usually they are indistinguishable from anyone else: simple moves, close embrace, stay in the flow, etc. Unless you know them from shows you'd be hard put to identify them as pros, except for their absolute mastery of movement. But then you'll also see this mastery in others who don't fit today's rather recent image of pros: young, fit, good-looking.

    Though those Argentine pros may not dance at all at milongas. Argentines view milongas differently to those outside the country, who are often deadly serious about the dance and to whom the social element is important but subordinate to the dancing. In Argentina, and to the Argentines I know where I dance, a milonga is first a social event. It's where you meet friends and family and gossip and snack and smoke and listen to the music and watch the antics of foreigners with usually indulgent amusement. Many Argentines go to local milongas and have for years that are just a short walk away, or drive or hitch rides with friends for slightly longer distances.

    Every milonga is different, some catering to a very specific crowd such as the very young. But in many it's more usual than not to see three generations of an extended family, including subteens or even infants who watch the dancing with fascination. Sometimes an aunt or an uncle will be a show dancer, maybe full-time but also part-time, especially skilled or attractive women and men who earn extra money each weekend by dance en escenario, maybe in tango dinner shows put on for tourists. Many a full-time professional tango dancer began dancing young at a milonga with a proud parent or grandparent as a partner or teacher. Such as, perhaps, this young girl of about ten years.


    Politically conscious tango fans often try to make a clear-cut binary distinction between REAL tango and show tango, but the universe rarely cooperates with such rigid views. Sharing with others mastery of something difficult and wonderful is part of human nature. Outside Argentina this often shows up as "tango crimes" such as racing around a crowded floor or doing whirlwind molinetes. Inside Argentina these "criminals" are usually quickly set straight. So very late at milongas in Argentina, when the crowd thins out and the floor opens up, is when you usually see more showy behavior. And not just by energetic acrobatic younger dancers. Those of advanced years who danced so close and simply in the thick of the evening get a bit of room from their partners and get a bit fancy, showing those who've only had, say, a mere decade of tango dance experience what someone can do who's been dancing for several decades.

    Larry de Los Angeles
  2. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    I'm struggling to find the "please discuss" bit... :confused:
  3. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    DB: stop being provocative :)
  4. Tango Bellingham

    Tango Bellingham New Member

    I have to agree with Dave - this post from Larry comes across as more of a "lecture" than an open invitation to discuss a viewpoint. As Larry says, Argentine tango is first and foremost a social dance, and therefore should be danced with consideration for those around you. A lot of the tango fantasia that is being peddled in the USA as the "true Argentine tango" is inappropriate for the social dance floor, as it tends to endanger bystanders and impinge upon their personal dance space. So like Alicia Pons says, "if you want to do stage tango, go up on the stage - leave the social dance floor to us."

  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Well, hopefully, what Alicia meant was that if you don't know when and where it's appropriate....
    I danced a milonga with someone who has gotten much better after taking lessons from Alex Krebs. At the end of one song she did a sort of boleo as the song ended on a upbeat, and then berated herself. There was no one any where near us. It went perfectly with the music. And she was not disrupting my lead. I encouraged her express herself.
    Now, if she does it all the time, or too frequently, or not to the music, I would sing a different tune.

    Same with show moves in my book.

    Although Larry did not actively encourage a discussion, I'm glad he posted, because I, too, have come to accept "stage tango" as one form of Argentine Tango, just as real as any other. And this is based on lots of reading.

    It CAN be like giving a child, or an untrained adult, a loaded gun, however!
  6. barrefly

    barrefly New Member

    Excellent commentary. Though it could equally be said of other partnered dance...i.e. swing, salsa, latin, hustle etc. In my opinion, the trick is to incorporate the show part yet retain the feel/elements of the dance form. I think that Leonardo and Miriam do a great job with this. Even comps in the cabaret/show cat. require the routine to have a certain percentage of the dance form elements.

