An expat Californian building a new life via the tango in Buenos Aires since 2003, including information on learning the tango and where to dance it in Buenos Aires.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Milonguero Way




I am a "professional" dancer because I teach tango and get paid for exhibitions. But I wouldn't be a pro here in Buenos Aires if it weren't for my partner. He is the draw. He is the Argentine who spent most of his life in the milongas, who lives and breathes and sings the tango. We work very well together, but if it weren't for me, he could also work well with someone else who has the same tango point of view.

Foreign dancers especially love getting to know a milonguero and hearing his stories and dance secrets that otherwise they wouldn't be able to do, particularly if they don't speak Castellano.

Ruben wasn't always a professional dancer; he used to work in television until the crisis of 2001. He was passionate about his job, traveled all over Argentina working, and danced tango every night for the love of it.

Now tango is his job. He earns his livelihood from tango. It's now more than pleasure; it's work--which he enjoys. He teaches, does taxi dancing, and gives historical Tango Tours of Buenos Aires.

Sometimes this puts him in a difficult situation with friends at the milongas we go to for enjoyment and socializing. (We also go to milongas for work when we do milonga accompaniment.)

Foreign women friends expect that Ruben will dance with them. Sometimes he does. But if not, sometimes they outright ask him to dance, which puts him in a bad place as it does with all milongueros. For one thing, milongueros don't like to be invited, nor do they want to refuse a lady, and for another, if he danced with all the women who wanted him to, what about me? What about our social evening together? We are at Los Consagrados or Chiqué to enjoy ourselves.

He will always dance one tanda with current students. It's part of their education and he likes to check their progress. And he will bend over backward to make sure our friends get their drink orders, are comfortable, and help them have a great time at the milonga.

But there are friends who expect dances with Ruben at the same time they are telling me they are taking classes at DNI, or El Beso, or expensive privates with Maximiliano Superstar. They ask me to "tell" Ruben to dance with them! Ruben owns his own dance. (I do not give him orders.) Read more here.

They expect him to give it away for free. They forget that the tango is what he has to sell.

Do these same people ask for free consultations from doctors and lawyers at social gatherings back home?

Ruben is a low-profile real milonguero, not a stage dancer who tours the world giving classes and making a big name for himself. He's in Buenos Aires every week of the year dancing in the milongas, as he's done for the past 30 years. All the women want to dance with him and all of the men want to dance like him. But he is a professional. Friendly, affable, funny, and fun as well. And available for classes and milonga accompaniment.

I wish the women would remember that at the milongas.

11 comments:

Mari said...

What a great post. I think it's easy to forget that tango professionals have social (and private) lives. I've seen friendships between teachers and students become pretty dicy business - other times it becomes a wonderful web of support for both (or all) parties. We always run into trouble when the things we want become the things we think we're entitled to.

Mari said...

What a great post. I think it's easy to forget that tango professionals have social (and private) lives. I've seen friendships between teachers and students become pretty dicy business - other times it becomes a wonderful web of support for both (or all) parties. We always run into trouble when the things we want become the things we think we're entitled to.

Debbi said...

I have to say that it is both surprising and unsurprising that this needs to be said. It seems to be that age old issue of folks not always thinking "When in Rome.... don't ask the gladiators to pose with you!!"

When I was down on your side of the equator and came on Saturdays to visit with you both at your table at Los C, I always enjoyed the company I found there. Not only from your lovely selves, but other friends and your students. And on the few occasions Ruben asked me to dance, it was the extra sweet icing on my night. But I would never expect him to dance with me simply because I was sitting at your table or because we had become friendly.

Kirra said...

Respect, Regard, and Common Sense. Life would be grand if that was the case...lol!

Thank you for sharing this with us. Especially the part where so and so is taking classes from 'Maximiliano Superstar' and then expects to dance with another teacher...argh is all I can say.

Respect, Regard, and Common Sense!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for saying this Cherie. Agressive students ruin things here too, women who absolutly have to get their dance with FernandoMaxiTeteRubenDetlefPedro.
They are rude, disrepectful, ambitious, and self centered, and when there is a big workshop weekend, I stay home or dance in the living room with friends who have some social skills as well as dance skills. Sometimes I wonder, who are these rubes?

Ruben has true spirit and he is a real gentleman.

E

tangocherie said...

Thank you all for your supportive comments!

I love

"When in Rome.... don't ask the gladiators to pose with you!!"

"Respect, Regard, and Common Sense!"

and,

"FernandoMaxiTeteRubenDetlefPedro" !!

Tango on!

nancy said...

I have always been aware of this from my ballroom dancing days. I spent a lot of money taking private classes and the instructors always danced with their students/students from their own studios when we were out socially. But...they and we, their students, resented it when other women who never sprung for a class would demand dances from them - even worse were the female teachers who thought it was their right to dance with them a lot. Fortunately, my pros were always diplomatic about putting them in their places but I know it is hard for Ruben to do that.

Maybe you remember that I posted to Tango-L my scolding of the women in ABQ who waylaid the men who were on their way to ask another woman to dance and ended up by driving them right out of the dancehall. I found some of them hiding in another place so they could get a drink of water and escape the pushy broads. All it takes is for one or two women to be aggressive and then the domino effect starts with all women believing they can do the same.

More and more often I have had to have a little 'chat' with a newcomer to my tango community and explain to them that neither the men nor the women who are being 'skunked' will think kindly of them should they fail to observe the codes of the community. The current problem is that women from the northeast believe they can ask for successive tandas once they have a man on the floor. It has really caused some problems with married men who prefer certain dances with their wives. I heard one woman brag that she had kept a man on the floor for 45 minutes.

Tracy Johnson said...

Thats a really beautiful foto Cherie. I am apssing through for one day the 20th and I want to at least drop you a newspaper with your article. besos

tangocherie said...

Oh Tracy, on the 20th we're taking my son and his girlfriend camping in Tigre for a couple of nights (unless the weather is despicable.)

How are we going to ever meet?

You just need to spend more time in BsAs!!

Thanks for your comment on the photo! I do want to see the paper!!

Anushka said...

I have read this article, from which I come to know a story about professional dancer. Thank you for nice posting.

Angelina Tanguera said...

It was a highlight of our trip to meet you and Ruben - thank you for making us feel so at home. I was honoured that Ruben asked me to dance - it was superb. Thank you for making us feel so welcome! I would love to show you around Sydney one day.
We have similar problems with women in Sydney and it is like all etiquette some people just refuse to take it on board!