After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Milonga Con Traspié

The phenomenon of traspié ("tripping" in Castellano, also meaning an "error"-- but not in tango dancing) is relatively new in the history of milonga music, which even predates the tango. I don't know how traspié evolved, but I'm thankful it did because otherwise the 2 x 4 beat of milonga, with the basic left-right-left-right steps can be boring after a while.

Milonga is not danced as much as the tango--here in Buenos Aires or in other countries. I'm not sure why--in the U.S. lots of men are afraid of it, perhaps finding it fast and complicated. Here, many old milongueros don't have or want to expend the energy for a tanda (even though customarily the milonga tandas are only 3 songs instead of the 4 of tango and vals). Or perhaps some dancers just don't like the happy, basic march rhythm. Yes, in milonga you can let go with your hips, face, smile--it's fun!

I personally love it, and so does Ruben. But if it weren't for the traspié rhythm, I don't know how many tandas of milonga lisa (smooth) I would enjoy. Traspié saves the day.

It's not difficult to learn--traspié means two steps for every one beat of the music, or double-time. Yet dancers often are doing a kind of samba or cumbia with the double-time steps, or quick-quicks, way too fast. Just remember that two steps in traspié equals one step lisa, or one count. The milonga rhythm is 1-2-3-4, so in traspié, it might be 1-2-and-3-4-and. The quick-quicks are equal! Two for one!

Be careful to keep your torsos connected and still--no sideways movement of the shoulders ala Texas two-step tango! You can dance traspié sideways or walking forward or turning or running (corrida)--just like tango. The steps are the same, it's just the rhythm and timing that's different.

What is tricky is not dancing a whole milonga song in traspié; you have to go in and out of it to make it interesting and creative. But neither can you begin it in the middle of a phrase; you have to listen to the music and go in and out of it when the music tells you to. This is challenging to the leader. The best milongas for traspié are not too slow, believe it or not.

Put on some Canaro or Tanturi's Mozo Guapo and have some fun with milonga con traspié; next time a milonga tanda begins you won't want to sit it out.


Game Cat said...

I love milonga con traspie! It is a good change of mood from tango tandas, and also teaches how to be relaxed yet connected, and lead the lady deftly....all useful for tango and vals as well.

I agree with you that the art of it is fitting the traspies in the right places to express the music. For me, moderately slow ones with a distinct milonga beat work best...e.g. Milonga Sentimental, Cacareando, Flor de Montserrat, Ella es asi.

I heard (without substantiation) that the traspie evolved in crowded milongas, where there wasn't much space to travel on the floor. Dancers therefore squeezed more expression into the small available space by stepping double-time, hence traspie. Can anyone verify this?

Anonymous said...

I agree. Love milonga con traspié. Seems to me that traspié steps are a natural part of the milonga rhythm. They give a touch of lightness to an evening which often lifts the energy. But as you say, there are still some who avoid it... to those I say, give it a try; it's not as difficult as you may think!

Margarita Milonguita said...

I did an amazing traspie class with Gabriella Elias when I was in B's A's and loved it. Tricky and hard but amazing.
The milonga is my favorite dance in the tango but I agree with you Cherie, many men fear it. Such a shame. I love it- that is why I am the Milonguita!

Graham said...

Please help me :) - I am under the impression that traspie is a syncopated beat... Therefore if we step 1-2 1-2 on the beat (single time) and then 1 & 2 & (double time) there is no syncopation??? = no traspie???

tangocherie said...

Graham, I think you are getting "stuck" (excuse the pun) on the word "syncopated," which has to do with changing the accent of a beat of music. This does not apply to traspié.

The accent of milonga is not changed by the quick-quick of "traspié." The strong accent is "1" with 2 3 4 less strong; but milonga can also be correctly danced with all four counts equal: 1 2 3 4, as in walk walk walk walk.

Traspié, or "stumbling," fills in between the regular strong counts, and is simply two-for-one, or quick quick slow. Or quick quick quick quick for as long as you like. But they are all equal to half a count and are not accented. The traspié steps are also equal to each other, that never changes.

Just like in tango, in milonga rhythm you have choices of half-time, single-time, double-time and stops.

Explaining dance with words is so difficult--if we could dance together with the music you would get it in 5 minutes!

Graham said...

Thank you tangocherie... Very helpful explanation and simplifies everything. And the offer of dancing sounds very attractive although I do traspie most of the time ie a lot of stumbling!! Thanks again and maybe see you on the pista one day :)

Anonymous said...

Don't go ballistic but traspie has nothing to do with milonga music.
As you correctly define it, it is a skipping or double time stepping done with the feet which dancers choose to use whether dancing milonga or tango.
In the slow milongas, it creates a very rhythmic effect that definitely adds spice to the dance, not the music.

Cherie Magnus said...

Why should I go "ballistic"?

I very much appreciate your comment and correction of my little error in not being more specific. I guess because the blog post is titled, "Milonga con Traspie," that most readers would assume I was talking about dancing milonga. But of course you can dance traspie in tango and vals as well, as you so kindly pointed out.

Glad you're out there and reading! Come back soon and make more comments, anon!