    I love to watch a beautifully executed partnered dance routine....but love it even more when show elements added and fits well with the routine. Sometimes, a straight dance (without lifts and tricks) can be taken to such a high level that it looks like showdance.
  7. Tango Bellingham

    Tango Bellingham New Member

    Nope - she was making the point that if you want to do the off-the-floor boleos, volcadas, colgadas, parada-mordita-whatever, go up on the stage. You've already crossed the line from social tango to the "look-at-me, look-at-me!" tango. It's like what Rick McGarrey talks about in his "Tango and Chaos" website (Chapter 3, pg 1, "All the Meat on the Fire") - talking about someone who wants to draw attencion to themselves - "llamar la atenciĆ³n." It's apparently not something you want said about you in a Buenos Aires milonga.

    Now if your friend "auto-boleo'd" her foot off the floor, then yes, she probably should berate herself - not because she did it, per se, but because you didn't lead it. Now if you gave her enough impulse (you didn't say whether it was a contra-boleo or a plain-vanilla boleo lead) that her foot came off the floor, then she was following you, and you had made the decision that you had enough room to safely lead that, so no mea culpa necessary from her. ;)
  8. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member


    Seriously, there's a place for articles, but a discussion forum ain't it.

    And so we're reduced to guessing what the meaning was...
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Then I respectfully disagree with both you and Alicia, and Rick, too. (And this isn't the first time I've disagreed with her, or found her unable to explain why she was doing something.)

    I learned a long time ago that my partner can do things without disrupting my lead. I don't expect my partner to "just follow". Nor do I find the women who "just follow" to be the most enjoyable to dance with.

    When I was a beginner at country western dancing I "accussed" a friend of "showing off" while line dancing. Her reply was that she and the other long time dancers were doing what they were doing because they could.

    When I had very little confidence in myself, I saw arrogance or cockiness in a lot more in other people. I'm sure that I look arrogant or cocky or like I'm showing off to people now (maybe a lot of people!).
    Frankly, I don't give a rip if anyone is watching me or not, and I still find it disconcerting when I find out that someone HAS been watching me and pays me a compliment.

    In tango I simply refuse to sleep walk around the room taking tiny steps, when there is energy in the music, room to dance bigger, and my partner will dance with me.

    Oh, and you might make note of the fact that have only been doing AT at a practica.

    When the dogma starts, I take a pass.
  10. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    There is already a discussion going on here and so...you lose my friend...ha, ha, ha. :bkick:
  11. barrefly

    barrefly New Member

    Larry should have added the tag line "what do you all think?", at the end, then everyone would be happy. :>)
  12. Captain Jep

    Captain Jep New Member

    I hate these sort of conversations because they get so polarized. People talk in black and white. But the truth is that all types of tango are OK - in the right place and at the right time.

    The thing is to dance appropriately. You should adopt milonguero style when you're dancing on a tile in Buenos Aires, and you can dance tango nuevo when there are only a handful of couples on the dance floor.

    On a more controversial note, I've read before this idea that the milongueros will "expand" their dancing later on in an evening and dance more adventurously. I somehow doubt that myself. Surely if you hardly ever dance say volcadas you wouldnt feel inclined to do them even if you had the space?

    I admit I havent been late at night to the more "traditional" milongas. So I would be interested to hear other people's views on this.
  13. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    I think that I'm not here to read long articles.
  14. Tango Bellingham

    Tango Bellingham New Member

    Ask her in Spanish - you generally get a clearer answer. Or ask Robert Hauk, who's usually assisting her, at least here in Seattle or Vancouver, BC (and probably in Portland, too). Robert's really good at translating Alicia-speak into English.

    Neither do I - but there's a difference between doing subtle foot play or asking (non-verbally, like Alicia teaches) for play-time or to take the dance in a different direction, and arbitrarily deciding to insert something big, like a boleo or floor-sweeper planeo without warning me beforehand (which has happened to me before).

    Tango is a conversation - I propose something, she responds, or she counter-proposes, and we go back and forth. Now if she suddenly launches into a violent non sequiter, well....

    Yep, being from Texas originally, I recognize that spirit - it's what we called the "Texas bar-fight attitude", loosely stated as (and with the appropriate regional accent which I can't reproduce in print): "I paid my money, I can do what I want to, and YOU ain't big enough to stop me." There's a West Coast variation, too, that I see very frequently at the milongas, although it's usually phrased in terms of, "you're trying to interfere with my freedom of self-expression...." ;) No, usually I'm trying to pull their partner's stilletto heel out of my kidney from that inline boleo!

    Whoa, who said anything about sleep-walking? Watch some of the videos of the old milongueros (especially Ricardo Vidort, R.I.P.) on Rick's site and see if they're sleep-walking. :eek:

    If my memory serves me, Larry has posted this "article" before in other tango forums, with similiar results. I'm beginning to think it's just a rather windy troll.
  15. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I may be a bit heretic there, but i don't see a big difference in technique and vocabulary in the highest levels of both "nuevo" and "milonguero" tango (whatever these terms mean). E.g. the most classic of all milonguero moves, the ocho cortado, is essentially a volcada. I also don't think that the main differentiating thing is the space/size, but what rhythmic elements one dances to. In a way i see nuevo as a continuation of the trend that started with the move from milonga to tango - dancers trade in being continuously on the beat for the feasability of making moves that are more suspended and lingering.
    Of course there is a huge difference in the "icing", and what things look like in the end, and what elements are emphasized in the beginning, and how and what parts are usually faked when the conncetion is not 100%, and so on, but i see most of the elements of nuevo clearly on a smaller scale in tango and even milonga - sure, a single beat single axis quarter turn looks different than a wide open 360 degree colgada, but the technology is pretty much the same.

  16. Tango Bellingham

    Tango Bellingham New Member

    Hmmmm...don't know whether I believe that. Oscar Casas makes a pretty good case for it being a variation of the calesita or the rebound/cross-in-place move done off-axis. Go to YouTube and search for "oscar casas volcada".

    Rick McGarrey makes a really compelling case for the "stage vs social" in the "Kung Fu Tango" chapter of his website. He has a clip of Gustavo and Giselle-Anne dancing on a small dance floor with some of the old guard. Gustavo and Giselle-Anne are beautiful to watch, creative, inventive - it's gorgeous. But it's completely inappropriate for the situation compared to what the other couples on the floor are doing.

    I think the two forms are completely separate beasts - one is for the milonga, one is for the stage. One is directed outward, at an audience, for applause, approval, money, excitement, whatever, and the other is directed inward, towards oneself, the partner, the music, the group gestalt of the ronda. One not really better than the other, but they have different aims.
  17. barrefly

    barrefly New Member

    I don't know if, or why, a milonga would be any different than a salsa social, but I can't count the times when my daughter danced at a salsa social with so much flash and show, that the audience applauded. I don't think it was out of place at all and the audience/guests really seemed to appreciate it.
    She wasn't doing it for the audience, but rather because she had a fantastic lead ask her to dance and she was just carried away with his dancing.
  18. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    I personally do not see why colgada/volcada technique constitutes showing off. True, they have visual flair, but they also feel really good, and can be done to any size appropriate to the setting. These sorts of skills are incredibly useful when dancing small, as they free you in situations that are so tight you cannot actually travel. They are also very suitable for stretching over many beats of music if the tunes should call for that.

    That said, in a social context dancing with strangers, it would be a rare person indeed who gave me the confidence to lead such things.
  19. Tango Bellingham

    Tango Bellingham New Member

    Different dance, different technique, different cultural mileau, different history, different everything - not even apples-and-oranges different. Argentine tango is different. Larry is right, it's more a social gathering for the Argentines, a time to relax and visit with friends, drink wine, whatever, like we Americans would go to a bar after work to play billiards or watch a ballgame.

    I remember the time Julio Balmaceda and his wife Corina came to La Garua, the Sunday afternoon milonga in Seattle. They just came to dance socially and were both horribly embarassed when everyone cleared the floor and started applauding. They almost immediately sat down and didn't get up to dance again for the rest of the milonga. I was really sad for them - they just came to enjoy themselves and relax a little, and people wouldn't leave them alone.
  20. barrefly

    barrefly New Member

    Equally as rare, I imagine, to find a person to follow such things. Some rare dancers are natural with show and flash. It's who they are as dancers. It's what they love do. It's from their heart.

Share This Page